Chapter 25: Paulo's
Corrie, not giving herself a chance to talk herself out of it, called her father that very afternoon. He was delighted to hear from her and proposed that they go out for pizza to talk. She weighed her options, tried to make excuses about her friends expecting her for dinner and the Rainbow Alliance meeting that night, and then decided that they really were just excuses and accepted his invitation.
He picked her up at the front gate, looking friendly and unassuming in an old foreign car that was almost as beaten up as the one Corrie drove. “Hi, Corrie!” he said enthusiastically as she climbed into the passenger seat. “Good to see you! How are you? How’s your mom?”
“Oh, everything’s great,” she said, dodging the specific questions. He’d made it easier by asking two questions at once, which she suspected he might have done on purpose. The topic of the other parent was still very awkward with both of them. Though Corrie’s mom, when they’d had their daily chat, had seemed pleased Corrie was having dinner with her father, they’d avoided getting too specific about it. “Er, how are you?”
“Oh, can’t complain. Much. Pack politics, you know how it is,” he answered vaguely as he maneuvered the car into traffic. Corrie didn’t know how it was, but she didn’t think she wanted to hear about the minutiae, either.
“So where are we going?” Corrie asked, looking around at the streetlight- and headlight-illuminated highway. She’d assumed they’d visit Feninni’s, her favorite pizza place in the city, but realized once they turned the opposite direction on the road that it was a silly assumption. Her father didn’t appear to live in the same city where she had grown up—though, since her mother had never left the city except for short vacations, he must have been there at some point.
“Just a little family-owned place I like called Paulo’s,” he answered. “It’s not far. I think you’ll like it.”
“As long as it’s good pizza, I’m sure I will,” she said with a smile.
He was as good as his word—they were only in the car for a couple more minutes before pulling into the parking lot of one of the ubiquitous strip malls. That meant she didn’t get a chance to bring up the magic thing—okay, she probably could have, since there was no other conversation happening, but she didn’t have time to work up her nerve. She wondered why dealing with her father made her so anxious. Normally she didn’t get anxious… well, not on her own behalf. (Usually it was on Edie’s. She was out tonight, again, with Leila. And, oddly, she didn’t seem happy about it, which was just another reason to be anxious.) She just dove in. But this man… true, he’d provided half of her DNA, but she barely had a relationship with him. He shouldn’t be so scary.
She was distracted from her worried thoughts by stepping into the pizza parlor and being hit with a wall of warmth and scent. Both were nice—it was quite chilly out, and the delicious smells of spices, cheese, and dough made her mouth water. But her heart dropped when she saw how tiny the restaurant was. They were entering through a narrow hallway that appeared to lead to an ordering counter, but there was clouded glass between them and the rest of the room, and there was not much space there at all. Despite the fact that people around here knew about Chatoyant College, she didn’t want to be overheard.
“Hi,” her father said to the pretty girl behind the counter, leaning his elbows on it and smiling at her. “Is Nicky in?”
She didn’t get a chance to respond. A rangy, tall man appeared from behind a door and, with a loud, deep voice that belied his size, boomed, “Francis! Ah, good to see you, my friend! And is this the daughter? Corrie? A pleasure to meet you, a pleasure.” He came around the side of the counter, shook Francis’ hand, then seized Corrie’s hand and leaned to kiss it.
She grinned despite herself. “Pleased to meet you, too. Nicky? Not Paulo?”
“Ah, Paulo, he was my father, God rest his soul. I could never bear to change the name. So what shall it be for the both of you? Only the best for my hungry friends. The full moon, I know, was only three days ago, so a medium pizza for each of you?”
“Uh, I’ll only have a couple slices, actually,” said Corrie, startled. This was unexpected. Did the whole shop know her father was a werewolf? Nicky and the girl—she must be his daughter, judging by the facial resemblance—certainly seemed to. That would probably make things easier. But she wanted to make it clear that she was not a werewolf as well. “One slice extra cheese, one white with tomatoes and spinach?”
“Very good,” said Nicky as the girl turned to take slices out of pizzas resting on shelves. “Francis?”
“I’ll have a medium with sausage and spinach. Extra garlic.”
“Wonderful, wonderful. Sit where you like, it’s just a moment.”
Corrie took the slices from the girl, and they turned to sit.