Kate ran down the stairs to answer the phone, calling out "I'll get it," to her mother, who was in the kitchen. She hoped it was her friends calling to confirm when they were meeting to go to the cinema later.
Kate hadn't expected to hear her father’s voice. He didn't call that often these days. At first things had been different. Her parent's divorce had been amicable enough, and Kate had spoken to her father and seen him regularly. But then something had changed. He had seemed to grow distant and to avoid talking about the past in a way that Kate had found unnerving and sometimes irritating. With this in her mind, Kate hesitated before replying.
"Hello Dad," she said, cautiously.
"How are you, my dear?" the Brigadier asked.
"Oh, fine. I'm fine."
He sounded different, Kate thought, something about his voice or his manner?
"And how is Mum?"
That was a change. Fiona had been 'your mother' for quite a while.
"She's... yes, she's OK."
There was an awkward pause, then they both spoke at once:
"I expect you're..."
They laughed and Kate relaxed a bit and said "no, you first."
"Well," said the Brigadier, "I was going to say that I expect you're wondering why I'm phoning?"
"Oh, oh no, I..."
"Yes you are. I can tell. 'What does he want?' you're thinking, 'he never calls."
Kate felt herself blushing and said nothing.
"First of all I want to say that I'm sorry. I let you down, you and Mum."
"No, I mean it. I wasn't..." He paused as if steeling himself for a confession. "I wasn't well. I had a, a crisis I suppose you could call it. I pretended everything was fine and I shouldn't have. I pushed you both away."
Kate was flabbergasted. He never talked like this, what on earth had happened to him?
"That's the first thing to say. I didn't mean to hurt you or Mum, lassie, I'm sorry."
At this a sob rose in Kate's throat. He hadn't called her that
for years. She tried to reply but couldn't think of anything to say.
"Kate? Oh, heck. Please don't be upset, darling. I just wanted to tell you that I'm better now."
Kate mastered her tears and asked, "what happened?"
"I met an old friend, quite by chance. He helped me to get things straightened out."
Kate couldn't think of any friend of her father’s who might have been any use in that kind of situation. Unless... but the Brigadier was speaking again.
"It's a funny story," he said, "but rather complicated." He paused again, then asked, almost nervously, "Would you like to come up at the weekend? We could have lunch and I could tell you about it. If you like, and if Mum doesn’t mind?"
Kate hesitated. He'd been so strange before, so distant. Supposing this new phase didn't last?
She made up her mind.
"Yes," she said, "I'll come."