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Candace writes in her notebook and he likes this moment, watching her write what he says. He feels as though he's with his own daughter. He always thought he and his son would have the strongest bond, but he felt closer to Izz. With Cully they were always talking about the same things — gadgets and gear, bikes and snow conditions. They were always hitting each other in the shoulder and their phone conversations were loud and unnatural.
He looks at Candace, almost patting her on the head. "You're right about the slogan. People want to be afraid. They want to feel alive. They want to feel they've really done something in their lives. How about, 'Living Daylights: Dare to Thrive.'"
She writes this down and Lyle is invaded with warmth and pride.
Jeff types something on his computer.
"He's a lot better at this than you, Dad," Candace says.
Jeff looks at his daughter. "I'm taking you back to the adoption agency if you don't shut it."
"I wasn't adopted."
"You will be if I have anything to do about it. Thanks a lot, Lyle. You're making me look real good here in front of the little one. I'm supposed to be inspiring her."
I'm inspiring her, Lyle thinks to himself. I'm capable of inspiring a girl. "I have to talk to her," he says to Candace. "My daughter."
"Busted," Candace says. "Is she in trouble or something?"
"Is she doing that sexting thing?" Jeff asks. "They're all doing that now, luring in the pervs."
"No," Lyle says.
"OxyContin?" Jeff asks.
"No, no, nothing like that."
"She a cutter?"
"No, Jeff. I don't think so." Lyle doesn't even know what these things are. Maybe she is a cutter. Maybe she does do sexting and oxy whatever.
"But she's in trouble, right?" Candace asks.
"Yes," he says. "She's in trouble." Lyle thinks of himself as a boy and as a man. "She's in trouble for the rest of her life."
Jeff stands and looks at his teeth in a small mirror that hangs above a bookshelf of men's health magazines. Lyle sees his hand in his pocket, his knuckles moving, the swell of a ring. His hair is gelled, making his head look like a black shell.
"We're all in trouble," Lyle tries to say lightly. He touches Candace's knee, something his daughter never lets him do anymore — touch her — and he feels a strange love for this other man's daughter, for daughters across America learning what their fathers do and who they are when they're away from home.
Candace looks at his hand on her knee and then screams, "Stranger danger! Stranger danger!" then erupts into laughter.
Jeff walks over to her swivel chair, bends down and grabs her face and holds it so that it's in front of his. He doesn't say anything. He just holds her face, contorting her lips and glares into her watering eyes.