Hard Working Hero (Hard Working Hero 1)

Page 3

My father sighs heavily as his eyes steady on mine. I know this look. I fucked up big time. I can feel myself start to shrink. My shoulders roll forward and my head goes down.
“This is a very big deal, Narissa. Your car can be fixed, but Oliver made these by hand specifically for the new project. Not everything can just be bought and replaced.”My mouth falls open. He made them? Somehow it hadn't crossed my mind they weren't pre-built things off a shekf. I turn to Oliver and ask warily, “You can make new ones. Right?” My eyes slide to the broken wood boxes as I say, “With new supplies from Home Depot or something?”
Olive flinches like I smacked him. My father pinches the bridge of his nose and rests his other hand on his hip. “I've been too easy on you over the years. I've given you too much and had you work for too little. You don't appreciate good craftsmanship and what it means to build something with your own hands. This man spent hours making these cabinets, and you destroyed all of his hard work with one thoughtless move.” He taps his finger against his chin as he lifts his head back up. “You know what, you need to do some actual hard work so you can understand the importance of creating something.”
“What does that mean?” I ask.
“The work Oliver does is worth more than what you find mass produced in a store. There are real people out there that spend hours creating and building to get somewhere in this world. People aren't always just handed what they want, Narissa. I worked hard to us where we are today.” He looks up at the house. “But this is all you know. It's time for you to get your hands dirty.”
“I'm sorry, what? Get my hands dirty how?” I ask, furrowing my brows confused.
“Oliver,” my father says, turning away from me, “my daughter is going to come work with you for a bit. Maybe you can help her appreciate what it means to sweat.”
“Excuse me?” He snorts in disbelief. “Work with me?”
“She needs a kick in the ass, and this is going to give her that. She can help fix what she broke and maybe learn a few things in the process.”
Oliver gives me a sharp side-eye. “I don't think—”
My father holds up his hand and thins his lips. “I'll compensate you plenty, don't worry about that. Just make sure she pulls her weight. This new project is a big one.” Grabbing Oliver's shoulder, my father gives him a squeeze and a slap on the back. “It'll be good for her, and don't worry, your efforts won't go unnoticed. This isn't the only house I'm working on.”
There's a small crowd of guests forming at the front of the house. Family and friends all huddle together like a school of fish. They all lean in the same direction trying to look down the driveway, then they all move forward, and back again.
“Is everything okay?” my mother calls down from the top step.
“Everything's fine. Narissa just got herself a new job for a bit,” Dad shouts back.
“I'll explain later, but right now, it's time to celebrate. I only turn fifty once.” He starts for the front doors, waving his hand over his head. “Oliver, you come too. Have some cake with us.”
For a brief moment I'm standing there alone with Oliver. His hands are in fists at his sides, a line of tension along his throat as if he's clenching his teeth. I want to say something to fix this mess. Any sort of words or phrase that will make him happy, or even better, get me out of this jam. Is my dad really expecting me to go do woodworking? I can barely make a paper airplane.
Suddenly Oliver inhales deeply. He looks at the house, still quiet. "Hey," I start to say, hoping to come up with a new apology. Fuck, if he just grasped how awful I feel...
Oliver strides away from me before I can finish. I hover by my broken car. I can't leave, where would I go without a way to drive? Why leave after coming all this way? Biting my bottom lip, I take a small step--my shoe crunches on fragments of wood. My heart tightens. I do my best to ignore it so I can finish the walk to the house.
The party is awkward and uncomfortable. Every time I look up, I swear Oliver is staring at me. I'm trying not to make eye contact with him, so I move around the room, doing my best to blend in with small groups of people.
But my eyes always find his no matter where I go. I expected him to be glowering still. Instead, I catch his smile. It's coy and intriguing. It makes me notice how handsome he is, the way I had before I was told I'd ruined all his cabinets.