And, even though Charli is developing a long-overdue relationship with her father, that relationship is not without its complications. The scene below is one possible scenario in which Charli might find herself, given the current state of her family's affairs.
Marita hung up the phone, gritting her teeth. She poured herself a glass of iced tea and sat on one of on the stools at her kitchen counter, drumming her nails on the countertop and trying to convince herself she didn't want a cigarette.
Charli plopped on the stool beside her. "So?"
"He wants you all day. From church to dessert."
"I guess what I want doesn't matter?"
Marita brushed a wayward strand of hair away from her daughter's eyes. "It matters to me."
"I know, Mom. But that doesn't change anything. Did you talk to Angel?"
Marita nodded. "She's kind of stuck in the middle here, though, Char. I mean, it is Father's Day."
"I know. But he never cared about that before. And I can't believe he really cares about it now." Charli picked at her thumbnail, then looked up at her mother. "There's more, isn't there."
"Afraid so. There's a big family to-do at--"
"Nooo! Don't say it!" Charli slid off the stool and started pacing. "I can handle church and a family dinner where he pays more attention to Spencer than me, but I am not going to that restaurant! Why would he take me there? They don't even like me! Mom, you've got to get me out of this!"
Charli's eyes were wild, her face pleading and Marita wanted nothing more than to grant her daughter's wish. As much as Marita didn't want to go to her own parents' house for a long, stress-inducing dinner, this was different. Jim's parents had never acknowledged Charli -- worse yet, they'd refused to believe she was his, a position his mother still clung to almost fourteen years later. Like her daughter, Marita couldn't believe Jim would put Charli in the position of interacting with those people, but then again, Jim always did what was best for Jim.
"Okay," Marita said. "We'll figure something out. But, just so you know, if you don't go, this is likely to get ugly."
"No uglier than a 'family' dinner with people who don't consider me family."
She had a point. Still...Jim suing for custody? That would be pretty ugly.
"We could end up back in court, couldn't we?"
Marita nodded. "Yes."
"It's not like we have an official agreement. Wouldn't a judge understand?"
"Maybe. But it's a risk."
Charli sat down again. "How big a risk?"
"I'm not sure."
But to protect her daughter from Jim's family, it was a risk she was willing to take.