"No," Bob said firmly, arms crossed over his chest, "absolutely not."
"Papa," Francine sighed, knowing that she was whining and not really caring, "It's just a date!"
"And I still say you're too young," Bob replied.
"Papa..." Francine pouted.
"You're fifteen years old, that's far too young to date," Bob told her, "Particularly not a boy who's older than you."
"I went on my first date when I was fifteen," Frankie put in.
"See!" said Francine brightly.
Bob turned to him and raised an eyebrow, "Helpful."
Frankie shrugged, but his expression was at least slightly repentant.
Bob turned back to Francine, "You're not going."
"Papa, please, I promise I'll be good," said Francine.
Bob sighed, "It's not you being good that I'm worried about. I know what teenage boys are like. I've been one."
"Your Papa's right about that," Frankie said.
"I thought you were on my side," grumbled Francine.
"There isn't an issue of sides, we just worry about you getting hurt," replied Frankie.
"Simon wouldn't do that," Francine replied.
"Francine," Bob sighed, "how well do you really know this Simon kid?"
"He's te pitcher for the school baseball team," Francine said, "He says hi to me every day during passing period because I have a class right after his in the same room."
She was blushing slightly and her dads exchanged a quick grin at the complete obviousness of her crush.
They were still wary but they did hope Francine would be smart enough to decide who would be a good guy for her.
"Please Papa," Francine asked.
Bob sighed, sending Frankie a questioning glance. Frankie responded with a shrug and slight nod.
"Alright," Bob said.
Francine squealed and threw her arms around him, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"I want to meet this Simon, though," Bob told her.
"Okay," Francine let out a deep sigh, "but please don't scare him off, please"
"I'm afraid that I can't promise that," Bob told her.
"I just want to make sure whatever boy takes you out treats my little girl with the respect she deserves," Bob embraced her.
"I'm not little anymore," Francine replied.
"Doesn't mean you don't deserve respect," Bob kissed the top of her head.
Bob was sitting on the couch with a book when the doorbell rang. Before he could make any move to get up, Francine was out of her room and half-running past him.
"I've got it!"
Even though she got to the door first Bob was not far behind her, "Simon!" Francine smiled at her date.
"Hey Franci," the boy said with a smile.
Bob wasn't sure about that smile, it was a little too much on the smirking side for his liking. He took a step closer so that he was more beside Francine than behind her.
"Hello Simon," he said, extending a hand, "Bob Gaudio-Castelluccio."
"This is my papa," Francine introduced.
"Hello sir," Simon held out his hand clearly trying aiming to impress Bob.
Although Bob didn't attempt to crush Simon's hand--he wasn't Tommy--he did squeeze slightly harder than usual.
Simon grimaced slightly when Bob let go but turned to look at Francine, "You ready to go?"
"Yup!" Francine nodded.
"Keep your phone on at all times," Bob told his daughter, "If one of us texts you, make sure you text back."
"I will, Papa," Francine said, "I promise."
"I want her home by eleven," Bob directed Simon, "at the very latest."
"Of course, sir."
“I know this great place downtown,” Simon grinned as he took Francine out to the car, “It’s called Devito’s.”
The smile on Francine’s face faltered, “Oh,” she replied quietly, that was her Uncle Tommy’s place… Out of all the places he could have picked in Belleville he had to pick that club?
“Is something wrong?” Simon raised an eyebrow.
Francine shook her head, “No, sounds great,” she plastered on a big fake smile.
"Great." Simon smiled and held open the car door.
The club looked exactly like Francine remembered it, but then again she'd been there for its creation so Devito's was fairly ingrained in her mind.
This was supposed to be fun but she wondered how fun it would be knowing her father was onstage, one of her uncles was at the bar and the other only a stones throw away in his office.
"I only found out about this place last year," Simon said as he walked her to one of the tables, "They do an Under 18 night every month."
Francine knew this, of course, but she smiled and nodded as if it was an interesting fact.
"I'll go grab us some drinks," Simon told her, "Coke?"
"Sure," agreed Francine. All she could do was hope that her Uncle Nick hadn't seen them come in.
Nick had seen Francine quite clearly from his place behind the bar when she entered Devito's with her date. He kept her in the corner of his eye now as said date approached the bar.
"What can I get you?" Nick asked him once he got close enough, on this night Nick was particularly cautious because he'd seen every trick in the book.
"Two Jack and Cokes please," the younger man said smoothly.
Nick slowly raised an inquisitive eyebrow and Simon fidgeted slightly under his stare.
"Want to try that again?" Nick asked.
Simon cleared his throat, "Two Cokes, please."
"That's better," Nick replied coolly, in this instance it wasn't just about alcohol being given to minors, this was also his niece sitting at that table.
"It's just," Simon said as Nick pulled down a couple cups, "I'm with this girl and I want to impress her. Show her what I can do, you know?"
"Alcohol is not impressive," Nick replied, filling the glasses with plain Coke.
Simon frowned, grabbed the Cokes and walked away, Nick was not going to let any underage drinking happen on his watch.
Francine watched the interaction with baited breath, but when there were no obvious threats coming from Nick--although to be fair, that would be more of her other uncle's style--she let out a sigh of relief.
Simon set the drinks down in front of them, "Here's your Coke."
It was hard for Francine to concentrate on the conversation Simon was making because the knowledge that her dad was going to be crooning away on stage soon was slightly jarring. When Simon's hand touched hers, she startled slightly.
"Everything okay?" he asked.
"Yup," Francine nodded, "just fine."
Simon smiled and took her hand, maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.
Francine made effort to stay focused on Simon and she barely noticed when the main act for the night was announced. Of course, she couldn't mistake the sound of his voice, but she was able to hide her sudden increased heart rate when Simon asked if she wanted another drink.
"Yeah, yeah sure-" Francine nodded looking to see her father on stage as Simon went to get more Coke.
"Probably won't need the alcohol anyway," Simon said conversationally as Nick refilled their glasses, "She is so into me."
"That so?" rumbled Nick, injecting the slightest bit of warning into his voice.
"Oh yeah," Simon smirked, "that's how this all goes she's a Sophomore, I'm a Junior... It's an upperclassman thing."
Nick's grip on the glass tightened and he nearly spilled the soda he'd just put in it. Simon furrowed his brow but just walked back to the table drinks in hand.
Right, Nick thought to himself, he really didn't like this guy so it was time to intervene. He briefly thought about telling Tommy, but that would probably not end very well for Francine's date. Not that it was going to end well for him anyway, but at least Nick could make sure it was on the less violent side. There were no customers at the bar, so Nick sidled over to the stage and managed to catch Frankie's eye. Frankie didn't stop singing, but he did follow Nick's head nod in the direction of Francine and Simon's table.
He gave a slight nod of his head showing he understood and continued with his set. Nick had done his part, it was truly Frankie's right as her father to go any "roughing up" that may be required so Simon didn't lay a hand on Francine.
When Simon returned to the table, he subtly moved his chair so that he was sitting closer to Francine. At least, she assumed that it was meant to be subtle, but it was hard to ignore the way his knee pressed against hers.
"This isn't usually my kind of music," Simon said, "but I like this guy."
Francine gave a small laugh, "Yeah, me too. So what kind of music do you like?"
"Classic rock," Simon answered, "British invasion. That kind of stuff."
He casually slung his arm around her shoulders and Francine's heartbeat quickened.
"I like this stuff," Francine said, "Old school jazz. I kind of grew up on it."
Frankie's set came to an end and he left the stage for a moment, but Francine didn't notice. She was leaning slightly into Simon’s side as his hand curled comfortably around her bicep.
“So are you kids enjoying the show?”
Frankie’s voice cut through the air between them and Francine shifted in Simon’s grasp, her face going red as she looked down at the table trying to pretend her father hadn’t just sat down at the table with her and her date.
“Yeah it was great,” Simon smiled brightly, “what did you think Franci?”
“Uh huh…” Francine muttered hoping her dad wasn’t going to to do anything too embarrassing.
“Franci, are you alright?” Simon put his free hand on hers which she immediately drew away. She felt her face getting warmer and it spread down through her shoulders.
“Did you like the show?” Frankie pressed looking straight at her.
Francine had enough, “Dad can you please just go away?” she begged.
“Oh come on Francine,” her father smiled while she continued to smile.
“Dad?” Simon squeaked, immediately letting go of Francine’s shoulders, “but I thought… Didn’t we-”
Francine sighed, “Simon this is my Dad, Dad this is Simon.”
“This isn’t how I’d planned to meet my daughter’s date,” Frankie held out his hand to Simon, “but she left me no choice.”
“But…” Simon stammered.
“You must have met my partner Bob,” Frankie explained.
“Oh,” Simon looked like a deer in the headlights.
“Now you two have fun, I’ve got to do another set,” Frankie stood up, “don’t stay out too late, if you do I’ll know.”
Francine looked up at Simon who appeared to be completely terrified. As Frankie walked away Francine glared at her date, “Snap out of it!”
“Why didn’t you tell me your Dad was going to be here?” Simon hissed.
“I didn’t know we were coming here!” Francine exclaimed, “this is my uncle’s club!”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Simond responded wide eyed.
“I didn’t think he would be like that,” Francine confessed as she glanced around the club making sure her Uncle Tommy wasn’t lurking about.
“Let's just,” Simon sighed, “Let's just get back to enjoying ourselves, okay? Maybe go for a walk or something.”
“Sure,” Francine agreed.
She didn't notice two pairs of eyes on her when they got up and began to walk towards the entrance hand in hand.
When Frankie returned to the dressing room after his last set of the night, he was surprised to see Francine sitting there alone looking cross.
"Where did your date go?" Frankie asked.
"Simon," Francine replied tersely, "left me here."
Frankie furrowed his brow, “I’m sorry about that.”
“Yeah right,” Francine folded her arms across her chest.
"Sweetheart I mean it," Frankie sighed.
"Then why didn't you leave us alone?" Francine frowned.
"I was only there for a few minutes," Frankie said, frowning, "What's really going on?"
"Nothing," Francine frowned refusing to meet his gaze.
Frankie cupped her cheek. "Francine," he said gently, "I saw you guys go outside. What happened?"
"We went for a walk," Francine said unconvincingly.
"And?" Frankie prompted.
"And nothing dad!" Francine replied sharply.
"Boys are stupid," Francine snapped sullenly.
Frankie's hands curled into fists.
"What did he do?"
"He tried to kiss me," Francine said after a pause, "I said no, but then he tried to kiss me again."
"I'm gonna--" Frankie started, but he stopped when Francine put a hand on his arm.
"It's alright dad," she told him, "Uncle Tommy already took care of it."
Frankie's anger turned into a startled laugh.
"Dad!" Francine began to blush.
"It's probably better your Uncle Tommy than me," Frankie said between laughs.
After a moment, Francine couldn't help but giggle as well as Frankie pulled her into a hug.
"I am proud of you for saying no," he told her when their laughter had died away, "And for sticking with it even when he persisted."
"Thanks dad," said Francine, "Can we...um...can we not tell Papa? I don't think I could stand the I told you so."
"Okay," Frankie nodded, "I suppose that's fair."