“Oh. Right. Sorry.”
I shrugged and joked, “What do you do? Life of the Bullied and Attacked, right? I should write a blog about it.”
I was struck by the serious tone from him. “What?”
I laughed again. I must’ve heard him wrong. “What’d you say?”
“That’s how you get your voice out? I say, do it. You have something to say, put it in a blogger. I would be proud if my daughter bloggered.”
“It’s,” blogged and not bloggered, but I kept quiet. He was so proud, and it was because of me. I stopped for the moment. He had no idea what he was saying, but he was trying. More tears threatened to spill, and I turned away again.
I had missed him.
“I’m fine.” I waved him off.
“Did I say something wrong?” He had grown quiet again.
I wanted to cry, hide, and wrap my arms around him at the same time. There was that hesitation and anxiety in him again. I hadn’t heard it in so long, but memories flooded me from their fights. He would respond to a question and Analise would become enraged. I heard it so many times, but it was never him. That’s what I wanted to tell him for so long. It was her. She was the problem. She ripped apart our family. Everything was her fault.
“No,” I choked out. “You said exactly the right thing.”
His obvious relief sent another wave of emotion through me. Malinda had been right. “Does Malinda come over here?”
I frowned. What had I said wrong now?
Then he said, “I don’t let her.”
So many emotions went through me at that statement. He was ashamed. No one should be ashamed of their home.
“This was,” he stopped. When he spoke again, his voice was clearer. “This house is where I failed my family. I failed you. Malinda is a new beginning. Her home is warm and loving.”
He continued, “I don’t want her to see this place. It’s mine, but it’s still Analise’s too.”
A shiver went over me. He was right. I’d been feeling her presence since I walked inside.
“I decided that I’d keep this place for you, even if you didn’t want me around you. I wanted you to have a home. I can’t change the memories of this place, but you can. Even if it means your,” he hesitated, “new family comes with you, that’s alright with me.”
“You’re talking like this isn’t your home anymore.”
“It’s not. It hasn’t been since she took you. It’s been a shelter for me. My home will probably be with Malinda now.”
I drew in a sudden breath. It was serious between them. Mark had been right, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. The first time I saw them together, I hated it. I hated her. It was more change. She was taking him further away from me, but I could no longer lie to myself. “Malinda’s good for you. You’re lucky to have her.”
His head had been down during our talk. It jerked up now. “You mean that?”
Our father/daughter moment had strayed towards deeper waters, but I couldn’t pull away now. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed him. I couldn’t tell him. My throat was filled with tears and emotions, it no longer allowed me to speak. All I could do was nod.
Neither of us talked. We sat in silence. The movie had ended earlier and the credits were done. Every now and then he would wipe a hand over his face. I would do the same.
He broke the silence when he lifted a hand towards me. “Malinda’s yours, too, if you want.” He stopped and took a deep breath. His voice cracked before he started again, “I’m not going to be like Analise and force you to do things. You’ve been through too much for me to treat you with kid gloves. You’re almost an adult and you’re going to be a great one. I can see it already, but you’ve got a room there, too.” His mouth curved up in a rueful grin, and he wiped at his eyes again. “I already know she told Mark that room was yours. It can sit empty for years and it’ll be your room. She already loves you, Samantha.” His eyes widened. “But I don’t mean that to make you feel pressured or anything. It’s there if you come or not. You can do whatever you need. I meant it about this place. This can be your home, too. I always meant to tell you, but I was a coward. I was too scared.”
He was scared of me.
He opened the door for that talk, but I couldn’t. Shaking my head, I got up from the couch. “I—” I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t be there. “I need to call Mason. I need to check in.” Going to the stairs, my hand reached for the rail and my head went down. I couldn’t see his pain. I was leaving him now. “And I have to go to the bathroom. I’m sorry.”
Then I fled upstairs. I didn’t feel my physical pain anymore. The emotional overrode it.
When morning came, I was pissed. No. I was livid.
Mason hadn’t come over, and he hadn’t called. He hadn’t texted, and a few hours later, there was still no alerts on my phone. It was nearing nine in the morning and I knew he was awake. He didn’t sleep late. He wouldn’t forget his phone anywhere, so he was avoiding me. That could only mean one thing—it happened last night. Whatever he had planned for Kate had happened and I hadn’t known. I’d been left out.