Letting In and Family
“Where were you guys last night? I heard you coming in at around four in the morning so don’t you guys dare and lie.” Mom says in a threatening voice when Grant and I make our way into the dining room together.
We had come to an agreement last night to not tell Mom and Dad about anything just yet. Grant had initially refused, saying they deserved to know why their daughter was silently hurting while they kept wondering if they had missed something. I had to beg him to let me do the retelling of The Tale of Leah’s Heartbreak but when I’m strong enough to do it myself. He had seemed reluctant but agreed.
Grant looks at me but sighed in frustration. “We went for ice cream and a drive. Just catching up.” He says through clenched teeth.
Dad and Mom both pause, noticing a shift in Grant’s behavior and turn to me, raising a brow and asking me the silent question. I shrug innocently even though I know the answer.
“Oh, okay but inform us next time you go out like that. Now sit and eat.” Dad says, swiftly brushing off Mom’s attempt at questioning Grant who’d be even more pissed knowing he can’t say a word. He passes two plates of his special pancakes towards us and I bite in while Grant is still lost in his thoughts.
“Thank you, Grant, for coming over this week. We were really not uncomfortable leaving Leah all alone at home.” Mom smiles his way and Dad nods.
Grant looks up at them in confusion and it’s the that I remember about my parent’s plan for the week. Great, I had completely forgotten I would have to be alone for the Valentine’s week if I hadn’t called my brother to get back home. Can life get anymore lonlier?
“What are you talking about?” He asks, taking the first bite of his pancakes.
Dad frowns and turns to Mom. “You didn’t tell him?”
Mom looks confused for a moment but then gives a sheepish smile. “I may or may not have told Leah about it. Twice.” I nod, remembering her telling me twice about her plans and I thought she was bragging.
Dad sighs and turns to Grant. “We were invited for a friend’s wedding in Paris. I’m the head chef and your mother is the dress designer for the whole event. They wanted their big day to be romantic and cheesy to they chose the Valentine’s week and Paris. We’re flying out today.”
Grant turns to look at me. “You should have told me if you knew. You weren’t planning on staying a whole week alone, were you?”
I roll my eyes. “I called you, remember? Besides, I would have probably crashed at Tracy’s for the whole week if I were to be alone.” I shrug. Then my eyes widen as I remember what dad said and I turn to my parents. “Wait, what? You’re flying out today?”
“I told you all about our plans, sweetie. You knew when we were going to leave.” Mom says.
“But-” I start, remembering Mom telling me in detail about this cheesy wedding and her and dad’s plans to be there the last time we talked freely which was around two weeks ago. Sure enough, I knew all about it. “But it’s so soon.”
Dad chuckles. “Time flies by fast, doesn’t it? Look at you guys, it feels like yesterday when you were born and with a blink of an eye, you’re all grown up adults. Soon you’ll be living your own lives, getting caught up in all the adult troubles we kept you away from as kids.”
Mom sighs. “we’re getting old, honey.” She says, placing her head on Dad’s shoulder.
He plants a kiss on the top of her head. “Yeah, we are. But I’m happy. I have a beautiful wife and two of the most perfect kids. I can never ask for more.” He mumbles, smiling contently.
Mom’s smile matches his. “Me either.”
I don’t know if the universe if playing a joke on me or if I’m just too emotional but this whole scene playing in front of me pushes me more towards the well of guilt I’ve built around me. My parents’ love for each other and for us reminds me of when because of my isolation episode, they were regularly fighting and drifting apart. It reminds me of how Grant had to leave home because he couldn’t see me rotting away alone. It also reminds me of the big smiles on their faces when I started letting myself out more. When I started joining them more and when we went for a picnic just over a month ago.
It makes me realize that all they want is to see us - Grant and I - happy. And their happiness is linked to ours. Seeing me broken broke them too and I know that deep inside, they know there are things that they are not aware of - things that are internally hurting their kids and eating us away. Things they deserve to know about as our parents.
I’m so lost in my thoughts that I don’t realize when my mouth opens to speak. “I love you guys.” I say.
Mom and Dad beam at me, showing me how happy just hearing an ‘I love you’ from their child makes them. “We love you too, honey.”
I take a deep breath and feel my eyes stinging and before I know it, tears are flowing out again. Grant immediately pulls me to him and rubs my back. I see Mom frowning.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?”
The concern in her voice is life the nail in the coffin and suddenly, I’m drowning in guilt and grasping for anything to hold on to, also, while struggling to breath. I take another deep breath and straighten up.
I have to do this. And do this now.
If I don’t then they’ll be away for a week and I don’t think I can carry the burden of this guilt anymore. If I’m hurting, they are too.
“I have to tell you guys something.” I say while wiping my tears. No good as more fall. Grant stiffens beside me, probably guessing what’s to come next.
Dad looks concerned as he looks at me, leaning on the table a little in attempt to get closer. “What is it, Princess? Are you okay?”
I open my mouth to say my favorite lie ‘I’m fine’ but I couldn’t lie anymore, not to them. So instead, I shake my head, hiding my face in my hands as I sob harder. The noise of chairs being pushed back is heard before my small body is engulfed in soft, warm embrace. It’s Mom.
“Shhhh.” She coos. “Honey, what’s wrong?”
“Mom.” Grant intervenes, silencing her worries. He then pulls me up and I hide my face in his chest as he guides me to the sitting room. He pulls me down on the couch beside him with Mom on the other side as she rubs soothingly on my back.
“Grant, what’s going on?” Dad asks, worry and panic reflecting in his voice.
I pull back to wipe my tears and see a torn expression on Grant’s face as he looks back and forth between Dad and me. Frustrated, he gets up and starts pacing around the room. The seat he left is now occupied by Dad.
When Grant doesn’t answer, he looks at me. “Princess, tell me what’s wrong. Please.” His voice is soft, almost begging me to give away my pain to him.
I look away and compose myself before opening my mouth so that I don’t turn into a crying mess again. “Sean and I broke up.” I mumble in a small voice. The quietness of the room makes it possible for them to hear it. Dad nods with an understanding look on his face.
“We figured that much when we didn’t see him around anymore. But do you want to tell us what happened?” Mom asks, concern and confusion clear in her voice.
“That asshole kissed Ronnie.” A pissed of Grant answers for me. “Remember that girl who used to be friends with Leah? Yeah, her. And guess what, Mom? He did it on her birthday - in front of the whole school. He embarrassed and humiliated her and broke her heart on her birthday. That bastard. And what kind of friend does that? I never liked that girl, Ronnie. Who knows for how long she had kept her and Sean’s relationship hidden. I swear, dad -” His ramble is cut off when Mom throws a glare at him.
“Grant Austin Carmen.” She says in a stern voice. “You will not speak in that way in front of me and your Dad.”
Grant groans in frustration. “That’s not the point, Ma.” he sighs and shakes his head. “Whatever.” He says and storms off the living room. Minutes later, we hear the main door slam shut.
I look up from my lap where my eyes had been fixated since Grants’departure to meet Dad’s eyes that hold a solemn look. “I didn’t even know my baby was hurting so much.” He whispers and pulls me in a hug. “You should have said something sooner, Princess.”
Mom shakes her head. “I never thought Sean would do something like that.”
“If I ever see him again, I might kill him.” The anger in dad’s voice shocks me and I pull away.
“Dad.” I beg. “No, please.”
Dad shakes his head. “He hurt you. I don’t know if I will be able to control myself. I trusted you with him. I remember how you were like when we returned from that cruise trip where you had first met him. You were a mess, Princess. I can only imagine how bad it must have been this time. I should have been able to see that my baby was hurting.”
I shake my head at him, wiping away a tear that had fallen from his eyes. “I didn’t say anything to anyone, Dad. You couldn’t have known.”
“I’m a father, baby. Of course I should have.”
“You were a wreck, Leah.” Mom speaks. “But we waved it off thinking it was just a teenage thing. And you were so good at hiding your emotions.” I turn around to see her crying.
“We still should have known, Roma.” Dad says quietly.
Mom nods, her face hidden in her palms. “We should have.”
My chest clenches as I notice how things that hurt you can hurt your parents too. How your ruination could affect a happy family. How you are the source of any major happiness or hurt in your parents’ life.
“Mom, Dad.” I say, sitting up straight and wiping away my tears. “You guys, stop blaming yourself. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything but it hurts so much to even think about it. I don’t want you to blame yourselves.”
They look at me and nod, wounding their arms around me and giving me a double side hug.
“Do you wanna talk about it?” Mom mumbles, her head resting on my shoulders.
And I do. I tell them everything I told Grant last night and like my brother, they listen patiently to every little thing. It’s much harder talking to them about my feelings, specially the part where I was rumored to be sleeping around with every guy at school. How do you even tell a parent something like that? With Grant, it wasn’t comfortable but he’s my sibling, we’re the same generation and he kind of understood me better. But with Mom and Dad, it’s a hell lot of awkward as well as hard to recall everything. But I don’t want to hide anything that’s hurting me from them anymore.
Now that I’ve seen how things in my life affect them through better and worse, I can’t possibly keep another thing as a bait to hurt them.
When I’m done, Dad looks torn between committing a crime or holding his daughter until all her pain evaporates away. Mom is again, a sobbing mess. “What a bunch of bastards!” Dad says through gritted teeth. “And to think you had to suffer all of that without us. I’m so sorry baby.”
After assuring them that it wasn’t their fault and that I was better after talking it all out which wasn’t exactly a lie, I remind them of their flight.
“You guys are gonna be late because of me.” I mumble.
Dad shakes his head. “Absolutely not. Don’t go there, we’re not leaving right after you shared something so personal. I know it was hard.” Mom nods in agreement.
I purse my lips. “If I had known that you guys were gonna be like this, I wouldn’t have said a word until you got back. Look, you guys need to go. I need sometime to think and reflect about everything without you guys hovering around me and walking on eggshells as if I’d break at small reminders of pasts. Also, you guys should go and relax. Don’t think about whatever I told you and just enjoy.”
“That’s rude.” Mom remarks.
“Well, I’m heartbroken and you guys should be fulfilling all my demands. And right now, I demand you guys to not cancel your trip. Come on, it’s Paris and Valentine’s week - for free!”
Mom chuckles but Dad isn’t giving up easily. After an hour of argument and emotional blackmail, he reluctantly agrees. Grant is still not back when it’s finally time for Mom and Dad to leave. Dad looks torn and he sighs as his driver is putting his bags away in the car.
“I don’t want to leave you alone and go.” He says hugging me.
I pull back and give him a small smile. “I’m your strong daughter, Dad. I’ll be fine. Besides, I’m not alone. Grant will be here.”
Mom frowns. “I’m not sure sure about that. Where is he anyway?”
I shrug. “He isn’t answering his calls. But he’d be back soon, I know.”
They sighs. “Okay but take care and don’t even think twice before calling us if you need us, okay?” Dad says.
I nod and smile. “I’ll be fine, Dad.”
They finally leave and I retire to my room, thinking that in just one week, I feel lighter than I did a month ago. Maybe carrying the burden of your pain with someone who loves you really does the magic. More so if it’s family.
I feel better letting them in.