Ethan Phillips POV
After dinner I step outside for a bit. I look before me and I see it, a fig fat garden. Just like I thought, Nina bought this place because of the garden. It’s beautiful, since it’s December there aren’t any flowers. But I can already see the flowerbeds she made to plant some roses and tulips. Knowing her the pound, of course she has one, will be filled with Lilies.
When I heard Lilly’s name, I wasn’t shocked. Nina told me what names she wanted to use for her kids. Lukas, that’s a name I fell in love with years ago. I feel so blessed, to have a kind woman like her. Even with all the miscommunication and anger, she made sure I was a part of their lives. Even if it was trough a song or by name.
Remembering how Lilly jumped of that stage, was just a conformation about what she told them about me. Lukas looks exactly like me; she must have told him that. How else can we explain that whole scenario.
I wonder how the entire pregnancy was, the guilt of not being there is still eating me up.
God, I can’t help but think how I messed up. How could I mess everything up like that? Nina says I didn’t do anything wrong.
But I did.
I know I did.
I should’ve followed her; I just should’ve followed my gut. I knew something was wrong with her, I felt it in my core.
‘You okay?’ I hear someone say behind me. I turn around and see my dad standing there with his hands in his pockets. ‘Sure.’ I give him a small smile. I don’t want to talk to him about it. ‘I know you better than that.’ He states, he doesn’t know me at all.
But even before I can answer it, he says: ‘You have tears rolling over your cheeks. Since when, do you cry?’ I wipe the tears of my face and realize I was indeed crying. But it hasn’t been the first time.
‘Since Nina.’ I admit. ‘What really happened?’ He asks me. ‘What I said, but I should’ve come after her. God, I knew something was wrong, but the betrayal in her eyes. It broke me.’ I tell him with a sigh, not holding the tears back. ‘I didn’t really do anything wrong, maybe waited too long to react when Michelle kissed me. I was just stunned… That I did wrong.’
‘Did you initiate it?’ I shake my head, ‘Never, I wouldn’t betray her like that. Gaining her trust was harder than Harvard.’ I say making him chuckle. ‘David really messed that girl up.’ ‘I patched her back up, though. I just had to ruin it, without actually doing anything.’
‘I do know what I did wrong though.’
‘I never told her I loved her.’
His eyes widen, ‘Why?’ he asked shocked.
‘I was scared she’d run. I knew she was the one for me, the second I kissed her. She was so scared of commitment with how her father left her mom the second he found out she was pregnant. How Nina had to work since she was 14 to make life easier for her mom. I saw the toll it took on her, she felt like she owed her mom her life. She never even told me she wanted to become a singer. She never told me she could sing.’
‘Ho-ow.’ ‘Yeah, I can read Nina like my favorite book. I know what’s wrong by just one look. But that’s the outside, I never knew a lot of things. And that, that broke me. When she left, I couldn’t function anymore. The entire summer, I was just laying down in my bed not moving from it. Every day I took another of her shirts that were in my house just to feel her close to me. I was really messed up. And the worst thing, I felt it. I felt in my gut that something was wrong. God, I should’ve followed her.’ I say letting my head hang down.
‘Yeah, you should’ve.’ He says, I can’t help but being shocked. My dad has always been the most rational person I’ve known. Career was everything, your happiness came second. ‘What?’ He smiles.
‘David… He knocked some sense in me. I never understood what the consequences were when I did what I did. But then I fell in the same pattern with Emily.’ ‘Yeah, you asshole. You made her give up the piano!’ I half yell at him. He holds his hands up, ‘I know. And believe me I feel guilty because of it. Nina came into our lives and about a year after, she saw Emily. Emily, looking back, she looked awful. So, Nina took her hand and said: “Go upstairs and pack your bags.”. With that she sent Em upstairs. The second Emily was gone, I tried reasoning with her, but she gave me that look.’
‘This one?’ I try to give my angry face. ‘Yes, but a lot scarier. And then she said, she didn’t yell. She yelled, "Don't you dare, I'm saving her.” I of course acted like she was overreacting. I asked her from what, that I shouldn't have done because she yelled that she was saving her from me. But I still yelled at her. So, she took me upstairs when Emily was down, and showed me some of those hiding places. And I saw, I saw the writings on her walls, the knifes, everything I was doing to my own daughter. After that, Nina didn’t speak with me for a month, and she wouldn’t have me anywhere near Emily. After about two months, I saw my daughter again. And she was my daughter again, she was happy. And then, I realized happiness and family are everything.’
I shake my head, ‘That sounds exactly like my Nina.’ I say with a smile. How could it be that this woman was the only one who could bring my dad to understand that he was doing something wrong. ‘She’s incredible, that woman.’ He states.
‘I’m very sorry, Ethan. I should’ve accepted your decision; I should’ve supported you. I knew how much you liked those books. God, I just realize Lilly is the exact same.’ I laugh at his statement, because it’s true.
‘I know, today she asked me about the Scarlet letter. That’s a book I ask my students of 14 to read. It’s unbelievable. Luke, he’s God, no words describe them.’
‘And its okay dad, I forgive you. Uncle David told me. And now I’m here. But the second I see you pressuring me, mom, Nina, my kids or Emmy again. I take them all away, just like Nina did.’ He smiles at me but shakes his head. ‘I learned my lesson.’ The honesty I hear in his voice, is enough for me to know he means it.
‘Tell me about her pregnancy, dad. I feel so damn guilty.’ I stand near the railing, I let my head down as I feel my dad pat my back.
I hear him ruffle with something which consumes my attention. ‘Here.’ He says, he gives me a little photo. I can’t believe what I’m seeing, ‘That’s Nina.’ ‘Yes, it is. She was 5 months pregnant at the time. Not wanting to give anything up, those stubborn Lancasters. She looked beautiful pregnant. She wasn’t really happy at the time, until that day.’ He explains.
‘What happened that day?’ ‘That’s the day she felt them both kick and she found out the sex then too.’ A smile appears on my face. ‘I never understood her choice to do it all alone, but hearing the story, I understand her. David screwed her up, without even being there. And you both paid the price for that and that’s something I won’t forgive him.’ He states angry.
‘Why?’ ‘If he would’ve just said fuck it, instead of running away thinking he was protecting them, everything would’ve been different. Nina is a true daddy’s girl. If he’d been there whilst her growing up, she’d kiss the floor he walks on.’ I raise my eyebrows.
‘Wow, she hated him.’ ‘That she did, she lived with him for about a month before she moved out to campus. After that he almost never saw her. He only saw her if he’d show up at her dorm.’ I roll my eyes, ‘That sounds like Nina alright.’ ‘She didn’t call him dad for months after meeting him; it was killing him. She first called him that, was… the day I found her in her own blood.’
‘In her own blood?’ ‘The day the twins were born.’ ‘Nin told me that she pushed her body to far.’ ‘That she did, too stubborn to accept any sort of help. Let alone help her financially. She wanted to do it all by herself. David was slowly becoming a shell of himself, knowing that he was the reason behind it, because his daughter was working herself to the death.’
‘Whaa-aat?’ He nods, ‘It was horrible,’ ‘I know why though.’ I tell him, he looks my way giving me a nod to go on.
‘Nina always wanted to help her mom. She has worked her whole life hard enough just so she could help her mom. When she was looking for colleges and departments, she was looking to those who were financially stable. Something she could use to pay her mom back. I’m certain that she gives her mom a huge amount of money every month, just so Frances would be comfortable enough. So, she doesn’t have to count every penny twice or work doubles or even triples.’ He looks at me with a stunned look and I know I’m right.
‘I hit the jackpot, didn’t I?’ I laugh. ‘Her very first check she got from the label, she donated half of it to her mom.’ I raise my brow. ‘Okay fine, you got me. I found out later on she donated like 90 percent of it to her mom.’ I laugh. ‘She probably still does it.’ He nods, ‘Yup. Even when I told her that her mom was more than comfortable.’
‘You tried to reason with Nina?’ I ask laughing. ‘I had too. I’m her lawyer. I needed too. She’s given over 5 million to her mom. The woman doesn’t know what to do with it.’ ‘Wait, what?’ I don’t think I heard him right. I thought he said 5 million. ‘What?’ ‘I thought you said 5 million.’ I tell him laughing whilst shaking my head.
‘I did.’ ‘Nina makes that kind of cash?’ I ask completely stunned.
‘She makes more than that. She makes like 5 million in a month when an album comes out.’
‘Damn.’ ‘If she would just use it.’ He says shaking his head. ‘That’s not Nina, dad.’ I tell him.
‘She grew up counting every penny, she won’t spend unless it’s necessary. Like hospital or school supplies.’
‘You really know her.’ He states confused. ‘Yes, I do. I probably know her better than anyone of you. Just like she knows me better than anyone else. In our relationship, it was just the two of us. In the weekends, she’d go to work and then stay with me for the rest of it. We spend a lot of time together. She knows me like no other.’ I explain to him.
‘I think your mom and I knew you well before….’ I shake my head, ‘Not really, dad. The expectations you guys had for me, made me keep things from you. I don’t think you know half of what Nina knows.’ I tell him honestly. ‘Oh.’ He says with teary eyes.
‘Hey, it’s okay. We’ll get to know each other again, just don’t be surprised if you notice things about me you never knew before.’ ‘Okay. We’ll start over again.’ He says as he pulls me in a hug. ‘I love you son. I know I was an asshole, but I do love you.’
I waited years for him to say those words to me. ‘I love you too dad. I wished you just told me sooner.’ I tell him honestly. He pulls me closer to him as I feel hot tears fall in my neck.
‘It’s okay, we have time now.’