Chapter 34 - Aldrich
I smile as I watch Danica dances with Amber and Amethyst. Charlie and Danny are seated with me, at the bar, chatting and enjoying a drink. Danica is enjoying herself and, thankfully, she is starting to look herself again. Danny told me how sickly she had begun to look over the course of a few day before I arrived, though shortly after our video-chat.
“She’s back,” Charlie says, his tone protective, as he tips back the last of his drink. “My sister was friggin’ miserable. I hated seeing her that way.”
“Same,” Danny says, though his tone gives off a different sense of protectiveness. I glance to the side at him and I see the genuine love and care in his eyes as he watches both Danica and Amethyst. I can see that his relationship with Danica was much closer than anyone will ever know. Despite the fact they never were together in that way, they watch out for each other in that manner. Protectively, lovingly. Caringly.
“She has no idea what you’re planning,” Danny goes on, chuckling as he tips off his drink and asks the barista for another. “Whatever you do, don’t get cold feet.”
“You mean the way you did? Danica told me all about it.” Charlie chuckles when Danny starts to glare at him, puzzled.
“Whatever . . . Danica’s good at pep talks.”
“I won’t get cold feet,” I shake my head as I bring my glass to my mouth. “I don’t think it to be possible.”
“You’ll do it tomorrow, then?” Charlie asks, raising his cup to me before taking a drink.
“Yes,” I reply, nodding. “No sense in waiting for too long. I spoke to your grandparents, and they’ll help bring Danica to the park for me. Amber and Amethyst will take her shopping to distract her, and the two of you are going to help me with the theatrics . . .”
I trail off as Danica and the sisters return.
“Hey,” she says, smiling as I pull her to my side.
“Hello,” I reply, pecking her cheek. “You ready to leave? You have to get up early tomorrow, remember?”
She groans, “Don’t remind me. I finally get a bit of time off before I start hurrying to meet my net deadline and Gram wants to go look at new wallpaper. Nobody uses wallpaper anymore!”
I chuckle and give her a gentle squeeze before reaching into my pocket to pay the tab. Charlie waves me off, handing his card to the barista.
“I’ve got it,” he says, smiling as Amber wraps her arms around his waist. Danica smiles to Amber and briefly pulls away from me to hug both Danny and Amethyst. Once beneath my arm again, I lead her towards the door. As we walk to the car, Danica starts skipping, pulling my arm as if to make me walk faster.
“What’s gotten into you?” I ask, chuckling as I bring the car keys out of my pocket.
“I’m excited,” Danica replies, jumping next to me as I unlock the car doors.
“Nothing in particular, just the fact that you are here for another month.”
I chuckle, shaking my head as I let her into the passenger’s seat. I close her door and round the car to the other side. Once I’ve sat down and start the engine, Danica reaches her hand out to rest on my shoulder. I turn my head and press my lips to the back of her hand before pulling out of the parking space.
The next morning, I sneak out of the house before Danica wakes up. Her room is in the attic part of the house, so I have no worries of her hearing me leave. I no matter what happens today, everything has to go according to plan for it to work. I sling my pack over my shoulder as I hurry down the block to meet Charlie and Danny. They have a car waiting, since trying to sneak out in this manner with my own car will be risky.
“Morning,” Charlie says as he guzzles coffee. “It’s too early for this shit, man.”
“You wake up like this for games every weekend,” I say, chuckling as I toss my pack aside and sit in the back seat.
“Only if it’s an out-of-town game,” Danny sighs, pulling his cap down over his eyes as he settles into the front seat. “Amethyst and Amber are going to meet up with Danica at the wallpaper shop later.”
“Good.” Having Amethyst and Amber rescue Danica from her grandmother is the perfect diversion. It will keep Danica’s mind off me until she sees me later. I just hope she doesn’t freak out too much. It’s going to be a . . . trying day.