“How do you know Mason?”
“He’s my boyfriend’s best friend,” I replied casually.
“Boyfriend? You have a boyfriend?!”
I scowled. “Is that really important right now, Papa?”
“Yes! It is. Who is your boyfriend?”
“Brett,” I said simply.
“I will end him,” my father spat out angrily.
Serena rolled her eyes. “Shut up, Francesco. You are in no position to be angry with anyone.”
He at least had the decency to look ashamed.
“I just don’t understand,” I said after a while.
“You don’t understand what?”
“Why you kept my grandparents and Mason from me, and Mason from us for that matter, even when I was old enough to understand.”
“Pride. Foolish pride is my only explanation.” He got up and walked over to where Serena and I were sitting and knelt down in front of me. “I am so sorry, Penelope, I truly am. In my selfish attempt to protect myself from the hurt of losing you, I pushed you away and lost you all on my own. And I was too stupid to see it until it was too late.”
“It’s not too late, Papa,” I said with a sigh as the tears rolled down my cheeks. I took his hand in mine. “I just wanted you to be honest with me. And to love me.”
“I do love you, Lupe. More than anything in this entire world.” He pulled me into a bone-crushing hug, much to my astonishment. After a moment of not knowing what to do, I relaxed into his hug and sobbed openly. I allowed myself to grieve the loss of the mother I had never known and my past relationship with my father while celebrating the possibilities of the new familial relationships that were now available to me. Serena held my free hand the entire time and I was grateful for it.
We all sat on the couch and continued to talk for hours about any and everything. I had never had a conversation like that with my father before and it was incredibly cathartic. Everything wasn’t perfect, but it felt like we were heading in the right direction.
Around 10:30 I let out a huge yawn and Serena suggested that I head up to my old room and get some rest.
“Thanks for the offer but I’m going to head home. I’ll come back tomorrow for Sunday dinner though.”
“Come to church with us in the morning. And bring Mr. Jacobson with you. We have much to discuss.”
“Papa, I don’t think that’s necessary. Besides, he doesn’t have a sitter for Malachi.”
I paled. “Brett’s son.”
“He has a son!?”
“Francesco, calm down,” Serena admonished. “Penelope, have him bring Malachi with him.”
“I’ll ask him,” I said resignedly.
An hour later, I opened the door to my apartment with a content sigh, ready to head to bed. I was halfway up the stairs when I heard something fall in my kitchen. I froze in fear. There couldn’t be anyone in my apartment. Marcus was the only other person with a key and he was out with his girlfriend.
“Hello?” I called out, trying to keep my voice from trembling.
Footsteps made their way into my entryway and Brett came into view.
“Oh shit Brett!” I clutched my chest and blew out a deep breath. “You scared the crap out of me! How did you get in here?”
He chuckled and met me on the stairs. “Marcus called and said you might need me tonight so he met me here and let me in.”
“Asleep in your guest room; I hope you don’t mind.”
Instead of answering, I leaped into Brett’s open arms with a sigh of relief. “Of course not. I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Good. I’ve got a surprise for you. Wait here.”
He kissed my forehead and left me waiting expectantly on the stairs while he rushed into the kitchen. He returned a moment later with a tray of steaming hot food. I felt my mouth water as he passed me and beckoned me to follow.
“Go into the bathroom and get undressed,” he instructed as we entered my bedroom. I felt my toes curl in anticipation. Bossy Brett was back. “I’ll be in shortly.”
Scrambling out of my clothes, I noticed that the tub was already filled and the jets were going. I sunk into the water and moaned in pleasure as the hot water melted my worries away. I laid back and let the bubbles cover my body as I began to relax.
“You look comfortable.”
I looked up to see Brett standing there with an adorable smirk on his face.
“I am. Thank you for this,” I replied with a small smile. “How much did Marcus tell you?”
Brett shook his head and sat down on the floor beside the tub. “He only said that I needed to be here for you tonight, in a way that he couldn’t be. Here, baby, eat.” He brought a spoonful of pasta to my lips.
“Mmm! That is so good! Where did you get it from?”
“I made it,” he replied casually, feeding me another bite of food. “Would you like some wine?”
I raised my eyebrow. “Why yes, I would.”
A glass of red wine was placed in my hand and another bite of food into my mouth. This was next level relaxation.
We sat in silence for a while, Brett continuing to feed me. “I had a crazy day,” I said after a while.
“You want to talk about it?”
“I don’t know,” I replied in a quiet voice.
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to. We can just sit here and relax.”
I nodded and leaned back, closing my eyes.
A few more minutes passed before I spoke again.
“I have a twin brother,” I said, taking another sip of wine.
“Oh?” He asked raising an eyebrow in surprise. I could tell he was trying not to react strongly and his facial expression made me want to laugh.
I nodded. “Yeah. It’s Mason.”
“What?! Mason, as in my best friend Mason?”
“Wait, wait, wait. Back up and tell me from the beginning.”
I chuckled and relayed the events of the day to Brett who listened with rapt attention.
“Holy shit, Lupita!”
“How are you doing with all of this?”
“Surprisingly well to be honest. I feel like I should be more upset but it feels as if this huge weight has been lifted.”
He nodded. “Have you talked to Mason? Does he know about any of this?”
I shook my head no. “Not yet. I’m going to father’s house after church tomorrow and we’ll discuss it then.” I bit my lip, hesitating for a moment. “Speaking of church and dinner with my father, Papa and Serena would like for you and Malachi to join us.”
Brett’s eyes widened. “You told him about us?”
“I’m sorry! It sort of just slipped out. Are you angry?”
“Of course not,” he said with a grin, kissing me on my nose. “Just surprised.”
“Oh, okay. So will you come tomorrow?” I twirled my wet hair between my fingers nervously. “I completely understand if you don’t want to--”
He shut me up with a kiss. “I’d love to. I especially can’t wait to go to church with you.”
I took his hand as he helped me out of the tub. “And why is that?”
“I’m going to need to repent for what I’m going to do to you tonight.”
Is he going to scream the entire way to church?”
It was early Sunday morning and Malachi, Brett and I were riding to church with Serena and my father. Malachi was upset that I was not next to him and my father was upset that Malachi was upset.
“I already told you, that he would calm down if you would pull over so I can switch seats with Serena,” I explained for the third time.
“He needs to learn how to calm himself, Lupita,” Brett interjected. “We talked about this.”
I scowled and folded my arms across my chest angrily as Malachi continued howling my name.
As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, I jumped out of the car and ran around to get Malachi. I pulled him into my arms to comfort him and pretty soon his sobs turned to quiet whimpers. By the time we made it to our seats, he was asleep on my shoulder.
“You’re going to spoil him,” Brett hissed, taking Malachi to give my arms a break.
“Shh. The service is starting.”
I noticed Serena smiling at me and blushed.
Despite the awkward start to the day, me reintroducing my father to his employee as my boyfriend and all that, we were doing pretty well. My father kept his opinions to himself and we enjoyed a wonderful message about the importance of family.
The ride back to my father’s estate was significantly more calm, as I made sure that I was next to Malachi who had his tiny hand wrapped around my finger.
“I have a surprise for you, Penelope.”
“Really Papa?” I asked excitedly. “What kind of surprise?”
The car stopped in front of the house and we piled out, following my father inside. He led us to the dining room and we all gasped in surprise.
“Jorge and Rosa? And Mason? Papa, what’s going on? What are they doing here?”
He ignored me. “Thank you all for coming.”
Mason frowned and turned to our grandparents.“Abuelo, abuela? How do you know Penelope? And Brett what are you doing here?”
“Perhaps we should all take a seat and talk,” Father said.
“Who are you?” Mason asked.
Father didn’t answer.
“Who are you?” Mason repeated angrily. At this point, I was sure he knew exactly who he was.
Mason turned to Rosa and Jorge. “Who is he?!” He shouted and Malachi started to cry.
Rosa sighed. “He’s your father.”