Acceptance

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Chapter Twenty-one

[ANDREW]

I’ve been seeing Christopher around; at the supermarket, on the street, around the corner... I’ve tried not to let his presence get to me. I even checked online to find out why he was here in the first place and found out he had some sort of conference going on for about two weeks. I just had to survive seeing him for the period.

I didn’t take any chances, though. I didn’t leave the cabin without Ethan or Roxanne, and when Ethan and Devein were out in school I stayed in the same place as Roxanne and made sure the doors were locked.

Ethan helped me stay sane too. He Locked up the cabin at night and woke up at intervals to check if the locks were still in place to ease my fears.

I sighed, watching the chickens parade about the yard from the kitchen window. It was early noon, and Ethan had already left for his classes. Devein hadn’t gone to school today since she wasn’t feeling too well.

“I’m on my period,” she had plainly said, curling in pain as I’d tried to hassle her form bed this morning. I had called my mother for some advice and she’d told me to give Devein a hot water bag to rest on her tummy. She also told me to avoid giving Devein anything too sweet or proteinous.

My mother had been calling every hour or so to check in on Devein since then.

MOTHER.

Thurs, 1:23 PM.

Tell her to rest her tummy on the floor, it helps.

I read the text immediately it came up on my phone. I nodded at it, putting my phone away before filling a new hot water bag.

I headed to Devein’s room with a cup of tea and the hot water bag in hand.

“How are you doing?” I asked as I walked in on her lying on the bed with a scowl of pain on her face. Roxanne was on the bed too; nuzzling and licking Devein’s ankle. The scene made me smile softly. Somehow, my problem had put Roxanne’s mindset to think that licking against an ankle was the solution to all pain.

“Fine — I think,” Devein muttered in response as I took a seat on the edge of her bed. I dropped the mug of tea and the hot water bag on the side table.

“My mum said you should try lying on the bare floor for a while, that it helps,” I said, passing on the information from my mother.

Devein nodded into her pillow before bringing the now cool hot water bag from beneath her. I collected it, passing her the new one afterward.

“You’ll be fine,” I said, running a hand through her hair that was covered in sweat. She gave me a blank stare, not looking so convinced before curling into a ball in pain.

“It feels like fucking footballs are being thrown at my tummy consecutively,” she groaned, gripping her stomach.

“Language,” I said, flicking a finger over her forehead. She pouted, rubbing her forehead before muttering a quick sorry.

She moved up a little so that her head was pressing against my clothed thigh.

“Your mum’s nice,” she muttered, tracing invisible shapes on my thigh as I ran through her hair. I smiled, thinking about how mother and been panicking through the phone over a girl she hardly knew.

“I guess,” I said, looking about her room. It’d transferred from the dull guest room it used to be to a lively teen’s room with clothes discarded about the place and posters of bands I couldn’t make out decorating the walls. I’d changed the carpet on the floor to a fluffy black one that she’s promised not to mess up. Ethan had helped her cover up the brown walls with dark pink wallpaper. It was odd to think she only had about a month and a half left here.

“The station called today,” I stated, looking down at Devein’s face for a change of expression. Her face remained void of any as if waiting for the final blow.

“They found a place...” I trailed, deciding against the word orphanage, “I checked it up online myself—”

“You still want to get rid of me?” she asked all of a sudden, cutting me off. I blinked, looking down at her blurred eyes. She didn’t really think that, did she?

“No, it’s not like that at all,” I stated, shaking my head.

“I don’t want to leave,” she said in a small voice, making her words sound like a plea. “I have friends at school, and I’m actually going to school. Plus, you and Ethan are nice to me. I want to stay.”

I sighed, not knowing what to say anymore as she looked up at me with pleading eyes. She might like it here, but it was definitely the best for her to find people that could be actual parents.

“Devein... I really don’t know...” I finally let out, looking from her to the black fur carpet.

“I’m not asking you to do anything. Besides, I knew I had to leave eventually,” she sighed before turning a gaze away from me. I sat there with her head pressed against my thigh in awkward silence for a while before getting up and heading out the door. She’d spoken to me like I could do anything about it. Being unstable as I was, I definitely wasn’t in the position of being the guardian of anyone, and Ethan wasn’t going to be here forever to straighten out the wrinkles in my parenting ability.

The thought of Ethan leaving me made my chest ache. I know he still had at least two more years to finish college but the idea of him leaving was still a painful thought, and I didn’t quite have the courage to do the one thing that might make him stay. I felt light-headed even just thinking about it. Even if I did have the courage to tell him how I felt about him in black and white, I still think it’s a bit selfish to ask him to stay in this dull boring town after graduation just because I wasn’t comfortable with the crowd of a city. That would be overestimating his feelings for me.

I lazed around the house four another four and a half seeing as I was done with my new books draft and Ethel had already sent it to the editors. I wasn’t really looking forward to getting the edited draft back anytime soon. The editors Ethel insisted on using were too keen to change facts, delete whole chapters and conversations and generally just get on my nerves.

Roxanne’s ears perked up as the front door creaked open. She then gave a playful bark at the sight of Ethan, running over to give him a dog hug; digging into his sides as she attempted to stand upright.

“It’s nice to see you too,” Ethan laughed, squatting so that he was on the same level with the brown dog that kept leaping around.

“How’s Devein doing?” he asked, tearing his attention away from Roxanne to look towards me.

“Fine — I guess,” I replied, using the exact same words she’d said to me. I walked up to the front door, closing it before returning my attention back to Ethan and Roxanne who seemed to have finished saying their hellos.

I walked over to Ethan giving him a look over before a smile tugged at the corner of my lips, “you have fur all over you.”

He rolled his eyes at my statement as he began to dust fur of his shirt. I helped out, plucking strands of dog hair of his long-sleeved shirt.

“How are you?” Ethan asked as he took one last strand of fur of his shirt. I pursed my lips, contemplating an answer.

“I don’t know...Tired? Frustrated? Oddly happy to see you...” I trailed not able to put my emotions into words.

“It’s okay,” Ethan said, taking my hands in his, “It’s okay not to know how you feel at times. It’s normal,” He said, brushing a stray strand of my hair away from my forehead.

I bit my lip wondering if I should tell him about the exchange me and Devein had.

“I talked to Devein about what the station said today,” I started, looking down at our joined hands, there was no way I was getting over how oddly they fit together, how nice it felt.

“She was mad when I told her they found a place,” I finally got out, getting out of my thoughts.

Ethan gave me an odd look before his brows knit into a frown, “She’s leaving?”

“Wasn’t that how it was always supposed to be?” I asked, wondering why he seemed so confused.

“Yeah...” Ethan trailed before biting his lower lip, “I just assumed you’d take what your mum said about adopting her into consideration.”

My face reddened at being reminded of the conversation I and my mother had had through the phone a few days ago. She’d asked me to adopt Devein but I hadn’t taken her seriously.

“I don’t know. I’m not exactly parent material,” I confessed, taking my hands away from his.

Ethan rolled his eyes at this as he followed me into the kitchen. I didn’t tell him he was getting in the way of me preparing dinner. He kept on emptying the bowl of diced carrots and making me lose focus by simply teasing me over nothing. No matter how much of a pain he was being I wanted him around me so I just settled with suffering in silence.

“You’ll make a great parent,” Ethan said all of a sudden, making me slice a piece of potato way too thin.

“Look at what you did,” I groaned, finally snapping. Ethan chuckled at my face removing his weight from the counter before strolling to be and relieving me of the knife in my hands.

“I’ll make amends then,” he said in a matter of fact tone as he continued cooking from where I’d left off. I went over to sit on the counter, watching Ethan as he busied himself with the cooking.

“Do you think so?” I finally asked, getting the question off my chest. Ethan paused chopping the cabbage to look over at me.

“Do I think what?” he asked, giving me a curious look. I sighed. Trust Ethan to forget what he said just minutes ago.

“Do you really think I’ll make a good parent? Devein’s a good kid, and I can’t think of anyone who won’t want her, but I don’t want to be selfish. I can hardly take care of myself,” I muttered at a go, not sure if Ethan got half of what I was getting at.

“Of course I think you’ll be a good parent,” Ethan answered, wiping his hands off on a kitchen towel.

“You’ve taken care of me, haven’t you?” he asked, coming up to the counter to stand right in front of me.

“I think it’s the opposite really...” I trailed, making Ethan chuckle lightly as he moved to hug me to himself. I snuggled into the hug, placing my head on his shoulder as I let the stray strands of his long hair tickle my face. I hummed taking in his sent. We both smelled like carrots, cabbages, and sweet potatoes.

“I love you,” Ethan mumbled into my hair, sending a shiver to course through my body. Recently the same three words have been on the tip of my tongue in anticipation to be uttered but I couldn’t quite bring myself to say them yet. I hummed in reply instead as we broke the hug.

Ethan gave me a look like he was expecting something before the pressure cooker went off and diverted his attention.

I ran a hand through my hair before looking away from him in guilt. I knew he wanted me to say the same thing too. I wanted to, but I couldn’t do it now.

We both looked up at the sound of Roxanne whining at the front door. She must have let herself out since I’d forgotten to lock the door. I stiffened a little, thinking to myself that Christopher would have easily slipped in but Ethan’s laugh brought me out of it; bringing my attention back to the dog that was still whining at the door.

“I better let her in,” I said, getting down from the counter. Ethan nodded approvingly as I made to leave the kitchen.

I walked up to the front door, opening it to let in a drenched Roxanne. She didn’t dare to shake the water off in the house; she knew that I’d just send her right back.

I smiled at her shaking form. She must have wondered a bit far and had some kids mess with her.

“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up,” I muttered, leading her to the bathroom I and Ethan shared. As I dried Roxanne up I wondered what it would be like to be a dad.

I smiled as Roxanne licked my face in thanks as I tried to concentrate on drying her fur with a blow drier. Roxanne was a dog, but I treated her well. I could possibly take up the responsibility of parenting a teenage girl.

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