“Devien are you ready?” Ethan called out as he settled on the sofa beside me. We heard a loud agonizing snob before the banging of a door. I looked out to the entrance of the hallway with worried eyes, wondering if she was okay.
Devien had a feeling we were heading out to round up things for a movement to the orphanage home. Frankly, she wasn’t pleased.
“Can we just tell her the truth? I don’t think a surprise is worth her feeling like this,” I said, looking over at Ethan who was now busy on his phone. Ethan looked up at me, giving me a small smile. His eyes were glimmering with a feeling I was only getting used to.
“The surprise will be worth it, I promise,” Ethan assured me, placing his free hand on my knee in comfort. My mind was soothed reasonably. I wasn’t still sure I was going to make a good parent. Somehow, Ethan and my mother conspired against me and pushed me into a corner where I agreed to adopt Devien. Apparently, it was obvious to them that I’d wanted to but just felt and still felt paranoid about my parenting skills.
So after a week of making inquiries, we figured things out and were now on our way to meet a private practicing lawyer to finalize things. I was actually surprised about the amount of hassle I had to go through to adopt someone I was already caring for. The people at the station and Ethel helped and I was finalizing things rather early according to statistics.
Devien eventually came out the hallway in a casual blue top and denim jeans. Her eyes were red and her brows were set in a deep frown. She wasn’t even trying to hide the fact that she wasn’t happy about what she thought was about to happen.
The room stayed silent for a while before Devien sniffled, rubbing at her eyes with the back of her of her hand. “I’m ready,” she muttered, looking down at her white converses. Roxanne came out the hallway just then, barking happily in oblivion at the tense atmosphere.
Ethan scoffed at Roxanne when she headed to the door; clawing at it when she couldn’t push it open with her weight.
We headed out soon after, Devien taking the back seat along with Roxanne. I took the passenger seat while Ethan took the driver’s seat. He started the engine, driving out of the compound and out into the road. I watched Devien from the driver’s mirror. Roxanne was resting her head on Devien’s lap and Devien was running her hand through Roxanne’s fur absentmindedly. Devien seemed to be thinking deeply, probably about the situation she thought was at hand.
I looked away in guilt, picking at the loose threads on my jeans as Ethan continued driving.
We stopped at a drive-in to get the breakfast we couldn’t eat since we were trying to meet the appointment on time. I looked worriedly towards Devien, watching as she picked at the breakfast sausage with the plastic fork. I turned away, picking at my own food.
It was either Ethan wasn’t fazed at Devien’s behavior or he wasn’t taking notice at all. I just wanted to admit where we were going so I could see Devien smile happily instead of being all gloomy and depressed over nothing.
We got to the small stone house Ethan and I had visited privately together a hand full of times last week. The white SUV of the lawyer was parked in the yard. I looked at Devien through the driver’s mirror to find her clenching her hands into fists, so much so that her knuckles because unnaturally white.
“We should be going in,” Ethan said, breaking the silence. Devien nodded curtly before undoing her seat belt. We all got down soon after. Roxanne ran around the yard barking as she pounced from place to place. I looked over at Devien who was standing by the door of the back seat and hugging herself.
I looked away, feeling Ethan’s hand take mine in a comforting manner.
“Come on,” I said, speaking to Devien for the first time since we got into the car. “Let’s go in.”
Devien looked over at me with skeptical blue eyes but followed me and Ethan into the duplex anyway. I didn’t miss the way her eyes wondered the small reception as we got in. She stood at the corner, looking up at the wall decorated with files and bills she probably couldn’t comprehend.
“You should take a seat,” the red-haired receptionist directed towards Devien, pausing the conversation she was having with me and Ethan.
Devien blinked before looking over at us. “Oh,” she shuttered before looking over at the green leather sits. “Oh, okay,” she muttered before heading over to the seats. Roxanne abandoned sniffing about the reception table to sit at Devien’s feet. She wagged her tail, bushing it against Devien’s clothed legs.
“She’ll be with you in a minute,” the receptionist said before flashing a smile at me and Ethan. “She’s talking to a client right now, you’ll just have to wait a wee bit,” she said, demonstrating the amount of time with her thumb and index fingers.
“That’s okay,” I replied with a smile before staring bullets at Ethan who was stealing more taffies than was allowed from the bowl that was labeled ‘help yourselves’. Ethan shrugged, pocketing the sweets. I rolled my eyes, following him to the waiting area. When he did things like that he never failed to remind me of our near seven years age difference. Ethan could be such a child that it could be annoying, but it could also be sweet and attractive — or maybe it was the part of me that loved him that saw the other possibilities.
I didn’t miss the grin the receptionist was trying to hide behind the magazine she was reading when Ethan took my hand in his. I blushed, realizing that she probably thought we were adopting Devien together. Besides, we’d been coming here together so her assumption was understandable.
Ten minutes later we were called into the spacious office of the lawyer. She greeted us with a smile when we walked in, offering us a sit as she leaned into hers.
“I’m glad you came just in time, I just got the papers,” she said triumphantly as she picked up a couple of documents from the table and waved them. I smiled, voicing my thanks before looking over at Devien who was sitting across from me. She was looking down at Roxanne who was sitting quietly at her feet.
“Is that Devien? she looks like a sweet child,” the lawyer, said looking from me to her. Devin looked up, acknowledging the woman for the first time since she walked in. She muttered a small greeting before returning her attention to the brown dog on the floor.
“Okay, if you’ll just sign here, Devien will be officially your adopted child—”
“What?” Devien voice was small and low but it stopped the conversation between me and lawyer. Ethan gave a low cough, clearly not comfortable with the silence.
“I thought I was going to the orphanage...” She trailed dramatically, looking from me to Ethan with clouded blue eyes. “Aren’t I?” she asked, a look of confusion plastered over her features.
“Do you want to go to the orphanage?” Ethan asked, making Devien shake her head furiously. I could see the first signs of tears at the corner of her eyes.
“No! Of course not! I just thought you’d made up your mind and you weren’t changing it...” Devien trailed, falling into full on sobs.
Ethan got up from his chair before heading over to Devien’s. He went behind it, taking her shoulders in his hands in a comforting manner.
“Thank goodness,” Ethan said as he rubbed her shoulders in comfort. “Seeing as we need your consent on this too.” Ethan disclosed and as if on cue the female lawyer pushed some documents to the side of the table so that they were within Devien’s reach.
“You have to sign here,” the lady said giving Devien a smile as the young girl wiped furiously at her tears. After a few more sniffles Devein took the pen that was handed to her before looking down at the document with a quizzical look.
“Don’t worry, you can just write your name if you don’t have a signature,” the Lawyer said encouragingly, flashing her set of pearly whites at Devien. Devien nodded before scribbling her name in the available space.
The document was pushed towards me after Devien was done. I smiled down at the lawyer’s signature and then that of Devien I then signed on one of the available spaces for parents.
“You’ll have to sign here,” the lawyer said, pushing a couple of documents towards Ethan’s sit. Ethan left Devien’s seat for his. I watched as he bit the bottom of the pen before signing on the available space on his document. I smiled, realizing that I was officially Devien’s parent and Ethan was officially Devien’s guardian.
“That would be all,” the lady said, retrieving the documents from us before arranging them into a neat pile. “I’ll just have to send these for processing but they’ll obviously go through, so there’s no need to worry.”
“So, can I call you dad now?” Devien’s small voice croaked, earning my attention. I looked over to see her face that was now red from crying. I smiled, reaching out the small distance between our seats to take her hand in mine.
“Sure,” I said, squeezing her hand. We’re really family now aren’t we?”
The corner of Devien’s lips turned up in a smile. “Yeah, I guess we really are.”
Devien let out a small giggle when she felt Roxanne lick up her hand. I watched her wondering how I’d suddenly become a father in a space of a few minutes.
We left the place soon after, hopping into the car as Devin chatted animatedly to me and Ethan. It was nice to see her mood change so drastically.
“So you’re both my dads now?” Devein asked, poking her head between the two front seats as Ethan started the car.
“No,” Ethan said, pushing Devien back with his free hand. “He’s your dad, and I’m your guardian,” Ethan corrected, earning a disappointed frown from Devien.
“Well you’re sort of my dad too,” Devien reasoned, slumping back into her sit. “You’re my dad’s boyfriend, so that kind of makes you my dad too,” Devien stated with a grin.
Ethan didn’t argue with her. He just rolled his eyes as he pulled into the road. Roxanne snuggled in Devien’s lap just as she finished doing up her seat belt.
“Oh, check the booth for a plastic bag,” I said, remembering what Ethan and I had gotten for Devien the day before. Devien undid her seat belt after muttering a small okay to my sentence.
“Are you talking about the really big one?” Devien asked, turning towards me. I nodded and she soon dunked her head to retrieve the large bag.
“It’s for you,” I said plainly as Devien slumped back into her seat with the clearly heavy bag. Roxanne peered into her lap, sniffing at the bag.
“It’s a laptop...” Devien trailed, removing the box from the nylon before dropping it on the empty sitting space beside her, “and a phone,” Devien finished, looking into the bag to find an even smaller box.
“I convinced him to buy them,” Ethan said in an attempt to steal all glory. I chuckled, resorting to pinching his lap through his jeans since I couldn’t settle for a shove since he was driving. He was there, but it was my money.
“Thanks, guys!” She squealed with glee taking the phone out of the case with care.
“We weren’t sure what kind of phone case or accessories you’d like so we’ll get you those later,” I said watching her inspect the phone with curious eyes.
“Don’t do that, you have to charge it first!” I warned as Devien was attempted to put the phone on. She stopped, muttering a small ‘Oh’.
“Sorry dad,” she muttered, putting the phone back in its case. I felt my heart squeeze a bit at the word ‘dad.’ I felt all warm and happy. Was that normal?
“It’s not a problem,” I replied, looking back into the road, smiling sheepishly.
I could really get used to having that title.