I heard the knock and went to answer it when my Dad stepped in the way. He smiled at me in the most fatherly way possible.
“I didn’t handle this right when we first met Willow. I wasn’t the father I should have been and instead I made this boy believe I was an awful person, but I guess at that time I was. However, I’m still your Dad and I need to do this.”
“Well when you put it that way I understand but please Daddy, don’t scare him. He already thinks you hate him because of the way things ended up. He thinks you blame him.”
“Of course I don’t hate him or blame him. I just need to do the fatherly thing.” He smiles again and turns around and opens the door. Cole is standing there shifting back and forth on the balls of his feet.
It’s really quite adorable to see this strong capable man, who took on a three hundred pound drunk guy on a daily basis be so afraid to meet my Father again. When he sees me standing behind my Dad he calms down a little. He adjusts the items in his hands and holds out his empty hand to my dad
“Um..hello Sir..I’m Cole!” My father stares him down but doesn’t take his hand right away.
“I know who you are Mr. Knight?” Cole starts shifting again and glances up at me with a pleading in his eyes. I walk forward
“Sorry.” I mouth to him and look fiercely at my Dad telling him to knock it off. He quietly chuckles. He finally holds his hand out to Cole. Cole takes it and shakes his hand.
“It’s good to see you again Cole, under better circumstances.” He says “Please come in. Cole walks in and towards me, he leans forward and kisses me on the check then hands me a beautiful bouquet of roses and lilies.
“They’re lovely thank you!” I reach up on my tippy toes and press my lips to his, giving him a quick peck. “You remembered my favorites.” He uses the one empty arm and pulls me further into his chest,
“I remember everything about Willow,” I swear time froze as we stood there staring so deeply into each other’s eyes. So many things left unspoken in those few moments. I forgot my Father was still standing there until he cleared his throat. Cole turns around and faces him, he hands him the bottle he had been holding onto.
“I wasn’t sure what you guys liked to drink and I was raised to never come empty-handed. I hope this okay?” Nervous Cole is endearing. Dad takes the bottle then nods his head in approval. He hands me the other flowers when Payton comes down the hall. She goes straight to him and takes his hand and pulls him to the dining room.
“Daddy, I want to show you something! Mommy and Nana helped me make it; I made it just for you.” Cole willingly lets her drag him and says
“Well, if you made it just for me then I definitely have to see it.”
“You are going to love it!” She squeals. We reach the kitchen and sitting on the table is a collage of pictures of Payton. When she came to me with this idea I had to agree. It was a perfect idea, so I went through all my pictures starting with her birth till now. Cole picked it up and stared at it for a minute before he spoke.
“This is the most amazing gift, Payton...Thank you, Sweetheart.” Payton latches onto her Dad and beams with a proud smile.
“Do you love it, Daddy?” Cole sets the picture down and picks her up.
“Yes, Payton, I love it very much and I know exactly where I’m going to put it.”
“I’m glad you love it, Daddy. Mommy and I had fun making it for you.” Cole kisses her forehead and then tickles her, she starts squirming and giggling. He almost loses his grip on her with her wiggling. We really feel like a real family, just the three of us. Cole sets Payton back on her feet and looks at me seriously and I can tell something is bothering him.
“What’s wrong?” I ask
“It can wait till later.” He moves in my direction and wraps me in his arms and we stay like that till Mom comes in and announces dinner is ready. We all head to the dining room. Dad and Payton are already sitting; Mom is placing the chicken on the table.
“This all looks delicious.” Cole pulls out my chair for me and my Dad smiles his approval.
“Well, I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m starved.” My dad states. “Living in a hotel and eating from restaurants for a week makes a man crave homemade food.” We all laugh. I start to get Payton’s plate but Cole beats me to it.
He takes a small piece of parmesan baked chicken and cuts it up in tiny bites, he then spoons a small amount of potatoes and asparagus. I watch in awe as he does something so fatherly and that he even knows how to do this, but then I remembered his Sister Bridget.
“How is your family doing Cole?” Mom asks. “Willow told me what happened and that had to be a horrible ordeal.” He stiffens and stays silent for a second. I reach under the table and thread my fingers through his, and give him a gentle squeeze. Mom sensing his uneasiness says
“I’m sorry Cole; I shouldn’t have brought them up.” Cole lifts his head and glances at Mom, he gives her a gentle smile and reassures her.
“No, it’s okay Mrs. Johnson, it’s just hard to think of that night; I don’t like to revisit the past.” Mom gives Cole a soft nod
“I understand that completely Cole, we all have difficult pasts. Trust me when I say I do know exactly how you feel” Mom reaches over and takes Dad’s hand and Dad responses by rubbing his thumb over her knuckle.”
“Thank you!” Cole replied. “My family is doing really well. My Mom and Dad remarried a year after we moved and they are very happy. We all went through some heavy duty therapy to help us deal with the trauma. I'm not sure we will ever truly be free of what we went through but we have learned how to cope."
"It was during my therapy sessions when I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to be a Child Psychologist.” I could hear both my parents sigh with either shock or approval." My Dad was the first one to speak after that.
“That’s Great Cole and we are here to help with whatever you need.” I think my jaw just dropped to the floor, I was stunned that my Father offered his help to Cole.
“That is very nice Mr. Johnson but why would you want to help me? You don’t really know me?” My Dad moved and faced Cole and says
“You’re right Cole, we don’t know you that well and that is something we want to change. I know you probably think we dislike you, which is not the case at all. Willow did tell me you were afraid of our disapproval for not being here for her but we understand, and that’s not on your shoulders anyway.” He stares me down and gives me that You should have known better stare. "
It is obvious my Daughter loves you very much and you are the Father of our Granddaughter. We aren’t going to send you away and we want to help you where we can.”
“Thank you, Sir, I really appreciate that and I want you to know had I known about Payton I would have given up everything to be here for her and Willow but I can’t change what happened in the past. What I can promise is that no matter what happens with us, I will always be here for my little girl.” Payton peeks up from playing with her veggies and smiles her happy beautiful smile at him.
“I believe you.” Dad states. “What are your plans as for moving ahead? Are you hoping to stay here?”
“Well, I’m not quite sure where I’m going. I’ve put in applications to about fifty med schools but I’m still waiting to hear back from them. I’m hoping I can get into the U of U program so I could stay here.”
My heart plummeted at the thought of him leaving us but then he said he hoped he could stay here and I began to feel my heart began to race again.
“University of Utah is a great school. I received my law degree there and I’m actually friends with the dean. I can talk to him and see if I could pull some strings. I know how important is to be close to your family.”
“Really? That would be great. Thank you!” Cole says excitedly.
“It’s nothing Son, you are family.”
“Thank you again.” The rest of the dinner our conversation centered on Cole and his future. I’m really impressed with how he hit it off with my Dad. I knew it wasn’t going to be what Cole was expecting but it went better. I couldn’t have been happier.
Later, after we had bathed Payton and tucked her in, Cole and I were cuddled on the couch. He was playing with a strand of my blond hair and just enjoying being together. I didn’t want to break the moment but he had something he wanted to talk to me about.
“Cole, what was bothering you earlier?”
“Oh..um...I forgot about that, tonight went so well and I’m still on a high from the conversation with your Dad. I still can’t believe he is willing to help me get into my dream school.” I sat up and faced Cole,
“I told you he is a good guy Cole. He wants to help you and he does feel bad about the way things went when you first met. This is his way of making up for that.”
“I know Willow, I’m just shocked.” He pulled a folded up paper out of his pocket and handed it to me. “I had a suspicion so I looked him up.” I unfolded and let out a gasp when I saw Trevor’s picture staring back at me. I read the article
“I always thought he seemed so familiar but I just never put it together, how could I be so stupid? I let him around Payton!” I lock my sad eyes on Cole. “Please don’t be upset with me.” I start sobbing and Cole wraps me in his arms.
“Willow, I could never be upset with you, you didn’t know. I’m hoping he gets the message that you are with me but I won’t let him get to you. It killed me when Tyler was able to hurt you, I couldn’t save you then but I can now. I’m not afraid anymore Baby.” I sobbed even harder and let my tears soak through Cole’s shirt.
“What do we do now?” I ask and he pulls me into him tighter.
“I guess we just hope he gets the hint and leaves you alone but in the meantime, I will be watching him.”