Begin Again

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Nine: Lets Do This

“Very nice place,” Allison compliments my loft as I show them around. There isn’t much to see, most of it is open space except the bedroom and bathroom. It’s open concept, which is what I like about it.

I only nod, not really caring what Allison thinks anyway.

Mila flops onto the couch and puts her feet up on the arm of the couch, “Is this where I can sleep tonight?”

There had been no plans made for Mila to stay with me, but I would never turn her down, she’s my little sister and the kid loves me. I take a seat next to Mila, leaning back and extending my arm across the back of the couch, “Nah. You can’t take the bed, or we could get an air mattress sent over. Whatever you want.”

“I love how you spoil me, Tommy.”

“Just don’t become a brat,” I tease her.

My dad looks around the loft, walking around to evaluate the area, “Great location, too. I’m really proud of how far you’ve come. You and Mason have built a great name for yourselves, Tommy. In New York City, at that. It’s hard to make something of yourselves here, but you boys did it.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

I often find it hard to be sensible towards my father, but I have tried in the past few years. There have been major slip ups but he’s lucky that I’m trying anyway. I’ve struggled with forgiving him after he cheated on my mom, but my mom has been encouraging me to let it go since she has forgiven him. Since the affair my mom has remarried and adopted my youngest sister, Sadie.

She’s happy now and I’m happy for you, but I can’t find myself to be happy for dad and Allison. The way they happened ruined my childhood and broke my mother’s heart.

“So, Mason was telling me that you’ve met someone,” Dad comments before taking a seat in the arm chair, “Viola, or something?”

“Violet,” I answer, “She’s--”

“Jade’s cousin,” Dad finishes my sentence and it’s clear that Mason had already told them all about her, but I have no idea if he gave positive comments or just filled their heads with bad things, “Amazing that you two came across each other. I think it’s nice that you’re getting to know someone that was in Jade’s life as well. She was a good girl for you, maybe she brought you two together.”

I was surprised by my dad’s words, but for the first time in my life we seemed to be on the same page and I was grateful for his optimism. Everyone else has been so negative towards the entire situation which only angers me, but here my dad is agreeing with everything I feel.

“Yeah?” A smile tugs at my lips as I think about how right he is. Violet is good for me, I’m sure of that, “She’s a great girl. Different from Jade, but I feel a connection to her.”

“Because of Jade?” Allison cuts in.

I simply shrug, “Maybe. But it’s like dad said, this could be all Jade’s doing. I’m not a religious person but if anyone would help me through life from the other side it would be Jade without a doubt.”

“I’m happy you and this Violet girl have gotten in touch,” My dad tells me, “Whatever makes you happy, Thomas.”

I want to thank him but the child inside of me still doesn’t want to be nice to him, but I’m not a child anymore and I need to drop this animosity eventually, just not at this exact moment. I look down at my hands that were held together without me even realizing it. It’s good hearing positive things about Violet instead of the usually criticism but I know that truthfully, a lot of the criticism is right. I may see Violet as a way of keeping Jade near me, she seems like the closest replacement and even though Jade is irreplaceable, deep down I just wanted to fill the void that she left.

It would never completely go away, but I just need to get through the rest of my life without wanting to die. This feeling inside of me was constantly pushing me to get to know Violet more, know her as Violet rather than as Jade’s cousin. Which is exactly what I’m trying to do.

“So, how’s Uncle Tristan?” I ask to break the silence.

My dad sighs softly, looking down at the floor, “He uh... He’s struggling.”

His voice is soft and I know that he has trouble talking about this, I didn’t mean to bring it up to hurt him but I’m genuine concerned about my uncle. When Allison continues for him, she places her hand on my dad’s knee, “Next week will be a year since Amelia’s diagnosis. It’s all resurfacing for him.”

I hear my dad sniff and I know that he’s fighting back the urge to cry. It’s rare, but I feel bad for him. He has every reason to feel this way and I wouldn’t judge him for expressing his emotions. Almost a year ago my Aunt Amelia was diagnosed with cancer, apparently it was so far progressed when they found it that there wasn’t a whole lot that the doctor’s could do and chemo wasn’t an option at that point. Four and a half months after her diagnosis she passed away and my Uncle took it really hard, understandably so.

Uncle Tristan is Allison’s brother, but he was my dad’s best friend first which is why I call him Uncle. Aunt Amelia is my dad’s younger sister and she had some kind of romantic relationship with Uncle Tristan which resulted in my cousin Tucker. The thing that is fucked up is that my Aunt Amelia was married, Tucker came out of an affair, similar to how Mason came to be but even through the affair and reluctance to be in a serious relationship, he always loved her. Always.

I know that Uncle Tristan wanted to be with her and he would have done anything to make that happen, but Aunt Amelia was so caught up in trying to get back with her husband even after he insisted on getting a divorce. She knew the affair was what ruined their marriage and she didn’t want to fall back into the same mistakes she made before, which meant Uncle Tristan never did stand a chance.

“Tuck is living with Tristan full time,” Allison tells me, trying to give my dad time to pull himself together, “They’re leaning on each other and I think that they’ve become closer since both of them are grieving over Amelia.”

My dad finally looks up and rubs his face while inhaling a deep breath, “When the anniversary of her passing comes around, we’re having a ceremony at the country club. We all want you and Mason to be there if it’s doable for you.”

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t miss it, dad.”

Mila is clearly sad and I understand that for her age this is tough stuff to deal with. She leans her elbows on her knees, resting her chin in her hands, “I’m tired of losing people.”

I rest my arm around her shoulder and pull her against my side, “I know, kid. But no matter who we lose, they’re always with us, just remember that.”

“First grandma, then Auntie Amelia, and now my little brother,” She looks at me and frowns, all of the emotion on her face showing clear as day, “Promise you won’t leave me, Tommy. You’re my best friend.”

“Mila, I’m not going anywhere,” I tell her, but my attention has been drawn elsewhere. What the hell was she talking about a little brother for? I furrow my eyebrows together deciding to question her, “What little brother? You have two brothers, me and Mason.”

Mila shakes her head, sitting up straight, “Nu uh... Mommy said I was having a baby brother but god needed him more than we did so--”

“Mila, honey...” Allison stops her and my dad begins to run his fingers through his hair, “Thomas, another reason we came to New York was to tell you that we were expecting again. We made the reservations two months ago, but...”

“You’re fucking knocked up again? Are you two ever going to get sterile?” I snap, not thinking of my words but being completely taken off guard by this information that Mila spilled. Dad is in his fifties and Allison in her forties, they’re too damn old to keep reproducing.

Fucking hell.

“Watch yourself, Thomas,” My dad warns me, “Allison lost the baby two weeks ago. We didn’t plan another pregnancy, I had a vasectomy that was obviously not done correctly, but this was still our son and we’re still coping with everything.”

“Jesus Christ,” I groan, leaning back against the couch, “I’m sorry. I just can’t see how people of your age are still getting... pregnant. I’m not trying to be insensitive but if you two had another kid, dad, you would be in your seventies when they graduate. You’re old enough to be a grandpa.”

“I’m not that old,” My dad attempts to defend himself.

“Yeah? Say that to your peppered hair.”

Allison is quiet and when I look in her direction she seems dazed. I’m an idiot, I know that much, but I remember when Mason and I were young and she miscarried her second pregnancy. I remember the screaming and crying, I remember how she walked around like a zombie for weeks on end. She was miserable, to say the least, the look in her eyes was familiar now and I recognized the pain.

“I’m sorry, Allison. Both of you, I... I can’t imagine what you’re dealing with but I know that it must be hard,” I swallow, meaning every word but having trouble being compassionate towards Allison after everything she did to my family. Regardless, no one deserved to lose a child, and this is twice for her.

Allison manages a smile, “Thank you, Thomas. I often think about what he would have looked like and you and Mason look so much like Matt, I’m sure he would have looked similar.”

“Or he could have been blond like me!” Mila grins, flipping her long blond hair in an overly dramatic way.

“Well, whatever he would have looked like, he would have been perfect like all 3 of you.” Allison responds, pulling Mila into a hug.

After a brief pause, I look at my dad who seems more distracted now than usual, “Want a beer?”

He nods his head, “Sure.”

I flee the situation as quickly as I can, heading over towards the kitchen area of the loft. I’ve went hours without checking my phone which is normally an easy thing to do, but now that Violet is in my life, I wanted to be available if she tried getting in touch with me.

Maybe I was only desperate to be talking to her constantly. I felt that I was becoming borderline obsessed with this friendship or whatever this was, but maybe this is how all people feel when they’re finally dealing with grief.

When I look at my phone, I see a text from Violet with an attachment, “Lets Do This?”

The photo was of a custom logo, The Jade Cooper Scholarship Fund, founded by Violet Cooper & Thomas Reid.

I smile as soon as I read the logo and don’t hesitate to respond to her, “Lets do this.”

This was officially the beginning of something amazing, something big and incredible. This would be something that would allow Jade’s legacy to live on forever and I would spend my life making sure it would happen. Anything I could do to keep her name remembered, I would. Violet and I would build a scholarship fund for Jade, it was just another thing for me to invest my time and my heart in.

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