Before I Met You

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Chapter Twenty Five

When we get back to the house I’m expecting my parents to be asleep, but when we gently shut the door behind us I hear a movie playing in the living room.

“Fuck.” I mutter. I was hoping to escape this until tomorrow.

When I try to sneak down the hallway to my room, Elena following close behind, I stop dead in my tracks when I hear my dad’s voice playing over the television. What the hell?

There’s a video of him and I in the pool years ago playing on the screen. I’m probably around four or five in this, shrieking with joy as he throws me into the air and I land with a loud splash in the water.

My dad’s sitting in front of the TV with a glass of whiskey, wiping away tears that are running down his cheeks. I’ve never seen him cry. Not once.

“I’m going to go to sleep.” Elena whispers so that he won’t hear her and sends me a reassuring smile. “Go talk to him, alright? You need to do this.”

She disappears down the hallway before I slowly make my way into the living room. My dad gets startled when he notices me, quickly clearing his throat before he pauses the video. It’s not long before he gives up trying to hold the tears back, and before long he’s quietly sobbing into his hands, setting his glass of whiskey down onto the coffee table.

“I’m so sorry, Xavier.” He says. I have no idea what to do. I’ve never seen him like this before.

“I’ve handled this all wrong.” He mutters, clearly tipsy. “I was supposed to be your father in a time where you probably needed me the most. It’s just, your mother and I almost lost you that night, and that-” He stops talking, shaking his head in disbelief. “The thought of that made me sick. You’re our only child.”

I take the initiative to sit down beside him now, resting my elbows on my knees. I’m trying so hard not to cry, but seeing my father get emotional makes it impossible.

“I thought you hated me.” I finally tell him, a tear escaping onto my cheek. “I didn’t know that was the reason for the silence. I know I disappointed you, and believe me when I say that it’s something that I think about every single day. That night has continued to haunt me for years, dad. That’s why I had to get away from... all of this.”

We sit in silence for a couple of seconds before he eventually stops crying and clears his throat again. “I could never hate you, Xavier. You’re my son. It wasn’t until Elena was talking about you to your mother tonight that I realized there’s so much that I don’t even know. I don’t even know my own son anymore and it’s my fault.”

I can’t disagree with him there, because for the most part it’s true. “I shouldn’t have shut you out either though. I should’ve tried to talk to you more. I feel like we should have had this conversation a long time ago about everything.”
“That’s not your job, Xavier. I’m the parent.”

“Yeah, well, we’re not all perfect, dad.”

He lets out a laugh and looks over at me, tears welling up in his eyes. “I’m so proud of you.” He tells me. “You’ve grown into a man right in front of my eyes. I can’t tell you how sorry I am for missing out on these past couple of years. I love you, Xav. I always will.”

I hate getting emotional, and I hate sappy conversations. I know he does too. He pushes the glass of whiskey towards me and instructs me to drink it. “I think we both need some.” He chuckles.

I eye the liquor and then look back at him. “I don’t drink anymore.”

“Oh.” He shakes his head, embarrassment radiating off of him. “Right. Sorry. How about we watch a movie tomorrow then? Like old times? It is Friday, after all.”

I look up towards the television screen at my dad holding me in the water, the both of us smiling from ear to ear. For the first time I genuinely feel happy. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I didn’t have anxiety weighing me down around him. It’s reminding me of how things used to be before that night happened, and I can’t be more thankful.

“Definitely.” I say. “I can’t wait.”

After I stand up he rises beside me and pulls me in for a hug. I swear he’s squeezing me so hard I can’t breathe. We stay in the hug for almost a minute before he finally pulls away and pats me on the shoulder. “I love you, son.” He mutters again. “I’m so sorry for not being there for you.”

“I love you too, dad.”

When we both part ways for the night, I decide to go into the guestroom to thank Elena. I don’t even know how to thank her for what she’s done for me if I’m being honest. If it weren’t for her, I never would have come back home. If it weren’t for her, I never would have mended things with my dad. She’s done so much for me, and what have I done for her? Nothing.

When I gently open the door I see her already asleep in bed. That doesn’t stop me from walking in though. After all, she woke me up last night.

I climb into the bed beside her and pull her against my chest. Her eyes flutter open before a small smile appears on her lips. “Hey.” She mumbles. “How did it go?”

I kiss her lips without thinking twice, soft and gentle like she loves. She’s looking up at me with that expression I have yet to decipher. Before she can ask what I’m thinking though I smile and say, “That thing we aren’t saying yet.”

“Oh, yeah?” She giggles and rolls her eyes. “That’s what you’re thinking right now? You want to say it?”

“No.” I decide to reply. “I think I’m going to wait for the perfect moment to say it. It hasn’t happened yet.”

I could have said that sentence right now. I could just come right out and say it, but the truth is that I have my doubts on whether or not she’ll say it back.

We don’t say anything more. Instead, I kiss her forehead and set my alarm so we don’t get caught.

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