Sitting on the edge of my bed, feeling numb, my body on autopilot dressing. Zipping up my dress, put on my heels. I walk out into my living room and there is a knock at the door. Opening it to find Greg waiting for me. As we ride in the car, I try to keep my emotions at bay. All I want to do is go back home and forget that today is happening because accepting today means that it’s goodbye, goodbyes are never easy and goodbyes at times are heartbreaking.
Instead of weeks that we thought we had, we were given only days, eleven days to be exact. On Sunday at 4:27 am my dad lost his battle with cancer with me by his side it was peaceful and his last words he said were. “I’m coming home petal”... the name he used to call my mum then his hand went limp, and I cried silent tears. Georgie and I had been taking it in turns to stay with him during the night. We thought we had more time. Dad’s words rattle in my head the closer we get to the cemetery.
“Sweetheart you have been lost, your sparkle isn’t shining anymore and you’re sailing through life not living it, but don’t worry cause your old man has a plan, all will be revealed in good time, I love you to pieces and I will help you find your way I will always be with you.”
Right then and there, I made him a promise that I would live my life to the fullest for him. It had been a draining few days because Mark had to go back to New York, Blake had complications and was being monitored in the hospital there was a possibility that she would need to have the baby early, that’s when Mark told me his news. I told him he had to go because if there was any chance that the baby was his, he couldn’t miss it. So on Friday he left and took my heart with him. We arrive at the cemetery people have already arrived, it’s a blur of people giving condolences and hugs to myself and Georgie, as the service is about to start we are the last in. We watch as our dad’s coffin is lifted by family members and close friends to the front of the room. The service commences, we picked dads favourite versus’ and stories and we play his favourite song. As the guitar riff starts, I pull a tissue from my bag as I am close to breaking.
Then as dad would have wanted once the chorus sings out so do the people surrounding us singing along with John Denver
“Country roads, take me home, to the place, I belong, West Virginia, mountain mama Take me home, country roads”
Breaking quickly, the tears stream down my face; I feel a hand take mine and I hear those words I heard once before.
“I am here now, I will always be here for you.” Looking beside me to find Mark sitting at my side. Once the service ends and people have said their goodbyes to dad, we have food and drinks being served in the hall across the way. As I walk in, I get pulled in for a hug.
“Marcus, what are you doing here?”
I look around and see another face I know. “Scott, is that you?”
Marcus smiles at me. “We knew we had to be here for you, so we all came together.”
I shake my head, feeling none of this is real. “I don’t understand Mark you shouldn’t be here. What about Blake?”
Mark takes a drink of his hot tea. “Well, Blake is a mum to a little boy born Saturday morning, we paid private and got the paternity results back I am not the baby’s father.”
I feel a sense of relief at this news. “So Justin’s a daddy?”
I see someone at my side and hear a voice I’m not quite familiar with. “No, actually turns out it wasn’t mine either.” Turning around to find a guy that I am assuming is Justin, he speaks calmly to me.
“I am so sorry to hear about your father Blake.” I pull him in for a hug.
“Sorry to hear about Blake, well it’s so nice to have you all here thank you for coming.”
Mark gives me a sad smile. “Don’t worry we will talk later, you go see your family and friends.” Charlie comes over to me and hugs me, “Hi Hun, beautiful service your dad would be proud. If you need anything, please let me know?”
I grab her hand. “Thanks, hun I am sure I will be in touch soon.”
A few hours later the last people leave, Greg’s mum and dad brought Dillion and Daisy after the service we agreed the funeral would be a bit too much for a 3- and 5-year-old. Eventually, we got everything tidied up Georgie and Greg took the kids home. Mark and the boys took me to a pub for food and drinks. Marcus raises a glass.
“To Mr Blair.”
Scott raises his glass. “Blake’s dad.”
Mark raises his. “And a gentleman”
Justin raises his. “May you rest in peace.”
“TO JACK.” We all down our shots of what was my dad’s favourite whiskey. I look around the table.
“I can’t believe you are all here. Thank you, how are you feeling about the whole Blake thing?”
Mark takes a drink of his beer. “Well, if I had of taking your advice sooner, I would have talked to Justin sooner. Once we hashed it all out, we gave our friendship another try, it’s not going to be easy, but we have known each other too long.” Justin looks at me.
“I won’t forgive myself I messed things up. I thought I was in love with her. Turns out she had quite a few men apparently in love with her.” Scott looks at Justin.
“Well, it was a dick move on your part, but I am glad you two are making amends.” I haven’t slept well and tiredness is setting in. “Sorry guys I am going to go home I just need my bed.” Mark looks at me setting his drink down. “I will get you home safely.”
Marcus stands up and gives me a big hug. “No worries, we will be at my place.” We get a taxi and I get out, turning to Mark. “Thank you for everything Mark you are a great friend.”
I see his body tense up, but he just nods. “Night Blake.”
I turn around and walk away, opening the door to my place, I turn on the lights and kick off my shoes. Grabbing the bag that was returned to us from the hospice, I pull out my dad’s shirt and wrap myself in it. “Goodnight dad.”
Just then I notice an envelope has fallen to the ground addressed to me. As I go to pick it up, there is a knock on my door. I open the door. “What’s wrong?”
Mark is leaning into my doorway. “Can I come in?”
Opening the door and Mark paces my living room. “You might want to slow down there you are leaving marks on my floor with the pacing.”
Mark looks at me. “I ...I.”
I cut him off and look at him. “Can you sit with me while I read this?”
He looks at the envelope and nods. We both sit at the edge of the sofa as I tear it open.
To. My little adventurer, I told you I had a plan and well here goes. Once you read this letter, I need you to go to this address Ask for Kate. Your old man’s plan will help you do something that you have been longing to do. Don’t be scared to take the leap I have taken care of everything, sweetheart. Trust me. Live your life and go explore for your sparkle.
Love you always
I read the letter a few more times, dad, always with his vagueness. “I am tired Mark if I go to bed can you hold me until I fall asleep” Mark smiles at me. “Of course anything.”
We get into bed and I lie on Mark’s chest, listening to his heartbeat as he strokes my hair, I feel safe and I can feel myself drift off. “Mark... Can I keep... you.”
I wake up the next morning, and Mark is snuggling into my back hugging me. It’s nice to have him here. I slip out of his hold and into the bathroom. I grab a quick shower and get dressed making my way into the kitchen making two cups of coffee.
“Good Morning Blake.”
I smile at him. “Good Morning Mark, Did you sleep well?”
Mark laughs, “I did you are very comfy and you don’t steal all the covers.”
We drink our coffee in silence as I look up at him. “So I am going to go and see this lady, Kate.”
Mark looks a little surprised. “Yeah, of course, I am going to go see the boys and get cleaned up, you fancy joining us for dinner later?”
I smile at him. “Yeah, that would be nice.” I pull him in for a hug, I look at his face and he has conflict written all over it. Mark pulls away and walks to the door.
“See you later, Blake.”
I grab the letter and drive to the address my dad gave me, looking up at the shop my heart races, What have you done Dad? I walk into the shop and a middle-aged woman with a blonde bob looks at me.
“Hi, Can I help you?” I struggle to get my words out from fear of what’s going on.
“Hi, yes I am looking for Kate, my name is Blake.” Kate stands looking at me like am a ghost.
“Oh my god, your Jack’s daughter, which means...” She starts to cry and I hand her a tissue she gives me a sad smile.
“Thank you, I am so sorry for your loss. Please take a seat, would you like a coffee or tea?” I take a seat in front of her. “A coffee would be nice.” Kate brings me over a coffee and sits in front of me. “Your dad came to see me, he told me all about you and his diagnosis he wanted to help you fulfil a dream of yours. Listening to him talk about you and your sister, I must have gone through a full box of tissues. He wanted to make sure you were both looked after when he was no longer with you.”
I struggle to comprehend what it is she is telling me. “I don’t understand, what has he done?”
Kate goes into her drawer and pulls out an envelope.
“Your dad has organised a gap year for you to go travelling around the world he gave me a list of places he knew you would want to go and a list of places he wanted to go to but never got the chance to.”
I start to cry, and Kate follows shortly after. Composing myself, Kate gives my hand a little squeeze. “So shall we start planning where you would like to go first, Blake?”
Having to say goodbye to Blake was one of the hardest things I have done, I felt guilty leaving her. I got nine days with her nine days were not long enough. Going to the hospice with her every day; I made sure she ate, and I put her to bed every night, letting her fall asleep on my chest. Jack and I formed a friendship he was an amazing dad he adored his family and wanted the very best for them. In those nine days, you could tell the cancer was taking its toll, and I feared that the weeks he was given were wildly miscalculated. Blake called me from New York there were complications with the baby and she was being monitored in hospital. She explained that the baby might have to be born early.
I broke and told Blake everything and in true Blake fashion; she told me I had to go and that if this was my baby, I couldn’t miss the birth. Both Justin and I were at the birth Blake was taken in for an emergency c-section and on Saturday morning a baby boy was born all 8lb 3oz of it. We insisted on a private paternity test and the results were out in 48 hours. Blake and the baby were being kept in the hospital for observation. When I woke up on Sunday morning I had two messages waiting for me: one that broke my heart, the other making me decisive for a change.
I think I made a mistake; I want you back. love Nicole xo
Without hesitation, I call her Nicole. “Hi, Mark, so you got my message.”
I jump straight to the point “It wasn’t a mistake Nicole, we are over for good you made your decision to leave me. I am done.”
She cries down the phone saying she was sorry she made a mistake letting me go. “I’m sorry Nicole we won’t work you and I want different things.”
Nicole pleads. “Please, just give me a second chance we can be great together.”
I can’t do it, and I make it very clear. “Sorry, it’s just not going to happen, bye Nicole.”
I hang up, I should have done that weeks ago. Then I read the second one.
“Please don’t try to call me, I can’t talk right now. My dad passed away this morning.”
Those words make tears fall down my face because at that moment I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t there for her, the moment when I knew she would need me most. Which made me angrier when on Monday the paternity results came out.
“Mr Hart you are not the biological father.” I looked at Justin and shook his hand.
“Congratulations.” The doctor looked at us both.
“Mr Landon, you are also not the biological father,” He looked at Blake, who was looking like someone had slapped her across the face. “I am sorry, could you repeat that?”
The Doctor looks at us both. “I am sorry, but there is a zero percent chance that either of you is the father.” Justin looks at his feet.
“Fuck this!” He storms out of the room and I watch as Blake shouts after him.
“Please, I can explain, Justin, wait I need you.”
I look at Blake and shake my head as she glares at me and shouts at me. “Fuck you, Mark, I’m glad you’re not the dad you piece of shit”
I stand up and walk around her. “Goodbye, Blake.”
Inside I am jumping for joy I have just dodged a Blake sized bullet that would have cost me a lifetime of misery dealing with her vindictive ass. I walk out of the room and find Justin slumped on the floor. “Come on, I think we need a drink and we need to talk.”
Hours later we have talked everything out and I agree to forgive him, Blake always was a manipulating bitch. Don’t get me wrong, Justin was a dick for betraying me, but we have been through too much to not try to be friends again. I call Marcus and Scott and we all sit together over a bottle of Rum; I explain that Blakes dad has passed and I feel guilty for not being there. Marcus takes my phone and calls Charlie. He disappears, guessing they chat for a while before he comes back and claims.
“Right boys we have bags to pack the funeral is Wednesday and we are flying out tomorrow afternoon all of us so chop-chop.” I look at him like he owns six heads.
Marcus scoffs at me. “Well, I knew fine rightly that once you found out when it was, you would want to go so. Thank you, Marcus...you’re very welcome Mark.”
I sit in stunned silence before being able to form a sentence. “Yeah, thank you, Marcus, seriously that’s so nice of you.” Marcus looks at me, pointing at me.
“Well, don’t be going around telling people I have a heart I have a reputation to uphold.”
Tuesday afternoon we are on a flight to London. Once we land, I want to see Blake, but her phone is off and I have no idea where she would be. The guys and I decide pizza and an early night is in order. Wednesday morning we are all suited up and on our way to the church, Charlie told us they would be saying goodbye to Jack. We are in the room and take a seat at the back I watch as Greg and Georgie walk in together followed by a very distraught Blake you can tell she is just there in the body going through the motions. As the service begins, I can’t take my eyes off her before long I hear a song and I can’t help but smile Jack did say if it wasn’t playing he would come back and haunt the girls.
As the chorus kicks in, it’s one of the most surreal experiences. Everyone in the room sings and I watch as Blake falls apart. I get up and make my way and sit in the empty seat beside her, taking her hand. Leaning over, I whisper. “I am here now, I will always be here for you.”
Eventually able to see through her tears, she looks at me. I hold her hand until it’s all over, the service ends and we move into a room where food and drinks are being served As she walks in ahead of me she gets pulled in for a hug Blake gets acquainted with my friends, she is holding up quite well considering she is saying goodbye to her dad. I don’t want to let her go but she has people that want to talk to her, A few hours later we take Blake to a pub for food and drinks. Marcus raises a glass. We toast to her dad and have a shot of whiskey to honour him. A while later Blake admits she’s tired and wants to go home, I take her home making sure she gets there safely. We arrive at Blake’s house and she doesn’t say a word, just getting out of the taxi, eventually turning to me.
“Thank you for everything Mark, you are a great friend.”
My body tenses up. Is that all she see’s me as a friend? I don’t want to push it after the day she has had, so I say night and watch her walk away. Watching her apartment window as the lights turn on and I ask the taxi driver to give me a few minutes thinking about what I want to say; I pay for the taxi and let him go. Walking up to her door, Blake opens the door and I feel the air whoosh out of my lungs. “What’s wrong?”
I lean into the doorway. “Can I come in?”
I walk past her and pace her living room, then I hear her voice ask me to sit with her. Looking at her hand and there’s the envelope; I know exactly what is in it before she even does. We both sit at the edge of the sofa and she tears it open. I watch as she reads it and reads it again. Finally breaking the silence, she asks me to hold her. We get into bed and she lies on my chest, stroking her hair I feel her drift off and hear her sleepy voice. “Mark... Can I keep... you?”
I stay still a while longer and I can hear her breathing change knowing she is asleep I say the 3 little words I can’t say while she looks me in the face.
“I love you.”
I wake up the next morning to a cold bed, Blake isn’t in my arms anymore I can hear her in the kitchen I walk in and find her making coffee we have some small talk before we sit in silence. Blake is clutching the letter in her hand Blake tells me she is going to see Kate, I ask her if she will join us for dinner tonight. She pulls me in for a hug; I am seconds from telling her how I feel but seeing the letter on the counter tells me this isn’t about me and she needs to go see the world just like her dad wanted I pull away and walk to the door. “See you later, Blake.”
I close the door to her place and walk away, taking my feelings with me. I decide that timing is everything, and right now the timing isn’t in our favour.
Blake is about to travel the world for a year and I have my life in New York that I just can’t give up. I love her enough to let her go and maybe when she finds her sparkle we can find our way back to each other. Just like how we met, I am going to let fate handle things. If I and Blake are meant to be, then destiny will bring us together again.