As soon as Adam ran away, Sawyer went after him. “Shit!” Lizbeth exclaimed as she followed them upstairs.
“Liz, can you let me handle this alone, please?” Sawyer asked her as he turned to look at her in the dimly lit stairs. He looked stoic, distant. He didn’t want her there at that moment and she felt like an intruder.
“But...” She wanted to help.
“Please?” He pleaded again, his breathing sharp and heavy. He was so nervous his hands were even shaking. It had taken him a while to gain the trust of those kids and now he could lose it all because of a stupid joke. She was angry at him, but most of all at herself.
“Okay... But let me know when I can come up...” She told him in a low voice, already feeling sorry for what just happened.
“Sure.” He turned away and strode up the stairs. Lizbeth stayed there until he disappeared from her sight. Then she realized how fast her heart was beating and how much it hurt. It was as if someone had ripped it out of her chest. Fuck!
She walked down again only to find a concerned April. “What happened?” She asked.
“We told him we were just friends and now... Fuck!” Lizbeth growled.
“What’s wrong?” Liam asked as he approached her.
“We just... The first time I met them, Sophia asked me if we were dating, which I obviously responded with a no, but then that night...” She bit her bottom lip. “Sawyer wasn’t sure to tell them right away, in case things didn’t work between us, you know?” Her friends listened attentively. “Today he said that he wanted to tell them too... He didn’t want to lie to them anymore.”
“Things with kids can be so tricky sometimes, honey… But the fact that he wanted to tell them is a good sign for you,” Lauren told her as she squeezed her hand.
“I know... I just… How is this going to affect them as a father and a son?”
“Don’t worry so much about it, Liz,” Dylan told her. “Adam is pretty smart and if Sawyer chooses the right words he’d understand.”
“Still... It’s taken him so long to make them trust him. He’s worked so hard to make them feel at home, safe and protected. He’s done such an amazing job healing the wounds of their little hearts that it kills me to think they could lose it all because, in his eyes, we indeed lied to him.” Her voice quivered and her heart sunk deep into her chest as she let out those words.
She didn’t care if that affected them as a couple -not at that moment anyway. She was just worried about them.
She knew how much Sawyer cared about those kids, she had seen it in his eyes. The way he smiled every time he talked about them, how proud he was of them, and how much he loved them.
She knew he had worked really hard to bring them back to the light after losing their parents. Sawyer had done his utmost to take away their pain and to make them feel whole again, slowly building up a fortress full of trust and love. But now all that could shatter because they didn’t tell them in a proper way.
The idea of hurting them was simply unbearable. She felt the tears burning her eyes. How could something make them so happy and so miserable with one second apart?
“Look, hon. Kids aren’t ones to hold a grudge for too long on their loved ones, a simple misunderstanding like this won’t break their trust, believe me.” Lauren rubbed her back.
“I hope you’re right...” Lizbeth breathed.
“Do you want anything to drink?” Her brother asked. When she looked at him, she was staring at her with so much compassion and fondness, she felt a bit better, like she wasn’t alone.
Suddenly, Julian came into the kitchen, followed by his brother and Sophia. “Where’s Adam?” He asked as he walked to the sink to drink some water.
“He wasn’t feeling pretty well and is upstairs with his dad,” April told him.
“It was his turn,” Jasper said, completely unaware of what was going on. Blissful innocence!
“Why are you sad?” Sophia asked Lizbeth as she tried to climb up the chair. She sniffled and smiled at her, picking her up. Sophia sat in her legs and turned to her.
“Why do you think I’m sad?”
“Because your face usually looks like this.” She pinched the sides of her mouth and put them upwards. “And now you look like this.” She put the corners of her mouth down. “You’re pretty when you smile,” she told her, making Lizbeth chuckle. Her honesty always warmed her heart.
“I’ll try to remember that. Thanks, Baby.” Lizbeth kissed her cheek.
“Can I go see Adam now?” She asked out of the blue as she fidgeted with a napkin she had grabbed from the table.
“We’ll wait until your dad tells us we can, okay?”
“Okay.” She shrugged.
They stayed there for some time. Dylan prepared some hot snacks for everyone while the rest had a small talk sitting around the table. Lizbeth relaxed a little, but she couldn’t get Adam and Sawyer out of her mind. What were they talking about for so much time?
“Hey...” Sawyer softly said from behind her.
“Hey, S!” Lauren waved her hand at him.
“How’s Adam feeling?” Julian asked.
“A bit better, thanks!” He sweetly smiled at the kid. “He wants to talk to you, Liz.”
“Okay,” she said as she got up. “Let’s go to see your brother then!” She told Sophia.
“Actually... I think you should go alone,” he told her, holding his arms out to her so she could give him Sophia.
Lizbeth immediately tensed. “Sure...” She didn’t know if that was good or bad, and her mind was already running a mile a minute.
“You’ll be fine...” Sawyer whispered. “He’s not mad anymore, just be honest.” He sweetly smiled at her, making her heart skip a beat. She knew that his cold reaction from before was because he was worried about Adam, and she hadn’t noticed how much it hurt her until that moment that he was back to normal.
“Thanks.” She lightly smiled at him.
Lizbeth walked up the stairs, not sure if she wanted to face the boy or not. She was so nervous she couldn’t think straight anymore. How could such a small kid make her feel emotions so intense?
She knocked on the door and waited for Adam to let her in. “It’s open,” he said.
“Hey, Buddy...” She greeted him, searching his eyes. “Can I sit here with you?” he just nodded. “So... I’m sorry you had to find out that way.” He shrugged, still avoiding eye contact with her. “You know, we didn’t mean to keep it from you, right?” He nodded again. “We just didn’t find the right moment to tell you guys—”
“Are you gonna stop playing with me?” He asked out of the blue.
“If you’re uncle Sawyer’s girlfriend you won’t have as much time for me and Sophia, right?”
“Why do you say that?” He shrugged again. “Adam, Buddy, look at me...” She pleaded, and it worked, he slightly raised her head. “Sawyer might be my boyfriend, but you’re my friend and nobody can live without friends.”
“Am your friend?” His face lit up a bit.
“Of course! Since you’ve been around I laugh a lot more every day, you and Sophia make me really happy. I have so much fun with you.” She smiled at him to reassure him.
“Then we have to make the pact,” he said right before spitting in his hand.
She looked at him a bit horrified. “What is that?” She chuckled.
“We spit in our hands and then shake them to seal the pact. It’s a promise between friends and it can’t be broken. My friend, Shane, taught me.” He smiled at her.
“Then, it’s a promise!” She said as she spat her own hand and shook his. He giggled, making life come back to her limbs, letting her breathe again. How could she be so fond of that little guy so fast?
At that moment her concerns dissipated in the air. The fact that she could scarcely become a mom one day didn’t matter when she was with them. Adam and Sophia had a mighty healing power.
“Now we’re friends forever.” His smile couldn’t have been bigger.
“Forever,” she repeated. “Dinner is ready, so... Should we go and wash our hands?” She asked him.
“Yeah... They’re sticky now. So gross!” He laughed, making her heart tingle.
When the night came, since everything was clear, Sawyer and Lizbeth slept in the same room with the kids. The room they were in had a large single bed and a double. She didn’t care if they couldn’t be alone that night, those kids accepting her as Sawyer’s girlfriend was the best thing that had happened to her that day.
After dinner, they sat with Adam and Sophia and told her about their relationship too. She didn’t mind much, she even asked Lizbeth if she could call her mom, which made her chuckle, but Sawyer told her that until they got married she should call her by her name.
Sophia didn’t fully understand why she didn’t have a mother while other kids did, and she was desperate to have one. Lizbeth wanted to be with Sawyer, but they couldn’t see the future, so as much as she liked those kids they didn’t want them to get their hopes too high for the moment.
The little girl was sharing a bed with her brother. They were both peacefully breathing, she was even softly snoring. Lizbeth smiled looking at them. Adam was facing the wall, almost stuck on it as his sister was occupying the entire bed with her beautiful curls all over her face.
“She’s always like that, don’t mind her too much,” Sawyer whispered as he hugged her from behind. She hummed, still feeling a bit uncomfortable around him. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah...” She breathed. “It’s just... You were so cold before... It’s stupid, I just haven’t been able to shake that feeling yet. Sorry.”
“Liz.” He made her turn to him. “I’m sorry if I was a bit rude, I didn’t mean to.”
“I know.” She smiled at him as she caressed his bare chest.
“Adam had never raised his voice. I had never seen that look on his face and I flipped.” He painfully sighed. “He doesn’t open much and he’s never shared his thoughts or feelings with me or my parents, not since Beth and Matt passed away. I’m worried about him all the time. He’s smart but he’s at such a fragile age...” He grabbed her hand and entwined his fingers with hers. She didn’t say anything and just looked at him, telling him with her eyes to keep going. “I’m considering taking him to therapy...”
“If you think it might do him good, then do it... But do you want my opinion?”
“Yes, please.” He softly chuckled.
“I think he’ll be fine. Not having real parents must be hard, but I already told you, you’re acting like a mom and a dad at the same time for them, and I bet your parents are really affectionate too. They lost their parents, but they have an amazing family and all they need is some more time. If you see any weird behavior, then take him to therapy, but right now I think he’s fine. Adam is pretty shy, but he’s a happy kid.”
“He’s actually been laughing and smiling more since you’re around.” He brushed a lock of hair out of her face.
“Come on, Sawyer!” She giggled, rolling her eyes.
“I’m serious! You have something, some kind of deep connection with them... I really can’t explain how I feel when I see you together. It’s like the burden I was carrying around weighs less... I don’t know.”
“I do.” She smiled, staring deep into his eyes. It was dark, but they still had that special glow that made the world around them seem so small.
He held her gaze, without blinking even once. He looked at her as if he was trying to read her, to get inside her mind, and touch her soul. It was so intense that it was hard to breathe.
Then, he kissed her lips tenderly, turning her blood into lava, ardent and slow. It might be too soon, but in that instant when he was just kissing her, she realized his warmth and honesty were everything she needed to feel whole again.
“I have never felt the need to get to know someone, to let her in, not like you did... Just promise me you’ll stay by my side this time...” He whispered against her lips before kissing her again.
“I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”