After showing her a dream house, they went to pick up the kids. Two days had passed since, and it was already Friday.
Sawyer was working, so she got up early in the morning and walked into the kitchen to make breakfast for the kids. She heated some chocolate milk in the microwave while she made some scrambled eggs and pancakes. When everything was ready, she headed to the kids’ bedroom.
“Morning, Buddy,” Lizbeth said as she saw Adam already awake.
“Morning,” he mumbled as he tried to reach for his glasses.
“Here,” she said as she gave them to him. “Do you want me to help you in the bathroom?”
“I’m a grown-up,” he pouted as he put on his slippers.
“Okay, okay,” Lizbeth chuckled. “I’ll wake up your sister. When you’re done in the bathroom, you have your breakfast ready on the counter.”
“Okay,” he shrugged. He wasn’t the most talkative person in the world, but he had been acting a bit weird lately. She followed him with her eyes wondering what might be going on with him.
As he got into the bathroom, she walked to Sophia’s bed. She was fast asleep with her hair all over her face, lightly snoring with her mouth half-open. She lightly giggled at the sight, she was adorable.
Lizbeth brushed her hair away, but she didn’t open her eyes. “Hey, Baby girl... You need to wake up to go to school.”
The little girl mumbled something else and turned away scratching her head. “Do you want to miss the visit to the planetarium?” Lizbeth asked in a playful tone of voice.
Sophia straightened herself in bed all of a sudden, making Lizbeth jump. “I want to see the stars!” She exclaimed, her hair a complete mess. Lizbeth couldn’t help it and burst out laughing.
“Okay, come on, Little one. We’ll get you ready so you can see the stars.” She helped her down the bed and walked to the bathroom. Adam was already out and preparing his backpack.
Lizbeth helped Sophia to shower and dress afterwards. Then, the three of them ate breakfast together.
“I want you to cook breakfast for us every day,” Sophia said.
Lizbeth chuckled. “Why?”
“Daddy is boring and always gives us cereals. I like cereals but also pancakes, toasts, and other stuff,” she said while she kept eating.
“I’ll talk to him.” She smiled at her. Her eyes moved to Adam, he was already done eating. He was just playing with the fork on the plate, with a blank stare.
“Hey, Adam... Is everything okay?” She was starting to worry.
“Yeah...” He sighed.
“You know we’re friends, right?” She asked. He nodded, avoiding eye contact with her.
“What’s wrong? You look down this morning... Is it because Sawyer is not here?” He nodded his head no. “A bad dream?” She asked, trying to guess. Another no. “You know you can trust me, right?” He looked at her with watery eyes. “Hey, Buddy? What’s wrong?” She got up and walked to him, her heart broken. He was about to speak when the doorbell rang. “Just a second, okay?” He rubbed his eyes under his glasses.
Lizbeth opened the door and found Mrs.Flanagan with a sweet smile on her face. Her short grey hair was perfectly styled and she was wearing her brown fluffy coat. She was in her late sixties but she looked much younger and had a great sense of fashion.
She lost her husband some years before and since she didn’t have any other relatives, she loved helping Sawyer with the kids - and they loved her. She was selfless and humble and made the best chocolate cakes. “Morning, Mrs.Flanagan.”
“Stop calling me like that, it makes me feel old! Ann!”
“Okay, Ann,” she chuckled. “Come on in, please.”
“How are you feeling, sweetheart?” She asked her as she took off her coat.
“Feeling better, thank you. How are you?”
“Good,” she smiled at her. “If you need anything, you know where you can find me,” she smiled. “So, where are my cupcakes?” She asked as she got closer to the kids in the kitchen.
“Grannie!” Sophia shouted as she turned on the stool to hug her.
“Hello, Pretty girl! And what about my boy, aren’t you going to give me a hug too?” Adam turned to her and reluctantly hugged her. “What’s the matter, Young man?” She asked.
“Ann, why don’t you help Sophia in the bathroom while I finish here?” Lizbeth interrupted.
“Sure,” she gave her a knowingly look.
As Sophia and Ann locked in the bathroom, Lizbeth approached Adam again. “Why don’t we sit on the couch so you can tell me what’s going on?” He didn’t say anything and just jumped down the stool.
He sat on the couch, his eyes down. When Lizbeth sat beside him he sighed. She tilted her head so he looked her in the eyes. A tear rolled down his face. “Hey, Buddy!” She hugged him and he hugged her back. He cried his heart out for a couple of minutes before he could say a word.
“Eric’s been hurting me...”
“A kid from school...”
“Is he mean to you?”
Adam nodded. “He’s mean, but he also hits me...” He rubbed his reddened eyes.
“How long has this been happening?”
“I don’t know... Two weeks?” He shrugged.
“Does Sawyer know?”
“He needs to know so he can talk to your teacher...” She said as she caressed his wet cheek.
“But I don’t want him to think I’m weak or a loser...” He said in a low voice.
“Why would he think that?” Lizbeth was shocked.
“Because he’s big and strong, and I’m not... I’m just a nerd,” he sniffled, avoiding eye contact again.
“Hey, Buddy,” she put a finger under his chin to make him look at her. “You’re not a loser or a nerd. You’re one of the most amazing kids I’ve ever met. And Sawyer loves you with all his heart, he would never think that of you.” His eyes were still watery but full of hope now. “I’ll talk to him and we’ll make this right, okay?”
“Okay...” He nodded, a slight smile on his lips. She hugged him and kissed the top of his head.
“Now go brush your teeth,” she told him as Mrs.Flanagan and Sophia walked out of the bathroom.
When the kids were ready she helped them put on their coats and backpacks. She hugged them and before they left Lizbeth told Mrs. Flanagan about the bullying at school.
“That’s awful, my poor boy...”
“I know. It’d be great if you could tell his teacher so he can watch him today?”
“Sure.” She nodded.
“I’ll tell Sawyer and we’ll go this afternoon to talk to her ourselves, but I don’t want this happening again today.”
“Of course, of course. Don’t worry. I’ll talk to her, you take care of yourself.”
She locked the door after they left and went into the kitchen to wash the dishes. Her mind lost in what Adam just told her. Kids could be awful sometimes, but it usually had a background story that most people didn’t want to think about.
Later, she brewed some coffee for Sawyer. It was a quarter to eight and he would be there any minute.
When she was done, she took off her pants and lay down on the couch, the soft blanket over her. She wanted to wait for him, but she had a rough night.
She had been dreaming about someone pushing her down the stairs the whole night. That person never had a face, which made it even creepier. It was just an expressionless white mask and a distorted voice telling her to die. It was a disturbing loop that played in her mind for a long time. Different scenarios and different times of the day, but always the same stairs.
Her mind went blank quickly, but before she was deeply sleeping Sawyer’s keys clinked at the door. Noah ran from the bedroom to the door barking to greet him. "Hey, girl!" Sawyer softly laughed as he petted her. Then, he moved towards the living room.
With her eyelids feeling heavy, she could sense him squatting beside her a minute later. “Morning, Beautiful,” he whispered against her lips.
“Morning.” She hugged him and nuzzled his neck. “Coffee’s ready.” She yawned.
“Okay, I’ll have one while you wake up.” He chuckled.
She rubbed her eyes and stretched her back on the couch. Waking up with the sound of his voice was great. She turned back and rested her chin on her hands, over the back of the couch. She stared at him.
He was leaning on the counter, wearing a black knit sweater and some ripped blue jeans, looking at his phone. He was breathtaking.
Suddenly, the image of Adam crying struck her mind. She swallowed hard. “Sawyer...”
He hummed as he kept reading. “A kid from school seems to be bullying Adam,” she said, afraid of his reaction.
“What?” He spat looking straight at her, slightly frowning.
“He looked very gloomy this morning... He cried so much...” Her voice trembled.
“What?! Why didn’t he tell me?” The crease between his brows got deeper.
“Hmm... He’s afraid you’d think he’s weak...”
“Are you kidding me?” He looked really bothered as he walked towards her. “I’ve never said anything to make him think like that...” His voice sounded sad. He let himself fall beside her on the couch.
“I don’t think it’s something you’ve said or done. He just wants to be like you and thinks he can’t.” She lightly squeezed his forearm.
“God!” He ran a hand through his hair, then pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index finger. “I’m a horrible dad...” He let out a heavy sigh, feeling obviously helpless.
“Sawyer, stop talking nonsense!” She exclaimed in a loud voice, making him look at her.
“They’re kids and you’re not god, okay? You cannot be everywhere all the time.” She placed her hand over his. “Look, you’ve been there for them since the beginning, no matter what. You’re working your ass off to buy a house for those kids to have a home. You’re always trying to spend quality time with them and helping them to make wonderful memories after losing their parents.” She paused for a second. “They love you so much they think of you as their dad. Adam doesn’t call you like that, but he’s so proud of you he’d like to be like you.”
“Such a smooth talker...” He chuckled.
“Whatever, but you know I’m right. You’re doing the best you can, and I’m sure they know.”
He squeezed her hand. “Thanks.”
“Always.” She closed her eyes as she rested her forehead against his temple. Their fingers entwined.
“Did he tell you anything else?” He asked in a low voice.
“Not really... But either way, I think we gotta talk to his teacher this afternoon.”
“We?” He smirked. She looked at him and raised a questioning eyebrow. “You’re amazing, you know that?” He said playing with the ends of her hair.
“Of course I am,” she feigned arrogance as she flipped her hair back.
He looked at her with loving eyes and a slight smile on his lips. “What?” She asked, feeling nervous all of a sudden.
“I think I’m gonna kiss you,” he said as he moved his hand to the back of her head pulling her in. A second later his lips were pressed against hers.
His tongue gently asked permission to enter her mouth and soon he was exploring her. She clasped his neck with both hands to keep balance as she was sitting in a strange position. The way he was kissing her was sweet and tender but, at the same time, he seemed hungry for her.
One of his hands was on her nape, the other one was on her lower back. As he pulled her onto his lap, her legs got goosebumps all over because the blanket fell to the floor.
She was still hurt from the attack on Tuesday and wasn’t in the mood for sex, but feeling him made her want to get lost in the warmth of his arms.
His hand traveled from her waist to her hip, then to her butt. The other one moved to her head to press her father against him, making her hiss.
“Oh, fuck! Sorry, kitten!” Sawyer exclaimed.
“It’s fine...” She smiled with pain.
“I completely forgot. Sorry, Babe,” he said with an apologetic look.
“I’m fine, it’s just a small bump.” She didn’t want him to give it much importance.
“Still...” He brushed her jaw with his fingers and softly kissed her lips. She looked at him with pleading eyes. He chuckled. “We’ll leave it for another time. You need to rest and be taken care of now.” He gave her a peck on the nose.
Suddenly, the phone ringing startled them. “Fuck!” Sawyer groaned. He placed a hand on her waist and lifted his hips to get the cell phone out of his rear pocket. Lizbeth lightly moaned when he moved under her, rubbing his center against hers. He smirked.
His face shadowed with concern when he looked at the screen of his phone. “It’s from school.” Sawyer frowned.
Lizbeth didn’t say anything and motioned him to pick up. She moved away and sat on the couch, looking at him.
He sighed as he readjusted the bulge in his pants. “Hi,” he said. He didn’t say anything after that, he was just listening. “Yeah,” he nodded. His fingers were playing with Lizbeth’s. “Sure, no problem. We’ll be there at four. Thank you.”
He hung up and threw his head back as he sighed. “It was Adam’s teacher, we have a meeting with her and the other kid’s parents this afternoon.”
“Oh, that’s great!” Lizbeth said. “You should get some sleep,” she suggested as she ran a hand through his hair.
“Yeah...” He breathed, lifting his head and looking at her. “Are you coming?”
“Sure.” She nodded, smiling.
Sawyer kissed her cheek and held a hand out to her when he got up.
They walked into his room, followed by Noah, who laid down on her bed, and while he placed his phone on the night table, she rubbed her legs with her hands under the sheets to warm them up. Then, he took off his sweater leaving his well-built torso in full display. Without saying a word, he unbuckled his belt and went to the bathroom.
The water running in the shower broke the silence in the room. As Lizbeth heard him entering the shower, she lay on the bed, looking at the white ceiling.
It took him a while and she was dozing off when he walked out again. “Had a bad night?” He asked.
“Sort of.” She didn’t open her eyes.
“No, they slept the whole night. I just had a bad dream.” She felt the mattress sink a little when he got himself in bed.
“Sorry to hear that.” He kissed her temple as he snuggled against her in bed, hugging her from behind. She sighed feeling comfortable in the warmth of his arms, wrapped in the sweet smell of soap.
“Thank you,” he whispered right before falling asleep.
It was four in the afternoon. They were nervous, pacing up and down the room. They were in the lounge waiting for Adam’s teacher when a woman walked in.
She was wearing a nurse’s gown under her coat. Her hair was tied in a low ponytail and even though she was pretty, her blue eyes seemed sad and tired. She was young but she looked exhausted.
“Oh! Hi! Are you Adam’s parents?” The woman said holding her hand out to Lizbeth, smiling.
“Yeah...” She said.
“I’m Emma, Eric’s mom. I’m so sorry...” She said with a sincere look on her face.
“They’re kids, I’m sure we can work this out, don’t worry so much,” Sawyer tried to reassure her.
“Oh! I see you’re all here. Okay, let’s go in then.” The teacher motioned to them so they walked inside her office. She was the kind of woman you want to hug all the time for no reason.
The meeting went on for half an hour. Sawyer and Lizbeth easily empathized with Emma. She told them that after losing her husband a year and a half before, her son started acting weird. She even changed him to a new school, but it didn’t help. She looked sad and desperate.
She was strong and willing to do anything for her son, like taking him to a therapist to help him deal with the sorrow of losing his dad, but it was being harder than expected. She worked so many hours and he was spending most of the time with a nanny.
They talked for a while. Later, they called the kids in too. Emma made her son apologize but he refused. He was angry with the world and he was taking it out on Adam.
“It’s not fair that you have such a cool dad and I don’t have one!” He crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes flooded with tears. Emma gasped when she heard those words.
“Sawyer is not my dad,” Adam shouted.
“What?” Emma asked, confused as she looked at Sawyer and Lizbeth.
“He comes to pick you up almost every day. He’s your dad,” the other kid said.
The teacher was about to step in the conversation when Adam yelled. “Both my mom and dad are dead!” Tears started running down his face. Lizbeth was holding his hand and squeezed it.
He leaned on her legs, looking at the floor, crying his heart out. “You wanna go out, Buddy?” She sweetly asked him. He nodded. “Would you excuse us for a moment?”
“Sure,” the teacher said.
“Want me to come with you?” Sawyer asked her, concern filling his voice. His face slightly twisted with hurt, probably for Adam’s words and for watching him in so much pain.
“It’s fine,” she whispered. Her heart sunk in her chest.
Adam and Lizbeth walked hand in hand down the corridor and to the bathroom. She held his glasses as he washed his face and looked at him in silence. It was so hard watching him feeling like that, so vulnerable, and not being able to take away his pain.
He wiped his nose with his sleeve. Still sniffling a little, he got his glasses from Lizbeth. Then, they walked out of the school and sat on a bench near the entrance. She zipped his coat up to his chin. “Hey, Adam... You know he’s going through the same as you?” She asked out of the blue.
“What do you mean?” He asked as he played with her fingers.
“He lost his dad too. That’s why he’s mad all the time,” she ran a hand through his messy hair.
Lizbeth was shocked by his question. “Last year, I think...”
“But I was never mean when mom and dad died...”
“I know, Buddy. But we’re all different, you know?” He looked at her with a questioning expression on his face. “Everyone likes different things, and in the same way, we deal with what happens to us in different ways. You know what I mean?” She tilted her head, not very sure she expressed herself in a way he could understand.
“He’s angry because he’s sad?” He asked. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“But I haven’t done anything to him...” He pouted.
“I know, Buddy. That’s why we’re here, so we can fix this situation.” She paused. “Are you ready to go back again?” He nodded, but as they got up, the rest walked out the main door.
“Thank you, Mrs.Porter,” Sawyer said, shaking her hand.
“No problem.” She smiled. “If any of you need anything, just let me know, okay?” Sawyer and Emma nodded. She waved her hand at Adam and then walked back into the school again.
Lizbeth and Adam stood there, waiting for them. As they got closer, she could see relief in Sawyer’s face. That was a good sign.
Eric stopped right in front of Adam. “Sorry,” he mumbled, looking at the colorful laces of his sneakers.
“It’s okay,” Adam simply responded and then hugged him. The three adults looked at them surprised. Emma covered her mouth with both hands and let out a muffled sob.
Sawyer squatted down to be at their same level. “Eric, if you ever wanna come to play you’re more than welcome, okay?”
The kid looked at Adam, who widely smiled at him. “Can I, mom?” He asked in a pleading voice. She was on the verge of tears and couldn’t speak, but she effusively nodded her head up and down.
“Cools!” He exclaimed.
“Okay, see you next time, Buddy,” Sawyer told him as he held his fist out to him.
“Yeah!” He said fist-bumping him.
“Thank you,” Emma told them.
“Sure,” Sawyer nodded.
“Bye, Adam!” He waved his hand at him when they walked away.
“Bye!” He exclaimed.
Adam didn’t have time to wave his hand back as Sawyer hugged him tightly. “I’m so proud of you,” he confessed.
Lizbeth took a deep breath and softly sniffled. It was a heart-melting scene. The kid might still not understand everything, he might not know how deep Sawyer’s feelings were, but she did. And she was sure he would die for the two of them.
“I can’t breathe uncle Sawyer...” Adam protested making Sawyer chuckle.
“Sorry, Buddy.” He got up again. “Ready to pick up Sophia and go home?”
“Yay!” He said with a bright smile as he grabbed their hands and started walking towards the exit.