Chapter 35: Lincoln
“I know the demons didn’t just vanish - they’ll live with me forever, but I know how to fight them now.”
I knew I was in for one hell of a ride, even before Mia told me about her father’s shady past.
Because let’s be real here, anyone who ever laid eyes on that man knew that he was dangerous. And that exact fact was the reason I didn’t want to know more about this - I am here for Mia, not for anyone else.
“Okay, Mia. I really can’t wait to hear what you have to say about this situation,” her father says, arms crossed in front of his chest as he raises an eyebrow, obviously unimpressed as hell.
Mia looks up at me for a moment, and I see the hesitation in her eyes. I know she’s scared of telling the whole story - but I have to admit; I am not. I know what I’ve been through, now. I know the demons didn’t just vanish - they’ll live with me forever, but I know how to fight them now. I know how to live with them.
“Well,” she sighs, shooting me one last smile before looking at her parents opposite to us, “It’s a long story.”
“Good thing we have all day then,” her father retorts. Hazel places a hand on her husband’s shoulders, and it’s almost magical how quickly he relaxes, heaving a sigh as he looks at Mia’s mother before nodding his head.
“Okay, I’m just gonna make this short, but you have to listen to me, Dad. Please. Listen before you… Do anything.”
He just narrows his eyes, urging his daughter to continue. Mia’s grandmother shoots me a questioning look, and I don’t fail to notice the amusement in her eyes when she rests her head on her hands, elbows on the table when she watches us.
“Well. Um… Two years ago, shortly after my birthday, I met Lincoln…”
I instantly squeeze her hand, raising my eyebrow questioningly. I meant what I said when I talked to her about honesty. The part where she knew me beforehand is not exactly unimportant to this story. Mia looks up at me though, unimpressed as hell before she shakes her head.
“Yeah, okay. I met Lincoln when I was eighteen.”
“I’m sorry, you what?” her dad instantly chimes in, and I get the feeling this is why she didn’t want to tell that part of the story.
“Calm down, Dad. Listen - remember?” she says while sitting up straight, “I met him at that internship in the hospital all those years ago. He didn’t know that though, he didn’t even remember me when I met him again.”
That makes everyone’s eyes widen, and I suddenly understand even more why she didn’t exactly serve that part of our complicated past on a silver platter. I still feel like a fucking asshole about everything that went down all those years ago.
“He didn’t remember you?” Mia’s grandma asks, wide eyes and a hint of a smirk playing on her lips.
“I didn’t,” I respond, “As Mia explained, she was eighteen back then - I was in the middle of my M.D. and not really focused on anything else.”
My gaze falls on Mia, who now looks up at me and shoots me a kind smile. I still can’t fathom how I ever forgot her, she’s literally all I see wherever I go now.
“Anyways, that’s not exactly what this is about,” Mia breaks the silence, facing her father again. “I met him three years later, and he wasn’t exactly in the best place, then.”
“What exactly does that mean?” Noah asks, eyeing me warily, and I know the question is directed at me.
I told Mia I wanted to tell her parents about all of it, and it’s true that I learned to deal with it and be open about it all. That doesn’t mean it’s not painful to relive it, though.
“It means that I tried to kill myself two years ago, and Mia stopped me from doing that,” I blurt out the sentence, knowing I just need to get it over with.
Saying it like that feels extremely strange, like I am talking about someone else who lived through that hell, back then. The memories from those weeks seem blurry sometimes, like it was just a very cruel dream.
Noah’s reaction doesn’t surprise me - he looks unimpressed as hell, although I see the empathy in his eyes. I figured he would’ve known about this, considering Max did, too. I just didn’t know how much he’d share with his family.
“And you did that because you knew him from earlier?” Mia’s father now addresses her again, but she instantly shakes her head.
“No, Dad. You should know I would stop every single time if I see someone standing on a bridge,” Mia sounds almost offended, and I quickly squeeze her hand before she continues, “The fact that I knew him from earlier made me bring him home. I knew who he was. I knew what he did for a living, and I knew I needed to help him.”
Summer shoots her granddaughter a smile, reaching over the table to squeeze her hand. I can feel how the tension courses through Mia’s body, making her clench onto my hand. God, how much I just want to take her in my arms now.
“That was a very kind thing to do, sweetheart,” Hazel speaks up, completely contradicting her husband’s demeanour. I’m pretty sure he knows all of this already, or at least the bullet points, but he still seems extremely unimpressed.
“You raised us to be kind, Mom. Same as you, Dad.”
I almost have to smile at that statement, seeing the resemblance to her mother at the beginning of our meeting. They both seem to know how to handle the men in their life - and I can’t help but adore that.
“Okay, so you brought him home to make sure he’s okay, and then?” Summer is on the edge of her seat now, watching us like we were stars in some sort of Telenovela.
“She took care of me,” I answer that question, feeling that Mia is already tense as hell. “Mia quite literally brought me back to life. She took a burden upon herself she didn’t need to - giving me a home, a place to sleep, clothes, food… She did what she could to make sure I found my way back.”
“Link…” Mia interjects, and I know what she wants to say, but I shake my head, urging her to let this stand the way it is.
“No, Mia. We need to see it as it was - dependency.”
She regards me for a moment, her brows furrowed and those ocean blue eyes raging with so many emotions, it’s hard to focus on one of them. We shouldn’t have this level of a talk in front of her parents, but they need to know the exact roles in this if they want to understand.
“Fine. We’ll talk about this later though,” she whispers, and I only shoot her a wink in response.
Her fingers tighten around my own when she looks back at her parents, both her mother and grandmother now look at us with a sense of curiosity in their eyes, it almost looks like they’re about to explode if we don’t continue.
“I fell in love with her,” I admit, my gaze directed straight at Mia’s father. I can’t deny that this feels like some sort of test, and I need to pull every string I have to make sure they deem me suitable for their daughter. “I mean, it’s pretty hard not to. I don’t need to tell you why - you know the reasons why your daughter is an astounding woman. I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone like her.”
Hazel shoots me a warm smile, and I don’t fail to notice how tightly she’s still holding on to her husband - I guess I need to thank her for that next time. If I do make it out of here alive, that is.
“Yeah, we all know how amazing my granddaughter is,” Summer says, shooting both of us a smile, “But now continue, I want to know what happens next!”
And I can’t even help but laugh, same as Mia next to me who shakes her head before resting it on my shoulder. It’s a gesture so gentle and innocent, but I take a second to watch her doing it, just bathing in this familiar feeling of her by my side.
I press a kiss on her head, ignoring all family members for just a split second until I turn my head again, heaving a sigh before I continue, “Yes, well. Mia fell in love with me as well, for whatever reason,” I say, and that makes Mia look up at me in an instant, her narrowed eyes telling me she doesn’t approve of my words. “But,” I quickly add and turn back to look at her parents, “that wasn’t a good idea. For obvious reasons. I had issues, I still do. It was a terrible idea to even pursue it.”
As much as it pains to say that, it’s the truth. We were the right people, at the right place at the wrong time.
“And then my idiot of a grandson came after you,” Summer states with furrowed brows.
I nod my head, “And then your grandson came after me.”
“What exactly did he say?” Noah now speaks up, seeming more than interested in hearing this part.
Reliving that part is like playing in a bad movie, honestly, and so I can’t help but sigh as I answer, “I had a meeting at the hospital for a new job. I was just finalizing my contract, and I wanted to go home to tell Mia about it when he rolled up and… asked if I’d have a talk with him. He made a point in telling me that Mia deserved better, which she did. He also said that I’d held her back - which I did, too. Everything he said made sense, even if I didn’t want it to,” I admit.
“Lincoln…” Mia interjects again, running her palm over my thigh when I smile at her. “He had no right to say that to you,” she says, and I nod my head.
“I know. And I probably shouldn’t have listened to everything he said. But you know how I was back then, Mia…”
She sighs, running a hand through her hair before placing it back in my lap, a strong but sad smile on her lips. “He should’ve told you about Pops…” she whispers, and I can only nod my head at that. “He should have, you’re right.”
I look back up at Summer, and I instantly see that familiar expression on her face - one I wear myself sometimes when grief overcomes me. Her eyes look glassy when they look straight at me, a pain-ridden but sympathetic smile on her face. “I’m very sorry for your loss. I know it’s been two years, but I also know this kind of sorrow won’t just go away,” I say, looking at everyone at this table.
They all must have been affected by it, losing someone so close will always hurt.
“Thank you,” Hazel says with a smile, “I still can’t believe Max did that, that day…”
“You said he came after you when you had the interview at the hospital - what time was that exactly?” Mia’s dad now asks.
I tilt my head, wondering why that is so important now, but answer nonetheless, “It must’ve been afternoon, two or three P.M., I guess…”
His eyes instantly meet Mia’s, who now shoots him a meaningful look, too, but I can’t say I have any idea what this is about. “That fucking asshole…” Mia whispers, rubbing her fingers over her forehead as she takes deep a breath.
“What is it?” I ask, but immediately get interrupted by Noah.
“That’s not important. We’ll deal with my son another day - right now I’m more interested in you, Lincoln.” He leans forward, bracing his elbows on the table, narrowing his eyes at me when he asks, “You said you had issues, and that you still have. If you still have them, what makes you think you’re good for my daughter now?”
“Dad!” Mia interjects, but I immediately shake my head, running my thumb over her palm. “It’s a valid question, Mia. You would’ve asked the same.”
She almost pouts, and I would’ve laughed at that cuteness if it weren’t for the severity of this situation. I look back at her father, sitting up straight before I answer, “When I say that I still have issues, that means that my issues from the past won’t just disappear. I don’t know how familiar you are with depression and anxiety, with panic attacks and anxiety attacks, but those things don’t just vanish into thin air,” I explain.
“My…” I clear my throat, finding strength in Mia’s hands in my lap as I continue, “My parents died back then. I lost a patient. And a ton of other things happened, that I’m sure you’re well aware of,” I direct my words at Noah, who looks guilty as hell now.
His attitude and persona might intimidate me, but I’m not stupid enough to think he didn’t thoroughly check my background before we came here today.
“I’m just protecting my daughter,” he says, and I can only nod my head at that.
“I know you are, and I appreciate that. I have nothing to hide.”
He’s looking straight at me now, and even though I’m focused on him, I can feel three other pairs of eyes dig straight into my skull until I speak again, “What I mean to say is that I have been through a lot when I met Mia. I’m still processing those things. And when I say that I still have issues, I mean that I’m still working on myself. Going through something like that… You don’t just magically get better because you meet the right person, I learned that the hard way.”
I can’t help but look at Mia now, who is still staring at me with wide eyes. “If anyone could’ve done that, I’m sure it would’ve been Mia. But that’s not how it works, unfortunately,” I shoot her a sad smile before looking back at her father.
“I’ve worked on myself and I probably forever will, which should tell you how serious I am about this. I wouldn’t have pursued this again if I felt like either of us couldn’t handle it. It’s the whole reason I left in the first place, and I don’t intend to do so again.”
Silence falls around us, and everyone looks at me for a moment, which honestly makes me uncomfortable as hell, but I sit through it, holding Noah’s intimidating gaze as good as I can.
The sound of my cell phone almost makes me jump, and I instantly reach into my jeans pocket, seeing that it’s a call from the hospital.
Great fucking timing…
“Excuse me, I need to take this…”
“Seriously?” Mia’s father asks, raising his eyebrows in surprise.
“Noah,” I say, not wanting Mia to clear this up when it’s my issue, “I’m sure you’re well aware of the fact that I’m a doctor. I work with children. I don’t know if your kids ever had to visit the hospital, but I’m sure that if they did, you’d want their doctor to pick up their phone, wouldn’t you?”
I’m surprised by myself, honestly - I can’t remember the last time I stood up for myself like that. My sole focus over the past years was on my work and my mental health, and I’m guessing it’s those two things I won’t compromise on now. It’s another thing I had to learn the hard way.
Mia’s father only nods his head, and I can’t deny that it gives me a sense of complacency to see that even he can be speechless, sometimes.
I dash out of the room and into the hallway, and ironically it’s Mia’s brother on the line, asking about a patient I last checked up on yesterday. He explains the situation; a seven-year-old girl has respiratory issues after I performed an appendectomy a few days ago, but I can’t exactly spot the issue from the distance and the attending on call is less than competent enough to figure something like this out. Great. I need to examine her myself.
After letting him know that I’ll be there soon I hang up, take a deep breath and make my way back into the living room, all eyes instantly on me when I rest my hands on the headrest of Mia’s chair. She turns and looks up at me, this understanding smile on her face, like she already knows what’s about to come.
“I have to go, I’m sorry, this is important…”
She shakes her head, placing her hand on my own when she says, “No, it’s okay. It’s your job. Go and save lives,” she winks, and I can’t help but smile at her, the urge to just kiss the ever-living hell out of her right now invading my brain.
And I see it on her face, too. She’s charged, ready to explode, but she also almost unnoticeably shakes her head, asking for distance in front of her parents. And I get it. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t help myself if I touched her now, which doesn’t seem like too good of an idea right in front of her father.
I do value my life.
“Alright,” I look up at the other three on the table, “I’m really sorry, I’ll make sure to hurry. Maybe we can continue this later, or we’ll find another day. It was great to meet you, really. And I hope we can finish this conversation another time, I know there’s a lot we still have to talk about.”
They all just nod their heads, Summer grinning from ear to ear while Noah only gives me a thin smile.
“It was nice to get to know you, Lincoln. I hope we can do this again soon,” Hazel says with a smile, which I instantly return.
“I can only give that back. Thank you for welcoming me so kindly.”
Shooting Mia one last smile, I squeeze her hand and press a kiss on her head, knowing it’s the closest I can get without dying today.
And then I make my way out of there, a conflicted feeling running through my veins. Because I know that today went better than expected, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a shit ton of miles ahead of us.