Mike opened the door and saw his son standing on the front porch. He was totally shocked and just stood there for a moment looking at him.
“Jake?” he whispered.
They both stood there and Jake finally asked, “Can I come in? I am kinda beat from the drive…”
Mike snapped out of his haze and chuckled, “Sorry son. Come in!”
Mike moved to the side as his son walked in. He closed the door behind him and then pulled him into a big hug. Jake was shocked at his dad’s reaction and hugged him back. It was quite a sight; both men, well over six feet tall and very good looking, hugging. Both were incredibly built; broad shoulders and arms, narrow waists, long legs, almost black hair, bright blue eyes and dimpled smiles.
Jake heard his dad sniff a little and as they pulled apart, he saw tears in his Dad’s eyes.
“I just can’t believe you are here! Why are you here? Is everything ok?” Mike stammered.
“I hope it’s ok that I am here. It was a spur of the moment thing. The short story is that my knee isn’t healing well and I just needed some time away to think. If my career is over, then I need to plan for the future. Plus I just missed my Dad...I know I haven’t behaved in the way that you and Mom raised me to, but I am here to apologize and make amends…”
Mike looked intently at his son and saw the remorse and hurt on his face. He and his wife always knew when Jake was truly sorry, he had this look on his face and as soon as you saw it, you could just tell.
“I know you are tired, but have you eaten? We can talk while I reheat some food for you.”
“Thanks Dad. That would be great,” and he followed him into the kitchen.
The two men talked well into the night. Jake laid it all out on the table, all his feelings, his mistakes, his fears and his regrets; especially his regrets with Sammy. Mike didn’t say anything about Gracie, deciding that wasn’t his news to tell. He just told Jake that Sammy was doing very well and they saw each other frequently.
Jake nodded and sat back in the chair, wondering how he should see her. The two men moved on to plan the next day together and told his Dad that his best friend Kevin would be coming on Thursday if that was ok. Mike nodded and showed him to the guest room to sleep. As Jake lay down to sleep, he felt better about things with his dad than he had in a long time, but very nervous about Sammy. He kept getting the feeling he was in over his head.
Jake and Mike had a great day together just reconnecting and talking. They were able to get an early tee time and played a round of golf, had breakfast at the country club and went out on the four-wheelers then came back late for dinner at their favorite restaurant in downtown Denver.
Mike was in heaven having his son back and engaged as they talked about so many things. Jake apologized for everything that had happened between them and Jake explained how he was just scared and overwhelmed. He talked about eloping, going into the league, playing, his injury and the surgery. Mike told him to not let it happen again and to come to him when he felt that way. That’s what he was here for. Mike saw an opening as they were finishing dinner and dove right in.
“So, what about Sammy? Are you going to go see her?” Mike asked.
Jake sat back and sighed, “I really want to go and see her, but I am afraid of how she will react. I don’t want to get punched in the face or hurt her again…”
“Do you love her?” Mike inquired.
“She is the only woman I will ever love. I know I blew it and fucked it up with her, but she is it for me. I have dated other women, some really great women, and I just keep comparing them to her. She was perfect for me and I can’t do that to another woman- keep wishing she is someone she is not. That’s not fair to anyone. But I have no idea how to fix it or if there is even a way to fix it.”
Mike nodded and told him, “Just go see her at the ranch. You will have to face it sooner or later, Son.”
Jake hung his head as he listened to his dad, knowing that he was right. They finished their evening and drove home, full and happy. They watched some sports channel together, and then Mike turned in.
“Don’t forget that I am picking up Kevin tomorrow. Do you want me to get anything at the store for you?” Jake asked.
“I will leave a list. I do have to go into the office tomorrow to meet with a new client. So I won’t be home until about 5.”
Jake showered and climbed into the bed, looking out the window as he did. He knew he needed to man up, he just didn’t know how to. He was meeting with a new physical therapist tomorrow morning, then going to pick up Kevin.
The next morning was an example of perfect spring weather, blue skies, white puffy clouds and buds all over the plants and trees waiting to open up. The grass was green and the birds were coming back. He dressed in workout clothes and ate some cereal while he waited for the new PT person to arrive. The new guy was supposed to be really good and would help get him progressing while he was here.
The doorbell rang at exactly 9 am and Jake let in the older man, showing him the exercise room his dad had put in years ago and kept up to date. Brent was impressed, but got straight down to work with Jake seeing what he could and couldn’t do with his knee. They worked out for a good hour and Jake was feeling it. Brent told him what to do for the next few days and he would be back on Monday at 9 again. Jake led him back out, took an ice pack and three ibuprofen and sat at the kitchen table to ice up. He had about an hour before he had to leave and was going to sit and do nothing.
Jake really was thinking about his future and what he wanted to do after football. If this was the end of his career, he had to have a backup plan. Coaching might be fun, but at a younger level. Broadcasting on a regular basis held no real interest for him. But he kept thinking about his law degree just sitting there. He had finished the Masters level degree in four years, thanks to taking so many college level classes in high school. He would just need to study for the Bar exam and go from there. He decided he would talk to his dad after Kevin left. He got up to shower and headed out to the airport.
Sammy went out running mid-morning. She had to take her jeep into the shop, it wasn’t running right again. Derek and Lynn told her to just get a new one, but that wasn’t so easy. She had a lot of good memories in that thing, lots of them with Jake. And it meant letting go of her childhood and she just didn’t want to do that yet. She was running, taking the same path she did the other day and stopped at the stoplight and was stretching as she waited. She was engrossed into her music and never noticed the man in the dark SUV watching her as she crossed the road. Well, she thought, I guess I should start looking at new cars; the Cherokee was really cool, as she ran on.
Jake stared out the window at the light and couldn’t believe his eyes. There she was, as beautiful as the day he last saw her. Her hair was the same dark auburn color, long and still had some waves in it, and she still had all the curves he loved. His heart was pounding in his chest as he watched her run on.
“Holy fuck, I do still love her! I have to go see her,” he said out loud and finally woke up when the car behind him honked for him to go. He was so distracted he missed the turn to the airport and had to turn around. He was a wreck and Kevin interrogated him as soon as he saw him.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Jake? Have you OD’d on pain pills?”
“No!! I saw her today, running. I almost lost my ever loving mind! She is still as beautiful as the day I left,” Jake replied.
Kevin shook his head and let the man ramble on the whole ride home. He told Kevin that he needed to stop at the store for his dad and get some things for dinner. They grabbed the requested items and went home. They were sitting in the kitchen talking and laughing when Mike came home, welcomed Kevin and joined in while they made dinner.