“What’s wrong? You seem off,” he said after a fifteen minutes of silence.
There was so much on my mind that I didn’t even know where to start. First there was Mom, then there was Melissa. I felt so much guilt and betrayal and heartbreak, I just wanted to be happy for the smallest moment.
“I’m just nervous about my mom’s surgery,” I started. Michael tensed quite suddenly and pulled me closer to him so my head was resting against his shoulder. “I’m scared she won’t make it. She’s the only family I have left.”
She had been through almost a hundred surgeries since her first accident and had come out victorious each time, but I was always anxious every time. Anything could go wrong during surgery.
I took a deep breath. “And Melissa… She has a right to be angry with me,” I said quietly, drawing my finger against his bare chest. Moonlight streamed into the room from the window, and I sighed to myself. “I’m sleeping with her father, and that… doesn’t make me the best of friends either.”
His chest rose and fell softly as he took a deep breath. “I’m not going to say that you’re wrong, Mia, because it isn’t right. But I don’t regret it,” he said. I glanced up at him, watching his eyes dance under the moonlight. They were like skies on a stormy day, light grey and full of angst.
And, in that moment, I wanted to come out and tell him that I loved him because I truly did. Nobody had shown me so much respect and love before that it made me feel good on the inside. I interlocked my fingers with his and pressed my lips to his soft ones. But instead of telling him that I loved him, I said, “I don’t either,” which was almost the same thing.
He smiled but the smile didn’t meet his eyes. He looked tired, exhausted, and defeated--which I had never seen before from him. There was so much on his mind that I hadn’t asked him about and I felt bad about it. I sat up, pulling the blankets with me, and brushed my fingers through his hair. He closed his eyes and relaxed under my touch.
“Are you okay?” I asked. It was his own daughter, the one person he had spent the most time with ever. I knew how much he loved her and didn’t want to drive a barrier between them. As much as I didn’t like her right now, Melissa deserved to have someone in her life that cared about her. I didn’t want her to end up like me, without a stable father figure in her life. Michael was so good for her.
He sighed through his nose and stared up at me. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Michael, please don’t tell me you’re fine when you’re not.”
He paused and grabbed my hand, his thumb brushing over my knuckles. “I don’t want you to worry. I know that your mother’s surgery is stressing you out. We can talk about it this weekend.”
I trapped his thumb with my own, forcing him to stop. “Tell me now. It’ll make me feel so much less useless and… I care about you. I want you to be okay with everything going on and don’t want to step between you and Melissa.”
After a couple moments of silence, his eyes searching mine, he said, “I care about you too.” He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me back down onto the bed with him, burying his face into the crook of my neck. “We haven’t fought like this,” he said. “Melissa and I always had a good relationship. I just…”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have--”
“This fight would’ve happened with or without you, Mia, so don’t think you caused this. Ever since she went to college she’s changed. She’s become more and more like her mother. I needed to confront her but I’ve been pushing it off for years now. If I didn’t, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”
“If you didn’t… maybe we wouldn’t have happened.”
Michael tensed and gazed up at me. He parted his lips, then pressed them back together a few times, as if he wanted to say something but didn’t know how to say it. He pushed a strand of hair behind my ear and pulled me onto his chest. “I talked to your mother about us.”
My eyes widened, and I rested my palms on his taut chest, feeling the muscle underneath. “When?”
“When I went looking for you. I thought you’d be at the hospital.”
“What did she say?”
“That she loves and cares about you and that she wants you to be with someone who does the same thing,” he said, his voice quiet. My heart leapt in my chest, and I didn’t know if he meant what he said or if he even realized what he said.
Michael wasn’t one to beat around the bush. If he meant something, he would come out and say it, no matter how hard it would be for him to speak it or for the other person to take it. So, part of me wanted to ignore the fact he had just said the L word.
But the other part of me couldn’t because I loved and cared about Michael the same way Mom had always loved and cared about me: with my whole heart, no matter how rough it got.
A/N If you want to read the rest of this trilogy right now, you can find it on Patreon (Click “Support Me” in my bio!)