“Well, look what the cat drug in!” Nathan laughed when Lia entered the house.
“What are you doing up?” She questioned.
“Waiting for you, of course.” He smirked.
“Okay, Dad.” Lia laughed, sitting down next to him. He was sipping a beer and watching some sports program.
“Actually, I was just winding down; you know me, I’ve always been a night owl. How’d the dinner go?”
“Oh well...as you could expect, I suppose.” Lia shook her head, trying to shake the memory out.
“There’s a lot of animosity there. It makes me sad for them and makes me feel guilty for putting him in the position to have to see him again.”
“He wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t want to, for you. William is a hard man, always has been. Cody has always been closer to our Dad, really.” Nathan stated plainly, taking a sip of his beverage.
“Yes, he mentioned that. How is Dad?” Lia asked, feeling a twinge of guilt at not having called or gone to visit him since her move. Guilt seemed to be the primary emotion in her life lately.
“He’s good. He asks about you, but he knows you’ll come around when you’re ready.”
“I should go see him. I just, I don’t know. I’m a grown woman who still harbors feelings of abandonment from her Father. I think I need some therapy.” Lia sighed, leaning back on the couch and closing her eyes.
“Lia, you’re entitled to your feelings. I don’t see it that way; of course, I know he tried. Mom and that man never made it easy, you know that. But that’s your issue to handle, and I respect you enough to let you handle it how you please.”
“I appreciate that, and I know, I know. Life was bad with Robert, Mom, and those boys, and I know Dad had no idea, but it still felt like he left me. Ugh. Why am I always talking about such terrible things? I had an amazing evening, after the dinner, with Cody. I’m focusing on that!” Lia jumped up, heading to the fridge to grab a soda.
“There ya go! To happy thoughts!” He laughed.
While Lia was grabbing her drink, her phone vibrated on the coffee table. As she was walking toward it, Nathan snatched it up.
“Hey!” She cried out.
“Oh, I love you, you’re so sweet, kissy-face,” He giggled, handing her phone up to her.
“You’re an idiot, you know that? It’s from Dani, and she’s nosey asking how the dinner went.” She slid in next to him again.
“If I’m an idiot, you are too; we share the same blood.” He elbowed her, and she laughed. “I like you and Cody. He’s a good guy, he needs a good woman, and you need a good man. What more could I ask for? My best friend and my sister.”
“So, it doesn’t bother you?” Lia questioned.
“Of course not. You’re both adults. I obviously hope it all goes well cause that would damn suck and be awkward as hell, but I don’t see anything but good things for you two kiddos.”
“Kiddos? You’re a year older than me, dude.”
Lia quickly sent a response to Dani and then sent a text to Cody to make sure he made it home safe.
“I’m going to head to bed; I’m exhausted. You better get to bed yourself; a sleep-deprived policeman is no good to anyone.” She teased, heading to her room, phone in hand, watching the three little dots, waiting for Cody’s reply.
1:00 a.m.- Yes, I made it back. Kinda lonely here now.-Cody1:01 a.m.- Sorry about that. Thank you for tonight though, despite the initial bump, it was pretty amazing.-Lia1:02 a.m.- I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I was hoping I could have you for the day?-Cody1:03a.m.- Absolutely. 😊1:04a.m.- Great. I’ll let you get rest, beautiful. Thank you for tonight.1:05 a.m.- You’re welcome. Good night.Lia fell asleep laying in her dress with the phone still in hand and a smile plastered across her face.
The next few weeks went by surprisingly smoothly. Cody and Lia went on regular dates and became closer each passing day, though taking it slow. Lia had returned to work, and despite their previous encounter, she and Dr. Wallins got along well. Cody was back at work on the police force and still not speaking to his Father again. Tonight, Lia was heading to have dinner with her Father, making a step in their relationship and preparing for Nathan and Dani’s wedding, happening in two days.
“You want me to tag along? I haven’t seen Gene in a bit myself.” Cody asked Lia as they sat together on his couch.
“No, not yet. Besides, from the way you talk, he’d be more excited to see you, and he’d forget all about me.” Lia laughed, leaning into his chest.
“How could anyone forget about you?” He kissed the top of her head.
“You’re too kind.” She reached up, giving his lips a soft peck.
“Only for you, babe.” Lia felt the flutters inside when he called her babe. They had not made anything official and still have not had sex yet, but they both were comfortable with that, wanting everything to move on its own, naturally. “After your dinner, you gonna come back here?” He smiled, hopeful.
“If you want me to, of course. We really should discuss the bachelor and bachelorette parties, as best man and maid of honor, for this weekend.” She sat up, looking him in his gorgeous blue eyes.
“Yes, because that’s why I want you to come back over.” He laughed.
She slapped his chest playfully, then kissed him passionately. “Is that what you want me to come back for?”
“Okay, I suppose we can do that too. I should get going though, don’t want to be late!”
When Lia pulled into her Dad’s house’s driveway, she noticed all the lights were off. Hoping he had not forgotten about their plans, she sent him a quick text. Thankfully he responded quickly and asked her to find him down at the barn. Huffing her way through the field, she finally reached the barn, entering slowly and a bit nervously; she saw her Dad brushing one of his horses. He looked much how she remembered, just a few gray hairs here and there and a wrinkle or two. He didn’t notice her walk up, trying not to startle him, she coughed.
“Calia!” He breathed out, smiling to his ears.
“Hi.” She smiled shyly. A stray tear fell down his cheek, and Lia felt her heart twinge.
“How ya doing?” She asked.
“Oh, I’m great now.” He stood, fighting the urge to grab her into a hug.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been here sooner.” She shuffled her feet around the floor.
“You’re here now; that’s what matters. Let me finish up, and we can head up to the house? Have you eaten?” He asked softly. His voice was deep and raspy but gentle at the same time.
“No, not yet. I can fix us something if you’d like?” She offered.
“No way! I finally got my Daughter here, I’ll fix us something, or we can go out if you’d like.”
Lia smiled. She helped him finish putting things away, and they quietly walked together up to the house. Entering, she saw a cute little country ranch style home, pictures sat around of her when she was young and Nathan all throughout. It was decorated very minimally, a typical older male who cared more about the great outdoors. She followed him into the kitchen and sat at the counter as he dug around in cabinets, the fridge, and the pantry.
“I’ve got some chicken here; I’ll whip us up some parmesan chicken and roasted veggies, sound good?” He smiled at her, she watched the creases by his eyes fold as he picked up a pair of glasses. “Going blind by the day, it feels like.” He chuckled, holding them up.
“I’m already half-blind. Thank God for contacts.” She shared. She watched as he began preparing the meal. Offering to help several times, but he refused.
“So, how are you doing? I know Nathan said it was a rough start when you first got here. I hope things are better now?” He asked over his shoulder.
“Yes, much better. Thanks for asking.” Lia shrugged.
Gene had always been a good man, a good father to her when her parents were together. Once they split and the children were split up, though, she rarely heard from him, if at all. She felt so abandoned, especially when the abuse from Robert and his boys started. Lia had tried to reach out to him and was all but ignored. She still harbored the rejection and hurt from that and blamed him for not saving her, but seeing him like this, she felt like his little girl again.
“Of course. I know we’re working on things, but I’m always here for you.”
“Dad?” She asked after he said that.
“Why didn’t you ever come to see me or reach out to me after you and Mom split?” She blurted, straight to the point. She wanted; no needed answers more than she realized.
“Oh, Calia. I did, I tried.” He turned after putting the chicken in the oven, washing his hands then walking over to the counter, facing her. “I promise you, I tried. I called, your Mother or Robert would shut me down. I wrote letters, never got a response. I tried seeing if you would want to come to visit, and she always said no. Eventually, Robert started taking all the calls, and well, you can imagine how that went.” Gene spoke.
Lia knew he had no reason to really lie, and having lived with her Mom and Robert, she knew what they were like together. Gene hung his head low; his heart hurt all these years knowing that his Daughter was out there thinking so poorly of him. Nathan had tried to be the mediator of sorts, but he never wanted him to be in the middle of anything.
“I should have known. Nathan tried to tell me sometimes that I should come to visit or call you, but I always felt like you didn’t want me because you weren’t reaching out.” She sighed.“I’m so sorry, sweetie. It was my place to reach out to you, to plan things, but as I said, Vivian wasn’t allowing anything.” He said, frustrated.
“You guys were so good together, but apart... at least Mom, she was terrible.” Lia stated coldly. “and Robert, his boys... horrible.”
“Oh no.” He looked at her with a question in his eyes.
“I’m sorry. I think we all could have done better; I shouldn’t lay the blame all on you. For years I’ve always blamed you, but that’s not fair. I could’ve reached out, I could’ve told Nathan, I’m just as guilty. I’m sorry, I really am.” Lia started to cry, feeling years of emotion come over her. Without hesitation, Gene was by her side, pulling her in for a hug.
“Calia, oh sweet Calia. Do not apologize. I agree we all could have done better, and I am sorry for that. I’m so glad you are here now, though. I’ve waited so long to get to hug you again.” He spoke soft, kissing the top of her head. Lia cried even harder, realize how long she had been waiting for a hug from her Dad as well.
“Oh hell. Please tell me this is like a good reunion kind of cry and hug?” Nathan blurted out, standing in the kitchen doorway.
“Nathan!” Gene fussed.
“Only you can ruin a moment so well.” Lia giggled through her sniffles.
“What’s going on?” Dani asked, coming up behind Nathan.
“We were talking, and this loser has to barge in. Who invited you?” Lia pushed at his chest.
“I invited myself. I wanted to make sure this was going well.” He sat the bag down on the counter and gave their Dad a quick hug. “Is it? Going well?”
“I think so.” Gene smiled at Lia, wiping her slowly drying tears.
“Good, about time!” He clapped his hands together. “We brought dessert; I hope you made enough food for Cody and us.”
“Cody?!” Lia asked, surprised.
“Yes, I invited him too. He didn’t want to intrude and said he was waiting for you at the house, but I told him to come on.” Nathan smiled, pulling the pies out of the bag. Dani gave Lia a light hug and sat next to her at the counter.
Gene’s eyebrows raised, questioning.
“You haven’t got to that part yet? How you and Cody are madly in love?” Nathan asked, annoying as ever.
“Damnit, Nathan, would you shut your big mouth!” Dani cried at him.
“Cody, huh?” Gene asked, smiling again at Lia.
“Oh my gosh! Nathan, I swear! Yes, Cody, we’re dating.” She answered shyly.
“I like that.” He chuckled as he went to check on the chicken and start prepping the vegetables.
“See... I got my Dad and my sister back together, I got my best friend with my sister, all in time for my wedding to my hot as hell fiancée, I’m on fire!” Nathan boasted, grabbing plates down to set the table.
“You keep on, and you will literally be on fire.” Lia groaned, feeling her phone vibrate in her pocket. She pulled it out to see a text from Cody.
6:36 p.m.- Your brother is insisting that I join you all for dinner. Does he realize how irritating he is?-Cody6:37 p.m.- No, he does not. If he did, he’d be less annoying. Possibly. Probably not. It’s okay though, please come join us. My Dad was excited to hear your name.-Lia6:38 p.m.- He’d still be irritating, probably worse. I’ll be there soon then.-Cody
The kitchen conversation flowed effortlessly, it was pleasant, and Lia’s heart felt so full. This was what she had wanted all her life, a family unit, together and happy. Lia jumped up to help her Dad rinse and chop the vegetables while they all talked.
“Cody!!” Gene called out when he entered the room, going over to give him a hug. Cody smiled warmly, his eyes sparkling when they reached Lia. Her heart leaped happily when she saw him and her Dad hugging.
“Thanks for having me.” He patted Gene on the back, stepping over to Lia.
“You doing okay?” He whispered in her ear, causing her to shiver.
“Yes, I’m great. I’m glad you came.”
The meal was soon ready, and they all sat down to eat together, discussing all sorts of different topics. The wedding was the most discussed.
“The next time we all sit down for a meal, you’ll be an old married couple.” Gene teased.
“I’m so excited!!” Dani squealed.
“I’m not sure If I can make it, I might be washing my hair.” Cody joked.
“Yeah, Okay. See how that works out for ya.” Nathan threw a napkin at him.
“We’re flying out tomorrow evening to get a head start on everything, then everyone else will be in the next day, and then Saturday we are married!” Dani explained.
“I do get a bachelor party Friday night, correct?” Nathan asked, halfway asking Dani and looking at Cody.
“If you must.” Dani teased. “I totally get a bachelorette party, though, right Lia?”
“Why can’t we just do a big group dinner, all the friends hanging out?” Cody asked.
“Seriously?” Nathan stopped eating, glaring at Cody.
“Fine, fine.. how many strippers?” Cody teased, smirking.
“0!!” Dani cried.
Lia and Gene were laughing at the dynamics between the group.
“We’ll make sure you both have a nice little send-off party, okay? Geez,” Lia rolled her eyes.