The lot was clean and within minutes we were in his car. The heat felt good but much as much so as his thumb slowly rubbing the back of my hand.
“So,” he started with a trace of forced humor. “You have quite a right hook.”
I blushed deeply remembering taking a swing at him.
“I am so sorry…“ I murmured, blushing severely embarrassed.
He chuckled, “We’ll have to work on your aim though. Not that I minded.”
I blushed even harder and looked away trying to hide it.
“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked cautiously.
To my surprise I found that I actually did. I wanted him to know me, to understand me. Maybe then he would be more understanding about me hiding Aaliyah for so long.
“I was abducted by a crazed fan when I was thirteen.” I admitted, “that’s why I stopped skating. I still dream about it sometimes.”
I fought the urge to hug myself feeling suddenly vulnerable.
“How long?” He asked, and I shifted uncomfortably.
I knew what he meant but asked anyway, “What?”
“How long till you got away?” He asked quietly.
I was silent for what felt like ages before I finally forced out the words, “five years.”
He was stunned, that much was abundantly clear.
“I’m sorry.” He finally managed as we pulled into the apartment complex parking lot.
I fought not to jump out and run inside, but managed to convince myself I would just end up slipping on the ice and breaking something. I quickly opened the door and slid out as he climbed out the driver’s door.
“Drew’s protectiveness makes sense now, though I’m surprised he’s cool with me taking you out.” He rounded the car taking my hand again as we met by the front bumper.
“Drew doesn’t get to pick who I spend time with,” I hesitated, “though his opinion means the world to me.”
Adrian just nodded. When we got to my floor I all but ran down the hall while digging for my key. I hesitate as I open the door, suddenly aware that Aaliyah and Adrian are probably about to meet. I turned, feeling I have to prepare him in some way, prepare myself.
“Adrian, I haven’t told you everything.” I admitted nervously.
He just nodded, “I figured. I’m just happy you told me what you did.” He reached up tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. “I care about you, and whatever happened in the past won’t change that.”
I shifted nervously.
“Do you trust me?” He asked.
“I do, mostly.” I sighed, opening the door.
I slid out of my jacket and looked around. Aaliyah and Drew were in the living room playing with some blocks. As soon as the door opened Aaliyah ran to me shrieking delightedly. I scooped her up into my arms cradling her to me.
Due to my cowardice I missed Adrian’s first reaction, other than him muttering in greek. “Gamó.”
Now as I turned slowly I saw his shocked expression resolve into a thoughtful smile. He walked up next to me.
“Who is this pretty girl?” He smiled warmly at me.
“M-my d-daughter.” I stammered.
I didn’t want to go into this topic of Aaliyah’s father. It would only send me into another anxiety attack.
His smile softened at my answer. I realized he was grateful I had told him, and I was sure this also answered his questions about strange behavior in the past.
There was however a hint of pain in his face. I knew he couldn’t understand why I hadn’t told him about her earlier. I couldn’t stand the thought that I had hurt him.
“What’s your name baby girl?” He asked, masking his hurt.
Aaliyah buried her head in my shoulder, hiding from view. She didn’t do well with strangers.
“A-Aaliyah.” I answered quietly.
“Beautiful name for a beautiful girl.” He grinned but it didn’t reach his eyes.
Drew walked quietly into the kitchen, giving the illusion of privacy. Even so I knelt down and placed Aaliyah on the floor.
“I’ll be right back okay baby?” I asked, before saying more loudly. “We are stepping out, Drew. Please watch Ally.”
“Of course.” He responded so I led Adrian out onto the small deck.
I sat slowly on the small wooden bench wishing I had grabbed my jacket. I could feel him behind me. I knew he had questions, and deserved answers. To my surprise my only fear was losing him.
He sat quietly beside me with a deep sigh.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” His voice was definitely hurt.
“I’m sorry.” I responded quietly, “I didn’t mean t-to hurt you.”
“I’m mostly surprised,” he said slowly.
“I was afraid.” I admitted reluctantly.
“Why?” He asked exasperatedly.
I shifted nervously. “I didn’t know you.”
“You thought I would hurt that innocent little girl?” He was clearly appalled by the idea.
“Or just hate her.” I admitted.
“I have had people judge her for her p-parentage… hate her for it.” I said slowly.
My fathers face flashed before my eyes, his voice echoed in my head; ‘Get rid of it or leave. That bastard’s daughter is of no relation to me or my wife.’
“I’m not like that Jess. Haven’t you figured that out yet?” His tone was slightly exasperated.
“I have, but I’m sorry it took so long.”
It was true, I was sorry. Also I surprised myself by not feeling in the least bit threatened, despite his irritation. He wouldn’t hurt me; and I knew he would be good to Aaliyah. Too late, I had already hurt him. I had hidden the truth from him for months.
A tear ran down my cheek as I realized I might have just lost him, before he had ever really been mine.
“I need you to trust me, agápi mou.” He said quietly, his pleading tone breaking my heart.
“I do, it’s just that…” I admitted before sighing and steeling myself. “By the time I knew it was safe… I was afraid you would l-leave me. I know we weren’t ever actually together but I didn’t want to lose you. A kid is a huge deal breaker.
“Then there was the subject of her f-father. I didn’t want you to know. Anyone to know honestly.” I shivered slightly.
There was a brief moment when neither of us said or did anything. Then he slid his large jacket off and draped it gently over my shoulders. He shifted so he was kneeling on the deck in front of me. He lifted my chin forcing me to look at him.
His eyes blazing with fierce determination and confidence.
“I won’t lie, I’m curious. I want to know everything about you. However you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to or are not ready to.” He spoke with such confidence. It made me wonder whether I should just tell him everything.
However this was not the time or place.
“I would like to get to know your daughter, let her know me. I hope to be in her life for a long time. Both of your lives.” He flashed his arrogant lopsided grin that never failed at taking my breath away.
Then he leaned in slowly, still cupping my cheek. This time I didn’t turn away. As his lips touched mine my heart raced and blood rushed to my face. His lips were so warm and soft, while still remaining strong and confident.
It lasted only a couple seconds but they were some of the most incredible seconds in my life. He laid his forehead against mine.
“I hope you are okay with that.”
I wasn’t sure whether he meant; him getting to know Aaliyah, him being around for a long time, or him kissing me. Luckily it didn’t matter, they all had the same answer.
“No.” I whispered, I could feel his frown where our foreheads touched. “I’m more than okay, I’m thrilled with it.”
He chuckled and rolled his eyes, pulling away from me. “Come on, agápi mou. There’s a little girl trying to open the sliding glass door.”
I turned to where Drew was now trying to distract Aaliyah. It wasn’t working. The child ignored him completely and stretched to try to reach the handle.
I chuckled, “Stubborn little girl.”
“Like mother, like daughter.” Adrian grinned but I could still see a faint furrow between his eyes.
I couldn’t blame him. This was huge, I didn’t expect him to be okay with it right away. In fact, my biggest fear now was he would wake up tomorrow and decide he didn’t want to take this on after all. It was quite a challenge.
For now at least though he stood offering his hand and I took it gladly.