Learning to Love

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Ice Cream

“Can I ask you a question?” Adrian asked, breaking the silence as we went to pick up Aaliyah from the daycare.

“Yes.” I responded nervously.

“Is Ally’s father the same man who kidnapped you?” He asked.

I nodded once.

He muttered some I didn’t catch, before sighing. “So he’s in prison right?”

I nodded again.

“I’m so sorry.” He stated.

“I’m not.” My voice was stronger than I expected. “I would do it all over again for Ally. I don’t want pity, life hits everyone from time to time. And I’m happy with where it has led me.”

I surprised myself by realizing it was completely true. With the support of friends, family, and an amazing boyfriend; I was happy. The only thing I wished I could change was my relationship with my father.

Tension built in my stomach as I realized he eventually would be introduced into this single perfect slice of my reality. I wondered if his views would warp Adrians thoughts. Would one conversation with my father force away the only man outside my family I had ever trusted.

“What are you thinking about?” Adrian asked.

“Nothing.” I forced a smile and shook my head.

I could tell he didn’t buy it but he didn’t push. Once again respecting my boundaries. I couldn’t help the wave of appreciation that I felt as usual when he didn’t act as if it was his right to know everything about me. I could see the obvious curiosity that told me he wanted to know, but he wasn’t going to ask again.

Ten minutes later we had picked up Aaliyah and were parked in front of the same ice cream parlor he had brought me too months ago. I smiled suddenly, glad that I hadn’t brought her yet. This felt right to have him bring her the first time she came.

“So you ready for some ice cream, princess?” Adrian asked innocently.

“Come now. Play nice, princess.” Another voice echoed in my head.

My heart started racing and I wanted to grab Aaliyah and run. There was a reason my brothers never called Aaliyah princess. I couldn’t handle the nickname Charlie had always used before he forced himself on me. I panicked every time.

“Don’t call her that.” I snapped harshly. “Ever.”

Adrian frowned, before looking over at me. I couldn’t hide the anxiety and pain in my posture, my voice, or written plainly on my face. Charlie’s voice was playing on repeat in my mind and I wanted to scream.

“Come now. Play nice, princess.” I shuddered again.

Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder and I jumped. It was just Adrians hand though, of course. I was safe in the car, not locked in that house of horrors.

“I won’t, I’m sorry. You’re okay.” Adrian comforted running his hand down my arm till he seized my hand gently.

We sat for a minute, him just watching as I caught my breath. Aaliyah was getting impatient in the back seat.

“Mama!” She said loudly, smacking her hands on her legs.

“Okay, okay.” I said, taking in a shaky breath. “I’m coming.”

When we climbed back into the car an hour later I had almost forgotten about what had happened. However, Adrian kept glancing at the clock with a frown like he was dreading whatever came next. Suddenly though he made a face like a thought had just occurred to him.

At my apartment I pulled Ally out and turned to see him leaning back against the car, facing me.

“Do you work tomorrow or Sunday?” He asked as a mischievous grin spread across his olive toned face.

“No, I don’t work again till Tuesday.” I replied easily. “Why?”

“I have to go out to New York for business. I leave tonight.” He responded, pushing off of the car and moving closer.

Ally asleep in my arms was the only thing that separated us. He was leaving? I fought to hide the disappointment, telling myself it was only one weekend I would see him in a couple days.

Adrian reached up stroking my cheek softly, “Come with me.”

I shook my head, “I can’t leave Ally for the whole weekend. Are you crazy?”

“I meant both of you.” Adrian chuckled gently, taking the sleeping child from my arms.

Going away with Adrian and Aaliyah for a whole weekend. I couldn’t think of a single thing I would’ve enjoyed more. What if he regretted it though? Aaliyah was young, she didn’t always behave. What if he got fed up with her?

“We would be meeting my parents at the hotel, but other than a couple hours of meetings we could just relax. You could use a break, this could be good for you.” Adrian pressed wrapping his free arms around my waistline.

“Ally is a good girl, but she’s young. It may be less relaxing for you, having us there.” I voiced my concern.

Adrian chuckled, “It’ll bring more life to the trip. Please?”

“Okay, but I don’t have stuff packed.” I relented, “I need some time. When do we leave?”

“We should leave for the airport in an hour, anything you forget we can pick up when we get there.”

“Airport? I can’t afford…”

“No tickets necessary, and don’t worry about money. Please.” Adrian said his expression made it clear he was expecting to have to argue the point.

“Okay, but I’m paying for our stuff.” I insisted. “I’ll run up and pack some bags.”

He sighed, rolling his eyes, but then smiled, kissing the top of my head. “We’ll wait here.”

“No,” I said quickly, glancing around the parking lot. “I mean I could use the help.”

“Okay.” He smiled sadly before leading the way inside.

While I knew he would never hurt her, I couldn’t bring myself to leave Aaliyah alone with him yet. It hurt me knowing that he not only knew this, but that it hurt him. I wished I could fix it, just trust him. However I knew that, for right now at least, that wasn’t possible.

“I’m sorry-” I started, but he cut me off.

“Don’t, I’m honored that you trust me to hold her and take you both with me. I can’t say I understand how you feel but I can respect it.” He explained reaching back for my hand.

I nodded letting him lead me to the apartment Drew and I shared. I wasn’t altogether surprised to find it empty Drew had been spending a lot of time at work lately. I had my suspicions on why that was, and I hoped I was right. I wrote a quick note letting him know what was happening and that I would call when we landed.

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