“Hey there, fiance,” I greeted Trevor when he got home from work and put my iPad down on the side table to give him a kiss.
“Hi, beautiful. How was your day?”
“Busy, I’m exhausted. I’m gonna go take a shower.”
“Hold on one minute. I want to talk to you about something.”
“Ok,” Trevor sat down on one of the chairs in our tiny living room.
“So I was doing a lot of thinking and…I think I want to go visit my parents.”
“Honey, that’s amazing.”
“Really? You think it’s a good idea? I mean I really want to tell them I’m engaged and I really want them to finally meet you but what if it goes wrong. What if they don’t want to see me.”
“Babe, they want to see you. Plus I will be there with you. Trust me, it will go well. When do you want to go?”
“I was thinking this weekend,” I bit my lip.
“This weekend is perfect,” my fiance smiled at me and leaned over to kiss my forehead.
“Here we are. Welcome to Sierra, baby.”
“Damn it’s hot. Why is it so hot,” Trevor complained right after we stepped outside of the airport.
“Because you’re in a desert honey,” I couldn’t help but state the obvious.
“Ha ha, very funny, Smartypants. Are you ready?”
“No. I don’t know.”
“It’s gonna be ok, I promise.”
We called a taxi and I gave the driver the familiar address. Thousands of scenarios were going through my head. I was about to see my parents after more than two years of no contact whatsoever.
We got out of the car and there it was. The house where I grew up. I didn’t call it home, it never was. Just a place where I grew up. I actually hated that house. So big and gray. Always clean like nobody lived there.
“This is your parents house?” Trevor asked in shock, surprised by the size. I never told him how wealthy my family is.
His question brought me back, “um, yes. That’s where I grew up. You know what, this is actually a bad idea. They’re probably not even home.”
My fiance grabbed my arm as I was ready to turn around and leave.
“Babe, we’re doing it. No matter what happens, you have a family, you have me,” he took my head in his hands to make me listen, “but wouldn’t it be nice to make up with your parents? One day, they will be gone and you will regret not even trying to make things right with them.”
“Ok,” I said quietly.
The gate was opened so we could just walk through. That meant they were home. I took a deep breath and Trevor rang the doorbell.
It was a long while before my mom opened the door. When she saw me, tears immediately rolled down her cheeks.
“Hi mom,” I smiled nervously and just stood there.
She looked at least five years older, not two. She didn’t have any makeup on which was unusual for her. She was always well kept, even when she was home.
“You came back,” she whispered and stepped outside to hug me.
“I’m sorry, mom. I’m sorry I left and didn’t say anything,” I mumbled into her neck.
“It’s ok sweetie,” she pulled away, not letting go of my arms and looked at me closely, “you look so grown up.”
“I’m engaged, mom,” I said quietly and looked at Trevor, “this is my fiance, Trevor.”
It seemed like, until now, my mom didn’t even notice that there was another person in front of her door. Like all she could focus on was me.
“Oh hello,” she finally said.
“Hi, Mrs Cooper. It’s really nice to meet you.”
“Why don’t you come inside.”
When we walked inside of the house, it hit me again. It felt like I haven’t been here in decades even though everything was exactly the same. Same tea set on the coffee table, same rug in the dining room….and there was dad. Standing in the middle of the room, looking at the three of us with no facial expression, not saying saying anything.
“Hi, dad,” I waved and giggled awkwardly.
He stood there for another few seconds and then turned around and walked into his office, closing the door behind him.
“Don’t worry about him, sweetie. Dad has some work to do. Come sit, I’ll fix you something to eat.”
Trevor and I sat at the dining table while my mom was making a snack in the kitchen.
“I told you they’ll be happy to see you,” Trevor placed his hand on mine and smiled.
“Except they’re not. At least my dad isn’t and my mom is not even my mom. She seems…different. And it’s probably my fault,” I looked down on the table.
“Hey,” my fiance lifted my chin and made me look at him, “it’s not your fault. You were young. We all make mistakes. Besides, I think it’s going great.”
“Who wants a sandwich,” my mom danced into the kitchen with a plate full of sandwiches and took a seat across from me, “so sweetie. Tell me everything. How did you two meet?”
“You have to go talk to her,” my wife said without looking up from her book.
I knew that. I just needed more time. Dakota’s return took me by surprise and I needed to take a minute for myself to figure out what to say to her.
I laid on the bed next to Hailey, trying to ignore the fact.
“I meant now, Cam,” she put the book away. She wanted to have a conversation now.
“I…I don’t even know what to tell her, Hailey. She left us. Am I supposed to pretend like it didn’t happen? I can’t do that, honey. Maybe you can, but not me.”
“It’s our daughter we’re talking about. And yes she left us and we had to find out she moved across the country from her friend’s parents. But she’s our baby and she’s here. And we’re gonna go easy on her.”
I scoffed, “easy..Like she went easy on us?”
“If I remember correctly, your father went really easy on you when you came back to him after six years. And you guys had an amazing relationship after that. He was involved in your life until he died. And I want that for us, I want that for her. We had our part in her leaving just as much as she did. It’s hard to admit it, Cam, but we weren’t the best parents under the sun. We tried and did our best, but apparently it wasn’t enough, so now it’s time to be involved. Our little girl is getting married, soon she’s going to have kids and we get to be grandparents. Life isn’t over yet, honey. Please, go talk to our daughter.”
I sighed, “I can’t believe you,” I shook my head and my wife smiled because she knew she just won the argument, “alright. I’ll talk to her in the morning.”
“She’s out there on the terrace right now,” Hailey picked up her book and got back to reading.
I walked through the glass door and saw my daughter with her fiance. New man in her life. I didn’t know him, but the way they were together made me feel relieved. Perhaps he was the one who brought my daughter back to me, just like Hailey brought me back to my father all those years ago.
I cleared my throat to let them know I’m there, “hi.”
“Oh, hi,” the man said and smiled, “I will leave you two alone.”
“Thank you,” I nodded slowly.
“I’ll be in the bedroom, honey,” he kissed my daughter on her forehead and disappeared into the hallway.
“Hi dad,” Dakota’s lips widened into a smile.
“Hi, sweetie,” I walked over to the bench and sat down, “come sit with me for a while.”
Dakota took a seat next to me, “I’m sorry, dad.”
“Oh honey,” I let out a small laugh, “I’m not mad. I was just…surprised to see you home. It wasn’t the best reaction from me, huh?”
“No it wasn’t,” she laughed.
“I’m sorry about that,” I joined her. “The thing is, when you left, everything changed. Your mom changed a lot. She quit her job at the city hall, she missed you so…”
“Wait, mom quit her job? She didn’t tell me that.”
“Of course she didn’t. She doesn’t want you to feel like it’s your fault. And it isn’t, don’t ever think that. Truth is that we weren’t always giving you the attention you deserved and I think your mom felt like it was the job that caused it. It was taking up way too much of her time so she decided it’s time to leave.”
Dakota was quiet, looking down in front of her, “we missed you so much. I don’t even know how we did it without you to be honest with you. You’re so grown up now and you have a new man in your life, but promise me one thing.”
She looked up at me, waiting for me to continue.
“Promise me you will never disappear again. Even though you live far away now, you will always stay in touch.”
“I will, dad. Always.”
“Gosh I love you so much, honey.”
“I love you too.”