I didn’t hear dad pull into the driveway, but I did jump about a foot in the air when he opened the door and announced his return. My head spun a little from the quick movements, I was lucky I didn’t throw up. I’m not sure how Eli reacted because I was glaring, wide-eyed, at my dad for the intrusion.
“Hey you two, sorry I took so long,” he says to us as he walks through the living room, into the kitchen with groceries in hand. I just stare after him, feeling like he’s taken away my laptop, or favorite book.
“I, uh, should get going.” Eli says loud enough so only I can hear him. “Thanks for letting me stay for a bit, Mr. Walker. I’ll see you tomorrow?” That last question he aimed straight at me and again quiet enough so only I could hear. I smiled, blushing, and nodded. He picks up my phone which is still sitting next to me and types something into it before handing it back to me. I take it, our fingers brushing against each other.
In that brief moment, I felt alive. I felt energized, almost as if there was a static charge flowing between our fingertips. I felt like I was one of the girls in one of my books coming in contact with the male lead for the first time. I felt his warmth, gentleness, protective nature, and maturity. I felt music; the very music that flows through his veins. I felt the emptiness in his heart fade away along with my own. I wanted to trust that this was supposed to happen, and he was the one who would make me happy again but I couldn’t trust this feeling yet. He may have filled the hole in my heart, but this was all too soon. I couldn’t trust him yet even though I wanted to. Dad appears in the doorway to see Eli off, ruining our moment. Eli takes his hand off the cell phone and away from my hand. My hand suddenly feels cold and lonely.
“Thanks for looking after Nora for me while I was gone. It was good to meet you.” Dad gives Eli a friendly wave, and he returns the greeting with a nod. He casually walks around the coffee table and to the door as if he were in his own home. His confidence astounds me for someone who just moved to a new area. He turns around and gives me another little smile before crossing the threshold and closing the front door behind him. I turn back to the TV, leaning back against the couch with my head spinning, and not because of my concussion this time.
“You look a lot better now, princess,” Dad says to me as he leans against the doorway. I look up and he’s studying my face, but I can’t tell what he’s thinking about. “Maybe I should let that new neighbor boy come over and look after you more often.” He says teasingly, grinning.
“Yes I’m feeling better now dad, but it doesn’t have anything to do with Eli.” I respond, trying not to look at him. I wouldn’t be able to keep pretending it wasn’t about Eli if I looked at my dad. After finding out he had an affair, I somehow found it easier to lie to him as long as I didn’t look at him. It didn’t make me feel any better about it though.
“It’s okay if you like him, kiddo, you’re at that age when kids start dating. He’s a nice enough kid and he didn’t seem to hurt you while I was gone. You’ve paid more attention to him than I’ve seen you give anyone besides Mara in a long time.”
I don’t really know how to respond to that so I just stay silent. I grab my phone and pretend to look through it while dad continues analyzing my reaction. He sighs.
“You don’t have to talk to me about it, but I’m glad you’re showing interest in something again instead of being cooped up alone all the time. I just worry about you. I want you to be happy and I can see every day that you haven’t been since your mother passed.” He stopped talking for a moment. He gathered himself before continuing. It still amazes me that he is so affected by her death, but now I understand that there is a lot of guilt behind the loss he feels with her passing. “I can see he’s started a spark in you that I hope turns into a bright flame and gets you out of this rut you’ve been in.”
He turns and goes into the kitchen to start making the dinner he promised me. I hear the clinking and clanking of cabinets shutting and pans knocking against one another. I feel bad that I’ve put dad through so much; I didn’t even realize that he could tell how hard it’s been on me without mom. Maybe I could give him a little slack.
“Dad…is it okay if Eli comes over tomorrow afternoon?” I say, my whole body tense hoping he won’t make fun of me. The kitchen is quiet. I couldn’t tell if he is standing there slack-jawed or if he was laughing to himself. All I know is the pause was long before he responded.
“Yeah, sure.” He says. I can hear a smile in his voice but no hint of laughter behind what he was saying. “Tell you what: I’ll even go into the office for a few hours so you two can have the place to yourselves.”
“You don’t have to, dad.” I say, staring at the screen on my phone. I wanted time alone with Eli, but I didn’t want to push him out of the house to do it.
“It’s okay; I have more access to more information on my work computer anyway, so it’s not a hassle.” The clinking of pans and the sounds of cooking continue.
“Okay, if you’re sure.”
“I trust you. I know you won’t do anything stupid.”
I’m a little shocked he has so much faith in me, but I guess not having friends and with my lifestyle the past couple years, he has no reason to think I’ll do anything wrong. I’ve always been well behaved and always been responsible, I guess it’s paying off.
I look at my phone for real this time. I have a text message notification from Mara. That isn’t unusual, but her message made me laugh a little. “THE COPS WERE AT YOUR HOUSE LAST NIGHT??” was all she sent me. She probably thinks that she missed out on something because I haven’t told her what’s going on yet. I hit reply and respond with:
“It’s really not that big of a deal, but I’ll talk to you about it tomorrow morning over coffee. Can you come to my house instead of us going to a cafe though?”
I hit send and lift my head to the TV while I wait for her reply text. The episode playing now shows Dean saving Sam from the Woman in White as she attacks him in Dean’s car, a black 1967 Impala. He shot at the ghost with a sawed off shot gun with bullets filled with rock salt so the ghost girl disappeared. The pilot episode. How the whole amazing show started off. I felt a connection as I had an inkling that something new and wonderful was about to start.
Mara has replied to my text. “Where have you been?? I’ve been freaking out! Are you okay at least? I heard someone got hurt…”
I type my response: “Yeah everything is fine, I’ll get you caught up tomorrow morning at 9am as usual.” Hit send. It only takes a few seconds before my phone makes the familiar “Ding. Ding.” sound notifying me of a new text message.
“I trust you. Just take care of yourself, okay?”
I sigh and toss my phone aside. She’s always worrying about me. It’s great to have someone that cares so much, but I feel like she’s treating me like a little child. I didn’t want to deal with it at the moment so I push it away – to the back of my mind. I would have to deal with it tomorrow morning again anyway, when she comes over for coffee.
I understand everyone’s worry but I was feeling a lot better. Not only am I more focused and not in so much pain, I’m also feeling more comfortable around Eli and whatever bond we have with each other. I have a weight off my shoulders that has been pinning me to the ground for what seems like forever, even if it’s only been 24 hours. I can actually breathe.
I look down at the CD still sitting on the table in front of me and wonder what kind of music was on it. He may be a music expert, but that doesn’t mean he would be able to fill up a CD with songs I like. Did he fill it with love songs? Rejection songs? Sad songs? I couldn’t wait to be alone in my room later to see what awaited me.
The rest of the day went by uneventfully. I continued watching reruns of Supernatural while dad slaved over a hot stove to give me my favorite dinner. I was just relieved we weren’t eating fast food again. I guess my head injury knocked him out of whatever was plaguing him yesterday. I just hoped it would last.