“Don’t remind me. That was not one of my crowning moments.” She laughs. Then her voice goes quiet. “I can’t believe you won’t be here for my appointment.”
“Sorry, babe.” I hear the regret in my own voice. I hate not being able to go with her, but after this job, I’ll be taking some time off until the baby gets here.
In reality, the more I think about leaving Sophie and the baby after he or she gets here, the more I start hating my job. Leo told me the other day that they have a couple of spots opening up in his department. He could get me in if I wanted. My first thought was no, but then he explained that their captain lets them do their own thing as long as they’re closing cases. Knowing that, if I took the job, I would no longer be going out of town and leaving her alone made me think harder about it. I want and need that. I hate the idea of her being home alone with a new baby. Yes, my family will be around, but it’s not the same. I never want to miss out on important occasions with my family.
“Mom’s gonna go with you so you won’t be alone.”
“I know, but it’s not the same,” she says, repeating my thought. It’s crazy to think how much my life has changed since I first laid eyes on her.
“I know it’s not.”
We drive the rest of the way home in silence. When we reach the house, I pull into the garage and help Sophie out of the car before heading to the mailbox.
“Nico,” Deb calls from two houses away, where she’s outside watering her lawn.
I lift my chin then shake my head at her. I don’t know how her husband puts up with her shit, but he’s a better man than I am. If I ever found out that Sophie was outside watering the lawn and wearing practically nothing, I would go postal.
“Hi, Deb,” Sophie calls, waving at Deb, who gives a small wave back. She presses her tits into my arm before sticking her hand in my back pocket, leaning deeper into me.
I bite my cheek to keep from smiling. It’s cute that she’s protective, but she never has anything to worry about.
“Did we get anything good?” she asks innocently, looking at the stack of letters in my hand.
I shuffle through the mail then stop when I come across the letter Sophie has been waiting for. In a way, I’m glad she’s here as I’m checking the mail. If I were on my own, I don’t know if I would have given her the letter. Yes, I want her to work through her past, but it’s engrained in me to protect her from anything that might potentially cause her pain.
“He wrote back,” she whispers, looking from the letter to my eyes.
I put all the mail in one hand before cupping her cheek with the other. “You don’t have to read it right now. You never have to read it if you don’t want to.”
“I want to.” She swallows, leaning her head deeper into my hand. “You’re right. I need to see what he has to say so I can put it all behind me. I don’t want this hanging over my head anymore, and I don’t want to worry about it when the baby gets here.”
“So we read it then burn it, making it history.”
She nods, not saying anything.
Running my thumb over her jaw, I lean in and kiss her once before tucking her under my arm to lead her inside. Once I get Sophie situated out on the back patio with a glass of tea, I go get a lighter and my metal trash can from the garage and take them out with me. I hand her the letter before pulling her onto my lap. Her hands start to shake as she rips the envelope open, and I watch as she pulls the letter out, unfolding it.
I don’t even know where to start. I got the letter from Nico after I tried to phone you. I understand why you didn’t want to talk to me, but I wish I could hear your voice. Maybe one day, we can talk and I can hear for myself that you are well and happy. I know from your boyfriend that you have become successful and are leading a life that would make your mother proud. She was always proud of you. You were the most important thing in her life, and I know her death was hard on you. I wish I could explain to you the reasons I did what I did, but there is no excuse that will justify my actions and the way I neglected you when you needed me. Your mom would hate me if she knew what happened after her death. I regret few things in my life, but my treatment of you is something I will regret until the day I die. I'm sorry.
I know it would be nearly impossible for you to forgive me, but if you could find it in yourself to offer me a few words every now and then, I would enjoy that. Your boyfriend is very different from anyone I thought you would end up with, but he seems to love you and to be very protective, and even though it's not my right as your father, I couldn't ask for more. Your mother would have been thrilled that you found someone who obviously loves you so deeply. I love you, Sophie. I know I didn’t show it when I should have, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about you and the woman you have become. I wish I could have been a better father to you. I just didn’t know how to do that after your mom died. I’m so sorry.
I hope this letter finds you happy.
I pull a sobbing Sophie into my chest, rocking her back and forth like a child, trying to offer her some comfort. After reading that letter, I hope she will be able to find some closure.
“I got you, babe,” I shush her, rubbing her back.
When the sobs racking her body start to die down, I pull her face out of my chest, taking a second to look at her. Even with her face splotchy with tears, she’s beautiful.
“I know that was difficult, but how are you feeling?”
“Torn,” she says quietly, grabbing my wrist. “I feel like I want to talk to him. He’s the only connection I have to my mom. I feel sad that it took him so long to realize what he had, and the other part of me hates him for not being there for me when I needed him. That’s the part I don’t like. I don’t want to hate him. My mom loved him. They were so in love that, even as young as I was, I could see their love was the kind that would never die. When I was young, my dad would come home from work and walk into the house, and the first thing he would do was go to my mom and kiss her, even if I was waiting by the door for him. Then he would come and pick me up.” I don’t tell her that that’s f**ked up. Our kids will be just as important as her. “When my mom died, I felt like my connection with him died too.” Yep, totally f**ked up. “I think I need time to think about this.”
“You have all the time you need.”