Chapter 30 - Five minutes

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From an observer looking in, it looked as if Ella was taking the standoff with her father fine, but Joe knew it bothered her. Any worry that he had of losing her was pushed to the back of his head because instead of pulling away she was staying with him every night. Caleb didn't seem to mind, because with Ella's help Joe managed to get the shopping done and a decent meal on the table. They had become a little family - a somewhat unconventional family.

Even at school, Ella made no effort to hide that they were a couple. The Monday morning after the big reveal, they drove into work together. Joe was lingering in the music room, trying to access Ella state of mind. He had spent the whole weekend waiting for her to break down but she never did. Christa stopped in and was surprised to see them together. Joe had just pulled her into a quick hug as he was about to go to his classroom to get settled for the day.

Eyeing them she smiled and asked, "How was your weekend?"

Ella said, "Good... I told my father and Joe is still alive."

Joe laughed and added, "With all my body parts too..."

"Oh we should go on a double date sometime," Christa suggested enthusiastically.

Ella shook her head. "I'm not sure... Remember I dumped Dylan..."

"Who cares? He has me now," she smiled. "Oh, I'm going to meet the mystery girlfriend. There's a work thing and she's supposed to be going. I'll give you the dirt."

Ella laughed. With the worry about telling her parents, Joe wasn't surprised that she hadn't told Christa about Tony and Ava.

Ella explained, "There is no dirt. She's my sister..."

"What? Really and you didn't know. Why was it a mystery?" Christa asked excitedly.

"Just because they were getting together at the same time that I was going through a rough patch... missing Joe."

Joe quickly added, "The reason for everything is me and the fact that I left her." He waved, "Have a good day."

He left them to talk about him. He couldn't help but smile which was what he was doing when he came across Karen.

"Someone is happy this morning. My guess is the little soprano is the reason for that smile."

Joe smiled and said, "Technically she's a mezzo-soprano..."

Karen laughed, "You must have it bad because I don't even know what that is."

Joe did have it bad, but as the days passed, he worried that Ella was going to break. When she arrived at her uncle's house, she had tears but then she had an odd calm about her. After some insistence, she shared his lobster roll which was amazing but refused the pizza. Her appetite was one indication that she wasn't feeling as confident as she let on.

Joe had loved his visit with Nick and Sara and seeing Bridget and Jack who had grown while he was busy ruining his life. Bridget warmed his heart by remembering him. Fiona was practically a newborn when he had last seen her and she went to him as if he was not a stranger. That family was special to him because it was at their wedding that Ella chose him.

Ella had missed two Sundays with her family even when Joe had tried to convince her to go on her own. She insisted that she wasn't interested unless he was welcome. She didn't realize that her stubbornness was hurting him, because he had never wanted to take her away from her family. Meanwhile, Ava wasn't helping because she kept calling to report on Tim's mood.

The closest Ella came to breaking down was when Ava told her that their parents were arguing. As far as Joe knew Tim and Julie never fought. Joe suspected that Tim was too smart to argue with Julie because she would always win. Unlike Ella, Julie Burke did not let her emotions rule her. She just loved with her heart and thought with her brain while Ella often thought with her heart.

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