Chapter 24

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Dinner wasn't that bad, although it was still highly uncomfortable sitting in the same room with my dad. The tension was unbearable...well at least for me it was. Lauren seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself and that made me happy.

My father hasn't spoken a max of 10 words since dinner started though and I can only assume that he's uncomfortable being around us now that he's been away and we matured a bit. He seemed to fidget a lot but that could honestly be because of the death glare I was giving him throughout the whole time. I still absolutely despise him for what he's put this family through over the years and I was going to make sure he felt that.

My mother made as much small talk as she could without seeming to overbearing. I could feel her discomfort with how deadly quiet I and my father were, which along with the fact that Lauren was happy, made me finally fall into some conversation and let go of my death stare match with my dad.

Sofi on the other hand was completely oblivious to it all, being the liveliest of the five of us at the table. It was bittersweet watching the younger react with so much energy and joy with us all. I felt bad that she didn't have a clue of any of the real issues that were going on within our household and family, and seemed to not care enough to ask. I know Sofi is attentive enough to know that dad hadn't been around for a while but its almost as if chooses to ignore it and just be glad that he's back, which is probably what both him and my mother would like from me but I'm not some kid. I know the actual strain that has been put on this family by this whole situation and I won't pretend like everything is okay again because its not.

On the other hand, I'm almost glad Sofi doesn't know too much about what's been going on around here lately. It would be absolutely horrifying to be six years old and already experiencing a broken home while you've yet to lose your first tooth. Soon enough she'll know but seeing her as ecstatic and carefree right now, no matter what the cause, makes me the happiest I could be.

Dinner was finally over and my dad had retired to the living room to watch tv with Sofi, giving my mom a kiss on the cheek, which I should've seen coming but if course I still cringed upon the sight.

Lauren had offered to help my mom with the dishes, to which my mom nicely declined. I made sure to promise to come back and help her with the kitchen after I walked Lauren outside to her car.

As we finally got outside of my house and the crisp breeze of the night hit my skin, I instantly relaxed, having been feeling tense all night long in a room with my whole family and girlfriend. Lauren must have sensed it as she slipped her hand into mine and lightly pulled me closer to her, until our hips met. She wrapped her arms around my waist and rubbed my lower back, sending goosebumps up my spine with her touch.

"You seemed distracted in there...still overwhelmed?" She said in a comforting voice which put my mind at even more ease. I place my hands on her shoulders and bury my head into her neck.

"Not overwhelmed per say...I just still feel highly uncomfortable with his presence." I mumble against her skin. "Sometimes I really think I'm being a bitch about it because my mom wants me to act casual, but this is not a casual situation. I want to know why he's back but I don't have the mindset to have this conversation with them about it." I breathe out.

"You're not a bitch." She reassures me. "There's nothing bitchy about getting hurt." She added. "...but if you're curious as to why he's back, then you need to talk with them...and since you're grounded it doesn't seem like you have much of a choice, you'll be seeing a lot of them now." She jokes. I playfully hit her arm and chuckle against her neck.

"Thank you." I say quietly.

"What for? I didn't do anything." She laughs in a confused state.

"For staying with me." I whisper.

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