Bella was completely out of it when Andrew carried her into the house on Sunday evening. He'd felt way worse about not being there for her, than she seemed to. The doctors had given her pain killers, so she'd spent most of the day sleeping. Her left arm was casted from the hand to the elbow in a bright pink cast, and the stitches next to her left eye made Andrew's heart ache.
But when she'd woken up and saw him sitting there, she mumbled, "Hi, Daddy," as if he wasn't the worst father in the world.
As soon as he walked through the threshold of the townhouse carrying a sleepy Bella, his father, Mrs. Fletcher, and Devon ran to them.
"Is she okay?" Devon asked, jumping up to see her sister.
"Oh, poor baby," said Mrs. Fletcher. "Here, put her on the couch."
He followed her to the couch, where they'd set up blankets and even brought Stella's bed down and set it up next to her. Which reminded him that the hospital-issued bag containing Stella was in the car. He sent his father to get it.
Placing Bella down gently, Andrew covered her with the blankets and pushed the hair off of her face, kneeling next to her. Devon wrapped her arms around his neck and squeezed. "I'm sorry, Daddy. I know Bella's supposed to sleep on the bottom but she begged me."
"It's okay, sweetheart. It's not your fault. I should have told Grandpa." He kissed her head, over her ear.
When Bella's eyes closed again, he stood up, lifting Devon, and carrying her into the kitchen, where Mrs. Fletcher sat at the table with his father. Mrs. Fletcher stood and touched his arm. "She's going to be fine, Andrew. This kind of thing happens with kids."
Jeffrey stood and held his arms out for Devon. "I'll never forgive myself, son. I vaguely remember you telling me about the sleeping situation."
"It's not your fault, Dad. I should have been here."
"Like Polly said, these things happen." Jeffrey took Devon, who wrapped her arms around his neck. "I'll take Devon to your room. Maybe we'll read a little."
"Thanks." Andrew touched Devon's cheek as she rested her head on his father's shoulder. She was getting too heavy to hold, especially for Jeffrey and his bad hip. But the little girl needed comfort. She felt guilty too. Everyone in the house was miserable, and it was all his fault.
"I'm going to head home." Mrs. Fletcher said, standing and walking toward the front door. Andrew walked her to her car and thanked her a dozen times. "Accidents happen. She'll be fine, and in a few years, this will be a distant memory."
He smiled weakly. "Thank you for always being here for us, Mrs. Fletch—"
"Polly. Get used to calling me Polly, okay?" With a curt nod, Mrs. Fletcher drove away.
As Andrew walked back to the house, his phone vibrated in his pocket again. He pulled it out and checked his messages.
Emma had been texting and calling all day. He looked at the most recent message first.
Emma: I'm coming to Jersey. You're not answering my calls and I'm worried.
The time stamp on the text indicated that she'd sent it a half hour ago. She was probably close if she'd left after she sent it. He thought about calling her back, but didn't want to hear her voice. If he texted her now, and asked her to turn around, he'd be forced to confront her. He didn't have the emotional energy to tell her what he had to tell her—that he couldn't see her anymore.
Inside the house, his father stood in the kitchen, staring at the coffee machine.
"You okay, old man?"
YOU ARE READING
Emma Ballard, a retired supermodel, has been the acting CEO and face of her family's clothing business for the past five years, living the busy corporate life in New York City. She meets the Jersey branch IT supervisor, theater-nerd Andrew Mooney, w...