Phillip had shared a video of pranks being pulled with the caption “LMFAO.” Those were his last words on the internet. LMFAO.
The worst part of seeing their accounts was scrolling through all the messages left on their pages after the accident. All the words of mourning and sorrow, the #RIPs and the shock left in the wake of their deaths.
It broke me all over again.
I’d spent most of the evening sitting on the couch eating chocolate, wrapped in my mom’s arms and talking about them. I woke the following morning expecting to feel like crap, but I’d felt a little better.
A little lighter.
But I still hadn’t gone to their graves yet.
When I left the room with the lamest motivational posters ever, the smile Dr. Perry had given me was as real as any of the ones from the past, but it had been a little different.
There was confidence in this smile.
Not hope or approval but confidence. In me.
Confidence that I would find closure and some semblance of peace. Maybe I had already found some of the latter. Right now I was more peaceful than I ever could’ve imagined.
Sebastian was sitting in the old Adirondack chair, his feet propped up on the railing. I was sitting sideways in his lap, my legs wrapped over the arm of the chair. A soft chenille blanket was dropped over us.
We were reading.
And there was something so nerdily perfect about what we were doing that I might’ve fallen in love all over again.
Closing the paranormal book I was reading, I lowered it to my lap and looked at Sebastian. He had his concentration face on. Brows furrowed together. Lips pressed in a thin line. It was cute. Beyond cute. He was reading a graphic novel, and he held it open with one hand. His other arm wrapped around my waist, under the blanket. His fingers moved continuously against my hip, drifting in a slow circle, as if he was letting me know that even though he was focused on the novel, he was fully aware of me in his lap.
I wanted more attention, though.
Pressing my lips against his smooth cheek, I grinned when I heard him snap the novel shut. His arm tightened around me. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“Nothing.” I kissed the hard line of his jaw.
He turned his head toward mine. “I like this idea of nothing, then.”
I kissed him on the lips this time and he returned the kiss in a way that made me wish Mom wasn’t home.
Sliding my hand along his cheek, I pulled back just enough to rest my forehead on his. “What time is your dinner tomorrow?”
“Six. Are you sure you don’t want to come?” His family was going to his grandparents’ house for their Thanksgiving dinner. “You’re more than welcome to. They’d love to see you.”
“I know.” I dragged my thumb across his jaw. “I want to, but Dad is going to be here tomorrow. Mom would flip if I tried to be anywhere else.”
He kissed the corner of my mouth. “True.” Another pause so he could kiss the other side of my mouth. “I’m kind of surprised your sister isn’t out here staring at us, drawing hearts in the air with her fingers.”
I laughed. “It’s only because Mom has her in the kitchen baking pies.”
“I think we need to visit that kitchen,” he said after a slight pause.
“I think you’ll change your mind once you’ve tried my sister’s baking.” Looping my arm around his neck, I rested my cheek on his shoulder as he chuckled. “I’m not sure why Mom is letting her bake. Kind of feels like a punishment.”
Another chuckle rumbled from his chest. “I’ll bring you home some of my grandma’s pie.”
“Pumpkin and pecan.”
“Mmm.” My stomach grumbled. “That sounds amazing. Will you bring me some Cool Whip? Mom buys the generic stuff and it totally does not—”
The balcony door opened, and I lifted my head in surprise, half expecting to see my sister or my mom. But it was Dad.
It was my dad walking out of my bedroom and onto the balcony while I was sprawled across Sebastian’s lap.
My entire body jerked as I scrambled to stand up. I all but fell out of Sebastian’s lap, nearly smacking my face on the floor after my legs tangled in the blanket. The last thing I wanted was for my dad, even if he excelled at the absentee-father gig, to walk in while I was sprawled in my boyfriend’s lap.
Sebastian ducked his chin as he helped unwrap my legs from the blanket, and I knew he was hiding a grin, and I was so going to smack him upside the head.
Dad’s hazel eyes moved from where I stood to where Sebastian was rising. “Your mother mentioned you two were seeing each other.”
That was how he greeted me—greeted us.
I hadn’t seen him, or talked to him, since the visit in the hospital, and that was the first thing that came out of his mouth.
I wasn’t exactly surprised.
Sebastian walked around the chair, extending his hand toward my dad. “Hi, Mr. Wise.”
My dad shook his hand, smiling faintly. “Sebastian, my man, good to see you.”
“Same,” replied Sebastian, moving his hand from my dad’s to mine. Our fingers threaded, and he squeezed my hand gently.
Heat hit my cheeks. “I didn’t know you were here. I thought you weren’t coming until tomorrow.”
“I just got here a little bit ago,” he explained. “I was hoping we could have some one-on-one time while your mother and sister are busy destroying the kitchen.”
Not entirely sure I wanted one-on-one time, I hesitated for a moment. Then I nodded, because I might as well get it over with. Dad wasn’t going anywhere, at least not for the next day or so.
“All right.” I looked up at Sebastian. “I’ll text you later?”
His eyes searched mine as he continued to hold my hand. Concerned pinched his features. “You sure?”
“Yeah,” I told him in a low voice. “It’s okay.”
Sebastian seemed reluctant, not that I could blame him. He knew the word tense didn’t even begin to describe my father’s and my relationship, but he lowered his head, pressing a kiss to my cheek. “Okay. I’ll be waiting.”
Saying goodbye to my dad, he headed down the stairs, leaving me alone on the balcony with my dad. With no idea what to say or do, I bent over and picked up the blanket to fold it.
Since my head had been so wrapped up in the accident and everything to do with it, I hadn’t really given myself much space to mull over what my mother had admitted and everything it meant.
“How have you been doing?” he asked, leaning a hip against the railing.
“You and Sebastian are really an item?” He laughed as soon as he finished speaking. “Well, I’m hoping that’s the case, considering how I found you two.”
My cheeks flushed, and I fought the urge to point out that Mom had already told him, but I was done...done just being so angry, so torn. Although Dr. Perry and I had never talked about my dad, I knew enough to know that if I had to move on from the accident in August, I had to move on from, well, everything with my father.
“Yeah, we started, um, officially seeing each other not too long ago,” I said finally, staring at the scuffed sneakers Dad was wearing. “I’m...really happy with him.” A flicker of guilt shot through me like an arrow. Admitting happiness was still hard. Probably would be hard for a very, very long time.
“He’s a good kid. Can’t say that I’m surprised. Always thought that you two would end up together.”
My brows rose. “Really?”
“Well, I hoped you two would end up together,” he clarified. “Like I said, he’s a good boy. He’ll be a good man.”
I shifted my weight from one foot to the next.
“You look a lot better,” he said, swiftly changing the subject. “No cast or bruises. Standing up and moving around. I’m relieved to see that.”
Holding the blanket to my chest, I looked up at my dad, really looked at him. He looked like he had when he came into the hospital back in August. A little older and a little more tired, but he had the same rigid posture. The conversation was still stilted.