"Hey, Kelly," Athena said after she opened the door for her friend. Kelly stepped past Athena without a word. Athena’s brows came together over her eyes. She closed the door then turned toward her friend. Kelly stood facing her with her hands on her hips. "Enough. You need to go see Jake," Kelly said. Athena stared at her. She didn’t have a response.
"You are being so pig-headed. Just go talk things out with him," Kelly said. Athena shook her head. She walked past Kelly without meeting her eye. "There’s nothing to talk about. We both said what we wanted to say and-"
"And what?" Kelly demanded when Athena reached the kitchen island. Athena turned slowly. "If things were really over between you two, why didn’t you tell him that? Why didn’t you break up with him?" Kelly asked while pacing towards her. Athena took another moment before she answered. She shook her head then looked around, trying to find something to keep herself busy. She wasn’t comfortable under Kelly’s pinning gaze. Her eyes landed on the last step of the stairs to her bedroom. "I don’t want to talk about this right now," Athena said quietly. "We don’t. I just want an answer," Kelly said. Athena looked at her. She lifted her hand then slammed it back onto the countertop. "Because I couldn’t do that to him, Kelly. He’s already dealing with so much and-"
"Then why aren’t you helping him through it?" Kelly asked, her eyes softened. Athena straightened up. She took a deep breath. "Look, Jake needs you right now, more than ever," Kelly said. Athena dropped her eyes. "You should go see him and fix things." Athena closed her eyes tightly. "I can’t," she whispered. "Oh, for-" Kelly spun in a circle and pressed her palms to her eyes. She sighed, visibly willing herself to calm down. Kelly dropped her arms then looked straight at Athena. "Look, you know Jake and he knows you better than anyone else on the planet. You knew he would react this way and with good reason! Yes, he pushed you away once. He was fifteen! We all did stupid things back then, we still do! Only back then, it was worse. We were emotionally unstable. I came from a stable home with two loving parents and enough money to call comfortable and still I was a bratty little bitch. You grow up and you learn. Jake would never abandon you like that again," Kelly said. "I can’t be with him if he doesn’t learn to forgive," Athena said. Kelly scoffed.
"You are in no position to preach about forgiveness."
Athena blinked and flinched backwards. Kelly nodded.
"Oh, yeah. If you ask me, you’re being a total hypocrite. You keep talking about how Jake needs to learn to forgive, but you can’t find it in yourself to forgive him or yourself."
Kelly walked around the island and stood next to her friend. A few seconds of silence ticked by. "You can’t keep blaming yourself for taking so long to decide. You decided to go and that’s the important thing. You could forgive your father for abandoning you and your mother. That’s bigger than anyone could have asked you to do," Kelly said, her voice now calm.
Athena dropped her eyes when Kelly’s hand touched her shoulder.
"And, Thneed, Jake needs you right now. You always say he wasn’t there for you when you needed him most... Well, what are you doing right now?"
Athena looked at Kelly. Kelly’s ringtone interrupted their silent stare off. Kelly dug into the back of her jeans pockets and pulled out her phone. Her eyebrows came together when she checked the name on the screen. "Why’s your mom calling me?" She asked then answered. "What’s up, Dr. T?"
Athena dropped her eyes, glad Kelly didn’t give her a chance to answer. She didn’t know how to tell Kelly that she had put her phone on silent because she didn’t want to hear from Jake for a while. "Wait, he what?" The panic in Kelly’s voice alarmed her instantly. "No, we’ll be right there." Kelly hung up then ran towards the front door. "We need to get to the hospital. Jake’s been in an accident. He got hit by a car and suffered a head injury." Kelly’s words seemed to make Athena’s whole body go numb in an instant. She wasn’t sure where her legs managed to find the strength to make it to her car, but somehow they did. On their way to the hospital, a million thoughts rushed through her mind. Her heart beat agonizingly against her chest at a rapid pace. She couldn’t lose him. Not like this. He had to be okay. He just had to. She left the car in the middle of the street, telling Kelly to find a parking space and sprinted through the doors of the building. Athena fiercely tapped at the front desk to get the secretary’s attention. "I need to find a patient here. He just suffered a head injury. Jake Brown," she said quickly to the lady in front of her. Her throat felt prickly and thick as she waited. "I’m sorry. I don’t have record of anyone coming in here with a head injury tonight," the secretary explained. Athena gasped for her breath. "What? No, he-"
Athena spun around at the sound of Jake’s voice. He stood up from where he was sitting in the hospital’s café. She ran towards him and threw her arms around him, pulling him tightly to her. Relief flooded her when he returned her affection. She was suddenly aware of how weak her legs felt.
"Piglet?" He sounded confused. But he sounded okay. She felt hot tears stream down her cheeks. She buried her face in his neck and inhaled deeply. Soft sobs escaped her throat. "Hey, hey," Jake said soothingly. His hand slowly ran up and down her back as he tried soothing her. When she felt stable enough to stand on her own feet, Athena released her grip on him and moved back just enough to look him in the eye. Jake held her gaze for a few seconds and she fell in love. Athena released a breath of air as she realized what had happened. Jake took one of her hands from his shoulders and held it with both his. He studied it in front of him. "You’re shaking, what’s wrong?" He asked while pressing his hand to her cheek. She could see the concerned look in his eyes. She noticed the white bandage that stretched above his ear. He followed her gaze and touched the bandage consciously. "It’s nothing," he reassured. "Your mom took care of it."
She shook her head and sniffed. "But... K-Kelly said... you got hit by a car," she said, the adrenaline rush was making it hard for her to think. He led her to one of the chairs and sat her down, not letting go of her hands. He knelt down beside her and waited for her to calm down a bit. "I got bumped. Nothing serious. Your mom checked me out, gave me a stitch or two and she said I’m fine," he said. She stared at him. Impulse caused her to leap forward and hug him again. She closed her eyes and pulled him to her as close as she could. She gasped. "I’m so sorry," she said. Fresh tears escaped her eyes. "I love you," she whispered.
Jake felt his heart skip a beat at her words. He smiled into her neck.
"I love you too."
Kelly stepped through the hospital doors at that moment. Her eyes scanned the room until they landed on Jake. She smiled and walked towards them. "I guess you guys have buried the hatchet now?" She asked. Athena released her python grip on Jake and turned to look at her friend. She kept her arms loosely around his neck. Kelly smiled cheekily. "You dirty little liar," Athena said when realization set in. Kelly shrugged. "I didn’t lie... I might have been a little overly dramatic, but it’s me." Kelly winked.
"You should know what I’m like by now."
Athena laughed. "You’re such an ass," she said to Kelly then sniffed again. Kelly crossed her arms and smiled. "You’re welcome," she said then looked up when something caught her eye. "Oh, dad-alert," she said quietly and pretended not to look. Jake looked over his shoulder and caught his dad walking towards them.
"I think I’ll go get myself a chai latte. Thneed, you joining me?"
Athena let go of Jake and stood up. "Sure. I’ll see you later," Athena said and gave him an encouraging smile. He couldn’t help a tug at his lips. Jake got to his feet and turned around as his father approached him. Jake stuffed his hands into his pockets. "How is she? Is it over?" Jake asked. Kevin smiled and shook his head. "No. She’s fine. She’s not in labor yet but they’re keeping her for observations," he said. Jake’s eyes widened a bit.
"Then... what happened earlier?"
Kevin pulled out a chair at the nearest table and sat down. He gestured with his hand towards the opposite chair. Jake took it. "Son, I think she faked it so we could have a talk," Kevin said with a smirk. Jake almost laughed. The woman was full of surprises. Kevin’s face took on a morbid expression. "Look, I know I did you wrong - you and your mother. A part of me will never forgive myself for doing what I did back then. And when you completely shut me out the way you did... it was hard for me too. It felt like I could never come back and try to fix things. You’re my son. I watched you grow up. Nothing can replace those memories. That’s why I was too afraid to come back. I couldn’t bear it to be shut out again." Kevin took a breath and dropped his eyes. "I don’t expect you to forgive me just like that but I’d like to try to make things right," he said, raising his eyes back to Jake. Jake played with his thumbs. All anger had somehow vanished. Was forgiving really this easy? He raised his eyes to the café bar and noticed Athena and Kelly laughing over their latte’s. Emily walked up to them and gave her daughter a tight hug. He smirked then looked back at his dad. He smiled at his dad. "We’ll work on it," he said. Kevin smiled sadly. Not really the relief Jake was expecting. "What else is wrong?" Jake asked. Kevin adverted his eyes shamefully. "It feels like I’ve already let this one down as well," he said. Jake was confused.
"He’s not even born yet."
"And I wasn’t there to take his mother to hospital when I knew she was close to delivery."
Kevin blew out a breath of air.
"Thank you for doing this, for bringing her here safely. I just took a jog and when I came back she was gone and you called saying she was here... I felt like the world’s worst father."
Kevin still didn’t look at his son. Jake took in his father’s expression. This was clearly the face of a man who’s been to hell and back with guilt. It was strange how compassion so easily filled the gap where resentment was.
"Hey, you’re gonna have me and Darcy around to help you with this one. You’ve already made enough mistakes not to screw this one up."
Jake made sure to make it sound teasing. "And so have I. That baby’s my family too. And I’ve made my fair share of dumbass mistakes. We’ll make sure he doesn’t go down the same road," Jake said. Kevin’s face lit up. "That’s great," he said and laughed all the tension away. Jake chuckled. "But on a serious note, the time you did spend bringing me up... you didn’t do such a bad job. You weren’t - aren’t so bad a father," Jake said, realizing the truth in his words. Not a lot of fathers would dare to come back like this. And it was partially his fault for never letting his dad try to fix things before.
Athena’s fingers grasped onto Kevin’s shoulders, startling him. He looked up into her smiling face. "Can we join you? The atmosphere seems much merrier here," she said. Kevin laughed again and gestured towards the empty seats. "You two are very much welcome," he said. Kelly placed a tray of coffee’s on the table. "Americano’s. I think you two will need it. Dr. Thompson predicts the newest member of the Brown family will be arriving somewhere late tonight or in the wee small hours of the morning," Kelly said in a playful tone and added a wink. Jake looked at his father bemused. "But I thought she wasn’t in labor," he said. Kelly took a sip from her latte.
"Mm, technically she’s not. Well, yet."
Kelly shrugged. "But that baby is definitely coming out soon," Kelly said. Kevin stood up from his chair.
"I’ve gotta go. I’ve gotta be there with her."
He looked at his son. Jake smiled. "Go ahead. We’ll be here when she finishes," Jake said.
Kevin gave him a relieved smile then headed towards where Darcy was. "Whoa! Don’t forget your coffee," Kelly called, holding his cup up to him. He turned, took it out of her fingers and gave her a nod of gratitude then was on his way again. Athena laughed. Jake looked at her. She shrugged. "Guess everything’s going to work out," she said. Kelly raised her cup. "I’ll drink to that," she said. They all laughed and touched their cups to each other.
"So that’s where Mr. Wellers fits in. I was wondering about that," Jake said to Athena.
They sat around the café table, still. Kelly had gone home hours ago, promising to be back in the morning.
Athena laughed a bit. "Yup. He and my dad used to be friends. He kind of-" Athena looked up at the ceiling as she thought back. Jake searched her face for any traces of pain. Around her eyes, he noticed the slight wince. He knew a part of her would be hurting for a long time, but he also knew he was going to be there when she needed him and even when she didn’t. No matter what. He gave her hand a soft squeeze across the table. It seemed to bring her back to earth. She took a breath. "He became the indirect connection to my dad. I got to figure out what kind of man he was..." She paused then dropped her eyes to where Jake’s fingers played with hers. "He doesn’t sound like the dad type," she said simply. "But that’s why my mom is so amazing. I mean she was only twenty when she had me and she still followed her dreams." A small smile crossed her lips. "She had some help from that very special grandmother of yours though," Jake said, making Athena’s smile deepen. "Never underestimate a Thompson lady," Athena said, looking at him. Jake smiled. "I never have," he said. They sat in silence for a while, just smiling at each other. Appreciating the moment.
"I’m really glad you came tonight," Jake said, breaking the silence.
Her expression saddened a bit. "I’m really sorry about everything," she said.
"I’m sorry too. I said some stupid things."
Athena giggled. "Yep, that you did."
Jake chuckled dryly. "Story of my life," he mumbled. Athena stood up and leaned over the table to give him a light kiss. She smiled again. Jake smiled as well. "So, I’m assuming that break is officially over," he said. Athena laughed.
"Yes!" She sounded as relieved as he felt. "Finally," she said.
They chatted a bit longer until Dr. Thompson came to their table.
"Well kids, I hate to break this up, but there’s one handsome little guy waiting to meet his big brother right down the hall," she said with a wink. Jake’s heart leaped to his throat.
"They’re done?" He asked, standing up and letting his hand slide out of Athena’s. Emily nodded with a smile. His heart hammered from both nerves and excitement. He looked at Athena.
"Can I come?" She asked. He laughed with a bit of a shake.
"What sort of question is that? Come on."
He took her arm and started pulling her through the hospital. When they got to the door of Darcy’s room, he froze. His father stood next to Darcy’s hospital bed, leaning over the bundle in her arms. Darcy looked up at Jake. She seemed exhausted; hair clung to her wet, red face but there was a glow about her and a purely happy smile on her lips. Jake’s eyes lowered to the blankets in her arm. "Jake come on over here," she said. Athena let go of his arm as he walked towards her. He peered between the blankets at the pink faced, chubby cheeked human being that lay snug and asleep between the blankets. He lost his breath for a moment.
"Whoa," was all he could muster. "He’s got you to thank for getting us here," Darcy whispered. She reached for Jake’s hand and placed it over the infants exposed fingers atop the blanket then let go. Jake was mesmerized by the small fingers below his. The child stirred then folded his fingers over Jake’s ring finger. Jake laughed, still completely amazed. "He’s got a grip," he said. He briefly glanced at Darcy. "So what’s his name?" Jake asked. "Theo," Darcy answered.
Through all this, Jake didn’t notice his father walk over to Athena who had to bite her lip to keep her misty eyes from spilling over. She smiled up at Kevin and he smiled back. He placed his arm over her shoulders. She bit harder into her lip when he pulled her against him in a hug. "Looks like I’m a father of three now," he said. Athena laughed then sniffed. She blinked her tears away. "Well you’ve got some great kids," Athena said, looking up at him. He gave a chuckle. "Darcy and I were talking before you two came in. How’s about, after finals, you guys come stay with us for a couple of weeks. We’ve got a nice beach house a four hour drive away."
"Sounds like a plan," Jake called, looking at them over his shoulder. Athena laughed. "Yeah, that sounds like fun," she said.
*BriBri: For some reason, you get me. Haha. Laughed so much when I read your second comment. As for the first one; wish granted, dude. All wrapped up in one somewhat neat chapter.
*K: Haha. It is funny actually cause I was listening to that song one day, actually listening to the lyrics for once and the idea for this story popped in my head. So now you know where the title came from.
As for the advice, I know! I read my chapters sometimes and I'm like "I know I'm doing something wrong." And it's really annoying for me because now that I'm out of high school there's no English teacher to go to and ask about this. In other words: Do your own research, Simone! Which, granted, I'm doing a very poor job of.
*Beth: Ahw, thank you so much! That was super sweet of you. I'm working on his story and he's becoming a lot of fun. Will be sure to update as soon as I can.