Ryan stifled his instant irritation at having his baby sister follow him around the house like a lost puppy. Every time he moved he stumbled into her. “Why don’t you go outside and play?” he asked.
“Will you come with me?” she asked eagerly tugging on his arm.
“Not right now” he tried to shove her towards the door.
“Just go outside with her” Trent suggested “she’s missed you.”
“Fine” he groaned.
“If you don’t want to, don’t bother” his sister cried running to her room. A moment later her door banged shut.
“Ryan would it have killed you to spend a little bit of your time with your sister?” Gayle asked.
“I was….” he looked from one parent to the next. Their disapproving, disappointed looks speaking volumes. “I was waiting for a text from Charity,” he mumbled looking down.
“Charity would understand you needing to spend time with your family” Gayle pointed out. Crossing her arms she leaned on the wall “honestly Ryan you’ve barely said two words to any of us since you’ve been home.”
“She’s a pest” he complained.
“She’s your sister” Trent asserted “she may seem like a pest now but you’d miss her if something ever happened to her.”
“Yeah I know” he rolled his eyes “I don’t need a lecture. It’s just….why did you have to wait so long to have her.”
“It wasn’t by choice” Gayle said averting her eyes.
“Or lack of trying” Trent continued getting up to put is arms around his wife offering what comfort he could.
“I wanted a large family” Gayle explained as tears shimmered in her eyes “You came so easily soon after we were married.”
“We assumed it would be just as easy next time around” Trent squeezed her shoulder “we were wrong.”
“I had almost given up hope when we finally had Faith” Gayle gave her husband a grateful look.
Ryan looked down at his phone smiling as a text came through from Charity. He felt his parents disapproving frown as he responded back. Looking up he demanded “what?”
“Aren’t you going a bit fast?” Trent asked.
“Fast” he repeated. He couldn’t his his astonishment. “I’ve known her practically all my life.”
“Then she’ll understand you need to spend time with your family.” Trent said trying to be reasonable. Glancing down at his wife of twenty years he said “son your mother and I understand how important Charity is to you….”
Gayle smiled up at him “we know this is all new and you want to spend every moment you can together…”
Ryan could hear the but hanging in the air as he asked “then why are you upset with me?” He glanced down to respond to the text he just received.
“Because there is such a thing as too much” Gayle gave her husband a pleading look.
“Ryan you don’t want to smother the poor girl” he chuckled a little when that had his son tilting his chin up in defiance.
“I’m not” he protested “Charity hasn’t complained.”
“Nor will she until she can’t take it anymore” Trent said “girls tend to do that.” He grunted in pain as Gayle elbowed him. “What?” he asked looking down at her with a mischievous grin.
“That’s not true” Gayle shook her head at him “Ryan you do need time apart. Have you been out with your friends since you’ve been home?”
He took a moment to think about the past few weeks. “Hannah was over a couple of days ago.”
“Try a couple of weeks ago” Gayle corrected “she left after a couple of hours of watching you text Charity. I want you to think about something. Before Hannah left she said she felt like she had lost her two best friends.” She stepped forward placing her hands over his his stilling his fingers as they flew across the keyboard. “If Hannah’s feeling that way imagine how your family feels. You’re in the room with us but your mind is elsewhere.”
“Fine” he grumbled putting his phone away resisting the urge to take it out when he felt the familiar buzz alerting him to a new text. “Whatever” he muttered throwing himself into an empty chair.
“Look honey” Trent pointed towards their son “isn’t it heart warming how much he wants to spend time with us?”
Ryan rolled his eyes wondering how long he’d have to wait until Charity gave him the all clear to come to Isla Paradiso. He couldn’t wait to see her again. Texting was great but it didn’t compare to be being able to see and hold her in his arms.
“Honey can you put that thing away?” Zane asked with a petulant tone.
“Don’t you remember what it was like when we first met?” Graham asked “it felt like we couldn’t get enough of each other.”
“I still feel that way” Zane smirked as his husband crawled into his lap.
“Get a room” Charity mumbled peering up from her phone display.
Chuckling a little Graham moved to the couch beside Zane. “Is this better?” he asked innocently.
“Much” she mumbled fingers flying over the keys as she typed.
“Charity can you put that thing down for a few minutes?” Graham asked “we haven’t had a chance to really talk since you came home.”
“What do you want to talk about?” she asked setting her phone on her thigh.
Her parents exchanged glances. Graham took a deep breath before asking “are you mad at us?”
“Why would I be mad?” she reached for her phone to respond to the text she just received.
“Stop deflecting” Zane reached across the coffee table snatching her phone from her hands “Ryan can wait.”
“It’s called multitasking not deflecting” she hugged her knees to her chest sulking.
“It’s deflecting when you use this” he waved her phone in the air “as a means to keep from talking to us.”
“Whatever” she mumbled refraining from rolling her eyes.
“Wipe that look from your face” Zane snapped.
Charity gaped at him. It was plain to see she had no clue what face she had made that had so irritated him.
Graham glanced from his husbands face to his daughters. Sighing he said “sweetie are you mad at us for not telling you about your mother?”
Charity dragged her eyes away from Zane. She could see by the way Graham sat tense on the edge of his seat that he was anxious over her reply. It mattered to him whether she was mad. The simple answer was “yes” she snapped her mouth shut as soon as the angry word escaped her lips. She hadn’t meant to say it out loud. Her pink haired father seemed to shrink in on himself. “Daddy please” she pleaded “you have to understand. This total stranger came up to me with papers proving she was my mother. I didn’t know what to believe.”
“I’m sorry” he sounded miserable “I hoped she wouldn’t track you down when she knew we couldn’t pay.”
Zane patted his hand “sweetie you dad and I didn’t want you to feel you’re mother only wanted to find you for the money she might be able to exploit from us.”
She nodded feeling miserable for the pain she could see in their eyes. “I didn’t want to believe you kept her from me all this time.”
“But you still wanted to know her” Graham added “I understand that. Every child wants a relationship with their parents if they can have one.”
She nodded “all she wanted was money though.” She jumped to her feet feeling trapped. Before she could go more than a few steps strong arms engulfed her.
“I’m sorry” Graham held her smoothing her hair “it’s awful to realize that someone only wants you for what you can give them.”
She could feel his heart beat beneath her hand. “I’m sorry. I should never have listened to her.”
She felt the warm comforting arms of her other dad as he came up behind her hugging both of them tight. “It’s alright sweetie. You have us. You have Ryan.” Charity could hear the terse way he said Ryan’s name.
“Don’t you like Ryan?” she asked fear gripping her heart. “I thought you liked him.” She didn’t want to have to choose between her parents and her boyfriend.
“Sweetie” Graham chuckled “your dad is never going to like any boy who takes you away from us.”
“You’re my little girl” Zane said with the same petulant tone he had used earlier “I don’t want to think about anyone taking you from us.”
“Ryan wouldn’t do that” she insisted “we’re going to run the resort together.”
Stepping back Graham grinned at her. “Are you planning our retirement already?”
“We’re not that old yet” Zane protested.
“I never said that you were” she watched as Zane put an arm around Graham. “It’s just when you are old you won’t have to worry about anything. Ryan and I will take care of you.”
Looking at Graham Zane winked “I don’t know about you old man but I feel all warm and fuzzie.”
Ignoring his husbands antics Graham took Charity’s hands. “You don’t have to worry about us. I want you to be happy. Pursue your dreams. You don’t have to tie yourself down to the resort just because you think that’s what we want you to do.”
“It’s not that daddy” she smiled at him “I want to take over the resort. I love it here and I want my children to love it as much as I do.”
Feeling somewhat lost without his phone Ryan wandered into the backyard. His little sister was sitting motionless on one of the swings. “Hey kiddo” he leaned on the swing set watching her.
“Go away” she sniffed running a grubby hand across her eyes.
“Hey” he murmured dropping to his knees beside her “I’m sorry.”
“So” she kicked her toes into the loose sand “am I supposed to forgive you now?”
Taken slightly off guard Ryan sighed “yeah I was kinda hoping you would.”
Grabbing the chain as she swept past him Ryan stopped her forward momentum. “I know I hurt you. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
She gave him a disbelieving look. “Yeah right” she jumped from the swing. “Did you think calling me a pest wouldn’t hurt my feelings?”
“I wh…” he shrugged cheeks burning as he stared at the ground. “I’m sorry. What else can I say?”
“That wasn’t even the worse of it” she crossed her arms “you ignored me. Do you know how that made me feel?”
Ryan shook his head shoving his hands into his pockets. This was worse than anything his parents could have said to him. “What can I do to make it up to you?” he asked as the silence hung between them
“Jerk” she grumbled “I wanted to yell and scream at you.”
“I deserve it” he said quietly without moving.
“It’s no fun if you just stand there and take it” she took a small step towards him tears making her eyes water. “I really missed you Ry.”
“I missed you too” his voice gruff as he fought back tears.
“Liar” she gave him a severe frown.
“I did” he declared “I really really did.”
“Words are cheap” she said lips twitching “you need to prove it.”
“How?” he asked closing the gap between them.
“Dinner and a movie” she said glaring up at him.
“Its a date” he held his arms out to her. With a giggle she ran into them.
Later that night Ryan lay on his bed. His phone pressed to his ear. “Sorry”he murmured “my parents confiscated my phone.”
“So did mine” Charity giggled “I guess we have been over doing it a little.”
“I guess” he agreed sighing “I miss you.”
“I miss you more” she grinned “what can we do about it though?”
“I was thinking….” he bit his lip suddenly afraid it wasn’t a good idea.
“About what?” she prompted after his silence continued longer than expected.
“Maybe I could go there for a couple of weeks?”
“What about your family? Don’t you want to spend time with them?” she asked.
“It’s a couple of weeks” he rolled his eyes “besides we’re adults. We don’t even have to come home for the summer if we don’t want to.”
“That’s true” she said hesitantly.
To Ryan’s ears she sounded distant and sad. “Don’t you want me to come?”
“Of course I do” she cried “it’s just…”
“Just what?” he demanded sitting up.
“I don’t know if my dad’s are ready for me to be dating seriously yet” she admitted.
“Is that all?” Ryan could hear the bitterness in his voice “do you want to break up?”
“What?” she cried “of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.”
“So I can come” he asked again.
“See if Hannah will come to” she requested “it might make my parents happier if it were a group thing.”
“Alright I’ll ask” he promised giving in “can I still come if she can’t come?”
“You think she won’t?” she asked panic rising in her voice.
“I’ll ask. That’s all I can do” Ryan said trying to ease her anxiety “she’s in the same boat we are.”
“At least my dad’s know you” Charity laughed softly “I don’t envy Hannah having to introduce Donovan to her dad’s.”
“Especially Uncle Rory” Ryan laughed as he thought about Hannah “I wish her luck.”
“She’s going to need it” she agreed “tell her to come. She’ll need us if Donovan’s visit goes bad.”
“I’ll do that” he promised “Charity….” He swallowed audibly, heart beating fast in his chest. His palms felt clammy as he fought for air “I love you.”
Silence greeted his proclamation. After a moment she said “I love you too.” Her voice stilling his panic and wildly beating heart.