Divia relaxed into Renee leaning her head back resting on the other woman’s shoulder. “I don’t want to go back” she sighed closing her eyes.
“You don’t have a choice” Renee chuckled entwining her fingers with Divia’s.
“Yes I do” Divia shook her head “I could stay here and work for McDonald’s.”
“No” Liono’s deep baritone caused both girls to jump.
“Dad” Divia sat up straightening clothes that didn’t need straightening. “It’s my choice.”
Liono’s eyes shifted towards his daughter. His chin lifted in challenge “you will not quick school to flip burgers. I won’t allow it.”
“You don’t have a say in what I do” Divia stood up facing her father slapping away her girlfriends hands.
“Divia” Renee’s harsh whisper barely registered on her radar.
“I won’t let you throw your life away” Liono took a step forward eyes glittering dangerously behind his dark lashes.
“Who says that I’ll be throwing my life away?” Divia challenged swallowing hard to keep her nervous giggle under control. “I want to stay here with Renee.”
Crossing his arms he inclined his head “I can appreciate that. I doubt she wants you to sacrifice your dreams to stay home with her to play house.”
“We love each other Daddy. Not playing house” Divia protested biting her bottom lip “we’re going to be married.”
Liono’s eyes widened at the unexpected proclamation. “How are you going to pay for the ring? The wedding? The house?” He rattled off the list of things she hadn’t thought about. “Do you think you can afford those things on your wages from McDonald’s?”
Blood rushed from her face as she tried and failed to come up with an answer. She hadn’t thought about it. Her eyes turned towards Renee in silent appeal.
“No don’t” Liono barked “she’s not a part of this discussion.”
“I beg to differ” Renee said standing up to face the older man. “I plan on marrying your daughter. I am involved.”
His lips twitched a little. Ignoring her comments “what will you do when you want a child? It’s not going to be as easy as it was for your mother and I. You’ll need special procedures. Procedures that cost money. Where is that money going to come from?”
“We’re in this together” Renee blurted out taking Divia’s hand “it’s not all her responsibility.”
This time Liono stared at the girl as if challenging her to continue. When she fell silent he nodded. “You’re correct but it makes things more difficult when the division of responsibility is unbalanced. Is this something you’ve discussed? Something you both agreed on?” He could see by the nonverbal exchanges that it wasn’t. “All I’m asking from you is you count the cost before you decide to do something. If you really want to flip burgers at McDonald’s I won’t stop you. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.” He eyed his daughter until she squirmed beneath is scrutiny. It wasn’t like it had been when she was a kid when she’d squirm from fright. This time it was because she was thinking over what he said.
“Renee” she turned to the girl “did you really mean what you said? That you wanted to marry me?”
“Yes” Renee nodded intensely watching the other girl’s eyes “I love you.”
“I love you too. I don’t want to flip burgers not really” Divia chuckled a little “I really do want to get my degree in psychiatry.”
“I know” she whispered “it’ll only be a few months we’ll be apart.”
“We could call and text” Divia added.
“Plus you can home on the weekends” Liono added smiling at both of them. “So when’s the wedding?”
Both girls glanced at each other “we don’t have a date yet” Renee said.
“It just sort of came out” glancing at her hand “I don’t even have a ring yet.”
“We can help with that” Elyse said moving towards her room. A couple of minutes later she returned with a couple of small boxes. She exchanged a meaningful glance with Liono before saying “these were your grandmother’s rings. My mother gave me her engagement ring to give to my daughter and your father inherited his grandmother’s ring when his mother passed away.”
Clearing his throat Liono continued his husky as he held back his emotions “It would be an honor if you would take wear these rings as a symbol of your love for each other.”
He handed each of them a box his eyes unusually moist. Elyse kissed his cheek “my husband the old softy.”
“Dad I” Divia’s voice choked up as she glanced at the rings then at her parents. “I don’t know what to say” tears rolled down her cheeks and this time she didn’t feel the need to hide them. “Thank you.”
Slipping the ring on her finger Renee held her hand up admiring it. “It’s beautiful” her voice hushed as if she were afraid to break the mood.
“Your family now” Elyse beamed at the girl “you’ve made our little girl happy. Happier then we’ve ever seen.” She pulled the speechless girl into her warm embrace.
“Daddy” Divia cried throwing her arms around him. An action she never thought she’d ever feel comfortable doing a mere year ago. Now it seemed natural “I love you so so much.”
He grunted with the intensity of her hug. Somewhat awkwardly he wrapped his arms around her “I love you too. Even when I’m challenging you.”
“I know daddy” she pulled away to wipe at the tears flowing from her eyes. She no longer felt the fear she once had to show her emotions around the stoic man she no longer felt was hard as stone.
Vincent glanced at the downcast face of the girl sitting across from him in the passenger seat. “Trinity is something wrong?” his gentle voice broke the silence between them. “We can do something else. We don’t have to go to the beach.”
“No it’s fine,” she murmured lifting her face up to watch the scenery pass by her window. “I want to go to the beach.”
Vincent glanced towards her. Her lackluster voice only emphasizing that there was indeed something wrong. He gripped the steering wheel tight enough to turn his knuckles white. She hadn’t been the same since he mother called a week or so ago. “Is everything alright at home? With your mother?” He asked hoping that she would open up and talk to him.
“Hmm what?” she asked turning to look at him a distracted look in her dark expressive eyes.
“Your mom, is she ok?” he asked watching the traffic ahead of him afraid to glance over and see confirmation in her lovely face of what he feared was happening. The last few weeks had been like a dream to him. More than anything he wanted this dream to last.
“She’s fine” she said turning to look out the window again “she’s always fine.”
The lack of emotion in her voice only added to the ominous feeling he had twisting his insides into knots. If he wasn’t driving he’d pull her close to him. Something about the way she held herself had him thinking she was about to shatter into a million pieces like a fragile glass ornament would falling to the floor. He reached across the console dividing them. Took her hand “you know you can tell me anything right?” He squeezed her hand before she had a chance to tug her hand free. His hand felt empty afterwards matching the hallow feeling in his heart. He was losing her. He didn’t know how or why but he was losing her. “Trinity please tell me what’s wrong?”
Her head jerked at the entreaty in his voice. She could hear the hurt in his voice. She hadn’t meant to hurt him. She felt like she was caught in a riptide she couldn’t swim out of no matter how hard she tried. She kept getting further and further away from what she wanted most.
Moisture build up behind her eyes and a single tear rolled down the side of her nose. She hastily wiped it away before it had a chance to betray her true feelings. As perceptive as Vincent was to her moods he no doubt was aware of her melancholy state of mind.
With false cheer she forced a dazzling smile on her face. Turning towards her companion she said “what are we doing today?”
Vincent shivered at the fake cheer in her voice so reminiscent to the way things had been before. Mentally he shook himself. He wouldn’t go down that road. He wouldn’t start looking for similarities to the past. “Um” he mumbled thinking he had already told her “we’re having a picnic at the beach…”
“Sounds romantic” she batted her eyes at him falling into the habit of flirting when she didn’t want to think about what she was feeling. The concerned rise of Vincent’s eyebrows had her murmuring “sorry I…” she groped for words “I’m just really excited. I really like picnics.”
“Try to contain yourself a little while longer” he said trying to sound as cheery as she was “we’re almost there.” He had looked forward to this picnic for weeks. Picnics had always been a favorite of his since he was a little kid. His parents would take him to the park. Spread a blanket on the ground and cuddle together while he ran off to play. The weekend picnics had become some of his favorite memories of his childhood. He’d been hesitant to share that with Trinity. Afraid it’d be too provincial for her tastes. To his surprise and delight she had suggested a picnic as one of their first dates. Now he wondered if she had been trying to hard to please him. Pretending to like the same things he did. She could have learned of his love of picnics from his parents. They hadn’t exactly been shy about telling her about his embarrassing childhood antics.
Prompted by his sudden fear she was toying with him he said “we can do something else if you’d like. I know you wanted to try out that new roller coaster at Simmerica.” His heart raced at the thought of standing in a long line to ride what looked like a death trap. The long slow chug up to the first drop. The hesitation at the top before the first car toppled over the edge. The thought of it left him breathless.
“Why would I want to do that?” she asked evasively.
He could hear the irritation in her voice to match his own growing frustration. He felt trapped onto a course he couldn’t change like the Titanic going ever closer to the iceberg that was its eventual doom. Sighing he turned into a parking lot. Getting out he proceeded to unload the trunk handing her the blanket and beach umbrella while he took the rest. “Why don’t you choose the spot to set up our picnic,” he suggested. She simply nodded and walked towards the sandy beach. Two weeks ago she’d have insisted they walk together. Disappointment and fear made his chest feel heavy as he followed in her wake.
His mind distracted he didn’t notice where Trinity had spread their blanket until he almost walked past a couple flirting. Stopping his gaze riveted on the girl as she smiled up at the buff surfer dude as he wrote his number on her hand. “Give me a call sometime” the guy said flashing her his impossibly white teeth. He nodded towards Vincent as he walked off stopping briefly to pick up his surf board.
“Trinity” Vincent choked as if he were being strangled and his heart was being cut from his chest.
The smile she worn moments before faded and disappeared. “Vincent I didn’t see you standing there.” She hurried over to him to help with cooler.
“Are you breaking up with me?” he asked his Adam’s apple bobbing up and done in distress.
“Yes…no” she fell to her knees beside the cooler she dropped.. The contents spilling over the blanket. “I don’t know” she cried “I’m so confused.” She covered her face with her hands sobbing.
Her distress broke through his own daze of misery. “Talk to me. Give me a chance to help. Don’t just walk away from me.” He pulled her close. He could feel her shoulders heaving against him as she sobbed on his shoulder. Her hands twisting into his shirt.
“My mom she called” she gulped trying to calm herself.
Vince remained silent letting her talk. He had known something was up ever since her mom called a little over a week ago. Trinity had started to act strange soon afterwards, pushing him away in the process.
“I was so happy” Trinity pushed away from him sniffing, wiping at her eyes. “I wanted to share my happiness with her. I told her how you made me laugh. How special I felt around you.” Her eyes filled with confusion and hurt “she laughed at me. Said I was being naive and gullible if I thought you were different from any other guy.” Fresh tears erupted “she said I was a fool to believe in love. That I needed to keep moving on to the next fun interesting prospect and not settle for an ideal that would only leave me hurt in the end.”
“You believed her” it wasn’t statement of fact. He could see from her actions that she had. He wanted to pull her close, tell her she was wrong that she didn’t have to be like her mom. Then the image of the surfer and the way she leaned in close smiling up at him and he wondered.
“Don’t you?” she demanded “you saw what I was doing. Flirting. I promised I wouldn’t. I did. I didn’t even want to. I kept hearing me mother saying when the fun is over move on. I wanted to make it stop.” She looked up with troubled eyes “maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m not capable of love and relationships. Maybe I need to be with a different guy every week.”
“Trinity” he said her name hoping to catch her attention “were you happy before?”
“Before what?” she asked confused.
“Before with us. When it was just you and me.” He moved closer, his fingers gently drying the tears on her cheeks “did you enjoy being with me? Did you miss being with someone else?”
“Don’t be silly” she took a deep breath “when I was with you it was like no one else existed. That’s why I…” she looked up eyes wide “that’s why I was so excited to tell her I had found the one and if I could she could too.”
“Am I the one?” he asked ears buzzing stunned.
“I think so” her voice was small like she was almost afraid to admit it. Her lips twitched as she repeated “yes, yes you are” her voice full of certainty “you’re the one. The one I’d be willing to give up all others for.”
“Are you sure?” he asked pulling her close against his chest.
“I’m sure” she lifted hand to run through his short blond hair “you’re mine and I don’t want to give you up.”
“Good” he smiled brushing his lips over her’s “I think I’ve fallen in love with you.”
“I know I’ve fallen in love with you and it scared me” she pressed her lips firmly against his showing him how she felt. Pulling away a moment later to gaze into his eyes. She smiled up at him “I’m not scared anymore.”