“Mommy” Aubrey called from the kitchen table.
Glancing up from the computer screen Trinity frowned. “Mommy’s busy right now” she said turning back to her work and the two columns that refused to balance. She had been at it for several hours and she still couldn’t balance the books of her biggest account.
“But mommy” Aubrey’s voice was small and insignificant compared to the problems she was having.
“Not now” she said going back to her sums that refused to make sense.
Aubrey sat with her head down, teas trickling down her cheeks. Silently she scooted her chair out and methodically began to put her colors away. Carefully she tore the page she had been coloring from her book. With deliberate strokes she printed her name at the bottom. It was the way the famous artist did at the museum her daddy took her to.
Taking her picture she tiptoed over to where her mother was muttering over her computer. A slight rustle of paper alerted Trinity to the little girls presence. “Aubrey” she sighed “I said not now.”
Startled Aubrey let her drawing slip through her fingers and flutter to her mother’s desk. She squeaked turning and ran to her room.
Trinity’s eyes fell upon the drawing her daughter had been working on. It was very good for a five-year old. Picking it up from her desk she wondered when she had turned into her mother. She had spent most of her childhood trying to get her mom’s attention.
Saving her non-progress she stood up. Avoiding Vincent’s eyes as she walked across the room towards her daughter’s bedroom door. Knocking softly she opened the door to find her daughter curled up on her bed shoulders shaking. “Aubrey” she called softly crossing the room. Sitting on the edge of the bed she stroked her daughters fluffy head “I’m sorry.”
There was no perceptible change in the small figure lying with her back turned. “Sweetie I’m sorry” Trinity tried again. “I like the picture you colored for me.”
Sniffling Aubrey sat up rubbing her eyes. “You do” she asked her voice low uncertain.
“Of course I do” Trinity nodded “I’m going to have it framed so I can have it on my desk all the time.”
The corners of Aubrey’s mouth quirked upwards. “You really like it that much” her eyes were round with surprise. “I could make you another one. One that’s even better. I mean I got out of the lines there. The color isn’t quite right.” Her small hands reached for the picture to take it from her mother’s hands.
Gently Trinity kept the picture from her daughter’s reach. “It’s perfect the way it is.”
“It’s not good enough” Aubrey insisted “I can do better.”
It hurt hearing her daughter’s words. Trinity never saw herself being a mother and she found out she was expecting she had cried for a week. Her biggest fear was coming to reality. She was becoming her own mother. Demanding perfection. Lifting her daughter’s quivering chin up she smiled down into her daughter’s eyes. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. You made it for me. That’s all that matters. I love it because you made it for me.”
“I’m sorry mommy” Aubrey leaned into her.
“For what sweetie” she asked
“For disturbing you while you worked” she mumbled looking at the floor.
“I’m sorry for getting upset with you” Trinity said kissing the top of her daughter’s head.
“Now that you’ve apologized to each other” a deep voice said from the door “maybe we could all go out for dinner and a movie.”
“Yeah” Aubrey cried running to hug her father.
Smiling Trinity joined them moving a little slower but with no less excitement than her daughter. “It sounds like a date.”
“Daddy watch” Aubrey called trying to get his attention.
Smiling Vincent turned from Trinity “I’m watching.”
“You sure” she demanded hands on hips.
“Positive” he got his phone out ready to capture her latest feat.
“Alright here goes” she poised herself in the sand. Her feet spaced evenly apart as she took off to make the best cart-wheel ever. Halfway through she lost her balance causing her to fall to her knees in the loose sand.
“That was awesome” Vincent clapped.
“I didn’t do it right” she complained crossing her arms.
“It was a very good attempt” Trinity said coming up beside her daughter. “Next time you’ll do better.”
“But I wanted it to be perfect now” she pouted.
“You can’t be perfect at everything” Vincent said putting his phone away. “Let’s go for a swim” he suggested.
“No” Aubrey shook her head “I don’t want to.”
Kneeling in front of his daughter he asked “what do you want to do then?”
Thinking for a moment Aubrey smiled. “I want to build a sand castle.”
“Ok” he grinned sitting in the sand with her.
“Not with you Daddy” she objected “I want to do it by myself.”
Vincent stood up watching his five-year old daughter select a different spot in the sand to build her sand castle. Looking down as a hand landed on his forearm “my little girl doesn’t need me anymore.” He was half-joking despite the ache in his heart.
“She’s growing up” Trinity said moving to the blanket where they had their picnic lunch a couple of hours ago.
“She’s five” Vincent protested joining her.
“Don’t worry she still loves you” she assured him.
“I hope so” he muttered tossing a handful of sand in the air.
“I love you” Trinity said reaching for his hand eyes sparkling in the sunshine.
“That’s not the same” he pouted.
“What am I old cheese” she demanded moving to get up.
Grabbing her hand he pulled her down to him. “That’s not what I’m saying. I love you to the moon and back.”
“I love you too even though your still as sappy as ever.” She giggled as his hands went around her waist slipping lower to her hips. “Not here” she warned “people are watching.”
“Let them watch” he nuzzled his nose into the side of her neck placing soft kisses along her collar-bone.
“What about Aubrey” she asked trying not to give in to her growing desire.
“She’s seen us kiss before” he tilted his head back “we’re on vacation. Relax.”
“I’m trying” Trinity muttered leaning into him.
“You know what our problem is don’t you” Vincent asked after a moment or two of silence.
Trinity scowled up at her husband “what is our problem?”
“We don’t take near as many vacations as we should” he gave her a bland innocent look “we don’t know how to act while on vacation.”
“I’m not the only one who works too much” she grumbled taking offense.
Making hand dampening motions Vincent sighed. “I didn’t mean it that way” his eyes glancing towards their daughter making sure she was still occupied with building sand castles.
“You implied it” she huffed. Sitting up she pulled her knees to her chest. Her eyes looked out of the ocean waves. “I’m sorry” she apologized a moment later “I’m never any fun anymore.”
“That could change” Vincent said making sure to keep his tone light.
“Not anytime soon” she retorted “I have the Brockhaven case to review next. You know how awful their books are.”
“Do you like your job” he asked her.
“What” she blinked at him like she didn’t quite understand his question.
“Do you like your job” he repeated enunciating each word carefully.
“Of course I do” she flipped her hand dismissively.
“It’s not what you had wanted to do in college” he pointed out.
Her shoulders rose and fell as she dropped her gaze to the sand. Her fingers drew circles. “We need the money” she said it like that was all there was to it.
Reaching for her hand Vincent stilled her idle circle drawing. “It’s not your fault” he said gently.
Staring at his hand, his thumb gently rubbing the top of her hand. “I keep thinking if I hadn’t been so caught up in my career things would be different now. If I hadn’t forgotten about our dinner date. If I had left earlier, even a minute sooner things would have been different.”
“Honey it’s not your fault” his voice cracked as he battled the emotions that were bubbling up inside him.
Jerking her hand away “it was my fault don’t you get it? I was driving. I was rushing. My mind was on all the things I left unfinished. I was thinking of my job, my career instead of paying attention to the road. Maybe if I hadn’t been distracted I could have seen what was going to happen. I keep thinking I could have prevented it.”
She stumbled to her feet Vincent following her. “Don’t do this to yourself. It wasn’t your fault. It was an accident. A terrible accident.”
Her left hand reached out to him while her right hand softly traced the scars on his once unmarred handsome face. “If I had been going slower it would have been you who had died that night. Instead it was a little boy.” Her face crumpled as she remembered the screeching of tires and crunching of metal as the truck tore into their car as it ran the stop light that night almost 2 years ago.
Pulling her close Vincent held her as the memories tore her apart. He rubbed her back whispering soothing words as she cried into his shoulder. The accident had been the reason she quit her job despite his protests. He knew even if she didn’t at the time it was her way of punishing herself for the accident. An accident that was out of her control.
“Daddy” Aubrey tugged on his pants leg “Is Mommy ok.”
“She’s a little sad” he smiled down at his wild haired little girl.
“Is she missing Toby” she asked.
He felt Trinity shiver in his arms at the mention of their son’s name. “Yes she is sweetie.”
“Mommy” Aubrey waited a moment looking up waiting for her mom to look down at her. “It’s alright if you still miss him. I do too… a lot.”
“Thank you sweetie” she sniffed moving from her husband’s arms. “I didn’t mean to make you sad too thinking about Toby on day like today.”
“I’m not sad” Aubrey insisted shaking her head. “Toby wouldn’t want me to be sad. So I made up my mind to be sad.”
“You’re right” Trinity agreed shocked when her daughter threw her arms around her in imitation of her father.
“Love you Mommy” she murmured. Pulling back Aubrey asked “can we go see my friends now?”
“Are you down playing already” Trinity asked glancing at the half-finished sand castle.
Shrugging Aubrey shuffled over to it. “It wasn’t very good anyway” she kicked at the walls with her feet until it caved onto itself.
Vincent exchanged glances with his wife before squatting down beside his daughter. “Sweetie not everything has to be perfect.”
“I know” she mumbled.
“Then why” he gestured towards the ruined castle.
Shrugging she crossed his arms “I didn’t like it anymore.” She looked up her chin set in a stubborn line “can we go now?”
“As soon as you pick up your things” Vincent told her. It worried him that since the accident Aubrey had become obsessed with the idea that she had to be perfect in everything she did. Any little mistake had her either quitting or sulking.
Joining Trinity at the picnic he sighed “maybe we should reconsider family counseling.”
Nodding she glanced towards the ocean. A far away look in her dark eyes. “You’re right we should” she said putting the last remnants of their picnic away.
Turning her towards him “I’m sorry” he murmured “this wasn’t a very good idea coming here.”
Looking up at him, her eyes moist, she shook her head. “It was a wonderful idea. We needed this. Our family needed this.”
“But…” he looked away to watch Aubrey picking up seashells along the beach. Every time the waves washed up on the sand around her ankles she’d giggle.
“Do you hear that” Trinity asked “that’s our little girl. No matter what that giggle was worth it.” She drew his head down to hers placing her lips over his to shush his next comments. “We’ll get through this. Maybe not today but sometime we will be a family again.”
By the time they made it back to the resort everyone was outside by the pool. Aubrey squealed in delight running to join her friends. “Jason, Royal you made it” she shouted.
“We’ve been here for hours” Royal informed her.
“Have not” Jason contradicted.
“Have too” Royal insisted glaring at his twin.
“Whatever” Jason muttered wandering off as his twin and Aubrey started to whispering into each other’s ears. “Benji can I join you guys?”
Benjamin looked up with a ready grin “sure Jason. We’re about to start the races.”
“What races” he asked confused.
“Wheelbarrow races” Christopher said “it’s me and Justice. Noble and Loyal. You and Ben.”
“All we need now is a judge” Justice said eyeing the adults to see which one they could rope into their little game.
“Grandpa will do it” Noble assured everyone.
Loyal shook his head “I doubt it.”
“How come” Noble persisted brows knitting together.
“Derek is here” Loyal giggled “they’re in love.” He made kissy faces to the amusement of the other boys in the group.
“Eew gross” Benjamin scrunched up his nose like he smelled something bad.
“You mean they kiss and stuff” Jason asked.
“Yeah gross” Benjamin affirmed.
“That’s not gross” Jason protested “I kiss my mommies all the time.”
“That’s different” Benjamin insisted.
Perplexed Jason asked “why?”
“It just is” his friend insisted.
“Ask him anyway” Christopher said to Loyal “I bet he’ll do it for us.”
Glancing over at his Grandpa Loyal shrugged. “He looks preoccupied” using a word he heard his parents use when he and his brothers were in the middle of some game or movie.
“You don’t even know what that means” Christopher objected.
“I do too” Loyal snapped “it means he’s busy.”
Glancing at Graham he shrugged “doing what? Holding hands? He can do that while he’s judging the race. Just ask him. We can’t have a race without a judge.”
“I’ll do it” Noble volunteered marching off towards the adults. “Grandpa will you be our judge?”
Graham smiled down at his grandson “a judge? For what?”
“For the race” Noble pointed towards the others who waved back “we’re having a wheelbarrow race and we need a judge.”
“Can’t I just watch” Graham asked reluctant to leave Derek by himself.
Derek nudged him “go ahead. The kids need a judge. I’ll watch.”
“You don’t mind” Graham asked taking his grandson’s hand to the excited clapping of the others.
“Why would I mind” Derek smirked “I have a much better view from here.”
“No mushy stuff” Noble warned “a judge has to keep his eyes on the race.”
“No mushy stuff” Derek promised eyes on Graham’s face.
Graham’s cheeks held a slight blush as he allowed his grandson to guide him to the finish line and explain his duties as judge. He could feel Derek’s eyes watching him giving him a peculiar warm feeling inside his stomach. It was nice to feel desirable again he thought as he waited for the kids organize themselves for the race. He waved at Derek while he waited. It had been too long since anyone had made him feel this way. He caught Charity watching him, a knowing grin on her face. He may not have much to be thankful from the years he had been with Zane but their daughter was of the good things. He wouldn’t regret that or the grand kids that resulted from it for anything.