When I got home, Megan started to cry. I dropped the key as Elvira rocked her.
"Megan, what's wrong?" I asked, running to her. "Are you sick? Do you hurt?" She nodded but she cried too much to answer. "Where, baby?"
"Her heart," Elvira whispered, a few tears falling down her face and I frowned.
"What is it?" I asked, kneeling on the floor beside her.
"I'm sorry!" Megan wailed and launched herself into my arms.
I was confused as Elvira wiped her tears away, stroking Megan's hair. Megan was crying so hard, her words were incomprehensible. I waited until she calmed down enough.
"What happened, Meggie?" I whispered.
"I can't make you happy!" she cried and I looked at Elvira.
"I think I deserve some explanations," I said darkly and Elvira sighed.
"I didn't say anything, Thomas," she whispered.
"Don't be mad at Miss Elly!" Megan cried. "It's my fault! Everything is!"
I shook my head and wiped her tears away with my thumb.
"What are you talking about, Megan?"
"Y-You had t-t-to l-l-leave M-Mommy and D-D-Daddy for me," she sobbed. "A-A-And y-y-you're sad and I c-c-can't make you happy!"
"Oh, Meggie," I groaned, shutting my eyes and holding her as close as I could. "No, sweetie. No, it's not your fault. Daddy was going in for Mommy, baby, remember? He went back in for his princess and I went back in for mine. I love you so much." I kissed her forehead. "You make me happy, Meggie, and I'm sorry I haven't told you."
She just cried and snuggled closer, burying her face in my shoulder. Elvira had gotten up to make some tea and I kept rocking Megan. Eventually, she calmed down only to fall asleep. I sighed and picked her up, carrying her into her room. I tucked her in and brushed her hair out of her face. Her face was red from crying so much. I wondered how long she had felt this way. Why did she tell Elvira and not me?
I kissed her forehead again and closed the door a little. No wonder she was afraid I was going to disappear. She thought I blamed her for everything.
“Here,” Elvira whispered, putting a mug in front of me as I sat at the dining room.
“Sorry I snapped,” I muttered. I looked at Megan’s door while Elvira sat beside me. “I didn’t know that she felt that way. Why didn’t she tell me?”
“She was worried it would upset you more,” she answered. I took a sip of the tea. It was strong but tasted fine just the same. “She thought you would yell at her.”
I shook my head and ran a hand through my hair. When I put my hand back on the table, she reached over to hold it. I smiled a little and squeezed her hand.
“How did you get her to talk about it?”
Elvira sighed. “We were drawing.” She reached over and showed me two pictures. “The first one she drew for me. She… well, she said that she wanted to remind me you’d always keep me safe.” I blushed and groaned when I saw the second one. “I think…. I think this is your mother and father.”
“It probably is,” I nodded. I sighed wearily. “What do I do, Elvira?”
“Like I said: hold her, make sure she knows you’ll never leave her.” She smiled and nudged me a little. “It wouldn’t hurt to smile a little bit more around her.”
I chuckled. “There hasn’t been much to smile about lately,” I admitted.
She bit her lower lip and I looked at her. She was looking nervous and I frowned. I could tell she wanted to speak so I remained silent.
Suddenly, she leaned over and kissed me. I was taken aback but kissed her back, closing my eyes and touching her cheek gently. I had missed kissing her. She ran her hand into my hair and I moved her chair closer. At her prompting, we deepened the kiss and I resisted the urge to touch anything but her cheek.
When she pulled away, she was blushing.
“Does that help?” she whispered and I laughed softly, caressing her cheek.
“Yes, yes it does.”
She smiled shyly then yawned. “Where will I be sleeping?”
“You can sleep in my bed,” I said. “I’ll sleep in Megan’s room on the floor.”
She frowned. “No. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.” She thought for a second. “Is Megan’s bed big enough for two?”
I smiled softly. “Yeah it is.”
She pecked my lips lightly then went into the room, smiling once before closing it back to where it was before. I sighed and looked at my mug, thinking about her kiss. It was beautiful. To know she kissed me to help lift my spirits even after what Daniel did to her…. I shut my eyes.
Before I could stop myself, I wondered what it would be like to hold her, to feel her skin on my fingers. I imagined lying beside her in a bed, her hair splayed out on the pillow and the blankets barely covering her naked body.
“No, Thomas,” I groaned, rubbing my temples.
Poor Elvira was going through all this trauma and I was having lustful thoughts. I shut my eyes and went to bed.
“Perfectly normal,” Bryant said and I sighed.
“Doesn’t feel right,” I grumbled, tossing a rock into the water.
We were down by the harbor eating lunch. I had told him of last night. I no longer saw him as Elvira’s brother and I knew he didn’t look at me like the man courting his sister. We were friends now and I was comfortable with telling him everything.
“I know but Elvira is a beautiful woman,” he said and we looked over our shoulders.
Megan had school so Elvira came with me. She was doing laundry with Candace and hanging them up on the line, clipping it in place and they were both giggling.
“Just as long as you don’t act on them or entertain them,” Bryant said, “then you’re okay.”
I shook my head. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone before,” I admitted. “I love her, Mr. Ri- Bryant.”
He smiled. “Yeah, I know you do. She’s an incredibly lucky young woman.”
I sighed. “I can’t keep having those thoughts about her, though.”
“I feel like I’m disrespecting her,” I said, tossing the crust of my sandwich to some ducks swimming in the water.
He looked at me curiously. “When you look at her, what do you see?”
I shrugged. “What I’ve always seen: beauty. I like her dresses,” I added. “Although some of them look uncomfortable.”
He grinned and clapped my back. “Well, there you go.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said.
“You’re not imagining her naked right now, are you?”
“Of course not. That would be….”
I trailed off and he gave me a knowing smile.
“You’re a man, Thomas. A man who is in love with a beautiful young woman that’s living with him. It’s natural.”
“My father never got around to talking about that with me,” I said, running a hand through my hair. “He died before he could.”
“Well, my dad was able to. Any questions you have, ask away,” he said and I smiled a little.
“Thank you, Bryant,” I said quietly.
He smiled. “What are friends for?”