“Brandon,” Dad cleared his throat and stepped up to my other side, “who is that?”
“Th-that –” I paused for a moment to collect myself, determined to not start crying. With my hormones all over the place already, it’s safe to say I was having a difficult time, “That’s Sir. That’s my father.”
The room fell quiet for about three whole seconds. “And may I ask what makes you think you’re welcome here?”
My jaw dropped and Dad audibly inhaled. You just didn’t talk to Sir that way.
“Please forgive my wife.” Dad started and shifted a fraction closer to me, “I’m Robert Grayson, that is my wife Claire,” he gestured over to Bree, “my daughter Breanna and her fiancé Konrad.”
Sir nodded and cleared his throat, “The ones that called and e-mailed.” He stated. “I appreciate what you’ve done for Harper.”
Brandon left my side to take Sir’s bag and set it down in the hallway, “You can sit, can I get you anything to eat or drink?”
“No thank you, I’m fine.” With an outstretched hand he closed the distance between us, “Harper. You look well.”
I took a step away from him and looked at my husband, “You knew about this?”
His face was tense but his eyes were full of worry. Before he could answer, Sir did it for him.
“He’s been writing me at least once a month for over a year now. The last one he sent with an airline ticket.”
I couldn’t hold back anymore, I was about to finish what Mom had just started, “So that’s the only reason you would come see me or talk to me? Because my husband bought you a ticket here? What makes you think I wanted to see you? You disowned me!” My voice was shaky but raising, “You cut me out of your life, you wanted nothing to do with me or Liam.” He took a step toward me and again I took one back, “You’ve never wanted anything to do with me!”
“That’s not true.” Sir’s voice wavered and it stopped me where I stood.
Had the world just stopped turning? Had hell frozen over? The Sir I knew was emotionless. The man in front of me looked pained and his chin was quivering slightly.
“Do you know that in the last two years I’ve felt more love from this family” I pointed toward where everyone was sitting behind me, “than I ever felt from you?”
“Mom.” Brandon said softly and gave her a look.
“Oh. Right, we’ll be outside.” She said and everyone started standing.
Turning, I saw Bree holding Liam and reached my arms out. “Please Bree.” I needed to hold my son, I needed that comfort of having him in my arms. Bree gladly handed him over and was the last one to walk into the back yard.
“Babe, do you want me to go out too?”
I grabbed Brandon’s hand and gripped tight, “Don’t you dare leave me right now.” Looking directly into his eyes, I shook my head, “I can’t believe you would do this without telling me.”
“Harper I – even with everything that’s happened, I know you wish you had a different relationship with him. You were devastated when there was no response from him again last summer, I couldn’t just stop trying to reach him yet. There was never any word from him and I sent him an open ended ticket over a month ago, with the last letter I was going to send him, and I told him that. He called me a week and a half ago, we talked for a bit and he decided he would come.” He cupped one cheek and brought his other arm around both Liam and me, “I know this is hard for you, and Robert is a great Dad Harper, but you need Sir in your life too. Please understand why I continued to try to reach him.”
Oh Brandon. Of course I understood. I just wish he would have given me some warning. I pressed my lips to his for a few seconds and gave him a small smile, “Thank you. You’re right, thank you so much.” Brandon’s relief was palpable and it helped ease the tension in the room. Turning to Sir, I gestured behind him, “You’re more than welcome to sit, Sir. We can talk.”
He offered a smile much like the one I had just given Brandon and sat down in the chair closest to him. Brandon and I sat on the couch facing him, and I kept a tight grip on Liam as I tried to figure out what would make Sir want to be in my life suddenly.
“He sure looks a lot like you.” Sir said after a few awkward minutes of silence. His gaze was fixed on Liam and…was that a smile?
Clearing my throat, I instinctively hugged Liam closer. I’d never seen baby photos of myself, but my son definitely didn’t look anything like his father. Other than his eyes, there wasn’t a trace of Chase in him. And even those were different, Chase’s had been a darker electric blue, Liam’s were such a pale blue that people did a double take and then were completely mesmerized by them. They looked like a Siberian husky’s eyes.
“I know I’m late, but congratulations on the wedding and him…it’s Liam, right?”
I nodded, “Liam Chase Taylor.”
“Brandon told me the significance of his name, that’s a great way of honoring their lives.”
“And what else did Brandon tell you?” I asked through clenched teeth. This man wanted nothing to do with my life, and he thinks he can comment on why we named him Liam Chase?
“Sweetheart.” Brandon said softly.
“No, I want to know what all you’ve told him.” Looking back over to Sir, I continued, “And I want to know why you’re here. This is the longest conversation we’ve had in years, I haven’t heard back from you in over a year and a half, then all of a sudden you’re in our home!”
“I’ve told him everything,” Brandon pulled me closer to his side, “Chase, my fighting, Liam’s birth, our wedding, the gym…other than what’s happened in the last month, he knows everything.”
“Well then, let me fill you in.” I seethed, I couldn’t seem to control my anger right now, “Brandon and I are having another baby, Brandon fought again, and I disappeared for a day.”
Sir’s eyes dropped to my stomach and Brandon looked like he was regretting not telling me about this. As he should.
“Oh!” I started again, “And Jason Carter came back into our lives and told me how you helped him come here so he could be with me. Thanks for that by the way, it’s nice to know you two tried to plan out my life without asking me first.”
Sir shook his head, his eyes narrowing slightly, “That was never my intention, from my conversations with Sergeant Carter, it was implied that you shared his feelings, I was simply helping.”
“Helping? Nice.” I had barely found out that Carter had been ranked Sergeant when his service ended. How did Sir know that? Were they still in touch?
“Harper,” Brandon whispered close to my ear, “baby try to calm down. He wants to talk to you.”
“Then talk.” I directed at Sir.
Brandon sighed and ran a hand over his face, keeping it there for a moment. Sir shifted forward in his chair just watching me until my anger slowly started to subside.
“I know I wasn’t the best father, and I know there are a lot of things I should have handled differently since you moved here.” He stopped to clear his throat, “But I always wanted you Harper, you were the only thing that kept me going when Janet di – when she died.”
His eyes watering finished off my almost non-existent anger. My chest ached watching the strongest – emotionally – man I knew slowly start to break down.
“If it weren’t for you, I don’t know how I would have continued my life, but I didn’t know what to do with a baby, especially a girl. Her family hadn’t approved of our relationship, and I’d run away from mine when I joined the military. Your life wasn’t ideal for you, I’m sure, but that’s all I thought I could do for you. You being there was what made me get up every day, and I know I wasn’t around much, but you look and act so much like your mother it killed me to be around you. Not that that constitutes as an excuse, nothing excuses my behavior. It wasn’t your fault you reminded me of her, and I should have embraced it rather than pull away from you.
“When you left for school, I had a hard time adjusting, and hearing your voice over the phone made it harder. I started working more, staying on base longer, and only communicated with you via e-mail. I thought distancing myself further would help me cope with you leaving.”
My head was swimming, I couldn’t believe everything he was telling me. I hadn’t known anything different until I moved here, so I hadn’t hated my life growing up until I started hanging around with the Graysons. I started hating Sir for how distant he’d been, and though I’d always figured it was because of my mother, I had no idea how much her death still affected him to this day. Hearing his words made it difficult to continue hating this man at all. My arms were twitching, wanting to wrap around Sir for the first time in my life, but he didn’t usually say this much to me during one month of living together, and I was afraid if I moved or said anything, it would all stop.
“I will never forgive myself for the way I responded to the e-mail you sent when you found out you were pregnant.” Sir whispered, his tear-filled eyes never leaving mine, “It was the exact same thing Janet’s parents told her when we found out she was pregnant with you. They hated that she was with someone in the military, hated me even though I’d never spoken to, or seen them. We hadn’t been together long, but I knew I wanted to marry her, and the only thing that stopped us was her parents. When they disowned her for not aborting you, we married that next weekend and I’d never been happier. We were so young, she was barely eighteen and I was nineteen, but we were on top of the world and I couldn’t wait for you to come along.
“I was terrified for you when I read that e-mail, and I stupidly thought I could keep you safe if I could stop you from going down the same path your mother and I had been on. As soon as I sent the e-mail, I wanted to die. I couldn’t believe I’d done that, I knew you would never do something so heartless, and that you would probably never forgive me either. Claire Grayson called me that day, and to put it mildly, she didn’t hold anything back. I was glad you had a family that loved you the way I’d never shown you, and figured you not forgiving me would be for the best. So that’s why I stayed silent, even after you all tried to reach me before Liam was born and for your wedding. I thought staying away would be the best thing for you and your new family. Brandon’s letters helped me with that; I was able to know more than I probably would have if we’d continued talking the way we always have. But when he said he wasn’t going to continue writing me, I panicked. I thought I was helping you, but I know all I’ve done was hurt you. I do love you Harper, I’ve always loved you.”
My jaw dropped. That was the first time he’d ever said that to me.
“I’m proud of the woman you’ve become. You have handled everything life has thrown at you in a way not many could, and I’m thankful you didn’t let certain things ruin your life the way I let them do mine. You have a great family, I couldn’t be happier with your choice in Brandon. It’s obvious how much he loves you and Liam, and if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here now.” He looked over at Brandon, “Thank you son, for everything.”