CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN
"What do you mean, 'Niall'?" Dad says with an utterly confused look upon his face. I cringe internally, hoping that the Earth would somehow swallow me whole.
"I...I wanted to..."
Fuck. I couldn't do this. "I just wanted to know if...um... you knew how Uncle Niall was...um...really doing."
Fuck me. I couldn't do anything right.
"Oh." He doesn't let go of my hand, but he loosens his grip a bit. "What do you mean, baby?"
"Well, I don't know...getting divorced, losing his dad, moving back...bit much has happened hasn't it?"
"Yes. But...he seems fine doesn't he?"
"I guess." I say trying to end the conversation.
"He's just...he's been through a lot, Ems. Give him some time."
"Yeah, I know."
"How has he been acting?"
"Oh, fine. I was just...wondering. You know? I know he'd never really tell me how he was feeling." And in part that was true. Every time I'd try to even mention anything of the subject, Niall would get extremely defensive.
"Well, you know...Niall and his dad were really close. It's just been a really rough time for him."
"What about his wife?"
"It just didn't work out, I guess."
"But they were only married for what? Four years? That's not a long time..."
Dad furrows his brow, "Why does that matter?"
"I was just...wondering..."
"Yeah?" I'm digging a hole for myself with this question, I can feel it. I should have never brought it up.
"You remember when Uncle Niall got married?"
"Why didn't you come to the wedding with us?"
"I was sick."
"Baby, we all knew you weren't sick."
I recall that day, all those years ago. I hadn't been sick, I had feigned it. But I couldn't muster the strength to watch Niall marry a stranger. I just couldn't. Instead, I stayed at home and counted away the hours.
"I was too." I try to protest.
"Ems, baby, I know you weren't sick. We all knew you weren't sick. You just...you didn't want to see him get married did you?"
"Dad..." I say turning away slightly, feeling my face flush.
"It's...It's okay Emma. You can tell me the truth."
His grasp tightens around my hand and I look down at it, willing myself not to say anything that would implicate me, "I just...you know I really liked Niall then. I couldn't..."
"You didn't want to see him leave forever?"
"No. I didn't."
My mind immediately goes back to phone call I made to Niall on his wedding day, his voice urgently telling me "I love you Emma, I promise you, one day I'll make it up to you. One day I'll be back for you. But you know I'm here for you, love. I always will be."
He had broken my heart that day, I didn't think anyone but Uncle Louis had really known.
"He came back." Dad says with a slight smile.
"Yeah, he did."
"You know he came back for you, Ems."
My face flushes even more so, "Why would you say that?"
"Baby, he told me so. He said he had made a promise to a little girl that he'd be back for her. Isn't that you, love?"
Dad exhales, never once letting go of my hand. I look at his large hand upon mine and study the airplane, my favorite of all his tattoos. And as my sight moves upwards near his wrist, I spot my name and Ollie's in Hebrew.
"Do you still fancy your Uncle Niall, Emma?" Dad's tone of voice shifts, and immediately it's filled with nervous anxiety.
"I just...I don't...but..." I look down at the table, unable to find the words to say.
"Do you love him?" Dad mutters, avoiding eye contact.
"Are you in love with him?"
"Emma, are you sure?"
I nod. Knowing that this would be the end of it for now, and regretting so deeply that I was unable to tell him. I should tell him, shouldn't I? Didn't dad deserve to know?
"You can tell me things, Ems. You know you can." He says with a sad smile, not quite believing me, but not quite willing to admit it to himself.
"I know I can, dad. I know." It was a matter of finding the courage to do so.
"Alright then, enough of this." Dad gives my hand a pat before letting go and getting off his stool. "Let's make a snack yeah? I'm feeling a bit hungry."
"What are you in the mood for?"
"How about some pancakes?"
I smile, "It's been forever since you made pancakes."
"Well, I do need my lovely assistant."
"Does the assistant get to choose what pancakes you make?"
"Indeed she does."
I hop off my stool and head off into the pantry, pulling a bag of chocolate chips off the top shelf, "Chocolate chip pancakes it is!"
"Somehow I knew it would be chocolate chip." Dad says with a smirk, "But, since my lovely assistant gets to choose, then I guess I can't complain." He kisses the top of my forehead, before taking the bag from my hands.
"I think we need two bags."
He chuckles loudly, "Don't push it, Ems."
I wish that I could magically fix this. I wish that somehow, dad wasn't going to think this was his fault for not protecting me. I get the feeling that he's deluding himself into believing me. He wants so badly to believe that I am not in love with Niall, that what I tell him is true, that I'm still the little girl I once was. I wish I could still be.
I don't want to break his heart.
"Baby? The pancakes are going to burn, what kind of assistant are you?"
I look up frantically at the griddle and get the spatula. Dad simply takes the spatula from my hands and flips them like a pro.
"Used to it." He jokes. "Edie! Ollie! We've made pancakes! I suggest you get down here before they're all gone!"
I hear Ollie excitedly make his way down the stairs, and know that mum would be down shortly after. As I get the plates out of the cabinet, Ollie runs up behind me to look at the stack we've made.
"Yes, bud." I say lifting the plate and bring it to the table.
"You guys are the best." He says wrapping his arms around my waist.
"Oh, what do we have here?" Mum says approaching the table. She smiles widely, "Just like the old days."
"Not quite." Dad says with a smile, "Much better."
We stayed up late, not quite realizing how late until Ollie had fallen asleep next to the leftover pancakes. Dad carries him upstairs, mum following them both, leaving me in the kitchen to clean up the plates.
But left alone once more, my thoughts start to torment me. If I were to tell Niall that I wanted to tell dad, he would most likely encourage me to do so...would he not? He had already said once before that we should, what if we actually do. What if we sit down and explain it to him?
I wanted to spare him at least the pain of being lied to. At least this way...at least we would be the one's to tell him.
But the thought of dad's heart breaking because of me, I don't think I could bear it.