“Mummy, look how high I can go!”
I smile. It feels wonderful, but my unease about being here overshadows it. “That’s great, sweety! Don’t go so high you go over the top!”
Thia giggles, and I force myself to turn back to Gabriel. Awkward silence fills the gap between us.
I nod. “She is.” I hoped that this conversation would be easy, but after all these years I only freeze. He has every right to be mad at me.
“You should have told me that I have a daughter.” The resentment in his voice hurts, the pain in his eyes cuts right through me.
“I know. I’m sorry. Life has been… difficult.”
“So you’ve said, but you won’t give me details.”
I swallow. He wants details? I haven’t told another soul about my family after that night. I don’t know if I have the energy to relive it again.
“I’m scared you won’t believe me.” It’s not a lie. I am scared.
“Why don’t you try me? I’d rather make that decision for myself.”
I can hardly look into his eyes, but something in his voice makes me look up anyway. The curse is gone. I am free. Isn’t this what I fought for?
“I appreciate it, but it’s… It’s difficult. I’d rather not talk about it. Ever.”
He sighs, and his gaze seizes me up. Finally, he shakes his head. “Maybe I was stupid to come here.” My heart stops. “But I’m even more stupid for saying this: Can you promise me that you’ll tell me one day?”
I hesitate. How can I promise that? I look away from him to our daughter, who is still trying to get ever higher on the swings and laughing to herself. I needed the distraction, but she gives me my answer, too.
I can promise anything for her sake.
I turn back to him, but don’t meet his eyes. I can’t. “I don’t know when I’ll be ready.”
“That’s fine. Please, Cara, look at me?” I take a deep breath, and do as he says.
His eyes are still mesmerizing.
There’s also no hint of anger left in them. They are soft, and sympathetic. They are everything I don’t deserve.
My eyes burn, but I make no effort to wipe the tears away. I swallow, and hope they’ll stay away on their own.
“I’ve missed you,” he says. “If I’d know that you were having a baby – our baby – I would have been there sooner. I want to be a part of her life, Cara. Please let me.”
I nod. I want him to be a part of her life, too. A part of my life. After everything I’ve done to get here, Thia deserves a normal life.
And I’d be lying if I said that my name on his lips doesn’t still make me melt.
“I’d like that.”
Gabriel smiles, and takes my hand into his. He plants a gentle kiss on my knuckles.
“Then could I interest you in dinner? I’ve been told I’m an excellent cook.”
I can’t help but smile now. I’m the one who told him, but I never thought he’d remember.
“I’d love to.”
I finally have a future, and I be damned if I waste it.