"Sure," my dad said distractedly as he pulled a pot roast out of the oven and placed it on the counter next to the stove. "Can you take the baked potatoes out to your mom?"
I frowned, and shot a quick glance at Uncle Russel. He was leaning against the wall right inside the kitchen. Our eyes met, and he gave me a nod of encouragement. Ok, so I'm not supposed to take the potato thing as a sign against doing this. Good to know. My heart, which was pounding and shedding years of it's life like a sick dogs fur, disagreed.
"No, dad. I need to talk to you. It's important," I said.
My dad paused midway through cutting up the roast. He turned around and gave me one of those indulgent 'oh look, my teenager thinks something important again' looks. God, I hated those.
"More important than helping your mom set the table?" he asked teasingly.
I sighed nervously. Wow, even my exasperation is shaking with fear. "Yeah. Kind of a lot more."
"Ok," he said. "Russ can you get the potatoes? Oh, and ask Sarah if she knows where the corkscrew is. Actually, don't bother. Sarah! Where did you put the corkscrew?"
"In the drawer! Where it always is!" My mom yelled in from the dining room.
"It wasn't there, I checked!"
"Then it's still in the dishwasher!"
"Thanks!" my dad yelled. "Andrew can you get the corkscrew out of the dishwasher so Russ can take it in to your mom?"
"Dad, no, I-"
"We can talk while I cut, just help out a little, ok? It's not going to kill you," he said.
"Drew," Russel said, stopping my dad as he was turning back to the roast. And stopping me from saying something that I'd probably regret. Not that that wasn't gonna be the theme tonight anyway. "You really should listen to what Andy has to say."
My dad opened his mouth, but whatever he was gonna say never made it out. Maybe he saw something in Uncle Russel's expression, or maybe he finally noticed the way I was slightly shaking, or how I was paler than usual, or how my hands had a death grip on the sides of my pants. Whatever it was, he slowly closed his mouth and furrowed his brow.
"What's going on?" he asked slowly. "Is something wrong? Andrew, are you in trouble?"
A high pitched, shaky laugh forced its way out of my throat. It made me wince and my dad frown. Trouble? Oh, not yet dad, but just wait a few seconds...
"Andrew, are you ok?" my dad asked. He sounded worried now. I felt slightly guilty for that, but not as bad as I was gonna feel and, oh God, I'm stalling. I know I am but I can't freaking stop.
"Andy," Russel said gently. "Go on. Remember what I told you, it'll be fine."
He's still gonna love you. I tried to think only that. He's still gonna love you. He's still gonna love you. Uncle Russel isn't wrong. He's still gonna love you.
"What's that mean? Russel, do you know what's going on?" my dad asked sharply. "Tell me, now."
He didn't say anything though. And I knew he wouldn't. It had to be me.
"D-dad," I squeaked. I cleared my throat. "Dad. I'm, um, gay."
My hair seemed to slide in front of my face on its own, like it knew I wanted to hide and was trying to protect me. I brushed it back behind my ears. This wasn't something I could hide from, no matter what I wanted.
"What?" my dad asked, confused.
"I'm...gay," I said. It came out stronger and surer and I was surprised at how much easier it was the second time. So I tried a third. "I'm gay, dad."
There was a clang from the dining room that sounded like utensils being dropped on a plate, then footsteps slowly getting louder until my mom walked into the kitchen. Her eyes were wide and she had a hand held up to her mouth. Any other time I would have rolled my eyes at how melodramatic she looked.
"A-andrew...?" she asked softly. She was looking back and forth between my dad and me, so I didn't know who she was talking to. But it didn't really matter. She didn't say anything else, but the way she seemed like she was expecting a fight to break out said more than enough.
But then my dad did something I never expected.
"Andy," he said gently. "You're not gay."
"Wh-what?" I managed. I wasn't even sure I heard him right.
"Look," he said, reaching over and squeezing my shoulder. It was the right one, the one that Antonio and Russel didn't squeeze, and I tried not to read too much into that. And failed horribly. "Most boys have these feelings when they're your age. It's all a part of puberty and hormones and all of that stuff. It doesn't mean you're gay or even bisexual. It's just a phase and you'll grow out of it eventually. So don't worry, ok?"
He gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder.
I felt like screaming.
"Drew," Russel said. He sounded pissed. "I can't believe I just heard-"
"You think I'm going through a PHASE?!" I yelled. I barely even noticed I was cutting anyone off. All the hours and hours I spent practically dying at the thought of telling him this and he thought it was just puberty? Hormones?
I was fucking insulted.
"Don't yell," he scolded. Can you choke on someone else's balls? Oh God, bad way to put it. On their audacity? Because I was pretty sure that's the only thing that kept me from yelling at him again. "And of course you are. Andrew you're not gay."
He said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world. I couldn't even...he's serious, isn't he? He's not...is thinking even a thing....so obvious and...oh God, words! I sputtered but I couldn't force myself to make words. My mom was just watching and I could practically feel Uncle Russel vibrating with anger or indignation or whatever behind me and my dad was just giving me this look like he was the sage of all wisdom and he was waiting for me to see his truth and it was driving me crazy.
"I'm not...do you even...are you fucking serious?!" I yelled.
"Language," he said.
"Shut the fuck up!" I screamed. "Do you think I'd fucking tell you if I wasn't fucking sure?! This isn't a fucking phase, I'm fucking gay! Gay! Gay! Gay! Ho. Mo. Sex. U. Al! GAY!"
"Don't yell at me and don't swear in front of your mother!" he yelled. He was getting pissed, but the knowing, insultingly comforting smile was gone so I took it as a huge victory. "And you're not gay! No matter what anybody-" he glared at Russel "-might have told you. You're my son."
All the anger that wanted to spew out got stuck around the lump in my throat. He might not have said it, but I heard the "and my son isn't gay" that came after and I was choking on it. I felt my eyes start to fill up with tears and I blinked them away furiously.
"Drew..." Uncle Russel said. I could hear the hurt in his voice, the anger, and it made me, just for a second, come really close to hating my dad. They'd been best friends forever, he should know better than to try and blame him for this.
"This has nothing to do with Uncle Russel!" I said. "It's not anyone's fault, but I AM gay."
"I am! I'm gay and I have a boyfriend, dad. Me and Owen have been together for three months and we've kissed and we love each other and this isn't some stupid phase." I tried to fight back my blush at admitting that I kissed a boy, but it went about as you'd think. I was just glad I didn't blurt out all the other stuff we did. "I'm gay and nothing will ever change that."
My dad's jaw clenched, but it was my mom that spoke.
"Owen?" she asked shakily. "You...stole Cheryl's boyfriend?"
"Oh my fucking God mom," I pinched the bridge of my nose. Hard. "He wasn't Cheryl's boyfriend, he's always been mine."
"Don't swear at your mother," my dad snapped. "And...and you're not gay."
He didn't sound so sure this time though. Maybe some of this was getting through to him.
"Yes I am dad," I said. "Why are you having such a hard time believing that?"
"Because you're not! You're not gay because Baxters aren't gay-"
"Don't give me that Baxter bullshit!" I yelled.
"It's not bullshit!" His face was starting to get red and he was more angry than I'd ever seen him. It was scary. But I was too pissed myself to be all that scared. "It's your family and it's the most important thing-"
"Oh come on! You didn't even believe that crap when you were my age!"
My dad froze. "How..." he trailed off, then glared icily at Russel. "You told him about my father?"
"Yes," Uncle Russel said quietly. "I told him. I thought it would help him understand you better. But I also told him that no matter what you'd-"
"You had no right," my dad snapped. "If I wanted him to know I would have told him. It wasn't your place."
"Why the hell shouldn't I know?" I asked angrily. "Did you ever think that maybe I feel the exact same way about all that Baxter stuff that you did? That it's stupid and pointless and-"
"It's not stupid!" he yelled. "You're too young to understand. Just like I was. But our family is important. Our family means something. And one of those things is responsibility. You can't just throw that away because you want to go off and do your own thing."
"Do my own-" I shook my head. "Being gay and being in love with Owen isn't like going off to college instead of taking over the family business. It's not 'my own thing', it's who I am. It'll never change. And I'm not gonna pretend it did and marry some girl and have babies just because you feel guilty about what happened to your dad."
He looked like I just punched him in the stomach, and as mad as I was at him, it still tore my heart apart.
"I..." my dad said. For a second, he looked lost, like he couldn't figure out how life had led him here. I had a second of hope that maybe something was getting through to him, that I wasn't seeing our relationship getting torn apart right in front of me, but then his expression hardened in a way I'd never seen before. For the first time in my life, I felt like my dad didn't want to look at me. Didn't want me there. "No. This isn't a discussion. You can't be gay. You're just going through a phase and you have people around you that are making you believe you're something that you're not. You're not allowed to have anything to do with that boy again. Now go up to your room-"
"Dad!" I yelled, panicked. I felt like someone had shoved a hook down my throat and was yanking my heart out with it."You can't-"
"Go up to your goddamn room!" he shouted.
"Drew don't-" Russel started.
"You get the hell out of my house!" my dad yelled. "And stay the hell away from my son."
"Fuck you," I said. It came out shaky and watery and I couldn't even see right because my eyes were filled with tears. But I was done. This was getting into worst case scenario territory and I couldn't take it. I needed Owen. And my dad was trying to rip him away from me. "You don't need to worry about having a gay son anymore because as far as I'm concerned, you're not my dad. Go find someone else to golf with. I'm living with Owen."
I turned around and walked towards the front door. I wished my eyes were clear enough to see the expression on my dad's face. I wanted to know if hearing that hurt him. I wanted it to hurt. It was childish and immature and I knew I'd feel horrible about it later, but right then I wanted to twist the knife and make him hurt as much as I was because it was all his fault.
Right as I got to the door I heard footsteps running up behind me. All I could picture was my dad chasing me down, dragging me up to my room and locking me there forever. My heart sped up. I needed to escape. I pulled open the door but before it got wide enough for me to run through, a hand shot out and slammed it shut.
I looked up at my mom.
"Andrew," she said. There was more New Jersey in her voice than I'd ever heard before and her jaw was set tight and angry. "What you said? I never thought I'd hear you say something like that. It was disgusting, and I thought you were better than that."
She wasn't looking at me though, she was looking at my dad.
For almost a full tense, shocked thirty seconds, no one said anything. I don't think I even breathed. I could probably count on one hand how many times my parents had ever disagreed in my whole life, never mind actually fought, and I know for a fact I'd never seen my mom giving my dad such an angry look.
"Sarah?" my dad asked finally.
"Don't," she snapped. "You almost drove our son away. You have NO idea how mad I am at you right now. So just shut up."
Without even waiting for a response she let go of the door and knelt down in front of me. It made me taller than her, and I looked down at her.
"Andy, hon," she smiled. It was a tight smile, but nothing else in her expression was anything other than warm. "Why don't you go up to your room, ok? Your father and Russel and I have a lot of things to talk about and I don't think you need to listen to it."
She didn't even seem to hear me. "Don't worry about it. Everything will be fine. I love you, ok?" She reached up and brushed my hair back behind my ears again, then cupped my face with her hands. "I love you," she said again, firmly.
This time the tears fell down my cheeks instead of staying put in my eyes. I always thought my mom would go along with my dad when I came out. That she would react the same way he did and support him over me. I never really bothered hoping that she'd be be accepting, so it made me feel even better that she was. I didn't care how lame or uncool it was, I hugged her tight. She hugged me back even tighter, and I didn't even care that I couldn't breathe.
"Now," she said when we pulled apart. She wiped a few tears off her cheek. "Go upstairs. I promise everything'll be ok. Ok?"
I nodded, and I believed her, until I turned to leave and saw my dad. He was staring at us, a stiff, unreadable expression on his face. It didn't look good though. Uncle Russel looked like he was gonna be sick, but he gave me a shaky smile. I didn't even try to smile back, I just walked quickly to the stairs. When my foot hit the bottom step I ran up them as fast as I could and didn't stop until I was in my room. I slammed the door without really meaning to and threw myself into my bed.
Oh God. That was the worst thing that's ever happened to me. Even with my mom still loving me, I still felt sick. Everything my dad said -and some of the things he didn't say- and every look he gave me was stuck in the front of my mind like a thick sludge. I couldn't get rid of them. I couldn't see how anything was ever gonna be ok, no matter what my mom said. In fact, I was pretty sure they were down there getting a divorce right now. And it was all my fault.
I buried my face in my pillows and cried.
They fought for hours.
I couldn't hear anything they said though, and that was the worst part. Every few minutes I'd hear someone yelling, my dad and mom at first, then Uncle Russel. I'd catch a word or two, maybe, but never anything important. I could have opened the door and listened in, but I was too scared. As long as I didn't hear what was going on, I wasn't a hundred percent sure that everything was as bad as I thought it was, so I just laid there on my bed, face down and frozen.
It didn't take me long to start feeling bad about what I'd said to my dad either. God, the whole reason I didn't wanna come out to him was because I was terrified about losing my relationship with him and I go and fucking destroy it myself? Jesus Christ Andy, you are the worlds biggest idiot. Strangely enough, blaming myself didn't actually make me feel better. Go figure. Neither did wallowing in misery, but at least that was familiar.
Great, and now I'm back to the emo crap. So much for the brand new Andy, fresh on the shelves and boxed with hope and slightly tarnished confidence. Underneath, I was still the same pathetic nothing I always was. I couldn't have anything good that lasted. Probably didn't even deserve it. I started crying again.
I needed my dad. I needed my parents and security and even the vaguest idea of what my life is gonna be like now, all the things I'd had when I woke up this morning. I needed Owen. I needed....Owen. God, I needed Owen.
I needed him so bad. If anything could make me feel better, he could.
I finally took my face out of my pillows and wiped roughly at my eyes. I looked around for my phone and caught sight of my clock. Jesus, it took me almost two fucking hours to realize that I needed to call Owen. I really am the biggest idiot ever.
"Hey Andy!" Owen answered brightly. He's always so happy when I call him out of nowhere. "What's up, love?"
"Help!" I croaked. "I..I fucked up. I fucked up so bad. I fucked up and my dad and everything and-and-and-"
Oh God, why can't I stop sobbing?!
"What's wrong? Andy? Andy! What happened? What's wrong? Are you ok? Do you need me to come over? Tell me what's going on! Please?"
"No!" I yelled, panicked. "No, don't c-come over. You can't. He'll-he'll-oh God I fucked up so bad I-" I babbled for almost a minute. I'm not even sure what I said.
"Andy! Andy, listen to me, ok? Focus on my voice." Owen said soothingly, finally interrupting. I almost laughed. Focus on his voice? God, I'd been doing nothing but that since that first night I heard him on the radio. Like there was any chance I'd ever not listen to that beautiful, perfect voice. "Please, you gotta calm down. You're really scaring me here, ok? Please just calm down."
I tried. I tried so hard. I took long, deep breaths that ended up being more like frantic gasps, but I tried. I didn't wanna scare Owen. After everything else I don't think I could have lived with making him miserable too.
"I'm-I'm...ok, um, calm," I said a minute later.
I knew Owen didn't believe me, but I got a sentence out that almost mostly made sense and I guessed that was good enough. "Good," he said. "Good. Now I can't help you unless you tell me what happened. Can you do that without freaking out? Is it something with your dad? Did...did you tell him?"
I let out a high pitched moan. It was pathetic and sad and pretty much summed me up perfectly. "Y-yes. I-I-I-I- and then he-he-"
And then I couldn't stop talking. Somehow, after starting like that, I managed to get the whole thing out more or less coherently. Everything from Uncle Russel coming over to spending two hours crying in my room.
"I-I fucked up so bad," I finished. "Now he hates me and my mom hates him and he hates Uncle Russel and it's all my fault. Everything's my fault. I'm such a fucking fuck up."
My breath hitched as the tears started again.
"Oh my God, Andy, I wish I could be there with you right now," Owen said. He didn't even pause to take it all in or think of the 'right' thing to say. "Are you sure I can't come over? I don't care what your dad says to me, you need me there and that's more important."
Almost on cue, someone started yelling downstairs again.
"N-no," I said, even as my chest got that wonderful tightness right in the middle. As much as I wanted him here, I was too scared of what my dad would do. "Please no."
"Ok," Owen said soothingly. "I won't. But, Andy, you have to listen to me, ok? You're NOT a fuck up."
"Yes I am!" I yelled. "Didn't you listen to anything I said? I fucked everything up! It's all my fault-"
"No, it's not!" Owen cut me off forcefully. "It's not your fault. Nothing's your fault."
"Yes it is! My dad hates me and him and my mom are probably gonna get a divorce now and it's my fault." I said. Oh God. Every time I say it it just feels even worse. How is that possible? "I ruin everything."
"No, Andy, it's not your fault. It's your dad's fault," Owen said calmly. "You didn't make him say what he said and you didn't make your mom take your side over his. That's him. NOT you."
"But what about what I said to him?"
"It doesn't matter what you said to him, he's your dad and he's supposed to love you no matter what," he said angrily.
"And, you do NOT ruin everything," he cut me off. "God Andy, you...you're beautiful and perfect and everything good and I don't even care how lame that sounds because it's true. I love you. But sometimes it pisses me off how you think about yourself. I'd give anything if you could see yourself the way I do."
"I-I..." I swallowed roughly. I wanted to believe him, every beautiful thing he said. I wanted to bathe in it and let it wash away some of the sludge. But there was a thought caught on the corner of my mind that I couldn't shake free. "Wh-wh-what if I ruin us too?" I whispered.
"You don't ruin anyth-" he bit off his words with a frustrated growl. "You know what? It doesn't even matter. Even if you were right and you're the biggest ruiner of things that was ever born it wouldn't matter because I wouldn't let you ruin us. I won't let anything ruin us. No matter what happens or what you do or what you think you do, I'll always be there. I'm not going anywhere Andy, you're stuck with me. Forever."
My breath hitched. "P-promise?"
"I promise," he said.
I cried. Again. It was different this time though. Instead of crying because all the horribleness was building up and I needed to make room for more, it was more like I was crying it out. Getting rid of it. Not all of it, but enough so I could breathe right and not feel like I was dying. Enough that I could listen to what Owen was saying and try to let it soothe me, like it always does. So I could just focus on him and try to believe that he was right.
I have no idea how long I cried, but I stayed on the phone with Owen the whole time. He made soothing noises and told me he loved me as I blubbered into his ear, and that more than anything else convinced me that I wasn't gonna drive him away. If there were things that would, I'm pretty sure crying at him for however long would be near the top of the list.
"Th-thank you," I said through the last of my sobs. "I f-feel, b-better. Now."
"That's what I'm here for," he said seriously.
I smiled my first real smile in hours.
"God," I laughed shakily. "How many times are you gonna do that?"
"Put me back together when I fall apart?" I asked.
I could hear the smile in his voice. "As many times as you need me to."
How can being loved by someone like that not make you feel better?
After that we talked, a little. Mostly about what had happened, and mostly him trying to make me believe that things would be ok no matter what. And I ended up believing him. Mostly. Then we just talked about little things. The dance, Juan and Cheryl, trying to pick yet another 'classic' movie that I'd never seen to watch next weekend. All in hushed tones, like talking too loud would break the nice, almost peaceful bubble we were in and let the rest of the world through. Before I knew it, another hour and a half had passed and someone was knocking gently on my door.
My heart sped up and I really resented everything that wasn't me and Owen for existing.
"Someone's at the door," I said sadly.
"Are you gonna go?" Owen asked cautiously.
I swallowed. "Y-yeah. It's...just gonna be my mom. Probably telling me..."
I didn't know. But probably not anything good.
Owen sighed. "I hope...I hope things are better than you think they'll be. But if they're not, it'll still be ok; alright?"
I smiled slightly, trying with everything that I was to believe him. "Yeah. Thanks."
"I love you," he said.
I closed my eyes and soaked that up for a second. "I love you too."
We hung up.
I sighed tiredly and pulled myself up out of bed. I stared warily at the door, hesitating, before I could get up enough courage to walk over to it. No matter what my mom had to say, putting off hearing it wasn't gonna change what it was. Sadly. I opened the door.
My dad was standing on the other side.
I froze, every part of my body tensing up painfully. I looked behind him, I but the hall was empty. It was just him. My heart stopped and I had the sudden urge to throw myself out my window to get away. But then I noticed the way he was looking at me. He wasn't angry and he didn't have that hard, blank look either. He didn't seem reluctant to look at me. He looked...tired. Worn down.
"Hey, Andy," he said softly. "Can...I come in?"
I blinked, then stepped aside, slowly, without even really meaning to. I was still too shocked to try to do anything on purpose. His mouth twitched, like he was trying to smile, or maybe frown, but it never went anywhere. He walked in, somewhat stiffly, and sat awkwardly on the edge of my bed.
I thought about leaving. The door was open, I could just walk out and go downstairs with my mom, which was suddenly sounding a lot more attractive than it did a few seconds ago. Instead, I took a few steps closer to my bed, then stopped. I had no idea what he wanted, so I didn't know if I should sit down on my chair or just stand there. So, I shifted nervously. Always a good choice.
"You should si-um, do you wanna sit down?" he asked, gesturing somewhat jerkily toward my chair.
I bit my lip as I thought about it, then realized it was an easy question and if he was this...weird, he probably wasn't about to yell at me -which I'd rather be standing up for- so I nodded stiffly and sat down.
We stared at each other.
I was tense, expecting him to look at me like he did before, like he wanted me anywhere but near him, to come back at any second. But it didn't. And I didn't know what that meant.
"I-" he started, then stopped when I flinched. His eyes widened slightly and his lips started trembling. He pressed them together tightly and I saw his eyes start to well up with tears before he buried his face in his hands. "God, I can't even say one word without scaring you."
I opened my mouth to say something, maybe something like it was more me being startled by him breaking the silence than me being scared of him, but I didn't even know if that was true. I kind of was scared of him. And I hated it.
He took a deep, shuddering breath and rubbed his eyes for a few seconds, then lowered his hands. His eyes were red and watery.
"My father," he said roughly, "he used to do the same thing to me. I used to flinch every time he talked to me, because it always ended with us screaming at each other. And now, I'm doing the same thing to you."
He pressed his lips together again and blinked away tears. I felt my own eyes start to fill up. I felt horrible. My dad wasn't supposed to be like this, he wasn't supposed to cry in front of me. Over me. Because of me. Right then, all I could think about was what I said to him and now much I wished I never did, no matter what he said first.
"I am so, sorry," he said. "God Andy, I am so sorry. I had no idea I was doing to you everything he...everything he did to me. Your mother and Russ, they..." He took a steadying breath. "They made me realize a lot of things. And...they were right. I...God I've been a terrible father."
"Dad, no!" I said, hating the way his face lit up slightly as I said 'dad', because I knew exactly why. "Y-you're not-I mean you haven't been-you're the-" I swallowed roughly. "You're not a terrible dad."
A single, harsh sob escaped his throat and the tears finally fell down his cheeks. "Andy..." he said, heartbreakingly soft. His arms lifted slightly and I didn't even care if he was actually offering a hug or not, I shot off the chair and threw myself at him, wrapping my arms around his neck and crawling into his lap. I hadn't even settled and he was hugging me back, tightly. I didn't even care that I couldn't breathe.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he said into my shoulder over and over again. I could feel my shirt soaking up his tears. "I don't care. I don't care if you're gay, I don't care if you're never going to have children, I don't care if you wanna change your name and not even be a Baxter anymore. I only care about you. I love you so much Andy, and I don't wanna lose you."
Horrible, body wrenching sobs tore through me, but nothing ever felt so good.
"I'm sorry too," I said frantically. "I'm sorry I said you weren't my dad. You are. You're the best dad ever. I'm sorry I can't give you the family you want and that I disappointed you. I'm sorry dad!"
"No. Don't be sorry." He pushed me back until we were looking at each other. He wiped his face roughly, then gently brushed the tears off my face with his thumb, picking a few wet strands of hair off my face too. "You have nothing to apologize for. None of that. I don't care about any of it. All I care about is that you're happy, and that you know that I love you and I always will, no matter what."
"I d-do." I sobbed and threw myself around his neck again, burying my face in his shoulder. "I l-love you t-too."
He held me tight, rubbing my back and stroking my hair as I cried. "Shh. It's ok. Shh. Shh. Everything's ok now. Everything's gonna be ok from now on." He said it over and over again, and more too, but all I could hear was 'everything's going to be ok'. Just like my mom had said. Just like Owen had told me. But it wasn't until I heard it from my dad that I really, truly believed it.
God, I was out and I still had my dad. I told him I was gay and here he was, hugging me and telling me that he loved me and that he always would. It didn't matter how he reacted before. It didn't matter that it didn't happen right away. It didn't matter that it took hours of arguing with my mom and Uncle Russel for it to happen. All that mattered was that I still had my dad, the one thing I always knew -KNEW- I'd lose because of being gay.
Even through the terrible sobs I couldn't stop smiling.
As I sat there, clinging to my dad and listening to him comfort me, I truly felt for the first time in my life that the worst was behind me. Nothing, nothing at all, could ever be worse than today, and it still ended like this. My life wasn't ruined. Instead, I felt...free. Light. Like everything was right and nothing could touch me. I'd call Owen and tell him later, right now, I needed to soak this up, let it become part of me. Mom was right. And so was Owen. And so was my dad.
From now on, everything was gonna be ok.