Chris watched her go, unable to say anything. The door slammed shut and the house filled with an awful silence. Neither he nor Seth made to move. A twitch of an unidentifiable emotion stabbed his heart roughly, somewhere between pain and anger. His daughter probably hated him. Or at least, she claims she did. It took a long time for Chris to realize that what he was feeling was the fact that Sophia had grown up without him.
He wished he could find the words to say to Seth. But he seemed just as lost as Chris.
“She’s right.” Seth finally said, murmuring.
Chris wanted to say more. He wanted something to be between them again, but anymore all that seemed to be there were petty arguments and the memories of their children growing up. It was as though they weren’t the same people they were back in college. They weren’t those teenagers intent on finding the next great adventure and taking chances with things that shouldn’t have been chanced. This was adulthood, whether they liked it or not, and it was all too real.
Seth strode back into the room they used to share and closed the door tightly behind him, leaving Chris alone, standing on the stairs still, trying to figure out how everything had gotten so horrible.
As Chris sat at the table, staring into a cup of black coffee that was probably cold by then, Seth had come down the stairs. He was dressed, showered and did not look at his husband. Instead, he emptied what was left in the coffee pot into the sink, rinsing it quickly before snatching his car keys from the counter and heading out the back door.
Chris didn’t ask where he was going, and Seth didn’t offer. Instead, he just left as if Chris wasn’t even there at all.
Sophia still hadn’t answered her phone, even though he called it twice and texted three times. He understood that she needed her space, and probably didn’t want to see either of her fathers, but at the very same time, she still had to go home. She still needed to be with her family. She had to forgive them at some point.
Her whole world had turned on its axis in multiple ways. From what was going on with her parents to things in her own life. She had to get the right footing. But it was impossible to do that if she refused to ask people for support.
Sophia didn’t speak to Jace as they left the Rappahannock. Part of her felt like he didn’t deserve it, and another part of her wanted to act like everything was okay with them. They would both know that was a lie if she spoke it.
Jace kept his eyes trained on the road, one hand gripping the steering wheel, the other tight on the shift knob. She watched as he pushed it into third gear and then dropped his hand on his jeans. Sophia stared at the knob detailing which gears were where and knew that Jace would have to touch it again soon. It would’ve been so easy to grab it before he did, so that he’d be holding her hand when he would go to shift.
But she didn’t do it.
He came up to a red light and put the car in neutral, sighing. “Are you going to say anything?” he asked quietly.
She forced herself to look out the window and not at his profile, only because she wasn’t exactly sure what she would say if she did. The clouds overhead became darker and they both knew it was only a matter of time before it would start to pour rain.
Jace seemed to drop it, figuring he wasn’t going to get an answer from her any time soon. He turned into their neighborhood, coasting down the street. “I’m sorry about earlier.” He muttered dully.
“Okay,” Sophia said, only because she didn’t really know what else to say.
“It’s not that I don’t want to be with you. It’s just that…”
“That you think I’m too messed up for a relationship right now and you don’t want to get dragged into my shit.” She snapped.
He blinked hard a few times. “It’s that I don’t think you’re really over Ethan, even though you’re trying to convince yourself you are.”
“I know that. That doesn’t change the fact that you’re not really done with him.” Jace put the car in neutral and pulled the emergency brake up. He turned to look at her, even though she didn’t return the gaze, her cheeks hot with anger. “I just think you need some time.”
“I don’t need your advice.” Sophia spat, opening the door and stepping out, slamming it behind her before Jace got a chance to answer. She strode around to the back of the house, hearing his car chugging down the street to his own home.
Seth was outside putting down something that made a clicking noise when Sophia got around back. “There you are,” he said once she had stepped into view. “I thought you’d gotten home already; I was going to call for you.”
“Why?” Sophia asked, noticing two large brown paper bags next to him. Seth ripped the bag revealing stacks of white plates. She looked at Seth, confused as to why he bought new plates, considering there was nothing wrong with the ones they had, and why they were outside to begin with. But she didn’t get a chance to answer. Seth picked up the one that was on top and hurled it as hard as he could against the brick siding off the house. “Dad!” she screamed. “What are you doing?”
Seth picked up another plate and threw it just as hard at the wall again. The white plate burst into pieces and scattered among the remnants of the previous one. A faint white line of dust imprinted itself against the rusted color of the bricks. “Here,” Seth said, handing her one. “You try.”
Sophia looked at her father skeptically. If he was angry, he didn’t seem it, yet he launched another plate at the wall. Something that wasn’t her compelled her arm forward and made her fingers let go. Her plate didn’t break into as many pieces as her father’s, but he was throwing them with everything he had.
Something inside her had broken with the plate.
A tingling sensation started in her neck and moved throughout her body, stopping at her toes. Her palms itched for another smooth plate, something that looked gorgeous and perfect but that could shatter if dropped from too high a distance.
Finally, something other than her was breaking.
She picked up another and so did Seth. At the same time, they both threw them. Sophia tossed hers harder than the last time with a small “oomph,” escaping her. After they both watched them splinter, she felt breathless and immediately reached for another.
Together, Sophia and Seth slammed the plates against the brick until both of them were panting and their arms were sore. Yet, Sophia didn’t want to stop. The rush of finally being in control of something legitimate was overwhelming. She thought of Ethan, as if that was something new. About how he didn’t own her anymore. About how maybe he never did to begin with. None of what he called her matter. She should’ve never cared about the sting of his words. Or the insults cut from the girls at school, the feelings she had about her friends not wanting to see her anymore.
She thought of Jace and about how she was mad at him, for absolutely no reason. And Chris. And how she was mad at him for an absolutely good reason. But at the same time, her problems suddenly seemed petty. Jace still wanted her, even after she had been through hell and back. Ethan was dead. Her friends didn’t know what happened and would most likely be understanding if they knew. Her dads loved her, both of them. Even though Chris had made a big mistake, he was still there for her. Jace had told her how he went out looking for her after she left with Ethan the night of the car crash. Not because he was mad, but because he was worried that something had happened to her.
And she heard about how he went running into the hospital ward, frantic and distressed when he heard that something had happened to her. Neither of her fathers left her side when she was in the hospital that night. They both slept in those uncomfortable chairs, upright and exhausted the next day with aches and pains in places they didn’t even know could ache.
The strangest part about growing up was realizing that parents were humans, too. They were people with lives and friends before kids came around. And maybe all the time they weren’t the heroes kids thought they were because they make mistakes too. And maybe, just maybe, that’s all okay.
Once all the plates Seth bought lay destroyed on the ground, Sophia realized that she felt a lot less angry than she did before. Exasperated and drained, she sat hard on the ground looking at the dusty bricks and the fragmented pieces, not even recognizing that it had hurt.
Seth sat down beside her after a moment or two, regaining his breath. Thunder cracked loudly overhead and rain began to fall slowly. It seemed too dark for the time of day, but for all Sophia knew, it could’ve been the middle of the night.
“I don’t know why I let him do those things to me.” Sophia said lowly, not knowing she had said it until the words were out of her mouth. It surprised her because the thought never crossed her mind before. It never occurred to her that she had a choice in all of that. She could’ve asked for help. Turns out she wasn’t as stuck as she thought she was.
“I don’t know why I let him, either.” Seth whispered. Sophia knew her dad wasn’t talking about Ethan and suddenly realized why he bought the plates in the first place. She had her own problems, but Seth clearly had them too.
She looked up at him, even though he was staring intently at the wall, silent tears slipping down his cheeks.