I sat down next to him, putting my head on his shoulder as we watched Allie coloring in a book I got her at the craft store. “It must've been hard...telling her?”
Trent's lips pressed against my forehead, before he leaned forward with his palms up as his arms pushed against his knees. “It was hard lying to her, but I didn't know what else to tell her. It was just easier. I hope she doesn't hate me for it someday.”
I cocked my head as I stared at the koi on his arms, reaching forward to trace letters hidden within the waves that surrounded the night scene.
“That's her name?” I whispered as my fingers spelled out the word Marie.
Trent clenched his fists and the sky around the koi contorted. “Yeah.”
His hands unclenched and he ran his fingers over the day scene, his fingers stopped at the waves. The name Allie was hidden much the way his mother's name was.
I tucked my head in his shoulder, using my hand to turn his face to mine. “She's smart...she'll know you did it to protect her—and you never know, it might not be a lie.”
Trent's face paled, and his eyes stayed on his arm. He ran his tongue over his lips before looking up at me.
“You could try to find her?” I whispered, and his eyes relaxed, his body slouching beneath me.
“That'd be selfish—” he said, shaking his head. “I need to think about Allie...and that's not good for her.”
“So being a parent means you never think about yourself?” I asked, my vision darkening at the edges.
Dad always protected me. He even went to most of his first doctor appointments by himself. It maddened me he would do that, and I had been so hurt by it then. Now, I realized it must have been hard to hide it from me, and even harder to go through it alone.
“No...It just means you should make decisions based on what's best for someone else—even if it means you're making a sacrifice. Probably the reason Mom let me take her in the first place,” Trent replied.
“You think she let you?” I asked, looking back over at Allie. She was talking to her owl, patting it on the head as she explained to him what she drew.
“She signed the papers freely...followed my wishes to not make contact with Allie.”
His face turned red, and his head went into his hands as he leaned forward.
“But?” I asked, watching as his back tensed, and my stomach twisted.
“I didn't make her promise to not contact me. She knows where we are—she wrote me a letter... ...I got it a few days ago. I just worry about Dad—she makes bad decision when it comes to him. The only good one she made about him was when she made sure he was deemed an unfit parent, so he couldn’t try to take Allie away. He blames me, of course.”
His hands squeezed into fists, and he stretched his legs as he rubbed his knuckles over his thighs.
“You're worried she's talking to your dad?”
Trent nodded, squeezing his eyes shut as his nostrils flared. His panic leaked off of him in waves, and I founded myself holding onto the edge of the hardwood step too hard. I let go, looking down at the red marks on my palms. My stomach rolled as the image of the guard rails flying past me flashed through my mind. We were human, and humans made mistakes. It was learning from that mattered.
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