Lucas hummed softly to himself as he opened the refrigerator, rummaging around for a few moments before finding the ingredients he was looking for. Hopefully I can finish before the girls get up. He thought.
Between Krystina going to school and his and Mel’s busy careers, there was only one day a week when the three of them could all be together in the morning. Sunday morning breakfast had become something of a tradition in the Ainsworth household, and Lucas liked to get up extra-early so that the meal would already be hot and ready when the girls joined him.
He was used to early mornings by now. As he got older, Lucas had found himself becoming more and more of an early bird, going to bed by 10pm and often waking just before the sunrise. But it hadn’t always been like that. He still remembered a time when he would stay up nearly the entire night with Evelyn, and sleep late into the next morning. Sometimes it felt like only yesterday. Other times, it felt like another lifetime.
Lucas hadn’t thought of those nights with Evelyn in a long time… But his conversation with his daughter the day before had changed all that.
He still thought of Evelyn from time to time, of course. There were always little things – an old movie on TV they’d once watched together, a reminder of a corny joke she’d once told him, or a song they’d danced to late at night on the radio… But it had been so long since he’d really thought of her – of who she was, and what she’d meant to him.
He wished Krystina could understand why he’d reacted the way he did, and how painful it was to talk about it. Because Evelyn represented so much more to him than a best friend or first love – she represented the crushing guilt of breaking someone’s heart, the sorrow of losing someone you love, and the painful regret of leaving a promise unfulfilled.
Lucas would never change one moment of what happened with him and Mel. Even if he could go back and relive it all a thousand times, he would always choose her, time and time again. He was sure of it. But he would give almost anything for a chance to go back and change how things had ended with Evelyn. Maybe if he’d done things differently, they would still be friends. Maybe if he’d kept at it, she would already have her life back. Maybe he could have gotten to see her play music again, or travel the world, or get married, or start a family… All the things she’d always dreamed of, and he’d gotten to do without her.
The man shook his head slowly, trying to chase the unpleasant thoughts away. What was the point in dwelling on what might have been? Ev had moved on years ago. It was what she wanted. Shouldn’t that make him happy?
As Lucas continued cooking, he allowed his mind to travel to more uplifting thoughts, like the glowing review the Newcrest Times had published of his restaurant last week; or the exciting news that Camryn and Noah were moving back in together after nearly ten years apart; or menu ideas for next month, when he would be catering the wedding of Sam and Laura’s daughter Darcy.
He was so distracted trying to cheer himself up that he almost failed to notice the unexpected sound of the front door creaking open. Lucas glanced over his shoulder curiously, but when he saw who it was, he just smiled to himself.
“Little early for a walk, isn’t it?” He asked.
“Oh… Dad… You’re up?” Krystina muttered nervously from the doorway.
She thinks she’s in trouble… Lucas couldn’t help but feel amused as he heard the sound of his daughter’s uncertain footsteps drawing closer.
“Listen…” His daughter muttered. “I can explain…”
Lucas shook his head. “No need to.” He assured her, gesturing toward the dining room table. “Come on, sit with me.”
He slid the French toast onto a serving platter and brought it with him as he joined her.
Krystina eyed him nervously. “So… I’m not in trouble?” She asked softly.
Her father chuckled to himself. “No.” He replied. “But I’ve gotta say, you need to brush up on your stealth skills a bit… I know this isn’t the first time.”
Krystina bit her lip. “You do?”
Lucas nodded. “At first I freaked out a little bit.” He admitted. “I was sure you were sneaking off to Silas’ house or something.”
His daughter cracked a smile at the comment, but rolled her eyes.
“But then I remembered when you were younger, and your grandparents caught you going off on your own late at night when something was troubling you.” He smiled at the memory. “Always thoughtful, like your old man…” He paused. “So as long as you aren’t going too far, I don’t mind. A little fresh air can be good sometimes, especially if you can’t sleep… But if you ever need to talk about what’s bothering you, you know who you can come to.”
“Thanks, dad.” Krystina smiled softly at him, but still appeared somewhat uneasy. “And actually… I do wanna talk to you about something.” She said seriously.
“About your grandfather?” Her father asked sadly.
Krystina shook her head. “It’s about, well… About Evelyn.”
Lucas’ heart sank. This again? He almost regretted telling her that they could try talking about it again sometime. He assumed she’d wait longer before bringing it up again… Or even better, forget about the subject entirely…
He tried his best to hide his dismay, but knew he failed. “Oh?” Lucas tried to sound casual. “What about her?”
Krystina took a deep breath. “I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time… But I was kinda nervous…” She paused. “Dad, I…”
Lucas watched, nervous and confused as Krystina hung her head low for a few moments. What could she possibly be leading up to?
When Krystina lifted her head, her expression was calm, and happy – a stark change from just a few moments before. “I know that Evelyn was more than just a friend.” She said at last. “And it’s okay, you didn’t have to hide that from me.”
Her father said nothing. How had she figured it out? He wondered.
“It’s the way you talk about her.” She explained, as though she could read his mind. “I can tell. I’m not stupid, dad.” Krystina smiled.
“Believe me, I know you’re not.” He replied, returning the gesture.
“But it’s not a big deal.” The girl went on. “I mean, I know mom was even married before… And that doesn’t bother me either.” She shrugged. “I just wanted you to know.”
Before Lucas had a chance to reply, the sound of creaking floorboards reached his ears, calling his attention away.
“Mmm… Do I smell French toast out here?” Melanie smiled as she approached the dining room table.
Lucas beamed at his wife. “Just in time.” He rose to his feet, grateful that he was saved from having to talk any more about Evelyn. He appreciated his daughter’s understanding, of course. But it was not a conversation he was ready to have. Not yet, anyway. Someday…
His mind finally at ease, Lucas gave Melanie a quick peck on the cheek, then hurried to the cabinet to find the syrup.
Krystina sat across from her parents as she picked at her breakfast, her mind very far away. Her mother and father were so caught up in their conversation that they failed to notice their daughter’s unease – something for which she was very grateful.
I blew it. The girl thought sadly, stabbing at the cooked bread with her fork. I chickened out.
The window of opportunity had been wide open to her, and instead of diving through head-first, Krystina had fled.
I know all about Evelyn, dad. She’d wanted to say. And I don’t know exactly what happened between you guys… Maybe you don’t even realize she’s haunting your old house… But whatever’s going on, I think you need to talk to each other and work it out. But she simply could not bring herself to do it.
Thanking her father for breakfast, Krystina rose to her feet to clear her plate from the table, still cursing herself for her cowardice.
It was simply too great of a risk.
Whenever her father spoke of Evelyn, or her friend talked about the boy she used to know, there was so much sorrow and pain in both of them. If it was true – if they really had been friends – or maybe something more than that – clearly things had not ended well. What if they didn’t want to see each other again? What if it would just make things worse?
Evelyn always had a strange sadness and loneliness about her, and her dad was still not quite himself after losing his father. Maybe he never would be again. How could she risk hurting them even more?
She couldn’t, of course. That was the answer.
Krystina tried her best to shake off her uncertainty as she climbed the stairs back to her bedroom. She’d made up her mind, and that was that.
Maybe if she found out more about what had happened between them, she’d change her mind one day. Maybe she’d finally find the courage to be honest with her father, and learn the full story once and for all.
Maybe someday. Krystina thought sadly as she opened the door to her bedroom. But not today…