Say I'm Yours (Page 40)
“Imagine if you’d thought I wasn’t your brother’s annoying friend when we were kids,” Grace jokes. “We could’ve had so many nights together.”
“I always thought you were pretty.”
“No you didn’t! You told Wyatt I was ugly and to stop bringin’ me around. I was in love with you at sixteen, but you were too cool for me. I had a bad boy complex.”
She’s so wrong. I was five years older, and the last thing I wanted to do was date her before she was legal. I knew I was going to be sheriff from the time I was in sixth grade. I loved everything police. Dad pushed me for about two years to start learning more on the farm, but I wanted no part. I had a plan . . . go to the academy, graduate, start dating Grace, get married, and be happy.
Funny only half that list got accomplished.
“I liked you, but I wasn’t too excited about going to jail.”
“Sixteen will get you twenty,” I remind her.
“No one said we had to have sex!”
“You tell my hormones that. Darlin’, I was not waiting until you became legal if we were dating.”
Grace shakes her head as she drives. “You’re a mess. Tell me more about when you were young and horny.”
We spend the rest of the drive talking about our childhoods. I sometimes forget because she’s been my girl for so long that she has most of her younger memories with Wyatt and Zach. Zach was always around Presley and Wyatt was always wherever she was as well. But I wasn’t with them. I had my own life with friends in my own age group.
I go quiet when I start to think about how the dynamic will change. Knowing that I’m not their full brother could shift things. My brothers are good guys, I don’t know if they’ll care, but I do. I’ve prided myself on being Trent Hennington. There’s been an honor in being Rhett’s son. He’s respected in the community, and I grew up not wanting to disappoint him.
My chest gets tighter with each mile that passes by. I pray we’re not too late. I have so much to say to him. Questions I need answers to that only he can answer. They aren’t so much about who I am, those answers will come from my mother. They are more about who I am to him.
I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t make it to him.
We get to the hospital in record time. I take her hand as we walk through the doors. I have no idea what’s waiting for me on the other side. Grace told me a little about Wyatt’s reaction to my leaving, which I expected. However, if the tables were turned, he’d have lost his shit, too.
When we open the doors, everyone turns and looks. Some show relief, while my brothers are clearly pissed.
“Trent! You made it.” My mother rushes forward and draws me in her arms. “God, where have you been? You smell like dirt.”
I lock up and try to keep myself under control. This isn’t the time to say anything to her. “I’m here now.”
“Yeah, the prodigal son returns,” Wyatt mutters. “Nice of you to join us.”
Grace squeezes my hand, keeping me from saying something I’ll regret. “What happened?” I ask my mother.
Tears fall from her eyes, and she touches my cheek. “The transfusion didn’t work as well as they hoped. He also has developed what we think is pneumonia. They’ve tried, but his heart is failin’ and . . . it’s too late to try anything more.” A sob breaks free, and I pull her into my arms as she loses it. “It’s about m-makin’ him c-comfortable now.”
I hate this for her. I hate all of it. If this was Grace, I’d be lost. She’s spent her entire adult life married to him. I’m not sure how she’ll survive. I’m not sure how any of us will.
As angry as I am, it’s nothing compared to the pain I feel. “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry for so much more than just her impending grief. I’m sorry I left. I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough for her. I’m sorry for the pain that’ll come when she finds out I know her precious secret.
She nods against my chest. “I don’t know what to do, Trent. I’m gonna lose him.”
My brother envelops his arms around Presley as everyone watches her fall apart. Mama is the one who held us together when Wyatt had his tragedy last year. She’s the one who knows what to say when we’re struggling. Seeing her like this, as upset as I am, breaks me.
“We’re all here, Mama. We’re here for you.”
She leans back before clutching me close. “He wants to see you, honey. He asked for you a few times.”
Zach walks over and takes my mother in his arms. “Go,” he says curtly.
I’ll deal with his shit later.
Grace steps in front of me and holds my hands. “Stay here with her?” I request.
“Are you sure?” she asks.
“Yeah, I need to do this alone.”
“Okay.” She gives me a sad smile. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” I pull her in my arms and hold her close. “Thank you, Grace,” I say against her hair. “Thank you for makin’ me see sense.”
She leans back and kisses me. “I’ll always be here for you.”
I turn and head through the door to where he’s waiting.
Each step I take, I feel the despair growing. I’m not sure what I’ll say. I don’t know if I’ll tell him I know, but I know I need to see him.
I pause when I get to the door. This is where I stood when I heard their discussion and everything changed. Once again, I’m going to have a life altering conversation.
I close my eyes, release a deep breath, and step through the door.
When I see him lying there, I fall apart.
Everything inside me splinters, and my chest aches.
My father opens his eyes and attempts to smile. “Son.” His voice is raspy and weak.
This isn’t the same man I saw yesterday. It’s hard to believe how pale and fragile he looks. “Dad.”
He takes a haggard breath and raises his hand. I move over to the bed and take his hand in mine. “You left?” he asks.
I’ve never been one to lie to my father. “I heard something I didn’t want to know.” I give him half the answer.
Dad nods and covers my hand with his other. His eyes fill with tears, and his lip quivers. “I figured it out this mornin’.” He coughs and then clears his throat. “You overheard what was said in my room about you not being my son.”
He’s always seen too much.
“I need you to know somethin’,” he says quickly. “You are my son. You’ve always been my son. I’ve never loved you any differently.”
Tears fill my vision as they stream down his face. “Pop.”
“No. I need to say it. I’ve thought about this moment your whole life, and I need to get it out.”
I don’t interrupt him again. The strongest man I know falls apart as he tells me answers to the questions I’ve grappled with the last day. “Your biological father got your mama pregnant when she was sixteen. I knew him, always thought he was bad news, but she loved him for whatever reason. He was mean, and I told her to leave him several times. She was young and thought she could love him through it, but when he found out she was pregnant, he lost it. He accused her of cheatin’ on him and then beat her. He left her bleedin’ in an alley, and I was the one who found her. I lifted her in my arms and rushed to get her help. I stayed with her in the hospital when they weren’t sure if you or her were gonna make it.”
Pop stops talking for a minute as he recalls some far off memory. I can’t imagine what he saw. My mother is the kindest person, and for any man to put his hands on her makes me want to scream and murder someone. Then to find out it was my own father, I can’t put into words the hatred I’m feeling.
“I’d always had feelings for her. I think I fell in love with her almost instantly. She would pass me in the hallway and smile, and it would make my heart stop. She was so strong and sure that you’d make it through, though. After about a month, I knew I couldn’t live without her. I asked her to marry me, because I knew if I didn’t, she might realize I wasn’t worth the trouble. I told her we’d raise you and build a family. We worried he’d come back, but I swore I’d protect her. I would never let him touch her or you. We got married right away, with her bein’ pregnant, it was what would be done immediately anyway. And we started preparin’ for our baby. I knew you’d be my child in every way that mattered. The day you were born, I signed the birth certificate, we were already married, so no one questioned it, and then you were mine, Trent. From that day forward, you were my son, and I was your father.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me?”
He shakes his head. “I don’t know. In the beginning, it was fear that if he found out you’d survived, he’d try to take you, but we’ve never seen him since. After a while, it was selfish on some level. I needed you to always be my son in every way. I never wanted you to look for him. I never wanted you to ask about him. More than that, I was afraid if you knew, I’d lose you, son.”
I shake my head as my own tears make it hard to see. “You never would’ve.”