Sometimes Love Means Letting Go – Ending

Posted by on Feb 7, 2019 in Roots and Branches, Short Stories, Sometimes Love Means Letting Go | 0 comments

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My legs hurt, was Sandy’s first coherent thought. That was actually a good sign as he’d not been able to feel them at all right before he blacked out. His second thought was mumbled aloud: “Guess that means I’m not dead after all.”

“Nope,” his brother in law’s voice said cheerfully. “And hopefully you won’t be for a good long time. You are a pain in the backside sometimes, but we do like having you around.”

Sandy opened eyelids that felt like lead. It was light in his room, the morning sun streaming in through the curtains. Jon was sitting in a chair nearby, his long legs stretched out and resting on the bedcovers.

“How come you’re always the one watching me when I sleep?” Sandy muttered, struggling to sit upright.

Jon’s rolling laugh echoed across the room.“Paying you back for all those days you had to sit watch over me,” he said as he stood up and helped Sandy adjust himself in the narrow bed.

The door squeaked open and Rose’s face peeked around the corner, eyes wide and worried. “Is everything okay, Daddy? I heard—” Then she saw Sandy and with a squeal plunged across the room and up on the bed, wrapping her arms about him.

“Careful now, sweetheart. Mind his bandages,” Jon warned gently.

“Yes, Daddy,” she said immediately.

Daddy. She’s still calling him Daddy. That’s a good sign, Sandy noted as she hid her face in his shoulder, not crying, just cuddling up to him. More than anything, he wanted to, needed to, hold her back, but first he glanced over at Jon, seeking confirmation that his unthinking words hadn’t ruined everything. The other man was smiling broadly. Sandy’s heart breathed a sigh of relief. Thank You, he thought dizzily, then slowly and clumsily managed to get his arms around Rose, holding her as well as he could.

“But how am I still here?” he asked over her dark head, going back to his waking thoughts. He knew Rachel Marshall wasn’t a strong enough Healer to have pulled him through on her own, not in the condition he’d been in.

“Strangest surgery I’ve ever witnessed,” Jon began conversationally.

“We did it,” Rose’s muffled voice said from where it was buried in his shirt.

“What’s that, Chickadee?” Sandy asked unsteadily, trying to crane his neck enough to see her face.

She pulled back so she could see him and said proudly, “We kids did it. Mrs. Rachel couldn’t reach the bullet. It was in too deep, sitting against your spine.” She shuddered at the memory. “But then Jack went, ‘Hey, isn’t lead a metal?’ So I called to it, and it slid right out to the surface. Davy had already stopped your bleeding—”

“Davy?”

“Boy’s a Healer,” Jon informed him wryly. “A pretty good one too, considering his age and lack of training. He’s already stronger than his ma. But he’s been hiding it for months now, because he figured Healing was just a Gift for girls.” He shook his head at Sandy’s flabbergasted look. “Yeah, that’s what about what we thought too. Luckily, he was curious enough about it that he’d been practicing on the stock, which turned out to be a good thing for you.”

“Though Daddy still had to give you some of his blood, since you’d already lost so much,” Rose added.

Sandy’s brow went up at that. Blood transfusions were usually a last-ditch effort, and those failed more often than not.

As if in answer to his unspoken question, Jon’s mouth twisted. “Having Fae blood can be useful occasionally.”

“And we had to try something.” His daughter’s voice trembled and her grip on him tightened. “We thought . . . I thought I was going to lose you too.”

There was silence for several minutes. For once in his life, Sandy couldn’t think of anything to say in response. He looked to Jon for help.

His brother in law’s expression softened inexplicably, but all he said was, “I bet you’re real hungry right about now. I’m always ravenous when I’m on the mend. I’ll go see if I can rustle up some grub for you.” With that he limped out the door, closing it quietly behind him.

The silence was becoming painful. Have to say something. Clearing his throat awkwardly, Sandy started as he’d left off, apologizing. “I’m so sorry, Rose. I never wanted you to know, never wanted to mess up your—”

Her scowling face made him break off. “Stop that,” she scolded him in a tone very like his sister’s, though one approaching disrespectful for a child speaking to her elder. “It’s all good now. I’m fine, and Mama and Daddy are fine too. In fact, they’re relieved that they don’t have to tiptoe around the truth any more. You know how much they dislike doing that.”

“But—”

“But nothing. I’ve had a lot of time to think about all this, and Mama was right, as usual. Nothing’s changed. I’m still me, Rose Steele, the same girl I’ve always been. They’re still my folks, no matter who gave birth to me. Jack’s still my brother and my best friend, and Robin’s still my annoying little sister. Doesn’t matter how we’re related—we’re all still family. We all still love each other. And that includes you, Papa Hawk. So don’t keep apologizing. Please?”

It was a rather long little speech, and Sandy found himself slowly melting back against the pillows, relaxing as she continued. She’s right, you know. The truth hasn’t really changed anything. Everything’s going to be okay. Then her last few words sank into his consciousness, and he froze in disbelief.

“What . . . what did you call me?” he asked, voice breaking.

Her smile was uncertain. “Papa Hawk? Is that okay? I couldn’t keep calling you uncle. That was one thing that had to change. Daddy and I talked about it for a long time, trying to come up with just the right name for you. He suggested that one, and I thought it was perfectly perfect. Don’t you like it?”

Sandy lay there open-mouthed, stunned by the impossibility of what he’d just heard.

For several long moments the only coherent thought he had was “Jonathan Steele. You unbelievable, big-hearted son of a gun.”

Because by suggesting Rose use that name, the man had incredibly, generously, given Sandy the chance to be her father as well. Not only had he done that, but Rose had also agreed to it.

The last time James Anderson Black could remember crying openly was when he’d given up his daughter. Forever, he’d thought back then. Now he clutched her tightly to himself and whispered, “I think it’s perfectly perfect too,” as the tears flowed unchecked down his face.

 

Finis

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