Extreme Close Up Chapter 5
By maythiphoto machine Photobucket
Brittany looked down at her coffee again and Jack studied his old girlfriend. “I don’t get why after nine years you finally decided to tell me.”
“Well...Sarah’s been asking questions about her dad lately. She always has, but now it seems she’s almost desperate to have a father.”
“What have you told her about me?”
Brittany nibbled her bottom lip. “Nothing.” She lifted anxious eyes to his. “I’m sorry, Jack. Please don’t think I wanted to cut you out of her life or discount you in any way. It just seemed...easier to not get her hopes up, to not make you seem too real to her, when I had no intention of ever actually contacting you. You know.”
Jack’s heart squeezed in his chest. “Never? You were never going to tell me I had a daughter?”
They stared at each other and the warmth of Ally’s hand covered his on the table and gently squeezed. He turned his palm and wrapped his fingers around hers, taking comfort from the gesture almost without conscious thought.
Brittany nodded, eyes downcast again. “I’m sorry. I really am. I was only trying to do what I thought was best for my daughter. Truly, I love her so much, I’d do anything to protect her, to care for her...you have to understand a mother’s love, I think, to really get that.” Her voice shook and Jack noticed Ally reach over and take hold of Brittany’s hand, too.
It blew his mind, sitting there with Ally holding both their hands, connecting them through her. She always understood, always offered compassion and comfort. He remembered so well the night he’d told Ally about Brittany’s pregnancy - Ally’s shock, but also her empathy, and her unconditional support.
“Maybe I’d understand if I’d had the opportunity to be a father to her.”
Brittany winced and glanced at Ally, who bit her lip. “You’re absolutely right.” Brittany’s voice shook. “I can only say I’m sorry so many times. I thought I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t trying to take something away from you. You know?”
“What about Sarah? What have you taken away from her by not having her father in her life all these years?”
Blue eyes glossed with tears and Brittany swiped a hand under each eye. “I still think it was the right thing to do,” she whispered. “I don’t want to fight with you, Jack. I know you’re angry, and you have a right to be. But I’m asking you to put that aside for your daughter.”
Jack glanced at Ally, saw the compassion in her eyes. God, he needed her take on all this, needed her to put it into perspective because right now, his mind was fried.
“I can do that,” he said slowly. “I don’t know what exactly you expect from me right now. But I’m here, so that says something.”
“It says a lot,” she replied softly. “So if you want to meet her, I’ll set something up. When do you want to do it?”
Again Jack glanced at Ally, a little surprised to find himself relying on her.
“It’s up to you,” Ally said softly, their hands still clasped on the table. “How long can you stay?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I can take a couple of weeks off.” He’d worked for Firestone Images since he’d left college, had rarely taken any vacation time.
“Just a couple of weeks?” Brittany’s face drooped with disappointment. Man, what did she expect?
“I do have a job I have to go back to. How long did you think I should stay? Will it upset Sarah if she meets me and I leave again?”
Brittany chewed her lip again. “Well. Yes. It might.”
“Britt, you knew I wasn’t coming home permanently.”
She sighed. “I know. I guess I was just hoping you might be around a little longer...to get to know her.”
Jack and Ally exchanged a glance. “I’ll see if I can stay a little longer, but no guarantees.”
Brittany’s eyes grew pensive for a long moment. “If it’s okay with you, I’m not going to tell her right away who you are. You two can meet, and I’ll tell her you’re an old friend of mine. Then we’ll play it by ear. You know?”
No. He didn’t know. He had no freakin’ clue. But a strange pinch of disappointment smarted inside him that Sarah wouldn’t know he was her dad. God. What a mess.
“Sure. It’s up to you, Britt. You know best what’s good for Sarah.”
“Do you want to meet her tomorrow?”
His gut tightened and his blood surged through his veins. “Uh...sure. Okay.”
“Where are you staying?”
“With me,” Ally put in. “You’re welcome to come to my place if you want.”
“Whatever you think would be best for Sarah,” Jack repeated.
“How about you both come over to my place?” Brittany proposed. “I’ll tell her that you’re an old friend in town for a visit.”
“Do you want me to come?” Ally’s voice was low beside Jack. He turned to her. Yeah, hell yeah, he did want her there. He couldn’t imagine doing this without her. But, Christ, she didn’t need to get dragged into this mess.
“We can talk about that later,” he said. He turned back to Brittany. “Where do you live?”
She wrote down her address. “I still live here in Pasadena, near my aunt and uncle.” She handed it to him, and they all stood up.
“I know this is crazy,” Brittany said as they walked out of the coffee shop. “Again, I’m really sorry, you know. I didn’t want to mess up your life all those years ago, and...” Her voice thickened. “Now I have anyway.”
Jack stopped on the sidewalk outside, looked at Brittany. “It’s my fault this all happened,” he said quietly. “So don’t be too hard on yourself.”
She gave him a shaky smile and then Ally and Jack climbed into his rental car. They sat there for a moment. Ally looked at Jack.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
Extreme Close Up Part 6
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