Authors: Kimberly Fox
I snort out a laugh. “You’re barking up the wrong tree if you want a nice, tight knit family. Us Taylor brothers aren’t like that.”
“That’s not true.”
I just stare at her wondering how much of our fucked up past Ethan shared with her.
“You both have a lot of good stuff in you,” she says.
“Maybe,” I answer. “But nothing that’s family friendly.”
She shakes her head, not believing me. “You’re both fiercely loyal and loving. That’s all you need really.”
I close my eyes and wonder why I let her in. “I don’t think so. I’ve never been good at the whole family thing.”
“Then get good at it,” she snaps.
When I spring my eyes open she’s glaring at me with a fierceness in her eyes. I’m starting to see what Ethan sees in her. She’s tougher than she lets on.
“You’re going to throw away an amazing girl like Cynthia because you’re still caught up on the fact that your parents bailed on you? I thought you were smart but that’s pretty fucking stupid if you ask me.”
“Which I didn’t by the way.”
“Well too bad,” she says with anger in her eyes. “Families talk and like it or not we’re a family now. And I’m not about to let you push your only brother away, the brother who loves you, for the hundredth time. You two are going to work out your issues. And we’re going to be a family. A happy family.”
She looks furious as she crosses her arms and stares at me, waiting for an answer.
“Ethan was the one who got pissed at me,” I say defensively.
She exhales and drops her arms. “Ethan is not perfect but he’s trying,” she says, beginning to control herself. “That’s more than I can say for you. You won’t get there overnight but you can get there. You can have a family, Chase. A wife and kids with a stable home. You deserve it. You
I take a breath and drop my head. I already pushed her away. I already ruined my chances. “It’s too late,” I say, the enormity of what I did hitting me for the first time. I feel like I’m going to be sick. “I already fucked it up with Cynthia.”
“It’s not as bad as you think,” she says. “Lucky for you Cynthia is a good one. She forgives. Just go apologize to her and don’t fuck up again.”
My head perks up at the glimmer of hope. I just hope that she’s right.
“You are my brother now but she’s also one of my best friends,” Tanya continues. “If you hurt her again your whole platoon of Navy SEALs won’t be able to stop me from getting to you. Got it?”
I smile but her stern face is set in stone. “Got it?” she repeats.
“Yes ma’am,” I say, dropping my head.
This time she returns my smile. “I can see why Ethan fell for you.”
“Of course, he did. I’m awesome.”
“You are,” I say nodding. “And if it’s worth anything you have my approval.”
Tanya leaps forward and she wraps her arms around me in a warm hug. “It does! Thank you.”
My entire family just doubled from one to two. And it feels nice.
“Thanks, sis,” I say, hugging her back. “I can see that I’m going to like having you around.”
“Then be around,” she says, releasing me. “No more visits once every few years. I want you in our lives. Ethan wants you in our lives.”
I nod. “Okay.”
“Good. Now go fix this mess you created.”
After a hot shower and a painful injection, I head to the beach to where Tanya’s parents have been sitting all week. Mr. Prentis is having a staring contest with a seagull who’s parked in front of him as he eats a hot dog. Mrs. Prentis is lying beside him reading the bible.
The hungry seagull flies away with an angry ‘caw’ as I walk over.
“Hello, Chase,” Mr. Prentis says, jumping up so fast that his chair nearly falls over. He shakes my hand with a firm enthusiastic handshake.
“Good afternoon,” I answer as Mrs. Prentis silently puts her book down and sits up.
“I got that picture developed of us at the photo shop beside the lobby and it looks great,” Mr. Prentis says brimming with excitement.
He slides over on his beach chair and taps the end for me. “Sit, sit,” he says as he watches me with a big grin on his goofy face. He looks like a nerdy kid who is excited to become friends with the cool kid at school.
“That’s great,” I say as I sit down. “I can’t wait to see it.”
“I can go get it now,” he says, looking like he’s about to sprint back to his room.
“That’s okay,” I say. “Listen, I want to talk to you about something.”
I take a deep breath as they both listen attentively. I can’t screw this up for Ethan.
“It was my fault that Ethan went to the strip club the other night,” I say. “He didn’t want to go and I tricked him into going.”
Mr. Prentis frowns as he rubs his chin. “This is not the type of behavior that I would expect from a highly respected Navy SEAL such as yourself. I’m not going to lie, Chase. This is very disappointing.”
“It was a big mistake, sir,” I say, trying to sound apologetic and heartfelt. “And one that I regret immensely.”
He looks at the sand as he thinks about it for a minute and then sighs. “It takes a big man to apologize. I guess we can look past this. Right mother?”
Mrs. Prentis nods.
Does she ever speak?
“You know Ethan may be a little rough around the edges and not exactly look like a choir boy but he’s a really good man and Tanya is lucky to have him. And you two are lucky to have him for a son-in-law. He’ll make an amazing dad and a great son-in-law if you let him.”
Mr. Prentis rubs his chin as he grits his teeth. “But the tattoos? The filthy mouth?”
“Are just a tough exterior that’s hiding a huge heart,” I say. “We didn’t have the best childhood, sir.” I tell him about our parents leaving and some of the struggles that we had to go through as we raised ourselves. “Ethan did the best he could. He raised me when he was a kid himself and I think he did a decent job.”
“He did a damn fine job,” Mr. Prentis says, slamming his fist on his knee. “You’re an American hero.”
“He’s the one who got me enlisted when I was in trouble. He saved my life. Please give my brother another chance,” I say, leaning in. “He’s had so few chances in life.”
Mr. Prentis thinks about it and glances at his wife. She nods and his stern face eases. “Okay,” he says, nodding. “We’ll give him another chance, for you.”
“I appreciate that, sir.” I give him a firm handshake and he lights up in a smile. I see Ethan walking from the resort towards his chair on the beach next to Tanya. “There he is now.”
I call him over and his face is priceless when he sees me sitting beside his soon to be father-in-law. His shock turns to anger. I’m sure he’s wondering what kind of shit I’m stirring up.
I meet him half way and he’s barely breathing as he stares me down. “Talking shit about me?”
“I’m sorry, Ethan,” I say, with my hands out. “I’m ready to start acting like a brother now. A
He looks at me in confusion. “Just come here,” I say, turning back to Tanya’s parents. He looks hesitant but follows.
Mr. Prentis stands up and shakes Ethan’s hand. “Please sit,” he says, pointing to the beach chair.
Ethan glances at me before sitting down. He looks like someone who suspects that he’s about to walk into a trap.
Mr. Prentis takes a deep breath before talking. “We’ve been conversing with Chase and he made us realize that we owe you an apology.”
Ethan jerks his head back. He wasn’t expecting that.
“We’ve been unfair to you,” Mr. Prentis says. “I think we decided that we didn’t like you before we even met you.” He sniffs. “It’s just hard to see your baby girl grow up.”
The old man starts to tear up and his wife grabs his hand to comfort him.
“I remember the day I brought Tanya home in my arms as a baby,” he continues. “I remember her growing up and teaching her how to ride a bike. She’s my only child, Ethan. She’s my baby girl. How am I supposed to give her up? How am I supposed to let her go when I’ll never get her back? I’ll never get another baby girl again.”
He wipes his moist eyes with the back of his hand.
Ethan places his hand on top of Mrs. Prentis’. “She’ll always be your baby girl,” he says softly. “And I’ll never take her away from you.”
“You already did,” he says sounding heartbroken. “You moved to Chicago! We used to see her every week. Now it’s every few months. Soon it will be every few years.”
Ethan sighs. “We’ve been talking and Tanya really misses you guys. She really misses her friends.”
Mr. Prentis’ head is bowed down as he stares at the sand. He looks like a sad old man.
“We were going to wait until after the wedding to announce it but we’re moving to Buffalo,” Ethan says with a smile. “For good.”
Mrs. Prentis throws her hands in the air. “Oh thank you, Jesus,” she says.
Mr. Prentis reaches over and hugs Ethan, squeezing him as hard as he can.
“And as for having another baby girl,” Ethan says when he’s finally released. “You will have one someday. We want to have kids. You’ll have new babies to steal your heart and you’re welcome to come see them anytime you want.”
“Really?” Mrs. Prentis asks.
“And this time, you get to be the grandparents,” I say. “You’ll be there for the good times and then get to pass them off when their diapers need changing or they’re awake in the middle of the night.”
Mr. Prentis thinks as he watches Ethan. “Ethan you have my blessing to marry my daughter.”
He breaks out into a relieved smile. “Thank you, sir.”
“Please, Ethan,” he says, “enough of this sir stuff. You’re going to be my son-in-law. You can call me Mr. Prentis.”
I cover my mouth to hide my laugh.
Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a night.
I think it’s going to be a long process for Mr. Prentis to warm up to Ethan but it’s a start.
I think I was wrong about my brother. He made them both feel better and now they look thrilled. Maybe he will be a good family man after all.
“Thanks, bro,” he says, when we walk to the ocean for a dip. “That was really cool of you.”
“I don’t want to fight with you anymore,” I say. “I think we’ve done enough of that for our lifetime.”
Ethan nods. “I agree.”
“Just because that’s what mom and dad did doesn’t mean we have to follow the same path.”
Ethan opens up his arms. “Brothers?”
I hug him and for the first time in our lives, we actually give each other a real, genuine hug. And it feels kinda nice.
“That really sucks, Taylor,”
my OIC, Riggins, says on the other line of the phone.
“I’m sorry. I know how much being a SEAL meant to you.”
I roll the corkscrew line of the phone in my fingers of the brand new phone that I just purchased from the front desk for breaking the other one and take a deep breath. “I think I’m going to be okay.”
He sighs on the other line.
“We had some good years.”
“We did.” And it’s over. “It’s time to move onto a new chapter of my life.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“Settle down with a nice girl.”
“You? Settle down?”
Riggins asks, laughing.
“Yup,” I say nodding. “And I have just the one in mind.”
If she’ll ever talk to me again
. “I’d like to have a few kids. A real family.”
“This is Chase Taylor I’m talking to right?”
he says chuckling. I guess I don’t really have the reputation of a family man.
“You take one trip and you’ve got it all figured out?”
“No, I met one girl and got it all figured out.”
“Ah. Isn’t it funny how they can do that?”
I just hope I didn’t burn the bridge for good.
“If I can do anything for you let me know,”
“They don’t make better soldiers than you.”
“Actually, there is something,” I tell him. “Are there any job opportunities near Buffalo, New York?”
he asks sounding shocked.
“I thought you were from Chicago?”