The moment Kayne stepped through the door, his daughter hurled her small body into his arms. He smiled and hugged her tightly. After being away for over twenty-four hours, there was no better welcome home than that.
Catalina hung onto his hand and dragged him over to the table where her crayons were strewn about. “Color with me, Daddy.”
Emmalina laughed softly and put down her paintbrush. “Honey, let your dad settle in. He’ll color with you in just a minute.” She smiled up at him. “Hi.”
Kayne pulled her into his arms and kissed her slowly. Okay, he’d been half wrong before. He needed both his girls to welcome him home. “Hi. I missed you.”
Emmalina winked. “You better have. Now go have a shower.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He turned away from her, barely even noticing Quinn and Jason at the chess board. In turn, they didn’t bat an eye at him. By now, they were used to the changes in him.
Kayne stripped down and climbed into the shower, letting out a deep sigh of pleasure. There was nothing quite like standing under the hot spray. How had he gone so many years of his life without it?
How had he gone so many years without Emmalina?
In the short years since he’d stumbled into her path, so much had changed. He had changed. He could feel a certain lightness in himself that had never been there before. Of course, it wasn’t all happiness and rainbows. The moment he stepped out of the house for a job, the darkness eclipsed everything. Part of him still reveled in the blood on his hands. He’d accepted that.
He stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around his hips, and padded out into the main room.
“Daddy. Are you done yet?” Catalina asked impatiently.
Kayne shook his head, casting her an indulgent smile. “Just a minute, Caty. I need some clothes.”
“Dear God, yes, please,” Quinn muttered. As Kayne passed him, he smacked the back of his head.
A minute later, he was back downstairs, dressed and ready to color up a storm. “Alright, baby girl. What are we coloring?”
When he was about halfway done, his mother appeared at the head of the basement stairs. When she saw him and Catalina, her expression softened. “You look so much like your father,” she said quietly.
Before he could respond, she brushed the tender moment aside and went to the grill.
Kayne glanced over his shoulder at his mother. Somehow, he knew her heart still ached for his father, even though he’d been gone almost thirty years. He wasn’t surprised though. If he lost Emmalina? He knew he’d never recover either.
His daughter drew his attention back to her. He smiled at the drawing she had made. “It looks amazing, Catalina.”
Kayne stood at the doorway of his daughter’s room while Emmalina told her a bedtime story. He thought Catalina may be getting too old for this bed time ritual, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to suggest putting a stop to it.
When she had fallen asleep, Emmalina turned off the lights and stepped out into the hall with him. Quietly, the two of them retreated back to their bedroom.
Without even seeing her face, Kayne could tell her mood had shifted. “Emmalina,” he started quietly.
She shook her head from where she’d sat down on the bed. “It’s alright, Kayne.” She brushed away tears that tried to spill from her eyes, and he sat down beside her. “I’ve just got to face it. We’re never going to have another one.”
Kayne pulled her into his arms. He ached to fix this for her. “The real hospital is almost finished. They’ll have to offer treatments then.” They’d tried going to the medical center multiple times, but they’d always been turned away. But, surely, a real hospital would mean full medical care, even “elective” shit.
She just shook her head. “We can’t count on that, Kayne.” She leaned her head on his shoulder.
“Then I’ll get us a baby some other way.” He’d steal her a fucking baby if he needed to.
“No. I don’t just want any baby, and you know that.” She tilted her face up and kissed him softly. “But I can’t keep feeling like this. I can’t keep taking test after test and seeing that negative sign.”
“You want to stop trying?” He couldn’t deny the sinking feeling in his stomach. He wanted another child as much as she did; hers wasn’t the only heart that broke every time the test came up negative.
She shook her head again. “No. I just…we have to stop expecting it. Stop – stop hoping for it.” She wiped at her cheeks again. “We have to just get on with our lives.”
Kayne stroked her hair back and pressed a kiss against her cheek. “Okay. If that’s what you want to do.”
Emmalina slid her arms around his waist and pressed her face into his chest. After a few moments, he felt tears start to seep into his shirt. Even though they agreed to keep trying, they both knew that they were really saying goodbye to their dream.