- Beautiful Redemption
Jim shrugged. “No one else but Tommy can make omelets like Diane, so I get them when I can.”
“I’m going to have to try it one day,” I said, grinning even wider when Thomas turned to wink at me. “Where is the laundry room?”
Jim put the spices on the counter and walked over to me with his arms open. “Let me.”
I felt weird about handing Jim those towels, mostly because it was the last thing Thomas and I had each worn before having the best sex of my life, but I didn’t want to argue or explain, so I handed them over.
I walked over to Thomas and slipped my arms around his middle. “If I’d known you could cook, I would have spent more time upstairs.”
“We can all cook. Mom taught me. I taught the boys.”
The butter in the pan popped, striking my hand. I yanked it back and then shook it. “Ow!”
Thomas dropped the spatula on the counter. He took my hand in both of his and inspected it. “You okay?” he asked.
He lifted my knuckles to his lips, tenderly kissing all four of them. I watched him, in awe of how different he was here than the man he was at the office. No one would believe it if they saw him standing in his dad’s kitchen, cooking and kissing the hurt from my hand.
“You’re one of the boys, too,” I said when he turned to check the progress of the omelet.
“I’ve tried telling him that for years,” Jim said, returning from the hall. “You should have seen him dressing Trenton for his first day of kindergarten. He made sure to fuss like their mom would have.”
“I gave him a bath the night before, and he woke up dirty.” Thomas frowned. “I had to clean his face four times before he got on the bus.”
“You’ve always taken care of them. Don’t think I didn’t notice,” Jim said, a tinge of regret in his voice.
“I know you did, Dad,” Thomas said, clearly uncomfortable with the conversation.
Jim crossed his arms over his protruding belly, pointed once at Thomas, and then touched his finger to his mouth. “Do you remember Trav’s first day? You all beat the stuffing out of Johnny Bankonich for making Shepley cry?”
Thomas puffed out a laugh. “I remember. Too many kids got their first black eyes from one of the Maddox brothers.”
Jim wore a proud smile. “Because you boys protected each other.”
“That we did,” Thomas said, folding over the omelet in the pan.
“Together, there wasn’t anything you couldn’t figure out,” Jim said. “You’d beat the tar outta one of your brothers, and then you’d beat the tar outta someone else for laughing about you kicking your brother’s ass. There’s nothing none of you can do that would change how much you mean to each other. Just remember that, son.”
Thomas looked at his father for a long time and then cleared his throat. “Thanks, Dad.”
“You got a pretty girl there, and I think she’s smarter than you. Don’t forget that either.”
Thomas put Jim’s omelet on the plate and handed it to him.
Jim patted Thomas on the shoulder and took his plate to the dining room.
“You want one?” Thomas asked.
“I think I’ll just get coffee at the airport,” I said.
Thomas smirked. “Are you sure? I make a mean omelet. Don’t you like eggs?”
“I do. It’s just too early to eat.”
“Good. That means I’ll get to make you one of these sometime. Camille hated eggs…” He trailed off, instantly regretting his words. “I don’t know why the fuck I just said that.”
“Because you were thinking about her?”
“It just popped into my head.” He looked around. “Being here does weird things to me. I feel like I’m two people. Do you feel different when you’re at your parents’ house?”
I shook my head. “I’m the same everywhere I go.”
Thomas considered that and then nodded, looking down. “We should probably get on the road. I’ll go check on Taylor.”
He kissed my cheek and then turned left down the hallway. I ambled into the dining room, pulling out a chair next to Jim. The walls were decorated with poker chips along with pictures of dogs and people playing poker.
Jim was enjoying his omelet in silence with a sentimental look on his face. “It’s strange how food can remind me of my wife. She was a damn good cook. Damn good. When Thomas makes me one of her omelets, it’s almost like she’s still here.”
“You must miss her, especially during times like today. When is your flight scheduled to leave?”
“I’m leaving later, sis. I’m catching a ride with Trent and Cami. Tyler is, too. We’re on the same flight.”
Cami. I wondered why Thomas didn’t call her that.
“That’s good that we can all carpool to the airport.”
Thomas and Taylor stood near the front door.
“Are you coming, baby?” Thomas called.
I stood. “See you this evening, Jim.”
He winked at me, and I hurried to the door. Thomas held it open for Taylor and me, and then we walked out to Travis’s car.
Dawn was two hours away, and the whole town of Eakins seemed to still be asleep. The only sounds were our shoes crunching the frozen dew on the grass.
I stuffed my hands into the front pocket of the hoodie and shivered.
“Sorry,” Taylor said, pushing the key remote to unlock the doors and then again to pop the trunk.
Thomas opened the back door for me and then walked the bags to the trunk.
“I should have warmed up the car,” Taylor said, standing next to his open door.
“Yeah, that would have been nice,” Thomas said, loading our bags and then Taylor’s.
“I couldn’t sleep last night. I’m freaking out that Falyn’s not going to show.”
Taylor sat behind the wheel and then waited for Thomas to get in.
He started the car, but he waited to switch on the lights until he backed out of the driveway, so they wouldn’t shine into his dad’s house. I smiled at the unconsciously sweet gesture.
The dashboard lights made Thomas’s and Taylor’s faces glow a dim green.
“She’ll show,” Thomas said.
“I think I’m going to tell her about the chick at the bar,” Taylor said. “It’s been eating at me.”