"Are you hungry?"
Brandon took a seat at Grandma Elaine's rickety kitchen table, the one he always asked her to replace because it looked like it was going to collapse, and shook his head. "No thanks. I'm okay, Mom."
"Oh." She bit her lip and looked uncertainly at the refrigerator. "Thirsty?"
He knew their first meeting would be awkward, he hadn't exactly had dreams filled with rainbows and roses when it came to reuniting with Emmaline, but he didn't realize it would be this awkward. In the ten minutes he's been here, he'd caught her watching him, eyes suspiciously bright, only to have her look away when she noticed him staring back. He sighed and looked down at his hands clasped together on the tabletop.
What do I say to make this easier? Hell if he knew and it irritated him that he didn't.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "Really, I am. I-I just don't know what to say. Not that I'm not happy that you're here, because I am, but I don't know how to..." Brandon looked up when she fell silent. She shrugged one shoulder and glanced away. "I don't know what to do or say or...or anything." Her shoulders slumped in defeat.
Her downtrodden posture tore at his heart. He stood and went to stand in front of her. She looked at him in surprise, and he gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "I know. Trust me, I know." He took her hands in his and gave them a gentle squeeze. "I'm not expecting anything from you except your love and promise we'll get through this. I didn't think it's be this weird either but at least we're figuring it out together."
She stared at him, brow furrowed, emotions flitting in rapid succession across her face. Did she believe him? He held his breath and hoped she did.
At long last, she nodded, the corners of her mouth curling into a small smile. "Okay."
He led her to the table, held out a chair so she could sit before claiming the seat beside her. He studied her. Lord she was beautiful. All that dark red hair streaked with silver and wide hazel eyes edged with tiny lines at the outside corners. Freckles danced across her nose, miniscule dark spots marring otherwise perfect skin.
He chuckled and shook his head. "Remember how you'd obsess about me wearing sunscreen?" He pitched his voice a few octaves higher than hers. "It's a hundred degrees out there, Brandon. You'll turn red as a lobster and who's going to take care of you and your burned skin then? Me, that's who!"
Emmaline's face reddened even as she giggled. "I wasn't that bad!"
Brandon snorted. "You totally were. You'd slap a hat on my head and put a bottle of sunscreen in my pocket every time I left the house. You did it so much my friends thought it was weird when I didn't have either with me."
She blushed even more. "Oh, God. I'm so sorry. I was only--"
He held up a hand. "You were being a mom, a great mom. I'm not complaining. Some of my friends didn't have that kind of attention from either of their parents." He rested his elbows on the table and leaned forward. "I was lucky, Mom. We didn't have much then but you made sure I was cared for and loved. It was the little things, always the little things."
Her eyes glazed and she blinked rapidly. "Like sunscreen and hats."
Brandon laughed softly. "Like sunscreen and hats."
"Then I'm glad we had what we had."
He sobered. "And we can have more. We just need to give it time. If Mr. Weatherby hadn't said anything, I wouldn't have known you were even here. I don't know how long you plan on being in town but I hope you'll stay a while. I want to spend time with you."
She nodded, eyes bright, mouth stretched into a wide smile. "I'd like that." Her expression darkened suddenly. "What-what about your dad? Does he know I'm here? That you're here?"
He hesitated. It wasn't that he didn't want to tell her his dad knew; he didn't want to tell her he was on his way. That'd be a mood killer for sure. But she needs to know.
He knew that. It was too soon, he thought savagely, and he was too selfish to want to ruin this moment with her. Better she has a warning than none at all.
Logic sucked sometimes. Brandon took a deep breath and nodded. "He knows. And he's coming here."