I stepped outside and walked to where Nash had Dad. It took everything I had but I looked him in the eyes when I spoke. “Spit it out and then get the hell out of here. I don’t want you here.”
He tried to get out of Nash’s hold, but Nash pulled him back tighter, and barked, “Say whatever you came to say and then you can do what Madison says and leave.”
Dad eyed me, and jerked his head towards J. “He tell you what he got up to while he was away?”
“If that’s what you came to tell me, you could have saved yourself a trip because, yes he did tell me. And I think even less of you for that than I did before he told me. In fact, you don’t even exist for me anymore.”
He flinched, and then his face contorted with rage. “So you know about the blonde piece he had on the side while he was away? And you’re still going to marry him?”
My eyes flew to J and my heart began beating wildly. J’s gaze was on me; steady. He still had that feral look in them but they were steady; sure. And he shook his head once. And in that instant, I knew.
I turned back to my father. “Nothing you say can or will come between me and J. I know he loves me; only me. In fact, I’ve never been so sure of that in my life, so take your lies and your pathetic attempts at breaking us up, and leave us the fuck alone.”
Dad went to say something else, but Nash shoved him away, and said, “You’ve said what you came to say, now it’s time to leave.”
I walked over to J, and he pulled me close, his arm around my shoulder. “You okay?” he asked quietly.
“Yeah, baby,” I answered, smiling up at him.
He bent down and kissed me. “I love you,” he said when he ended it.
I laid a palm on his cheek. “I love you, too.”
2 months later – February
“Did your Mum call you yet, babe? Let you know what she’s doing tomorrow?” I asked Madison as she packed her overnight bag.
“Yeah,” she said quietly, “She’s coming to both the wedding and reception. Said that Dad’s going away for a couple of days so he won’t bother us. She raved on with some bullshit about how he loves me enough to give me that. I still can’t believe that even after I told her what happened in Adelaide, she chooses to stay with him.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank fuck he wouldn't be there. I knew that Madison was torn about it though. I moved from the doorway to where she was at the bed, and placed my hand on her back. “You okay?”
She stopped what she was doing and turned to me. Her face was a mess of emotions. I knew tears weren’t far off. “I don’t know why I feel this way, J. I don’t want him there; don’t want him in my life. And yet, it’s like there’s this hole in my heart and I miss him. I want him there. It doesn’t make any sense.”
I nodded and drew her close, wrapping my arms around her. Lowering my head, I kissed her on the forehead. “Baby, he’s your father. You’d have to have a heart of ice to not have these feelings. You want the version of him that you grew up with there; the father you loved before you discovered who he really was.”
Her tears came and her body shook with sobs. I held her, and didn’t say anything else. I’d been waiting for this to happen for months but Madison had locked it away and done her best to move on without him in her life.
After awhile, she looked up at me through teary eyes. “You’re right, I do want him there, just not the him that he is to me now. Most days, I just want to go back in time and not know all this shit.”
“Trust me babe, I’d fucking like that too.”
“I never stopped to really think what it must have been like for you growing up with your parents. And we’ve hardly spoken about it.”
Heaviness settled in my chest. “Baby, it’s the day before our wedding. Do we really want to bring this shit up today?”
She nodded. “Yeah, J, we do. I’t’s been on my mind for awhile now, and I want you to talk to me about it.”
I blew out a long breath. Talking was something we were getting better at. I fucking hated it most of the time, but even I had to admit it helped us. And it really seemed to help Madison. Between us talking, her attendance at AA, and time spent building family with Brooke, Scott and Harlow, she was doing so much better these days. I remained vigilant, and kept my eye out for any signs that she was backsliding. However as the days passed, I could see her growing stronger.
“It fucking sucked, growing up with an alcoholic mother. And for her not to take any of my help was a kick in the guts. My last year in school was spent making sure she was still alive every fucking morning, and being the parent to Brooke that neither of mine were. My father was off gambling and screwing his way through Brisbane. He only came home every few days. He’d bring us food, push Mum around a bit and fight with her, and then take off again.”
“What went wrong between them?”
“They were happy until about the time I was twelve. Mum fell pregnant with her third child and they were both over the fucking moon about that. Then she lost the baby. They never came back from that because Mum ended up with depression and shut Dad out. Slowly over the years, they drifted apart. Mum began drinking and Dad started staying out gambling. It was fucking awful, babe. How two people can go from being completely in love to what they became is beyond me. Dad started looking at Mum like she was the shit he scraped off his shoes. And Mum didn’t even look at him most of the time; it was like he didn’t exist for her anymore.”