Liz wrapped her arms around her son’s back so he could lean on her shoulder. “Let’s get you cleaned up. Then I’ll make the waffles.”
Dirk had gained Liz’s forgiveness, but he hadn’t won his place back in her good graces. He decided it was time for his to step into the role as partner to show Liz that they were in this together. “I’ll wrap Cam’s ankle. You start the waffles.”
“I can handle it.” Liz’s gentle refusal touched the parts of Dirk that were already sensitive. The disappointment of losing his job, followed by the agony of telling Liz hurt. The heartache of the breakup rose to fille the spaces of their story. Once upon a time, Liz offered Dirk a shoulder to lean on, and he blew it. Dirk didn’t have anything to give, so he refused to accept her love. Her words echoed through his mind, I don’t need those things. I only need you.
Dirk’s body heated with the redness of remorse. His foolish pride stepped between them. Not anymore. He took a note from Bryce’s book on how to make friends. He would ignore Liz’s subtle gestures of keeping him at a distance.” I can try to make the waffles.”
Liz’s voice was heavy from the support her body gave to her son. “We’re fine. You don’t have to do anything.”
They were inside the door. Dirk knelt in front of Cam and unlaced his shoes. “I don’t have to do anything. I want to.”
He applied pressure to the back of Cam’s shoe. “Go ahead and take out your foot.” As Cam pulled in one direction, Dirk tugged in the other, and the shoe came off with ease. Dirk slid off the muddy sock and stored it inside the opening for the time being.
Dirk spoke first to Liz. “You may want to retire this pair of socks.”
Cam chuckled at the joke.
“Okay, let’s get the other one taken care of.”
This time, Cam hissed in pain. Dirk stiffened against the surge of sympathy that shot through him. “Once you get cleaned up, we can ice this.”
Cam glanced with uncertainty at his mother while speaking to Dirk. “Thanks for coming out to find me.”
Dirk answered Cam’s unspoken question. “Don’t worry. I’ll be here when you get out.”
Cam gave Dirk a thumbs up and hobbled to the bathroom.
Liz watched behind him. Her concern for her son touched Dirk. She was a good woman. Too good for him. But that didn’t stop him from wanting her. When Dirk heard the door click shut, he turned to face Liz. “We have to talk.”
Her eyes sparked. Dirk had seen the precursor to her tongue lashing. Just as Liz opened her mouth to speak, Dirk pulled her in to hug. Her arms flailed, telling him she didn’t know how to respond. “I love you Elizabeth Harper. You need me. I need you. I want to work with you to make things right.”
“Ah, I’m doing fine on my own,” Liz stammered. The welling of tears in her eyes betrayed her words.
Dirk’s voice lowered with the tenderness he felt toward her. He was sorry to be the reason for her tears, but his desire to be with her surpassed his remorse. “Tell me you didn’t miss me, and I’ll let it drop. It will kill me, but we can go back to being Liz and Tom’s friend.”
She opened her mouth to speak and shut it. She turned away and focused on some spot on the ceiling on the other side of the room.
Dirk buckled his knees and shifted his position so he could look her in the eye. “I’ll chase away any man that thinks he has a chance at you.”
Liz’s brow wrinkled, and she fixed her eyes on him. They asked if he would.
Nodding in response, Dirk said, “These weeks without you have been the loneliest, darkest days of my life. You and Cam are my everything. I’m not going to make it easy for anyone to take it away.”
He caressed Liz’s chin with his knuckles. She had his heart. It was about time he showed her. He slowly leaned in, giving Liz the chance to pull away. She gasped just before their lips touched. Fearing the intensity within him would offend Liz, Dirk softly pressed his lips to hers and pulled away. Deciding it wasn’t enough, he touched her lips with his again, and again. He whispered, “I love you. I’ll never stop.”
Liz’s eyes dilated, and her face flushed. Dirk whispered, “This is the part where you tell me you love me, too.”
Liz remained silent. Her eyes darted back and forth.
Dirk feared the worse. He predicted what Liz was waiting to tell him, and she was weighing her words to let him down easily. Dirk’s heart pounded in his chest, and as he braced himself. Could he accept Liz’s love with dignity?
“I love you, too.” Her sigh of relief said this was the last time they’d have the fight.
Both knew they were on the same page.
Exhilaration, beyond anything Dirk had ever experienced, filled him. Nothing else mattered. He and Liz and Cam would have a life together. Dirk pulled Liz in for a hug. “We are going to make this work. I promise. We’ll work through this together. We’ll fight and make up. I love you so much.”
This time, Liz returned the embrace, confirming Dirk’s most profound desire would come to fruition.
The bathroom door clicked open, and Cameron’s voice chimed in, “We still get to keep the dog, right?”
Categories: Home For the New Year