Theodore leaned on his cane a little heavier than usual as he reached out with his free hand to open the door. Gina stood in the doorway, three bags of groceries in one hand. He took a step back. “Need help?”
“Nope. You have enough weight to worry about without these,” Gina said as she walked into the house. Theodore smiled softly, closing the door. He’d always be thankful for Gina. Generally, she knew better than to take pity on him at every chance she got, and he’d appreciate that until the day he died. After the… incident with his ex-husband, he had received far too much sympathy from everyone around him, especially from people he didn’t even know. Anything was mild in comparison, even more so with Gina, and he loved that.
He needed that.
Theodore headed for the kitchen, leaning back against the counter as he watched Gina unpack the groceries. “What’re we making?” he asked.
“Is it what I’m making, or genuinely what we are making?”
“I’d like to help, if you’re okay with that. Been a while since I’ve been able to feel useful in a kitchen.”
Gina nodded. “Of course I’m okay with that. Besides, it’s your house, Theo.”
“I know, but you offered to come over and make it so…” Theodore offered a shrug. “I still have a hard time owning up to it being my house, believing that… I’m the one in charge. You know?”
“Of course,” she said softly. “Well, we are making something we both used to be obsessed with when we lived in New York.”
“Oh, my God. You did not.”
“Oh, I totally did.” Gina set a package of ground beef on the counter, a smile on her face. “We’re making ourselves a good ol’ fashioned Rochester garbage plate, baby. It’s time to introduce Vera to what our culture truly is.”
“She’s going to think it looks disgusting and tastes disgusting, and you’re going to become very disappointed in my child very quickly.”
“Nope, not even possible. You’re her bio-dad. I couldn’t be disappointed in her if a tried. And as your biological child, she’s totally predisposed for good tastes and garbage plates,” Gina said.
Theodore chuckled. “Yeah, okay. I’ll take your word for it.”
“She’ll love it! And even if she doesn’t, I’ll make her something else, and still totally love her.”
“Good to know.” Theodore nodded. “All right. Let’s make some garbage plates and see just how New York my little girl can be.”
Theodore carried Vera back to her bedroom, even though it wasn’t exactly good for his hip or knee. He hated that they were still a little busted up, but he wouldn’t let them or his pain stop him from carrying the sleeping girl to bed or from tucking her in.
He laid her down in her bed and tugged the covers up to her shoulders. A hand wrapped around the headboard, he leaned down and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Love you, sweetheart,” he whispered. She mumbled something that sounded vaguely like the same sentiment and rolled onto her side.
Theodore smiled and pushed himself away from the hearboard, straightening himself back out. He walked to the door, a hand on his hip. He’d definitely feel the extra pain from carrying her later on, but he didn’t mind. He carried her to bed any damn time she fell asleep in the living room. This was no different, even if it made him hurt just a little more.
He closed the door as quietly as he could and headed back for the living room. He grabbed his cane from where he’d left it by the couch.
“I could’ve carried her for you,” Gina said from the entryway of the living room, arms crossed over her chest.
“She’s my little girl, Gina. She needs to feel safe. I can’t make sure she feels safe if she thinks I’m not even strong enough to carry her up the stairs,” Theodore said.
Gina let out a heavy sigh. “Fine. But you can’t do it all the damn time, Theo. You shattered your damn hip. You need… You have to take it easy or you’ll never heal all the way.”
“That’s easier said than done, Gina. I have a kid, a job, a life. I have things to get back to, and I can’t stop them all or slow them all down even more just because… because of a bad night and an even worse fall,” Theodore said.
“Don’t say that like he’s not the one who did it to.”
“I’m not saying it to excuse him of it. He’s a monster, and I know that better than anyone. I’m saying it because acknowledging that the damage to my hip itself was from the fall makes it easier for me. He caused the fall, the fall caused my shattered hip. I know that, I accept that. I just don’t like thinking about the first part when I’m outside of a courtroom. Is that okay with you?”
Gina closed her eyes for a moment as she let out a breath. “Yeah, of course. I’m sorry. I’ve just never… I’ve never gone through what you did.”
“And I’m glad you didn’t. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” Theodore said simply. He sat down on the couch, digging the heel of his palm into his hip. “You planning on sticking around much longer?”
“I have to get home and take care of the dogs, and I’m cat-sitting tonight. But I can come back afterward if you want,” she said.
It would be nice to have the company, but if there was one thing Theodore was good at, it was making sure no one was inconvenienced on his behalf. “No, that’s okay. I’m just tired.”
“Are you sure? I can keep you company. I don’t mind, really.”
Given another chance, Theodore shook his head again. “I’m sure. I just need to get some rest. Should be good for me, huh?” he asked.
“Should be,” she agreed. “You let me know, okay? I literally don’t care what time you call. If you need me or want the extra company, call.” Theodore nodded, though he knew it as incredibly unlikely he’d call her. Theodore considered Gina his best and closest friend, and it gave him even more of a reason not to bother her. “Will do, Gina. Will do.”
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