Patience By D.I. Jolly

George jumped when his doorbell rang, and it reminded him how much he hated the sound. He quickly pulled on a pair of jeans and a shirt and hurried to the door. Looking through the peephole he saw a girl who looked just on the border of puberty turning slightly redder with each passing moment. For a moment he considered talking to her through the door but decided against it at the last moment and undid the locks. For a long minute they stared at each other. She had dark hair and dark eyes and frowned in a way that brought back memories of a long since ex-girlfriend. They continued to stare at each other for another long moment before he stepped aside.

“You better come in.”

He pushed the door closed behind her and watched her walk through his flat to the lounge where she dropped her backpack before turning to once again face him.

“Coffee?”

“Sure.”

“Milk? Sugar?”

“Y..yes please.”

He nodded and ducked into his kitchen, suddenly feeling just as awkward as she looked. He considered adding something stronger to his own cup but decided against it. Minutes passed as they quietly sat drinking coffee not talking. Him desperate to ask her about herself, and she desperate to know if he had known about her. He’d heard rumours and tried to look into it, but not very hard, and his ex had put up some walls. Not because she didn’t want him to know but foolishly wanted him to have to try harder to find out. But they had both been young, stupid and quick to react rather than think it through. So she’d made it harder than it needed to be, and he had given up sooner than he should have. Eventually, the silence was broken when her eyes drifted over to his meagre DVD collection. Before she could stop herself she said,

“You like cartoons?”

He turned to look where she was looking.

“Oh, yeah, actually I umm… work in animation and storyboarding. I helped make most of those.”

Her eyes sparked for just a second and she managed to choke out.

“I… I really like to draw.”

“That’s … cool, do, do you have anything you can show me?”

She looked at her bag, blushed, and chickened out by way of staying silent.

“Would you like to pick one? We can watch it.”

Having already seen one of her all-time favourite movies there, she knew which one she wanted to watch and jumped off the seat.

“Did, did you work on this one too?”

A thin smile spread across his face.

“That, was actually the first one I ever worked on and I ended up also working on the dialogue.”

She blushed again.

“Cool.”

For the entire duration neither of them spoke, they just sat slightly apart watching the movie. At what seemed like a very specific moment she quickly paused to run to the bathroom, then came back and started the movie again, all the while staying silent. As the credits began to roll she finally spoke up.

“When do they show your name?”

He gingerly reached across to take the remote and after a few seconds hit pause as ‘George Ritter’ appeared on the screen. He turned to see her reaction but she just nodded, looked down and said.

“That’s cool.”

He stared for another few moments.

“Have, have you eaten anything today? I mean, are you hungry?”

“I could eat.”

“Do you have anything specific you like, or not eat?”

“No.”

“If I… Uummm.”

He stopped to look at the seemingly uninterested girl, then got up and left the room only to return a moment later with his phone and a menu.

“Pizza?”

She smiled and pointed at her favourite. More quiet time passed as they waited for food. She eventually switched the TV to normal channels and they both watched pointless shows until the hated door buzzer rang again. George rose, grabbed his wallet and pulled open the door. To his surprise,  standing waiting wasn’t the delivery guy, but a woman he hadn’t seen in a long time.

“Hello George.”

“Hello Mrs Austin.”

From the lounge he heard the young girl call out.

“Grandma!”

And she ran down the hallway, slipped past him and hugged the old woman.

“Hello sweetheart, is everything alright?”

“Yeah, we watched a movie, and we’ve got pizza coming.”

The old woman looked up at George.

“Pizza hey?”

“I… Yes.”

A part of him felt embarrassed but before he could form an excuse she smiled.

“Pizza is good sometimes, but not every day.”

The message was received loud and clear and he smiled. Just then another face from his passed arrived in the form of a grumpy looking old man.

“George, make yourself useful and help me bring things in from the car.”

He nodded and walked out after the man. As they reached the car and out of earshot of the girl George mustered his courage.

“I’m, I’m sorry about what happened, I’m sorry for your loss.”

The old man’s back stiffened and he turned to face him, a controlled look on his face.

“Thank you. … I’m sorry about a lot of things that have happened just recently. How are you handling your part in all this?”

George wanted to try be the stronger man and be the support but honestly got the better of him.

“I have no idea, still in shock I guess, just trying to take each moment as it comes and hope I don’t fuck it up.”

As the words slipped out a fear appeared in his mind that he’d just admitted to much, but the old man smiled.

“Good, that means you’re taking it seriously. I promise, that’s a normal feeling,  give it time, be patient and I hope you remember that she has been a part of our lives for a long time and we love her and hope she stays a part of our lives.”

“I… I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The two men smiled at each other.

“But that also means we’ll be watching you, young man, so be warned.”

They carried the girl’s things back up into the flat, George made more coffee for everyone just as the pizza arrived and together as a family they sat down for dinner. Once alone again George sat quietly with the girl watching yet another movie until she announced it was her bedtime.

“Is there anything you need? Do you want me to tuck you in, or anything like that?”

She frowned her mother’s frown and he knew that he’d said something stupid, but before he could say anything more she wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug, and whispered ‘Goodnight’ into his ear. He knew he still had a lot to learn, and a lot to get used to, but in that moment he realised that he would give the world to spend the rest of his life learning how to keep that little girl safe, and happy.

“Good night … Emily.”

 

 

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