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Fiction: A Little Too Late (1076 words)

12 Nov

The house was a flurry of activity.  The front door was open, not just a crack, but swung wide open. Still, Grant stood outside the threshold while he leaned in to knock on the open door.   He hit the doorbell as well, listening to the echo ring throughout the house.  Even though he could hear people packing and moving things, and could even hear someone crying–no one walked through the front room.  No one acknowledged someone was at the door.

“Hello?” He called out, finally stepping through the door. Still, no one.  He stepped through the little foyer and looked down the hall.  He hadn’t been here before, but he’d heard enough of her stories, enough of her descriptions of her childhood home to know that would be the hall that led down to her and her brother’s rooms. “Hello? Flip?”

Finally someone came out to greet him, but it wasn’t Flip.  Riley stuck his head out of one of the rooms.  Riley, her younger brother by exactly 45 weeks, her “Irish twin” she would joke, doubled by the fact he was named for their grandmother’s maiden name O’Riley, and her very best friend in the world.  Strangely it was the best friend part that Grant was afraid of as Riley started down the hall towards him. “I don’t think she wants to see you.”

“I know, I know she doesn’t.  But, I need to speak to her, I have to tell her everything.” Riley considered him for a second, then stepped back flush with the doors on opposite sides of the hall.  Someone in the room directly above dropped something heavy and a ‘sorry’ echoed down.

Riley pushed open the door opposite the one he’d come through earlier. “Not now, Ri, I don’t really want to talk about you.”  Flip’s voice echoed out of the room and Grant’s heart both skipped a beat and sank.  It was good to hear her voice. It was horrible to hear her voice sound so sad.

“Someone’s here to talk to you, Philippa,” Riley answered without taking his eyes off Grant.

Flip’s room went quiet. Whatever she was doing, she stopped. “Who?”

“Grant.”

Flip’s head stuck out her door.  “What are you doing here?”

“I had to talk to you,” Grant started to take a step forward, but was stopped by the look on Riley’s face.

“You flew across the country to talk me? I own a phone, you know.” Flip stepped out of the room, pulling the door closed behind her..

“Would you have answered if I called?”  Flip’s silence said everything, “can I talk to you?”

The siblings looked at each other, and then Flip crossed her arms over her chest. “Anything you want to say you can say in front of Riley.”

Grant sighed. He’d expected at much, but Riley intimidated him.  “I know I’m an ass. But I’m trying to get better.  I know you needed me yesterday, I know I failed you, I wasn’t there. I’ve never been sorrier about anything in my life. I am late, and I’ll try not to be again, but I’m here now.  I want to help you, please let me help you.”

To his credit, Riley didn’t react. He didn’t get angry, didn’t scoff, didn’t even turn to look at his sister–he just waited.  Flip however, did scoff.  She scoffed and rolled her eyes and shook her head.  “Go home, Grant.” It was the coldest voice he’d ever heard. He’d never heard her sound so harsh.

“Are you mad?” Grant sputtered automatically.   “I mean, of course you’re mad but–”

“Yes, Grant.  I’m livid.  I am so angry right now that I don’t even know what to do with myself. In your defense, it’s not just at you, but you’re not helping. So–go home.  We’ll be done here in a week or so.  I’ll be back at the office, and I’ll be civil for the sake of the company. But right now, you need to go home.”

“Flip, I–” He stopped short.

“You what, Grant? What knee jerk reaction did you start that you think is going to fix this?”  Flip leaned against the wall next to her door and fixed him with a challenge of a glare.

“I love you, Philippa.”

Whoever dropped something earlier dropped something heavier, and this time, it was ‘I’m Okay’ that echoed down through the ceiling. The three stood in silence for a long moment before, “Damnit, Grant.”  She turned and slammed her bedroom door behind her.  Grant and Riley both winced as they heard something shatter.

“I guess I should go,” Grant sighed, “Thanks for letting me try, I guess.” He tried to walk away, but felt a pinch, and turned to see that Riley was holding him by the back of his sweater.

“You love her? Really?”

“I think so.”

“No–No thinking. Do you feel in your gut that you would do anything for her? That you would do anything for a second chance with her, and if you are so lucky that she blesses you with a second chance you will not screw it up this time?”

“Yes.”  Grant turned back to face Riley. “Yes, Absolutely.”

“Then you have the world’s worst timing.”  Riley inclined his head towards his bedroom, and Grant followed him in.  “It’s a family issue, and I’m not going to get into it, but if you had been here two hours earlier, or waited until tomorrow when she had time to process she might have been less angry. And you might have gotten your second chance. But I know she cares for you. So–” Riley scrubbed his hands over his face in a gesture that Grant considered completely Flip, before fixing Grant with a strong stare, “You have a place to stay in town? And a number I can reach you at?”

“I can get a hotel, and yeah.”  Grant took the phone that Riley offered him and plugged in his number.

“When I call you, go where I tell you when I tell you.  Do not be late, do not miss my call.  I’m giving you half a chance here, but it’s up to her whether or not you get the rest of the chance, and it’s up to you whether or not you mess up again, deal?”

“Deal.  Thank you.”  Grant shook Riley’s hand stronger and more desperately than was strictly necessary.

“Okay, go.  Philippa will lose her mind if she finds you still here.”

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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Stories

 

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