Page 91 of Hopeful Hearts

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Brodie shot her a warning glance. Reminding her it was not their place to get involved.

“It was a different time back then. They did what they did to protect us. We would have brought shame to the family, and we were in no way capable of raising a baby.” Mel turned to Austin and silently pleaded with him to understand.

“If we could have kept you, we would have. Believe me, we thought about running away, but we had nothing. Where would we have gone? How would we have got by? We wanted you to have the best start in life, so we did what we did.”

“But not without a promise that we would still get to see you and you would still be a part of our lives,” Robbie added.

“So, that’s how the whole uncle thing came about,” Sophia said. She was unable to keep her thoughts to herself when the situation had affected her life just as much as everyone else's.

Austin said nothing. His hard expression remained unchanged and his eyes were fixed firmly on some non-existent spot on the ground.

An awkward silence followed before Austin finally made eye contact with Mel.

“Are you finished?”

Mel stumbled over her reply. “I mean, if there’s anything else you want to know, please just ask us. We have all the time in the world for you, Austin. I could talk about this all day, but that’s it, in a nutshell. We want you in our lives now, just as much as we did then. I know you might think what we did was unforgivable, and I understand that. We don’t forgive ourselves, either. We’ve revisited the day you were born over and wished things were different. You were such a beautiful baby.”

“Our perfect boy,” Robbie nodded with his head in his hands.

Sophia stepped forward to go to her parent’s but Brodie caught her wrist and gently tugged her back.

“I can see things were rough on you. I didn’t doubt for a second that there wouldn’t have been some difficult circumstances that led to you giving up on me but nothing that you’ve said accounts for the last thirty-six years. You’re not teenagers anymore. You’re both more than capable of making amends and neither of you has tried. If I hadn’t shown up practically on your doorstep, then we both know you wouldn’t be telling me any of this. You’d have quite happily gone on living your lives without me in it.”

“That’s not true. We tried to find you countless times after you left,” Robbie said.

“You obviously didn’t try hard enough,” Austin accused.

He was taller than Robbie and towered over Mel. He wasn’t the meek eighteen-year-old that walked out on them, full of anger and confusion. Sophia could tell he was proud of the man he had become, in spite of them, it showed in his posture. His head was held high when he looked at Robbie and then scanned over Mel as if taking her in for one last time.

“You know, it’s funny. I always thought I needed answers. Most of the time it’s felt like there’s this part of me that’s missing and I could never be complete without it. I wondered so many times, what would happen if I ever saw you again? What you’d say and how I’d feel and now it’s happened and I don’t feel anything. No resentment. No anger. No sadness. Absolutely nothing.”

“It’s a lot to take in,” Mel offered.

“We are happy to go at your pace, son. Whatever you need.”

“Don’t call me that. I’m not your son.”

“You’ll always be our son, whether you choose to be in our lives or not,” Robbie sounded determined and hope dripped off his humble tone.

“As far as I’m concerned, you’re just two people who knew me once. I’ve been without you for my whole adult life and I’m doing just fine.”

He turned to Sophia, who was doing a crummy job of pretending to be nonchalant.

“Thanks for dinner. Brodie, she was right about your linguine.” He pointed and threw Brodie a cheeky wink before turning back to his parents.

“No hard feelings,” he said before tipping his chin to his chest and walking straight out of the door.

Mel went to chase after him, but Robbie prevented her from doing so. He took hold of her shoulders and pulled her into his arms. “Let him go.”

She dissolved into fits of quiet sobs and he hugged her harder.

“This has got to come from him,” Robbie murmured.


Sophia couldn’t sleep. She wriggled out from underneath Brodie’s arm and shuffled downstairs to the sofa. Flicking on the lamp, she snuggled up with a blanket and went to pull out a magazine from the stack Brodie had been adding to each time he passed a store that sold interior design magazines. The bookshop in Lani Bay had closed down long before they ever got to set foot in it so reading material had to be picked during travels into the city.

Thanks to work being busier than ever, he was able to keep her pile freshly topped up, but she devoured them in one sitting.