Even when they showed me a picture of her, nothing rang a bell. But when they showed me a picture of Penelope, it was like I was looking into my sisters’ eyes as well as my own. I knew right then and there that she was mine. I did the DNA test right away, but I also made them bring me to her. Chase was right there beside me, telling me it was going to be okay.
They had told me she was hurt, but she would be fine. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I walked into the room. It will be forever engraved in my memories, looking at her sitting in the middle of the bed—right next to Abigail—who was making her laugh. I knew the minute she looked over at me that I would love and protect this little girl with everything I had. I knew right then and there she was mine. I knew right then and there what they said about the love for a child. A love you can’t explain because there are no words that can do it justice. A love that is unconditional and pure. She looked at me and held out her little hand to offer me one of her Goldfish crackers, and I am not ashamed to say I sobbed like a baby.
Everything after was in warp speed. I called my parents, who came right down. My bachelor pad was now a single dad home. The PlayStation 5 was tucked away and in its place was a pink plastic play kitchen. I also had to live with the guilt I wasn’t there for her. A guilt that was really hard to look past, so I did what I could to make sure every single day she knew how loved she was.
The two of us grew up together, and she is honestly the best thing I’ve ever done in my whole life. Even more than this right here.
I hear Wilson from beside me. “You know what he’s doing tonight?” he says while he looks at Cooper. “He’s going to be sleeping with your sister.” He beams with a smile. “Just like me.” Cooper just glares at him.
“If you say a word,” Michael warns beside Dylan, and I roll my lips, trying not to laugh. “I will throat punch you on the ice.” The minute he says that, I spit out the laughter.
The Stanley Cup comes out, and Cooper skates over as the team's captain. He shakes Paul’s hand as he announces the Dallas Oilers are Stanley Cup Champions.
He takes the Cup, and slowly every single person gets their chance with it. I’m not even going to lie. I did a quick turn and then turned to look over to see if Penelope was here.
I see her finally standing behind the bench, holding on to Abigail’s hand. “There he is.” Abigail points at me.
Making my way over to her, she walks onto the ice where the carpet is, the whole time holding Abigail’s hand. As soon as I get close enough, Penelope jumps into my arms and wraps her arms around my neck. “You did it, Dad,” she says, putting her hands on my shoulders, and I can’t help the tear that falls down my cheek. “I want you to know I would have been proud of you, no matter what.”
“That is good to know,” I tell her as I lean in and kiss her neck as she squeals, then put her down on the carpet.
I make the mistake of looking at Abigail. God, she has to be the most beautiful human person out there. Every single time I’ve seen her, it’s like she gets even more beautiful, which is impossible. “Congratulations,” she says, and I make another mistake and lean down to hug her. Wrapping my arm around her waist, I take in how perfect she feels for me. I also know that she is so out of my league this crush on her has to be the stupidest idea I’ve ever had. I kiss her soft cheek and look into her green eyes. “You were amazing,” she says with a big smile on her face.
I’m about to say something to her when I see Xavier at the corner of my eye get down on one knee. Abigail gasps and holds my arm, squeezing it. “He’s really doing it,” she declares, and all I can do is look back at Abigail and then Penelope. I am having the second happiest day of my life, and with the exact people I want beside me. Too bad I don’t have the balls to admit that out loud.
“When you said you had a couple of boxes,” my brother, Christopher, huffs, carrying a box inside the house and placing it in the middle of the family room, “what you failed to mention was you have a fuck ton of boxes.” He puts his hands on his hips, looking over at me as I stand in the kitchen. He’s in gym shorts and a Dallas Stanley Cup T-shirt. He’s wearing one black flop and a white flop on the other foot, and I don’t even think he’s noticed that he’s a mess.
“I’m moving into my house.” I try not to laugh at him as he looks up at the ceiling and breathes in and out. “What did you think I had… three boxes?”
He looks back at me, but because he’s wearing sunglasses, I can’t see where he’s actually looking. “Christopher,” he mimics me, “can you come help me move a couple of boxes?”
“One,” I say, holding up my finger at him, “you were drinking, so the fact you think you remember anything I said is comical.” He shakes his head. “Two, I said can you come and help me move into my house.”
“Why the hell wasn’t this done when you moved to town a month ago?” he asks, taking off his sunglasses and then, seeing how bright it is in the room with all the curtains opened from the wall-to-wall back windows leading to the backyard, puts them back on. He walks over to the steps on the right side and sits down on the middle one, putting his elbows on his knees and hanging his head in front of him.
“How the hell was I supposed to know Dallas would be in the playoffs for eighty-five years?” I throw up my hands and walk over to the fridge, opening it to grab myself a bottle of sparkling water. “Don’t bother renting movers,” I mimic every single man in my family, “the whole family is going to be there. We can help you move.” I unscrew the white cap off the green bottle hearing the hiss of gas. “The whole gang of us can come and help you.” I take a sip of the cool bubbly water, mumbling, “Bullshit.” Right after
“Hello, hello, hello,” Gabriella comes through the door shouting. Her hair is piled on her head, and she’s wearing black yoga leggings with a matching sports bra and her own sunglasses on the top of her head. Following is my cousin, Matty. His actual name is Matthew, but because our family has no originality, they just keep naming us after family members, so we have called him Matty to not confuse anyone. Who is also carrying a box that says towels. I try not to laugh at him since I’m sure there was a heavier box outside, but he took this one instead. He too is wearing the same thing that Christopher is wearing, just the same color shoes.
“Can you tone it down just a touch?” Christopher whines, holding his hand up and moving it up and down. “There is an echo in the house.”
“There is no echo in the house.” Gabriella shakes her head, looking him up and down and pointing at his shoes. He finally looks down and must see that they’re two different colors, but he takes off his sunglasses anyway to make sure.
“Where is everyone?” Matty says from beside Gabriella, looking around.
“My guess is they are sleeping.” I look at my Apple Watch and see that it’s just a little after eight thirty in the morning.
“Didn’t you tell everyone to get here bright and early?” Matty walks over to his partner in crime and sits beside him.
“What time did you guys go to bed last night?” Not only did my brother and cousin make the playoffs but they also won the Stanley Cup. The past ten days have been one celebration after another. It’s been a whirlwind since they won the Cup. Then the party at home. Then the parade and street party. Then the team party, it’s just been one party after another. Finally, yesterday was the last event they were doing, and in five days, we are finally going on vacation.
“I haven’t,” he says. “I left Dylan’s at four and decided it would be better to just stay up.”
“We went over to my house,” Matty adds, “and decided to make breakfast.” I just stare at him with my eyes big. “Let’s just say my mother was not a fan of the pans hitting the floor. So she kicked us out.”