My alarm went off far too early for a Sunday morning. I started to roll back over and then remembered breakfast with Dad. I had exactly thirty minutes to get to his house. Bolting out of bed, I slipped on a pair of sweatpants and pulled on a hoodie. Sticking my feet in a pair of sneakers, I grabbed a dress off a hanger along with my purse and ran for the door.
Dad still lived in Royal Oak, but his house was on the other side of Woodward Avenue past the zoo. The property was old—built back in the fifties—and too small, but he refused to leave it. He said there were too many memories within its walls. When Dad put it that way, I stopped bugging him about moving.
Before I inserted my key in the lock, the door yawned open. Dad, wearing dress slacks and a button-down shirt, squinted at me. “Rachel? What are you doing here?”
“Do I need an excuse to see my father?”
“Of course not. Come on in.” He glanced at my outfit. “You planning on working out or praying this morning?”
“Praying. Are my things still here?”
Dad’s dark-brown eyebrows knitted together for a moment. “Where else would they be? Everything’s in your room.”
I walked past him, but I stopped and inspected him. His cheekbones were more pronounced while his chestnut-colored eyes seemed empty. Then I noticed that his shirt seemed a size too large.
He asked, “Something wrong?”
“Have you been eating regularly?”
Dad’s expression pinched, and then he swatted at the air. “I eat when I’m hungry.”
I dropped my purse in the living room and laid my dress on top. “Dad, we discussed this. You have to take care of yourself.”
Ever since Mom died, he’d been on a slippery slope. Some days he was good and didn’t have to be reminded of such mundane things like eating and bathing. Then there were the days when his PTSD and grief combined and it was like living with the walking dead. His memory slipped more than he’d ever admit.
“Stop worrying about me, Rachel. I’m fine. I needed to lose a few pounds.”
Sinking my hands into my hoodie pocket, I leaned against the wall. “What did the doctor say?”
“Perfect bill of health. I’m taking my meds.” He averted his gaze and walked toward the hall. “I haven’t had a bad day this week.”
Translation—he missed a day or two, and this week had been bad.
I pushed off the wall and followed behind him. “Tell you what, Dad. Let’s skip mass this morning. I’ll make us a great breakfast and help you with the yard work.”
He whirled around and narrowed his eyes. “What’s happened? Why are you really here?”
A sudden sigh escaped my lips, and they curled up. “I have a date tonight, so I won’t be here for dinner.”
Dad bobbed his head up and down. “Is he worth it?”
“I hope so. It’s our first date.”
“As long as you’re careful.” Dad turned and headed into his bedroom. A second later, he stuck his head around the door. “You start breakfast. I’ll change and start in the backyard.”
“Sounds like a plan, Dad.”
I ended up spending most of the day with my father. After we finished the yard work, I cleaned up the house and did his laundry. I even talked him into going grocery shopping, and I prepped a week’s worth of meals for him. Realizing that he wasn’t taking care of himself made me think about moving back home. Honestly, it would only ease my conscience. Dad was the one who encouraged me to find my own place. He didn’t want me hanging around, fussing over him.
Taking care of my father, however, was easier than trying to get ready for a date. I had no idea where Leo was taking me, so I played it safe and chose a casual burgundy wrap-dress and cream-colored heels. I was toying with whether or not to put my hair up when someone knocked.
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