Lia sank into the sofa and the many pillows with a tea mug nestled between her hands. Teo was in front of the fire, piling on firewood and poking at the embers until they grabbed hold of the wood and set it aflame. Once he had a good blaze going, he turned to the sofa. He moved to sit, but then stopped and picked up a blanket from the other end of the sofa and draped it over her, making sure to tuck it in at her sides and cover her feet. Only when that was done did he sit down next to her and pick up his own tea mug.
“You good?” he asked.
Lia nodded yes and meant it. It had been a weird day and she felt like her chest had been ripped open and all of her laid bare, and yet… she was all right. Her fingers closed around the warm porcelain and she felt faintly the heat from the fire and the smell of burning wood. The blanket he had given her was knitted, made out of scratchy wool, and it was warm and heavy.
“Did you knit it yourself?” she asked, motioning to the blanket.
He nodded. “Yeah. I made it last winter.”
A warmth spread in her chest. “That’s impressive.”
She moved deeper into the mountain of pillows, shaking her head. “You always act like all the things you do are nothing.”
“It’s nothing special. Anyone could do it.”
Lia shook her head. “No, they couldn’t.”
“It’s just a blanket. I’m not going to be sending rockets to the moon or writing beautiful novels anytime soon.”
He was looking away while saying it and she noticed a bitter draw about the mouth, especially when he said the latter part.
“That doesn’t matter.”
“Don’t my dad’s books mean something to you?”
Lia took a sip of her tea and she nodded. However, the books didn’t make her feel like they used to. In the past month, she had started to realise that the man she admired so much wasn’t entirely admirable. For most of her life, Stefano Como had been the comforting presence that hid behind the name on the book covers, but now…
“They have been very important to me,” she admitted, “but I can’t see him the same way as I did after what you’ve told me.”
“I ruined them for you?” He looked unusually concerned, considering how he had spoken of his father before this.
“No, his own behaviour did that. In a way, his books were my escape from a life of solitude and isolation and it’s distressing to know that he was the cause of you living a life like that. A life like mine.”
Neither of them spoke for a long time and then after a while he reached out and rested a large hand on her knee.
“You know, I’m grateful for what he did for you indirectly.” He glanced at her. “You’ve been through a lot of shit and if that’s one of the things that got you through it, I can send the old asshole a kind thought.”
She watched him, read the lines in his face and the way his hand tightened around her knee.
“You don’t entirely hate him, do you?” she asked.
Teo shook his head, speaking a single word that was choked and barely audible. “Can’t.”
“He wasn’t entirely dreadful as a father.”
Another shake of the head. Lia shifted in the sofa so that they sat side by side, hip to hip.
“It reminds me of my mother,” she said.
“Not your dad?”
She shook her head. “I haven’t told you much about it, but we didn’t see her for eight years after she divorced my father. It’s a long story, but in short, she left me and my oldest brother and took my middle brother. Now we know she did it to take care of my brother who was in a bad situation, but it still hurt that she left like that. I felt her loss more keenly than I care to admit and much more than the loss of father. He barely paid any attention to me when I lived home, and he mostly concerned himself with arranging my future marriage.”
It was an odd sensation, saying all of this to Teo. She had talked to her brother about it and he had needed to draw it all out, force her to speak about her feelings. Right now, she felt only a slight stop in her chest and even then, feeling the warmth from Teo’s body next to hers pushed her to keep talking.
“We were mostly raised by staff,” she continued, “but when we were children, I remember my mother at least tried to come and play with us. She didn’t have long, because father always kept her busy, but I remember laughing with her. I remember her smiling. I remember her speaking to me at society functions when father pretended like I didn’t exist. She made the bad times a little more bearable. When she left, I hated her and I wanted nothing to do with her, but I still missed her.”
Teo put his mug down and wrapped her in his arms. Maybe it was in an effort to give comfort or maybe it was because he didn’t want her to look at him while his next words filled the room. He hid his face in her hair while he talked.
“I still miss dad sometimes. I think… he would have liked it out here. I hate him a lot, but I also wonder what he’d think of this and of me.”
“You should go see your mother and brother,” Lia said carefully.
Teo’s grip tightened on her. “How can I? I’m dangerous.”
“You’ve never posed any danger to me or Costanza.”
“Earlier today, in the forest…”
“That was an accident,” she said. “And if you don’t remember, you pulled me out of the way and saved me. You’re not dangerous.”
“But maybe that’s only because I’m out here.”
Lia shook her head. “Teo, if you were dangerous back then, it was only to people who hurt you. I’m not saying it was right to push your father, but he kept you confined to your home and convinced you to quit your education. He made you believe, for years, that you were too dangerous to go out in the world.”
“As a kid… All the fights…”
“You were a kid who was bullied and tormented; you lived in a home that wasn’t suitable for human habitation. Surely, you can forgive a child who lived like that for having some behavioural issues.”
“But I kept being angry all my life.”
“You didn’t receive adequate help or therapy to overcome it. You were told to live an isolated life and to give up on your aspirations, then on top of everything, your father deprived your brother of a chance for an education, too. Teo, I would be livid if I had to live like that. And you are squeezing me awfully tight.”
He loosened his grip and looked down at her. “Sorry.”
“It’s all right, darling.”
The wrinkles in his forehead smoothed out and he reached over a hand to cup her cheek. She could tell he didn’t believe her, though he didn’t protest. Instead he let his hand run through her hair. Lia closed her eyes, leaning into his touch.
“I don’t know if I can go see them,” he said, continuing his strokes. “They’ll hate me.”
“Perhaps.” She blinked her eyes open. “I won’t lie and tell you that they don’t hate you, because they might, and I understand if they do. But you have to at least try and speak with them—there’s a chance that if they do hate you, it won’t last forever.”
“What if they can’t forgive me?”
Lia paused because that was as far as her wisdom went. She thought for a moment of Lorenzo who couldn’t forgive her and then she spoke—with significantly less confidence than before.
“Then you strive to be better and hope that they’ll forgive you someday.” She paused, then added: “And at least you’ll know that I don’t fault you for anything.”
He went quiet. His hand still moved mechanically through her hair and he watched her with the same reverent kind of look he had at the lake. It was strange how it felt like weeks had passed since, while in reality it had been hours. Lia felt the hours like weight on her body and Teo must be able to tell.
“You look tired,” he said softly. “Want to stay the night? I’ll sleep on the sofa and you can take—”
Lia cut him off.
She closed her eyes and leaned in for a kiss, this one a slow and lazy one. She revelled in the way his stubble scratched against her cheek and his calloused hands scrubbed over her skin as he cupped her face. His scent was that perfect mix of woodsmoke and pine, a combination of smells she had never imagined she would adore, but she did. If she were staying, she didn’t want to be away from him.
“I’d love to stay, but we can share a bed. We’re both adults, after all.”
Teo nodded slowly. “If you’re sure.”
“I am.” Lia put her mug down and wrapped her arms around his neck. “And now, I’d like to sit here with you and not talk about our parents.”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “What do want to talk about then?”
“Who said I want to talk at all?”
Author’s notes: Surpriiise? 😀 Trust me, I’m as surprised as you are that this is out right now. The pictures have been sitting in a folder, half-edited for such a long time and I felt no desire to continue for the longest time and then it suddenly came to me. Now, I know this was supposed to be The Saucy Chapter. It ain’t. Changes happened, then a rewrite, so the next one is The One. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I post it, but don’t bet on it. I have to do the saucy posings so that’s awkward when you live with your ex. 🙃
If you’re hanging out on tumblr, you might know that things have been happening in my life, but for the ones not in the know… I finished my education in January, which was awesome, then I went on a job hunt and was fortunate enough to score what is basically my dream job less than a month after I finished my last exam. I start on Monday and so I’m super excited for that. It’s a fulltime job, though, which means that I won’t have as much simming time, but on the other hand – no homework and exam stress (or job interview stress – I did three interviews all in all and I thought I was dying oh god). It’ll also be an adjustment, starting in a new place and such, but hopefully my life will return to a much more stable and quiet one before too long – at least it feels like that’s going to be the case 🙂 (pls I need a break 2020 was a hellscape). Anyway, that was just a little bit of an update, because I realise I haven’t been telling you much since I took that hiatus and then just created a bunch of CC.
Now then, if you made it to the end of this (somewhat short) chapter, thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you in the next post.
Love you all,