Episode 1167: Yeah, It's ChristmasPaul’s smile stretched so big and had gone so underused of late that his muscles almost hurt. But man, he didn’t care, he was just so happy to see her.
She wore a red and white striped candy cane like sweater underneath her white peacoat and a sparkly red headband pushed her dark curls back from her round face. Hope very much looked the festive part of someone eager to deck the halls. If only her expression agreed. There was no effusive hello from her, a bear of a hug or even a simple holiday greeting.
Paul’s smile dropped right along with hers and he gently said, “you don’t have to be here if you don’t want to be, I’m sorry about…” Paul didn’t quite know how to finish that sentiment. He was sorry the mood between them had shifted from what it had been in the summer and he was sorry that she was upset with him but the truth was he wasn’t entirely sorry for finally taking action. What were the odds of him spending any time with his daughter if he hadn’t done something to make it a reality.
“It’s fine,” Hope said in that way where you know it’s not fine. She came inside though, removed her sneakers and hung her coat up on the hook by the door. She looked about her, spying the boxes and mounds of decorations that had messily occupied his living room for way more than a month, including a very large artificial tree standing bare in the corner. She threw up her hands and turned to face him. “You seriously haven’t decorated at all yet except for outdoor lights? It’s practically Christmas day! Why did you leave it so late?”
“I waited for you.” He ventured a soft smile.
She looked down, studying her white socks dotted with Santa hats.
“How about some hot chocolate and Christmas treats before we decorate? Your timing today is perfect my mom dropped off a box full of sweets from our favorite bakery. I even bought some Christmas plates and mugs, so-”
“We should get started or we’ll be here all day,” Hope grumbled.
“I thought that was the idea, I thought this would be like the summer, part getting the job done, part just enjoying some time together.”
“I’m not enjoying time with you anymore,” Hope said, finally looking at him again. Glaring at him, really.
“Why did you do that? We agreed to leave my parents out of this. Why couldn’t you just wait? I had it handled. I had a plan to convince them to let me work during the school year, so I could see you just like before and they wouldn’t have to know, instead you barge right in.”
“But this is better, Hope, don’t you see? They don’t know we met behind their backs so they won’t be upset with either of us for that. And now we don’t have to lie to be in each other’s lives anymore. That’s a good thing.”
“It’s terrible. It’s terrible that I felt guilty about you decorating all by yourself, plus… I did… I do want to decorate with you, so I am here, but I’m feeling guilty about that, too, because my dad hates that I’m here. If we’d just kept on lying he wouldn’t know and I wouldn’t feel torn in two.”