“Stasia ended up being arrested several times as a teen for shoplifting, and finally spent a few years inside through stealing charity money. She got out and seemed to clean up her actions but was arrested last year for stealing hundreds of thousands of her husband’s clients’ money. Her parents have split up, and she’s looking at several long years inside again. Stasia’s husband is divorcing her and claiming custody of their kids,” Staffey said. My mouth dropped open in shock.
“Wow,” I exclaimed. “Never saw that coming.”
“Karma’s a bitch,” Chance muttered.
“Totally, Stasia was a spoiled bitch, and her parents had never said no. They have to live with the fact that they ruined their daughter, I got to live with the fact that my daughter is finally home. And add to that not only is she home and loved, she’s a success, one who’s not let her shitty past stop her,” Staffey said proudly.
“Dad,” I muttered. Chance nodded a firm agreement.
“Clio’s one in a million, a real credit to you man, I know you’re fuckin’ proud, gotta say I am too.”
“Don’t be silly,” I muttered embarrassed.
“Don’t be silly? Goddess, you were orphaned as a baby, fostered your entire life, shunted from home to home until you found Staffey. Then some asshole snatched that hope and security snatched from you. You been on your own ever since and didn’t sink, didn’t turn to crime but tried to get yourself a quality life.
Jeez, babe, I’ve the deepest admiration for you, so much respect for what you came through. You’re so strong it takes my breath away, and I stare at you and wonder how I got so fuckin’ lucky.” My embarrassment flared even deeper, and I ducked my head in Chance’s neck.
“Shush,” I murmured, and Chance’s deep chuckle rose, and I felt it vibrate in his throat. Chance’s arms rose, and he clasped me in a hug and then released me.
“Take the credit darlin’ girl, you deserve it, you didn’t allow life to crush you, nor did you cave to the shit that happened. Somehow you found the strength to keep fighting, that’s on you,” Staffey chipped in.
“You taught me that strength, taught me how to cope and manage, now can we stop the Clio appreciation society,” I quipped, and Staffey laughed his belly laugh. “I want to know how it’s going with you and Leslie.” Staffey stopped laughing and scowled.
“That damn woman is giving me the run-around,” Staffey scowled as he spoke.
“Bad?” I asked, perking up.
“Leslie can keep running, but she’ll be mine. I let her go all those years ago, biggest mistake I ever made, I kept watch on her until she first fell pregnant. Walked away then, knew Leslie had everything she wanted, and I fucked up.”
“You thought you did right, no one can fault you for that Staffey, do something big. I don’t think Leslie is used to big gestures,” I suggested, and Staffey’s gaze snapped to me.
“Huh,” he rumbled, and Chance squeezed me, and I gasped.
“Don’t interfere,” he said firmly. I held his eyes for a few moments and whatever he saw in mine made him groan. “Goddess!”
“No, I want Dad to be happy!” I snapped. “Do something big, something Leslie won’t see coming. She’s as soft as butter under that exterior, Leslie has a heart of gold.”
“Don’t need telling love, I don’t think the woman I loved all those years ago is gone, she’s there. Just got to jolt Leslie loose from the uptight woman she’s become. Leslie was a good girl but wild, loved the back of my bike, loved hanging out in bars and letting her hair down.” I giggled as I thought of Leslie’s short bob and Staffey gave me a rueful smile.
“Clio let your dad conduct his own romance,” Chance interrupted, and I glared.
“Nope, did Leslie let you conduct yours or did she send us both running into each other’s arms?” I questioned, and Chance subsided. Leslie had thrown Chance my way and me his, he couldn’t deny that.
“So how big a gesture?” Staffey mused sitting back and folding his arms across his belly.
“Big! Huge! Massive!” I encouraged, and Staffey sat forward with a smile.
“Got ya kiddo, see you tomorrow!” Staffey said, getting to his feet and wandering out of the cabin.
“Stop interfering, let them find their own pace,” Chance chided as I slid off his lap and tidied up.
“Like you did?” I sent Chance a sultry look and squealed as he launched out of the chair and tackled me.
The next morning, I was a bag of nerves when the tearoom opened at eight precisely. I hadn’t known what to expect, but a queue of people outside wasn’t it. Chance waited with Leslie and me as the clock ticked down the last minutes and I bounced on my heels. Worried, I began chewing my nails, and Leslie slapped my hand away, and I frowned and began tapping my fingers in the countertop instead. Chance caught my hands up and pulled me close and kissed me, by the time he finished, my nerves had settled. I turned to the clock and frowned.
Yesterday Clarice and Anita had worked preparing pastries that may be required for the morning. The hot counter was full of the breakfast menu and pastries that customers could take away. The sandwich counter was a third full of pre-made sandwiches that again customers could buy. Everything looked inviting.