Finding someone who could share his love of travel and his love for his daughters was a tall order. Women, Patrick, believed preferred one or the other. His experience extended to his mother, sisters and the few dates he had enjoyed. Leticia encompassed both. She adored the girls; they bonded through movies and playing with toys. It surprised Leticia, as she had never wanted children of her own. What was missing from this perfect family unit was the adventure. Patrick regaled tales of bears in the forest and fishing for dinner. Luliana preferred the idea it was a teddy bear’s picnic. A bear with large foreboding teeth, growling outside her tent kept her awake at night.
In the wake of his mother’s death, Patrick imagined exploring the Granite Fall trails. He would discover insects, explore hidden groves and connect with the natural world. Putting his dreams on hold for the girls was worth all the tantrums for the moment they called him dad. The joy when they said it in front of their biological parents was incomparable. Leticia was unsure and awkward when Luliana asked if they could call her mum. While it was clear Patrick loved her, a discussion of their future, the next step, had yet to occur.
The cutlery clattered as they shared concerns about their trip. A chorus of “are we there yet?” gave Patrick a headache on train trips into the city. He regretted his decision to hire a car, but he hoped the girls would enjoy playing their favourite tunes. Leticia was unsure how many repeats of “Kinzakura no Chigiri” she would tolerate. Neither option was preferable as the conversation fell awkward. Patrick cleared his throat, laying a palm-sized box on the table. His breath held as she flipped open the lid. The bronze keys were an invitation for her to move in with him. Leticia’s silence made him panic; was it too soon or was she unsure of daily family life? His other thought had been a proposal, and looking at Leticia, marriage was a definite desire. He watched her fingers caress the keys. Leticia rested a hand on Patrick’s, accepting this should also mean the girls get their wish.
Patrick and Leticia stole glances as they loaded the car. They agreed to wait until the cabin before sharing their news. Daciana pulled Luliana’s coat tight; neither was keen on the chilling weather. Patrick knew it would be late when they arrived. Had he not emphasised the importance of school to Daciana, they would have taken a vacation day. Instead, he scheduled a stop in Evergreen harbour for dinner. He had stopped at the bar, enjoying an awkward meal alone. The food had been reasonable and he doubted much had changed. After the girl dozed in the back as they bumped over the unmarked roads towards Glimmerbrook. From here the light faded, Leticia kept him awake as they made the final drop into Granite Falls.
It was, as Patrick predicted, dark when they arrived. They walk with a flickering touch towards a log cabin shrouded in darkness. He teased the girls they would need to sleep on the ground. A lack of light would make it difficult to erect the tents. Daciana grumbled, kicking the fallen leaves and pinecones. Her sister lagged behind, whimpering at the thought a bear would carry her off in the night. Her sister poked her plump stomach, still full from the fish and chip supper. It was a reminder how Luliana would make a delicious meal for a hungry bear, get them through the winter. The girls were not much different in size; despite Daciana’s poor health, she was not skinny. Patrick laughed, patting his stomach; if the bears were looking for a meal, they would choose him. There would be plenty of fat to keep them warm. Daciana grinned, their laughter falling silent as they heard a twig snap.
Leticia cleared her throat, unlocking the cabin door and throwing on the lights. The girls stared at Patrick. Visions of canvas tents ripped open or blown into the river and swept down steam vanished. They raced into the cabin, embracing it’s warmth. Patrick wrapped his arms around Leticia, snuzzling her neck. He wondered if she was certain this was the life she wanted? Upstairs the twins argued over beds and using the bathroom. Leticia leaned into his affection; this place, him and the girls, it was home. They were, as they should be, a family.