Georgia had been sitting staring at the crumpled piece of paper on the table in front of her for hours. Scratched across the front of it in black ink was Luke’s phone that Amy had given her earlier that day after they had looked him up in the phone book. 555798. It was different to the one he had had when they were at school which meant that he had not gone back to live with his parents. Then why was he already back from the army?
Amy had been no good helping her with her questions. She had just claimed to have bumped into him at the Diner the week before. They had not said much to each other except hi and bye. Even when Georgia probed Amy for more information Amy could not help. “I was not paying any attention,” she admitted. “I was in such a rush and just said hi and bye in one breath.”
“How did he look,” Georgia asked.
“The same but different,” Amy replied. “Older and thinner but he was still Luke.”
Amy had left almost four hours ago. Since then Georgia had put the girls to bed and then sat at the table since wondering what to do. Would he reject her? Would he reject his daughters? Would he ever forgive her for not letting him know about the girls? He had missed out on two years of their lives; Georgia did not know if she could forgive such a thing!
She fingered the piece of paper and then decided to take the plunge. Pulling out her phone she tapped in the numbers. Then she hung up. “Arrrhhhh,” she screamed to herself. Come on Georgia. She picked up the phone again and dialled and the put the receiver to her ear.
It rung once. Then again. She told herself she would hang up on the sixth ring, it would be a sign. But after the fifth ring the phone made a low clicking sound and a man’s voice answered. “Hello.”
“Erm hello is Luke there please?” Georgia was whispering.
“Sorry. Luke,” she said louder. “Is Luke there?”
“Luke speaking.” Georgia’s mouth went dry. “Hello,” Luke said thinking she had disappeared?
“I’m here. It’s me. Err.. Georgia.”
Now it was Luke’s turn to go silent. “Georgia,” he eventually said like he was trying her name out for size. “WOW. How are you?”
“I’m ok. How are you? When did you get back from overseas?”
“About four months ago. Where you? You still around?”
“Yes I still live at home.”
“And how’s your folks.”
“They’re good,” Georgia replied. But she did not want to talk about them. “Listen Luke, can we meet?”
“Err yeah sure. I guess.”
“Great. How about tomorrow at the Butterfly Garden?”
“Ok. What time?”
“Ten o’clock ok with you.”
“Great.” There was an awkward silence and Georgia hung up the phone. She did not even say goodbye.
Georgia tossed and turned all night long. Her dreams were filled with Luke. Luke as a monster. Luke trying to steal India and Izzy. And Luke, holding her like he had done the night they conceived the twins. In her dreams she could feel him, smell him, even taste him.
Waking up she still had the familiar sense of him all over her. But like most dreams the feeling wore off pretty quickly and she was suddenly desperate to see him, regain the sensation of him once again.
Amy had agreed to come over and help Esme care for the twins while Georgia met with Luke. Esme had been very apprehensive about the whole thing. “I don’t like it,” she kept saying. “I just don’t like it.” She wanted to go with Georgia but Georgia kept reminding her that this was something she needed to do herself.
“Mum please understand. Luke needs to know. This cannot go on anymore.”
“But don’t you think you are rushing things. You only found out he is back in town last night. If you hold on a bit I can take you to see him and his parents together.”
“Mum I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t need you to hold my hand.” She knew her mother was just being over-protective but she could not think of anything worse than having her mother around when she saw Luke. She needed him all to herself even if it was just for a few minutes.
Her hands were wet and clammy on the steering wheel as she drove down through the Bridgeport Hills and into the city. She hung onto it tightly feeling like if she let go of the wheel she would fall. Fall where? She was not sure.
She arrived at the Butterfly Park at ten minutes to ten. Though she was early she knew Luke would already be there. She spotted him instantly sitting on a lowly bench all on his own in the middle of the gardens, butterflies fluttering around his face like they were dancing with him.
As she walked towards him he turned his face to her and smiled. Amy was right, he did look the same but different. His once long afro locks were now cut short against his head and he was thin. Very thin in fact. Even from this distance, Georgia noticed the hollow of his cheeks and bones of his ribs jutting out. But he was still handsome, there was no denying it. Maybe even handsomer than ever.
She drifted over to him in a daze and as she got nearer he rose from his seat to greet her. And then that’s when she saw it, the walking stick. Luke was using it to pull himself from the bench and then he staggered forwards towards her, limping with his left foot.
Georgia’s immediate reaction was to gasp. “What happened to you,” she gulped.
Luke looked from her to his leg and back up again. “Old war injury,” he chuckled. “Nothing to worry about. Won’t ever be able to run a marathon again but hey, that’s life.”
Georgia could not help herself. She flung herself into Luke’s arms. “Hey hey there,” he said stroking the back of her head. “It’s ok. It’s just a leg.”
“It’s not just that,” she whimpered. “I’ve missed you. I’ve missed you so much.”
“Me too kid,” Luke sighed.
They stood holding each other for a while and then Georgia helped him back onto the bench. “Does it hurt,” she asked.
“Not anymore. But let’s not talk about me. How are you?”
“I’m ok.” Georgia took a deep breath. “Listen Luke I’m sorry for never returning any of your letters. I was in a dark place for a while. A really dark place.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. How are you now?”
“Better. I am so much better. I tried to find you. About a year ago I contacted the military school and they told me you were overseas and were un-contactable.”
“Yeah they sent me to war,” Luke said squeezing his eyes shut like it was a memory he did not want to recall. “I’m sorry you could not get hold of me.”
“No I’m sorry,” Georgia shrieked. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s ok,” Luke replied. “Calm down. It’s really ok.”
“But its not. You don’t understand.” She took another deep breath and knew it was now or never. “The reason I was in such a dark place was because I was pregnant.”
“What,” Luke whispered glaring at Georgia.
“I refused to accept it for a long time. Too long! I delivered the babies….”
“Babies,” Luke interrupted?
“Yes twin girls. I delivered them on my own at school and then I left them at the hospital. You have to understand I was not in my right mind. It was like I was asleep.”
“What happened,” Luke asked. “What happened to the babies?”
“My parents found out the very next day and we bought the babies home. I am a mum Luke to the two most amazing little girls in the world. I would love you to meet them.”
Luke blew out a breath. “Are they mine?”
“Jesus Georgia.” She could tell he was struggling to take all this in.
“I know and I am so sorry for not telling you sooner. But I did not even understand it myself until a year ago.”
Silence fell over the Butterfly garden. Georgia willed Luke to speak but he just sat still looking at his hands. Eventually he broke the silence. “I’m a father,” he asked. It was like he needed to check again. Then double check. Triple check if he had to.
“Yes Luke. You’re a daddy.”
“I would like to see them if that’s ok please Georgia?”
“Of course Luke. Of course you can see them. Tell you what why don’t I go home and get them and meet you in the children’s park in an hour?”
“Yes please,” Luke replied.
Georgia jumped up and ran across the gardens. She glanced back once to see Luke still in the same position, head bent like he was crying. She wanted to go back and wrap her body around his but first, it was time her babies met their father.
Esme had not been happy about Georgia rushing in and grabbing the girls. “There’s plenty of time for him to meet them,” she called after her. But to Georgia there was not a moment to waste.
When she arrived at the park, like always, Luke was already waiting. His eyes lit up when he saw Georgia and Amy approach with the girls like they were delivering him a million dollars.
“Hi Luke,” Amy said. But Luke did not even look at her, he was transfixed by the twins.
“Would you like to hold them,” Georgia asked. Luke nodded his head and pulled himself up from the bench with his stick, balancing his body on the corner of the bench so it could use both hands. As Georgia passed India to him, he took the child like she was a delicate flower he was scared to crush. India pulled at his nose, then his eye lids and for the first time in so long, Georgia heard Luke laugh.
“This is your daddy India,” Georgia said.
“Dada,” India repeated making everyone laugh.
They all settled in the corner of the park where Luke could spend time with both girls. Georgia and Amy sat on a bench nearby watching the exchange between father and daughters.
“They look beautiful together,” Amy whispered.
“They do,” Georgia replied not tearing her eyes away. “This should have happened a long time ago.”
“Better late than never.”
“It sure is.”
“Do you love him again,” Amy asked.
“I never stopped,” Georgia answered. She left Amy on the bench and went and sat down with Luke and the girls joining in on the sing song game they were playing.
By the time the sun was setting, the girls were all played out and were falling asleep in Georgia’s arms. “So where do we go from here,” Georgia asked Luke not wanting the day to end.
“I don’t know,” Luke replied. “But what I do know is that those girls are mine. I can see it in their eyes. I want to be in their lives. NO! I need to be in their lives.”
“They need you too Luke.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that. How about I have them again tomorrow?”
“Great shall we meet back here again?”
“Yes please. You can just drop them off if you have other things to do.”
“No its ok, I will would like to stay with you guys.” Georgia reached out and brushed her fingers across Luke’s – the electricity charged through her body into his and he pulled his hand back like he had received a shock from it.
“Err, I had better go,” he said looking awkwardly back at her then hobbling off into the distance.
Georgia watched him go and then turned around to walk the two miles home with a sleeping toddler on her arm. She wished she had bought the car now!
“So what now,” Amy asked trailing behind.
“I guess we will plan a rota based on when Luke can see them. He seems quite open,” Georgia replied, Luke’s negative reaction to her touch echoing in her head.
“No I meant what about you and him now?”
“Nothing,” Georgia replied. “He doesn’t want me. I screwed up my chances years ago. Now it’s all about the girls and nothing else.”
“We’ll see,” Amy replied a mischievous look on her face.