Breakfast and cleanup passed without incident or smoke alarm, although the whole family kept eyeing Rob as if he might break out into spots.
“I suppose,” Rob began, once they settled in the living room, “I thought I could start by telling you all the truth, Wil. And you, Jakob …but I always told you the truth about your mom -my sister-” He seemed flustered, rubbing at his cheek enough to make it red, and blinking around at his attentive family.
“Not that your mother didn’t love you, of course, Jakob -” Cynthia added.
“S’okay, Mom,” Jakob said. “I’m over it.” He shrugged from his leaning posture against the armchair and looked bored.
Rob cleared his throat. “Hm.” He frowned as he studied his stepson, then turned back to his daughter. “Wil, you like hearing the story of how I met your -I mean, of how I met Cynthia.”
Wil nodded, and then realization flashed in her eyes. “Oh!” She sat up from her kneel upon the floor. “That -that -that’s how you met Mom, I mean- Cynthia, but then you, you…” She faltered; looking up at her father, then back to the woman she’d thought of as mother, then to her father again.
“That story is true,” he said slowly. “But I don’t tell you a few things.” He paused. “Like, how I was out of work because I …well, I didn’t plan on needing to work so early in life.”
Jakob laughed, which startled Wil. “Were you f***ing around?”
“Jakob Clair!” their mother exclaimed.
Jakob stopped smiling and looked down at his clasped hands. “Sorry, Mom,” he mumbled. After a pause, he added, “Sorry, Wil.”
Their father cleared his throat again. “The point is, I …hmm. Well, Jakob’s point is accurate in a way..”
Cynthia placed a hand on his arm. “Maybe you could just say that you were overwhelmed with some responsibilities you weren’t expecting.”
Rob smiled gratefully and sheepishly up at his wife. “Yes. That sounds good.”
“What do you mean?” Wil asked, her confusion coming across in her tone.
Her father met her gaze and gave her a half-smile. “How about I just tell you the story you know, with a few additions?”
Wil smiled in return; hers a full face-lighting that, unbeknownst to her, unearthed his memories of her birth mother like a sudden slap.
“Wee-e-ell,” he began, and composed himself. “I had just started a new job, at the factory I work at today. Just the day before I went to the truck stop, I had learned that I had …that I was a father.” No one even dared breathe to fill the silence. “But Gwen didn’t want to be a mother and wondered if I wanted to keep you.”
His eyes met Wil’s again. “I told her, ‘yes.'”