Leah directed her mother out of the kitchen and then gathered as many dishes as she could with Conner grabbing the rest. Leah washed while Conner dried. They fell into a rhythm as they worked in silence.
"So, you've been helping Mom out?" Leah asked.
"She needed the help. I still think of them as family, even though I probably don't deserve to."
Leah placed a hand on Conner's arm and squeezed gently.
"You'll always be a part of this family. You've shown that by taking care of them when I wasn't here to."
Conner covered her hand with his own.
"Thank you for taking care of them. I didn't know how bad it had gotten until Mom called me the other day or I would have been here. So thank you for being here when I wasn't."
"Like I said, they're family."
The two finished out the dishes in a more comfortable silence than before.
"Well, I should probably get to bed. I want to wake up early to see Dad before he gets too tired."
Leah went to head up the stairs.
"Leah?" Conner called softly.
"I really am sorry. For everything."
"I know. We'll talk more later, k?"
Conner shoved his hands in his pockets, his shoulders hunched inwards as he'd just taken a blow.
Leah sighed and held out her hand.
"Sleepover? For old times sake?"
Conner's face lit up.
"You're sleeping on the floor."
"I can live with that."
Conner took her hand and let her lead him up the stairs. Conner set up a sleeping bag on the floor like he had when they were kids. Leah curled up under the blanket in the room she'd grown up in and stared at the ceiling.
"I spent a lot of time hating you after you left."
"It all seems pointless now. Hating you, I mean. It didn't do any good. I just ended up running away. Now, Dad is sick and it all just seems so pointless."
"So you don't hate me?"
"I don't think I ever really did. I was just confused and hurt. I still am. But I'm at least ready to listen now."
"I didn't want to hear you cry. That's why I sent the letter."
"Why did you leave in the first place? Your letter didn't really do much to clear that up."
"I was young and scared. We were just starting our lives. You were doing so well with college. I didn't think I was good enough for you. So I left."
"I was scared too. I just thought we could get through it together like we always had."
"I should have talked to you. Guess we both chose to run away."
Leah let out a soft snort.
"Yeah, I guess we did."
Leah turned so that she was able to see Conner's face. She found Conner already looking at her.
"For what it's worth, I always thought you were always good enough Conner."
"Your dad said the same thing."
Leah propped herself up so she could see Conner better.
"When did he say that?"
"At his last appointment. I took him so your mom could get some rest."
"...He told me that I'm the only one he ever trusted with you and that if I hurt you again, he'd make sure I stayed away this time."
"Sounds like Dad."
"He hasn't lost his sense of humor."
"You think he was kidding?"
"I don't plan on finding out."
Conner laughed and Leah found herself joining in easily. She had missed him all of these years and the friendship they'd had.
"Do you think you'd ever be willing to give me another chance?"