"I'm sure it's fine. After all, you did do us a favor by driving her home from the airport. Right, Leah?"
Leah knew that tone. It was the "you'd better not argue" tone.
"Right. Besides, you probably made enough to feed a small army."
"Well, I wasn't sure what you'd want to eat."
"I love you too, Leah."
Leah started chewing on her lip as she met her mother's eyes. Had they always seemed so tired?
"Will Dad be joining us?"
"No. He's sleeping now. He's been tired a lot more these days. He gets worn out more easily. You can say hi to him in the morning."
Leah's shoulders relaxed as she sighed a breath of relief. As much as she'd missed her father, she wasn't sure she was ready to face him yet. Her mom grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze.
"How bad does he look?"
"I can't really describe it besides that he looks sick. He's still your dad, just in a sick body."
"Come. Dinner's going to get cold."
Sure enough, there was a bit of everything on the table. All of Leah's favorites were there, baked macaroni and cheese, grilled bruschetta chicken, mashed potatoes, Caesar salad, warm crescent rolls, and chocolate mousse.
"Mom, thank you. You really didn't have to make all of this."
"I just wanted you to remember the good parts of being home too."
Leah met her mother's gaze with tears in her eyes. She pulled her mom into a hug and noticed how small her mother's body had become. There were more gray hairs than there were when they'd visited just a year ago. She heard a small sob escape her mother's throat.
"I'll, uh, set the table," Conner said clearing his throat.
Leah had completely forgotten he was even still there. Leah let go of her mom and stared intently at her face.
"I'm home now. I'm here as long as you need okay?"
"I'm sorry honey. I'm trying to be strong for both of you."
"You don't have to do that, Mom. This is hard on you too. Just remember you need to take care of yourself too, okay?"
She nodded and Leah pulled her in again. Her mother pulled back and wiped away the tears with a shaky hand.
"I don't think I would have made it this long if it wasn't for Conner's help. He's been great about helping me get your father to his appointments and with fixing stuff around the house."
"He's....he's been helping with Dad?"
"I never called him. He just showed up one day after I'd mentioned to Nancy that the fridge was making a weird noise."
"Why didn't you let me know? I would've come back sooner."
"Your dad is so proud of you with your big city job. He made me promise not to call you."
Leah rubbed a hand over her face angrily.
"Stubborn man." She mumbled.
"I know a lot happened between you two and I won't excuse him for being, well, you know, back then. But he's been a real help now Leah. At least try to keep that in mind."
Conner cleared his throat nearby.
"The table is set, if you're ready."
"Thank you," Leah said gently as she made her way into the dining room.
Leah loaded up her plate and moaned in pleasure with the first bite she took. Conner and her mother started up a conversation as they ate. Leah continued to shovel food down until she was completely stuffed. Nothing could beat her mom's cooking and it was something that she'd missed while in the city.
Her mom started to clear the dishes but Leah gently stopped her.
"I can handle the dishes mom. Why don't you go get some rest?"
"Are you sure?"
"I'll help." Conner threw in.
A crease formed on her mom's forehead.
"See? We'll take care of it. Go rest. Shoo, shoo, shoo!"
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.