He laughed, “Oh my indeed.”
“You look so much like him.”
He frowned, “We’re identical twins.”
My jaw dropped open, “Oh.”
He frowned, “He never said that?”
I shook my head, “Must have slipped his mind.”
He pushed on his sunglasses, “Yes well, a great many things slip his mind. Small details don’t fit with all that personality.”
I laughed and pointed, “Oh, we are going to get along great.”
He chuckled. I put the car in reverse and started the trek to his parents’ house. It was much less than twenty minutes in an M6. I barely had time to make the turns he told me to take. When I pulled into the new subdivision, I was stunned. The houses were new and pretty. It was a small, clean area with plumbing and underground electricity. It was a beautiful family neighborhood. I was confused, “I imagined it more like a farm.”
He gave me a look, “Turn here.”
I looked at the street name, “Erin Lane?”
He laughed, “Yes ma’am.” He definitely sounded more Southern than Lochlan did. “This one.”
I pulled in slowly. The house was a new rancher with beige siding and burgundy trim. “My mom would love it here. She likes new.”
He nodded, “Dad bought it a couple years ago. It’s easier with mom to be in a rancher. We had a huge house before, but she can’t get around like before.”
I started to feel like I was completely in the dark. I swallowed, “Is she okay?”
He frowned, “Wow, did he talk about us at all?”
I nodded, “He did but it was like Alex does this and that, and when we were little Lissie hated this, and when we went to Disney, Alex cried because they made him put on a prince outfit instead of a princess.”
His cheeks flared, “Of course, he remembered that one.” He sighed, “You will discover he’s bad with the people he loves, he kind of gets distracted.” My heart hurt instantly but then he smiled, “But you’ll never meet a person who loves anyone as much as he does. Lochlan is the best person I’ve ever met. Our mother had a massive stroke a while ago. She has been pretty much cared for by our father. It was intense.”
“I’m so sorry.” I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. Who cries as they meet their boyfriend’s family?
He shook his head, “It’s fine. She is fine and we are fine. Don’t make a big deal about it, okay? She hates that.”
I nodded, “I’m going to kill your brother. Are they still getting in tonight after the show?”
He shook his head, “They fly in at five in morning. I have to go get them. Had to change it when they found out they were playing two songs, and the show is longer than they expected.”
I smiled and muttered, “Figures.” He had just stranded me with his family for the next few hours, alone. I was at least grateful that Alex was amazing.
“Oh we don’t bite, not hard anyway.”
My smile increased.
“So Loch said you’re in law,” he said as he grabbed my bag and we walked up to the door. The front porch was beautiful.
“I am, and you’re a dentist?”
He rolled his eyes, “Pediatric dental surgeon.”
I laughed, “Those are the same thing in Loch’s mind, apparently.”
He chuckled, “Loch doesn’t have room for the small stuff.” He opened the door. A kind-looking man with dark hair, bright-blue eyes and red cheeks greeted me with a smile, “You must be Erin.” He hugged me. I didn’t expect any of it. He was chubby and tall. His face was a huskier version of Alex and Loch’s.
Lissie walked in with light-red hair and the same bright-blue eyes. She joined in on the hug. She was tall, thin, and very pretty. Her skin was ruddy and freckled. I assumed Lissie looked like their mother.
Alex pulled me into the living room. A woman with short, strawberry-blonde hair and a slack look on her tired face, moved her eyes to see me.
“Mom, this is Erin, Loch’s Erin.”
She didn’t move. I was about to lose it. He never warned me, he never prepared me at all. I dropped to my knees immediately, taking her hand, “It’s lovely to meet you.”
Her eyes filled with tears. She gripped my hand with little strength.
Her eyes darted about the room.
Alex leaned forward, “He’ll be here tonight. It’s okay. He’s coming.”
I was too near tears. Lissie came and sat beside me and thankfully started talking, “So he told us the mace story. I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone, before I met them. But you, I loved you.”
I started to laugh, “It was a bad day.”
Alex laughed with her, “No, it was our best day. Anything that humbles the super hero in the family is good.” He winked at Mom. Her eyes shone with delight and pride.
Their dad came in with a tray of sweet tea. He passed me one, “Hope you like your tea sweetened.”
I nodded and drank a small sip. He sat next to his wife with a spoon in her glass, “I made yours the way you like it, love.”
He spoon-fed her tiny sips, not taking any of his. Lissie and Alex acted like it was normal, so I tried not to stare.
We chatted and laughed and got to know each other. Lissie was a schoolteacher, she taught tenth-grade math. She had her master’s in teaching. She was twenty-nine years old. I knew Loch and Alex were twenty-seven.
We sat enjoying each other’s company. Their father had made dinner, tomato-basil soup. He made up his wife’s bowl and fed it to her. He drank from her tea, chatting away with her, like nothing had changed and no time had ever passed between them.
Eventually Alex leaned over to where I sat in front of the hot fireplace, “Want to take a walk?”
I nodded. Lissie had left with promises to be back early to help with Thanksgiving dinner.
We left the house and I sobbed, leaning against the truck in the driveway. I covered my face in hateful shame.
Alex rubbed my back,
“It’s a lot to take at first, I’m sorry Loch never told you. I honestly don’t think he notices sometimes.”
I shook my head, “He treats me the same as her and I got mad at him. I told him to stop making my fucking plates of food and drinking my drinks. I never knew…”
He wrapped himself around me, “How could you have known? We’ve seen it for almost a decade? Well, almost six years anyway.”
He took my hand in his and pulled me along. I sniffled and nearly heaved. I’d never felt worse in my life.
“I feel so bad.”
He nudged me, “You shouldn’t. We’ve been exposed to it for so long, it’s just regular for us. Dad refused to put her in a home when it happened. She was young, jeeze, fifty-years old. We were on the road to success. Loch had just finished his MBA, I was in university, taking too many courses, and Lissie had finally made it off the substitute list. She had her first full-time job. We were all so busy. Loch decided not to take the job he’d gotten. He sang at the bar nights and spent the days with Dad. The two of them got her to where she is now. She’s as good as it gets. She can swallow normally, breathe normally, and she understands us. If we ask her questions, she can blink her eyes as answers. Loch spent a lot of time with her.”
I frowned, “What made him do the show?”
He got a grim look on his face, “We forced him. We knew what an amazing singer he was, and Lissie and I were stable. We hired help for Dad and forced Loch to do the show.”
I laughed, “I’m sure you didn’t have to completely force him.”
He laughed too, “He was made to do this.”
I had never imagined it was anything like this—never. I shook my head, “No wonder he’s always going on about living everyday to the fullest and trying new things. He’s inspired by her.”
He gave me a look, “That’s his ADHD. He’s always struggled with it and oh, Mom and Dad, they tried medicating him when he was little. But he became a zombie. He lost the passion and the flare that is Lochlan. His eyes glazed over and he said yes to everything in a monotone. No sarcasm, no joie de vivre. Mom wouldn’t hear of it. She took him off the meds and shit. She made him take music, started with piano. It helped him focus. So when he would be having a fit or a hard time focusing, she would make him play. He took singing lessons. The music saved him.”
I was dying inside, “Oh my God, he never told me that either.”
He nodded, “I assumed. If it’s too much for you, all of this, I can take you to the airport. I know he’s a lot to handle, and Mom, well she’s hard to watch. We are all watching her die, slowly. Dad has a bad heart, high cholesterol, and blood pressure. They won’t go into a home, and we won’t let Loch put his life on hold for them. They don’t want it. They want this for him. Our family is a mess, so if you need to bail, I will make him understand.”
I felt sick, “You think I’m that shallow?”
He grabbed my hands, shaking his head, “No, my God no. But he never told you any of this, and he might not ever have. There are things he might not ever tell you. That’s something you have to live with. It’s not deviousness; he isn’t like that. It’s truly that he sees things his way, he is stubborn as shit, and refuses for the flaws to bring him or anyone down. He still believes, in his crazy way, that she might recover.” He sighed, “If there is ever anything you need to ask me, I’ll always tell you the truth.”
I held his hands tight, “Why did he beat that guy up on the show?”
His eyes twitched with the memory, “Okay, the truth on anything but that. That he has to tell you himself.”
“Do you think I should go to the airport?”
He shook his head, “No. Lochlan used to need music and now it seems like he just needs you. The music has finally become a joy and not a release.”
I felt my cheeks blush, “He seems so normal and together. He’s smart and funny and outgoing. He doesn’t seem broken.”