“I’m just tired,” I lie.
He elbows me. “You’re going to have to do better than that with the guy who raised you, sweetheart. I know you almost as well as I know myself by now.”
I sigh, and it turns into a frustrated groan at the end. “It’s nothing, Dad. Really. Just some stupid melodramatic… whatever.”
“Is this about a boy?” His tone goes serious, scolding, but I know he’s mostly joking. He likes to pretend that he’ll crush any guy who crosses me, even though he’s the gentlest person ever.
“It’s not about a boy,” I assure him.
“A girl then?” he asks, his tone carefully neutral.
I roll my eyes and elbow him. “I don’t play for that team, so no.”
“Just saying, if you did, I’d be completely behind you.”
“Oh my god, Dad.”
“Well, you’ve yet to bring a boyfriend home…”
I roll my eyes and glare at him. From the way he’s grinning, I know he’s just teasing though. “There’s nobody, Dad. It’s not about that.”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s…” I rub my temples. What can I possibly say to fix this? “It’s just something I can’t talk about, okay? It’s a personal problem, and I know you always say I can tell you anything—”
“You really can, you know,” he interrupts.
I talk over him, “But sometimes, there are just secrets that are better off kept secret and dealt with yourself, you know? Sometimes you aren’t ready to talk about them to people yet.”
“I understand that,” he replies, much to my surprise. This time, when I look over at him, he’s finally stopped scrutinizing me. He’s gazing across the water instead, right at our cabin. Though in reality, he seems about a million miles away from here or the cabin just now.
“What do you mean?” I ask softly. Now it’s my turn to pry, because he’s shaking his head already. I nudge him. “Dad?”
“What if…” He sighs, downs the last of his lemonade in one big gulp and sets it aside. When he turns to face me again, hands on his knees, I feel a new knot forming in my stomach. Why does he look so nervous, so penitent? It makes my heart ache to see him looking this way, sad and pensive. Is it me? Did he find out about Josh and me?
“What if I told you that I’d been keeping a secret too?” Dad finally asks.
I blink. It throws me off so much that for a moment, I don’t know what to say. Then I find my voice again and reach out to touch his shoulder. “I’d say that’s okay, Dad. Everyone needs to do that from time to time.”
“Yes, but… Well, this one affects more than just me.” He clears his throat. Shakes his head. “I’m starting to wonder if maybe the truth wouldn’t have been better off from the start.”
“It usually is, I guess. Even if it’s awkward.” I side-eye him. Though in truth, I’m thinking about just how hypocritical I sound right now, giving him that kind of advice. Dammit, self.
“Pau, I hate to do this, when the summer has gone so well, but I just… I have to say this.”
Oh god. Here it comes. My stomach turns to ice, my veins pumping that freezing cold nitrogen throughout my body. He knows.
“I did something. The summer we stayed here last. I think it might be why… Why Susan and Josh didn’t talk to us for a long time.”
I blink. Stare at him. Gape, actually, is a better term. “What?”
“I just, it seemed like you and Josh were getting very close back then, and I knew that they were going to be moving away. Plus you’ve always been impulsive and quick to care about people—and that’s a great thing, Pau, it really is, but it can lead to getting easily hurt, so I… I wanted to avoid that if possible.”
I cross my arms, slowly. “What did you do, Dad?”
“I told Josh to stay away from you.”
I can feel myself standing, though I’m not really aware of it. “You did what?”
“You had so much going on, Pau—your art, college applications, deciding where you wanted to go and what you wanted to do. If you got knocked up by some kid who was about to move a few hundred miles away, what would happen then?”
“Knocked up? You think I’m that irresponsible?”
“You were so young—”
“That doesn’t make it okay for you to meddle like that!”
“I know, Paulina, and I’m sorry. I just wanted to come clean and tell you so that you understand where I’m coming from and why…” He closes his eyes, shakes his head. “Why Josh seems a little strange sometimes. I’m going to talk to him too, apologize. Obviously I overstepped where you two were concerned anyway.”