Hey, so this idea came to me the other night and I just had to write it up. Please leave a review or a favourite, I’d really appreciate it! Idril x
The Unexpected Guest
The knock at the door came halfway through dinner. Lily was regaling them with a story about playtime while Mitch and Cam nodded along. Then, just before the punchline, the hard insistent knock brought it all to a halt. Mitch griped all the way to the door only to find two suited women standing on the doorstep. He took one look at the grim expression on their faces and he felt his knees shaking.
“Are my family…?” Fine. Alive. Safe. He couldn’t bring himself to say the words. Couldn’t bear them to confirm his fears.
“Your family is fine. We’re here about Julia Mckenzie. Can we come in?” It took him a second to place the name. A girl he’d gone out with a couple of times in his early twenties, when Phil was still setting him up with cousins and his cheerleaders. He hadn’t seen her in sixteen years. He stuttered this out to the waiting officers but they just repeated their request to come in.
He led them into the living room, Cam peering anxiously from the table. Noticing the atmosphere he sent Lily to her room before coming to join his partner on the sofa, pressing his leg against Mitch’s. An unnoticeable modicum of comfort.
“I’m Officer Smythe and this is Angela Rigby from the CPS.” CPS. Cam turned to stare at Mitch and his partner stared wildly back. He didn’t have any more clue.
“From what I’ve heard from Katie, you won’t have a clue what’s going on and I’m sorry I have to be the one who tells you this, but, Miss McKenzie died in a car accident two days ago.”
“That’s awful, but... well, why are you telling me?” Mitch hoped he didn’t sound cold. He felt for Julia, he did, but a cold coil of fear was wrapping itself around his lungs, squeezing until he could barely breathe. Because the CPS just didn’t turn up on random acquaintances’ doors with sad tidings.
“She had a daughter, Katie Mckenzie, and you’re her father.” Mitch waited a bit, hoping for an “April fools” or some crack in the tension, but nothing. The python in his lungs was suffocating.
“I… are you sure?”
“We can run a DNA test if you want but you’re listed as her father and she has been told you are. She has no other family, and if you can’t take her in then she’ll have to go into foster care.”
“No.” Cam said forcefully. There was no way in hell he was letting this girl go into care, whether or not she was Mitch’s daughter. Mitch was still staring into space, the cogs whirling. He had slept with Julia, one drunken time when he was mad at his Dad, after another awkward dinner. He hadn’t seen her since. Oh God. “Mitch, we can’t leave her. You can’t…”
“No, no I’m just shocked” Mitch agreed. “I’ll take her in.”
“Thank you. This will mean everything for Katie.” Mitch nodded, keeping the torrent of scared, screaming thoughts to himself. He’d accidently abandoned his daughter. He thought of Lily, he could never leave her alone. Not even for a minute. Katie must be fifteen years old and she’d never known him for a second.
“Where is she?” At least Cam was holding it together, able to ask the important questions.
“A few towns over. We want to get her settled as soon as possible. It would really be helpful if we could bring her here tonight.”
“Yes.” Mitch agreed in a heartbeat. He had this sudden urge to get her as close as possible, as soon as possible. He’d lost all this time, he had to make it up to her right now.
“I’ll make the necessary arrangements, she should be here in a few hours. We’ll leave you alone for a little bit.” Cam showed them to the door, while Mitch let his head come to rest on his hands, his breath coming in bursts and starts as he tried to come to terms with what had just happened.
“I’ll get Lily’s stuff together and call your sister.” Cam placed a calming hand on his neck, squeezing down. The warmth of his hand calmed Mitch slightly, enough to wrap his head around what his partner was saying.
“Because Katie needs our undivided attention tonight, without her new six year old sister trying to do her make up.”
“What are we going to tell her?” Lily acted old for her age, probably because she spend most of her time with her much older cousins (and Uncle if they were being technical about Manny) but he couldn’t imagine sitting her down and telling her rather than getting a baby brother, she now had a teenage half-sister.
“We will tell her she’s having a fun sleepover at Auntie Claire’s and deal with the rest in the morning.”
“I didn’t know…”
“I know, and we can talk about it all later, hun. Let’s just get through tonight.” He nodded, leaning his head against Cam’s steady hand. He had no idea what he’d do without the man.
“Daddy?” Lily appeared beside him, an anxious look on her face. He put his arms out, pulling her onto his lap.
“Hey Lily.” He whispered, cuddling her close. Trying not to think about all the cuddles he didn’t give his other little girl. He flicked the television on, letting Lily watch cartoons as Cam flitted around in the background, making the necessary arrangements. Lily must have picked up on the tension coursing through his body as she sat quietly hugging him.
“Claire’s on her way.” He jumped slightly at Cam’s voice. He’d been miles away.
“You hear that Lily? You’re going for a special sleepover!” He smiled down at his little girl, grinning as she jumped around, running off to get her toys ready.
Claire arrived, knocking at the door, ten minutes later. Lily sprinted off, excited to spend time with her cousins. Luke was leaning against the door beside his Mom, and Mitch was glad that he took the little girl to the car, so he could admit the strange new development to his sister.
“So, you to up to anything special?” She asked, grinning coyly at the two of them.
“I have another daughter.” Mitch blurted out. Claire stared at him in confusion, mouth moving but no actual words coming out. “I didn’t know, and her Mom’s just died, and they’re bringing her here tonight, and, and I really don’t know what I’m doing.” He admitted, grateful for his sister’s warm embrace.
“Oh God. Oh Mitch!” She rubbed his back, trying to think of the right thing to say. “You’re a good Dad to Lily, and you’re going to help this girl. We all will.”
“But I don’t know how to parent a teenager. I thought I was going to have years before all that.” He admitted quietly.
“They’re not that bad. Promise. What time is she getting here?”
“An hour or so.”
“Right well, I’ll get that little one out of your hair and you call me if you need anything, or if you want the girls to do anything. Whatever you need.” He nodded, grateful for his family.
“Don’t tell Dad will you? I want to do it myself.”
“Course not.” She kissed his cheek as a final goodbye before heading off.
Without the distraction of Lily, the two of them sat side by side, listening out for a car engine. Part of Mitch wanted to tell Cameron everything that had happened with Julia, but he couldn’t bring himself to spell it all out right now. No, instead he sat in silence, wondering what Katie was like.
Despite the fact they’d been waiting for the knock on the door for hours, when it finally came they were both a bundle of nerves. This was it. Cam opened the door, allowing Mitch the first view of his kid. Angela and who he guessed was another CPS worker stood on either side of Katie. For Mitch, time seemed to stop. She looked like him. She had long red hair, darker than Mitch’s, with hazel eyes in a freckled face. She looked up, meeting his eyes, giving him an anxious smile. His body worked on autopilot, reaching out and pulling her against him. It took him a second to realise that she was standing limply against him. He felt bad, he wasn’t an overly affectionate person himself and here he was grabbing some scared child. He pulled back, keeping his hands on her shoulders.
“Hey Katie. I’m Mitch.” She nodded, of course she knew that. “Right, come in.” He moved back, allowing her into the apartment. Cam had, weirdly, stayed quiet in the corner, but moved forward now.
“This is Cameron, my husband.” Her eyes widened, and for a split second he feared she was going to say something. Lily had grown up with the two of them, but who knew how Katie would react to the whole two dad thing. Thankfully she just gave the same small smile and allowed him to hug her.
“See Katie, I told you everything would be ok. Shall we sit down and go over a few things.” Angela motioned towards the sofa. Cam regained himself, and began playing the perfect host, offering drinks and food which was politely excused. Katie sat with her hands folded in her lap in the middle of the sofa, taking up as little space as possible. She stayed silent as the CPS officers began outlining what would happen over the next few weeks. Mitch kept sneaking glances at his child as he agreed to frequent visits and help with settling Katie in. A couple of times he met he gaze as she looked at him, but she always dropped her eyes whenever he tried to smile at her.
“Well Katie, we’ll leave you to settle in. You have my number if you need anything.” Angela put her hand on Katie’s head as she got up to leave. Katie swivelled in her seat, staring wide eyed at her retreating back. Mitch felt for her, deciding as soon as they left he’d try and find a way to make her feel better. Talk about her Mom if she wanted to, or about his family, whatever she wanted.
However, no sooner had the door shut she turned to him and asked if she could take a shower. He hid his disappointment that she didn’t want some big meet and greet, although really, what was he expecting? He took her to the bathroom, showing her how to work the shower and where they kept the towels. He waited till the shower was blasting before turning his attention back to Cam.
“How could they just leave her here? We could be anyone!” Mitch yelled, quickly lowering his voice in case Katie heard.
“You’re her father.” Cam pointed out as Mitch began pacing.
“Yeah and what do they know about me? About us? They left that little girl here with us.”
“They’re coming back to check on her, she’s not abandoned.”
“We need to sort out where she’s going to sleep. Lily’s room is too small for two of them permanently. We need a bigger place. I’ll call Phil. And we need to get her into high school, and…”
“Mitch breathe! We can sort all of that out tomorrow. Let’s just focus on tonight, hey?” Mitch nodded, taking a couple of deep breaths before sitting down on the sofa. Wondering how his life had turned upside down in a couple of hours.
Half an hour later, Katie appeared in the doorway, rubbing her damp hair with a towel and curling up on the farthest side of the couch from Mitch. Cam appeared with a plate of biscuits and a hot chocolate. He seemed to have decided that the best way to deal with the situation was feeding Katie up. She thanked him quietly before taking a biscuit from the plate and nibbling around the edge.
“Katie, I didn’t know. If I had, I would have been there from the very beginning. I would never have knowingly aband-“
“I know.” She gave him her what was fast becoming, in his mind at least, signature shy smile before returning to her biscuit. “Whose toys are those?” She asked, pointing to the toys that had been shoved haphazardly into Lily’s toy box.
“We have a daughter Lily. She’s six. She’s at her Aunt’s house. Mitchel has a sister, Claire, and she has three children. And Mitch’s Dad lives round the corner. You can meet them all soon.” Cam babbled, taking a biscuit himself while Katie nodded along.
“Big family. There was only ever me and my Mom.” Her voice cracked and she let the biscuit fall back onto the plate. “I’m really tired. Where can I sleep?”
“In Lily’s room. We’ll sort something more permanent out tomorrow.” She nodded and jumped up, ready to make her retreat but Mitch caught her arm, halting her in her tracks. “If you want anything, no matter what time, just come and get me. We’re both here for you, ok?”
“Thanks,” She muttered before freeing herself from his grip and running off.
Cam wrapped an arm around Mitch, kissing his head and pulling him back onto the sofa, holding him close.
“It’ll get better.” He offered, stroking Mitch’s hair.
Mitch couldn’t sleep. He kept thinking about the grieving child all alone in the other room, but, she’d shut the door and he felt he wasn’t quite at the stage of familiarity where he could open the door to check on her. Who was he kidding, he was at no stage of familiarity with the girl. She was a perfect stranger. A perfect stranger with his eyes. Nevertheless he slipped out of bed, careful not to wake Cam, and padded down the hall to listen at Lily’s door for any signs of life. He thought he could hear her whimpering. Holding his breath he pressed his ear to the wood and listened again. Once again he heard quiet sobbing. He hesitated for a minute, scared what would happen if he opened the door. Then he berated himself, if it was Lily he’d barge in there. Her knight in shining armour.
“Katie?” The snuffles stopped instantly.
“I’m fine.” Came the muffled reply.
“It’s ok to be sad.” He tried again. The bedside light snapped on and once he’d adjusted to the blinding light he was met with a pair of angry red rimmed eyes.
“You know nothing! You know nothing about me or her! Get out!” She screamed, jumping out of bed to face him toe to toe. The tear stained face dissolving any force her argument could have.
“I know, but I’m trying!”
“You know nothing! I hate you! I wish you were dead and Mom was alive!” She screamed, face red and eyes full of anger. He reached out, grabbing her shoulders and pulling her against him. Wrapping his arms around her even as she struggled and yelled and cursed him. He was just about to let her go, thinking he’d misjudged the move when she sagged against him, the fight leaving her body. The two of them ended up on the floor, Katie crying out for her Mom while Mitch whispered soothing words into her hair. He looked up to see Cam watching from the hallway. He quietly entered the room, dropping down beside the two of them and wrapped his arms around the two of them, kissing his new step-daughter’s head.
“We’ll get through this.” He promised the two of them.