"Hungry!" Haliya cries for her bottle.
"Well, I don't have your bottle, but I have another treat for you..."
Haliya watches eagerly as Tula slowly unveils a lollipop.
"Nope!" Tula takes a long lick of her lollipop.
Haliya cries harder.
After finishing her lollipop and finally feeding her sister properly, Tula makes her way downstairs for breakfast.
"How are you?" Paolo asks. Tula glances at him. They do this every morning; Her dad waits until she wakes up and comes downstairs, then tries to make small talk.
Ever since Guy was "sent away", Paolo has taken indefinite leave from work to be with his daughter. She supposes that she should be touched, or at least pleased that he's being more considerate of her as she used to want... and yet, Tula isn't.
"I'm fine dad. Just fed Haliya her breakfast."
"Oh, you know you don't have to do that, me or Sun can do it for you..."
"I'm not a child, I can feed her myself." Seeing him flinch, Tula decides to soften her tone, "Besides, I like spending time with her."
Paolo smiles uneasily, "Sure, of course." He pauses. "Any plans for today?"
Tula sighs. Having helicopter parents wasn't what she had in mind, but it is what it is.
"I suppose I could go out for a jog..."
This of course "somehow" turns into a family walk to the park.
Tula grits her teeth. She doesn't need to be babysat. She's a grown adult now and she would very much like to live like one.
"Want to stick around for the festival?" Paolo is immediately in front of her.
Tula takes a deep breath and wills her irritation to disappear.
"Sure, I guess."
"What do you want to do?"
She glances around. She knows if she doesn't say anything her father will become annoyingly persistent.
"Rollerskating could be fun..."
And so she dons a pair of skates and wobbles onto the rink.
She inwardly curses at herself for choosing such a difficult activity. She has no balance whatsoever. Then she's going to fall and hurt herself and her dad and Sun will be all over her. How annoying.
Sure enough, every time she so much as shakes, her father is right behind her, asking if she's ok or telling her to be careful.
"I'm fine, dad!" she snaps.
Paolo winces, "I'm sorry, I'm just trying to look out for you..."
She decides to get off the rink after that. No use giving Paolo a heart attack.
"If you want to keep exercising, we could always go to the gym..." Paolo suggests, thinking Tula's annoyance stems from being cooped up in the house.
"Actually, I'm pretty tired. I think I'll head home. But you, Sun, and Haliya should stay here and have some fun!"
"No, Haliya's probably tired by now anyways. We'll all walk home together."
Of course we will, Tula internally seethes.
While Sun puts Haliya down for her nap, Tula and Paolo have an early dinner.
"Any plans for tonight?"
Tula inwardly screams, but smiles externally, "Not sure. I was thinking of maybe going out for a drink..."
Paolo tries not to seem too worried, but can't help his eyes widening, "Oh? With anyone in particular?"
Tula shrugs, "Thought I'd go out by myself. Maybe I'll meet someone interesting."
"That's a bit dangerous. Maybe I could go with you? Properly celebrate you turning 18?"
Even Tula has a hard time finding a good response to that one.
"On second thought, I think I'll just stay in tonight..."
Seeing her disengage, Paolo feels bad for being such a nervous wreck. He doesn't want to keep her from enjoying herself, but the last time he looked away, she got hurt so badly...
"Tula, I hope you know that I love you."
Tula stares at her father, seeming slightly taken aback, "Well...yeah. I love you too dad."
Seeing that Paolo is very close to an emotional outpouring, Tula excuses herself for a shower and turning in early. Paolo wordlessly watches her put their dishes away and walk into her bedroom. He doesn't move until he hears the soft click of her door.
At the same time, Sun creeps down the stairs.
"How is she?" she whispers anxiously. She's been giving the two lots of space, not wanting to come between father and daughter during such a difficult time.
Paolo sighs, "I think she's doing better, but she seems frustrated with me..."
Sun shakes her head, "I'm sure you're just imagining it. You're doing your best. Tula's a smart girl, and she's gotten through a lot. I'm sure she'll be ok."
Paolo smiles tiredly, "You're probably right... I just hope that if I'm around more things will get better for her...and for all of us."
Sun places a hand on his shoulder, then kisses him lightly on the lips, "She's going to bed soon. I suggest we do the same."
The two walk hand in hand to their bedroom, ready for a good-night's sleep.
Tula, on the other hand, has stayed up very, very late to get out of the house.
"Thanks for letting me come over so late," Tula says in a hushed tone.
Bree, Xara's young toddler daughter, blinks sleepily at Tula.
"It's fine, I was just putting Bree down for bed when you called so I was up anyways. What's the matter, you said it was urgent?" It must have been, if she wanted to talk about it in person so late at night.
"This is going to sound a bit crazy," Tula admits, now looking shy and uncertain, "But...you travel a lot for work, and I was wondering if you knew how I could get a job somewhere...far away from here."
Xara raises an eyebrow, "...I might. But I mean, why?"
Tula looks down at the floor and plays with her hair, "I hate being in this town after everything with Guy happened. People stare at me. They might not whisper, but I know what they're thinking. And my dad...he means well, but he won't let me have any alone time anymore. He's afraid I'll get hurt if he's not there, but I want to show him that I'll be ok on my own," she tears up, "I want to be someone he can be proud of."
Xara's heart melts. "Oh sweetie... he's already proud of you. We all are."
Tula looks up at her pleadingly, "But I can't stay here forever, keeping my dad from work and living a normal life. Keeping me from a normal life. Please. Help me get out of here."
"Look, I think you should talk this over with your parents first..."
Tula shakes her head, "They wouldn't understand. They'd just freak out. If I can show them that I already have a plan and an actual job, it'll be easier for them to accept..."
Xara sighs, seeing her niece's point. "I'll see what I can do."
"Oh, thank you!" Tula says, tears slipping down her cheeks, "I can't thank you enough!"
Maybe don't thank me yet, Xara wants to say. Her brother's heart was going to get crushed...again.
At least this time, it would be for the best.