"Hey, little girl," her father said, startling a yelp out of her. "Sorry." He chuckled and stepped into the room and reached to pick up the stress ball painted like a globe that she had dropped. "Deep in thought, huh?"
"Very." Natalie took the ball and set it on the nightstand, then dropped onto the side of her bed. "You really believe him, don't you, Dad?"
"Yeah, well, I have to," he said with a shrug, after just a moment of hesitation. Natalie noted that he didn't ask who she was talking about. "If not, how can I expect you and your mom and brothers to believe me when I say I've changed?"
"How?" He crossed his arms and leaned into the frame of the door, visibly settling in for a long talk.
"You didn't destroy our lives. You didn't walk out on Mom just because she finally stood up to you and called you a hypocrite."
"You're absolutely right. I broke down and cried when she did it."
"Huh?" Natalie shook her head, positive she hadn't heard right. "Mom--"
"Called me a hypocrite. Thank goodness she never really needed to 'finally' stand up to me. She's stood up to me plenty of times when I really needed it."
"Dad…" Natalie sighed, feeling a sudden aching, heavy weariness in her arms and legs. "Is it hard to forgive for something so… awful?"
"It's been a struggle." He tipped his head to one side, studying her. From downstairs, her mother's voice came to them faint and distant, calling them to supper. "You think I shouldn't have?"
"I'm thinking of Tommy.""Yeah." He grinned and leaned into the room to snag hold of her hand and pull her to her feet. "You always were."