... ... ...
Emily waited until she and her dad had nearly finished eating before broaching the subject that she had been wondering about for a few weeks. Any earlier in the meal and she would have had no escape route if he didn't take kindly to her prying; any later and he would have had an escape route. This was the perfect moment, she had decided. So she asked him, "Are you and Gillian dating?"
She watched his reaction closely, looking for signs in his face that would tell her a truth that he may try to conceal with his words. You weren't Cal Lightman's daughter for sixteen years without picking up a thing or two about deception detection.
His instant reaction was to turn his attention away from the potato he had been about to spear with his fork. He looked at her from across the table, frowning deeply - a little too deeply, she thought.
"What sort of a question is that?" he asked her.
Deflection. She smirked slightly. "What sort of an answer is that?"
He narrowed his eyes at her but she could see the sparkle of pride in them.
"You know that Gillian and I aren't dating," he told her firmly, and Emily got the sense that he wasn't happy about what he was saying. So, maybe they weren't actually dating - or at least they hadn't referred to it as such. Well, she would continue as she had planned anyway. It might give them a nudge in the right direction.
"I know you aren't dating anyone else - either of you. I know she never stops over…" She saw her dad squirm a little, obviously uncomfortable with his daughter alluding to his sex life. "But you've had dinner together way more than you used to recently - "
"Since Gillian's divorce, we often have dinner after work, you know that," he interrupted her.
She nodded. "And every Saturday for the last five weeks. And you've met for breakfast on four of the last five Sundays…"
He opened his mouth to speak but she just continued, not giving him chance.
"And," she emphasised, to tell him there was no point trying to dispute what she was saying, "You had lunch together on two of those Sundays as well, and dinner on one of them." She finished, quite proud of herself, as she watched him figure out how to respond.
He seemed to be considering her words, but his eyes were narrow again as he regarded her. "Is someone paying you to keep tabs on who I share meals with?"
Emily smiled, softly. "I'm just observant… So, are you dating? Because you can tell me if you are. I love Gillian."
"Em, if we were dating, I would tell you."
Again she thought she heard a touch of disappointment in his tone, but she couldn't be sure. "It certainly seems like you're dating," she pressed.
"Well, we're not."
"Are you sure?"
"I think I'd know, wouldn't I?" He returned his gaze to the potato.
Emily shrugged. "Do you walk her home after dinner? Or drive her home? Or share a cab?"
Again she had stopped him before he could pick up the potato.
"I'm a gentleman, Em," he reminder her, and, as he fixed her with a look of warning, she sensed she might need her escape plan soon.
She chose to pretend that she didn't understand his expression. She nodded, to concede to his point, then queried, "Do you kiss her goodbye?"
He frowned again, seemingly suspicious now. "Where is this coming from?"
More deflection. "I'm just wondering why you haven't told me. I think it's great!" she grinned enthusiastically.
"I haven't told you because there's nothing to tell." He pointed his fork at her - a further warning to drop the subject - then he grabbed the potato and shoved it into his mouth.
"You haven't answered my question," she prompted him.
"We aren't dating," he mumbled around his mouthful of food.
"Do you kiss her goodbye?" she repeated, knowing she was pushing his buttons now, but not willing to let him avoid the subject.
The look he was giving her was close to a glare now.
"You know I kiss her goodbye," he replied, sternly, his voice full of warning for her to drop it.
Emily nodded, and this time decided to heed his warning. She stood up and picked up her plate from the table. "Next time, kiss her properly - then you'll know if you're dating."
She quickly left the room before he could decide she needed punishing for her little intervention. She hoped she had given him something else to think about instead.
... ... ...
The next day, Cal couldn't get Emily's words out of his head. The more he thought about what she had said, the more he was inclined to think that she was right. He and Gillian had seen a lot of each other in the last few weeks, but it had just seemed natural. He hadn't thought of it as dating, and it had certainly not included any of the more intimate aspects that dates tended to. But that didn't mean he hadn't wanted to kiss her goodnight - properly. Was it possible they were dating each other without even realising it? No. Emily couldn't be right - he would never live it down.
That night he and Gillian had shared a quiet dinner at a small Italian restaurant just round the corner from Gillian's house. It had been nice, talking and laughing, and Cal had decided that he would be quite content watching Gillian laugh forever. He cursed Emily for having put such thoughts in his mind. He didn't have to admit to himself that the thoughts had been there for years anyway.
As they walked, side by side, up the steps towards Gillian's home, it began to feel more and more like the end of a date and he felt the stirrings of a familiar sensation of anticipation. Emily's words rushed through his head once more, 'kiss her properly'. But he couldn't. Could he?
They stopped at her door, and Gillian unlocked it, pushed it open a little, but didn't step inside. She turned back to him and offered a small smile.
"Are you okay?" she asked him. "You've been rather quiet tonight."
He hadn't realised that. "Have I? ... I've just been thinking about something Emily asked me last night."
"Ah," she nodded. "Care to share?"
Something else that he loved about Gillian: She would listen if he wanted to talk, or she would accept it if he didn't.
He hesitated for a moment, unsure whether he should tell her. He didn't know how she would take it. Would it be crossing the line? Did she want to? Would it prompt her to have the same utterly confusing thoughts that he had been having? Or was he overreacting to the whole thing, and she would find it amusing and he could watch her laugh again. Maybe it was something they should be laughing about.
"She asked me if we're dating," he heard himself answer her before he even realised he intended to share.
Gillian looked bemused but laughed all the same. "I see."
"She had quite good evidence that we are," he told her.
She held his gaze for a moment, her expression unreadable - even to him. Then with a small smile she said, "Well evidence can be open to interpretation."
Cal nodded. "That's true, love."
"Why did she ask?" Gillian asked next, a small frown creasing her forehead.
Cal shrugged. "She just likes to wind her old dad up."
Gillian chuckled softly. "It's probably revenge for the way you interrogate her boyfriends."
"I do not interrogate them," he protested.
"All right. For the way you silently study them and freak them out," she amended.
Cal grinned, full of pride, and Gillian shook her head as she laughed again. Cal found himself watching her and inanely smiling with adoration, though he could feel pangs of disappointment that Emily's question didn't seem to have prompted Gillian to have the same thoughts that he had been having.
Scolding himself for having listened to Emily, he took a step towards Gillian as he said, "I should get going."
For a split second he thought she looked disappointed, but with 'kiss her properly' echoing in his head once more, he didn't have much time to think about it.
His usual kiss - just to the side of Gillian's lips - landed instead on her cheek as he fought to prove that Emily had been wrong.
He dropped back, again noticing a flicker of something in Gillian's eyes which she covered before he could interpret it. He put it down to wishful thinking on his part and stepped away.
He wanted to invite her to breakfast in the morning, but knew that would definitely give Emily more ammunition - he had considered cancelling dinner tonight to avoid the same thing, but had been unable to bring himself to do that. So, instead of asking her, he just bid her goodnight.
"Night, Cal," she responded, quietly, her smile maybe a little forced.
He reprimanded himself for trying to see something that wasn't there, and turned away.
As he began to slowly walk back to the main street, he thought through everything: What Emily had said; what he had told Gillian; how she had reacted. He replayed the times when he felt sure he had glimpsed disappointment from her and became more convinced that perhaps it wasn't just his imagination. He thought about his reasons for not taking Emily's advice and finding out if she was right. And when he was halfway down the steps and realised that he hadn't heard Gillian's door close, he decided that proving Emily wrong was not a good enough reason to not pursue his attraction to Gillian. He had been dating her for the last few weeks, whether he had realised it or not. And he wanted to carry on.
Rather girlishly, his heart fluttered with expectation as he turned back. He could see Gillian, still standing outside her house, as he made his way back at a faster pace.
Even in the dim light he could see that she was frowning - maybe wondering why he was returning - but as he got closer, he could see that she was trying to use the frown to conceal the hope that shone in her eyes. She had wanted him to turn back.
He saw her straighten up as he got closer, and recognised it as a defensive move, just in case he wasn't about to say what she wanted to hear.
"The thing is, love," he began when he stopped in front of her, "I think I agree with Emily's interpretation of the evidence."
Gillian's lips quirked into a smile, but she quickly forced them back down. "Do you? Don't you think we'd know if we were dating?"
Cal nodded. "But she had some good points. I'm not dating anyone else…" Though he thought he knew the answer to his next question, he still felt a little apprehensive about asking it. "Are you?"
She shook her head.
Flooded with relief (although he knew that, realistically, she hadn't had any time to be seeing anyone else), Cal continued, "We have seen each other every weekend for the last few weeks… And, to be honest, love…" He took a step closer to her. "I hate the idea of not seeing you every day."
A blush rose to Gillian's cheeks and she allowed her smile to stay this time. "So, Emily's right?"
"As much as it pains me - because she'll probably be smug about it forever - yeah, I think she's right." Cal feigned a grimace and then grinned widely. It felt so weird to be having this conversation with Gillian, but at the same time it felt completely right.
She placed her hand, softly, on his arm, and lightly stroked it in a gesture of mock sympathy. "It could be worse," she pointed out.
Not following what she was suggesting, Cal frowned.
"She could be wrong," she added, a radiant, wide smile creeping onto her face.
Cal's frown was instantly replaced by his own smile, and he got the feeling it was going to be impossible to contain that for quite a while. "That's true," he agreed, and as they just gazed at each other, and the full meaning of what they were saying sunk in, Cal heard Emily's words again. 'Kiss her properly.'
It was overwhelming how much he wanted to.
"There was one more thing Emily said," he told Gillian, stepping even closer to her.
He could see the same anticipation that he was feeling reflected in Gillian's eyes.
"She said I should kiss you properly." He watched her reaction closely for any signs of apprehension.
"Well, she's right. Again," Gillian said, matter-of-factly.
Cal smirked, his heart all over the place again. "Oh, you think so?"
Gillian nodded. "We've been dating for weeks. It's long overdue."
"Ah, well, in that case…" Cal took hold of her hips and pulled her towards him. They were both giggling as their bodies met, but sobered up as their eyes did.
"Are you sure about this, love?" Cal checked, seriously. "We can still go back from what's happened so far. But, there's no going -"
Gillian's lips were on Cal's before he'd even finished his sentence.
He took that as a yes.
... ... ...
On Sunday morning, as she made her way downstairs, Emily could hear her Dad whistling in the kitchen. She smiled to herself, and moved through to that room.
He was wearing his favourite apron and setting out plates and cutlery to take to the table. The scent of warming bread wafted from the oven, and Emily could see that he was all set to make omelettes.
"Morning, Dad," she greeted him, crossing the kitchen and giving him a kiss on his cheek.
"Is Gillian joining us?" Emily asked, striving to ensure her tone wasn't too 'knowing'. Her dad had been extra cheerful when he had woken her up to say goodnight the night before, and Emily hoped this continued happiness meant that he had taken her advice from Friday evening.
"She is," he replied, not giving her any further information.
"Did the two of you have a nice da- dinner last night?"
He continued to move around the kitchen, occupying himself with one thing or another as he answered her, "We did. You'd like that restaurant. We could go there for your birthday… Did you and Nick have a nice evening?"
"Rick," she corrected him, despite knowing that he was only trying to ensure a subject change. "We did. So did you talk to Gillian?... Or rather did you k-"
The doorbell rang and interrupted her.
"Could you let Gillian in, love?" her dad asked of her, "And remind her she's allowed to use her key."
"Sure." After narrowing her eyes at her father, for effectively managing to avoid answering her question, Emily moved through to the hall and opened the front door. "Hey," she greeted Gillian.
"Hi, Emily," Gillian replied, and Emily didn't miss the hint of red on her cheeks that wasn't usually there.
"I was just asking Dad how your dinner was last night," Emily said as Gillian took off her jacket and hung it up by the door.
"Oh, it was very nice," Gillian commented with a smile. "Your dad said you'd like the restaurant."
Emily nodded. "Yeah he told me that. Oh he also said you should use your key."
This seemed to cause Gillian to blush more and Emily laughed to herself at how like teenagers grown adults could be.
"Em, did you tell her to use her key?" came her dad's question just before he appeared in the doorway.
"I did," Emily replied, not that her dad seemed interested in a response now that his eyes were fixed on Gillian's and the two of them were smiling at each other. "And I was just about to tell her that I think it's great about the two of you."
Gillian smiled, but ducked her head a little, and her dad did his best to tell her off through his smile.
Grinning triumphantly, Emily excused herself. "I'll go and check on the food."
She slipped out of the room, but stopped where she could still hear what was going on.
"You told her then?" she heard Gillian ask.
"Nah, reads me like a book," her dad replied, and she smiled to herself - though it hadn't been difficult to read him this morning.
Gillian laughed, and then her dad's voice was barely above a whisper when she heard him say, "Morning, darlin'."
Gillian responded, "Morning," and Emily could hear the smile in her voice.
"Did you sleep well?"
There was a pause before Gillian answered with a laugh, "Not really. I couldn't stop thinking about how we've managed to be dating for weeks without realising."
"Mm," he seemed to agree. "Well we've got a lot of catching up to do."
Then there was silence.
Emily crept back to the doorframe, and a quick peek confirmed her suspicion that they were kissing. She dropped back out of sight, and made her way to the kitchen.
It was about time!