She stood at the end of the driveway, helmet dangling in one hand as she looked from her mother back to him. She was beautiful, second only to her mom, and Shawn felt his heart swell.
“There’s a whole world out there!” she said, tossing her helmet aside and raising her hands for Shawn to lift her. He obliged, spinning her around as he did so, her bubbly giggle mixing with his chuckle. “And I didn’t tilt over once! Not once!” she exclaimed, proud of her new bicycle skills.
“I know, precious; I watched the whole time.” And he had, waiting breathlessly for her to turn and come back at the end of the street. She’d sat on her bike for a few minutes at the end of the road, the furthest she’d ever gone on her own, looking first one way down the intersection and then the other. He’d felt a fond smile stretch across his lips as he watched over her. Full of wanderlust already, just like Shawn had been at her age.
“There’s a whole world out there!” she said. One of her hands was curled around the handlebar of her motorcycle, Shawn’s motorcycle—that she’d refurbished on her own, with a little help from him.
Jules leaned into his side, and he wrapped an arm around her, meeting her gaze for a short moment before he looked back at his daughter. “What about college?”
“I’ll be back before first term even thinks about starting. I promise. I’m already packed for college anyways. Mom and I finished last week.”
He bit back a grin, marveling over the perfect mixture she was between Jules and himself. God, how did he get so lucky?
He met Juliet’s gaze again, cocking an eyebrow as they conferred one last time.
“What are you doing?! Shawn, answer me!” Henry yelled as he followed Shawn to the driveway.
Shawn readjusted his backpack and slid his helmet on, glaring at his father as he sat on the motorcycle. “You think I’m staying? So I can continue to enjoy our yelling matches? Somehow, I don’t think that’s what the therapist meant when he encouraged father/son bonding time!” He revved the motorcycle and turned to look behind him.
“Shawn, don’t you dare leave! Don’t you—!”
The rest of his father’s protest was covered by the roar of the bike as he rode away.
“You call us every day,” Shawn said, staring into his daughter’s hazel eyes.
“You don’t sneak into any bars or go with any strangers. You take your pepper spray with you everywhere, and—”
“And don’t forget the protective moves I taught you,” he said, cutting off his wife. “Or the ones your mother taught you,” he added when his wife and daughter both snorted.
“And at the very least, never underestimate the power of a high-pitched girly scream,” his daughter finished, and Shawn grinned at her.
“That’s my girl.”
“Here,” Henry handed over an envelope, kissing Star’s cheek before he pulled away. “In case of emergency.”
“You’re the best, Grandpa,” she said, hugging him when she saw the prepaid credit card. “I promise I’ll only use it for emergencies…or if I don’t have enough money for a vanilla shake.”
“That’s my granddaughter,” Henry smiled, and Shawn rolled his eyes.
“Vanilla shake,” he muttered to Juliet. “We must not have raised her right.” He let his breath out in an oof, rubbing the spot where she’d elbowed him in the stomach and pouting at her.
“Be careful, honey,” she said sweetly, ignoring Shawn as she gave Star a hug.
“And have fun.” Shawn pulled her in for a hug, too, and then stepped back slightly to cup his daughter’s cheek. He swiped his thumb beneath her eye and then winked at her. “Just not too much.”
“And don’t forget to call every day,” Henry said, crossing his arms. “Even more than once if you want to. If you want to call me, then your parents, or vice-versa—”
He broke off to the chorus of “Henry,” “Dad,” and “Grandpa,” clearing his throat, uncrossing his arms, and then crossing them again. “I’m just saying my phone’s open, too, kid.”
Star laughed as she shoved the helmet on her head and sat on her motorcycle. She smiled at the three of them for a long moment before she revved the bike and slowly pulled out of the driveway. A hand lifted in farewell, fingers wiggling at them, and then she was gone.
Juliet and Henry walked back to the house, but Shawn stayed at the foot of the driveway, watching as his daughter stopped at the end of the road. He smiled when she paused to look one way and then the other, taking her time choosing which direction she was going to take.
“One day, I’m going to travel the whole wide world and see the leaning tower of pizza and the Eiffel tar and the big ball o’ twine!” She stopped at her father’s laugh, looking up at him in curiosity. “What’s so funny, Daddy?”
He ruffled her hair as they walked into the house and shook his head. “Nothing, sweetheart. You just remind me of someone I used to know.”
He continued watching her until she drove out of sight, smiling at the memory. “Stay safe, precious. We’ll be here when you get back,” he said softly, before he turned around to join his wife and father.