42 | gift

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The weekend has arrived. This afternoon, I find myself studying in the living room. I sigh, thinking about the next quiz I will have on Monday. I hope that I can nail it.

I'm sitting on the carpet with my books and notes scattered on the coffee table. I take a break from typing on my laptop and lean back against the sofa leg.

While I'm thinking hard about the answers to the exercises in my textbook, I twirl my braided hair to the side with my fingers. I've styled my hair into an easy braid ponytail today.

When I sense someone coming into the living room, I look up and find Aiden approaching me. He looks fresh from the shower after spending time in the gym.

"You're studying?" He looks surprised.

The frown on his lips shows that he would have expected me to let him know so that he could teach me. It's indeed a privilege for me to have someone like him as my tutor, but he has already helped me a lot.

I smile, shaking my head lightly. Aiden sits down beside me and takes a look at my textbook while I resume jotting down the answers. That's when my hair tie loosens because of what I did to my hair earlier. Just as I'm about to fix the braid, Aiden stops my hand.

"Let me do it. You can continue," he says softly.

I feel a tingling sensation on my skin when he touches my hair and starts braiding it. I can't help the smile on my face.

I don't know why, but I feel so much joy just by being here with him. My heart flutters because of what he's doing to me.

Footsteps echo in the room, and I notice Ashton walking toward the kitchen counter. He's talking on the phone, but as soon as he sees us, he halts.

He looks stunned, suddenly ignoring whoever it is on the other side of the line. It only lasts for two seconds, though, because he then resumes talking and sits on the stool at the counter, where his coffee has already been placed. He sips it and shoots me a small smile before looking away.

"Your tea, Nevaeh." Ian's voice shifts my attention. He puts a cup of hot tea on the coffee table for me and sniffles.

Before I can find out what happens to him and why he sounds crying, he walks off.

Aiden is still braiding my hair quietly. He's too focused on it that he probably doesn't notice Ashton and Ian coming into sight.

I stop writing. Many thoughts are running in my head, but Aiden's presence only brings a smile to my face again.

I wonder what else he would be doing on the weekend if he weren't here with me. Would he spend the rest of the day in his home office to work? Or would he indulge himself in his hobby?

A brilliant idea strikes my mind. This is the right moment for it, since he seems to be in a good mood.

"Aiden," I start, trying to approach the topic carefully. "Don't you want to paint?"

He pauses braiding my hair, and my heart beats fast. He might be wondering why I suddenly asked that question.

"You've told me that painting is significant to you and that you wouldn't even let yourself make money from it because you love it too much," I say. "Don't you miss painting?"

Silence creeps in, and I feel like the air in my lungs is being sucked because of how nervous I am.

I know from Ashton that Aiden doesn't paint anymore because painting makes him feel. Still, I hope that he'll paint again. I want him to experience again the joy or whatever feelings he gets every time he paints.

Please say yes. I chant the words over and over again in my heart.

Aiden sighs. He finishes braiding my hair, securing it with my hair tie.

"No," the answer leaves his lips, and my heart sinks so low.

Somehow, I feel like the answer didn't come from the bottom of his heart, and that kicks something inside me. I want him to be happy again -- his answer just now sounded sad.

Come on, Nevaeh. Think.

"Actually," I try again, not knowing whether this will work or not. I've been thinking about this idea for quite a while, though. "My parents' wedding anniversary is approaching, and I want to give them something special. I'm thinking about a meaningful gift. I want to give them a painting that I make myself."

I can't help but curse silently. This is the most disastrous idea I've ever thought of. Everyone knows that I suck at painting. I'm not proud of my drawing of stick people.

Aiden doesn't say a word, and I'm too scared to hear his answer.

"Will you..." I falter. My voice sounds like a desperate plea. "Will you teach me how to paint?" I swallow.

Seconds pass. I finally gather my courage and turn to look him in the eye.

My breath catches in my throat. I've never seen him look so torn. It's like he wants to help me but can't.

"Please?" I whisper.

Aiden clenches his jaw and tears his gaze away from me. Yet, there's no anger in his eyes, as though he understands how much I need this.

He throws his head back against the sofa, closes his eyes, and covers them with his arm. A sigh escapes from his mouth.

I stare at him, wondering what I should do.

Wait, I've been in this situation before.

A light bulb pops in my head.

Ah, the magic word.

I pull Aiden's arm gently. "Please, daddy. Please teach me."

A loud thud echoes in the air. I snap my head toward Ashton, who just dropped his phone. Ian is cleaning up the drink on the counter, but the cup almost slips from his hand. The old man stumbles and almost falls. My eyes widen in surprise.

"Teach you what?" Aiden's voice snaps me out of my trance.

I find him staring at me with an intense gaze. This makes me gulp. The atmosphere tenses, but then Aiden breaks it with a deep chuckle.

Oh, God, that chuckle makes my cheeks heat up.

"Teach me how to paint?" I echo.

Isn't that what we were talking about?

Aiden keeps staring at me, but he doesn't open his mouth to say his final answer.

I'm starting to think that I push him too much. I look down at my lap to hide my disappointment.

"Hey," he whispers, causing me to look up at him. His eyes soften, and I can even see the guilt in them. "I'll do it."


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