“I didn’t know you were joining us?” She comes closer to me, and I kiss her cheek.
I look over and see Mila sitting on Grams’s lap, looking over at Hailey. “You aren’t lost.” She shakes her head, reaching for a cookie. “Poppa,” she yells out, “she’s not lost.” She smiles at me, and I nod at her.
“Um, Grams, can I have a word with you?” I say out loud now as my mother looks at me. “It will just take a minute.”
“Nothing to discuss, Jensen. Fix the house.”
I clench my teeth together so hard I think I might actually break them. “That’s my house, and I want her out,” I say. Hailey looks at me with hatred … pure hatred.
I’m not the bad guy here. “So you two need to pack up your shit and get out of my house.”
“Poppa, shit’s a bad word. Right, GG?” She looks up at my grandmother while she licks some chocolate off her fingers.
“They signed a lease.” My grandmother looks at me. “A lease that is a binding contract.”
“Oh, dear.” I hear my mother next to me. “This isn’t going to end well for anyone,” she says under her breath. “Mila, come and wash your hands so we can start the tea party.” Mila throws her cookie on the table as she claps her hands in glee. Getting off Grams, she skips over to my mother, takes her hand, and goes inside. I wait for the door to close before I turn back around.
“I guess we are going to see you in court because there is no way in fucking hell I’m renting out that house.”
“My father is a lawyer,” Hailey says finally as the other one just grabs her hand. “A good one. Technically, my name on the lease means I can come and go as I please. Unless you file eviction papers.”
“Listen, I don’t know what game you’re playing”—I finally glare at her—“or if you came to lick your wounds because your husband didn’t want you.” I regret the words the minute I say them when Grams and the other woman gasp. Hailey’s eyes fill with tears, and she gets up slowly.
As I watch one tear fall on her hand, she says, “If you’ll excuse me, I think I need to lie down.” She walks past me, and I watch her walk inside, her shoulders hunched over as she hangs her head.
“Asshole,” I hear and turn back to the table as the other woman points at me. “Excuse me, Delores, I suddenly feel sick.” She throws her napkin down as she walks away. I turn back and see Grams glaring at me.
“You think she wants to sit in your shell of a house while you wait for your wife to come back? Newsflash, Jensen, her husband just died,” she says, and my stomach roils as I look back inside and see Mila talking to her as Hailey stoops down in front of her. “Except he wasn’t her husband,” she whispers, and I whip my head back.
“What the fuck are you saying?” I ask her, fearing the worst, but the minute she says the words, I know it’s way worse than I thought. “He was married to someone else. So the life she was living was all a lie. So not only did her husband die, but she found out he was also someone else’s husband first, leaving her alone and with questions he will never be able to answer.” She gets up and comes to me. “So I offered her a place where she could try to live again. That house is yours, but that land is mine,” she points out. “Fix it.” She doesn’t give me a chance to answer; instead, she walks into the house, and all I hear is laughing as I watch Hailey throw her head back with Mila in front of her giggling.
“What the fuck is going on?” I say to myself and the universe. While I wait for an answer, all I get is a text from Brody.
Tomorrow, the white house. I bought the paint.
I don’t bother to answer, while I walk out of the backyard to the front. Instead, I pick up the phone and make some calls. Even if I have to muck and clean out the town sewer system, someone else will be taking my place.
When I look back inside the house and don’t see anyone walking outside from the backyard, I look up at the house and my eyes land on the room in the corner. The room where I pulled myself together for my daughter, the room where I dealt with her colic, and the room that made me realize I could get through this. I see the curtains move as I look down and get in my car. Driving away, I never once look back.