“Mila, be careful,” I tell her as she runs down the beach. I know we are passing the white house, and I also know they finished everything last night. No one knows I went there last night after I knew everyone was gone. I went to take one last walk-through. I said goodbye to the memories, goodbye to the ghost. I also dropped off the papers to my grandmother, selling her the house for a penny. I don’t want it. I don’t want anything to do with it, so it’s now hers.
I sat in that living room, looking into the fireplace as I burned all the pictures Julia and I had ever taken. Alone with a bottle of scotch.
Norma, Julia’s mother, gets to spend one weekend a month with Mila. After Julia left me, her mother pleaded and begged for her to come back home, but Julia was not going to do that. Plus, Julia had just found out she was pregnant, and this time, it really couldn’t have been mine. Besides, they were building their empire. Scott was setting up his own construction company, and Julia took care of the paperwork.
Now, I watch as my little girl smiles every single day; she is surrounded by so much love that she doesn’t miss anything. I know she will have questions when she gets older, so I kept one picture of Julia. The one right after she gave birth with tears running down her face. I brought it home with me and slipped it in the bottom of my dresser drawer. One day, I’m going to have to answer where her mom is, and I hope this makes her feel loved even though she left her.
“Poppa, look, a bottle,” she says as she points at an empty bottle of beer that has washed up on the shore. She picks up the branch lying next to it and throws it into the shallow water. Flounder jumps into the water and catches it, carrying it back out.
We walk a bit more until we circle around to head home. I make Mila her Sunday night special of fish sticks and tater tots. I’m taking the pan out of the oven when my front door slams shut. “Uncle Gabe,” Mila says from her spot on the couch as she watches The Boss Baby. Gabe is my cousin; our fathers are brothers. We grew up together, and he’s like a brother to me, which is why Mila calls him Uncle. “Hi.” He smiles at her and kisses her head.[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
I watch him walk into the kitchen from the huge family room. The open concept was the perfect decision. “What’s got into you?” I ask him as I flip the fish sticks over and put them back in the oven. I watch Gabe go to the liquor cabinet and pour himself two fingers of scotch. Downing it, he then pours himself another two fingers. Once he finishes the second one, he stands there with his head hung. “So are we discussing this, or are you just going to sulk in the corner?” I ask him.
“I just met the woman replacing Laura,” he says, and I stand there as I whisper, “Oh.” Laura was Gabe’s head nurse at the medical clinic; she was best friends with Bethany, their office manager. Bethany started off working together with Gabe, and it slowly progressed to them dating and getting engaged. I’ve never seen him happier. He had me build his dream house, but little did he know, she was going to be a runaway bride. He stood at the alter waiting for her to walk down as their families looked on, only to get the news she took off. She was offered a sales position in Chicago for a medical company. So just like that, Bethany was gone. It also didn’t help that she got his best nurse Laura a job at the hospital. Not only was his fiancée gone, but she had also taken her best friend with her. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s the biggest one for four towns over. We have people coming from all over to have Gabe treat them, but he refuses to move to the city and he refuses to give in to the hospitals. Instead, he does what he wants to for him.