“Yeah, that,” he says as he sits on the stool at the island while I stand on the other side. “Plus, she lives in your old fucking house.”
“Don’t even fucking think about it.” I point at him, and I’m not even sure I know what I’m threatening him about. “She doesn’t need you sniffing around her just to add another name to that list of yours.”
He looks at me like I have two heads. “What the fuck are you talking about? You know Crystal?”
“Oh, her.” I cross my hands over my chest. “I thought you were talking about Hailey.”
“And if I was?” he asks. His eyebrow goes up in challenge, so I change the subject.
“Why are you so pissed about it?”
“She wants to place her bed in the middle of the room. Diagonally,” he says, gesturing with his hands. “Who does that? So I fired her.”
“So you fired her?” I ask, trying not to laugh at him.
“Yes, but then the little, the little,” he says, trying to come up with a name, “the little woman called my father and quit.”
Now I don’t even try to hide the smile. Instead, I belly laugh out loud. “It’s not fucking funny. I had to apologize to her.”
I put my hand in front of my mouth and gasp. “You did?”
“Fuck you, Walker,” he says. “I knew she was fucking trouble from the minute I got her application. She comes from one of the top hospitals in the US. She was even given a reference from the head of surgery, who called and begged me to turn her down.” He gets up, getting more scotch. “I told my father to turn her down, told my father it wasn’t a good idea, but then Grams came in, and it was a done deal.”
“Why would she want to leave a big hospital for a small medical clinic?” I ask him. The oven beeps, and I turn to take the fish sticks out of the oven and place them on Mila’s small plastic plate. I get the ketchup out and squeeze a bit on the plate. “Mila, come eat, honey.”
“Okay, Poppa,” she says, jumping off the couch and walking over to the island. She tries to climb up, but instead, Gabe picks her up and places her down. “I could’ve done it, Uncle Gabe.”
“I know, but I didn’t want you to fall down and do a big boo-boo,” he says.
My little girl rolls her eyes at him. “I’m a big girl now.”
“Yes, you are,” I say to her. “Now, make sure you blow, okay, because they just came out of the oven.” I push the plate in front of her as Gabe steals a tater tot.
“From what my father said, she came down with Hailey,” Gabe says. Mila butts into our conversation.
“I like Hailey; she calls me Princess Mila,” she says as she grabs a tater tot, dipping it in the ketchup, then she blows and bites a piece off. “She looks like a princess,” Mila says as I just nod and try not to let my thoughts go back to the look of sadness on her face the minute I opened my mouth and mentioned her husband.
“Eat because it’s almost bath time,” I tell her as she eats all her fish sticks. “You want to hang out while I put Mila to bed?” I ask Gabe. He nods his head and heads to the living room to sit on the couch, changing the TV to the sports channel while I take Mila back for a bath and story time.
Forty-five minutes later, I finally return to find Gabe sleeping on the couch. I turn off the television and make my way to my bedroom. I turn on the baby monitor, then peel off my shirt and finally get into the shower. I stand there in my big walk-in shower and let the hot water rain down on me. I close my eyes, thinking of the week ahead, but instead, I picture the beach, the waves, or better yet, the woman watching the waves.
My dreams play tricks on me that night as I toss and turn. I only wake when I get kneed in the balls by Mila, who climbed into my bed sometime during the night. I groan and look at the clock, 5:30 a.m. I roll off the bed and catch my breath as I hold my balls. Sliding my jogging pants on, I go to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. Gabe’s gone, so he must have taken off sometime in the middle of the night. I grab the coffee and sit at the island, looking outside. The whole back wall of my house has a panoramic view of the ocean. I’m about to take a sip of coffee when I see blond hair, and my head whips up. It’s blowing as she walks down the beach wrapped in a blanket. When she gets to the steps that lead to my house, Flounder runs down and jumps on her. I rush outside and yell, “Flounder.” I see that she is on her back now with the blanket off her and her cup of coffee tossed in the sand. Flounder sits on her and licks her face as if she is a treat.