“Hailey, you trusted him. You did what anyone else would have done.” She rubs my legs as I stretch my arm out and lay my head down on it. “I went to see her,” she whispers out as I look at her. “I didn’t want to tell you … I just.” She takes a deep breath and looks over. “We went down and saw her.”
“We?” I ask her, confused.
“Well, Blake wasn’t going to let me go by myself, just in case I did something harsh.” She shrugs, and I know exactly why Blake would go with her. “I just wanted to know, in case you had questions later. She …” I sit looking at her and taking her in, my protector. Tears run down Crystal’s face now. “She is so different from you. She isn’t strong like you are. He’s all she has ever known, and she had no idea. She didn’t suspect for one minute he would do that to her, to his family. He always traveled for work, so it wasn’t like a red flag or anything. The only thing that changed is that the FaceTimes got less and less at the end.”
“They have kids,” I say, and she nods her head.
“Yes, and every single day, she has to look into the eyes of her children and see the good in them or else she is going to go insane.” She wipes tears from her own cheeks now. “That is what she has to live with. I wanted to hate her, to blame her for what he did to you, to us, but she had fewer answers than you did.”
“I can’t even imagine. I hated her,” I start to say. “I hated that she had that with him. That she had him forever. That their love would go on forever in their children.”
Crystal laughs sarcastically. “It was a lie. As much as you think your life was a lie, so was hers.” I nod, and neither of us say anything as we watch the water go from dark blue to black as the sun sets and nighttime blankets the sky.
Every day for the past two weeks, we’ve taken a walk on the beach. For the past fourteen days, I have walked past the house, forcing myself never to look up but failing each time. Hailey is never outside, and I don’t even see movement in the house. Trust me, even Mila looks over to see if Hailey is there, and each day, she just says, “She can’t come out with her boo-boo.” She skips ahead, and I watch her as Flounder follows closely by her. He knows she’s hurt, so he doesn’t try to play with her.
“Poppa, can we go eat pizza?” Mila asks as she bends to pick up a seashell.
“Sure thing,” I say. It’s Friday, so why not? Plus, she’s spending this weekend with Norma. After the whole beach thing, I wanted to say no, but I know it was an accident, and it could have happened to any one of us.
Walking into the office later that day, I make plans to do stuff around the house to get it ready for summer. A knock on the door makes me look up. “Hey,” I say as Kimberley saunters into the room.
“I’m about to head out,” she says. I glance at the clock on the wall and see it’s five o’clock. “Did you need me for anything?”
“No,” I say, putting my papers away. “I think I’m going to call it a day too.” I get up, and we walk out together. I look into Brody’s office and see he is already gone. “Did everyone else leave?” I ask her as we walk to the front office.
“Yes,” she says, looking down. “It’s just the two of us.” She smiles and tucks her hair behind her ear, giving my stomach an uneasy feeling. “Did you maybe want to get something to eat?”
“Umm.” I back away just a bit. “Kimberley.”
“I know you aren’t big on dating,” she starts, and I put up my hand to stop her.
“Kimberley, if I somehow gave you the wrong idea or impression, I’m sorry. But it …” She nods her head, grabs her bag, and walks out, only looking behind her before closing the door.
“What the fuck?” I say to myself as I look around, closing everything and locking up. I get home four minutes later, and Mila runs to jump into my arms, her cast hitting me in the head.
“Hey, baby girl.” I kiss her neck. “Did you have fun with Grandma?” I ask. She nods, and my mother comes into the room.
“Oh good, you’re home. I promised your grandmother I would come over and help her set up for the tea gathering she is having on Sunday.” She grabs her purse, kisses Mila and then me, and then lets herself out.