“I just want to go home,” she says as she looks down at her foot.
“Okay, fine,” I say, combing my hands through my hair. “Let me go get Mila, and I’ll take you home.”
“You don’t have to do that,” she says, but I just walk away from her. The pain in her eyes is too much to bear right now as my thoughts start their own war. Part of me just says fuck it let her go, but the bigger part tells me to help her. I walk back in and find Luigi with Mila and the pizza already boxed.
“I boxed it up for you and explained to Mila that Hailey would need a lift home.” I grab the box from him and pick up Mila.
“Where is Hailey, Poppa?” she asks me as she wraps an arm around my neck, and I carry her out to my truck.
“She is waiting in front of Auntie Darla’s shop,” I tell her as I buckle her in and get in, hoping she waited for me. When I pull up, Hailey looks up, and I can see the tears are gone. She gets up and walks to the truck, smiling at Mila, but the smile is fake and forced.
“You don’t feel good?” Mila asks Hailey as she gets in the back seat, avoiding me.
“No, Princess.” As soon as she buckles her seat belt, I drive off and head toward the white house. I pull up and see that the lights outside are on. A soft light from inside shines through the front windows. She unbuckles the seat belt as soon as I put the car in park, and Mila unbuckles her own. “Where are you going?” she asks Mila.
“We have to take care of Hailey. She’s sick,” Mila says.
“Oh no, honey. I’m going to be okay.” She tucks Mila’s hair behind her ears. “I just need to rest.”
“That’s okay. We can watch a movie. It’s movie night.” Mila says as she looks at me over the seat. “Right, Poppa?”
I look back at her and then at Hailey. This girl with a heart of gold looks at me, waiting for me to do the right thing. I almost tell her no—it almost comes out of my mouth—but I can’t let her down. “Sure thing, angel,” I say as I get out. I open the door to take Mila out, but once again, Hailey already has her in her arms. I walk over as Hailey carries Mila up the steps and walks into her house.
“Do you have Netflix?” Mila asks Hailey as she smiles at her. “It’s Netflix and chill.”
“Um.” Hailey laughs and then looks at me. “If only she knew what that really meant.” I put my hand in front of my mouth to hide my smile as she walks to the couch.
“I’m going to potty,” Mila says as she walks into the hallway; the fact she is so familiar with this house has me asking myself all types of questions.
“You really don’t have to stay,” she says as she looks down at her hands and then up again. “I know you don’t like being here,” she says and then whispers, “or me,” then speaks louder, “so I can just tell her that I’m going to bed.”
“I don’t know you, so I can’t even say if I like you or not,” I tell her to clarify that I don’t not like her. “And this house is a sore spot for me,” I tell her as I put my hands on my hips and finally take a minute to look around and see the furniture she picked out. It feels so much like a home. Even when we lived here, it was still missing that home feeling. I don’t have time to think because Mila comes skipping back in.
“Did you wash your hands?” Hailey asks. Mila smirks and then turns back to wash her hands.
“How?” I ask the one word while I look at the back hallway and then back at Hailey.
“Your mom and grandmother come by at least twice a week, and she comes with them.” She shrugs her shoulders and then turns to look at the television with the remote in her hand.
“All done,” Mila says as she walks back into the room, kicking off her shoes and climbing on the couch. “I want to watch Moana.”
“Mila,” I say. Walking into the living room, I’m unsure of where to stand or sit. I want to run out of this house. The walls start to close in, or at least they were. The longer I stay, the looser the noose gets.
“It’s fine,” Hailey says from beside me. “I wanted to watch it anyway.” She smiles at Mila. “Would you like some popcorn?”
“Yes,” she shouts with her hands in the air like she just scored a touchdown.