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Perfect Love Story (Love 1) Natasha Madison 2022/8/3 13:48:49

“I’m going to warm up some pizza we brought. Would you like some? Would you like a beer?” Hailey walks toward the kitchen. She opens the fridge and grabs me one anyway “Here. Sit down. Relax. If it makes you feel any better, I’m just as nervous as you are.” She turns away to heat me a piece of pizza, and I grab the beer from the table where she placed it. I turn and go sit down on the edge of the couch. I look forward as I take a pull from the beer, and the music from the television fills the room, along with the slam of the microwave door and the sound of plates coming down. By the time the movie is starting, Hailey comes back in with two bowls—one with chips and the other with popcorn.

“Here is your favorite bowl, Mila,” she says as she hands her a pink ceramic bowl that looks like it has Mila’s handprint.

“Is that her handprint?” I look over at her while she sits on the opposite couch and props her one leg up.

“Yes, we did an afternoon of ceramics.” She smiles at Mila, and Mila nods her head, grabbing the popcorn and shoving it in her mouth. She doesn’t say anything else because the music starts. We all turn and look at the television.

By the time half of the movie finishes, they are both sleeping on the couch. I get up to grab Mila, and her mumbling wakes Hailey. “I’m going to get going,” I tell her as she blinks her eyes awake. “Thanks for having us,” I tell her from over my shoulder as I walk out of the house. I get Mila in and out of her seat without waking her. Tucking her into bed, I look down at my daughter, my life, wondering what could have been.

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“I’m doing good,” I tell my brother as I walk around the kitchen with the phone pressed between my ear and shoulder, preparing myself some toast and coffee.

“Bullshit,” he counters.

“Okay fine, I’m doing better,” I say as I grab the homemade jam that Delores brought me last week. For the past two weeks, it was always a surprise and pleasure when my doorbell rang. They would come with little treats, but the best was when Mila came with them because she took over the show. She is without a doubt the coolest kid I have every met. They’ve never brought up her mother, though, and I was not going to pry.

“Why didn’t you come home this weekend?” he asks me as I hear paper rustle in the background.

“And leave my oasis? Not for all the chocolate in the world,” I say, laughing, and then I hear the siren go off in the background.

“I gotta go; talk to you later,” he says, disconnecting. I put the toast on a plate and grab my cup of coffee, then make my way down to the beach with the blanket draped around my neck. I place my cup on my plate as one hand whips the cover over so I can sit on it. The clouds cover the sun as the waves crash onto the shore, the white bubbles dissipating into the sand.

My mind goes back to last night when Norma came to the table. Her snide comment made me feeel like the other woman again. Except for this time, I knew I was the other woman. The way that woman looked at me and judged me made my heart sink, and I knew I had to get out of there.

I place the cup and plate on the beach next to me. I hug my knees to my chest, watching birds fly through the sky, soaring high as they circle above. While enjoying the tranquility of the waves, I suddenly hear barking and giggling, causing me to look to my right. I see Mila throwing a stick, and Flounder chasing after it. Jensen walks slowly behind them carrying a cup of coffee.

“Hailey,” I hear her yell as she waves her hand side to side. Her blond curls bounce as she runs over to me and her smile lights up her whole face. “Hailey,” she says breathlessly when she gets to my feet. “Whatcha doing?” she asks as she stands in front of me.

“I’m just watching the water,” I tell her with a smile. “What are you doing running around so early?” I ask her as Flounder comes over to me and plops down next to us, panting.

“Sorry about that.” I hear Jensen’s voice and look past Hailey to see that he followed her. “We didn’t mean to interrupt your quiet.” He takes a sip of his coffee.

“No worries. It was too quiet anyway,” I tell him, looking back at Hailey. “What are your plans for today?”