“I have to go to Grandma Norma’s.” Turning to look at her father, she says, “I don’t feel good.”
“All right, so I guess we should get you into bed and take the iPad and television away so you can rest and get better,” Jensen tells her, and she rolls her eyes at him.
“Fine.” She huffs out, sitting down on the blanket next to me. “I feel okay. You have snacks?” She turns and looks at me, knowing full well I have her favorite snack in the house. Her question makes me throw my head back and laugh while Jensen calls her name.
“It’s fine,” I say, getting up and grabbing my cup and plate. “I know better than not to stock her favorites.” I look back at Mila. “Would you like to come and choose?” She gets up right away and puts her hand in mine. I see Jensen’s body go tight, his eyes focused on our hands.
“We don’t have time,” he blurts out harshly. “Mila, say goodbye.”
“But Poppa,” she whines, and he gives her the look that I guess means he isn’t playing.
“Go on ahead; I’ve got to talk to Hailey,” he says as she walks away with Flounder next to her. As soon as she is far enough away, he turns around and looks at me. “I don’t know what game you’re playing.”
I cross my arms over my chest. “What game I’m playing?”
“All the shit with the favorite bowl to her favorite snacks,” he says whispering, but his tone is anything but nice.
“You mean me being a nice person?” I glare at him. “I’m not going to apologize for liking your daughter.”
“She doesn’t need a mother.” His words cut like a knife through my heart.
“That isn’t …” I whisper, my hands now falling to my side. “That isn’t what I’m doing.”
“Well, I’m not going to stand by while she falls in love with you and then watch you walk away from her,” he says, then turns and walks away, leaving me with my heart on my hand. Mila turns back around and waves bye to me. I wave back at her as his words sink into me.
I spend the rest of the day cleaning the house and setting up my office. His words linger in the back of my mind, and every single time I stop, it’s the only thing I hear.
I sit on the swing, looking out at the water with a glass of wine as the sun falls into the horizon and the water turns black. One glass turns into two, which turns into three. Picking up the bottle and the glass, I walk down to the beach. I’ve never sat outside on the beach at night. I walk closer to the shore this time and sit down on the damp sand, crossing my legs as I pour another glass of wine. I look back at the house, thinking I should have left a light on.
Memories of our honeymoon flood my thoughts. The walks on the beach, just the two of us, our fingers intertwined with each other. How he’d pick up our hands and kiss my fingers. Stopping just to kiss me. “I get to kiss you whenever I want,” he used to say.
“Fuck you, Eric,” I say as a tear rolls off my chin. I try to pour another glass of wine, but it’s empty.
“Why are you everywhere?” I hear from beside me, looking up to see Jensen.
“What do you want?” I ask him, turning back to look at the water. “Just keep walking and the stick up your ass might get lodged up.” I mentally high five myself.
“Are you drunk?” he asks, his hands going to his hips. “Jesus, all I wanted was a nice walk on the beach.”
“Then keep fucking walking.” I motion with my hand down the beach. “No one is telling you to stop.”
“I …” he starts and then stutters, “I’m sorry about before.”
I bring my feet up to my chest. “For being a world-class asshole?” I ask him as I close my eyes and try to get the sand to stop spinning. “Which time? Because I have to say”—I laugh—“every single time I’ve seen you, you’ve been an asshole.”
“Not every time,” he says. And I make the mistake of looking at him. His gray sweater fits him like a glove, proving he doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him, and his blue jeans hang on his hips down to his brown boots. He is so handsome … so, so handsome.
“Go away,” I say as I look back at the water, the roaring of the waves coming closer.
“It’s going to be high tide soon,” he tells me as he sits next to me. Bending his legs, he places his arms on his knees. “Mila’s mother left her,” he says softly. I turn to look at him as he turns to face me. The darkness of his eyes unreadable. “Took off and walked away without a second glance.”