“Have you seen my mom?” I ask them, and they both point to the side where she stands talking to Luigi. “I’m going to go see Grandma,” I tell Mila who has walked over to Darla to play with her bracelets and asks to wear some.
“I got her,” Brody says as I make my way through people who stop to say hello to me. By the time I get to my mother, she is sitting at a table with my grandmother.
“You look so handsome,” my mother says. I smile at her as my grandmother sits back in her chair. “Where is Mila?” she asks as we look around the yard and find her in Hailey’s arms. Mila’s playing with Hailey’s necklace as they talk.
“Isn’t she stunning?” my grandmother says, and I don’t answer her because I’m not sure who she is talking about. “Her grandmother didn’t think she would ever get over what she went through. But every day, I see her slowly crawling her way back up.” My eyes never leave the sight before me. Mila points over to me, and I smile and raise my hand in hello. She places Mila on her feet, and Mila makes her way over to me. Hailey watches till she gets to me and then turns around to walk away as Mila climbs into my lap.
“Grandma, when are we going to eat?” She looks at them. “If we don’t eat soon, I’m going to need a snack.” We all laugh at her as the waiters start setting up the food for the buffet-style meal.
“I love having these Sunday dinners just because,” my grandmother says. “It brings the community together and gets people out. Gets other people to socialize,” she says as she raises her chin. I look in the direction she is looking and see Garrett, the owner of the local pub, talking to Hailey. They laugh about something, and she tucks her hair behind her ear, showing her long neck. I don’t listen to the chatter around me; I just look around, but my eyes always go back to Hailey, the pull stronger than I can resist.
“Let’s eat,” I tell Mila. I get up, and we walk hand in hand to the buffet. I walk over as I stand in line, grabbing two plates and piling food on them. “Where do you want to sit?” I ask her as Brody calls my name. I look up and see him sitting with Darla, who is having a conversation with Hailey as they both eat. I walk over to the table with Mila following me. “Grab a seat, Mila.” At the sound of my voice, Hailey’s head pops up.
“I want to sit on this chair.” She grabs the chair right next to Hailey and puts her knee on the chair to climb up. She sits on her knees, so she can see the table, and I set her plate in front of her.
“I wonder if there is a booster seat anywhere?” I ask, looking around. A chair in front of me moves, and Crystal sits down, followed by the chair next to her moving as Gabe sits down.
I look to my right at Gabe. “Watch her,” I say, gesturing to Mila, who is grabbing her fork to eat some noodles.
I walk inside to grab her booster chair and walk out just as Hailey is tucking a napkin into the top of her dress.
“Look, Poppa, to keep me clean,” she says as her hands touch her chest, leaving sauce on it.
“Good idea,” I say as I pick her up and place the booster on the chair and then set her on it. “Better?” I ask. She nods and then starts eating again. The meal talk stays neutral as Darla asks Hailey about her business of creating websites. Hailey answers all her questions and gives her suggestions on how to grow her salon. As the sun sets, the lights around the yard illuminate. The plates are cleared, and Mila sits on my lap watching something on my phone.
Crystal gets up to get coffee, and Hailey gets up with her. “Does anyone want anything?” she asks the table, looking around. Mila looks up.
“Can I get some cake?” Mila asks me, and I nod. “I’m coming,” she says as she climbs down from my lap and grabs Crystal’s and Hailey’s hands. They both look down and smile at her. I watch them walk away discussing all the pie they want to eat.
“Why were they invited?” Gabe asks from beside me. I look at him, and he turns his head back from them to us.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here,” Darla says, “and say that someone has gotten under your skin.” She points at Gabe.
“Please.” He rolls his eyes but doesn’t say anything else because his gaze rolls back to the two girls.