“I don’t know if you know this, but Crystal is the talk of the salon. Ever since Mrs. Peterson broke her hip and she took care of her, she is the light of everyone’s talk.”
“I’m the one who operated on her, not my nurse.”
“Oh, someone is sensitive,” Brody says as he takes a pull from his beer bottle.
“Fuck you.” He throws his napkin down and gets up. “I’m out.” I watch him walk around people till he walks around the house to where his car must be parked.
“I brought you cherry pie,” Mila says as she carries spoons in her hands, and Crystal and Hailey each carry two plates.
“Here you go,” Hailey says as she places the cherry pie in front of me and places the blueberry in front of Mila. She grabs her own plate, filled with apple pie, from Crystal, and Crystal places her key lime pie down in front of her. “We couldn’t carry any coffee,” she tells the table as Mila hands her a spoon, and she smiles at her.
“That looks so good,” Darla says from beside her as Hailey offers her a clean spoon and her plate.
“I want to taste too,” Mila says as Hailey puts the apple pie next to her so she can get a piece, mixing her blueberry spoon with her apple. “That one is good too,” she says as she finishes her bite but goes back to her blueberry.
“Okay,” Darla says, “it’s time for us to hit the road.” She looks over at Brody, who smiles at her as he gets up and grabs her hand. She says goodbye to us, then kisses Mila.
“Do you guys mind giving me a ride?” Crystal asks as Hailey looks over at her. “I’m beat from this weekend. Camping is not team building,” she says. “Let’s just say you’re lucky we all came back because my vote was to toss Gabe out.”
“I’m done,” Hailey says from her side and starts to rise.
“No, stay, you never get out. Mingle with the single,” she says as she points her head in the direction of Garrett. The pie suddenly tastes bitter in my mouth, but Hailey just shakes her head as Crystal leaves.
We don’t say anything as Mila finishes her pie and then gets down to go in search of water. “This was nice,” Hailey says from the side, and I look over at her. She really is stunning without a stitch of makeup on, and looking at her, I see little freckles on her nose.
“Um, I want to say sorry about last night.” I sit up and place my hands on the table and look over at her.
“I was hoping I had imagined that conversation,” she says softly. “I don’t usually blurt out my feelings.”
“You know what they say.” I take my beer, pulling in some. “A drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”
She taps her finger on the table in front of her. “Is that right? Well, I did call you an asshole, so that would be correct.”
“About that,” I start, looking around for Mila who is now sitting with my mother as she rocks her. “I would really like to start over.”
“Which time?” She pushes the plates from in front of her as she leans on the table. “Which time do you want to take back?” she asks as I look into her eyes. The sadness from yesterday replaced by a soft light.
“Every single time.” And ain’t that the truth.
She nods her head and looks down, no doubt calling me an asshole in her mind, but she turns to look at me and holds out her hand. “I’m Hailey.”
Her hand’s stretched out as a peace offering. I look at it, and I see she wears no rings. I lean over and take her hand in mine, the heat from my hand warming her cold, delicate one. “I’m Jensen or, as people call me, Walker.” She smiles. I don’t let her hand go, and we just keep shaking it up and down. “And I believe I owe you an apology and a thank you.”
“Do you?” she asks confused. “For what?”
“I’m sorry for being an asshole to you.” I start and let her hand go to fall to her side. “I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. For that, I’m genuinely sorry. And …” I’m about to continue when my mother approaches the table with a sleeping Mila.
“She is out for the night, I think,” she says as she glances at Mila’s head on her shoulder.
“I should go,” Hailey says as she gets up, and I grab Mila from my mom.
“I’m going to go also. We can walk out together,” I tell my mother as I place Mila on my chest. My mother kisses my cheek and gives Hailey a hug as we walk out. When she stops at her car, I speak. “I never finished what I had to say.” She looks up as she opens her car door, surprised I’m bringing it up again. “Thank you for putting my little girl before yourself.” I look over at her little cast, that is literally indestructible.