I tell her as I disconnect the phone. Turning in the driveway, I run into the house and see Jessica in the kitchen, her face white as she has just seen a ghost and she points toward Mila’s room.
I walk into the room, stopping at the doorway as I see Norma and Mila sitting on the floor playing Barbies. “So if she comes…” Norma is talking as she looks up, but then she sees me in the doorway, and the blood rushes from her face.
“Hey,” I say as Mila looks up and jumps, running for me.
“Poppa.” I kiss her neck, putting her down.
“Say goodbye to Grandma Norma. Jessica is going to take you out for ice cream,” I tell her as she cheers and runs to go find Jessica. Shouting goodbye over her shoulder to her grandmother.
Norma gets up from the floor and stands in the middle of the room. I wait for the sound of the front door closing before I speak.
“What are you doing here?” I ask her, giving her a chance to see if she will tell me the truth.
“I came to speak to my granddaughter. I missed her,” she says.
“Soo, you didn’t try to use your key to get in, a key I told you not to use again?” I ask her as fury takes over.
“You weren’t really serious about that, were you?” She laughs.
“I was as serious,” I start. “I was as serious as when I told you that you would not get to see her if you didn’t abide by my rules.”
“Those rules were four years ago. What is this?” she starts asking.
“I have to say I really wish I didn’t have to do this.” Norma starts to say something, but I put my hand up. “I warned you, the minute I thought you were playing games with Mila, it would end. Your visits would end. It started when you kept Julia’s picture, with her twins, up on your fireplace mantle when she visited, and I told you to take it down. Then you come over here and ask her questions that are none of your business.”
“What goes on with my granddaughter is my business.”
“She isn’t your granddaughter,” I throw at her, and she gasps in shock that I would go there.
“It ends here. No more visits, no more nothing. You want to see her, call me and I’ll set it up that you are at the same restaurant as us. Other than that, until Mila is old enough to decide whether she wants to see you, that is how it’s going to work.”
“All this for her. You’ve known that woman for five minutes.”
“You don’t get to question me, but just to put your mind at ease I’ll tell you. Your daughter left me, shattering me, and day in and day out that shattered man healed, but then the hatred set in. I hate her, but not because she was a coward and just left me. No, I hate her for not loving her daughter enough to fight me for her. Every day, my daughter smiles at me, and I couldn’t imagine leaving her and just saying see you later. Especially for someone else.” I sigh and then smile. “She’s the first girl since Julia who makes me want more. She is the first one who I ever thought about dating; fuck, she is the first one I want to take that chance with. She is the first one who looked past the man who was left behind.”
“She is going to change her mind,” Norma says, “Julia is going to see reason.”
“I don’t fucking care if she changes her mind and comes crawling back on her hands and knees begging for forgiveness. I don’t want her. It’s been four years. It’s not going to happen. I will not let her near my daughter. Not now, not ever.”
“You can’t stop her.”
“Get out.” I shake my head. “Get out. I’m done here. This is over.” I turn to walk into the living room, and Norma follows me out.
“You’ll change your mind,” she says as she walks toward the door.
“Not a chance in hell because, you see, I have one job, and that job is to protect my daughter, even if it’s from you.”
She nods at me as she walks out the door, and I’m left to wonder if she finally gets it.
“I should go,” I say three weeks after our first kiss. “If Mila gets up and I’m still here, there may be questions.” I smile at him as I get on my tippy toes to kiss his lips.
“But I don’t want you to go,” he whines as he wraps his arms around my waist and kisses my lips and then my neck.
We have been going very slow. After his talk with Norma, he sat down with Mila and told her that we were friends and that I would be around more. Mila, of course, did what every four-year-old did; she shrugged her shoulders and asked if she could have cake before dinner. I’ve been over a couple of times. We don’t kiss in front of her, but when she goes to sleep, all bets are off. When I don’t have dinner with them, I walk over after, just so I can hug him. I don’t even need to kiss him. I lie … I need him to kiss me.