It’s a loaded question. My hands go to her hips. “Someone told me once that everything happens for a reason.” I smile as she finally smiles just a bit. “Maybe it was fate.”
She shrugs. “Do you think he would listen to my case?” she asks me.
“I think there is no reason we can’t ask him,” I tell her, and I notice not for the first time today it’s a we—not a you, not a me, an us. “After you put the kids on the bus tomorrow, we can drive down and see my father.”
“I want to change one of my answers,” she tells me. “One thing I would change is Eric being the father of my girls,” she says, closing her eyes and shaking her head. The need to bring her on my lap is so strong my heart aches, and the need to put my hand on her face and drag her lips to mine makes my hands heavy, so heavy. Her eyes open, and I’m stuck here, my body almost as if made of stone.
I can’t move, and I can’t breathe; the only thing I can do is blink my eyes and take her in. The woman who was the cause of Hailey’s hurt, the woman whose house we came to and demanded answers. The woman who slowly, ever so fucking slowly, got stronger and stronger, and even more gradually has made a home in my broken heart.
“I thought of taking the girls and moving,” she says softly. “Get away from here. Somewhere no one knows us. Somewhere I don’t feel out of place walking into a grocery store.”
“What do you mean?” I ask her.
She looks down and then up again. “My in-laws know everyone, and ever since they stopped talking to me, it’s just been weird. I’m afraid to meet them in public, so I don’t make eye contact with anyone, and I have everything delivered just so I don’t cross paths with them or anyone they know.”
“You never told me that,” I say and think about this house. No wonder she is changing everything; it’s her fucking prison.
“I didn’t want to talk about it,” she says, “but, yeah.”
“Let’s tackle one thing at a time. Let’s get your girls safe, and then we’ll work on getting you out of here.”
“You really think everything is going to be okay?” she asks me.
“No, I don’t think; I know.” I look at her and see the tiredness fall through her. “Why don’t you go to sleep? I’ll go sleep on the couch and leave before the kids get up, and we’ll go see Dad after.”
“You can just lie here; the door is locked, and if the girls wake, you can hide.” She smiles and goes to her side of the bed. I look over my shoulder at her. “I got a new mattress,” she whispers. “It’s Eric free.” I shake my head and laugh. I lie on the top of the covers while she gets under. She is softly snoring even before I get comfortable, and I lie awake for a long, long time as so many things race through my head, so many things that I need to say, so many things I need to finally come to peace with.
“Wake up, sunshine.” I hear her voice, but I swear I think I’m dreaming. I open my eyes and see her on the bed on her knees. “The kids just got on the bus.”
“I must have slept through it,” I say, blinking as she turns to hand me a cup of coffee.
“I told them I just washed the carpet in the room and not to go in.” She smiles. “I guess they bought it.”
I smile, taking a sip of the hot coffee. “Carpet cleaning?”
She throws her head back and laughs. “Lame, right?”
She gets up, and I see she’s already dressed. “Are you ready?” I ask her, and she nods. I get up, going to the bathroom, and then come out. “Let’s go,” I say, happy to get this all over with.
“Bring everything, even the picture of Hailey and him and his letter.” She nods and grabs the letter and the picture. She looks down when we walk out of the house to my truck almost as if she’s hiding herself. I fucking hate this; she should be walking proud, walking with her head held high.
The drive is quiet, and when we stop for gas, I call my father.
“Hello?” He answers on the second ring.
“Hey, Dad, are you at the office?” I ask him. Usually, he is there, but sometimes he works from home.
“I am. What’s up?” he asks.
“I need your help,” I tell him. “I’ll be there in about an hour. Will you have time for me?”
“Yes,” he says and doesn’t bother asking questions. I disconnect when she walks out of the gas station with two waters in her hand. Her walk now is more sure, more comfortable than when she walked out of her house.