“Do you want a coffee before you go?” she asks, yawning.
“No. I’m going to go so you can get some sleep,” I tell her as she walks me to the door. She reaches up on her tippy toes and hugs me.
Her arms go around my neck as she whispers, “Thank you for everything.” I just nod.
“Lock up,” I tell her, walking to my truck. She waits for me to drive away before going inside. Thirty minutes later, the phone rings. “What are you still doing up?” I ask her.
“I couldn’t fall asleep knowing you were driving,” she says softly into the phone. “So it’s just easier if we talk till you get home.”
I laugh, and she asks about Nanny, and how crazy she is. I tell her the story of her husband dying and leaving her a widow with three children and debt. I don’t even see the time fly by, and I’m suddenly pulling up into my driveway a little after eleven thirty. “I’m home,” I tell her.
“Okay,” she says, and she asks me the question she usually does. “What would you change if you could?”
I don’t stop, nor do I have to think twice about it. “I would have kissed you tonight before I left.” I don’t wait for her to disconnect; this time, it’s me who does it.
I walk into the house and am locking the door when my phone beeps. I know it’s from her; I’m just not sure I want to know what she says, but I stop when I read it.
I would have let you.
I pull on the blue pants, shimmying myself into them. I still haven’t gained much weight back, so they are a little loose. I pair it with a white silk button-up shirt that has vertical blue stripes. Today is our first appearance in front of the judge, and I barely slept a wink last night.
I grab my blue high heels and walk downstairs, opting to leave my hair down. The doorbell rings, and I open the front door to see Blake and his parents. “Come in,” I say, smiling at them, surprised that his mother came.
We haven’t discussed what he said, nor have we discussed my text I sent him after. “I didn’t know that you were coming, Mrs. Williams.” I look at her.
“Call me Joanne,” she says, “Oh, of course, I would come.”
“We really should go, so we aren’t late,” Henry says to me as I turn, grabbing my heels and purse. “Let’s take my car and arrive together, so they don’t get you without me.”
I walk down the steps to the car and sit in the back with Blake. He reaches out to hold my hand. “Thank God tomorrow is Saturday,” I tell him, thankful I’ll be able to sleep in. He just looks out the window and nods. Maybe he didn’t mean it; maybe it was in the moment and now the moment has passed.
My stomach starts swirling when we pull up in the parking lot. I see Ethan’s truck is there. “I think I’m going to be sick,” I say out loud when I didn’t mean to.
“You got this,” Blake says, and I wish I had as much faith in me as he did.
I walk up the steps to the courthouse with Henry next to me, followed by Blake and his mother. We walk in, and Henry walks to courtroom number two. I’m looking down when he stops, and I see why he stopped. In front of the courtroom door stands the Schneiders.
I look at them as my mother-in-law just looks past me, and my father-in-law looks at me with a sneer. Ethan and Elliot don’t even bother making eye contact with me but look straight into Blake’s eyes.
Henry doesn’t even bother giving them the time of day. He opens the door and smiles at me. “Shall we?” he says, and I nod at him.
“How?” I hear Joanne behind me, and I turn to look at her. “How can they treat family like that?”
“Easy,” I say. “I’m not their family.” I’ve come to terms with it.
“Let’s go sit down,” Henry says as we sit down at the table on the left-hand side. The door opens, and the Schneiders walk in with their lawyer. Judy and Adrian sit down next to each other at the table to the right. The lawyer walks over to our table, extending his hand, and Henry takes it.
“I’ve been instructed to offer you fifty thousand dollars for the girls. All she has to do is sign and it can be over.” My skin goes cold, but I’m not the only one. Henry looks at him and leans back in his chair.
“I’d really hate to see you lose in court, so how about they drop this shit and keep their fifty thousand dollars. In the end, they can probably have a relationship with the girls.”