Her blue eyes flicked back and forth between me and Dominic, her sharp brain trying to put it all together. Finally, they landed on me. “So he’s your friend from when you were little?”
“I was a teenager when Mr. Dominic and I were friends,” I told her.
“Okay. So, was he your boyfriend?” It was genuine curiosity a little girl would have about her mother’s younger years.
“For a while,” I said.
“Is he your boyfriend now?”
Whoa. What? I sat back like she had slapped me. “No,” I clipped. “Honey, I’m married to Daddy. I love Daddy.” I angled my head toward her to emphasize my meaning.
“I know, Mom,” she said in a tone that said she understood way more than she was supposed to know. “But Daddy can’t hug you, or kiss you, or make you dinner, or take you on dates.” She stopped there like I should understand the deeper meaning of what she was saying. And I guess I did, but I could accept that my ten year old was saying it.
I was at a loss on how to handle the situation. I looked at her for what seemed like an hour before breaking the gaze to examine the horizon. Taking a fortifying breath, I looked back to Allison. “Honey, I appreciate your concern. And, yes, I do miss those things that I can’t share with Daddy anymore. But that doesn’t mean that I”m going to get a boyfriend. Marriage is a sacred union, and I would never break the vows I made to Daddy.”
“I know, Mommy. But I think Daddy wants you to be happy. He asks me sometimes if you’re happy.”
My voice caught as I asked, “And what do you tell him?”
“I tell him you are. But I think he worries that he can’t make you happy like before. Remember how you used to turn up the radio and dance around the living room? And how we used to go to the go-cart track in the summer? And remember family movie night when you guys would snuggle up on the couch and I’d fall asleep on the floor?”
Tears flowed freely down my face as I chuckled at the memories of our happy family. “I remember all that, baby,” I said pulling her to sit next to me so I could wrap her in my arms.
“Daddy can’t do any of those things anymore. I think it makes him sad.”
We sat there, and she let me cry over her. I cried for the life we lost with the accident. I cried for the loss of her innocence. I cried for the loss of my husband and best friend. And I cried for the crazy path life had pushed us down now. For her part, Allison sat there and held on to me with all her heart.
“I love you, Mommy,” she murmured. “I think we’re gonna be okay.”
We sat there, my daughter and I, huddled together on the creaky porch swing while the sun faded below the horizon, painting the Ohio sky in brilliant purples, oranges, and reds. We didn’t talk. We just held each other, giving each other the strength we needed to persevere.
It was only when the vibrant hues had washed away to the smokey color of dusk that I realized Dominic had left us alone.
We found him stretched across the twin bed in the corner of our room. He hand’t turned down the quilt and sheets, and his shoes were still on his feet as they hung off the side of the bed.
He propped himself on an elbow when we entered. “You two okay?” Genuine concern laced his soft words. It showed in his eyes as they found mine.
I warped an arm around Allison’s shoulders and gave her a half-hug. “Yeah. We’re okay. Just. . . Well, you know.”
“Yeah.” He sat up and swung his feet to the floor. “I think we should get to bed soon.” He walked over and took Allison’s hand. “But first, a bedtime snack,” he said leading us out of the room.
“Oo! What is it?” Allison wanted to know.
“All good things to those who wait,” he said with a smile.
He lead us back downstairs to the little parlor just off the foyer. There on a small serving tray was a glass of milk, a pot of coffee with two mugs, and a delicious-looking crumb cake. “Milk, coffee, and. . .” He cut a slice of the cake, flopped it on a plate, and handed it to Allison with great flourish. “Apple crumb cake.”
Allison’s eyes were huge. “Oo! Thank you Mr. Dominic.” She took the offered fork and sat down in a chair.
“Don’t thank me. Thank Mrs. Rose. She made it.” He set her milk on a coaster on the table next to her, his face split by his smile. He was thrilled with her reaction, and the joy the two of them emitted was catching.
After cake and milk, we headed upstairs to bed. Since we were the only guests, we tramped around in our pajamas while going through out nightly routines.
I sat in bed with Allison, reading on my phone while she drifted off. Well, I pretended to read. There was no way I could sleep at that point. And it made it that much more difficult when I looked across the room and saw Dominic propped up against his headboard, watching me.
When I was sure Allison was asleep, I slid out of bed and went to Dominic.