The doorbell rang on Friday and Hailey ran to answer it. Cassidy rushed in and gave her a hug. "Cass, calm down."
His accent sent shivers down her spine. "Hi, Doctor Duncan."
"Please, call me Brian."
"Okay, Brian. Hi."
He chuckled. "Hi. Grace?"
"Yes, that's me. I'm Grace." Stop talking Grace, you sound like an idiot.
"I'll pick Cassidy up around noon tomorrow?"
Grace smiled and nodded. "Sounds good."
Brian waved and got into his car. Grace shut the door slowly. She'd sounded like an idiot…
"Okay girls, ready for some pizza?" They screamed and ran to the kitchen.
Andrew was hot on their heels. "Wait for me! I want pizza too."
"There's enough for everybody."
The girls somehow convinced Andrew to be their guinea pig and dressed him up for their fashion show. Around two a.m. they all crashed. Grace was relieved to finally get some sleep. She fell asleep that night with dreams of her husband.
"Mama, wake up. I'm hungry." Grace slowly opened her eyes. Her little boy was an inch away from her nose. Grace playfully knocked him over. Andrew giggled and jumped on her. "Wake up Mama, wake up!"
Grace finally got up and trekked to the kitchen to make some eggs and toast.
"No Mama, I want bacon." Andrew pulled out the sausage links.
"Buddy, that's sausage."
Andrew looked at it. "Well I want this." She giggled and pulled out a pan. The girls wobbled into the kitchen.
"Sleep well?" Cassidy shook her bushy head.
"I had fun though Mama. I liked Cassidy coming over."
"I'm glad baby. Cassidy did you have fun?" She slowly nodded. "Great. Well, breakfast is almost done and then you'll have a few hours before your dad gets here."
The girls ate and then settled in the living room to watch cartoons. Grace cleaned up in the kitchen. Her eyes scanned the calendar on her fridge. She stopped dead in her tracks.
Her eyes filled with tears. Today was Allan's birthday and she had forgotten all about it. She wiped her eyes. How could she have forgotten his birthday!
There was a knock at the door. Grace gasped and wiped her eyes. She splashed a little water on her face and went to answer the door.
"Hey," He smiled back at her. That smile soon faded. "What's wrong?" Her eyes filled with tears once again. "Grace what's wrong?" He pulled her outside.
"Today is my husband's birthday. Today…"
Brian pulled her into a hug. "I'm sorry Grace."
She sniffed. "Thank you…I-I'm sorry, Cassidy is inside. She and Hailey are watching TV."
"Leave them, they can sit there for a while. Come talk to me." He pulled her to the steps.
"I miss him." She whimpered. "Every day I miss him. And usually whenever I'd had a bad day, I could call Allan and he would make it better. He always would. And I have bad days a lot now and I can't call him. It's killing me that I can't call my best friend." Brian put his arm around her. "I'm sorry, we just met. And I'm crying on your shirt and I'm not usually like this. I don't want to be like this. And I'm gonna scare you away and you seem like a nice guy…"
Brian chuckled. "You're fine. This shirt is old anyways."
He rubbed her back as she cried. "I'm sorry." She repeated. Brian shushed her. After her crying had stopped, she looked at Brian and forced a smile.
"Are you okay?" He asked.
Grace nodded slowly. "I will be."
Brian laughed. "I feel really close to you now."
Grace smiled. "Well, crying on someone usually breaks the ice." Grace pressed her hand to her forehead. "I can't believe I cried on you. We just met yesterday."
"Grace, its fine. You have to do what you have to do."
"Yeah but I didn't have to do that."
Brian wiped away a lone tear. "I didn't mind."
Grace sighed and stood. "You need to get home. I'm sure you're busy."
He looked at his watch. "Actually, I'm free today. Care to grab some lunch?"
Grace's mouth hung open. "Uh-I don't know…"
"Come on, Cass has been begging me to take her to that ChuckE place." Grace laughed.
"Yeah. That one."
"Brian, I don't know…"
"You cried on me. The least you can do is let me buy you lunch."
Grace chuckled. "For some reason that feels like a reward."
Brian shrugged. "Call it what you will."
Grace sighed playfully. "Okay, I suppose we can go."
"Go where?" Andrew had come outside.
Andrew shrieked. "I'll go get dressed."
"Girls, get dressed, we're going to ChuckE Cheese." They sprang to life and ran to Hailey's room.
Grace closed her door slowly. "What am I doing?" She wondered aloud. "I shouldn't be doing this." Grace tried to talk herself out of going the entire time she was getting ready.
"Ready to go?" Brian asked as he stood. Grace felt herself nod. She'd deal with her heart later.
Paul drove into the churchyard. It killed him to be here. He had already zeroed in on his friend's grave. Paul walked solemnly to his friend's burial sight.
"Hey buddy. Happy birthday." Paul blinked back the tears. "I miss you man. Everyday. I know you can see me but sometimes I wish it could be like it used to be. When I'd go over to your house and we'd grill out."
He wiped away a tear from his cheek. "Remember that, bud? Hey, Tabatha and me, we hit it off. We're getting real close now. I know I promised. But I don't know if I can Allan. She only thinks of me as a friend."
He kicked at a clump of dirt. "And Tabatha and me, we get along really well. I like her Allan. I really do." A gust of wind from nowhere nearly knocked him over.
"You're right. I'll always love her. So you convince her. I'm done trying." Paul tapped the headstone with his fist. "I love you Allan, happy birthday." Paul wiped a tear from his eye and turned to get into his truck.
Paul had never been so confused in his life and it was only going to get worse.
Grace called him very close to midnight. The kids had already gone to bed. He walked in to a dark house. There were lights flashing in the hall so he followed them. Grace was bundled up on the couch.
"Hey, what's wrong?"
"Come sit by me."
Paul sat on the couch beside her. "What's wrong?"
"Allan and I used to stay up late and watch home movies. This one was always my favorite." Grace looped her arm through his and laid her head on his shoulder.
The movie was of Allan and Andrew. It was recent, maybe last summer. Allan was teaching his boy how to play football. Grace laughed at how the helmet sagged on his little head.
"Andrew had wanted football gear for his birthday. And he got everything, cleats, a helmet, shoulder pads…"
Paul put his arm around her as the movie continued. Alright Allan, what are you doing?