Grace still wasn’t up to speed the next morning. It was her day off and she just wanted to sleep. She needed a break. She was overwrought to the extreme.
She called her mother, but she was busy. Grace groaned as she called Paul. “Hey. I hate to ask you, but can you watch the kids today? I really need a break.”
“Yeah sure. No problem.”
“Thank you Pauly, I really appreciate it.”
“Don’t mention it. I’ll come by in a few minutes.”
Grace sighed. “Thank you.”
Grace opened the door and Paul’s heart stopped. She smiled at him as she opened the door. He had never seen her look so adorable. She looked so simple, so amazing in her pajamas.
“Kids, he’s here.” Andrew and Hailey both ran to him in their pajamas. Andrew hugged his legs. Paul lifted him up in his strong arms.
“What time do you want me to bring them back?”
Grace shook her head. “Keep them. I don’t want them.”
Paul chuckled. “Fine. You can’t have them.”
“Give me a kiss.” She told her children. She kissed them goodbye and Paul helped them into his truck. He turned to her, his own lips puckered. Grace giggled and kissed his cheek. “Thank you Paul.”
“Stop thanking me. I’m happy to do it.”
Grace smiled and squeezed his hand. She hugged herself and walked back inside. Paul shoved his fingers through his hair. He wished with all he had that he would lose the feelings he had for her. Or at least wished for answers.
The kids were asleep again by the time he got to the house. He unlocked his door first and then carried them both into his house. He laid them both in his bed and went to lie down on the couch. Pretty soon, he too dozed off.
“Paw…” He heard him whisper. “Paw.” A little louder this time. “Paw!” Andrew screamed.
Paul chuckled and slowly opened his eyes. Andrew squealed when Paul grabbed him and started tickling him.
Hailey heard the commotion and came from the room too.
“Paw, what are we gonna do today?”
Paul appeared to think very hard. “I don’t know, what do you wanna do?”
Now it was Andrew’s turn to think. He lifted his slims shoulders in a shrug.
“What about you Hailey girl?” Hailey was quiet for a little bit.
“I wanna go see Daddy.”
Paul sighed. “Are you sure?” Hailey nodded. Paul had been to the gravesite many times but he wasn’t sure if the kids had been back. “Ok. Let’s go.”
Paul watched as Hailey went to her father’s grave. He only wished he could ease that poor girl’s pain. He wished with all of his heart that he could take away all three’s pain. They deserved better.
“Hi Daddy. I hope you’re okay. I made a new friend. Her name is Cassidy. She’s got red hair and freckles. Her daddy is a doctor. Paul took me to the dance instead, ‘cause you couldn’t make it. Those stupid girls picked on me…” Hailey could feel her father whisper that she shouldn’t call them names. She felt ashamed.
“Sorry. They used to be my friends but now they’re not. Andrew’s here too but I guess you talk to him a lot. I hear him at night. I miss you, Daddy. Always.” Hailey hugged the headstone tightly, hoping with all her heart her daddy could feel her hug. Because what she wanted more than anything was to feel his hugs again.
Paul swallowed around the lump in his throat. This girl was hurting and he wanted to help her so bad.
“Andrew, come on buddy.” Andrew ran to the truck but turned around before getting in.
“Bye Daddy! I’ll see you later!” He hollered.
Paul loved the boy’s innocence. He turned to them as they fastened their seat belts.
“Okay guys, where next?” It was Andrew that piped up this time.
“You wanna go where?” Paul asked.
“I wanna go to the pet store.”
“To look. I like to look.”
Paul chuckled and shook his head. “Alright, we’ll go to the pet store.”
The pet store was loud. Very loud. Puppies whined and kittens mewed. The whole place gave Paul a headache. There was a parrot squawking somewhere. Paul heard it catcalling to somebody.
Andrew ran straight to the puppies. Paul knew he’d never had a dog but had always wanted one. Allan had planned to get him one for his birthday.
Paul smiled as a plan began to hatch in his mind. Andrew giggled as a little white puppy lapped at his finger. A young couple came over.
“Excuse me, can we get her?” Andrew smiled and nodded. The young man bent to pick up the puppy. He held him out. “Would you like to say goodbye?”
Andrew smiled and pet the pup’s head. “She’s a good dog.”
The man smiled. “She is. Why don’t you ask your daddy to get you one?” He gestured to Paul.
“He’s not my real daddy.”
“My daddy is in heaven.” Andrew said cheerfully.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
Andrew shook his head. “It’s okay. He’s with Jesus and I bet he’s got a bunch of dogs in heaven.”
The man smiled. “Then I’m glad.”
Andrew nodded. “Me too. I just wish I could have one here too.”
The man tousled Andrew’s hair. “I’m sure you’ll get one.”
Paul squatted down by the boy. “Which one do you want?”
Andrew pointed at a little shy puppy in the back. “He looks like he doesn’t have any friends. I want him.”
Paul kissed the boy’s head. “Go get him.”
“What do you mean?”
Paul chuckled. “I mean, go get him. I’m gonna buy him.”
Andrew squealed and ran to get the puppy. It was a fluffy black and white puppy. Paul took the puppy from his arms.
“What are you doing?” Hailey asked.
“I’m gonna buy the puppy. But we have to keep it at my house okay?”
Andrew nodded fiercely. “Okay, what are we gonna name him?”
Hailey smiled as she pet the pup. “He looks like a bear.”
Andrew’s eyes widened. “Yeah! Bear!”
Paul turned to Hailey. “Bear?” She grinned and nodded. “Okay. Bear it is.” He bought the puppy and they loaded up in the truck to go back to Paul’s.
Andrew giggled the whole ride back. The puppy barked and whined as he tried to lick Andrew’s face. Paul watched them in the rearview mirror. He’d never seen a more beautiful sight.
Grace felt refreshed as she pulled into Paul’s yard. She’d been able to sleep in and when she awoke, she had a quiet breakfast and was able to catch up on the laundry.
She let herself into Paul’s home. “Pauly?” she called.
“Mommy!” She heard Andrew cry.
She smiled. Her little boy ran and hugged her legs. “Hey sweet boy, how are you?”
“I’m great Mommy, Paw got a puppy.”
As he said that the little pup came yapping along. Paul scooped up the mutt and smiled at Grace. “I see. What’s his name?” Grace cooed at the happy pup.
“Bear. We named him.” Andrew said.
“He’s a sweetheart.” Grace giggled as the puppy chewed on Paul’s shirt.
“Guys, you stay in here. I’m gonna talk to your mom real quick.” Paul handed Bear to Andrew and escorted Grace outside.
Grace hugged herself as a breeze picked up. “What’s up?”
“Well, I have a question.”
Grace cocked her head to the side. “And?”
“Well, I was wondering if you would like to go with me to the family reunion. It’s at the lake, like it always is. It’s in two weeks…”
“Paul, I don’t know if I can…”
“The kids would be out of school, I know Mom wouldn’t mind. I could probably work something out with your boss…”
“For how long though? I don’t know if I could.”
“Its for one week. The whole family goes down and we just spend the week together. Mom and Dad will be there, my brothers, their wives and kids. Come on. It’ll be fun. I promise.”
Grace sighed. She loved Paul’s family but she was wary of how she would feel without Allan. Did she really want to spend personal time with her husband’s best friend’s family? Wasn’t that what couples did?
She shook her head. “Alright, we’ll go.”
“Okay?” Paul asked, still unsure.
“Yeah. We’ll go.”
“You’ll go?” Paul sounded more hopeful.
Grace laughed. “Yes! We’ll go with you.”
Paul grinned. “Alright, we’ll go.”
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