Grace crawled into bed that night. She’d gotten a job that day, as a waitress at a local restaurant. She wasn’t too excited about it but it was better than nothing.
Thunder rolled just beyond her window. Grace closed her eyes as she remembered how Allan would hold her during the storms. She’d always hated thunderstorms.
Loud thuds began on her roof and then against her window. Hail. She burrowed deeper into her bed and tried to imagine Allan’s arms around her. Her door eased open. “Mommy?” It was Hailey.
Hailey frowned. “Mommy, I’m scared.”
Grace extended her arm and Hailey came to her. Grace was glad to have company. As she and her daughter tried to go back to sleep, the door opened again.
Andrew stood there. “I came to see if you guys were okay.” Andrew replied with his hands on his hips.
Grace smiled at her boy. “We’re fine baby. Go on back to bed.”
Lightning flashed outside and she saw her son’s worried expression.
“Maybe I could protect you…” The thunder boomed outside, Andrew screamed and ran to the bed. Grace held her babies in her arms and whispered a lullaby to them. Within minutes they were asleep, leaving Grace with her thoughts.
Paul came to her mind. Sweet Paul. Her husband’s best friend. She loved him dearly, always had. But this new feeling was beginning to take root in the back of her mind.
Paul had always been there for her. He’d always been there when she needed him. And now with Allan gone, she needed him more than ever.
Paul smiled as he got dressed for the day. He was anxious to get back to work, although, it was a might bittersweet. He knew Allan wouldn’t be coming in to work that day, or anymore days.
His best buddy wasn’t going to berate him about working past lunch anymore. He wasn’t going to be there to be late anymore. He just wasn’t going to be there. Ever again.
Paul sighed as his eyes filled with tears. He missed Allan immensely but was sick and tired of crying. He checked his watch. He was going to be late if he didn’t get on the road now.
Paul laughed. Allan probably wouldn’t have even been up this early. Paul locked his door and drove to the construction site.
The stares he got from his men made him nervous. They began when he drove into the yard. As he got out of the truck, they increased.
“Hey guys.” Paul mumbled as he went over to one of his contractors. “Hey Myles.”
The old man turned and smiled. “Hey Paul.” “What’s with the stares? Do I have something on my face or something?” Paul shoved his hands into his pockets.
Myles squeezed his shoulder. “We just didn’t expect you back this early.”
“What do you mean?”
Myles sighed. “You and Allan were very close. We all knew that. You can take some time off if you need to.”
Paul breathed a laugh. “I’m fine Myles. That’s why I’m here.”
“Are you sure? I can take over here if you don’t want to finish this project. It is the last one Allan ever worked on.”
Paul crossed his arms. “Yeah. I know. It’s the last one we worked on. No way am I letting someone else finish mine and Allan’s job.”
Myles shook his head. “I’m just saying...”
“Yeah? Well stop saying.” Paul turned to his crew.
“Everyone listen up!” Paul climbed atop a stack of bricks. “Allan will be missed. A lot. And if any of you need time off, just come talk to me. Don’t worry, you won’t be replaced. But I will hire some volunteers to pick up the slack. No one will be judged, if you need time, you can just leave.” Paul waited. No one moved.
“Are you sure?” Again, no one moved a muscle. Paul nodded and replaced his hard hat. “Alright then. Let’s get to work.”
Hailey walked into her classroom and sat down quietly. Her friends were on the other side of the room. They kept pointing at her and talking to each other. Hailey frowned and stared straight ahead.
Miss Fenters, her teacher, came in. “Okay class, I have wonderful news. We have a new student.” Hailey sunk down in her chair a little more. The only seat open was the one beside her.
Miss Fenters gestured to the door and a little girl with curly red hair and freckles came in. “Boys and girls, this is Cassidy Duncan.” Hailey saw the girl almost completely hidden behind her books. She sat up a little straighter. This kid didn’t want to be here either.
“Cassidy, why don’t you go sit next to Hailey.” Cassidy made her way over to the desk. The girl looked at Hailey and sat down quickly. Hailey sighed. Poor kid. It was only going to get worse.
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