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“Thanks for watching the babies,” Danica said.
“I love spending time with them,” Mom assured her, bouncing Ari, then cooing, “Isn’t that right, baby-girl? Oh, you’re so pretty.”
Arianna grinned and blew spit bubbles.
Smiling at her daughter and her mother, she unloaded the two oversized diaper bags.
“Look at those cute little lips and that lovely pink bow in your curly blonde hair. Grandma loves you, cutie pie. Yes, I do. I really, really do.”
Bending down to tug out a couple of toys, Danica felt the burn. At least she could say all the squats, lifting and moving of things—high chairs, stroller, playpen and such—did wonders for her midsection, biceps and leg muscles. Not to mention all the laps she’d done that week, pushing her babies in their double stroller when they didn’t want to sleep.
It was like weight training and cardio, rolled up into one excellent daily busy-mommy workout.
“Do you hear that?” her father asked Aaron, who he hoisted up in the air, giving him a smile when her son broke out into a fit of giggles. “You don’t need baby talk, do you?” Up and down, up and down, her father lifted him, then flew him around the living room, making silly humming sounds before the “V-r-o-o-m” started.
Danica shook her head, “Is Aaron a car or a plane?”
“We’re a Transformer,” Dad said, completely serious. “Optimus Prime. No wait, I don’t think he can fly.”
“Okay, well.” She grinned. “I’ll leave you guys to your playing. If you need anything—”
“We won’t, dear. We’ve got this.” Her mother’s thin, smiling face turned to her granddaughter. “Don’t we, Ari? That’s right. Your grandparents are the best.”
Arianna started giggling and waving her chubby fist.
“See,” Mom said. “Ari agrees.”
After placing her daughter’s favorite Lucy the Lamb doll into the playpen, then Aaron’s giraffe, Danica went over, leaned down, and kissed her little girl on the forehead. Then she placed a quick peck on her mother’s soft cheek, before going over to her Dad and son, doing the same. “All right. I’m going to go.”
Her parents didn’t bother to look her way, just said in harmony, “See you later.”
Running a straightening palm down the bell of her hip, Danny left her family behind, and stepped out the front door, melancholy striking her even though it was a beautiful day. With a lift of chin, the sun hit her face. But instead of lingering in the warmth, Danica plucked the Dolce & Gabbana’s off the top of her head, putting the sunglasses in place.
As she stepped onto the sidewalk, yellowing leaves floated down in front of her, and the hum of a lawnmower, or maybe a leaf blower, started in the distance.
She glanced across the familiar street and waved at Mr. Groves, who was sitting on his front porch in his rocking chair, then shifted her attention to the mailman slipping a handful of envelopes into the box next door.
“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” The wrinkled skin of his weathered face lifted when he grinned.
He put his hand above his eyes, creating a visor. “I bet those babies of yours are getting big.”
“How old are they now?” Joe asked.
“I remember when Kylie was that age. Such a handful.”
“A handful times two,” Danica said.
“I bet.” He bobbed his head. “Well, I’d better get on with my route. You have a great one, and it was good seeing you, dearie.”
“You, too,” she said, then sighed.
Everything was different, but the same, and for some reason, the consistency of Cedar Point that used to comfort her had become a mighty stranger—aloof and eluding.
Trying to snap out of whatever was bothering her, she slipped behind the wheel of her Escalade, started it up and pulled away, deciding to turn left instead of right when she came to a stop at the sign. Passing house after house on Downy Street, she slowed when she came to the little bungalow with its blue-green paint, and flower pots staggered up the sides of the steps that led to the wooden front door with its inlaid stained glass.
She frowned, working her bottom lip over with her teeth.
Why she drove by the old Willis place was another mystery. Not only because she knew she had no reason to be there, but because he wouldn’t be there.
What are you searching for? That was the million-dollar question, one she shouldn’t be asking herself.
With a shake of her head, Danica looked away, gripped the wheel, pressed the gas pedal, and left her stupidity, as well as the house, behind.