Jonathan watched longingly as Aubrey ran away from him. In his heart, he wanted to go after her and give her the comfort she needed, but he knew what she really needed was a moment alone to collect herself.
Maya hadn’t said anything yet. He couldn’t look her in the eyes and watched the early evening light glinting on the ripples in the pool.
Her voice startled him.
“What happened? I wanna know the rest of the story.”
He looked up, finally, and smiled. Perhaps she was delaying judgment until she had all the facts.
He took a long, deep breath before continuing the story. “Well…after I gave him the keys to the kingdom, your mother and I traveled for a month. We spent a week in Granite Falls, we went to a spa resort, and then we spent two weeks in Windenburg.” He grinned at the happy memories.
“We really needed that time together. We knew we had gotten involved in too much too soon, but we figured it would be better to get it all done before we had children. I worked long days, and often times mom was asleep when I got home. And then she started being depressed…we were such a mess. So, we desperately needed time to, like, reconnect with each other. Anyway…”
He took a moment to glance at her to gauge her feelings. She was listening, but he couldn’t tell what she was thinking.
“We had a great time and were really refreshed when it was time to go home. When we tried to check out of the hotel, our cards kept declining. I checked our account balance, and we had no money.”
She looked just as shocked as she did a few moments before.
“I had Juliette wire some money to the hotel to pay the bill so we could leave. When we got home, the utilities were turned off. Everything in the fridge was rancid. I knew whatever happened occurred right after we left town.”
“What did you think happened?”
“I didn’t know. I really didn’t. I called Meatball so many times, but he wouldn’t answer me…. We couldn’t stay there, so we went to Juliette’s. That night, we found out we were pregnant with you.”
She smiled sheepishly.
“That was the happiest moment we had since the day we got married. We were going through hell, but in that moment, we weren’t thinking about what happened to our house and where our money went. We were thinking about you and the future of our family. In the midst of all that trouble, something finally went right. You made us so happy, Maya.”
She looked like she might cry.
“Me and Juliette went to the restaurant the next day to see if we could figure out what happened or if Tony left us a note or something.” He shook his head. “It was in the same condition as the house. That’s when I entertained the idea that he may have done this to me. But I wouldn’t believe it. I called him again, and he didn’t answer.”
Although this was the first time he ever told this story, it wasn’t as painful as he imagined it would be. He had gotten over it long ago, but for whatever reason, he thought talking about it may bring it all back.
“We crashed at Janessa’s house that night, and your mom suggested we move back into the tr–uhh, her old house. I didn’t want to. I was a different person then. I loved spending money and showing off how much money we had. I didn’t want to live in a trailer.” He was so glad he wasn’t that person anymore. At the time, he was quite content with who he was. But, looking back, he could see how he needed to change.
“Sometimes, I look at you two, and I’m just so proud. I often wonder what kind of people you would be if nothing happened and we still lived here and I was still like I was. It’s weird…it was really devastating and humiliating to lose everything. But, in that process I found myself. I grew so much. I learned how to be a man. What happened was terrible, but…it was good.”
“Do you miss it?”
“Not at all. I used to, in the beginning. Heh, if Julio came to me and apologized on behalf of his father and offered us the house, the restaurant, and all the money, I wouldn’t take it.”
He sat next to her. “See, Maya, having everything doesn’t make you happy. While having money affords a very comfortable way to live, if you’re not focused on the right things, it can be a stressful way to live.”
“Acquiring material things or spending money on stupid stuff doesn’t quench the thirst. It feeds the appetite, and there will never be enough. You’ll never be satisfied.”
He leaned back in the chair and glanced at the house. “We had so much stuff in this house. We didn’t need anything else. We didn’t even know what to spend the money on. There were so many things to occupy our attention in this house. I remember up until I became a teenager, we had a full house. There was the three of us and my parents, my grandma, my Aunt Sasha, and Uncle Emerson.”
“Sheesh! How many bedrooms are in there?”
“Six. With all those people, the only time we ever really got together as a family was at dinner. The rest of time, we mostly spent doing our own things. Of course, I don’t mean that we never spent time together because that’s not true, but when I compare our family to how I grew up, we are much tighter. I think that’s important, and I never want to lose that. That why I love our new house so much…It gives us the space we needed so we’re not on top of each other anymore, but it’s not so large that we never see each other. The openness downstairs keeps us together, but if you need to be alone, there are places you can go.”
“I like that about the house too.”
He loved that she still liked hanging with her family. Although one day she would move away, he hoped that day was a long way off.
“Yeah, it’s great. So, no…I don’t miss the Pruett legacy lifestyle. Living simply is so much less stressful than living large…and so much more gratifying! I am SO much more proud of Viviana’s than I ever was of Sky High Café. I took a hundred grand out of our account and built Sky High very quickly. I didn’t have to sacrifice for it. I had it and didn’t even miss it. I’m not saying I wasn’t proud of it because I was, but the pride I have now is different. It’s deeper. I had to work very hard for every simoleon I put into Viviana’s. I still do. That’s why I take care of the flowers so well. They’re our bread and butter right now. You always appreciate things more when you spend your hard-earned money on them.”
He was horrified. Surely he told them about his precious grandmother for the restaurant was named. Did he seriously not share anything about their family with them? He was so ashamed.
“I tell you what. Let’s go find Aubrey, and then I’ll tell you more about our family.”