Time in Willow Creek: 1 year, 9 months, 1 week, 1 day
A few minutes passed before Harold realized Abigail was still screaming. Hillary must have been in the laundry room. With a grunt, he pushed his old bones off the couch and trudged upstairs. He didn’t mind looking after the child, of course. Hillary was just so good at it, he never had to consider her in that way. She was just like her mother, dashing toward the scene with every utterance that came from Abigail’s direction.
Harriett was exactly the kind of woman he wanted. She cooked, kept the house in pristine order, and raised his children. He wanted his woman to be strong and independent so she wouldn’t be so helpless when he left her. She wasn’t supposed to go first, and now he was the one who was helpless. Harold wasn’t completely helpless as he was quite adept around the kitchen. But, Hillary felt the need to take her mother’s place in the house, and he didn’t protest—not that he was in the condition protest or do for himself. Besides, the children should take care of their parents when they get old. He and Harriett used to worry about her prospects of having a successful, domestic life. It was such a relief to watch Hillary in that space. He was proud of her and wished her mother was around to see it.
He walked into the room, smiled at Abigail’s pitiful, wet face, and lifted her from the crib. “Where’s your mama at, hmmm? You want your mama?”
The screaming decreased to a whimper. Good thing she wasn’t hungry. He surely didn’t want to go back downstairs.
“You just wanted some lovin’? Hmmm? You just wanted some lovin’, Boop Boop?”
He spoke in a falsetto voice and tapped her nose when he said Boop Boop. The infant smiled and shrieked like she witnessed the greatest show on earth.
“You like that, Boop Boop? That’s what I used to call your mama.”
Harold didn’t hold her much, but he enjoyed it when he did. Little babies like her were always so cute and smiley. And, they couldn’t talk or cause trouble, so that was nice too. As he played with his grandchild, he heard steps in the stairwell.
He gasped dramatically. “Here come your mama. Your mama comin’, Boopy!”
He was pretty good at entertaining her and considered being more involved in her life, not that Hillary and Jase needed the help. They surprised him how well they worked together, being new parents and all. They were so young and unprepared. He thought for sure they’d flounder and make a mess of their friendship…relationship, or whatever they called what they were doing. He still couldn’t believe they had been together and wondered how long it had been going on. Did it start when Jase used to live with them? He had always been sweet on her. She was too, but she denied it. Were they experimenting with each other in his house? If they were, he knew she was the initiator. Jase was too afraid of him. The memory of finding them drunker than the neighborhood wino made him chuckle. He was furious at the time, and it scared him a little bit, but it was laughable now. Harriett had gone to the library; she felt they were old enough to stay at home by themselves on school breaks. They were 12 years old and high as kites. The house was a mess. Who knows what they did with each other.
“She all right?”
“She’s fine. She might be hungry though.”
He placed her back into the crib, and to both of their surprise and delight, she remained silent. Abigail had become quite the attention hog and put on quite a display at times. Knowing Hillary catered to her every whim, it wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. Perhaps when she began walking and wasn’t bound to Hillary’s arms he would teach her things himself.
“She likes you, daddy.”
She laughed. “You’re so silly, daddy.”
The way Hillary loved him was humbling. After all he had done, her love never failed. She never gave up. Sometimes he wished he had the courage to apologize and tell her how he really felt. Maybe one day he’d try.
“I was thinking,” she said hesitantly. “Since the piano won’t fit in the house, what if we got a keyboard? It should fit in the living room, right?”
He still saw so much of Blake in her. It still hurt. But, the more he allowed himself to love her, the easier it got. Although Hillary showed great interest in his music, he thought it was too late to bond with her that way. She was too old and too busy to sit around the piano and make up songs with him like he used to with his red-haired son. But, maybe his love for music was something he could share with Abigail when she got older. Maybe he would teach her how to play so his talents wouldn’t die with him.
“That ain’t a bad idea.”