And for a time, we do. Intimately joined by memories and the unending love for the same little person.
“If I could go back and do it all over again with you, I would,” Jenny whispers. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
I look into her eyes, and then I press my lips to her forehead gently. “Me too. Not a single thing.”
And that’s how Jenny and I say good-bye.
• • •
Later on, I sit on the wooden, two-seater swing beside Presley, watching the celebration continue. “And then, when school lets out, you’ll come to DC for the summer.”
“For the whole summer, right? You promise?”
“The whole summer,” I say, nodding. “You have my word.”
“Will Miss Sofia be there?”
“She will be, yes.”
My daughter looks at me sideways, with round, knowing eyes. “Did you screw that up, Daddy?”
A little bit, yeah. But I’ll make it right.”
She bestows her approval with a quick nod of her head. “Good.”
A blond boy in a button-down shirt and clip-on tie calls from a few feet away. “Hey, Presley! We’re goin’ down the river—you comin’?”
“I’ll be right there,” she shouts back.
My brow puckers. “That was Ethan Fortenbury, wasn’t it?”
“Yep, that’s him.”
“I thought he was a horse’s anus.”
“Well,” she sighs, “he said he was sorry for sayin’ I had man hands. Tol’ me he only did it ’cause his older brother dared him to.”
This sounds uncomfortably familiar.
“Those big brothers can certainly be trouble.”
Then she grins bashfully. “He thinks I’m pretty. And he likes how I throw a football.”
“He’s got good eyesight, then.”
She stands up, smoothing her blue satin dress. Before she runs off, I implore, “Hey baby girl, can you promise me somethin’?”
“Just give me a few more years before you start turnin’ my whiskers gray, okay?”
She laughs and kisses my cheek. “Alright, Daddy—I promise.”
Then she skips off.
And I shake my head. “Ethan fucking Fortenbury. Sonofabitch.”
Brent and I make record time driving back to DC—I pushed my Porsche to the limit and she did not let me down. I refused to stop overnight, so one of us slept in the passenger seat while the other drove. For two men over six feet, sleeping in a Porsche is not conducive to happy fucking dreams, but Brent didn’t complain. He knew it was killing me to be so far away and he put “Ride of the Valkyries” on repeat to help lighten the mood.
I park in front of his townhouse and jog down the block to Sofia’s. As I get closer, I see boxes on her stoop and furniture stationed at her curb. My heart starts to hammer in my chest. Is she moving?
I knock hard on her front door, impatience pushing on my back. The door opens . . . and a giant looks back at me. Literally. Six-five, wide chest, arms like a professional wrestler, and a menacing scowl.
“What do you want?”
And I feel like a ten-year-old kid. “Is Sofia home?”
“Who wants to know?” From shoes to head, his eyes appraise me. Hazel eyes. Eyes I’m intimately familiar with.
I point my finger. “You’re the brother—the one she said could kick my ass. The doctor.” He doesn’t nod, but he also doesn’t say I’m wrong. “I’m . . . your sister and I are . . .” I refuse to call her my friend, ’cause she’s much more than that. So for the first time in my life, I stutter—like a goddamn idiot. “I’m her . . . we’re . . . she told me all about you.”
He crosses his arms, and they grow even larger. “She hasn’t said a word about you.”
Before I can respond, another guy comes to the door—this one more normal size, a little bit shorter than me. He has thick, short brown hair, a friendly smile, and teasing brown eyes—just like Sofia described him.
“Victor, come on, the couch isn’t going to move itself,” he says to Gigantor. Then he notices me. “Hey.”
I hold my hand out, eager to introduce myself to Sofia’s closest brother. “Stanton Shaw. You’re Tomás?”
He shakes my hand and his smile broadens. “That’s right. How are you doing, Stanton? Come on in, Sofia’s told me about you.”