I shook my head. “I haven’t heard any of this.”
“It’s true,” he said, nodding. “Turned out she left for college pretty soon after that. Came back that summer, though, had some preppy following her around like a puppy. Couldn’t say I blamed him. She saw me, and I looked up at her hair, all meaningfully—she had it in the same pretty updo she favored in those days—and she smiled. I guess that was it. We got married the very next summer. When she died, I couldn’t stop thinking about that first day. Like something was itching at my brain. I couldn’t remember how she’d worn her hair the few days before she died, but I could remember how she had it the first day I saw her.”
I had never in my entire life heard my grandpa say so much all at once. If words were doled out across a family, I would have received the bulk of the quota. But here, I stayed entirely silent.
Looking over at me, he said, “And it was because it didn’t matter. In the beginning, love is this physical thing. You can’t get enough. Everyone loves talking about infatuation, like that’s love, but we all know it’s not. Infatuation becomes something different. Peg became part of me. The idea that you grow into one person sounds silly but isn’t. I can’t go to a new restaurant without wanting to know whether she’d like their eggs Benedict. I can’t get myself a beer without instinctively reaching for the pitcher of iced tea to bring her something, too.” He took a deep breath, looking back out to the street. “I can’t get into bed at night without anticipating the dip of her side of the mattress.”
I reached out, put my hand on his rough arm.
“The thing is,” he continued more quietly, “it’s hard now without her. Real hard. But I wouldn’t change a damn thing. When I said that to her, that first day in the soda shop, she smiled so wide. She wanted it, too, in that second, even if she stopped wanting it for a little while when her life got too busy, too different. But that infatuation grew and grew, into something better.” He looked back at me. “Your mom Colleen’s got that. I know I don’t always understand her choices, but I can tell she loves Leslie the way I loved your grandma.”
I felt the sting of tears across the surface of my eyes, wondering what Coco would give to hear Grandpa acknowledge that.
“And I want it for you, too, Pipps. I want a fella who notices everything about you when you first meet, but would only notice everything that’s missing when you’re not around.”
Will answered the door just after six on Wednesday, but Hanna wasn’t far behind him, bounding down the hallway with an enormous yellow dog close on her heels.
“Pippa!” she sang, throwing her arms around me.
The two of us were nearly knocked over by the dog when it jumped up, paws outstretched against Hanna’s back.
“You have a dog?” I asked, bending to scratch its ears when Hanna stepped away.
“This is Penrose! She’s been at my parents’ place for the past couple weeks, with the birthday party and the trip.” She signaled for the dog to get down, and when Penrose did—obediently—Hanna produced a treat from the pocket of her cardigan. “She’s a year old now, but we’re still working on a few things.” Hanna threw a wry smile to Will over my shoulder.
“I am assuming she’s named after the famed mathematician?” I asked, grinning.
“Yes! Finally someone appreciates our nerdiness!” She turned, leading me down the hall and toward the kitchen. “Come on, I’m starving.”
Having been here twice before, I was familiar with the layout. But this time, the house felt more . . . homey, even though there were no multitudes of squealing children and no buzzing anticipation of a long holiday in the air. Instead, there were just the signs of Will and Hanna, at home, at the end of the day: Hanna’s laptop bag leaning against the banister and the desk in Will’s home office—just off the hallway—scattered with papers, medical journals, and Post-it notes. Two pairs of running shoes were lined up side by side near the front door. A stack of mail was sitting, still unopened, on a small table in the entry hallway. In the kitchen, the scent of rich marinara and bubbling cheese wafted from the oven. After a tight hug, Will returned to the center island and the salad he had been making.
And yet, there was no other dinner guest to be found here. There were only four of us in the kitchen: Will, Hanna, me, and the adorably floppy Penrose.
“How’s your grandpa?” Will asked first, dropping a couple of handfuls of cucumbers in the dark wooden bowl.
“He’s well,” I said. “And I’m so glad for the wine trip. I love seeing him, but I can already feel how disruptive I’ve been. I think he can really only take a few days in a row of visitors. He’s a man of routine.”
“We know someone like that,” Hanna said with a snort, sliding her eyes to me knowingly.
Well now I have to ask.
After a steadying breath, I let it out: “Will Jensen be joining us tonight?”
Hanna shook her head. “He said he’s got work.”
But from where he stood at the island, Will had gone still and then slowly looked up at me.
“Haven’t the two of you spoken?” he asked, voice careful.
His brows pulled together. “After . . . the cabin . . . I would have expected you to at least . . .” He trailed off, glancing to Hanna, who seemed to register that yes, it was strange that I wouldn’t know whether Jensen would be here tonight.