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The Good House (Ann Leary)

When Frank arrived, Tess and Grady were there and, of course, so was Emily. I ignored the amused glances I caught between the girls. I had made a lasagna that afternoon, and after Frank placed the tree in the stand, he and I went into the kitchen while Emily strung lights on the tree and Tess tried to keep Grady from pulling them off.

In the kitchen, I asked Frankie whether he’d prefer wine or beer. “What’re you gonna have?” he asked.

“Sparkling water,” I said cheerily.

“Oh,” said Frank, glancing toward the living room, where the girls were. Emily was having a glass of wine. There was an open bottle on the counter, so he said, “I’ll just have a glass of that wine, if you don’t mind, Hil.”

“No, not at all. I hate it when people don’t drink because of me.” I poured him a glass and then began preparing a salad.

Frankie watched me, then whispered quietly, “So you never drink when the girls are around, huh?”

I laughed and said, also in a whisper, “No, and now I’ve given it up completely again.”

I watched Frankie working this over in his mind. His face took on a rather grim expression, and I laughed again and said, “It’s not because of the other night. I had fun that night. I just . . . need to give it a rest is all.”

Frank nodded and little Grady came tottering into the room. “Gammy!” he exclaimed.

“Hi, Grady, my love. Frank, have you ever seen a more gorgeous child?”

Frank smiled and looked Grady up and down. Grady was looking Frank over, too, which made Frank chuckle and say, “Yup, he’s a keeper.” Then he asked Grady to give him five and they slapped palms. He asked Grady how old he was and Grady sort of stood and drooled.

“He’s two,” I said, answering for Grady.

“Where do you live?” Frank asked Grady.

“Frank, he’s two!” I exclaimed, laughing. “Haven’t you ever met a baby before?”

“Well, I thought by the time they can walk, they’re pretty good talkers.”

“Only the geniuses, and thank God Grady’s not one of those,” I said, pulling the child from the dog’s water bowl, which he had begun to drink from. I lifted Grady up and started nuzzling his neck with kisses, which made him shriek with laughter.

“Who’s your favorite in the world?” I asked.

“GAMMY.”

“Who do you love more than that Nancy person?” I laughed. I winked at Frank and mouthed the words the other grandma.

“GAMMY,” Grady squealed.

“Here, Frank, hold him while I finish this salad.”

Frank set down his glass and reached out his strong arms for little Grady. Grady enjoyed being held by Frank, enjoyed studying this new face. I finished making the salad and we had dinner and then we all decorated the tree. When we were finished and the wine was gone, Tess and Grady left and Emily went up to bed. Frank got ready to go, too, but I said, sort of abruptly, “You can stay if you want.”

Frank said nothing. He was thinking.

Then I said in a nicer tone, “I want you to stay,” and Frank smiled and grabbed me tight and kissed me with great urgency, hard and strong, the way I like it.



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