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Authors: Mia Villano

Winter In August (8 page)

BOOK: Winter In August
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“Gabby, I want you to meet, Bonnie.” My dad was jingling the change in his pocket, an old habit he had when he became nervous. Bonnie stuck out her hand toward me and I noticed her perfect French-tipped manicure.

“Gabby, I’m so happy to meet you. You’re all your dad talks about. Although he didn’t do you justice. You’re so gorgeous. Zeppe, you said she was pretty, but come on. I’m speechless.”

Zeppe? Since when did my dad let anyone call him Zeppe? I was taken aback by what was happening. I reached to shake her hand.

“Thank you.” I didn’t want to sound rude, but I had no idea what to say. I was embarrassed I didn’t say more. This surprise guest had me shocked. My dad pulled out the chair for her and they both sat.

“Bonnie is my…girlfriend. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know how you would take your old man dating.” My dad folded his napkin over and over looking at his hands. The waitress came over, and as if in a movie, brought Bonnie a bagel and cream cheese and a black coffee on cue. She took a long swig of her coffee, and looked at me as if we knew each other our whole life.

“This is the best place for good strong coffee. This coffee is so much better than the swill your father continues to make,” she laughed.

I sat there stunned. Bonnie smiled and had such a friendly and sweet face. I liked her right away. She looked so happy and gentle and what I wanted for him. However, I wasn’t going to let him off the hook so easy.

“So Dad, how long has this love affair been going on. I’m sorry if I sound rude Bonnie, but this is the first he has mentioned you.” She gave him a disapproving glance and my dad turned his head away.

“We’ve been together for a couple of years, and recently gotten serious. I have wanted to tell you several times, but I didn’t know how you would take the news, Mooch, with everything else going on. I didn’t want you to get mad or think anyone would be replacing you.” My dad reached across the table and grabbed my hand.

I gasped, “A couple of years?”

“Gabby, please understand. He worried you would be angry at him if he told you. I kept telling him to tell you and he would say, ‘I will.’”

“Dad, how could you think I would be mad? I have wanted this for you for years. I’m so relieved you’re not alone, and you have gotten over mom. Bonnie, did he tell you about my mom?”

“Yes, he told me everything, even the drinking. I was married as well for twenty-five years, and my husband passed away seven years ago from cancer. I’m a recovering alcoholic as well. I didn’t think anyone could take his place until your dad and I met, but we have so much in common.” She was gushing and smiling at my father.

“How did you meet?” I wanted details, and I couldn’t get over the fact my dad had kept this from me. I sipped my coffee, and the waitress brought over more.

“Well, we met at AA one night at the coffee pot. We liked the same cookies. We found out we went to the same church. I signed up to help at the spaghetti dinner one weekend, and I made sure I signed up the same time as he did. We fell in love over meatballs,” she laughed.

“Of course, food would be involved in dad finding a woman. I’m very happy for you both.” My emotions got the best of me. I was so relieved he found happiness. The tears pooled in my eyes as I stared at my dad.

“Oh Mooch, please don’t cry.” My dad stood, walked over, and hugged me tight to him.

“I want you to be happy. Bonnie, I’m glad you’re dating my dad.” My head was swarming with an array of emotions. I was angry at him for not telling me about his girlfriend, but relief and happiness were stronger. I wanted Bonnie to also know how important my dad was to me.

“He’s been through a lot with my mom leaving. Please be kind to him, and don’t hurt him.” The thought of anyone else hurting my dad was too much. I was crying now, and Bonnie stood to hug me too.

“Oh, honey don’t cry.”

“I love you, Mooch.”

“I love you too, Dad.”

“I love you too, Mooch,” laughed Bonnie.”

We all laughed and I wiped my eyes with a napkin.

“I have no intentions of ever hurting this man. I promise you,” nervously laughed Bonnie.

After we dried our tears and drank the last of our coffee, Bonnie said she was going to go and run some errands. We swapped cell phone numbers and she promised to keep in touch with me through Facebook and texting. When she left I noticed she drove off in a red Fiat with the top down smiling and playing rock music.

When we were alone, I looked at my dad and he looked the other way. “Wow.”

“All you have to say to me is, wow?” My dad tried to act cool.

“I’m in shock. How could you not tell me? Half of my depression has been worrying you were unhappy and sitting home alone every night. I feared you would start drinking again.”

My dad grabbed my hand and looked into my eyes. “I didn’t want you to think someone was replacing you. No one could or will ever. Don’t you worry about your old man? I’m good. I don’t plan on drinking. What I did to you was something I have to try and live with. I was so selfish, so selfish.” I noticed tears in his eyes and he let go of my hand and grabbed a napkin to wipe his eyes.

“It’s okay, Dad. I survived and I’m good. You did the best you could, and you were trying to get through what she did to us the best way you knew how,” I smiled, but remembered the rough times. Memories of different holidays shot through my mind. There was one Christmas memory I could never forget. I was thirteen and at a very vulnerable age. My father refused to celebrate and drank himself into stupidity. As if he temporarily lost his mind, he destroyed what little joy we could’ve had that holiday. We put up a small tree in the living room my aunt brought for us. I spent all day decorating it with the ornaments I found in the attic. I was so proud of the tree and for the first time in a long time, I had the comforting feelings of Christmas again. That didn’t last long. My dad started drinking, talking about my mom, and decided to throw the tree in the trash along with a couple of presents he managed to buy me. I was so upset. I begged him not to ruin Christmas.

“Please Daddy, Please. Not Christmas.” I cried until my head hurt. My body ached and I told myself I would never forgive him for what he did. I wanted to run away Christmas Eve and never come back, but I didn’t know where to go. Why did she have to do this to us? Even now, after so many years, Christmas has not been the same. But, that was all in the past and now I had to forgive and move on.

“I’m so sorry, Gabriella. I have to deal with not stepping up like a man. I was a coward. You and I’ve been to hell and back, you know. It’s been twenty years since I let myself even consider another woman. It's time. I need to close the door behind me once and for all. You need to do the same.” I nodded. He was right, but it was easier said than done.

When we left the restaurant, he wanted to take me on a tour of the town. He drove me past my old school both elementary, and my high school. Twelve years of constant religion being shoved down me from morning noon and night. I didn’t have the guts to tell my dad I hadn’t set foot inside a church since Kris’s funeral. He thought I was a practicing Catholic, and I wanted him to keep thinking I was. We drove by the cemetery on our way to the grocery store. My dad tried not to notice, but I already had.

“Dad, I think I’m ready.”

“What? Ready for what, Mooch?”

“Stop at the cemetery. I want to see Kris’s grave. You put mom behind you, and I want to do the same with Kris,” I said, as I looked backward to see the mammoth iron gate as my dad drove past.

“Are you sure?” My dad slowed the car down.

“Yeah. I need to do this now.” Today would mark five years since he had been dead and time to put my past behind me.

My dad turned around in a bank parking lot and headed back to Pine Tree Cemetery.

“I don’t remember where his grave is, do you?” We pulled into the large cemetery set back off the road, circled by a huge black iron fence around the perimeter. Many of the graves were decorated with flowers from the recent Memorial Day holiday. Along with Kris, there were several men I went to school with who died in the war buried there as well.

“Yes, I remember, turn here and go a few…right here Dad.” My dad pulled the car over to the side of the road and parked.

“You want me to go with you?” he asked, as I started to get out.

“No, I need to do this alone, Dad. I won’t be long.”

“Take as long as you need. I’m not going anywhere,” he smiled at me. He pulled out his iPhone he took everywhere and started texting. I stopped to watch him.

“What’s with you and the iPhone, Dad? I never thought you would use one of those.”

“Bonnie bought the phone for me. I enjoy playing solitaire, reading the news, and we text. Who knew the news would be on a phone instead of reading a paper or watching the television? Bonnie has opened my eyes to many things.”

“I’m sure she has, but please keep that to yourself. Tell me you aren’t into sexting. I don’t know if I could think about that.” I smiled at him as I started to walk away.

“What the hell is sexting?” he laughed. Thank God he didn’t know.

“I love you, Dad,” I called back over my shoulder.

“I love you, baby.”

I trudged up the hill to the grave I remembered was Kris’s. His grave was under an enormous pine tree, and I had to walk over a hill and down the other side to get to his marker. Nothing changed except there were more people buried. I passed a new mound of dirt being dug for someone to go in there soon. I was terrified of death and cemeteries always creeped me out. Walking towards Kris’s marker in front of an enormous pine tree, my breakfast rose to my throat. Knowing this once alive, amazing person I planned to spend the rest of my life with was lying under the ground, was too much. The thoughts of him smiling at me with his big toothy grin came into my mind. The times we spent laughing, going to dances, having long talks, exploring each other, all hit me. The panic set in as I walked closer to the tree. As I approached the place where his grave was, I noticed someone kneeling in front of his headstone, arranging a planter with flowers. Kneeling in front of me was a woman and a small child running around her yelling. The closer I got, I was able to make out who was kneeling there. Someone I would’ve never expected.

Chapter 8

I
n
front of the shiny gray stone with GRABER etched in black, was Hilary Sinclair, the girl I despised all through school. There was a child with her. I walked up to her, without saying a word. Hilary jumped and looked as if she was crying holding a tissue as she moved the planter around to sit perfectly. Unlike what she wore in high school, she was wearing sweats and her hair was uncombed. The girl standing in from of me was not the Hilary I remembered. That Hilary would’ve never been seen in public looking like she did. She had always been dressed in the latest fashion, her hair was always perfect, and always after Kris. Her parents were rich and gave her everything she wanted including a car, credit cards, and access to a cottage on the lake for parties. I hoped to never have to see her after graduation, but to my utter shock and disappointment, there she was. The child was squirming around trying to run off. As I focused in on the child, I noticed something that made my heart stop.

“Gabby Barone?” asked Hilary in a sing-song bitchy kind of way. Her face was pale white as if I was a ghost. The redhead who was always a bitch to me throughout high school was in front of me crying. The reaction of her face showed me I was the last person she expected to see. Her complexion, no longer radiant and flawless, was now lifeless and pale. Her red hair that was once the envy of every girl in school was now cut in a short uncombed bob with blonde streaks.

We both stared at each other for a few seconds.

“Hilary Sinclair?” I said sarcastically. What the fuck? My eyes narrowed with an attitude as I glared at her.

“I thought you lived in New York City or Chicago or somewhere,” Hillary said, as this kid about five or six threw dirt on her. The kid was out of control.

“I live in New York City. I came home to see my dad and to visit Kris’s grave. Today marks the day he was killed five years ago, but by the looks of things, you know that. What’s going on here? You’re standing by his grave, crying, with flowers? I thought you lived in Utah?” I knew what the situation was. I recognized the instant pain in my soul. I knew by looking at the child with the same hair and eyes as Kris Graber. My heart sank and broke all over again.

“I do live in Utah. I came to visit my parents this week. You know why I’m here, Gabby.”

“I don’t know why you’re here Hilary? Why don’t you tell me?” I wanted to hear her say what I knew. My hot Italian temper was going to get the best of me, and after seeing Hilary with a child that resembled Kris, I was ready to fight someone.

“You knew we were together after the two of you broke up.”

“Broke up? We were fighting for one night. You swarmed in on Kris the night he and I had the fight by the covered bridge. You couldn’t wait for your chance to get ahold of him.

You whore,” I yelled, unfolding my arms.

The child running around decided to take what I said and repeat the word.

“Whore,” he laughed.

“Christopher that’s enough. We don’t say those things.” She turned and gave me the evil eye. She had tried to get Kris from the beginning of freshman year until he left for the Marines. Apparently, she had.

BOOK: Winter In August
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