I woke before Mia. I felt much better than I did when I crawled into bed. Mia was still there, and she had slept all night. I carefully pulled my tingling arm from under her neck. She smiled in her sleep, but the even breathing continued. I rose slowly, quietly donned some boxers, and left the room. What I needed was some coffee and space to think. Mia thought her secrets were going to come between us. She could have raped and murdered the pope for all I cared, but it was her thoughts that counted, not mine. The only way past this was to find out what her secrets were and prove to her that I didn’t give a shit. It was past eight so I grabbed my phone and headed outside out of earshot.
“Hi this is Dale Tomlinson. I would like to talk with whoever handles my account.” The receptionist sounded pleasant enough.
“No, I am sure Monica is fine. I just need to know who handles my account.” I guess letting Monica handle everything was a bit extreme.
“Then Bob Farring is who I need to speak with please.” This type of conversation used to piss me off. Today I empathized with the receptionist’s confusion.
“Hi Bob, this is Dale Tomlinson.” Finally I had the right person.
“No, Monica is just fine.” I guess Monica was pretty ingrained into my business.
“You guys use investigators, right?” Now we were moving in the right direction.
“Good! I want you to do a discreet background check on someone for me. Her name is Mia Perez, and I believe she lives somewhere in downtown Capersfield. I know she used to be an RN.” I waited for Bob to write it all down.
“No, not a whole life history. Just her current address, employment, what she’s done for the last few years, etc.” Her long past was probably cleaner than mine. I just needed the more current data.
“Bob, no one but you and the investigator will know about this. Bill it any way you want, but keep it private.” I wasn’t shocked by his next question.
“No, Monica doesn’t need to know about this either. Send me a text when you have what I need, and I will call when I can.” Bob was still a little surprised to deal with me directly.
“Thanks, Bob! You have a good day too.” I wasn’t sure why I felt the need to be pleasant. I went back in the house and started to make some coffee. I knew I had to keep this from Mia. I was betraying her trust and digging into what she wanted hidden. Love makes you do some really fucked-up things.
Mia followed the smell of the coffee into the kitchen. She was again wearing my robe. I was beginning to hate that robe. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” I asked as I sipped from my cup. She thought about it for a moment, then shook her head no.
“I don’t think I’m ready for java just yet. Maybe tomorrow.” She pulled up a stool and sat across the counter from me.
“You slept the whole night. Got to be a good sign.” I gave her a small smile. I was still a little nervous that I might have pushed the envelope too far last night.
“I do feel better.” She smiled back. “Do we have any cereal?” I almost jumped out of my skin. I didn’t think she even knew she used the word “we.” I started looking through the cabinets, trying not to look too ecstatic, not wanting a replay of last night.
“Here! I found Raisin Bran and Cinnamon Chex.” I felt like I had found gold.
“Oh, Chex please.” I went to the fridge, praying that Monica had stocked milk. I found 2%, well under the expiration date. I placed milk and Chex in front of Mia and fished out a bowl and spoon. Why had cereal suddenly become so exciting? Dr. Williams’s conversation came back to me, and I grabbed the vitamins from behind me and placed them in front of Mia.
“Doctor’s orders.” I think I sounded a little motherly. She just smiled and popped the cap and dumped one into her hand. It was the size of a VW. She frowned a bit.
“I’m going to need some water.” She rolled it around in her hand. I quickly retrieved a glass and filled it with water. It struck me that the last person I had ever served anything too was my Grandma. Here I was, grabbing items on command for Mia. I kept the revelation to myself as I watched Mia struggle to swallow the horse pill. She made a horrendous face.
“Do they dip those is shit before they bottle them?” She gagged a couple of times before she took another sip of the water. I laughed at her reaction, which I quickly realized was the wrong thing to do. She pushed the bottle toward me smiling.
“You need your vitamins too, Dale.” It was an obvious challenge. I had no intention of wimping out in front of Mia. I grabbed the bottle with bravado and spilled a pill into my hand. I tossed it to the back of my throat where it immediately got stuck. The flavor began to spread from the back of my tongue to the front. “Shit” was a kind description of the flavor. I guess my expression told the story because Mia burst into laughter. I grabbed her glass of water and drank with gusto. Anything to get that rancid flavor out of my mouth.
“That was horrible!” I exclaimed as Mia covered her mouth trying to hide more laughter. I loved her laughter. It brightened the whole room. I had to find a less disgusting way to generate more. “You have some breakfast. I’m going to clean up and shave so we can go shopping.” I walked around the counter and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. It felt good to share a bit of affection on a whim.
“Aren’t you going to eat?” She seemed a little concerned.
“Naw, never been a breakfast person.” I kept going toward the bathroom. It took about 20 minutes to clean up and locate some sweats that might not make Mia look like a complete fool. I had some T-shirts that had shrunk a while ago. I had no idea why I didn’t throw them away years ago. Good thing I didn’t. They might be the only things that would come close to fitting Mia.
My nose grabbed hold of pleasant scent. I was suddenly hungry, and I smiled my way back to the kitchen. Mia was stirring a pot of SpaghettiOs and heard me walking up behind her. “I have no idea why you and Adrian like this stuff.” I could feel her smile through the back of her head. I sat at the counter.
“It’s packed with memories. I grew up on the stuff.” I waited patiently why Mia filled a bowl and served me.
“Your mom make it for you too?” She leaned on her elbows as I ate the first spoonful. It was as good as ever.
“My grandmother raised me actually.” I smiled, remembering coming home from school with the same scent lofting through the air.
“Tell me about her.” Mia settled on a stool and waited for me to respond. I did. I told her about the most special woman I had ever known. I had never really talked to anyone about my Grandma. Mia listened intently to my words. I left out some of the reasons why I thought of my Grandma’s place as sanctuary. They seemed trivial now. It was so important a week ago, but today, right now, they were just history.
“Is that her on the wall?” Mia was pointing to the small picture hanging above the credenza in the hall.
“Yes, that’s her.” I felt proud pointing it out to someone. She was such a wonderful woman. Mia walked up to the picture and looked at it more closely. It pleased me that someone else would notice the picture.
“I love the butterfly broach she’s wearing.” Mia was touching it with her finger like it was real.
“It was her favorite.” I realized I kind of missed that broach. “Whenever she wore it, I knew she was happy. I think my Grandpa gave it to her.” I wondered where it was now. “I bet it’s in storage somewhere, Monica would know. She is the one who set up the hospice and the funeral and took care of everything.” I had forgotten about that. “That’s when I first met Monica.”
“Your Grandma must have loved you a lot.” Mia stated the obvious as she returned to the kitchen.
“And I her.” I added as I spooned another bit of heaven in my mouth. “It was hard when I lost her.” I didn’t know why I added the last part. I never really shared my feelings about her death with anyone.
“I hope our memories never die.” Mia was staring off into space.
“They never will as long as SpaghettiOs exist.” I smiled and took another spoonful. I could see that Mia liked that thought, stupid as it was. She reached out and caressed my cheek.
“I like the sound of that.” She smiled and started toward the bedroom. “I going to get cleaned up.” I finished my SpaghettiOs.
Mia returned wearing sweat pants obviously too big for her, cinched tight at the waist. She was wearing a pair of my flip flops, the only footwear that even came close to fitting. The T-shirt would never work. It was quite evident that she wasn’t wearing a bra. She went back and returned with two T-shirts on. That was much better. At least her nipples weren’t advertising. Mia thought my concern was silly, but she humored me with the additional shirt.
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