Chapter no 28 – Ledger

Reminders of Him

Diem’s arms are tight around my neck as I give her a piggyback ride across the parking lot toward Grace’s car. The T-ball game just ended, and Diem is making me carry her because she said her legs were soaking sore.

“I want to go to work with you,” she says. “You can’t. Kids aren’t allowed in bars.” “I go to your bar with you sometimes.”

“Yeah, when we’re closed,” I clarify. “That doesn’t count. We’ll be open tonight, and it’s busy and I won’t be able to keep an eye on you.” Not to mention, her mother who she doesn’t even know exists will be there. “You can come work for me when you turn eighteen.”

“That’s a long, long, long time away; you’ll be dead.”

“Hey, now,” Grace says defensively. “I’m a lot older than Ledger, and I don’t plan on being dead when you’re eighteen.”

I get Diem secured into her car seat. “How old will I be when everybody dies?” she asks.

“Nobody knows when anyone will die,” I tell her. “But if we all live until we’re old, we’ll all be old together.”

“How old will I be when you’re two hundred?” “Dead old,” I say.

Her eyes grow wide, and I immediately shake my head. “We’ll all be dead. No one lives to be two hundred.”

“My teacher is two hundred.”

“Mrs. Bradshaw is younger than me,” Grace pipes up from the front seat. “Stop telling lies.”

Diem leans forward and whispers, “Mrs. Bradshaw really is two hundred.”

“I believe you.” I kiss her on top of the head. “Good job today. Love you.”

“I love you, too; I want to go to work with . . .” I close Diem’s door before she finishes her sentence. I don’t normally rush them off this way, but as we were walking through the parking lot, I received a text from Kenna.

All it said was, Please come get me.

It’s not quite four yet. She said she didn’t need a ride when I asked her yesterday, so my concern was immediately heightened when I got the text.

I’m already to my truck when Grace and Diem drive away. Patrick couldn’t make the game today because he’s working on the jungle gym. I was planning on going home for a couple of hours to see the progress and help before I went to the bar, but now I’m on my way to the grocery store to check on Kenna.

I’ll text Patrick when I get there to let him know I’m not stopping by. We’re almost finished with the jungle gym. Diem’s birthday is coming up, which means today was supposed to be the big day. Leah’s and my wedding. We planned on going to Hawaii just a week after the wedding, and I remember being stressed that we wouldn’t be back for Diem’s birthday party.

That was another point of contention between Leah and me. She didn’t like that Diem’s fifth birthday was almost as big a deal to me as our honeymoon.

I’m sure Patrick and Grace would have been willing to move the birthday party, but Leah acted like Diem’s fifth birthday was a major conflict with our honeymoon before she even inquired about them moving the party, and that ended up becoming one of the first of many red flags.

I gave Leah the trip to Hawaii after our breakup. I had already paid for it, but I’m not sure if she’s still going. Hopefully she is, but it’s been three months since we’ve even spoken. I feel like I have no clue what’s going on in her life now. Not that I want to know. It’s strange, being involved in every facet of another human being, and then suddenly not knowing anything.

It’s also strange thinking you know someone but then later realizing maybe you didn’t know them at all. I feel that with Leah, and I’m starting to

feel that about Kenna, but in the opposite way. With Kenna, I feel like I judged her too poorly in the beginning. With Leah, I feel like I judged her too favorably.

I probably should have texted Kenna to let her know I was on my way, because I spot her walking alone on the side of the road about a quarter of a mile away from the store. Her head is down, and she’s got both hands gripping the strap of her tote bag on her shoulder. I pull over on the opposite side of the road, but she doesn’t even notice my truck, so I tap on the horn. It gets her attention. She looks both ways and then crosses the road and climbs into my truck.

A heavy sigh emanates from her when she closes her door. She smells like apples, just like she smelled last night in the doorway of her apartment.

I could fucking punch myself for last night.

She drops her bag between us and pulls an envelope out of it. She shoves it at me. “I got it. The restraining order. I was served as I was walking out of the store to put groceries into someone’s car. It was mortifying, Ledger.”

I read over the forms, and I’m confused about how a judge even granted it, but when I see Grady’s name, it all makes sense. He probably vouched for Patrick and Grace and might have even embellished the truth a little bit. He’s that type. I bet his wife is loving this. I’m surprised she didn’t bring it up at the ball field today.

I fold it back up and stick it in her purse. “It doesn’t mean anything,” I say, attempting to comfort her with my lie.

“It means everything. It’s a message. They want me to know they aren’t changing their minds.” She pulls on her seat belt. Her eyes and cheeks are red, but she isn’t crying. It looks like she’s probably cried it out already, and I got to her in the aftermath.

I pull back onto the road feeling heavy. What I said last night about feeling useless—it’s the most accurate term for what I am right now. I can’t help Kenna, other than how I’m already helping her.

Patrick and Grace aren’t changing their minds, and any time I try to approach the subject with them, they’re immediately defensive. It’s difficult, because I agree with why they don’t want Kenna around, but I also vehemently disagree.

They would cut me out of Diem’s life before they would agree to add Kenna into it. That’s what scares me the most. If I push the subject too much, or if they find out I’m even remotely on Kenna’s side, I’m afraid they’ll start viewing me as a threat, the same way they view Kenna.

The worst part is, I don’t blame them for how they feel about Kenna. The impact of her choices has been detrimental to their lives. But the impact of their choices is becoming detrimental to her life.

Fuck. There’s no good answer. I’ve somehow immersed myself in the depths of an impossible situation. One that doesn’t leave a single solution that won’t lead to at least one person suffering.

“Do you want to take the night off work?” I completely understand if she doesn’t feel up to it, but she shakes her head.

“I need the hours. I’ll be fine. It was just embarrassing, even though I knew it was coming.”

“Yeah, but I figured Grady would have the decency to serve you at home. It’s not like your home address isn’t at the top of the order.” I turn right at the next light to get to the bar, but something tells me Kenna might need an hour or so before she moves from one shift to the next. “You want a snow cone?”

I’m not sure if that’s a stupid resolution to an issue this serious, but snow cones are always the answer for me and Diem.

Kenna nods, and I think I might even see a hint of a smile. “Yeah. A snow cone sounds perfect.”

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