“Right?” I leaned my butt against the railing, facing the house. Through the wall of sliding glass doors, I watched the Reyes family swarm like bees around the kitchen and great room, with Gideon held captive by my grandmother and both of my aunts.
For me, the joyous mood was tinged with poignancy. My mother had never been a part of this extended group, and now she would never have a chance. But life went on.
Two of my younger cousins chased Lucky around the sofas, while the three older ones played video games with Chris. My uncle Tony and my dad were talking in the reading nook, while my dad bounced his fussy baby niece on his knee.
Gideon was a man who feared family in a way he feared little else, and his heartbreaker of a face reflected bemusement and dismay whenever he surveyed the chaos around him. Since I knew him well, I also saw the hint of panic in his eyes, but I couldn’t save him. My grandmother wasn’t letting him out of her sight.
Cary looked over to see what had drawn my attention. “I’m waiting for your man to sneak out and run like hell.”
I laughed. “That’s why I asked Chris to come, so Gideon could have some support.”
Our group—Gideon, me, Cary, my dad, and Chris—had arrived at the beach around ten in the morning. It was a little after noon when my dad’s family was brought over from their hotel with groceries in tow, so that my grandmother could whip up her famous posole. She said it was known to soothe even the most wounded souls. Whether that was true or not, I knew firsthand that her rendition of the classic Mexican soupy stew was delicious.
“Chris is leaving him to fend for himself,” Cary drawled, “like you did.”
“What can I do? Oh my God.” I grinned. “My nana just handed him an apron.”
I’d been a little nervous when everyone showed up. I hadn’t spent much time with my dad’s family when I was little and had only made a couple trips out to Texas with him after I started at UCSD. Every time I visited with them, the Reyeses had been a bit reserved with me, which made me wonder if I looked too much like the woman they all knew had broken my dad’s heart. They had met my mother once and hadn’t approved, saying my dad was reaching too high and that his love for her wouldn’t end well.
So when my grandmother had marched right up to Gideon the moment she arrived and cupped his face in her hands, I’d held my breath right along with him.
My grandmother had brushed his hair back from his face, turned his head from side to side, and pronounced that she saw a lot of my father in him. Gideon had understood the Spanish and replied in her native tongue—he took her statement as a high compliment. My grandmother had been delighted. She’d been speaking to him in rapid-fire Spanish ever since.
“Trey called me yesterday,” Cary tossed out casually.
I looked at him. “Did he? How’d that go?”
“Did you say something to him, baby girl, to get him to reach out?”
Trying to look innocent, I asked, “Why would you think that?”
He shot me a knowing look, his mouth twisted wryly. “So you did.”
“I just told him you’re not going to wait around forever.”
“Yeah.” He tried looking innocent, too. I had to hope I pulled it off better than he did. “You know I’m not above taking a pity fuck, right? So thanks for hooking me up.”
I gave him a gentle shove on the shoulder. “You’re full of shit.”
Something had shifted for Cary in the last few weeks. He hadn’t turned to his usual self-destructive coping mechanisms and since things were going good for him without them, I was holding out hope that he wouldn’t backslide.
“True.” He flashed his brilliant grin and it was genuine, rather than the cocky façade I knew too well. “Although banging Trey is certainly something tempting to think about. Figure it’s probably tempting for him, too, so I should use that to my advantage.”
“Are you going to see each other?”
He nodded. “He’s going to come with me to the memorial at Stanton’s on Monday.”
“Oh.” I sighed, hurting. Clancy had called Gideon and passed on that information earlier in the morning.
Should I have tried to handle the memorial myself and spare Stanton? I just didn’t know. I was still trying to accept the fact that my mom was really gone. After I’d cried for hours the night before, heavy guilt had settled in. There were so many things I’d said to my mother that I regretted and could no longer take back, so many times I’d thought of her with frustration and disrespect.
Ironic, in retrospect, that her chief fault was loving me too much.