Chapter 31 - Grizzly Bear

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When Joe told Ella about his visit with her father she didn't know whether to kiss him or to cry. "What did he say?"

"Well he listened and it went the way I expected until I blamed him for being the one making you unhappy."

"You did?" She asked shocked. It was true. Although she had been desperately trying to hide it, Joe hadn't bought it.

"El, you should have gone with your family to church."

She had considered it, but the truth was she didn't want to be reminded of that time when they lost her grandfather. She had missed Joe so much that the loss had almost done her in. She was at her lowest when she had called Joe and he told her he would always love her. She didn't admit it to herself, but after that, she believed he would come back.

"I want to be with you, so until you're welcome..."

"Your father will never accept me," Joe moaned.

Ella suddenly felt optimistic. "We shouldn't underestimate the power of Julie Burke."

On Saturday night, Ava and Tony came to see Ella perform. Joe stayed home because Caleb's social life worried him. Ella agreed to one drink at the bar next to the venue but wanted to go home and crawl in bed with Joe.

Ava started right away. "I was scolded like a child and it was your fault."

Ella sighed, "Everything is my fault. Soon I'll be blamed for climate change and the drop in vaccination rates."

Tony said, "Aunt Clare mentioned something called Fifth's Disease making its way around the elementary school. Bridget had it and she's worried about her pregnant patients."

Ava smiled at him and said, "You paid attention to our conversation."

"I had to. I'm behind the curve on all your medical jargon. I need to catch up."

Ella decided they were too sickeningly sweet. She didn't think she and Joe were that way, but Caleb definitely did. "I never bothered. They drone on and on and I ignore them or talk to the kids."

"I was trying to tell you about dad," Ava complained.

"Right... So what did I do?"

"Because he's in a mood over you, I got yelled at for staying at Tony's. I couldn't tell him that I was at your apartment. That would have just made it worse."

Tony added, "Uncle Michael told me that Clare put up a sign warning not to poke the bear."

Ella felt responsible. "The only kind of bear he used to be was a teddy bear."

Ava sighed and said, "He still is. He's just wearing a grizzly bear costume. I heard them talking."

"Who?" Ella was curious.

"Mom and Dad... It was after he yelled at me. He was telling her how much easier things were when we were little. Mom laughed and said that was because he just came home and played with us and cuddled with a storybook. She had to deal with fights and tears and drama."

"We were dramatic." Ella conceded.

"You were, but he was very melancholy about us being grown up."

Ella added, "He was talking that way after he found out about you two."

"Great I knew I couldn't get away unscathed," Tony exclaimed as he stood and said, "I'll be back."

Ella watched as he walked towards the restrooms.

Ava laughed and said, "Mom told him we were all grown up and he should be setting his sights on grandchildren. Then they started debating which of us was going to be engaged first." She looked and as Tony was heading back, she whispered, "They made a bet. Mom chose Joe and Dad chose Tony."

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