Chapter 9

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Jen's clothes and shoes filled the back of Art's old four-door sedan. His Mustang wouldn't have been big enough. He helped her load a few boxes of personal and sentimental items into her car and wiped his brow. The spring heatwave persisted.

Jen leaned against her car door and cast a glance at the house she had shared with her husband, Greg. "Thank you for allowing me to stay with you. I bet you didn't think I'd take you up on your offer."

From inside the house, Greg appeared at the screen door and gawked at them. He had refused to help load up Jen's things.

"I'm sorry it had to come to this," Art said. "I hope it's just temporary until you two can figure things out."

Jen looked at the ground. "Me too."

"But you're welcome to stay with me as long as you like. You know that, right?"

"Thanks, Dad, I appreciate it."

Art leaned against the car door alongside Jen, and both of them looked at Greg. A few moments passed. Greg shook his head, as if in disgust, and retreated from the door, disappearing from view.

Jen continued looking at the house. Deciding to leave had been a big, bold move for her. He wondered if Jen thought she was making a mistake. "The man blames you for losing your child. We both know that's bullshit. You're doing him a favor by leaving. Maybe it'll shock some sense into him."

She gave him a bump with her hip. "Dad, I know it's in your nature to make me feel better. You've always fixed things for me ever since I was a little girl, interceded on my behalf and protected me." She sighed. "I appreciate you letting me come home, but you can't fix my life for me. Greg and I need to work this out for ourselves."

Art understood that, but he didn't like it. He hated feeling helpless, always wanting to jump in and make things right. He wished he could do more for his daughter. He wished he could've done more for Ellen. Why did he feel like such a failure toward the women in his life?

He cleared his throat. "The other day when I came to visit you at the inn, you asked me if I ever experience loneliness."

She giggled. "You told me if you ever felt alone you'd get a dog."

"Yeah, well, I don't have a dog yet." Although he felt bad about Jen's marital situation, the enthusiasm he felt about having her stay with him made him consider that maybe he had been feeling down. Her presence would be good for him. "What I'm trying to say is, I'd much rather have my daughter with me than a pet."

Jen didn't respond to his statement. Instead, she asked, "Do we need to buy groceries? I'll cook us up some dinner tonight."

"I believe I'm stocked up unless you have something exotic in mind."

"Could you eat a beef roast with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli?"

A memory flooded Art's mind. "Your mother used to make that for us."

"Uh, huh, that's why I suggested it. It'll be just like old times."

Except it wouldn't be like old times. Without Ellen, it couldn't be. "That would be great. My stomach is rumbling already."

She glanced again at the house. "Let's get the hell out of here."

"

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