I’m quick to change the topic, “Where’s Irene and Sofia?”
Kaleb stares at me a moment. I know he wants to say something about my sudden change in topic, but he doesn’t. He hops off the counter and takes the empty plate from the island. “They’re at church.”
“Cool,” I say with a smile.
“I wasn’t sure if you do the church thing so I stayed home with you this morning,” Kaleb says nervously.
“I used to. I haven’t gone in a few months though.” I gulp.
“Since your parents’ deaths?” He questions.
I nod but don’t answer.
“That should make you want to go even more,” Kaleb tells me.
“I know. It’s just been a hectic couple of months.” I tell him.
A moment later we hear the front door open and the pitter patter of running feet. Sofia comes running into the kitchen wearing a pink dress. She instantly sees Kaleb and hugs his knees. She starts talking in Italian, and even if I spoke the language I doubt I’d be able to keep up with her.
“Sofia, English,” Irene warns her daughter as she comes into the kitchen as well. She looks beautiful. She has a sundress on with a cardigan and her dark hair is braided down her back.
“Sorry, mamma,” Sofia says with a laugh. She sees me next and comes running to where I’m sitting. ”Geer!” I laugh at the way she pronounces my name but I don't correct her. “Are you here to play?”
“Sofia, leave Greer alone,” Kaleb warns the little girl.
Sofia pouts and crosses her arms. I look to Kaleb and then back to the little girl. “Don’t listen to him. I came to especially play with you, Sofia.”
Her little face beams with excitement, “You did?”
“Of course!” I smile.
“Yay! We can play dolls!” Sofia grips my hand tight and pulls me off the bar stool. She leads me up the stairs and towards what I’m guessing is her bedroom. She pushes the door open and runs across the room to dig in a toy chest. Sofia’s room is completely pink: from her bedspread to her rug, to her curtains. Her name is painted over her bed in purple letters. It’s some little girls dream room. “This is my favorite,” Sofia says as she brings out a doll with tangled blonde hair. She pats the spot on the rug before her. I take a seat. She hands me another doll with long brown hair. “This is Toni.”
“Hi, Eva,” I say to the doll.
I don’t know how long I sit in Sofia’s room playing dolls with her. But sooner or later Irene comes up to tell Sofia that it’s time for her to do some reading. Sofia whines for a minute before she tells me goodbye and takes off running into the hallway.
“Thanks for playing with her, Greer,” Irene tells me as I step into the living room.
“Oh, no problem. I always wanted a little sister.” I tell her with a smile.
Irene studies me for a moment, “Kale told me what happened last night, I hope you don’t mind.”
I gulp, but shake my head, “Oh, it’s alright. Thank you for letting me stay here.”
“No worries, sweetie. You’re welcome here anytime.” She gives me a small smile. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Kale smile the way he does around you. It’s been hard for him since his father went away.”
"Went away? What do you mean?” I ask her curiously.
“Oh, he hasn’t told you.” She looks nervous. “Of course, he wouldn’t.”
“He doesn’t talk about his past with me. Only that you took him in when he had nowhere to go.” I explained.
She looks around her and then drops her voice to a whisper. “Listen, Kale wouldn’t want me to tell you, but I feel like you should know why he’s the way he is. I won’t go into detail, but Kale’s father is in prison and he’s never getting out.”
Prison? I gulp. Poor Kaleb. I don’t know what to say.
“It’s a lot to take in, I know, and please don’t tell him that I told you. It’s best if he doesn’t know that you know. It’s a tough subject for him.” She explains.
“Of course.” I nod.
“A lot has happened to him that should’ve never happened to a little kid. It changed him. That’s why I think you’re good for him, Greer because you’ve been through something tough as well.”
She didn’t even know the half of it.
Irene clears her throat, “Anyway, Kale is downstairs watching TV.”
I nod and watch her retreat to the den where Sofia is. I stand there a moment longer thinking everything over. I wondered what Kaleb’s father did. It must’ve been something bad to get his life in prison. Thoughts swirl through my brain. But where was Kaleb’s mother?
My feet carry me slowly down into the living room. I stop to look at Kaleb for a moment. I think I understood him better than I had before.
“Oh, there you are. I thought I’d have to come in after you.” Kaleb teases me, his eyes still glued to whatever show he’s watching.
“Yeah, I was about to call for back up,” I say to him as I take a seat on the couch.
Kaleb laughs easily, “So, have you heard from your uncle?”
I’d forgotten. I pull the phone out of my pocket and unlock it. There are no missed calls and it’s getting late in the morning. “I’m going to try to call him.” Kaleb nods as I step out of the living room.
The line rings several times before Leo finally answers, “Hey, I was just about to call you.”
“Really? How’s it going?”
I can hear him shuffling around on the other end, “Good news is that it was just a random break-in.”
“And the bad news?” I gulp.
“It’s not bad news per se.” Leo sighs. “There’s a lot damaged and a lot missing. I’ve had people working in the place all night. They got it mostly cleaned up. I went through the house and made a list of everything that was missing. I’ll have it all replaced.”
“What about my room?” I question.
Leo is silent for a moment. “It’s not good, Greer. I’m sorry. But that’s the room we worked on the most last night.”
“None of it was mine anyway,” I say to him.
“You’re right.” He tells me.
“When can I come home?” I ask him.
“Whenever you want to. I’m here just working on some things.” He tells me.
“Okay. I’ll see you soon then.”
“Do you need a ride?”
“No, probably not. Kaleb will most likely take me home.” I tell him.
“Alright, see you soon then.”
I say goodbye and then take in a shaky breath. I compose myself and step back into the living room. Kaleb looks up from the TV to study me, “Everything okay?”
I nod, “Yeah. Leo said they got it mostly cleaned up last night.”
“Oh, that’s good.”
“He said I could go home. Can you give me a lift?” I question.
“Yeah, sure. Just let me go get dressed.” He tells me and then shuts off the TV. He climbs the stairs to his room quickly.
I’m left alone for a moment with my thoughts. So much has happened the last couple of days that I feel frazzled and overwhelmed. But at least I was finally trying to get along with Kaleb Nixon. We’ll see how long that lasts.