“What I’m trying to say, dear, and what I think the cowboy was trying to say to his love in that movie, is that there is a difference between being bad and being evil. Just because he was a very bad boy, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be a truly great man.” I was rolling her words around in my brain when she added, “And God help me, little one, you break his heart, and I will cut you where you stand. If I’m long gone when that happens, be assured that death will not stop me from bringing you down.” Grace smiled like she hadn’t just threatened my life and brought me in for another hug. “Now, let’s go get the meatballs.”
Grace may have been a little thing, and she definitely had the wrong idea about what was going on between myself and King, but I had no doubt that if I crossed her, she would carry through on her threat without blinking an eye.
King ducked inside the bathroom to wash his hands and then joined us out on the deck. The sun had just started to set when I noticed the strands of lights crisscrossing over our heads. As the sun sank lower, the lights got brighter until they looked like thousands of tiny stars shining over our meal.
We ate, and Grace did most of the talking. She frequently refilled my mojito, and at one point rushed inside to make another pitcher. She was curious about me and asked a lot of questions. In between shoveling meatballs into my mouth, I filled her in on my story.
“It’s a good thing you have each other.” She pointed out.
“She’s not my girlfriend, Grace,” King said, his lips compressed in a thin, straight line.
Grace shrugged and took another sip of her drink. “Edmund and I had an arranged marriage, you know. His mother and mine conspired together since we were still on the tit. The first few years we were together, I couldn’t stand the man, but after a while, I learned to love him. Then, I fell in love with him and felt that way up until the day he died. Things don’t always start out the way we want them to. It’s how they end that’s important. I may not have loved Ed in the beginning, but he grew to be the love of my life.”
Grace had the most optimistic, if not bordering on warped, perception of relationships. But what did I expect? The woman was a walking, talking contradiction. A tiny little thing that drank like a fish and swore like a sailor. Not to mention that her house looked like an episode of HOARDERS: RABBIT EDITION.
“It didn’t hurt that the sex was off the charts fantastic,” Grace said, staring up into the lights.
I spit out a mouthful of mojito. Half of it splattered against King’s shirt. I braced myself for his anger, slowly lifting my eyes to his, but there was none. His shoulders shook as he chuckled. Grace was downright howling.
I helped Grace clean up while King disappeared down the hall. I heard the bathtub running and thought maybe he was ringing the mojito out of his shirt.
“Grace, what’s with the rabbits?” I asked her, needing to know. She smiled and closed the dishwasher. She turned the dial, and it sounded like Preppy’s car exploding all over again.
“Ed used to bring me home a ceramic rabbit after every business trip.” She looked around at the table. “I know it’s odd, and I know they’ve taken over the house. But each one was a moment my husband wasn’t with me, but was still thinking about me.” Grace looked as if she was getting tired. My heart seized. I wasn’t expecting the reason to be so sentimental, and I hated that I ever thought that she might have been just a crazy rabbit lady.
“I’ll finish this up, Grace. Why don’t you go lie down?”
She nodded and wiped her hands on the dishcloth hanging off her shoulder. Setting it around the faucet, she brought me in for another hug. “Thank you. Take care of my boy, will you? He’s been having a hard time since he got out. I worry about him.”
I didn’t know how to respond, so I took the coward’s way out and went with what I knew she wanted to hear. “Of course.”
Grace made her way down the hall where I heard a door open and then shut. I finished the dishes and sat at the kitchen table for a good hour. It was getting late. Grace obviously needed to go to bed.
Where was King?
I padded down the hall and paused outside a door when I heard voices speaking in hushed tones. The door wasn’t latched, so I pushed it open a little, hoping it wouldn’t creak. Peering through the crack, I caught a glimpse of King and Grace in the mirror of a large ornate walnut dresser that took up most of the small room. Grace sat on the side of the bed in bright orange button-up pajamas with matching slippers. Her feet didn’t touch the floor. King crouched in front of her and held up what looked like some sort of glass pipe.