The house wasn’t the same to her anymore. She walked into the kitchen and for just a moment, she tripped back into the past. It wasn’t clean enough. There were dishes in the sink, a mess on the counter, some project of Brian’s sitting out. Caleb was going to-
A small body running into her legs jerked her out of those thoughts and dragged her back into the present. “Gramma!”
Natalie bent down and picked the little girl up. “Have you been waiting for me, Alyssa?”
“Yep. Daddy said you were coming to get me. He has to go argue with some people, and Mommy has to go to the doctor because my baby brother is growing in her belly. So, I get to stay with you.” Her little nose wrinkled up. “How come Daddy gets to go argue, but they tell me not to.”
Natalie heard the laugh from behind her and turned as Brian said, “Because I get paid to do it, Alyssa.” He tapped the end of the girl’s nose. “You don’t. Yet.”
The girl giggled, but Natalie felt like she couldn’t draw in a full breath. She, once again, had two images trying to meld together, but they couldn’t mesh. She could still see her little boy, so angry and hurting, a bruise already on his face. And there was this young man, so good, who sometimes almost seemed like a stranger to her.
“Mom?” he asked. “Are you all right?”
She shook away the past, again. She wished it would just stay where it was supposed to be. Then, she forced a smile for her son. “I’m fine, Brian. You should get going.”
He glanced at the clock and nodded. “I really should. Ashley doesn’t have to leave until closer to ten, and she shouldn’t be gone more than an hour or two. So, you shouldn’t need to stay much past lunchtime.”
“It’s fine. I like spending time with my granddaughter.”
“I know. But, the house-”
“Holds good and bad memories,” she said, kissing his cheek. Although the bad ones often seemed to outweigh the good. “Now go be a lawyer, son. And stop worrying. We’ll have fun today.”
When he left, she turned back into the house, telling herself after five years it was about time she faced her ghosts anyway.