Part Six

Her box spring groaned as extra weight made the mattress dip. The bouncing mattress woke Hailey, and she peered at the disturbance through half-open eyes. Rae saw her eyes open and pounced on her, screeching loudly about what a good morning it was. Hailey grumbled under her breath and grabbed her energetic daughter. A chuckle from her doorway woke her up completely, and she sat up, holding a squirming four year old to her side. Daniel stood in the doorway with a cup of coffee. He approached the bed and set the cup down on the bedside table. His gaze lingered on the picture, and she held her breath. His eyes met hers, and she could see the turmoil in his gaze. Sorrow flickered across his eyes before the brightness in his eyes returned.
“Come on, Rae. Let’s let your mom get dressed so we can all eat breakfast,” he called, holding his hand out to the girl. Rae grabbed his hand excitedly and nearly dragged him out of Hailey’s bedroom. The steaming cup of coffee fogged up the picture, and she picked up the frame. He knew, but he didn’t seem as angry as she thought her would be. Scrubbing her eyes, she got out of bed and changed for the day. Pulling her sleeves of her blue sweater over her hands, she entered her small kitchen. Rae sat on the counter by the sink, laughing as Daniel told her a story. The sight warmed Hailey’s heart, and she couldn’t help but wish this was her life. Rae caught sight of her standing in the doorway.
“Mama!” she shouted. Daniel turned his head, and she smiled shyly at him.
“Thank you for the coffee.” She walked over to where Rae sat on the counter and kissed her daughter’s forehead. “Good morning, baby girl. Are you helping Daniel make breakfast?” Rae nodded her head eagerly.
“We are making pancakes,” she answered.
“Did you add chocolate chips?” Hailey asked, glancing over her shoulder at Daniel. He shrugged and took a sip of his coffee. For a moment, Hailey could pretend that this was her life. Daniel came up behind her and trapped her against the counter as he reached over her head to grab something from the cupboard. “How did you find everything to make pancakes?”
“I just looked through your cupboards. Was that okay?” he asked, meeting her gaze. She flushed and ducked her head.
“It’s fine. I’m just surprised that I had all of this stuff.” Daniel stepped away from her and returned to the stove top.
“Why don’t you set the table, and I’ll bring the food out when it’s finished.”
Hailey gathered three plates and sets of utensils and walked over to the table. Rae laughed at something Daniel said, and Hailey’s heart clenched as she heard the sound. She paused her task and looked up. Rae’s eyes sparkled with the same excitement that Daniel’s did, and Daniel kissed the top of the little girl’s head. It warmed Hailey’s heart to see her daughter so happy. He carried the full plate over to the table before grabbed Rae and carrying the little girl over also.
“We should talk,” he whispered as he walked past her. Hailey nodded before placing a pancake on Rae’s plate. Her heart thudded in her chest as she focused on her plate. Daniel’s eyes on her were unnerving, and her cheeks warmed when she caught him watching her. They finished up breakfast in silence, and he cleaned the table and kitchen while she cleaned up Rae. She wrestled the little girl into her shirt and looked up at the sound of a laugh in the doorway. Daniel leaned against the doorjamb watching them with a smile. Rae broke away from her mother and pulled her toys from the shelves.
“Hey baby,” Hailey called, getting Rae’s attention for a moment. “Mr. Daniel and I are going to talk in the living room. Come get us if you need something.” The four year old nodded before going back to her toys. Hailey stood and walked over to Daniel, grabbing his hand as they passed.
Her nerves fluttered in her stomach, and she took a deep breath. Daniel guided them over to the couch, and she found herself sitting on the couch next to him. She drew her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on her knees.
“You’re not dead,” he whispered, breaking the silence between them.
“No, I’m not.”
“Is Rae mine?” he asked, reaching for her hand. A small smile spread across Hailey’s face, and she nodded.

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