A Glimpse of Alex
Alex unrolled the large sheet of paper across the dining room table. His five-year-old twins, Hannah and Manny, crowded in next to him to look at the plans for their new house.
“Where’s my room gonna be?” Manny asked as he studied the lines on the paper.
“Here,” Alex said and pointed to a blue square on one side of the paper. Knowing the architectural drawings might be a little difficult for a five-year-old to visualize, he continued, “It’ll be bigger than your room is now and you won’t have to share with your sister.”
“Cool!” Manny ran his fingertip along a line into another room. “What’s this?”
“Let me show you all the rooms at once,” Alex said, and pointed at the different places on the plans while naming them. “My office, the living room, the kitchen, the laundry room, the garage. This is my bedroom, your bedroom, Hannah’s bedroom, and a big guest room for when we have friends over.”
“Guest room? I thought you said I could have a bunk bed,” Manny complained.
“You can, but Uncle Larry isn’t gonna wanna sleep in your bunk bed.”
“I’d give him the top bunk,” Manny said, hedging a little.
“He’s too big! If he climbed up there, the bed would fall down and squish you like a bug.” Alex tickled him into laughing about it.
Hannah was quiet as she leaned on her elbows to study the drawing. Alex noted her eyebrows drawing together and worried she wasn’t as happy about the big change he was planning for his family.
“Why can’t we just live here,” Hannah whispered.
That was the question that kept Alex up at night. He wished for the millionth time that Maria had lived for them to raise their kids together. All the decisions he’d made since he turned off her respirator had seemed tainted somehow. Her family had a history of troubled pregnancies and hers was no exception. Carrying twins while fighting off preeclampsia had proven too much for her body. Finding her on the living room floor in the midst of a seizure would be seared into his brain forever.
But that wasn’t the whole of it. The twins were still too young to understand why their mother’s parents had sued Alex for her wrongful death. Too young to know about the anonymous threats that likely originated from those same wealthy grandparents. Too young to be told about the safety measures he was having built into the new house. Too young to be told that their father’s greatest fear had suddenly become their well-being.
“Well,” Alex stalled as he regained his composure. “The new house will be bigger and we’ll have thirty-two acres to play on. That’s as much as a whole park! Maybe we could plant a garden, or maybe even build a fence so we could keep some animals.”
“Could we have horses?” Hannah gasped. His girl had been mad about horses for the last year.
Alex chuckled and nodded. “We’ll need to build a big fence if we’re gonna keep horses. And a barn for them to live in, too.”
“Why can’t my horse stay in my room,” she said as she bent over the plans again and pointed. “She could live there.”
“That’s your closet,” Manny laughed. “You can’t keep a horse in a closet!”
“Can, too!” Hannah protested and looked up at Alex to settle their dispute, like usual.
“They poop all over the place, honey,” Alex said while suppressing a grin. “You don’t want to clean horse poop out of your closet, do you?”
“No,” Hannah sighed. “I guess not. But I still don’t see why we have to move.”
How do you tell a five-year-old that someone wants to hurt their father? The decision to move was easy when the threats began to include surveillance photos of the kids being dropped off at their private preschool. Then the threatening phone calls from the Unknown Caller had become more frequent and the letters more graphic, all urging him to kill himself for what he’d done to Maria.
Her doctors had universally supported her advanced directives and his decision to let her go. She’d had a massive hemorrhagic stroke, despite taking the prescribed blood pressure medicine. So he had turned off the switch himself and held her hand until she was gone. He shook off the morose thoughts to focus on getting the kids on board with his plan.
“When we get there, you’ll see how much fun it is and then you’ll be glad we moved.” Alex didn’t know if he was telling them or himself.
“If we move there, can I have a BB gun?” Manny asked.
“Maybe in a few years, but only after we learn all the safety rules.”
Manny took that maybe as a yes and fist pumped, “Yeah!”
“What about Emi?” Hannah asked.
Her best friend in school had parents who were always pushing for a sleepover. Alex hadn’t shared the threats he’d gotten with anyone but the security firm he’d hired to keep them safe. That had made explaining why his kids couldn’t go over to other people’s houses for birthday parties and sleepovers tough. Most of the other parents at the preschool probably assumed he was stuck up.
“You can call her on my phone. Maybe she can come over to visit sometime.” Alex thought his own suggestion was lame and Hannah’s dubious expression confirmed it. “I bet we’ll make lots of new friends,” he tried again.
“Maybe,” Hannah said with a wistful expression. “Could I have a bunk bed, too?”
“Sure,” Alex said as he pulled his twins into a double hug. They were too precious to risk. Getting out of the city and into a house built for security should make it possible for them to live a little.
Hell, I need to live a little, Alex thought as he shut his eyes and breathed in their scents. Maybe I can make a new friend, too, someday.