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Smart Little Girl

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Steve stepped out of the shower and gingerly dried off. He wrapped the towel around his waist and walked into the bedroom. He carefully picked out what clothes he was going to wear. He wanted to cover up as much of the damage as he could. He really didn’t want to scare Grace.

He went with his usual cargo pants, t-shirt, and a long-sleeve button up, left unbuttoned. He had just pulled on the shirt when he heard the front door open. He walked out of the room and to the stairs.

“Hey there, Gracie.”

“Uncle Steve!”

She tried to run up the stairs to him, but Danny held her back.

“Wait for him to come down the stairs, okay Monkey?”

“Okay, Daddy.”

Steve slowly made his way down the stairs. He felt stiff all over, even after the shower. He tried to keep from wincing, but he couldn’t help it the farther down the steps he went. He finally made it down and walked over to where Grace and Danny were standing.

Grace looked up at Steve as he got closer, and noticed the cuts and bruises all over his face. Her mouth gaped, but she didn’t say anything.

“Its okay, Grace. It looks worse than it is.”

“Are you sure, Uncle Steve? It looks like it hurts really bad.”

“I’m sure.”

He looked over at Danny, who had a knowing look on his face. He knew Steve was lying, but he also knew that he didn’t want to scare the little girl, who had become so much a part of his life. Danny nodded back at him, but didn’t say a word.

Steve made his way to the sofa and sat down.

“Come here, Grace,” Steve said, and patted the cushion next to him. Danny sat down on the other side of her.

She looked up at him. “Uncle Steve?”

“Yes, Gracie.”

“I was really worried about you.”

“I know, baby. Your dad told me that you knew something was wrong.”

“Uh huh. Mommy told me that Daddy was going to go away for a few days, but he should be back in time for our weekend together. I knew something was wrong, because since Daddy moved to Hawaii, he’s never left. Not even when me and Mommy went back to New Jersey. He stayed here because of you. So, I knew the only reason he could have for leaving the islands was you. Something had to be wrong.”

Steve could believe what he was hearing. He didn’t know what to say. He looked over at Danny, but Danny had turned his face away, practically hiding it from him. Steve realized in that moment, that Grace hadn’t told him. That was the first time he’d heard.

“Danny?”

He didn’t turn around at his name. He just shook his head, stood up, and walked out to the lanai.

Steve looked back down at Grace. She looked up at him, a little unsure.

“Is Daddy okay? Is he mad?”

Steve leaned over and hugged her. “No, Gracie, he’s not mad.” He pulled back and looked her in the eyes. “I think you just surprised him. He needs a little time to think about what you said.”

“Okay…”

“You know he loves you very much.”

“Uh huh.”

“And I love you very much.”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, I also love your Daddy very much, and he loves me too.”

Grace smiled. “Really? Like Mommy and Daddy used to.”

“Well, I guess it’s probably something like that. I didn’t know them back then.”

“Does that mean Daddy is going to keep living with you?”

Steve couldn’t help but smile. “Yes it does. It also means that I want to make you a room here as well.”

Her smile got bigger. “Really?!”

“Yes, really.”

She jumped up off the sofa and squealed. She then ran out to the lanai before Steve could stop her.

Steve slowly stood up and then walked out to the lanai. He found Danny sitting in one of the chairs, Grace standing in front of him. She was talking a mile a minute and Danny had the biggest grin on his face Steve had probably ever seen.

He took a closer look, and could see that Danny’s eyes were a little red and puffy, but he didn’t say anything.

“Monkey, slow down. I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

“Uncle Steve said I was going to get my own room and he loves you and…”

Danny looked up at Steve as he walked closer.

“Are you okay, Danny?”

Danny looked back at Grace. “Why don’t you go play in the sand? We’ll be down in a minute.”

“Okay, Daddy!” She ran down to the beach.

Danny stood and looked up into Steve’s worried eyes.

“Yeah, I’m okay. I didn’t realize how much she knew about everything that was going on. I know she’s smart, I mean, she is my kid…”

Steve chuckled at that. Danny tried to feign being mad, but failed miserably.

“I thought we’d sheltered her from as much as we could.”

“Hey, don’t beat yourself up. Like you said, she’s smart. She probably would have figured everything out eventually anyway. The only thing you need to think about now is that she’s okay. She’s not upset. She knows I’m okay, and she’s happy for us.”

“Yeah, about that. I thought that we’d tell her together.”

“Well, she thought she’d made you mad when you got up and left like that. I thought it would cheer her up some, knowing how much we love her and love each other.”

Danny closed the distance between them, and wrapped his arms around Steve’s neck. He leaned up and placed a gentle kiss on Steve’s lips. Steve put his arms around Danny’s back and held him, as he pulled back and then rested his head against Steve’s shoulder.

“I guess it worked, huh?”

Steve turned and looked down to the beach. Grace was busy building a sand castle. She looked so happy.

“Yeah, I guess it did.”

They stood that way for a few more minutes and then pulled away from each other. They turned and walked down to the beach. Steve sat in one of the beach chairs, while Danny sat down in the sand and helped Grace build the sand castle.

Steve watched his little family enjoying themselves. He let their laughter wash over him. For a little while, the pain was gone.