“To the houses working.”
“Oh, you think the houses have that curse?”
“Finding true love isn’t a curse. It’s a gift. Those houses are damn gifts, I tell you. I’ve seen them in action. So many beautiful couples. I mean, they will always have a couple of months or even years when they stick to the two houses as if moving away will tear them apart, but it doesn’t happen. Nope, those houses are everything. I’ve seen them in action, and they really are something.”
“Wow,” she said.
“You don’t believe it?”
“It’s kind of hard to believe houses can bring people together.”
“Don’t worry, I don’t doubt for an instant other couples didn’t feel that way.”
“Well, whatever lucky streak they had, it will end with me and Eli. We’re not in a relationship.”
“No, but again, you didn’t see the way he looked at you. I watched him and I know that look. It’s the kind a man gives to a woman he can’t imagine his life without. I bet this man couldn’t imagine being without you.”
She laughed. “Oh, I bet he could at times.” But thinking about moving day, it didn’t exactly ring any bells on catching him look at her.
“You don’t believe, but trust me. If you two are already doing the sex, it won’t be long now.”
“I don’t know if that worries me.”
“Love isn’t something to dread, honey. It’s something to embrace. To love.” Elizabeth put a hand to her heart. “And believe me, when you find it, you’re not going to want to let it go.”
Drawing the subject back to the topic at hand, which was the dogs, she wanted to stay focused on what could, in fact, happen, rather than dwelling on what might or might not be.
She didn’t want to think of a future with Eli. The sex was amazing, and she loved snuggling up against him, but everything else wasn’t worth dreaming about. She had come a long way to know dreams, and taking the time to even allowing herself to believe was just setting her up to feel pain and misery.
After tea, she walked out with Elizabeth and all six dogs. She held the leads for all of them while Elizabeth strolled with her.
“If you don’t mind, I would like to come with you. It will help to keep my ticker strong.”
“If that’s what you would like.”
“It is. I like a good brisk walk. In all truth, I don’t need a dog walker, I just need some company. I hope you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind at all,” she said. She would be glad of the company, and she happened to really like Elizabeth. She wasn’t good at making friends at the best of times, apart from Katie.
They went into the park, where she was able to take all six dogs off the lead and watch them sprint across the grass, lapping up the summer sun. They all looked happy, content, and free.
“This is the life. William and I, we loved to take long strolls.”
“Did you and William live in the two houses?”
“No, we didn’t, but our parents did many years ago. We actually found ourselves hating each other in school. He would pull my hair and I’d kick him between the legs. Then of course, one day, it all changed. We started to enjoy each other’s company.”
“Did your parents get together?”
“No. So I guess the houses did bring us together, it just wasn’t looking to split up two happy marriages to do it. We married at eighteen and left home. Our parents moved out the next year.” Elizabeth laughed. “We never realized the houses worked on us too.”
“We can invite Ann,” Katie said.
Eli paused and looked down at his little girl. Louisa’s mom had invited them out to lunch, or Katie out, and he was joining her. He didn’t want to be anywhere near Louisa’s mom. He couldn’t even remember her name.
“She’s not here, remember?” He’d already gone to her house, asking for her to save him, but no answer. He’d called her as well, only for the call to go straight to voicemail.
He was pissed, but she had her own life to live, and it didn’t include him.
“I’m sorry, sweetie.”
“Why did you have to agree to go to lunch?” Katie pouted. “I don’t like Louisa. She says I’m weird because I don’t have a mommy.”
“Fuck, shit. I wasn’t supposed to say either of those words. I’m a bad dad.” He pulled his daughter in close. “Do you want me to cancel?”
Katie nodded and then groaned. “Her car is outside.”
“Okay, do you want me to be rude?”
“But Louisa might tell all of my friends how mean you are and no one will invite me to a party.” Katie’s eyes filled with tears.
Crying females were not his strong suit. They were a mystery to him, and whenever the waterworks came on, he left or found any number of reasons to get the hell out of there. But right now, this crying girl was his daughter.