I pull away from the grocery store, and Hannah gives me directions to the preschool. It's across town, in the opposite direction of the compound.
Traffic is heavy, and when we finally arrive, the three of us go inside together. I want to make sure they know who I am and recognize me later when it's time for me to pick Bay up this afternoon.
After Hannah fills out the paperwork and makes updates to it, including removing Mark from the list, we head outside.
I nudge her as we walk, brushing up against her. "I have to ask, is this place special?"
"What do you mean?" Hannah stops walking and turns to face me.
"The preschool is across town. The neighborhood is nice, but there are closer places that we could enroll Bay."
"You want to change preschools because it's inconvenient for you to drop her off?" Hannah shakes her head and knocks past me, heading for the car. "Don't worry. You won't have to drop her off or pick her up again after today."
"Hannah, that's not fair." Doesn't she realize that if they're going to be living with me at the compound, this place is a pain in the ass drive to get to? There are plenty of other preschools nearby. I can count four that we passed on the way.
She climbs into the front seat and slams the door shut.
I walk around the car and open the driver's side door. I start the engine but don't put the car in reverse to back out of the space yet. "Why are we fighting?"
"You want to change Bay's preschool. She's happy here. She has friends, and I doubt she will be excited about starting a new school."
"Is that what this is about? Because I'll drive across town and drop her off if that's what is best for my daughter."
Hannah folds her arms across her chest. She shifts in her seat. While she's silent, she always seems quite antsy. Like she's holding back.
"Tell me, Zaya, what is it?" I can't help her if I don't know what's going on.
"I can't afford any other preschools."
"You don't have to worry about finances regarding Bay. She's my daughter too, and I fully intend to help. Let me worry about paying for her education."
Hannah's jaw drops. "I'm not asking for a handout."
"Don't worry. I wasn't giving one." I'm tired of fighting with her. I focus my attention on the parking lot and put the car into reverse, backing out of the space.
She's silent for the rest of the drive, all fifteen minutes. It would have been less if traffic wasn't quite so heavy for a Monday.
I pull up out front of her building and parallel park the car in a space.
"You don't have to come in with me," Hannah says.
She may not want me to come in, but I'm not letting her go upstairs alone. Mark could be waiting for her.
Is that why she's moody?
Is she worried that she might come face-to-face with him?
"I know, but I want to make sure it's safe and he's not waiting upstairs for you." I accompany Hannah inside.
A heavy silence falls over us while we shuffle into the elevator.
It's not uncomfortable like the stifling car ride.
Once we reach the third floor, she pulls out her house keys, fiddling with them on the way upstairs.
As we approach her door, I keep my voice low. "Unlock it, but I want you to stay here while I make sure he's not anywhere inside."
Hannah's voice trembles as she speaks. "Don't be ridiculous." She's probably trying to convince herself that everything is fine.
And it will be if she follows my instruction.
She slides the key into the lock but steps aside to let me enter. I turn the handle and step into the apartment. The lights are off, and I leave it alone, not wanting to alert anyone to my presence.
I search every room, closet, and even behind the bath curtain. There's no sign of Mark or anyone else for that matter. However, there is a red envelope on the bed. In black cursive marker, the envelope reads Hannah.
I grab the envelope and shove the contents into my jacket pocket. If it's a threatening letter, I don't want to upset her by letting her read it. And if it's not and it's an apology, I doubt the bastard means it. He's probably just trying to swindle his way back into her heart.
Either way, the letter is bad news.
She never has to see it. Besides, I vowed to protect her from that loser.
"It's clear," I say, waiting for Hannah to come inside.
Hannah steps into the entryway of the apartment and flips on the light. "His stuff is still here," she says with a sigh.
I pull out my cell phone from my pocket. "Did you take any pictures in case he damages the place?" My cousin went through a nasty divorce, and I remember his lawyer warning him to document everything.
"I didn't even think about it," Hannah says.
She's quiet, reserved, and heads with precision through the hallway, past the living room, right for the bedroom.
"Do you want help?" I offer, not wanting to overstep. She grabs a duffel bag from under the bed and unzips it.
"Sure, grab some clothes of mine from the dresser."
She already had one suitcase at the compound, but she also hadn't planned on staying indefinitely with me when she packed. I'm honestly surprised she had time to pack, but I'm sure it wasn't like she neatly folded her clothes. She probably stuffed as much as she could and as quickly as possible.
I open the top drawer and try not to gawk at the lacy panties and bras. There's a lot to carry across the room, and it'd be easier just to remove the drawer from the dresser. I pull the drawer out of its track and bring the contents to the duffel bag, dumping all her sexy underwear inside.
Hannah stands by the closet, pulling her clothes off the hangers, one at a time. She glances over her shoulder at me and raises an eyebrow.
"Are you terrified to touch my panties?"
"No." I didn't think she'd want me to touch her undergarments. I reach my hand into her duffel bag and retrieve a black lacy thong with my fist. "Do I look like I have a problem touching your panties? I'll have you know, I'd rather touch the ones you're wearing than clean ones any day."
Her cheeks burn, and she glances back at the closet, avoiding eye contact with me. "You can put that back in the bag."
I release my grip and let her panties fall back into the duffel. "Sure. Whatever you want, Zaya." Before clearing out the next drawer, I bring the drawer back to the dresser and slide it on the track.
We've made several trips to my car in under an hour, loading it with clothes for both Hannah and Bay, along with several trash bags filled with Bay's toys. Had I known she was short on luggage, I'd have brought several bags and scrounged a few boxes.