“Well… I need to go to New York City, anyway,” Ethan said. “Natalie offered to come with me. I need to settle affairs with the trustees who’ve been handling my estate for years.”
“I’m excited to travel with you,” Natalie said, lifting another forkful of her food. She didn’t seem to notice her father’s death glare from across the table. “As long as we can take your car. Mine’s a little old. Plus, I’ll require a separate hotel room everywhere we go.”
“Money is no object, obviously.” Ethan hesitated, glancing at Miles, who still seemed to be choking and holding his anger at bay. Bonnie placed her hand on his arm as if to prevent him from reaching across the table to strangle Ethan.
“Mom,” Natalie continued with excitement. “We also want to go see Niagara Falls, and Mackinaw Island, and Ethan’s sister, Princess Miranda, and his cousins, and… what was the other big thing?” Natalie turned to Ethan with a crease in her brow.
“The Grand Canyon,” Ethan said, dabbing at his mouth with his napkin and trying to avoid her father’s glare.
“Ooh, we should go to Los Vegas while we’re over there. It’s only a couple hours from the Grand Canyon.” Natalie’s emerald eyes sparkled with excitement.
“Gee, don’t elope while you’re in Vegas.” Bonnie chuckled nervously, her smile faltering.
Ethan and Natalie both snorted a laugh, wrinkled their faces at each other and answered at nearly the same time.
“Mom, we’re not dating.”
“I’m just her client.”
The room grew quiet for a moment and Ethan leaned over his plate to shovel in another bite of potato, avoiding anyone’s gaze.
Eventually Natalie broke the silence. “Mom, you should see the bucket list Ethan has. We have so many exciting things to do before he… uh…” Natalie glanced at Ethan with wide eyes and bit her lower lip, drawing his attention to them without his permission.
“Kick the bucket?” he finished her sentence and chuckled. “It’s okay, we can talk about the elephant in the room. I know it’s cliché, but that’s why I made the bucket list. Because I’m dying.”
“I guess I don’t want to think about it that way.” Natalie’s voice lowered and shook.
Bonnie brought some humor back into her voice. “Ethan, I bet you didn’t realize you’d be in such a hurry to check off that list, huh?”
“Actually, I just made the list a few weeks ago at my father’s suggestion,” Ethan said. “He knew what I was planning to do with my inheritance and wanted me to enjoy the last few weeks, hopefully months, of my life and not take things too seriously. That’s a harder task than you’d realize.” He shoveled in another bite of potato, forcing himself not to cry.
“I’ve never been to most of these places either,” Natalie said. “I’m excited. This will be like a vacation for me. A working vacation, of course.” She tucked her hair behind her ear and lowered her gaze.
Ethan wasn’t quite sure how much work they’d be doing but he certainly wasn’t going to complain. He wouldn’t be alone and that was a welcome addition to these last few weeks of his life.
“You should take grandpa’s motorhome,” Miles said suddenly. “That way you can travel in comfort, won’t have to worry about finding hotels along the way, and will have a traveling office. That thing’s state of the art, with wifi and satellite and a full kitchen and bathroom.”
“That’s a great idea, daddy.” Natalie nodded with a compassionate wonder in her gaze. “You don’t think he’d mind?”
Ethan suspected they all knew what she was really asking her father, for his permission.
“I think your grandfather would be very proud of you for helping your fr—client.”
“Thank you.” Her whisper was barely audible, and they were all quiet for a moment.
“Ethan, would you like another potato?” Bonnie asked, reaching for his plate. “We have plenty.”
“Thank you, that would be wonderful.” He handed Bonnie his plate and smiled shyly at Natalie, offering her a tiny wink before turning back to reach for his glass of lemonade. So far, this had been one of the happiest days of his life.