The small silence stretches between us, heavy with unspoken words. I chance another question. A different question. Trying to keep my voice casual. “How old were you when you met Grandpa?” When you dumped your boyfriend for him?

Gran’s eyes cloud over, lost in memory. “I was twenty-two,” she says softly. “So young, so… naïve.” She inhales audibly, a sardonic smile on her mouth. “But old enough to know better.”

Twenty-two.

Two years younger than I am now.

There’s something in her tone that makes me pause. “Why did you leave Herman?” I ask gently.

Gran hesitates, her fingers tracing the edge of the photo album. She opens her mouth, then closes it again, as if struggling to find the right words. Finally, she says, “Herman was… complicated. He could be so charming, so loving. But there was another side to him…”

She trails off, her gaze distant again.

Oh god.

Alarm belles instantly go off, an eerie sense of reckoning slithering up my spine.

Complicated. Check, check, check.

I lean forward, heart racing again, sensing a landmine in the silence. I almost don’t want to ask. To set off something that might remove the ground from under me. Under us. It feels like I’m tiptoeing on a tight rope as I choke the words out. “What kind of side?”

She sighs, her eyes refocusing. “He had a temper, Roni. And sometimes…sometimes he could be cruel.”

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