John and Mary hadn’t agreed to an official co-parenting situation yet. She wanted to give him some time to get settled into his new place before he had to figure out taking care of a child on his own. Thursday afternoon, they spoke for the first time since the divorce. He expressed the desire to have Phoenix for the weekend, and Mary agreed. Friday, after school, Phoenix made her way to San Myshuno for a weekend with dad. John’s heart leaped when he heard the faint knocking at his door. When he opened it, he melted when he saw her cute little face. He missed her so much.
“Yes, my darling?”
“Why do you have to live here?”
He sighed. “You don’t remember what your mother said when I left?”
“Yeah…but she didn’t say why.”
“Sometimes…” Gosh…how do I explain this? She’s too young to understand! “Sometimes moms and dads don’t get along and they can’t live together anymore because if they do, they might hurt each other’s feelings.”
“Did mommy hurt your feelings?”
It took a lot for him not to answer truthfully. She didn’t need to know the details. “I hurt mommy’s feelings.”
After a brief awkward moment, he invited her inside.
“Well…here we are. This is where I live.”
She looked cautiously around the tiny, distressed apartment. She had never seen a home so small and ragged. It had a funny smell–like fried food or something. It made her uneasy.
“The first door is the bathroom. Your room is right next door. Do you want to see? I fixed it up for you.”
She nodded nervously.
“Do you still like purple?”
“Uh huh,” she said as she looked around her room. It looked nice enough. The bed looked comfortable, and it excited her to have such a big bed all to herself, but there was one concern that made all of that excitement disappear. “Daddy?”
“Why is there a hole in the wall?”
Oh dear… “Ummm…I’m not quite sure. I’m sure it’s nothing.” He hoped it was true.
“No monsters will come out, right?”
“No, my dear. No monsters at this house. Uni will make sure of that.” He smiled warmly to reinforce his message. “Come on. Let’s go catch up.”
He ushered her out of the bedroom to get some snuggles on the couch. She sat next to him and he squeezed her lovingly.
“I miss you every day, you know.”
“I miss you too, daddy.”
“How is everything at home?” He told himself he wasn’t going to ask about Mary, but he just had to know.
“I get to play with Kaiden and Kori and Kaleb a lot. And mommy got a job!”
“A job? What on earth does she do?”
“I don’t know. She just helps people.”
“Helps people? Hmmmm. Does she like it?”
“I think so.”
“Good for her. Ok, kiddo. We need to get going. We’re gonna have dinner with Tim and Susie.”
They put on their party clothes and headed to Windenburg. Susie and Tim were waiting when they arrived.
“Oh! Before I forget,” John said, “here’s a spare key to my apartment.” He gave it to Tim.
Tim recoiled like he was being handed a snake. “Why would I need a key to your place?”
“Emergencies? In case you just want to visit? Or, if you need to get in an I’m not there?” He couldn’t understand his question, but then again, there were many things about his son he did not understand and simply ignored.
Susie huffed. “Give me the key, Tim. It’s just a key! It’s not like he’s asking you to pay rent.”
John liked that Susie went back to her natural hair color. He wasn’t keen on her outfit, but he still thought she was beautiful.
“Ok,” John said. “Let’s get a table, shall we?”
They marched inside. John spoke with the hostess while the children gathered at the bar.
“I’m sorry, sir, but this is a formal wear only restaurant. We’re going to have to ask you to change.”
He didn’t see why it mattered. They all looked nice enough, and the restaurant was definitely no Chez Llama, but he complied and had the children change as well.
“Now may we have a table?”
“Yes, sir. Just one moment.”
He looked over at all of his children together, chatting with each other and felt such pride and happiness. He knew he wouldn’t always be able to get them all together like that, so he wanted to enjoy them while he could.
“This way, sir.”
They all followed the hostess to their table and were seated.
Tim wasn’t ready to let his parents know what he was up to–not that he actually could tell them. He hadn’t prepared or practiced what he was going to say and was distressed. Susie didn’t know what was going on with him, but whatever it was, he didn’t need to fall apart on their nice family dinner. She kicked him under the table.
“Ooooooh! Can I have spaghetti, daddy?”
He laughed at how easily excitable she was. “Of course, darling, Order whatever you want.”
Susie noted the ease at which he instructed her to order whatever she wanted. True, any meal a child would want wouldn’t cost that much, but she hadn’t stopped thinking about how his finances were.
She cleared her throat. UGH! I wish I could stop doing that! She got it from her mother. “Is everything at work going well, dad?”
“Oh yes. Work is great. I recently got promoted!”
“Oh that’s wonderful, dad!”
“Yay daddy,” Phoenix yelled.
Tim’s nose never left the menu.
“What about you, son? How are things going with your grandfather?”
“I’m not working with him right now.”
John was expecting more, but that was all Tim said. “Oh. Ok. Well… I trust that you’re spending your time wisely.”
Phoenix interrupted their conversation with a bit of displeasure of her own. “You better be really busy, Tim! You said I could come to your house and play with toys.”
Susie glared at her sister. “We have jobs, Phoenix. We don’t have time to play with toys.”
“I’ll invite you soon,” Tim finally said.
“Here we are, folks. Enjoy,” the server said.
The Joneses ate and chatted. Susie tried to insist that they pay for the bill, but John wouldn’t allow it. After dinner, they traveled back to San Myshuno to hang together casually before the end of the night.
“Well, kids, this is it. My new home,” John said as the children spilled into the apartment.
“My room is right here,” Phoenix demonstrated, “and here is the bathroom!”
John laughed at his little tour guide. “And my room is through here. There is a beautiful balcony out here.”
They all agreed it was the nicest spot in the whole apartment and piled back inside. They got comfortable in the living room and told stories about times.
It was a good night. He could always count on Susie to gauge his feelings and make sure things didn’t get weird. He didn’t want to answer any questions about the divorce or anything related to Mary yet, and no one asked–Phoenix didn’t count because she was too young. When Tim and Susie left, John’s heart was full. He and Phoenix sat and talked on the couch before he sent her to bed.
“Did you have a good time tonight?”
“Do you want to stay up and watch TV?”
Heh, guess she finally adapted to Mary’s schedules. “Ok. Let’s get you to bed then.”
She changed her clothes, they kissed goodnight, and she hopped into bed. Just as he was leaving…
“Yes, my darling?”
“Can you turn out the light?”
“Of course, dear. Sleep now.”