Jamie and I spent the afternoon getting our fictitious shared narrative straight. We distributed donuts at the theatre and his co-workers seemed perfectly amenable to swallow the sugary goodness and well as our premeditated tale of romance.
We went back to Jamie’s house to pack Pete’s things for staying with Isabelle. I debated a change of outfit, but I didn’t bring that many clothes with me and looking librarian-ly can also come across as slightly intimidating. And I wanted as many things working in my favor as possible when it came to this dinner.
“Isabelle might come across as warm tonight at dinner, but don’t be fooled,’ Jamie called out from Pete’s bedroom. “She will be watching you like a hawk, trying to zero in on what she perceives to be your weakness and save that information for future use.”
“Heh. No reason at all to feel intimidated, then, right?”
The truth is, I was feeling strong, but also couldn’t shake a bit of inadequacy as well. Isabelle was Peter’s mother. They had shared history. She will always have a tie to him through blood. I may just be passing through.
“I figured that we could go to Intermission. It’s the restaurant that’s attached to the theatre. There is food there that Peter likes and wine and beer, but not hard liquor. Isabelle gets mean when consuming liquor.”
“So I’ve noticed.”
If tonight went well, what did that mean? This was all foreign and very new, but I wasn’t that scared. Yet.
I took a seat on the living room couch and half-heartedly pawed through a coffee table book of Ansel Adams prints. Vast expanses of landscape in black and white. There was part of me that wanted run away, climb one of the mountains in the book and hope that Isabelle doesn’t come after me with an ice pick.
Jamie emerged from Peter’s room with a Buzz Lightyear bag with wheels and a handle.
“Any other pointers for tonight?”
Jamie shrugged. “Just be yourself, but think before you speak. I know that sounds contradictory…you’ll be under scrutiny, but I suppose part of it is just a mama bear instinct kind of thing. She wants to make sure that you won’t mess with her baby cub.”
He walks over and sits next to me on the couch.
“What about you?” I asked.
“What about me?”
“I understand her being overprotective about Peter, but what about you? Does she still feel that she has a claim to you? Does she?”
Jamie looks at me and takes my hands in his.
“Let me be really transparent. Isabelle and I are done. Over. No more, no way. When she walked out and left me and Peter, that was it for me. Anyone who could leave someone as amazing as Pete…That was someone who I didn’t need as my partner any more.”
I smile, feeling confident.
“That’s not to say that she won’t try to make you think that there’s the possibility that we might get back together. She just likes to destroy the happiness of others. I think she got that from her mother or something.”
“Come on, that’s not hereditary.”
“I sure hope not. It looks as if it skipped Pete if it is, though.”
“Do we need to talk to Pete?”
“About us? Have you had a girlfriend before? I mean, since Isabelle–one who has stayed the night?”
Whoa. I am not sure if I want to be going down this road. But it’s already slipped out of my mouth, so…
“No. I’ve seen a few women since Isabelle, but none who have…spent the night. This has been going faster than I intended, but I think we’re both comfortable with the pace, right?”
“And if Pete has questions, we’ll answer them in the best way we can. He knows you’re my girlfriend, and I think that’s all he needs to know about our relationship, unless he asks other questions.”
“Sounds good to me. Kids are new territory for me and I want to make sure I do right be me.”
“You always do right by me, Dorothy.”
And he leans in for a kiss. Which turns into making out. Which turns into…completely spontaneous, acrobatic afternoon sex. I love my life.
We show up at Intermission at five o’ clock with Pete and Buzz Lightyear in tow. Isabelle is already seated at a large table, halfway into a glass of red wine.
“Mommy!” Pete runs over and jumps on her.
“Hey, baby boy, I’ve missed you.”
“Missed you, too, Mommy.”
It’s obvious that Pete is going to sit by Isabelle. Jamie moves in to sit on the other side of her and I sit across.
“Dorothy, I’d like to apologize for the first impression I made last night. I was feeling the effects of jet-lag and I really should have called before I just showed up.”
“Apology accepted. I didn’t mean to be so forceful, I just really had no idea who you were. I mean, I hadn’t seen a picture or anything….”
“Perfectly understandable. I wouldn’t expect anything less. It’s good to know that there’s someone else looking out for Peter. Tell me, Dorothy, do you have any experience with children. Any siblings, for instance?”
Jamie and Peter watch our conversation like a ping pong match. I feel like they are both rooting for me and it gives me momentum.
“I’m an only child, but I did work as a nanny during grad school.”
This is an outright lie, but…when in Rome?
“Oh, that’s good to know. Good to know.”
The waiter mercifully arrives at the table to take our drink orders. Jamie and I both order glasses of Cabernet and Pete gets chocolate milk.
“Now, Dorothy. What is it that you do?”
“She’s a real librarian, mom. She went on the field trip with my class today to the public library and helped me fill out my library card and choose some books. And she tells the BEST bedtime stories.”
Pete is beaming from ear to ear and looks towards me with great reverence.
Isabelle’s eye’s narrow considerably. She reaches for her wine, downs the rest of it and turns to Jamie.
“Can I talk to you outside for a moment?”
She takes the dark green napkin from her lap and places it dramatically on the table, exiting quickly.
“I’ll be right back, sorry guys.”
Jamie follows her out.
“What’s going on, Dorothy?”
Pete looks up at me with confusion and concern.
“Nothing, buddy. Your mom and dad just want to have a talk. By themselves.”
“They shout a lot when they do that. Um…well, Mommy shouts and Daddy tries to get her to stop shouting. And sometimes after I get ice cream. Will I get ice cream tonight?”
“Sure, buddy, whatever you want. Let me tell you what’s on the menu, though. That’s what we’ll need to pick first.”
We are debating between chicken nuggets and mac and cheese when Isabelle and Jamie come back in to the restaurant. Neither one looks all that happy.
“What do you think, Mommy, should I get chicken nuggets or mac and cheese?”
“Honey, why don’t we go over to where I’m staying and have a secret picnic dinner, just the two of us. And we’ll make sure to grab ice cream for dessert.”
Pete looks at me, then at Jamie. We both try not to show emotion.
“Okay, Mommy. Bye, Daddy, see you at the show later. Bye, Dorothy.”
He leans over and gives me a squeeze.
“Will you come over to my Mommy’s after the show and tell me a bedtime story?”
This is dangerous territory.
“Peter, I am sure your mom tells great bed time stories. And she hasn’t gotten to tell them to you for a long time. It’s her turn this weekend.”
“Yes, it’s my turn this weekend,” Isabelle hisses, grabbing Buzz Lightyear in one hand and Peter’s hand in the other. They leave quickly and without ceremony.
I turn to Jamie.
“Are you okay? What happened?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. She–she wanted you to leave dinner and I told her that wasn’t going to happen and so she decided to take Peter for dinner. She’s feeling threatened by you. Hopefully she’ll calm down. Time with Pete always softens her.”
“Jamie, I am so sorry you have to go through this. If it’s easier for me to go back to Decorah–I can come back next weekend.”
“No, of course not. I’d really like you to stay. Let’s look at this as an opportunity. We get to spend at lot of time alone together this weekend and get to know each other better. Without Peter around. Which is probably the order we should have done it in anyway, right?”
“Right. Do you want to stay here for dinner, or–”
“Might as well. We can try to salvage the evening, make it romantic?”
“Anywhere I go with you is romantic, Jamie.”
We smile and clink our glasses together.
I left Jamie at the theatre and checked my watch. 6:30. If I calculated correctly, I had just enough time to drive up to Rochester, pick up some candles and lingerie and get back to the cottage before Jamie got back. I was going to turn this night around if it killed me.
My phone buzzed with the sound of a voicemail.
I had no interest in checking it. It was probably Linda with some strange request or platitude. I sighed and pushed the button to retrieve the message.
“Hi, honey. It’s Mom. Just wanted to know if we were still on for Thanksgiving next week. Your father and I would love to see you and hear all about how the new job coming along. Give me a call when you have a minute. Love you!”
Crap. Thanksgiving. What was I going to do for Thanksgiving? Was it too soon to ask Jamie and Pete over for Thanksgiving? Probably? But then again, it might be nice to come home with both a boyfriend and a potential step-grandson. I had to give this some thought.
I got into my car and blasted Florence + The Machine as I headed up to Rochester.