Authors: Kat Watson
I could only hope.
After dinner, we washed up and it was another struggle to not jump in and participate like usual. Instead, Gladys took the spot by the sink that I usually occupied, helping and bantering, and very subtly freezing me out. We all retired to the living room, wine glasses in hand, and I harrumphed at the way she wedged herself between them on the couch, in
I curled up on the chair and reminded myself that it wasn’t a game or a competition. Repeatedly.
We watched a movie, but I couldn’t tell you what it was about or who was in it. My brain was focused on the boys, adoption, the future, and maybe the wine. About halfway through the movie, we had to pause so Gladys could take another bathroom break. Noah slid over to the middle spot, and Jay reached out to grab my hand. The three of us were holding hands until she popped around the corner, when Jay squeezed my hand then discreetly let go. She might have seen, but I hoped for Jay’s sake that she hadn’t.
When the movie was over, the boys were hilarious as they tried to imply they were both tired, fake yawns and arm stretches abounded. Gladys was having none of that, of course. She wanted to play a board game. I’d had enough.
“Well, boys, I’m going to close my eyes now. Gladys, it was lovely to share Thanksgiving with you. Will you be back tomorrow?” I asked, standing to hug Noah and Jay.
“What?” Noah interrupted. “No! You can’t go to bed yet.”
Jay had a similar pout to his expression, though he stayed quiet.
“I can, and I am, Noah,” I said, hoping my exasperation showed through.
When I got to Gladys, I moved to open my arms and hug her, but one of her hands shot out toward me.
All righty then.
Shaking her hand, I looked her in the eyes, still waiting for her response.
“I’ll be here in the morning, dear,” she said, voice full of syrupy sweet stickiness.
“I’ll see you then,” I said, letting go of her cold hand. “I’ll just put this in the sink.”
I wanted to throw the glass that held my wine—a beautiful crystal goblet they’d no doubt received at their wedding ceremony. Instead, I gently placed it in the sink and sighed. I passed the living room again on my way to the guest room and watched as the three of them sat in silence. I didn’t want to ruin the mood of the night, but frankly, it felt like the mood had already been ruined, and not by me. I felt guilty retreating to bed, but I didn’t know what else to do. Gladys was clearly staying to watch me, so I’d let her off the hook.
About five minutes after I’d changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth, and climbed into the guest bed, there was a soft knock.
“Can I come in?”
“Of course, Noah. It’s your house,” I said, laughing a little.
“Just trying to be respectful,” he said, closing the door behind him. “Hey.”
“Hi.” I turned the side table lamp on, casting a soft glow across the room.
“I don’t even know where to start,” he said, wringing his hands.
“With what?” I asked, truly confused.
“You don’t owe me any, seriously.”
“Except that we do. Don’t act like that,” he said, walking closer. “Don’t shut me out because you’re pissed.”
I pulled the edge of the comforter back, a silent invitation I really wanted him to accept. When he slipped in next to me, I tried desperately to hold in the tears. I wasn’t even sure what I was the most upset about.
“She’s not normally this bad, I swear. She’s just crazy from what’s going on at home, and she’s worried her son is about to be put through the same thing, you know?”
I cleared my throat, the sting building and threatening to spill over. “I know.”
“There will always be people who can’t know,” he said in a soft voice. “I wish it weren’t that way, but it just is.
“You know, when Jonny and I first started dating, it was the same way. We were only out to maybe five people,
. It sucked. It sucked just like this sucks. But we made it through that, and we can all make it through this, too.”
His head rested on my chest, eyes aimed up at me.
I wished I had the kind of blind faith he had. He was so sure and certain; it was comforting. At the same time, it wasn’t something I could grab on to in my own head. I’d never been in any situation like this before, and I couldn’t imagine how things might look or feel in a few months, when trusted friends had been let in on the secret. Or even a few years down the road, if we were all living together. It was all so foreign, too foreign. I kept waiting for something to go irrevocably wrong.
Grateful he didn’t seem to want to push me to talk, we lay in silence. His hands found mine and wove our fingers together, which made me smile.
“I guess I’ll have to float on your faith for a while,” I said.
“You can do that, baby. There’s plenty of room.”
Jay opened the door and walked in. “Plenty of room for what? Ding-dong, the witch is gone.”
“Plenty of faith I have in the three of us, to keep Olivia afloat. Get over here.”
Jonathan was cold, but he warmed up quickly after snuggling in with us. The bed was just a double-size, so we were crammed together, but it was perfect. I wanted to squirm away from them, seek my own space to figure things out, but there was no space to do that. Besides, I knew, in the long run, retreating wasn’t the right answer. I’d only turn things around in my head over and over, allowing my anxiety and fears to build. I needed them around me, needed to talk and work things out.
“Christ, this bed is tiny,” Jay huffed as he tried to turn over. “Can’t we move back to our bed?”
“Please,” Noah agreed.
I hesitated. It felt like a moment where I needed to show them I was all in, just like they were, but the nagging side of me that wanted space and distance threatened to take over.
As if he could sense my fears, Noah reached down and grabbed my hand. “Come on.”
I lost my balance for a moment, scrambling to land on my feet, and walked into the master bedroom. Since I was dressed for bed and ready to sleep, I crawled beneath their covers and smiled as I watched them go through their routine. They brushed their teeth then Noah took his contacts out and put on his thick black-framed glasses.
“When are you going to get LASIK, old man?” Jay asked, ribbing him.
“Never,” Noah said, scoffing. “Olivia told me the other day these are hot.”
“They are,” I added. “Sexy.”
“I see how it is.” Jay climbed into bed. “I always knew you’d eventually see the light and try to steal Noah away from me. Just like my mama said!” His voice was high and full of mockery as he gasped and put a hand over his heart.
His dramatics made all three of us laugh so hard the bed shook. Once the light was off, it seemed like we clung to each other. The centrifugal force that was Gladys wasn’t enough to break us apart. I was really starting to believe.
“I love you both,” Jonathan whispered.
The weight of his words settled into my chest, and I squeezed his hand. I wasn’t ready to say them, but God did I feel them.
When the shrill alarm woke us up the next morning, I wanted to fall deeper into sleep. Fuck Gladys. I’d been having an amazing dream about the three of us, and I wasn’t ready to give it up yet. I stumbled to the guest room, swearing up a storm the entire way, and fell onto the bed. I didn’t even bother to cover myself up; I just closed my eyes again and fell back into my deep sleep.
My dream didn’t return, but when I woke up a few hours later, my mood was far better. I smiled, got out of bed, and made my way to the kitchen for coffee.
“Good morning,” I said to the three of them. “How’d you all sleep?”
I laughed, thankful the coffee pot was the only thing that could see my ridiculous expression at what I’d asked.
“The beds at that hotel are horrible,” Gladys grumbled.
“I slept great,” Jay said, and I could hear the smile in his voice.
Noah echoed his sentiment, and when I turned to pour the milk into my coffee, I saw them holding hands. A pang of jealousy threatened to invade, but instead of letting it take over my every thought and feeling, I acknowledged it and tried to move beyond it to enjoy their open affection. I even dared to allow myself the hope that someday, it would be the three of us.
“What’s on the agenda today?” I asked, grabbing a bagel and making my way over to the table.
“I have to work,” Noah said. “I don’t want to, but Jeff called in sick and there isn’t anyone else in town to cover for him. I’m just lucky he’s front-end, and I didn’t have to go in at three to bake.”
“That stinks,” I said. “Maybe we can meet someplace for dinner?”
“I was rather hoping we could go to that cute gallery downtown,” Gladys said. “Then maybe over to the art museum.”
I’m sure you were, Gladys. I’m sure you were.
“How about if we compromise, Mom?” Jonathan suggested. “We’ll go to the gallery, then to the movies. After that, we’ll meet Noah and have dinner at The Bistro.”
“You know how I love The Bistro,” she said, smiling.
I was relieved, thankful for Jonathan’s ability to arbitrate a compromise that pleased his harpy of a mother.
The entire day, Gladys was hesitant to bring up any personal topic, changing the subject when Jay asked her about things with his dad. Apparently she’d confessed that she was thinking about moving out, and he wanted to know more. She just gestured in my general direction and shook her head. I rolled my eyes; it was all I could really do.
While we walked the gallery, I took in each painting and kept my distance. I gave them space, mostly because it was exactly the kind of place I loved to get lost in, and I desperately wanted to hold Jay’s hand, but I couldn’t since Gladys was in the dark. I wanted to laugh and talk about art and just be there with him. I imagined the conversations we’d have while looking at the half-nude painting. I wondered if he would comment on the slope of the subject’s hip, or the swell of her breast, or perhaps he would focus on the hint of naughty in her smirk. Maybe he’d simply walk by it, not giving it a second glance.
I decided to wait for them at the front of the gallery. After a few minutes, I texted Noah. He had a lull in customers at the bakery, so we were trading lascivious messages. Suddenly, the wait didn’t seem so long or terrible.
“Are you feeling all right?” Gladys asked, startling me.
I immediately tucked my phone into my hand, irrationally worried she could read the tiny text from where she was. “Yes, I’m fine.”
“You look a little flushed. Do you have a fever?” The back of her hand went to my forehead, and I looked at Jay with wide eyes, pleading for help.
“I’m sure she’s fine, Mom. The front of this gallery is rather warm.”
Jay directed Gladys to walk in front of us out to the car, leaning over to whisper in my ear once she was ahead of us. “You two are so incorrigible!”
“What?” I asked, feigning innocence.
He shook his head and laughed, mumbling as he got into the driver’s seat. I was glad to be in the back seat by myself, pulling my phone back out and texting Noah again. When it was time to go in to the movie, I turned my phone off after telling Noah I’d see him soon. I got the tiniest bag of popcorn and a small drink, and after paying a fortune for it, walked to Jay and Gladys.
“No snacks?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t want to spoil my dinner,” Gladys said, eyebrow raised and eyes pointed at my popcorn.
“Come on you two,” Jay said, leading us to the theater.
I almost kicked Gladys in the shin when she tried to sit between us, but Jay guided her farther down the row so we could sit together. Once it was dark, I was even more thankful. He seemed to be in overdrive, touching my knee and thigh, teasing me. I was glad the movie wasn’t a brightly-lit action film, and he was able to have almost free rein. There were a few times the screen lit up unexpectedly, but Gladys seemed to be watching the movie intently, thank God.
By the time we were driving to the restaurant, I was ready to go home. Without Gladys. I wondered if she would ever go back to her house. Suddenly I imagined her leaving her husband and moving in with my boys.
Heaven fucking forbid.
Jay parked and I could see Noah waiting in his car, so I walked over and tapped lightly on the glass. He was staring intently down at his phone, and I smiled, flattering myself by imagining him rereading our earlier conversation.
“You scared me,” he said as he opened his door and stepped out.
“God, I want to kiss you so hard right now.” His eyes were focused on my lips as he licked his own.
“I know the feeling.”
“Let’s go inside before I flip Gladdie the bird and press you against the car.”
Our arms brushed, his fingers whispering against mine, as we walked to where Jay and Gladdie stood. I had to giggle as I let his pet name for her roll around in my brain. Noah greeted Jay with a kiss, and I would have sworn it was a little more aggressive than usual, which made me smile.
At the table, seating was awkward. Noah and Jay sat next to each other, leaving me to sit next to Gladys. It could have been worse, though, and at least with this arrangement, I could see them both through the whole meal. It was nice and relaxing, and I enjoyed several glasses of wine since I wasn’t driving.
Our return to the house brought the blissful arrival of the best news of the past three days: Gladys told us all she had a flight the next morning. That meant I still had Saturday and Sunday with Jay and Noah to myself, and I planned to thoroughly enjoy them without her here.
Even though she’d kind of been a bitch to me the entire time, I hugged her tightly when we said goodbye, and I meant every word when I wished her well. She seemed to soften just a bit, too, and I wondered if maybe Noah hadn’t been right after all, and her current stressors were responsible for her cold exterior.