If you need to catch up on All Roads Lead To New Glarus click here.
It was J.’s 5th birthday, so I invited a few of his friends and their parents over for a party. I included Dave and Jerri‘s two girls, J.’s best friend, Steve and his two children, and another single mom, Karen, and her son, as well as the neighborhood children to whom J. had given the Batman toys to.
Everything was about Batman and Mario that year, so I convinced J. to let his party have a Mario theme so that the girls on his list would enjoy themselves as well as the boys. Armed with cupcakes, and a Pin the Hat on Luigi Game, we braced ourselves for a trailer full of noisy children.
It had been a few months since I’d had a “real” conversation with Steve, but I wasn’t concerned about the party feeling awkward. I mean, it was Steve, he was like my brother, I’m sure we were big enough to set aside the awkwardness of the past few months, for the sake of the children. I was sure that he’d stay and help and even be the life of the party, because that’s the wonderful kind of guy Steve was.
J. looked out the front window in the kitchen, waiting for the first car to pull up.
“How long until the party starts, Mom?”
Always looking for a teaching opportunity, I begin to explain to J. that when the long hand on the rooster kitchen clock points at the twelve, it will be time for his friends to come. J. pulled a chair to the window to wait, his warm breath creating a foggy cloud. I went to the bathroom to freshen up.
“Mom, Aunt Jerri is here!”
“Okay, honey, can you let her in? I’ll be there in a minute.”
Even though there was no blood relation, J. always called my friends Dave and Jerri, “Aunt” and “Uncle” and considered their girls his cousins.
I entered the room as Jerri was taking the coats from the girls.
“I can’t believe you’re here first!” I teased, as Jerri was notorious for always being late.
“Well, I have a few errands to run, and I wondered if you’d mind if I left for a little bit.”
“No, that’s fine. Your girls are never any trouble at all.”
“Thanks, there’s a few sales I want to catch, and it will be so much easier without the two of them. What time will you be finishing up? I’ll help you clean up if you’d like.”
“We’ll be done around 3, but take your time, we aren’t doing anything this evening.”
The girls were standing shyly in my living room watching J. play Mario Kart. J. offered to let them play too. They nodded no, silently. My little man was too young to notice a girl-boy difference, but the girls were older and feeling a little timid.
Jerri was about to go out the door, when Steve and the kids walked up the sidewalk.
“Well, hello!” Jerri gave Steve a knowing look and a quick hug.
S. ran in to play video games with J. while E. wrapped herself around my leg. I picked her up. She had on pink flowered leggings, a red sweatshirt that obviously belonged to her much larger brother, and her bright orange hair looked like it hadn’t been combed in days. Her glasses clanked against mine. Jerri and Steve chatted while I got a much needed hug from this mismatched girl.
The neighborhood children came, and the other single mom, Karen, arrived as well. Her son went running in to play with S., and the party was complete, except that every parent had excused themselves, with errands to run, leaving me with 10 children all between the ages of 3-7, all by my lonesome. It was the longest two hours of my life. One girl got gum in her hair, they hated the Pin the Hat on Luigi game, and there was cupcake frosting ground into my already hideous carpet.
To add to my irritation, it seemed as though Steve had left with Karen, but surely I was imagining things. I became even more suspicious, however, when they were the first to come back as well. The two of them came in smiling ear to ear, Steve talked non-stop to her in my kitchen. He was obviously flirting.
A rush of hot lava came up from my toes to my ears. The nerve of him! Flirting with a woman in my kitchen! The same kitchen in which he rescued me from my gas bill. I calmed myself, reminding myself that I had told him to go away four months ago. They left together, with hardly a word for me, and eyes only for each other.
I had started to clean up when Jerri returned. She came in, threw her coat on the couch, and asked where I kept my rubber gloves so that she help with the dishes. I pointed quietly under the sink.
“You’re awfully quiet. Did the kids wear you out?”
“I got all of my shopping done. Thanks for taking the girls.”
J. and the two girls were giggling in the corner with some of J.’s new presents.
“Kim, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I lied, trying to sound perky. I swallowed, “Hey, I did notice something kind of strange today, though.” Dishes clanked in the sink, and I grabbed a dishtowel to dry. “It seemed like Steve and Karen were ‘together’. I’m sure I was just imagining things, I mean I know how friendly he is and everything.”
“No, you were right. They’ve been dating for about a month now. You didn’t know?”
“No,” Anger welled up inside me again.
I changed the subject, because I didn’t want Jerri to know that I was upset. I didn’t even want to let me know that I was upset. I’d have to think about this later. So we talked about the children, shopping, church and the party. Soon, she gathered up the girls and her headlights faded down the road, and without any warning I cried. I cried because it had been a long day with too many children and not enough adults. I cried because I felt so alone in trying to raise my boy and provide for him. And for some reason, I cried because Steve had gone on to another woman, and the feeling was a little too familiar. And with this emotion, I surprised myself, because I didn’t think I would care, but I did. I really did.
For the next story click here.
Sharing with Sadee at Storytellers!