We did try to hedge our bets, too. I invited Annie and Chad to go with us, and if nothing else, a daughter who’s known all along about me and the Corbster, coupled with a cute baby, can be more than a pleasant distraction. Plus, I agreed to let Ashes bring her best friend JoEllen, and Theo to bring one of his many best friends, Dillon.
What this boiled down to, from a practical standpoint, is that the boys went on their own merry way, and the girls theirs, leaving Corb and I with Annie, Chad, and Kaeden. And, a lot of the time, the young parents were off doing diaper changing and other baby stuff, leaving Corb and myself with a lot of free time to ourselves.
It had been the first time we’ve had such a luxury since a summer, eight years ago, when we went to Canobie Lake alone. I would have probably enjoyed it more, had I not been so aware of the gulf that had suddenly opened up between myself and the kids. I felt as if I had lost two of my best friends, and it was all I could do not to wonder where they were and what they were doing…and whether they were missing the closeness we used to experience at Canobie…every second of the day.
For the most part, Ashes was polite. Not mean, but definitely reserved. She would only speak to me when spoken to, but when I did, she wasn’t rude. Just aloof, as if there was an invisible wall placed between the two of us.
She rode with Corb on the way down, and clown that he is, he did somehow manage to get her loosened up a little bit. One of Corb’s favorite games is to have everyone wave at other cars as they pass by and make silly faces, and once we made it through Boston, I drove by him in the fast lane and caught everyone in the car acting like idiots, including Ashes. That was a good sign, I thought.
At supper, the restaurant was so crowded that the kids sat at a separate table, but I made it a point to ask Ashes to come by and see if she could help with a fussy Kaeden. She didn’t object at all.
Amber texted me during dinner. “How’s everything with Ashes?”
“She only speaks when spoken to, but that’s okay, I guess.”
“She’ll get over it. Give her time.”
Then I guess she thought about it. “I can’t believe she’s being so immature about it. It reminds me of a little kid covering her ears cuz they don’t want to hear something.”
What could I say? “It will be fine.”
At the end of the night, as I was standing in line at my favorite ride—an old fashioned roller coaster called the Cannonball Express—as I sat there bemoaning internally the fact that this had always been our favorite end of the day ride, and where were the kids, who should show up but both Annie and Theo. I sat with Annie, something I never do, and enjoyed hearing her scream as we looped around and around. But I also enjoyed the fact that Ashes was sitting two cars behind me, too.
After the day at the amusement park was over, I allowed the kids to let their friends sleep over, and even loaded them up with food and snacks too. They were still chatting away and watching a charming movie on demonic possession when I fell asleep at around two.
The next day, I drove the friends home at ten. Theo went with me, a little irritated with his friend Dillon, who had drawn a penis on his face while he had been asleep. I then went food shopping with Corb, and given the late hour they had been up, didn’t think much of it when the kids were still asleep at one in the morning. I started to get a little concerned when it was three and Ashes was still asleep.
Desperate to gauge her mood, I tried tempting her with one of her favorite shows. “I bought True Blood Season Three at the store today,” I said, standing over her sleeping self. “Want to watch the first episode with lunch?”
She opened an eye. “I will wake up,” she said. “But can I eat lunch in here?”
Was she tired from the night before or had I lost her forever? I still couldn’t figure it out, and didn’t want to push. So I sat there, stewing in juices, barely watching the television. Absently folding laundry. Mechanically doing dishes. Driving Theo to work.
Theo, at least, was responding better. On the way to work, he was pretty much monotone, which added to my anxiety, but when he discovered that he had made a mistake and wasn’t on the schedule, all of a sudden, it was like a sea change.
I think things started opening up when I remembered the penis on his face. “Oh! Did you get it wiped off?” I asked.
He glanced nervously into the mirror. “I think it’s gone…is it?”
I looked over. “I’d say it is. That would have been kind of embarrassing at work.”
He grinned, and then we had a great talk about a job opportunity that has opened up for me, which might make life financially a little easier for us. He actually laughed at a few of my jokes. I felt like a human being again. I felt like a dad.
We went back to the apartment. And twenty minutes in, all of a sudden a sound, from Ashes’ room. “Dad?”
I was there, in an instant. “Yes?”
She sat at her computer, rubbing the sleepies from her eyes. Maybe it had been the late night, after all. “How do I get onto the college website to look at my majors…?’
It was nothing, yet it was everything. Later on, we all watched an episode of True Blood, which yes, does seem strange to watch with my kids. Then I was off to catch a train to New York.
Three days after the big revelation and things are better. I hope it’s going to be all right.