Lucas’s mom dropped the kids off at ten on Sunday morning.
“I have to pack and get ready for my trip, then I’m having lunch with my friend.”
“Does your friend have a name?” The man was going to be family soon. Lucas might as well know what to call him.
His mom blushed. “Price. He’s a pilot. He loves to travel.”
Of course. Then Mom could disappear even more than usual. Lucas tried to think of something nice to say. “Have a great trip. Enjoy Florida.”
Mom hesitated. “It’s not like I’m going to desert my boys and family.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Sure you are. Get real.”
She put her hands on her hips. “Don’t use that tone with me. I’m still your mother.”
“We both know how that went. I’m happy you met someone, but as usual, you did a crap job of making us a part of it.”
“I’ll make up for it.”
“Don’t worry about it. Just do what you do and be happy.”
“Are you trying to make me feel guilty?”
“Why would I worry about that now? I’m just pissed at you, and I’m tired of pretending that everything’s fine.”
She stared at him. “You always take care of things. I never have to worry. Why are you so mad at me this time?”
Did she really not understand? “I asked you to come through for us. One time. And you blew it. Everything’s always about you.”
Her expression crumpled. “It’s just that . . . “
He didn’t let her finish. “I don’t care. You always have an excuse, but it always come down to the same thing. You never put us first.”
She blinked back tears. “I’ll call Price. I’ll cancel. I’ll stay home for Thanksgiving.”
“Spare us. That’s all we need. You’ve played the martyr since we were born. We don’t need you hovering over us when you could have gone to Florida and gotten married. Just go.”
“You’ll still talk to me when I come home, won’t you?”
“You’re my mother. I have to.” Not really. But he would. He was just tired of her right now. And maybe he should have spoken up sooner. She’d irritated him enough this time, that he was ready to set boundaries.
“I love you,” she said.
“It would be nice to feel loved once in a while,” he told her.
She looked even more surprised. “You know I love you.”
He went to the door and opened it. “Have a great trip, Mom.”
She lowered her head and left. He closed the door behind her.
He looked up and saw Jordy and Beth standing in the family room, staring at him. He shrugged. “I’m mad at your grandma, but we’ll be fine.”
“You love us, don’t you?” Jordy asked. “We can be a bother, too.”
Oh, damn. Was that their take away of what happened? He decided honesty was the best policy. “You and Beth are both kind, wonderful people. My mom only thinks about herself. I still love her, but you two make me proud. I love spending time with you.”
Jordy grinned, obviously satisfied with his answer. “We love you, too.”
“Good, because we have a whole day ahead of us. I thought we should go shopping. I know it’s early, but we could look for a Christmas present for your dad. If we ship it early, it should get there in time. And maybe something fun to send to your mom. What do you think?”
They liked the idea.
“Did Grandma get you anything to eat?”
When they shook their heads, he led them to the kitchen. “Nothing opens till noon anyway. We might as well have a decent breakfast.”
He spelled their names with pancake batter and poured syrup over them. Mom must not have given them much for supper last night either, because they wolfed those down as he made them scrambled eggs and sausage patties. When they finished eating and cleaned up the kitchen, the shops would be open by the time they drove there.
“What do you think your dad would like?” Lucas asked on the way.
“He likes cigars,” Beth said. “They stink, but he smokes them outside.”
“There’s a cigar shop just down the street from the mall.”
“He likes books about real people,” Jordy added.
“We’ll be close to a book store, too,” Lucas said. He knew some of the biographies Garrett had read. He should be able to find a new one he’d like.
Jordy wrinkled his nose. “She likes girlie stuff.”
Beth got excited. “She likes bubble bath and hair stuff.”
He knew nothing about that, but there was a bath and body shop of some kind in the outdoor mall. They should be able to find something.
It was a crisp day—not warm, but not cold either. They walked from one end of the mall to the other, the kids trying to decide which shops to go in. They found peach body scrub and lotion for Dulcey, and Lucas bought Beth some new sparkly headbands that caught her eye. In the book store, Jordy and Beth looked in the kids’ section while Lucas bought a biography about Ulysses S. Grant to send to Garrett. When he hooked up with the kids again, Jordy was looking at a book called Gregor, the Overlander, so he bought that, too.
On a whim, they stashed their packages in the truck, then looked at the features at the movie complex. A kids’ show was playing. They bought popcorn and drinks and settled in. By the time they walked to the truck again, it was getting late. Lucas took them to Buffalo Wings & Ribs for supper and let them order for themselves. They each got the six-wing meal with fries and thought they were pretty important.
Once they got home, Lucas pointed to the clock. “Baths and PJs.”
When they came back downstairs, he was sitting in his recliner, and each kid settled on an arm next to him. They pressed against him.
“Thank you, Uncle Lucas.” Jordy said.
“This was the best day ever!” Beth said.
He grinned. “That’s because you’re the best kids ever.”
Jordy had his book. “Can we read a chapter?”
“Why not?” They’d read three before he led them up to bed and turned out the light. It had been a successful day. He’d enjoyed it as much as they had. And he’d see them again on Thanksgiving. In their own house. If they ever came up from the basement and their toys.