She nodded her head fast.
“Sometimes she still makes them for me. And they’re even better than your mom’s.”
Chloe belly laughed. The sound was the best medicine in the world for me; nothing could stop my face from smiling when I heard that. I’d kept away from my daughter to protect her from what I was feeling, worried my sour mood was contagious. Yet the reality was, it was the other way around—it was Chloe’s naturally happy-go-lucky disposition that was contagious. This little precious girl had lost a man she loved as her father only months ago, and yet here she was smiling. If she could do it, I could, too. My daughter was inspiring.
I reached over and cupped her cheeks. “I’ve missed you, sweetheart.”
“You didn’t come see me for a few days.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I was caught up in something. But that won’t happen again.”
“Can we go see your grandmother one day for breakfast?”
Not only was she inspiring, but she was also full of good ideas. “She’d love that. I’ve told her all about you, and she can’t wait to meet you.”
“Can Soraya come, too?”
My chest tightened at even the mention of her name. I could still actually visualize the four of us together. Myself and the three most important women in my life. My daughter, Meme, and the woman I loved. It was raw to speak of, but I wouldn’t lie to my daughter. “I’m sorry, Chloe. She won’t be able to come with us. But maybe you and I could go together this weekend?”
Genevieve picked that moment to walk back into the dining room.
“Are you mad at Soraya?” My eyes caught briefly with Genevieve before I answered my daughter.
“Sometimes things don’t work out between adults and they stop seeing each other.”
“Why didn’t things work out with you and Soraya? I liked her.”
I took a deep breath. “I liked her, too.” Glancing at my watch, I changed the subject. “You’re going to be late if we don’t get you going. I thought I would drop you at school today, if that’s alright with you?”
Chloe ran to get her things while Genevieve and I cleared the last of the dishes from the dining room table. “Will you join us for dinner, tonight? I’m making another one of your favorites, chicken parmigiana.”
I had assumed Genevieve was going to attempt to discuss what she’d just overheard about me and Soraya. I was relieved when she seemed to move on. Maybe Genevieve and I could do this co-parenting thing better than I anticipated. “I’d like that. Thank you.”
GENEVIEVE WAS ALL DRESSED UP when I arrived, wearing a very form fitting blue dress that showed off her figure. She was always a beautiful woman, but motherhood seemed to have added a little to her curves making her more voluptuous. I handed her a bottle of her favorite merlot I’d picked up on my way over. She’d been feeding me meals for the last few weeks; it was the least I could do not to show up empty-handed. “Are you going out tonight?”
“No. I wasn’t planning on it. Why do you ask?”
She smiled. “Thank you.”
“I need to stir the pasta. Why don’t you come into the kitchen and open the wine for us?”
Genevieve pulled two crystal glasses from the cabinet, and I uncorked the bottle as she went to work at the stove.
“Is Chloe upstairs?”
“She’s actually not home yet. Her best friend, Emily, invited her over for a play date. Emily’s mom called a little while ago to ask if she could stay for dinner. I hope you don’t mind. Lately, I’ve just had a difficult time saying no to anything she asks. After Liam moved out last year, she was really stuck to my side. Then, after he passed, she didn’t want to play with any of her friends. I found it encouraging that she wanted to have dinner with Emily, so I told her she could stay. I’m sure she’ll be back by the time we’re done.”
I hated the thought of Chloe not wanting to play with her friends. When my own mother was sick, I had gone through a similar withdrawal. Looking back, I realized I was afraid to leave her. If I went somewhere, something might change or happen. Genevieve made sound choices for Chloe. “You’re good at being a mother.”
She was surprised at my compliment. “Thank you, Graham. That means a lot to me coming from you.”
Over dinner, we talked mostly about work. I’d forgotten how easy it was to speak to her. It had been years since we had any real conversation. After we finished our meal, I poured us both a second glass of wine.