Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

Parents Day, Jill and Patricia Hood-Colby

Summary: Michael gives his mothers a very special gift. (3,000 words)

Jill closed her eyes and rested her elbow on the edge of the tray, her chin against her cheek as she closed her eyes for just a second. She had been up at three-thirty that morning with her little monster, then she went to school to deal with other people’s little monsters. She just needed a little catnap. When she opened her eyes she saw Isabel staring at her with wide beautiful eyes and her lips wrapped around the teething ring she had successfully covered with her drool. As soon as she realized Jill was looking at her, Isabel’s lips spread into a goofy smile. Jill returned the grin and wrinkled her nose. Isabel did the same, and Jill reached out to stroke the plump cheek.

“You’re lucky you’re worth it, you little beast.”

“Stop making fun of my baby,” Patricia said as she came into the kitchen.

“She started it. Hi, honey.”

Patricia bent down and kissed the part of Jill’s hair. “Hi. And I’m sure she did. You have to be the bigger person. At least until she can defend herself.” She stroked Jill’s arm and went toward the kitchen. “Did Grandma make anything for dinner?”

“Michael is bringing take-out. He said he had a surprise for us, too.”

“Uh oh.” Patricia got a bottle of water from the fridge and held it up. When Jill noticed, she nodded and Patricia got a second bottle out. “Did he give you any clues?”

“Nope. He likes being cryptic.” She took the teething ring from Isabel. “How was work?”

Patricia bared her teeth and pulled a chair around to sit next to Jill in front of Isabel’s high chair. The baby looked between them and sucked her bottom lip as she waited for one of them to do something for her. Jill opened a jar of baby food and leaned forward to serve it to her. She was still getting used to solid food, but she was making the transition very well. She was almost done with her dinner when the front door opened to announce the arrival of their son.

“Hello?”

“We’re in the kitchen.” Patricia leaned close and whispered in Jill’s ear, “Pray whatever this surprise is doesn’t involve anything life-changing.”

Jill chuckled as Michael came into the room. It was still something of a shock to her seeing him so grown-up. When he was out of her sight he was still the little boy with a cowlick and a Seahawks sweater who slouched in the third row of her classroom. Now he was seventeen, almost an adult, and he would be graduating with her last name. He was still dressed for work in a white dress shirt and necktie, and he dropped his book bag on the floor next to the trash can. From his other hand dangled a white bag of to-go food. Jill’s stomach growled at the sight of it and she suddenly realized how hungry she was.

Michael said, “Who’s going to help me serve?”

Patricia covered Jill’s hand and took the spoon from her. “I’ll take over here. You go get the plates and silverware.”

“Thank you.” Jill knew that if she served she would be able to sneak a few bites before bringing it to the table, and she knew Patricia was giving her that chance. She kissed her on the cheek and got up to follow Michael into the kitchen. He opened the bag and took out a Styrofoam box. He smiled at her when he popped the lid to reveal a bucket of the Colonel’s finest.

Jill’s eyes widened. “Where did you get fried chicken?”

“One of Elena’s pilots was coming back from Seattle and said he would bring it back for me. I got all the sides, too.”

She grunted and plucked one of the legs from the bucket. “This is so unhealthy.” She took a big bite and closed her eyes as she chewed. “Bad choice. This was a total failure of dinner retrieval. Did you get some of those biscuits?”

“Yep.”

“You’re grounded.”

He chuckled as she got the plates down from the cupboard. When she put them on the table next to his bounty, she put an arm around his shoulders and squeezed him hard.

“Thank you for this.”

“Well, I know you love it. Happy Parents Day.”

Jill smiled. The previous year after she and Patricia were officially married, he gave them a joint card for Mother’s Day. He had crossed out “Mother” and replaced it with “Parent.” Since then it had been their default name for the holiday. She helped him serve two plates, one for her and one for Patricia, and she took them out to the dining room. Patricia glanced up when she came back in and raised her eyebrows when she saw what was coming.

“Where did he get chicken?”

“Friends in high places,” Jill said. “Literally! It’s my Parents Day present. Isn’t that sweet of him?”

“Very sweet. I see you gave me a leg.”

“I can sacrifice.”

Patricia smiled and placed her foot next to Isabel’s tray. The baby looked at the peculiar, non-mush meal, but seemed much more interested in her own food. Patricia opened her mouth wide so Isabel would mimic her, then guided the food inside. Isabel chewed thoughtfully, puffing out her lips with every bite. Jill sat down and immediately tucked into her meal so she could take over with Isabel and Patricia could focus on her food.

Michael came out with drinks and watched as Patricia spoon-fed the baby. “You know, one of these days you’ll be able to eat at the same time.”

“Fingers crossed,” Patricia said.

He reached into his pocket and put two tickets down on the table between their plates. “One of these days, like… this weekend. For Parents Day.”

Jill used her grease-free pinkie to pull the tickets closer and read it aloud to Patricia. “This ticket grants the bearer one evening without work or taking care of the baby… what is this?”

“In the past year, between work and Isabel, you haven’t had much time to yourselves. And I did some research on the internet. Apparently there’s something called ‘object permanence’ that you’ll have to start worrying about right around this age. Isabel’s going to be stubborn and fussy if you try to leave for any length of time. So I figure this is the ideal time for you to just go out and have a nice dinner without worrying about anything. I already talked to Grandma, and she’s definitely willing to watch her tomorrow or Sunday.”

Patricia said, “Michael, thank you…”

“The day off is Mom Jay’s ticket. Yours is different.” He rearranged them so the other one was on top. “This is a gift certificate that gets you dinner for two at The Old Harbor. Now, I mean, you don’t have to use these together, but if Mom Jay needs something to do and Mom needs a date… it could work out.”

Patricia said, “Hm. I don’t know if she’ll say yes if I ask.”

“I’ve said yes to marrying you on two different occasions.”

“Yes, but this is dinner. It’s kind of a big deal.”

Jill chuckled and stood up, holding her hands out of the way so she wouldn’t get grease on Michael’s nice work clothes as she kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Michael. This is an amazing Parents Day gift. You definitely scored on this one.”

“Thanks. I figured this is your first Parents Day with two kids, and what could you want more than a night off?”

“Very true,” Patricia said as she scraped some excess baby food off Isabel’s chin. “It’s exactly what we needed. We’ll go…” She looked at Jill. “Tomorrow night?”

“Yeah. Avoid the crowds.”

Patricia nodded. “My thoughts exactly.”

“Okay. I’m going to go change clothes before I eat.”

“Good idea,” Jill said as Patricia cleaned more food off a squirming Isabel. “You’re only slightly less messy than your sister.”

“Ha ha. It’s been months since I got food all over my face and the table. Well. Weeks, anyway.”

He left the kitchen and Jill wiped her hands on a napkin before she picked up the tickets. “How hard do you think it would be to counterfeit these?”

Patricia laughed. “I think he’d figure it out eventually. Are you going to be okay spending a whole night away from your princess?”

Jill looked at the baby. “Yeah. It’s not a school day, so I’ll get the whole morning and afternoon with her. It’s good to spend time apart.” She reached out and tickled Isabel’s arm. “We don’t want her to be too clingy, right?”

“Right.”

“You know, if you wanted to use the dinner-for-two coupon for her, I would gladly pay for my own meal.” Patricia glared at her and Jill surrendered. “Right. Your mom is being kind enough to watch her for us. We should be grateful that she’s available. But if I could…”

“If you could, she would be dragged along behind you in a little wagon.”

“Could we get one of those?”

“No.”

“You’re no fun.”

Patricia squeezed Jill’s leg under the table. “When Michael was a baby, I couldn’t imagine letting him out of my sight. That object permanence and separation anxiety thing he mentioned? It is very real. He had it big time when he was around Isabel’s age. I was thrilled. ‘Nope, can’t go anywhere, baby needs me.’ But eventually I realized I wasn’t doing him any favors. I went out, I left him with babysitters and it got easier. I know you’ll get there in time.”

Jill kissed Patricia’s shoulder. “Thanks for the pep talk, coach.”

“Any time. Hurry up and eat… your potatoes are getting cold.”

#

When they arrived at the Old Harbor, the hostess escorted them to a semi-private booth where they wouldn’t be bothered by people gawking at the mayor. Patricia insisted it wouldn’t be a problem, but then she was stopped three times as they were escorted to the table. She shook hands, talked about something that had been left unresolved at the last town hall meeting, and at one table actually crouched for a picture. By the time they sat Jill felt as if she was dining with a celebrity.

They sat together on the same side of the booth, holding hands and quietly chatting until their food arrived. Jill felt like they were on a date, their first real one since Isabel was born. Her mind kept tracking back to the baby at home, all roads winding around that central subject before she forced herself to move on. Grandma was with her, Isabel was happy when they left, and they had their phones in case of any emergencies.

She managed to get through the appetizers without checking her phone. When she did look there was a text message from Michael: “1930 and all is well. Gramma reading Izzie a story.”

“What a good kid,” Jill said again.

“Yep,” Patricia said.

It started to rain while they were eating. They stood under the awning to see if it would let up before risking the run to the car. Patricia held her hand out and let the water sprinkle on her palm, then wiped the moisture off on her coat.

“What do you think?”

Jill moved in close to her and rested her hands on Patricia’s hips. She smiled. “I think I really like how you look in the rain.”

“Yeah?”

“I like the smell when it rains. Like everything is more alive and vibrant. It’s like…” She wrinkled her nose and looked up. The water splattering off the awning just barely caught the sleeve of her jacket. “Never mind.”

“No, say it.” Patricia’s voice was soft.

Jill looked at her and smiled. “It’s like everything is asleep on normal days, the grass and trees and everything. But when it rains, it all comes to life and it… dances and sings. Water on the leaves and splattering in the mud and pooling in the holes. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. And it brought us together. You know every time I smell fresh laundry and ozone, I think of that day and how much I could have lost if you hadn’t made a move. I wouldn’t have our family. I wouldn’t be a parent.”

Patricia stroked Jill’s hair back with both hands and bent down to kiss her lips. “How long did Mom say we could be out?”

Jill shrugged. “I don’t think she did. But you know her… she’d be happy if we packed up and spent the whole weekend in Seattle if it meant she could keep Isabel for two whole days.”

“Well. There’s a duck pond a lot of the kids sometimes go to… we could drive out there and make sure no one’s getting up to any monkey business.”

“Sounds like a big detour. What if we drive all the way out there and no one is parking? It would be a wasted trip.”

“Hm. You’re right. I guess we could find something to do to make it worth the effort.”

Jill smiled and took Patricia’s hand. “I don’t think the rain is going to let up any time soon… wanna make a run for it?”

Patricia smiled and pulled Jill out into the rain.

#

The interior of the car smelled like ozone from the rain, and Patricia’s hair was rich with the scent. Jill buried her face in it once they were parked, and their soaked jackets were removed and turned inside out in between the seats. The rainwater had dried on Patricia’s lips but Jill still licked it away. They were still in their respective front seat positions, still just exploring over their clothing, but the windows had fogged and the idea of how to undo buttons was strong in both women’s minds, when there was a sharp knock on the driver’s side door.

“Shit.” Patricia looked down to make sure Jill hadn’t succeeded in undoing any of her buttons before she twisted the key and hit the button to roll the window down. Little darts of cold spring rain cut around the dark silhouette standing outside the vehicle and hit her in the face. The man held out a flashlight and shone it in her eyes, and Patricia recoiled and covered her eyes with her hand.

“Oh, damn. Madam Mayor?”

“Sheriff Rucker. Good evening.”

His flashlight beam quickly cut over to Jill, then away. “Oh. I-I didn’t… kids have been coming out here a lot more lately, so I swing by when I can to… obviously you’re not kids…”

Patricia smiled. “Gee thanks, Cal.”

“No, that’s not what I meant. I just meant, consenting adults and all that…”

Jill snickered and covered her mouth with her hand.

Patricia glared at her. “You shush.” She looked back at Rucker. “We were just out for an early Parents Day dinner… well, Mother’s Day. But our son has two mothers, so…”

“Right, sure. Sure. And I’m sure once you’re out of the house, there’s, um…” He coughed into his fist. “Uh, look. It’s not helping anyone for us to be out here in the rain. And there’s no reason you two can’t… I mean, this is pretty much public so if you could maybe move along somewhere more private…”

“Absolutely. You’re right. It’s a bad example to set for the kids.”

“Sure. Sure. A kid comes along and sees the mayor parked at the duck pond, it’s like advocating it. So, uh. Not to shoo you away like you’re teenagers, but…”

“We’ll head back. We weren’t planning to stay much longer anyway.”

Rucker nodded. “Okay. Yeah. That’s probably for the best. Sorry again.”

“It’s fine, Cal. Have a good night.”

“You too.”

She rolled up the window as he retreated to his car. Jill waited until he was pulling away before she allowed herself a long, loud laugh.

“It’s not that funny,” Patricia said through her own chuckles.

“You’re forty-one damn years old, and you just got caught parking.”

Patricia’s smile widened. “I think you’re having too much fun with this.”

“I hope he doesn’t call your mom. She’ll really give us the business when we get home if she knows we were out here necking.”

“Twerp,” Patricia said.

Jill chuckled and reached over to stroke Patricia’s neck. “It’s a neck worth getting in trouble for.”

“Good to know.” She glanced in the mirror and saw the sheriff had left. “I guess we should head out before he comes back.”

“Like he would risk knocking on your window again.”

Patricia laughed. “Nah. He’s much too sweet. We’d just feel bad about it in the morning.”

“True. Okay. Take me to our baby.”

Patricia backed away from the pond and pulled out onto the road. When they got back into town Jill yawned and rubbed her eyes. It was nice to have a few hours away from the house, the baby, and all the responsibilities she was still getting used to, but as they rolled through the open gates of the mayor’s residence, she found herself excited to get back to it. She looked forward to knowing she would be woken up sometime after midnight to escort their mewling baby around the nursery. She was eager to jump back in with both feet.

But it was very nice to be reminded that there was a life outside of nocturnal feedings and teething stress, and she knew that she and Patricia would get there soon enough. Patricia parked the car under the awning and shut off the engine. They stayed in the dark car for a few moments, listening to the engine tick as it cooled. They looked at each other and kissed, and Jill took the opportunity to smell the rain in Patricia’s hair.

“Ready to get back to the madness?” Patricia asked.

Jill smiled. “Let’s go.”

They opened the doors at the same time and climbed out, both of them hurrying to get inside.

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