Greg heard Maureen come in late that evening and he pretended to sleep as she quietly came into the room and changed into t shirt and shorts. He wasn’t sure what time it was because he would have had to turn over and look at the alarm clock and he didn’t want her to know he was awake. She crawled into the bed after a quick tooth brushing and face wash. Greg felt disgust at the thought that she had just crawled out of some other man’s bed and into their marriage bed without taking a shower first.
After a very short time Greg heard Maureen’s breathing slow and heard the soft snorting sounds she made as she fell into a deeper sleep. He lay there most of the night eyes opening and closing as he attempted to relax enough so he could get some sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a rough day and he wanted to be rested and ready for whatever happened.
Greg must have finally fallen asleep because he was awakened the next morning by the thump thump of the treadmill in the spare room where Maureen was apparently working out. He looked at the clock and saw it was almost 9:00 AM. Sitting up and adjusting the waistband of his pajama pants he looked into the master bath and saw Maureen’s sodden towel lying on the floor as always. Most mornings this mildly irritated him but this morning it just made him sad.
Greg stood up, stretching as he walked toward the walk in closet. He grabbed his sweatpants and an old college sweatshirt and changed into them as he walked toward the bath to wash his face. Slipping his feet into house shoes he walked past the spare room and down the stairs to get coffee going and call his sister. Just as he rounded the landing on the carpeted stairs the doorbell rang.
He ran down the remaining stairs to the door and opened it to the effusive greetings of his children. His sister and her family were on their way to church and wanted Leslie and Evan to change into something else to go with them. It was clear from the look of appeal in his children’s eyes that they did not want to go to with Carol to church so he thanked his sister profusely and told her that he and Maureen had a big day planned for the family. Hugs and kisses all around and Carol drove off with her big beefy husband Harvey and their girls Liesha and Fawn waving from the back seat.
Greg sent the kids upstairs to unload their overnight gear and come right back down to help with breakfast. He was bound and determined to keep them around today as buffers. He knew it was the wrong thing to do but he couldn’t help himself. He was just not prepared to deal with what he had witnessed last night and the children would provide a good distraction.
Plopping into the kitchen he flicked on the coffeemaker and pulled out the black skillet to start the bacon cooking. There were not enough eggs to make scrambled eggs for everyone, so he decided that it would be a French toast morning. Maureen hated French toast but he hadn’t decided on that menu for that reason.
As the bacon cooked and the coffee dripped Greg cracked eggs into a bowl stirring in milk and began to dip the texas toast into the mixture as Leslie made a grand entrance wearing a tiara of all things. Amidst giggles and stops and starts she told her Dad all about her night and how it had culminated in Fawn awarding her the “Princess of the Day” tiara as a going away gift. Greg dipped the bread into the egg mixture and then put the pieces on a small plate where Leslie sprinkled cinnamon on them before carefully placing them into the heated pan, avoiding any splash. They had done this many times before so they were able to laugh and talk while going about their task. Evan came in a minute or two later dragging his raggedy blanket and sucking his thumb until he saw what his father and sister were doing. He immediately dropped his blanket and ran to the drawer next to the stove for the plastic spatula. Evan’s job was to turn the toast when his Dad yelled “FLIP!”
As the three worked together and talked about the children’s adventures the night before Maureen slipped into the kitchen a bit surreptitiously pouring herself a cup of black coffee and sitting down at the island to watch the performance. She had a small smile on her face and her hair was mussed from where she had ruffled it after her workout.
Greg felt her eyes on the back of his head but pretended not to notice her. This wasn’t punishment, he just wasn’t sure if he could control what his face would say. The children were so immersed in the task at hand and the stories of Uncle Harvey’s horse play that they didn’t notice Maureen for a minute or two. When they did they jumped down from the chairs where they were standing to give Mommy a hug while Greg finished the bacon, placing it on a paper towel to drain.
Maureen stood up, a child on each arm and laughingly dragged herself and her load to the cabinets to pull out the dishes and glasses. While she set the table and Greg completed the food Leslie pulled the orange juice and milk from the fridge and set them on the table. Maureen poured the milk and juice all around and Greg set the food on the table.
Under cover of the children, they ate breakfast, not looking at each other and smiling too brightly at Leslie and Evan’s antics. Immediately after breakfast was over Greg hustled the kids out of the kitchen without a backward look and urged them upstairs to change into play clothes. He went into the Master bedroom and changed into jeans, a polo shirt and tennis shoes.
Ten minutes later Greg and the kids had piled into Maureen’s SUV as it was the most accessible car and were off for a day’s adventure. Before he had rounded the corner of their street his cell phone buzzed. Looking down he saw “HOME” on the display and immediately shut the phone off. Greg knew it was wrong not to tell Maureen where they were going but he just wasn’t ready to talk to her yet. He did have some guilt for the way he was treating her, after all they were her children too, but right now he just needed to be away from her.
He looked into the rear view mirror at his children, trying to poke each other from their safety seats on either side of the backseat and called out in as cheerful a voice as he could, “How about we go to Six Flags guys?!”