It was kind of hard to explain to the kids why Eden wouldn’t be coming round anymore. Lily was distraught, to say the least, and Danny seemed a little quieter than usual, if that’s possible. It took them a while, but eventually they got over it, but it just seemed to send us all back to square one. I mean, now that it was just the three of us again, not having Maxxie around seemed to hit home again. I guess having Eden around had been a big enough distraction to keep our minds off it, but if they were anything like me, the kids would’ve felt it every now and then; this horrible sinking feeling that even though you have someone else in your life, they’ll never be as good as what you had before.

And since I’d managed to convince John to come have angry sex with me, needless to say it was awkward the next time I saw him. Well, it was awkward on my part. Because I just fucked my brother’s husband, and that’s not something you do. John seemed to understand that it hadn’t meant anything, though, and he tried to assure me it was nothing to worry about, but I wasn’t exactly convinced. I let it drop either way, glad I hadn’t lost one of the only friends I had because of it.

In the months that followed, I’d been dreaming about Maxxie more often. The crying had started up again and I did everything I could to avoid being on my own. After all, if I wasn’t on my own, I couldn’t be lonely. And I guess it worked to an extent, but once I was home from work and the kids had gone to bed, I was left on my own with my own jumbled thoughts and emotions. And let’s face it, we all know I have as many emotions as a woman. I tended to spend my nights sat up wondering where everything went wrong; with Maxxie, with Eden, how I could’ve handed the abortion better. Plenty of should haves and what ifs flooded my mind, and it’d always take Maxxie to get me to fall asleep. I think part of me was paranoid that he was going to forget me.

As for whether or not I thought he was real or not... I wasn’t really sure. I mean, he was realistic enough, but it could still just have been my subconscious. But then there was the fact that the kids had dreams about him too, and that couldn’t just be a coincidence, especially when Maxxie would tell me what he’d gotten up to with them before they’d even told me.

It’d been just under six months since me and Eden had split that I found out Danny had been hiding detention slips from me. To make matters even worse, he’d been forging my signature on them too. I’d asked him about it, but he’d completely blanked me. In the end it’d been Lily that told me why. Missing Maxxie again had made him start getting in fights and misbehaving at school again, and since he didn’t want to upset me, he’d hidden all his detention slips and practiced my signature over and over again. I hadn’t realised since he told me he’d joined a homework club which I knew took place every day for an hour after school. Danny had been angry at her for telling me about it, but he’d calmed down enough eventually to apologise.

It was at that point I decided to give them the scrapbook of Maxxie I’d made for them. I knew it could’ve made things a whole lot worse, but it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I’d sat with the two of them while they looked through it, telling them about each photo they asked me about, and they asked me about a fair few from before we adopted them. I’d made it for them to share, but they’d agreed that it would be primarily Lily’s since, although Danny had taken Maxxie’s death the worst, her “favourite” parent wasn’t around anymore. I guess it kind of hurt to know that the kids had picked favourites, but I tried not to let it bother me. And I guess it was kind of cool that Danny thought I was best, since I’d seen a lot of myself in him.

For a while after that, the three of us just sort of existed. The only things Lily seemed to enjoy were her drama club and her horse riding, and Danny spent more time playing his games than ever. As for me, I just drifted between work and home. Work was hell because it meant seeing Eden on an almost daily basis, and home wasn’t much better when my kids spent more time on their own than they did with me or their friends. I’d stopped going to Alex for sex not long after I’d split with Eden, much to Caleb’s annoyance given that he never got to enjoy me, in his words, “being a slut”, but at the very least he was happy to have Alex to himself again. After nine years together, I can’t say I blamed him. It was nice to see Caleb settled down, though, and for it to have lasted as long as it had.

Which was of course when Caleb turned up at my door one day, yelling the place down.

The End

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