Since Lily was busy with her drama club and her horse riding, which she’d sworn to me she’d keep up, I’d asked John to get Danny from school even though I could’ve picked him up myself. I figured Danny might enjoy seeing Beau, and I knew John’d be glad of the company when I went to pick the little guy up. It gave me a chance to get some housework done, too.
John called while I was in the middle of cleaning to invite me and Lily round for dinner since he was cooking for Danny anyway. I told you he’d be glad of the company, he even agreed to have dinner late to give me time to get Lily from her horse riding lessons. I’d taken Danny to one of her lessons once since the people in the stables had agreed to let Danny borrow a horse for the afternoon, and while he seemed to enjoy it, he said it wasn’t something he was interested in doing. I’d tried to get him back into acting but he wasn’t having any of that, either. Lily, on the other hand, had recently won herself the starring role in the school’s latest theatrical venture. I know it sounds like I’m picking favourites, but honestly I was just proud of Lily for carrying on like nothing had happened, y’know? I wanted Danny to pick up a hobby or a sport or anything to keep him occupied and to try and bring him out of his shell again, but he was happy to just sit there and play his video games. Even Beau had tried getting him to join stuff at school that she was involved in, but given that she was eleven and acted like she was thirteen, she was just starting to take an interest in boys and makeup, neither of which Danny was into.
Speaking of Beau and makeup, John had been trying to get Mari involved in Beau’s life again, if only to make puberty easier on the girl. He was happy to stay single til he met the right person, though he still insisted Cayden was “the only one for him”, but Beau was at risk of hitting puberty soon and John just wanted someone Beau knew and liked to be able to explain what she was going through and what it was like for them. Don’t get me wrong, he’d do his best to explain it whether or not he had female help, but obviously he couldn’t understand and empathise with her given that he didn’t have to go through the whole boobs and periods thing.
Lily chattered away on the drive to John’s, telling me all about rehearsals and drama club and what she got up to in her riding lessons. She’d made a few friends at her riding lessons, but the other parents all looked down their nose at her for not coming from your typical rich family. One of the girls even said she was surprised Lily didn’t live in designer brands and have a PA running around after her like the other girls. One of the snooty mothers got a fucking shock when she found out Lily was all set to be private school once she hit Junior High age, unless of course she wanted to wait until high school. But bitchy rich parents aside, Lily was really enjoying it and she was determined to make Daddy proud since the pony was a present from the both of us, even if he hadn’t been around to give it to her.
Danny and Beau were busy laying the table when we got there, and Lily sat down on the couch to get on with some of her homework while she waited for dinner to be ready. I made sure she knew what she was doing before heading for the kitchen, saying hi to the other two as I went past the dining room. The kitchen smelt delicious, and I could see a piece of meat in the oven as numerous pots and pans steamed and sizzled away. John was busy checking on everything and trying to get everything else sorted out, so I stepped in, cutting up some vegetables and getting the last few things ready as he John started dishing everything up.
“You’re okay with them eating meat, right?” he asked suddenly, looking kind of worried.
“Yeah, I’m fine with it” I laughed and he let out a relieved smile.
“Thank God for that”
I flashed him a smile. “Thanks for doing this, John”
“Don’t mention it” he smiled back. “It’s the least I can do”
The two of us carried everything through to the dining room, and I gathered the kids up while John carved up the joint of meant, which he’d told me was beef. Beau made a bit of a fuss about not eating meat so she could be vegetarian like one of the cool girls at school, but she dug into it soon enough once she caught the smell of it.
I couldn’t help but smile as we ate. In a weird way, we all looked like one big, happy family. The kids all got on like siblings, and they were always happy around each other. I helped John clear up once everyone was finished, listening to the kids in the other room. They were all talking excitedly about some show they all watched, along with some song they all liked. I chuckled a little, blushing slightly when John caught me smiling.
“It’s nice to hear them happy for once” he said, smiling understandingly at me.
“Yeah. I guess I haven’t been around for them as much as I could’ve been the last year” I sighed.
“I know they’re only young, Hadley, but they know what you’ve been through, what you’re going through. It’s not just you that needs to be there for them”
“What d’you mean?”
“I know you’re still cut up about Maxxie. I mean, how couldn’t you be? And I know you don’t like talking to other people about stuff this big, but I’m here for you, if you ever need a chat or a break or anything. Don’t forget, I know how much it hurts”
I looked at my feet, a little embarrassed. Yes, Maxxie was the love of my life, and yes, I should still be upset, but think of all the time I had with him. John didn’t get that with Cayden. And even though he still hadn’t gotten over it, he’d lost his parents, too.
John tilted my head up, looking me in the eye, flashing me this small smile. “I swear, you look older every time I see you”
“I’m going grey already?” I laughed.
“No, not like that. I don’t know, you look like you’re filling out more. Your face looks more mature, I guess”
“So I’m losing my boyish good looks?” I chuckled.
John laughed. “I’m afraid so. But you’ve got good genes, so I wouldn’t worry too much”
“Is that you confessing your love for me?” I asked, fluttering my eyelashes at him.
“You wish, Hadley”