Eventually I managed to discuss things with Lewis, and once we’d arranged everything, I left him with Alex and Caleb for the day. I took advantage of having some alone time with the kids, and took them out for the day like we’d used to when Maxxie was still alive.
I settled them down with a pizza, making sure they’d be okay while I fetched Lewis, and dashed over to the neighbour’s just to ask them to keep an eye on them while I got him. I sat Lewis down in front of the TV, going off into another room with Caleb and Alex.
"How was he?" he asked.
"He kept going on about how me and Caleb couldn't hug because boys aren't supposed to hug. All day"
"Really?" I asked, a little upset.
"I tried to tell him different, but he was determined that boys shouldn't hug or kiss or do anything together, really" Alex sighed slightly. "He's a nice kid, I just don't think we can cope with that y'know?"
"He seemed to think cartoons from back in our days suck, too" Caleb said, sulking like that was more important.
“It's fine" I said, smiling a little. "I guess I was just looking forward to that thing finally growing up" I said, nodding at Caleb.
"Hey" he said grumpily.
"I don't think ginge will ever grow up" Alex said, ruffling his hair and Caleb folded his arms.
"I'm not a little kid"
"No. Just adorably child like" Alex grinned.
"Child like does not mean that I'm a paedo"
"You're a willing victim either way"
"That doesn't make it any better"
"You're legal, shut up" Alex said and Caleb rolled his eyes. "Anyway, the point is, I think that kid needs someone that can teach him that hugging boys is okay and all that fun stuff. Just not a couple guys who hug"
I nodded a little in agreement. "I don't know who else I can ask. I'd ask Mom, but she's already spent most of her life bringing up three kids, y'know?"
Forgive me for wanting her to have some time to herself since she spent most of her life bringing up me and my siblings.
"What about Maxxie's mum?" Alex asked. “Hardly a secret she had a stillborn kid. Maybe she'd take the opportunity to raise a kid she missed out on?"
She’d had a stillborn? I had no idea... "I'll stop by and ask her tomorrow"
"Max never told you?" Alex asked, noting the surprise on my face.
I shook my head slightly. "I don't think so" And if he did, I didn’t remember it.
"Oh" he shrugged. "Anyway, I figure she might appreciate the opportunity"
I nodded, mirroring the smile Alex flashed me. Caleb, apparently bored of the grown up conversation, was busy eating candy. Alex stole a piece, nibbling at it and Caleb frowned.
"Mine" he said possessively.
Alex licked it, handing it back, and Caleb ate it anyway, apparently not caring.
"I want some" Alex said, searching Caleb’s pockets.
"You'll have to earn it once Hadley and the demon child are gone" the ginger smiled and I laughed.
"We're going, we're going"
Alex chuckled and I went and got Lewis, bidding them both farewell. Alex settled for a standard goodbye, but Caleb, as usual, felt the need to give me a goodbye kiss.
"Boys shouldn't do that" came quietly from beside me.
I could tell Caleb was irritated by it, so I hurried us off, trying to explain to Lewis on the ride home that it’s okay for boys to kiss boys and for girls to kiss girls and so on.
"Mommy said it's wrong and icky though" he insisted.
"But other people say it too"
"They're silly people"
I could tell he was trying to get his little head around it, and I tried not to say anything else on the subject, not wanting to confuse him further. I sat us down on the couch with the kids, stealing a couple slices of pizza for me and Lewis, sending the three of them up to bed before it got too late.
I took them to see their English grandma the next day, and Lewis turned into this shy little thing when I introduced him to Karen. Danny and Lily had scampered off to make a fuss of the old man, and Lewis was busy being shy.
"No need to be shy. I don't bite" Karen said and I smiled, explaining the situation to her without going into too much detail.
I thanked her when she agreed to try it out, and she insisted it wasn’t a problem, offering Lewis a cookie. Lewis nodded and Karen offered me one as well. I laughed, telling her I was fine but the kids would probably want some, leaving her to it when she called them all over for cookies and God knows what else.
“Hello you” the old man smiled when I went and sat with him.
“Hey” I smiled back.
"How're you doing?"
"Not too bad, thanks. And yourself?"
I’d only mentioned what Sarah had done to Alex and Dad, and I’d sworn them both to secrecy.
"I'm good. Y'know, if you fancy sneaking me off to a strip club again, I wouldn't say no" he laughed.
"Not this time, old man" I laughed as well.
"Ah, it was worth a shot"
"Maybe next time" I winked.
"I'll hold you to it"
"And if not, I'm sure I can bring you a magazine or something" I chuckled and he let out this gleeful little laugh.
"Good lad" he said and I smiled. "So, how come Karen is going to be looking after that kid now? What happened with Sarah?"
"We didn't work out. And she wasn't exactly taking care of Lewis properly, so he got handed over to me"
"Why're you giving him to Karen then? I thought you loved kids?"
"I do, but I can't handle three on my own" I laughed slightly.
"I hope he's well behaved if he's gonna be living here" the old man grumbled ever so slightly.
"He is" I smiled.
"Good" he nodded and I laughed.
Gramps asked me about how Lewis was brought up, how he was doing at school and what he liked, things like that. I answered as much as I could, avoiding mentioning anything that would imply Sarah was beating either of us about. Gramps paid attention to every word I said, no doubt wanting to make Lewis feel at home. Eventually I ran out of things to tell him, and a silence descended on us. So for some brilliant reason I decided to fill it by asking Gramps if he ever went to visit Maxxie.
He nodded. "Sometimes. Karen goes a lot more than I do, though" he said and I smiled. "Do you?”
"Not very often" I said, my gaze dropping to the floor. I still felt like a bad husband for not going to see him more.
"What's the guilty face for? It's up to you what you do"
"I know, it's just... I feel like I should visit him more, y'know?"
"Everyone deals with it in their own way. I probably wouldn't go there if Karen wasn't going anyway"
"All it does is remind me that all that's left of my grandson is six feet under. A headstone doesn't do much to replace a person, does it?" he sighed a little, looking over at one of the pictures from the wedding.
"I miss him too" I said, smiling sadly at the picture.
"I'd rather remember him like that, wouldn't you?" he asked and I nodded.
Neither of us said anything then, both of us busy missing Maxxie. Gramps cleared his throat after a while.
"Sorry, I just..." he trailed off, sort of gesturing at the picture.
I sort of nodded, offering him a hug when I saw the hurt that flickered across his face. We stayed there like that for a while til Gramps let go, apologising some more and asking how work was to try and distract himself. I told him it was as hectic as ever, and we chatted away about anything and everything to keep our minds off Maxxie. The kids ran over eventually, asking if they could stay for dinner and I looked at Gramps. The kids’ eyes lit up when he nodded and they thanked him before running off to play with Lewis again. Gramps let out a chuckle and I smiled.
"I have something to ask of you" Gramps said, looking at me.
"I want to see you happy again before I die. Preferably married" he said seriously.
"I am happy" I said, smiling a little to try and convince him.
"Properly happy. With a partner that actually loves you and not your wallet"
I sighed a little. "I'm working on it"
"I know. But you're family to me and I want to know you're happy before I kick the bucket"
"The dating scene's not as friendly as I remember it being" I laughed.
"You'll find someone" he smiled. "And it'll be before I die. Because I'm not going to die 'til you're happy" he winked. "Can't get rid of me that easy"