Mum hadn’t let me go to the coast with James. Not without adult supervision, anyway. So much for a first date… Mum, Teresa, Jerry, Ben, James and I all went to the coast… together. From what I’d gathered, none of them had suspected or realised who exactly Ben was and why he was a key character to James’ life and the secrecy that circled it.
James squealed with glee as Ben playfully threw him in the air, catching him in his strong arms and talking to him like a… well, baby. It was adorable to watch. If only he knew the truth…
‘Tell him… tell him now!’
The two of them both shared pronoun physical features, such as their jaw line and full lips. Although James’ overall face was still baby round, the similarities to his father’s appearance were still there.
I smiled weakly at the pair from the outdoor café, lined with more than fifty sets of bottle green, plastic garden tables and chairs. Mum, the McFarlows and I were sat at the table nearest to the seafront in earshot and short distance away from the un-known father and his son.
“I really do say it is lovely weather to be at the seaside,” Teresa enthused, just as excited about being here as a five year old waiting in line to see Santa. Apparently, she’d never been to the seaside before. I’d been plenty of times, and it wasn’t something I generally raved about.
“Yes, I agree,” Jerry informed, who had been to Blackpool once but found this little seaside town much more appealing in comparison to the crowds, lights and general ‘riff-raff’ that he’d witnessed in Blackpool, “we should come more often to visit if a trip to the seaside can be tied in.”
“Oh yes, I suppose it’s even more lovely during mid-Summer time.” Teresa was grinning from ear to ear, licking her Mr. Whippy‘99’ice cream delicately, yet impatiently – another first time… had this woman not had a childhood? Or perhaps strict parents? Whatever reason, she was enjoying herself now and that was all that mattered.
“Er, Casey?” Ben called over to me. I turned to face him, noticing the unsure expression on his face and the yellow stain down the front of his beige t-shirt, matching the crusty remains of vomit around James’ mouth. I forced myself not to laugh, “I think I may have thrown him too much.”
“Hold on a second,” I called back, digging through the baby bag for a baby wipe. I eased myself out of my chair and pranced over to them, “oh dear, look at all the nasty sick around your mouth.” I said to James in a baby voice; something I’d despised pre-motherhood but found difficult not to use now days. I wiped away the remnants of his inner bodily fluids and took him out of Ben’s arms.
James nestled in close to me and rested his head between my neck and shoulder. Judging by his soft, steady breathing, I’d guessed he’d fallen asleep. I smiled down at him and looked back up at Ben.
His expression was calm and his posture was neutral. He smiled back at me and ran his fingers gently through James’ tufty brown hair.
“You’re good with kids, you know,” I announced out of nowhere. I startled myself, but it was true, “you’ve just got it naturally to bond well with them. I’ve noticed when you’re with James.”
“Oh yeah? How do you mean?” he asked, a playful smirk appearing across his perfect face.
“You’re just so gentle, sweet and playful. I could just see you running around kicking a football back and forth with him when he’s around five.”
“You plan on looking after him until he’s five, do you? You do realise that he’s not your son, right?”
‘Yes he is…’
“And that he has parents of his own who love him very much…”
‘We’re his parents…’
“… He has to go home someday…”
“… Back to Scotland.”
‘No, with me! Here! Home!’
“I know… I was just speaking theoretically.” I told him, lying again; I was getting better at this.
“Oh, sorry.” He apologised.
“No problem…” the pause was too long. Ben’s posture had stiffened, hands in his short pockets, and his expression was questionable; a cross between feeling awkward and resisting to do something spontaneous.
“Perhaps we’d better set him down in his pushchair to sleep and I’ll find a new shirt.” He said, breaking the silence.
“That might be wise. You’re starting to smell.”
“Thanks!” he said sarcastically, his brilliant smile plastered across his face, “For that, I’m not buying you a stick of rock!” I laughed at him but quietened down as James stirred subconsciously in my arms… opps!
We paced back towards the adults and parted as he went to find a gift shop. I buckled James into the pushchair and rocked it back and forth in small movements to tide him back into a deep slumber.
The adults had taken James around the town for a stroll, leaving Ben and I alone on the seafront. It was the first time we’d truly been alone all day.
“I still can’t believe you bought that top, out of all the ones you could have picked.” I told him, cringing over the tackiness of his souvenir t-shirt replacement.
“What’s wrong with the words ‘I ♥ Pie’?” he asked, looking down at his purchase. He found it hilariously brilliant, whereas I found it hilariously ridiculous.
“I’m not going to start a row over a t-shirt.”
“Fine,” he answered, picking up a pink, spiral seashell from the ground and handing it to me, “then listen to the ocean instead then.”
“I can already hear the ocean loud and clear… and seagulls.”
“Well, listen to it when we get home and remember the perfect day we’ve had today, just you, me and Jamie;andyour Mum and Jamie’s parents, of course. It’s all been perfect from start to finish… especially this moment right here, just the two of us, the ocean, and our friends the seagulls.” I felt faint at his words. Who knew guys could be this romantic and sincere.
“That’s sweet.” I mentioned, taking the seashell in my hands and holding onto it tight. Neither of us spoke, but I could sense the distance between us getting smaller each second. Ben leaned his face closer to mine, his breath minty and fresh, and when we were less than an inch from each other’s lips…
He retreated at that moment and looked down at the grey splatter on his shoulder. I suppressed a giggle.
“Blummin’ seagulls…” he cursed.
“I guess they don’t like pie very much either…”