I glance at the floor. The red car is there on its side, where it was either dropped or forced off the side of the table. I laugh and lean down to pick it up.
“I can see,” I say, amused. “It’s almost dinner, so do you want me to put this car on the table?”
I almost offer to take the green car, too. But he’s clutching that car possessively, and I know better than to try and take it off him right now. So I smile and put the red car on the kitchen counter before taking my seat as Jessica brings over the plates I left in the kitchen in my hurry to leave, and Allison carries a plate of fried fish pieces.
If I’d thought working beside Jessica in the kitchen was weird, though, sitting down to dinner with her, her best friend and our son is even stranger. Jessica gives me a strained smile as she sits, no more impervious to the atmosphere than I am, and clears her throat.
“Did you have fun, Owen?” she asks the boy.
“Yes!” Owen beams, and I smile at him. “Is Daddy going to come back?”
“I…” Jessica falters and looks at me, unsure of my answer.
“Of course,” I tell Owen. “I’ll talk to your mom about it, okay?”
“Okay,” Owen says, satisfied.
I glance at Jessica. She doesn’t look unhappy at my answer, but she isn’t smiling, either. I look down at my plate and busy myself with cutting up my fish.
Owen chatters all the way through dinner, drawing conversation from all three adults, but it’s hard not to see the tension between Jessica and I. When dinner finally ends, Allison coughs and gives us a strained smile.
“Hey, Owen, do you want to put a movie on?” she asks.
“Mommy and Daddy too?” Owen asks, glancing at us.
“We’ll come soon,” Jessica assures him. “Right now, we just need to chat, okay, Owen? So, can you go with Allison and put a movie in?”
Owen grins at her and trots obediently after Allison, taking her hand when she holds it out. I watch them go.
“He’s a good kid,” I murmur when they’re gone.
“He is,” Jessica agrees. She sighs. “Okay, so how are we going to work this? Do you have some idea of what days you have free?”
She’s really going to work with me on this? I’m pleased and a little touched.
“I thought I’d find out what days Owen is at daycare first,” I explain. “I won’t be here every free day, so you get your time with him, too.”
Jessica blinks and then smiles tremulously. It hits me that she was just as worried about my meeting working out with Owen, but for a very different reason.
“Sounds good,” she says quietly. “He only goes to daycare two days a week, on Wednesdays and Saturday. I usually work those days at the local grocery store, though I had last Saturday off because we were closed for renovations.”
“Right,” I say with a nod. “I don’t work on Saturdays or Sundays. I work all day on a Friday, and Fiona and I swap day and night shifts through the rest of the week. What if I say I’ll come around on Sundays and during the days on Thursdays? That gives you Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays without me here.”
She looks slightly stunned, as though she can’t believe how reasonable I’m being over all this. I frown at her, feeling a little insulted. I want to make this work, for both of us.
“Yeah, I think that’ll be great,” Jessica says after a moment. “Thanks for being willing to work around us.”
“There’s no point in upsetting the balance,” I say, shaking my head. “I want to be part of Owen’s life, not rip it apart.” I pause. “Thanks for the tip about the toy cars.”
“It’s fine,” she says with a small smile. “Regardless of…anything else, I really do want this to work, too.”
I tense. She’s touched on the one subject I don’t want to talk about. I would have given anything for explanations or even for her to just say we’ll talk about it one day, but I got nothing. Now I don’t want any of it. I just want to see my son and figure out the feelings I still have for her.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Jessica got the memo.
“Actually, I’ve been meaning to message you,” Jessica says quietly. “I really think we need to