He kisses the back of my neck softly. “Sleep,” he says, and I do, till I hear my name again. “Mommy.” I open my eyes and see Lizzie. “I don’t want to sleep alone,” she says, and I’m about to get up and go into the other room when Blake pushes to the edge of the bed, taking me with him. I bring Daisy with me, leaving Lizzie enough space to crawl into bed. “Did you fall asleep in here watching television?” Lizzie asks, looking at me.
“Yeah, she did,” Blake says from behind me. “I didn’t want to wake her.”
I look at Lizzie looking at me and then Blake. “Okay,” she says, closing her eyes and drifting off to sleep. Morning comes way too quickly, and I’m expecting to get up with some stiffness since we slept four in a bed, but it’s the opposite. I wake up perfect, and we all get up at the same time.
The kids lie on the couch while we work side by side making breakfast. “What time do you work today?” I ask him, dreading that I have to go back home.
“I start at three,” he says. “I leave at two thirty, but you can stay later if you want.” He hands me a plate of toast.
“No, I’m going to head back to get the kids settled before school.”
“Is it weird that I miss you?” he says, standing next to me.
“Only if it’s weird that I miss you too,” I say, buttering the toast. I dread sitting down and eating, and I dread the time flying by. I dread going around the house, making sure we don’t forget anything. I dread fixing the beds and packing our stuff.
He brings the bags to the car while we follow him. “Blake, can we come back?” Daisy asks, stepping into the car.
“Anytime,” he says, smiling and bending to kiss her cheek. “Get into your seat,” he instructs, closing the door.
“I had so much fun,” Lizzie says. “I want to come back soon,” she says, and he bends and kisses her cheek also.
“I’ll make it happen, Lizzie,” he tells her with a wink while she gets into her side of the car. He pulls me by my hand to the back of the car. “I know they can still see us,” he says, “but I can’t not kiss you.” He grabs my face in his hands and bends to kiss me. Softly, then a little more, until he’s peeling himself away from me. “I’ll see you Thursday,” he says.
“Samantha, I’m off shift on Wednesday afternoon. So Thursday, I’m coming to see you and the girls.” I don’t think he’s asking me, more like informing me.
“Okay,” I say, walking with him hand in hand to the driver’s side door. He opens the door, waiting for me to get in.
“Drive safe,” he says. “Call me when you arrive.” He leans in once more, kissing my cheek. “See you guys Thursday.” He closes the door.
I pull away, looking at him in the rearview mirror. The thought of going back home fills me with sadness and anxiety. The girls watch a movie, leaving me with my own thoughts.
As I walk into the house four days later, the house feels almost dead. I walk by the room that the kids slept in, and all of a sudden, I think of changing it to maybe add a television, so the girls can watch it in here if they want.
The last four days have been tough, and Samantha is on edge again. Being at home, she is going back into her shell. Just yesterday, she got groceries from Amazon so she wouldn’t have to see the delivery guy for fear that they would tell her in-laws. We speak every single night, and they even FaceTime me right before dinner.
I dump my bag on the bed, looking over at Frankie’s picture. I kick off my shoes when my phone rings. “Hey, Dad,” I say, answering right away.
“Hey, son, are you still on duty?” he asks me, and I sit on the bed.
“No, just got home,” I tell him. “I’m going to sleep for a bit. What’s up?”
“Can you come over for dinner tonight? We need to talk,” he says, and I know something is wrong.
“What’s the matter?” I say right away. “What happened?”
“Nothing yet, but I think we need to talk about some things,” he says, and I nod even though he can’t see me.
“Okay, I’ll be over for dinner,” I tell him.
The next person I call is Samantha, who answers after one ring. “Hey, you,” she says softly.
“What are you doing?” I ask her.
“I’m painting my bedroom today.”
“Really? What color?” I ask her, wondering what else she googled.
“Earthy brown,” she says, laughing. “According to the internet,” she starts, “it’s the most relaxing color to have in the bedroom.”