She pushed past him into the kitchen to finish making pancakes. Gavin stayed in the doorway, allowing her the space to think, while also keeping an eye on Jared. She appreciated having someone to do that. She hadn’t had another set of eyes to help before. Since Jared became mobile, she hadn’t been able to shower, cook or do anything without constantly peeking out to check on him. Life was a little easier when he sat in his swing or bouncy chair while she did what needed to be done.
She wanted to say yes, but she couldn’t shake the worry. It was probably going to be fine. There was only so much trouble that could befall them in an afternoon at the circus. If Jared came home covered in blue vomit, the world wouldn’t end. And it was a family-oriented event. She had no doubt that if another mother saw Gavin and Jared in a meltdown moment, she would step in to help.
Sabine finished the pancakes and turned off the burner. She slid a stack onto her plate and the other onto a plate for Gavin. Turning around, she offered one to him. When he reached for it, she pulled it back slightly.
“Okay,” she said. “You can go. But I want you to text and check in with me. And if anything remotely worrisome happens—”
Gavin took the plate from her. “I will call you immediately. Okay?”
Sharing Jared with someone else was going to be hard, she could tell already. But it could be good, too. Two parents were double the hands, double the eyes, double the love. Right? “Okay, all right. You win. Just don’t feed him too much sugar. You’ll regret it.”
Gavin couldn’t remember being this tired, ever. Not when he was on the college rowing team. Not when he stayed up late studying for an exam. Not even after spending all night making love to a beautiful woman. How on earth did parents do this every day? How did Sabine manage to care for Jared alone, work full-time, teach yoga...it was no wonder she’d stopped painting. He was bone-tired. Mentally exhausted.
And it was one of the best days of his life.
Seeing Jared’s smile made everything worth it. That was what kept parents going. That moment his son’s face lit up when he saw an elephant for the first time. Or the sound of his laughter when the clowns were up to their wacky antics.
The day hadn’t been without its mishaps. Jared had dropped his ice cream and went into a full, five-alarm meltdown. Gavin knew Sabine didn’t want him buying a bunch of things, but he gladly threw down the cash for the overpriced light-up sword to quiet him down. There was also a potty emergency that was timed just as they neared the front of the mile-long food line. Sabine had begun potty training recently and had told him that if Jared asked, they were to go, right then. So they did. And ended up at the end of the line, waiting another twenty minutes for hot dogs and popcorn.
But the world hadn’t ended. There had been no tragedies, and he texted as much to Sabine every hour or so. The day had been filled with lights and sound and excitement. So much so that by the time they made it back to the apartment, Jared was out cold. Gavin knew exactly how he felt.
He carried the exhausted toddler inside, quietly tapping at the apartment door so as to not wake him up. When Sabine didn’t answer, he tried the knob and found it unlocked. He expected to find Sabine frantically painting. This was her chance, after all, to indulge her suppressed creativity. Instead, she was curled up on the couch, asleep.
Gavin smiled. He had told her to spend the afternoon doing whatever she wanted. He should’ve guessed that a nap would be pretty high on the list. He tiptoed quietly through the living room and into the bedroom. Following the routine from Thursday night, he laid Jared in the crib and stripped him down into just his T-shirt and shorts. He covered him with the blanket and turned out the lights.
Sabine was still asleep when he came out. He knew he couldn’t leave without waking her up, but he couldn’t bear to disturb her. He eased down at the end of the couch and decided to just wait until she woke up.
He enjoyed watching Sabine sleep. She had always been one to work hard and play hard, so when she slept, it was a deep sleep and it came on quickly. There were many nights where he had lain in bed and just studied her face. Gavin had memorized every line and curve. He’d counted her eyelashes. There was just something about her that had fascinated him from the first moment he saw her.
The weeks they’d spent together were intense. He couldn’t get enough of her. Sabine was a breath of fresh air to a man hanging from the gallows. She’d brought him back to life with her rebellious streak and quest for excitement. He’d loved everything about her, from her dazzling smile to her ever-changing rainbow-streaked hair. He’d loved how there was always a speck of paint somewhere on her body, even if he had to do a detailed search to find it. She was so different from every other woman he’d ever known.