It didn’t happen over night, but Elaine and I did eventually get back together. At first we kept our rekindling relationship from the kids. If it wasn’t going to work out, we didn’t want to add even more disappointment into the children’s lives.
“I wish you could stay over,” I told Elaine after one of our clandestine afternoon dates on one of her days off.
“Maybe we need to talk to the kids sooner rather than later.”
I agreed. The more we went out and spent time together, the more I wanted Elaine back into my life.
We decided, however, to wait until Alton’s birthday to say anything. It was difficult to wait that long, but we felt he’d be more able to handle it once he was older. He had very little memory of Elaine and I together. Most of his life we’d been apart.
Although he’d spent most weekends with his mother, she wasn’t really a part of our family outside of those visits. We’d spent most of the holidays together just the the kids and me. Elaine often worked extra hours during those times, so it was harder for her to join us or even have the kids over for celebrations of their own.
Other than his sisters, most of the time Alton spent his time with the P.A.L.s or by himself. He was an introverted kid, very intelligent and self-sufficient. Despite the fact that he seemed mature, or at least acted older than his age, I felt that he might not react as well to me suddenly bringing his mother into his life full-time.
I should have known that Alton would be fine with the changes, though. I told him his mother would be at his birthday party and he accepted it as if she had always shown up. The girls, however, were not exactly happy with her presence.
“Mom,” Rachel said when she came home from school and found Elaine putting the last minute touches on Alton’s cake. “I thought I was going to decorate the cake.” Rachel looked disappointed as Elaine crossed the T in Alton’s name in gel frosting.
Rachel had been taking some culinary classes at school. She had professed to wanting to be a chef. Elaine hadn’t known that Rachel was hoping to practice her decorating skills. I’d forgotten, so it was my fault.
Later, Anne and her mom got into a bit of an argument when Elaine asked to be introduced to Anne’s friend Easton.
“Who’s your boyfriend?” Elaine asked innocently. She had no idea how sensitive Anne was to that question. Easton and his twin brother Race were good friends with both Anne and Rachel. Anne secretly liked Race, but Race treated her just like a friend. Easton seemed enamored by Anne, which she knew and was trying to discourage.
“Mom! He’s just a friend! Gawd!” Anne huffed and rolled her eyes.
“Sorry,” Elaine said, smiling at Easton. “I’m Anne’s mom.”
“Mom! He knows! Stop embarrassing me!”
Easton just smiled apologetically to Elaine and ate his cake in silence. He liked being called Anne’s boyfriend so he wasn’t going to say anything to make things less awkward between Anne and her mother.
Things didn’t get much better after we told the kids we were seeing each other again. Though they didn’t say much at the time, when Elaine made me a birthday dinner, the kids were pretty chilly toward her.
“They don’t like it that we’re together,” Elaine worried after the kids went to bed.
“They’ll get used to it,” I assured her. “I think they are just worried that it won’t work out. You know how it is…”
“Don’t you think they’d be happy about this?”
I shrugged. “They love you—you know that. But they’re used to how things are now…how they’ve been. They see you on the weekends. You guys do things together and during the week, we do things together. I imagine this is a bit confusing.”
“I just don’t want them to start hating me,” Elaine whispered.
“Don’t worry,” I said, pulling her close. “You’re their mom. How could they hate you?”
Turns out they weren’t upset at Elaine at all. In fact, nothing seemed to change in their feelings for her. Instead, I was the one who bore the brunt of the kids’ discomfort with the change in our relationship.
“I just don’t get it Dad. You and Mom used to fight all the time. Do you think you both have changed?” Rachel asked after I informed her that Elaine and I were going to go out for dinner that weekend and that she and Anne would be in charge of Alton while we were out.
“Your mom and I think we have changed. We’re trying. I think we’ve both matured enough that we can communicate rather than let things get so bad that we’re fighting.”
Rachel looked skeptical.
Anne, who came home a little later than her twin due to a Debate Club meeting, was less than pleased that Elaine and I were going to be leaving her and Rachel to babysit while we went out.
“Dad! It’s really selfish of you to go out with Mom and take away our time with her! It’s our weekend!”
“You will still see your mom,” I tried to explain.
“No we won’t! We’ll be watching Alton!”
“Alton’s old enough to watch himself,” I said.
“Exactly, but you’re making us watch him anyway!”
I sighed. I couldn’t win.
I told Alton while we were out doing a driving lesson. He was a lot more understanding than his sisters.
“Whatever Dad. I think it’s great that you and Mom are working things out. It’ll be weird if you get back together. We’ll be a pretty full house!”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Just like old times.”
“Whatever, but I don’t think I need Rach and Annie to be in charge. I can handle myself.”
“I’m sure you can, son. But they’re older and they’re still in charge.”
“No arguments, Alton. Rachel and Anne are in charge.”
“This sucks!” Alton ran inside and into his room where he slammed the door. I sighed.
Although we’d told the kids were were dating, once Elaine and I resumed our physical relationship, we tried to keep it from them as long as possible. We wanted them to get used to us dating first before Elaine started staying overnight.
Unfortunately, another would-be burglar attempted to invade my house on one of the nights I’d asked Elaine to come upstairs with me. She usually left before the kids woke up, but this time the alarm woke everyone and Elaine was still there.
Of course the burglar failed in her robbery attempt. I was able to capture and subdue her until the police officer arrived.
After that, the kids and the robots knew that Elaine had been up in my room. The kids weren’t stupid. They knew what we’d been doing.
It seemed that Anne was the one most vocal of her displeasure at finding her mom and been sleeping with me and sneaking out before the kids woke.
“I can’t believe you two have been sneaking around like this! I mean, you’re always going on and on about us being honest with you, and you’ve been lying to us!”
“No, honey! We weren’t lying…we just wanted to wait to tell you about it.”
“Why! Wait until when?! Did you want to wait until you got pregnant again to say anything!?”
Elaine gasped in outraged shock.
“Anne!” Rachel choked on the bite of pie she’d put in her mouth.
“Well, it could happen! Dad may be old, but he could still father a child.”
“That’s enough young lady,” Elaine finally managed to say. “You will apologize to me and your father right now. We are your parents and we do not need your permission to do anything.”
Anne just glared at us both. “Why should I apologize when you won’t? I think you both owe us an apology!”
“Anne, you will not talk to your mother that way,” I finally intervened. “Go to your room. Until you’re an adult and not living in my house, you will show your mother and me some respect.”
“Fine!” Anne stomped off to her room and slammed the door.
Rachel took her plate to the sink and followed her twin. She refused to look at either of us.
Elaine left the house after that argument and didn’t come back for several days. She called me, but said that she was trying to give the kids some space. Finally I insisted that she come over and at least see me, if not the kids.
“They aren’t the boss of us, Elaine,” I said. “I love you. I hope that you are beginning to love me again, too. If we love each other, then the kids will come around.”
Elaine told me she loved me and agreed to come over after work.
“I’m so tired,” she said when she finally arrived. “I hardly slept last night, and it was hell today. Someone egged the hospital. Can you believe that?”
“Yeah. I saw the news. You looked good standing there interviewing the hospital security.” We both smiled. I pointed to the rocking chairs and we both sat down.
“It’s been a crazy week,” I said as we began rocking. “I think the kids have calmed down, though.”
“That’s good. What are we going to do about them?”
“Well…” I hesitated. I’d been thinking about it, but I didn’t know if Elaine was going to like my suggestion.
“Well…” I started again. “I was thinking that maybe you could move in here. We could be more open with our relationship and the kids would get used to it a lot faster. It’d be like we’re a real family again.”
I turned to see if Elaine looked happy or shocked at my idea. She was just staring at me. I didn’t know what to make of that.
Finally, just before I opened my mouth to take my stupid idea back, Elaine said, “I suppose that would work. I mean…I am here a lot…and it would give me more time with the kids.”
“And me, too,” I said. Elaine nodded. “And you.”
She smiled and I knew she was going to say yes.
Elaine moved in almost immediately. At first it was a bit awkward with the kids. They didn’t know what to make of having their mom around so much. But eventually things settled down. It was nice having Elaine with us again. I’d always pictured myself growing old with her. I had hated the thought of being alone in my old age.
The funny thing is that even though both Elaine and I were getting older, I still looked at her as the beautiful young woman I’d met at my store so many years before. I didn’t see wrinkles or sagging body parts that she often complained about. I just saw my brown-eyed girl.
And I was more in love with her than I’d ever been. I’m sure it embarrassed the kids, but I couldn’t help the public displays of affection Elaine and I indulged in. We’d wasted so much time apart. It was like we were making up for all of it. I could endure the eye rolling of our children as long as I had my wife in my arms again.
Having Elaine with me made it easier for me to accept that my children would soon be leaving me. Rachel and Anne grew up into such beautiful women. They were both smart and ambitious. It was hard seeing them apply to college and make plans to start their own lives.
Even Alton was growing up. He had a girlfriend named Cat Owens. They spent a lot of time together. I worried that he was getting too serious with her since he was just a boy, but Elaine assured me that Alton was going to be fine.
“Cat’s good for Alton,” Elaine said. “He’s always been so serious. He studies all the time and loses himself in his work. He’s a lot like you, actually.”
I laughed and agreed. “But what if they don’t work out?” I asked. “She will break his heart.”
“It’s possible,” Elaine agreed, “but you’re right that Alton is young. He will get over it if that happens. Right now Cat helps our serious son have a little fun.”
I had to agree that Cat was good for my son just as I knew that Elaine was good for me. I’d been thinking of retiring for quite some time. Elaine was considering doing the same. We’d talked about traveling, seeing the world.
Although Alton liked to putter around at my work bench, I knew he wasn’t interested in taking over the store or making inventions for a living. He’d already told me that he was going to join the military and try to become an astronaut.
I briefly considered just selling the business outright, but then my nephew Rico came into my shop and asked if I needed an assistant. From that moment, I knew that the business would stay in the family. Unlike my brother Adam, his son was interested in not only the invention side of things but also the store.
I took Rico under my wing and felt fairly confident that he’d be perfect for the job.
Adam was supportive of my decision. We got together often to play chess or sit in front of the TV playing online video games with Carter in Moonlight Falls. I broached the subject of Rico while we were facing off across the chess board.
“I think he’s going to do great things,” I told Adam. “He’s made a few improvements to our widgets that I’d never even thought of.”
Adam chuckled. “Elyssa always said that Rico was a genius,” he said proudly.
“Well, he’s also a practical business man. Rico has plans for expanding the business into other cities. I’d always thought of us as a Twinbrook name, but Rico thinks we could be known across the Sim nation.” I just shook my head. I was glad that it was Adam’s son and not me taking on that endeavor.
By the time the girls left for the university, I had already signed papers making Rico the sole owner of the Fields Gadgets and Gizmos Consignment store. As I said a tearful goodbye to my oldest, I looked at my son.
“Soon I’ll be saying good bye to you, son.”
“I’m not going to go to college, Dad.”
I raised an eyebrow. Elaine, standing next to us snuffled into a tissue and asked him what he thought he’d do if he didn’t go to school.
“I’m joining the military, Mom. They will send me to school and train me. I’m going to be an astronaut.”
I guess Alton had never revealed his plans to his mother. She looked at me over Alton’s head and I nodded.
“Well, I’m just glad you’re not going to be a bum. Your dad and I are looking forward to being kid-free.”
Alton rolled his eyes. “Yeah. You guys won’t have to worry about embarrassing yourselves with all that lovey-dovey crap when it’s just you and the robots. Geez! Just don’t do anything in my room, ok?”
“You won’t be there…” I said, laughing as Alton shuddered in disgust at picturing Elaine and I together. “Someone’s got to get a little action in there…”
“Ew, ew! TMI, TMI!” Alton shook himself and ran back into the house. Both Elaine and I cracked up at his response. It took the edge off of seeing our first children leave the nest.