This is a work of fiction.
Sean and I ended up ordering one of everything, and we spent the meal chatting.
While Sean was getting the kids ready to go, I realized I hadn’t invited him to dinner yet.
“Would you and the kids like to come to dinner at my place the Friday after next?”
“Friday, oh, yes, that would be wonderful. Thank you. No no,” he said to Patricia, who was trying to grab one of the containers of leftovers, “it’s time to go home. Sorry, did you say Friday?”
“Yep. And you’re welcome to bring your partner.”
He looked very sad and said, “I don’t have one.” He leaned close to me and whispered, “My wife died when Patricia was—”
“Dad, I’m tired,” Michael whined.
Deirdra slapped her little brother in the face and said, “Shut your trap!”
“Deirdra, don’t do that,” Sean said. “I’m sorry Roberta, I’d better take them home.”
“I understand,” I said. “I’ll just write my address and phone number really quickly.” I grabbed a pen and paper, wrote as fast as I could, and handed it to Sean.
“Thanks,” he said. “Sorry to leave in such a rush. Bye. Can you say bye bye to Roberta?”
Michael was the only one besides his father who said goodbye to me, although Patricia was asleep in Sean’s arms.
On Monday, I went to work as usual. After a long hot day (the airconditioner was broken), I was looking forward to relaxing with a cold drink and my husband.
The former was in the fridge, but the latter wasn’t home.
Well, I thought, he’d be home soon. Maybe he’d stay until Tracey was in bed.
Afternoon turned to evening, evening to dusk, dusk to night, and still Jason did not come home.
The next morning, I decided to text him before work.
Roberta: Hi. I was just wondering if you were coming home today.
Roberta: When do you think you might be home? I’ve missed you.
Jason: Tracey’s up. Gotta go.
I had to go to work and didn’t get a chance to check my phone until lunch time, but he hadn’t texted again or tried to call.
When I got home, I texted him.
Roberta: Is it a good time for me to call you?
Jason: No. Tracey’s sleeping.
Roberta: Okay. Can we text for a while? I really miss you.
Jason: It depends on how long she sleeps, but I really should try and get some of the housework done.
Roberta: How’s Ruth?
Jason: Not great, but better than she has been.
Roberta: I understand. Do you know when Chad’s funeral will be?
Jason: Yes. Didn’t I tell you yesterday?
Jason: I’m sure I did, but it’s this Saturday. It’s in the paper.
Roberta: Which day?
Jason: Saturday. I just told you.
He didn’t usually act like a jerk.
I decided to let it go.
Roberta: Which day’s paper is the announcement in?
Jason: Monday’s. Are you going to come?
Roberta: Yes, of course. Are you staying until after the funeral?
Jason: Of course. I’d better go and do a load of laundry. Talk to you on Saturday.
Well, he was busy with a young child and it seemed like he was also doing the housework, which made sense if Ruth was too upset about Chad to do much on her own.
I looked for the paper, found it, and flipped through.
June 28, 1989 to August 24, 2019
It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our beloved son, husband, and father, Chad Hunter, who was struck by a car on Saturday, August 24.
He is survived by his father, Timothy, mother, Julienne, wife, Ruth, and two-month-old daughter, Tracey.
Chad was an honors student at school and he was passionate about justice, being a husband, and being a dad. He earned his B.A. in 2011, graduated from Law School in 2017, the same year he met Ruth.
In 2018, he got married and then set up his law practice, and in 2019, he became a father.
In his free time, Chad loved to read up on American history, watch comedies, laugh with his friends, and drink a couple of beers in good company.
He will be lovingly remembered by all who knew him and forever missed.
The announcement concluded with the date of the funeral, which was this coming Saturday, and the time, which was 10:00 a.m.
I cut the article from the paper, folded it neatly, and put it in a file folder where I kept those kinds of papers.
I didn’t hear from Jason at all on Wednesday or Thursday.
On Monday, I’d asked my boss if I could take both Friday and the following week off, and on Wednesday she said yes.
That gave me the entire day to make a lavish dinner for Kathleen, Tracey, and me. I wasn’t sure if Anna could eat solid food yet, but if she could, there would be plenty of things for her to try.
At four, my phone rang.
“Hi, it’s Roberta.”
“Hi, it’s Kathleen calling to check we’re on for tonight.”
“We are. You can come any time. Jason has to work late. Can Anna eat solid foods yet?”
“I stick to bottles when we’re not at home. She spits food everywhere when she’s taste-testing it!”
“Darn. I was hoping she could taste the fish chowder.”
Kathleen laughed, and my phone beeped, signaling an incoming call.
“Sorry, I’m getting another call, can you hold the line for a sec?”
I tapped the Accept button.
“Hi, this is Roberta.”
“Hi, it’s Sean. I just wanted to confirm what time we’d be there tonight.”
“Oh, yes. Sorry just a sec, my battery’s low.”
It wasn’t, but I plugged my phone in and put it on speaker.
Well, with both families here, I wasn’t going to be able to have fun while Jason was gone, but oh well. Hadn’t I been expecting him home anyway? Hadn’t I wanted him here, eating my fancy food and fooling around? Maybe.
“Sorry about that. You can come any time. Jason has to work, but there’ll be another family with kids. Kathleen is their mother, Tracey’s eight, and Anna’s eight months.”
I thanked him and switched back over to Kathleen. I told her about Sean and his family.
“They sound awesome. And if you don’t mind a mess, I’d love for Anna to try some fish chowder.”
I thanked her and tapped End.
I did some math. Three adults and six kids, so I’d need to seat nine people. No problem. Our dining room was huge.
Sean and Kathleen both drove up at five.
“Something smells delicious!” Sean said.
“I want potaotes,” Steven said.
“Don’t be rude,” Sean said.
Tracey said, “Yes must ask politely. You could say, ‘Roberta, could I have some potates, please?’”
“You’re weird,” Steven said.
“No, she’s right,” Sean said. “Mind your manners, son.”
“Come on in, everybody,” I said. “We’ll eat very soon, but first I think we should introduce ourselves. I’m Roberta. My husband, Jason, isn’t here today because he has to work.”
“Hi,” Kathleen said. “I’m Kathleen, and this is Anna. She’s eight months old and loves to play.”
“My name is Tracey. I’m eight years old.”
“Do you like to play?” Sean asked her.
“That’s good. I’m Sean, and it’s nice to meet you. This is Patricia. Can you say hi?”
She smiled, but didn’t speak.
Steven, Deirdra, and Michael introduced themselves, although Deirdra didn’t smile.
“Great. Now, let’s talk about dinner.”
Anna behaved herself very well and didn’t spit out any food. She even liked the fish chowder.
For dessert, I offered cake, some cookies, and vanilla pudding.
When Tracey tasted the pudding, her eyes lit up.
She swallowed and said, “Thank you, Roberta. Thank you very much.”
“Wow,” Kathleen said. “Where’d you find it? I buy the best the supermarket has, but it’s not as good as yours.”
“I downloaded a recipe and made it.”
“Really? I didn’t know that was possible. Is it hard?”
“The cake was harder.”
“Oh, you made that cake? I thought you’d gotten it from the best baker in town.”
“I think she is the best baker in town,” Sean said.
He smiled at me.
After dessert, Kathleen suggested a game before she and Sean took their kids home.
I found Snakes and Ladders, which Jason and I had never outgrown, and set it up at the table. Tracey, Steven, Deirdra, and Michael were old enough to play, and Patricia, Anna, Sean, Kathleen, and I shared one spot in the game so there wouldn’t be so many people per turn.
After I rolled the dice and landed on a long snake, Kathleen took over for our team. I went into the kitchen to pack the kids’ favorites for Sean and Kathleen to take home.
“We’re close!” Sean called. “We’re just about there. Here we go!” I heard him toss the dice. “Six. One, two, three, four, five, six. Oh no!”
“All the way back there, Dad,” Steven said. “All the way back almost to the start.”
“Kathleen, can you rescue us?”
“Thanks. I’ll be right back.”
I heard him get up and assumed he needed the bathroom, but he came into the kitchen.
He didn’t speak, but came close to me and put a hand on my arm. He looked deep into my eyes.
I understood. I put my hand on his other arm and leaned toward him.
We got back into the living room just in time to see Deirdra win the game.
“Good game,” Kathleen said.
Deirdra didn’t smike.
“We’d better get going,” Sean said. “It’s a little past their bedtime.”
“No it’s not,” Michael said.
Sean looked at his watch and said, “It’s actually a lot past your bedtime.”
We said goodnight to Sean and his kids, made sure he had the containers of food they were taking home, including the rest of the cake, and then we waved as they got into their van.
“May I put the game away?” Tracey asked once we were back in the living room.
“Of course, but I don’t mind doing it,” I said.
“Thank you, Tracey,” Kathleen said. “Roberta and I are just going to the kitchen for a few minutes. Call out if you need us.”
She started to put the game away, and I followed Kathleen into the kitchen.
“Thanks for inviting us,” she said. “I know I’ve had a great time and think all the kids did, and you and Sean.” She grinned at me. “I made sure he got a chance to be alone with you. We don’t have long, but would you like a kiss?”
Wow, I thought as I leaned in for a kiss, Sean getting his Fridays mixed up was the best mistake he’d ever made.