Garret was giving the kids a bath later Friday evening when his cell phone rang. He let it go to voicemail and finished shampooing and rinsing their hair. He dried them off and put diapers on them, and let them run around like that while he checked his phone.
It was Emily. Curious that she would call on a Friday evening, he phoned her back.
“What’s up, Em?”
“Peg would like to see the kids tomorrow if she could.” She didn’t waste any time getting to the point of her call. That was another thing to like about Em. She was a straightforward speaker.
“My mom is planning to come over tomorrow.”
“Do you think she would like a Saturday off?”
“What does Peg have in mind?”
“She would like to have the kids here for a few hours, so she and Dan can see them. And Scott is bringing Melanie over for a visit. She isn’t supposed to be out of bed, but she insists that she is well enough to lay on the couch and visit with her dad. Peg thought Melanie would like to see Chloe and Cody too.” So much for straightforward. Emily sounded like she was reading right off a video screen.
“You know, you aren’t very good at this.”
“At what?” She sounded confused.
“Playing the mediator.”
Her laugh was genuine. “You got me there. I take it Julie was much better at it?”
Garret didn’t even mind Julie’s name said in jest, when it was Emily. He knew she missed Julie almost as much as he did, in different ways.
He cleared his throat. “She had more years of practice, I guess. I’ll call my mom and call you right back.”
“Okay.” That was the voice that sounded more like Emily. Strong and peppy.
Garret ended the call with Emily and entered his mom’s number.
“Garret, is everything okay?”
His mom’s concern for him was genuine, and she never interfered with the way he raised the kids. He couldn’t have survived these past few months without her support.
“Peg wants to spend time with the kids tomorrow, so you won’t have to come down.”
“Is she able to do that, with Dan laid up?”
“Emily’s there to help her.”
His mom had always liked Emily. “That’s right, she’s been babysitting for you this week instead of Peg. How is that going?”
“She’s great with them. Chloe’s even warming up to her.” That fact still surprised Garret, but it had been a relief to not have Chloe cry when he handed her off this morning.
“If you’re sure you don’t need me, then I’ll find something to keep me busy around home.”
At the note of doubt in his mom’s voice, Garret’s heart wrenched a little. She’d given up a lot to spend her Saturdays helping him.
“It will be fine. Thanks for everything, Mom.”
“Now Garret, you know there is nothing else I’d rather do than help you, don’t you?”
Garret ended the call with his mom and called Emily back.
“Hello again,” Emily greeted him with laughter in her voice. “What did your mom say?”
“She said she’s okay with it and will find something to do around home. Kind of makes me feel guilty that she has spent so many Saturdays helping out.”
“It’s temporary, right? All of this overtime?”
“You sound like Peg.”
“Oh no, not that.”
Her light response made him relax. “She probably told you to say it, right?” he joked.
“Can I use that as an excuse?”
“What time does Peg want to pick up the kids? I’m flexible on my time to go into the office.”
There was silence for a moment, then Emily said, “She will pick them up at ten o’clock.”
“Okay. Come with her, won’t you? We may need a mediator.”
“I’m no good at it, you said.”
“You’ll do in a pinch.”
Garret ended the call. He had no idea why he was in such a lighthearted mood. He could get angry with Emily in an instant, but she could also make him laugh. And he hadn’t laughed in a long time.
That lightheartedness vanished when Peg pulled into his driveway the next morning. He was standing on the front porch, holding Chloe. Cody was playing with a noisy truck beside him.
Peg looked like she was walking towards him with a purpose. He immediately felt defensive.
He was surprised when she smiled. “Thanks for letting me take them today,” she said, reaching out for Chloe. Chloe came to her willingly, without tears. Garret was relieved.
“She doesn’t do that for me,” Emily said, pretending to be upset. She smiled as her eyes met Garret’s. He brought Cody down the steps and handed him over. “This one won’t cry when you take him.”
Cody was all smiles when Emily said hello to him and tickled him under the chin.
Garret handed Peg the diaper bag. She shifted Chloe onto her hip and unzipped it, checking its contents. It aggravated him that she did not trust him to know what his kids needed.
Emily watched her, then looked at Garret. She shrugged, with a small grin. Just like that, his aggravation lifted.
“You know, you can have them any time you want them,” he said, feeling like he was being generous.
“Of course you would say that,” Peg snapped. “Any chance you have to pass them onto someone else and go into work you take.”
His anger boiled over. He walked back in the house and shut the door without telling his kids good-bye. Peg was a real thorn in his flesh.
Then he scoffed at himself for using a Biblical term. Wouldn’t Emily like to know that?
Somehow, thinking of Emily quoting the Bible to him made him smile.
End of Chapter 4.