After Garret left, everyone else soon followed, except for Melanie and Scott. It was obvious that they had something they wanted to talk about, when they sat down in the living room with Dan and asked Peg and Emily to join them.
“You know how I planned on quitting my job to stay at home? Well, I’m having second thoughts.”
Melanie’s announcement made her mom angry.
“You’re going to go back to work and leave Lance in day care?”
“I miss the company of other adults, and the challenge of my job. I thought I would love to be home with Lance, and I do, but I’m not sure I want to be at home all the time.”
“You’ll get used to being home all day with the baby. It just takes some adjustment.”
Melanie looked close to tears now. It was obvious that she had hoped that her mom would understand. Emily felt sorry for her.
“My boss offered to let me go back to work part-time, rather than lose me altogether. I wouldn’t have the benefits, but I won’t need them now that Scott has insurance through his work.”
“I hate to see Lance go into day care, and I don’t know if I can watch all three of them.” Peg’s voice trembled.
“We aren’t asking you to babysit him. Scott’s cousin has a day care in her home, and she has room for him starting in September.”
“You don’t want to leave him for someone else to raise.”
At Peg’s insistence, Scott put his arm around Melanie. “Mel’s job is important to her. She and I are agree that she should try the part time position.”
“I thought you were going to help with the day care for Chloe and Cody. We’ve talked about it.”
“I don’t know if I can. Lance is a lot of work, and so are they. I don’t think I can handle all three. Or if I really want to.”
Peg did not say anymore, but even Emily could see that the discussion was not over.
“Give it a couple of more weeks, Melanie.” Peg sounded almost desperate. “Don’t make any decision you will regret.”
“I’ll give it a few days.” Melanie held her ground against her mom, surprising Emily. Her cousins, Julie included, usually let their mom tell them what the should do.
After Melanie and Scott left, Peg sat on the edge of her chair, twisting her hands. “I just don’t think I can go back to watching the twins five days a week.”
Her admission surprised Emily.
“You don’t have to. Garret doesn’t expect you to.”
“Garret doesn’t want me to.” She emphasized the “want.”
“Now Peg, Garret has been very thankful for your help.” Dan’s voice was calm and reassuring. “But it’s time you have your life back. I don’t mind if you keep watching them a couple of days a week, but it’s too much for you to go back to five days a week, especially with the long hours he keeps.”
“I need to talk to him. I told him that Melanie was going to quit her job after Lance was born. She and I had decided to share the care of the twins. It would give me a break and help her out financially.” A dark look passed over her features. “I can’t believe Melanie is thinking of letting a stranger watch Lance while she works.”
“It isn’t a stranger. It’s Scott’s cousin.” Dan’s reminder went over Peg’s head.
“I’ll have to talk to Garret. I can’t go back to taking care of the kids five days a week. He will have to find someone else, which means the Chloe and Cody will have to go to a stranger for day care also.”
Why don’t you let Emily talk to him? You’re too upset. No sense the two of you getting into an argument over it.”
Peg’s chin jutted out. “I can deal with Garret.”
“But you don’t have to.” Dan’s tone was firm. Then he turned to Emily. “Emily, you will be there this week, maybe you can talk to him. Remind him that you are going back home in a couple of weeks, and ask him if he can find part-time day care.”
Emily didn’t like being put in the position as mediator, and Garret had already told her she wasn’t any good at it. But someone had to bring up the subject.
“I’ll do it this week.”
It took time for Emily to get up the courage to tell Garret he would have to find alternate day care. She put off the conversation until Wednesday. She waited until he got home from work and got the twins settled.
“I don’t know if you are aware that I’m only watching the kids until the end of July.”
He looked puzzled. “I know. Then Peg was going to take over again, right?”
“I don’t think she can.”
“She can’t watch them?”
“She can’t watch them five days a week like she has been doing. And Uncle Dan doesn’t want her to.”
“Last time I talked to her, she said she and Melanie were going to split their care between the two of them. That isn’t going to work now?”
“Melanie got offered a part-time position. She’s going to take it. She’ll be taking Lance to Scott’s cousin. She has a day care in her home.”
“I wonder if she has room for two more.”
Emily had talked a little with Melanie about Scott’s cousin’s day care. “I don’t think she has any openings right now. But she would probably be able to recommend someone who might have room.”
“I guess I’d better get a couple of numbers. This gives me some time to check into it before you leave in a couple of weeks.”
“I actually have four weeks yet before I have to go back to work. I don’t mind babysitting until then.” In fact, Emily wasn’t in a hurry to quit her babysitting job. She enjoyed her time with Julie’s toddlers. The thought of going back to an empty house, and a roomful of five-year-olds, had lost its appeal.
“Why would you want to give up the rest of your vacation to watch them?”
His harsh question hurt her. She couldn’t tell him the full reason. She would miss the twins, but she was also concerned about what Garret would do when she left. He didn’t confide in anyone, but he’d started to open up to her. She thought it had been helping him work through his grief process. If he came home to an empty house every night, or worse, to Peg’s nagging and complaints, would he regress to the angry shell of himself that he’d been a few weeks ago?”
“I guess because I enjoy spending time with them.”
His eyes narrowed. “No other reason?”
Emily sighed. There was a third reason, but it was quite embarrassing. She decided to confess it to him, anyway.
“There are a couple of singles’ activities coming up in the next few weeks. If I am already staying here in the city, I don’t have to give the impression that I am coming into town for the weekends just to go to the events. I think that sounds pretty desperate.”
His eyes narrowed. “You really want to get married, don’t you?”
Tears stung her eyes, but she blinked them away. She’d always wanted to get married and have a family of her own. She hadn’t made that a secret.
“I’ve seen some good marriages. I think I would like the chance to try it myself.”
She smiled as she said the words lightly, but she didn’t seem to be fooling him.
“I guess I can’t fault you on that. Julie and I had a good marriage. And I like being a dad. Just not a single dad. Okay then.” His tone turned business-like. “I won’t turn down your offer to babysit for another month. But I will pay you the same as I would pay another day care.”
“No you won’t. I am volunteering to do this.”
He shook his head. “You volunteered for one week, and it has already stretched to three. I’ll pay you back pay, plus pay for the next four.”
Emily was about to argue, but she saw the stubborn set to his jaw. She recalled that Julie had told her about that jaw. Once he got “that look,” Julie used to say there was no changing his mind. She did not need the money for babysitting, but apparently, he was going to pay her, anyway.
Later that evening, Emily texted Melanie, who in turn got a couple of numbers of reliable day care providers from Scott’s cousin.
Emily brought those numbers to Garret on Thursday morning. “These are two people whom Scott’s cousin recommended that you check with for day care.”
He took them without looking at them. “I guess it is really happening, isn’t it?”
“Life is moving on.”
“Wasn’t it moving before?”
Garret sighed. “My life fell apart, but the twins adjusted after a few weeks. Peg came in and took over their care while I was working, just like Julie had been doing. Maybe not in the same ways, but I never had to worry about missing work if they were sick. She did the laundry and the cleaning, and even prepared supper for us a few times a week.”
“And now it’s all changing.”
“Yeah. I mean, I had a hard time getting along with Peg, but she really was what they needed. Now, though, I think they need to be out with other children. Chloe is clingy and hasn’t started talking yet. Cody is a little hyper and gets out of control sometimes. Maybe someone else will have some positive influence over them.”
Emily reached out and touched his arm. “You have been a great dad, Garret. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you haven’t done a good job raising your kids. Sure, Peg was there while you were working, but you had the tough times. Bedtime, waking in the night, weekends. And you did it by yourself.”
He drew his arm back.
“You are a good dad,” she repeated, in a firm voice.
He cleared his throat. “I’ll make a couple of calls this weekend.”
End of Chapter 9.