“Why don’t you go upstairs and change before dinner?”
“We’re just eating here, right?”
“Yes, but you have boob milk stains on your shirt. I just thought maybe you’d want to shower and change.”
He was right. I needed to have more pride in how I looked.
“I would love to.”
Justin looked after Bea while I showered. I decided to go all out and put on a tube dress. I brushed my hair out and made up my eyes. It kind of felt like I was getting ready for a date, and I needed to stop that train of thought.
I thought I would find Justin cooking when I returned downstairs. I’d told him to put her in the bouncy seat. Instead, he was holding Bea and rocking back and forth, looking out the window. He didn’t know I’d been watching him.
“Oh, hey. She didn’t want to go in the seat, started crying, so we’ve just been watching the sunset.” My heart clenched.
“You need to cook, right?”
“Yeah, but it won’t take very long.”
I reached out my arms, and to my surprise, Bea started to cry in protest when I tried to take her from him. Patting her back, I said, “I don’t think she wanted to leave you.”
“No. It’s just your imagination.”
“Really? Want to test it?” I held her out toward him again.
Justin cradled her in his arms again, and sure enough, Bea stopped crying. She was looking up at him. It seemed the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
“My imagination, huh?”
He smiled down at her. “I don’t know why she likes me. I don’t even do anything but hold her.”
“To a baby, that’s everything.”
Suddenly looking a little uncomfortable, he handed her back to me. “You’d better take her.”
Back in my grasp, Bea started to fuss again, so I took her to the living room and fed her while Justin got dinner started.
There was a knock at the door.
“Are you expecting someone?” Justin hollered from the kitchen.
“No. Do you mind getting it? She’s still eating.” I readjusted the blanket over my shoulder for privacy.
I couldn’t see the front door from where I was sitting, but I could hear everything.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Roger. I live next door. You are?”
“Justin. This is my house.”
“Oh, that’s right. She mentioned a seasonal roommate.”
“Can I help you?”
“Is Amelia here?”
“Yes, but she’s feeding the baby.”
“I was just down at the dock. I bought her some shellfish.”
“Amelia! Roger is here. He brought you some snatch,” Justin yelled.
Covering myself as fast as I could, I shouted, “Coming!”
Trying to seem nonchalant, I said, “Hey!”
“Hi, Amelia. Sorry if I’m disturbing something.”
“No, no not at—”
“Actually, we were just about to eat,” Justin interrupted.
Roger looked annoyed. “How long are you staying, Justin?”
“As long as I need to.”
“Amelia told me your girlfriend is a Broadway star, right?”
“That’s really gnarly.”
“Gnarly? What the fuck are you a surfer or something?” Justin lifted his hands in a shaka sign. “Woe!”
“Roger, don’t mind Justin. That was really sweet of you to bring the crabs. I so appreciate it.”
“Crabs…interesting choice,” Justin scoffed.
“I’d better let you guys eat.”
“We’ll talk soon.” I smiled.
“Take care, Amelia. Nice meeting you, Justin.”
Justin did a little salute. “Roger that!”
When Justin slammed the door behind Roger, I turned to him. “You’re being a total prick.”
“Come on. I was just messing with him.”
“You think it’s funny, but he’s the only friend I have here, and you’re going to scare him away. After you take off to New York again, I’m going to need someone to talk to. It’s very lonely out here.”
“You don’t need that tool. Why would you need him? You live in Providence anyway.”
Biting my lip, I said, “Actually…I was gonna talk to you about something.”
“I might take a year off…from my teaching job. I got kicked out of my apartment because the owner sold the building. I don’t have a place to live in the city anymore, and I’m not sure I’m ready to put Bea in daycare at the end of the summer. I was going to ask you if it was okay if I stay in this house in the off season.”
“This house is yours. Of course, it’s okay. I would never tell you otherwise. You shouldn’t even have to ask.”
“Alright. Well, now that I got that out of the way, I feel better. Thank you.”
“Dinner’s ready. Put her down so you can eat.”
Justin had poured wine for each of us.
“Oh…I can’t drink, Justin.”
“Shit. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Well, they say I can have one drink, but I’ve still been hesitant.”
“That’s fine. It won’t go to waste.”
Justin had made rice casserole. We were halfway through our meal when Bea started crying from her bouncy seat. When I got up to get her, Justin stopped me.
“Finish your food. I’ve got her.”
“He lifted her and brought her over to the table. As always, she quieted in his arms as she stretched her neck to look up at his face. This time, she reached out her little hand and started to play with his scruff.
“Hey, you trying to say I need to shave?”
Watching him with her always gave me goosebumps.
Don’t go there, Amelia.
Bea started to babble. It almost looked like she was trying to talk to him.
Justin pretended to understand her. “Oh yeah?” When she passed gas, he didn’t even flinch. He just said, “Well, excuse me!”
The whole thing was making me crack up.
After I finished, I took her back from him and fed her on the couch while Justin cleaned up the kitchen. Bea fell back asleep after her meal.
When Justin joined us in the living room, it occurred to me that he’d had plans to go out.
“Aren’t you supposed to be meeting Tom for a drink?”
“Nah. I think I’m gonna skip it. I’m playing tomorrow night. I’ll probably meet up with him after that instead.”
His phone vibrated and he answered, “Hey.”
I wasn’t completely sure who he was talking to until he looked over at me and said, “Jade says hi.”
“Hi, Jade.” I smiled, even though inside I was starting to feel that old familiar jealousy creep in again. Maybe it was a good thing that she called when she did, because a reality check was desperately needed.
Then, he walked away to finish the call in the other room.
When he returned, he said, “I have to go back to New York this weekend.”
My heart felt like it dropped to my stomach. “Oh. Just for the weekend?”
“Maybe a little longer.”
It was Friday night, and Justin had already left for his gig at Sandy’s. He was supposed to be leaving early the next morning to head back to New York. While I’d originally told him I wouldn’t be going to see him perform, I was seriously second-guessing my decision. Who knew if and when he’d be back? After all, he’d come for some alone time only to find Bea and I wreaking havoc on his life. I’m not sure I would choose to return if I were him.