After an eternity of staring down at slides and data readings, it felt like my eyes were going to melt out of their sockets and brain matter was going to start dripping out of my nose. I stepped back and pressed my hands against the small of my back, a wave of popping and cracking ensuing.
“I think that’s a new record, even by your standards,” came a wry voice near me. My fellow intern, Derek, turned away from the analysis he was working on. “I was beginning to think you’d petrified over there.”
I laughed and shook my head. “I was in the zone, huh?” How long had I been absorbed in my work before the tiredness of my mind had gotten to me? I turned my wrist up and checked the time. “Oh, shit, man. I’m late.”
Derek glanced at the wall clock. “It’s a quarter to six. Not so bad. Or is your old lady riding you about working late?”
“No, no, I was supposed to pick my father up at the airport.” The first chance I’d had to see Jean in almost a year and a half, and I’d gone and left him stranded at the airport.
“Oooh, yeah.” Derek winced. “You’re fucked.”
“No shit. I’ve gotta run. See you on Monday.” I hurried out of the lab, not even bothering to change into my street clothes.
Outside, I pulled out my phone and called Alison. Please, please, please be home. If we’d both worked late, nobody would’ve even been around to let Jean into the apartment if he’d grabbed a cab there.
“Hello?” Her voice came over the line.
“Alison, I lost track of time – “
“I’ve got him.”
I stumbled to a halt. “What?”
My girlfriend, in a very amused tone, repeated, “I’ve got him. Luc, how long have I known you? I knew you’d get distracted and never remember to pick him up, so I did it.”
I sighed in relief. “This. This right here is why I love you.”
“There are many, many reasons for that,” she said confidently.
“You’re amazing. It’s too late for me to cook, so do you want me to pick something up?”
“As soon as you hang up, I’m ordering pizza.”
I grinned. “Alison, you’re my kinda woman.” I hung up and headed to my car with a bounce in my step. Since I worked in Riverview, I’d probably get home just after dinner arrived, as long as I didn’t hit traffic.
About forty minutes later, I walked into the apartment to be greeted by the unique scent of tomato sauce and carbs that signaled pizza. Alison and Jean rose up from their seats when the door opened.
Jean gave me a quick hug. “Next time, maybe you set an alarm?”
I laughed and nodded. “I definitely will. I hope you didn’t have to wait long.”
He shook his head. “Not at all.” Jean smiled softly. “You know, Therese was like that. She would get so absorbé in what she was doing – it was pas possible to distract her.”
“It’s nice to know I’m genetically predisposed to it.” I snorted softly. “I’d planned to cook tonight, but, I promise, I will tomorrow. I’m off, so no distractions.”
“Except your thesis,” Alison said, giving me a nudge.
I grimaced. “Yeah, I should put in a little time on that.” After giving Alison a quick kiss hello, I led the way to the dining table where the box of delicious-smelling pizza sat
Jean took a seat. “You’re still working on your doctorate?”
“I am Sisyphus, and thesis is my boulder,” I sighed.
Alison snorted softly, sitting down next to me. “You’re exaggerating. You’re really close now.”
I smiled a little. “True, but they might tell me to redo it a hundred times. It’s not easy to pass the review.”
“You will,” Jean nodded. “You’ll be a docteur in no time.”
“Well, let’s hope.” A researcher with a doctorate, at least. I’d leave all the cutting and bleeding to Mom. I much preferred the actual research over writing about it, though, which was one reason it was taking me so long to finish my thesis. “Jean, how are things going? Is the new job treating you well?” I asked, changing the subject. Not long ago, he’d left his landscaping job and gotten something in an office for better money.
“Oh, oui, bien. It’s strange to do so much paperwork, though, and I miss working with my hands,” he admitted.
“You should start a garden,” Alison suggested.
I smiled. “She’s right. That’s exactly what you should do.”
He cocked his head to the side, mulling it over. “You might be right. I’ll try that when I get home.”
“I was talking to Loralee today,” Alison said after a bite of pizza. “She’s not working at the restaurant tomorrow night. I was thinking, if Jean would like, we could ask them over.”
Jean smiled. “Oui! I love seeing your family, Luc.”
I leaned over and kissed Alison on the cheek. “Great idea. What would I do without you?”
“Crash and burn.”
The next day, after we got back from a movie, I started on dinner. With Jean’s enthusiastic approval, I’d invited Loralee and Tommy over that morning and told them to bring the kids along, too. From in the kitchen, I heard commotion in the living room that signaled their arrival. I headed into the other room to greet them.
“Who is this?” Jean asked with a laugh when Logan walked inside.
Loralee smiled and turned to face him while Tommy set up Jasper’s bassinet. “I don’t think you’ve seen Logan since he was a baby. Logan, this is Uncle Luc’s father, Monsieur Marchand.”
Logan pursed his lips. “If you’re Unc’a Luc’s dad, how come you aren’t my grampa?”
Jean shifted uncomfortably on his feet; I could tell he was thinking too far into it and wondering how to explain it to a five-year-old. I just smiled at my nephew. “Because I’m adopted. Remember, squirt? That means I have extra family.”
The little boy pondered it for a moment and then an excited grin split his face. “Do you get extra presents at Christmas? And your birthday?”
I laughed. “Well, I suppose I could.”
Logan turned to his mother. “Mama, I wanna be adop-kid.”
Tommy snorted loudly. He sat down on the couch and reached back to tousle the kid’s hair while Loralee just rolled her eyes. “No such luck. You’re stuck with us, kiddo.”
“Besides,” Loralee said. “You’ve got Grandma Anna and Uncle Blake and Aunt Brianna.”
“That’s right,” I said. It suddenly occurred to me that our family tree might be a little too complicated for a five-year-old to grasp.
Leaving them to try to explain it, I headed back into the kitchen to check on dinner. I didn’t realize that Jean had followed me until he spoke.
“You’re très bien with him.”
“Well, he’s my nephew,” I said with a smile. “I’m as stuck with him as he is with my sister.” I turned away from the stove to face him. “Really, I like kids.”
“I can tell. Have you thought of having any of your own? You’re vingt-sept – twenty-seven – a good age to start a family.”
I leaned against the counter. “You know, I’ve never wanted kids. Alison, either.”
Jean stepped closer and lowered his voice. “But?”
I wanted to deny that there had been an obvious if unspoken “but” at the end of my sentence, but it wasn’t possible. I shrugged. “Lately, looking at Loralee and Tommy with their kids…I don’t know, I’ve started thinking a little bit differently.” In the living room, I heard Logan let out peals of laughter. I smiled a little. “But I don’t really want my own kids. I’ve really been thinking about it, and what I’d really like is to be a foster parent.”
“Have you said something to Alison?”
I shook my head. “God, no. She’s never wanted kids. Her last serious relationship pretty much imploded because of it.”
“You should tell her,” Jean said seriously. “You have changed. Perhaps she has, as well.”
“Maybe, but this isn’t the time.” I didn’t just mean this week. I wasn’t sure about Alison, but I sure as Hell wasn’t where I wanted to be if a kid entered the mix. “Honestly, I don’t even want to worry about it until I’ve got my doctorate and a good job. One day, I’d like to foster, but not yet.”
Jean made a soft huffing sound. “You still should talk to her.”
I shrugged. “I will. When it’s the right time.”