“Hi, Dad,” says, Maya coming into the apartment first. Kanu follows, with his mother, Lara. Before I can say anything, she unloads.
“I… cannot… believe… you forgot. I thought you were doing me a favour…” she sees Cindy.
“I’m Cindy.” She offers her hand and half-bows. Lara shakes it, gormless. Maya is watching wide eyed, her cheeks hard, supressing a grin.
Then there is a cavernous five second silence, so I step in, “This is Lara, my ex-wife and the mother of my children.” She finally says hello. Then her eyes narrow and scan the apartment.
“This is Maya, my daughter,” I continue. Cindy shakes her hand. Maya is silence. Her mouth is clamped into into a tense, but polite grin.
“And this is my son, Kanu.” I notice his outfit for the first time. A blue, fluffy, onesie with exaggerated fox ears on the hood. “And I don’t know what he is wearing.” Cindy smiles and introduces herself. Kanu mumbles something. I look at Maya for help and raise my eyebrows. She shakes her head imperceptible. Her amusement is spilling out of her.
“Can I speak to you a moment?” asks Lara.
I look at Cindy, she tilts her head.
Lara leads me out into the corridor and waits for the click of confidentiality from the front door.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“If you’re going to introduce the kids to a new girlfriend, don’t you think you should let me know in advance?”
“You’ve lived with three men since we broke up – that I know of anyway.”
“Well, that’s different.”
I shake my head, “Are we done now?”
“Is she going to be here all weekend?”
“She could be. Why did you bring Maya?”
She smiles. I’ve forgotten something and she is relishing having the upper hand again. “She’s going to that festival this weekend. You forgot didn’t you. Forgot that Kanu was staying with you this weekend.” I give her a tight smile. “Is she even really a girlfriend or have I interrupted a booty call? Isn’t it a bit early?”
“It’s OK. She’s got to work at the club tonight.”
Lara spits out a laugh, “She’s a bar girl?”
“No, she’s a dancer.” As the last word leaves my lips I open the apartment door, locking her face into tight, silent rage. “Let’s step back inside now. Maya won’t want to be late.”
“Nice to meet you,” says Lara to Cindy. Moving towards the door. No handshake.
Maya smiles and nods at Cindy, “Nice to meet you.”
“The pleasure was mine, actually,” Cindy says. The two hold eye contact for a moment. Then move into each other for a quick hug. Maya almost a foot taller but half her width.
Then Maya comes to me, clamps her bony arms around me and plants a kiss on my cheek. She whispers, “Are you alright?”
“You’re getting weaker.”
“Let me know if you need anything.” She pushes warmth into my mind. She’s so loud with her thoughts, a lighthouse. For a moment I wonder if there will be others at the festival who will feel her. I should have done more to prepare her. I make a mental note to teach her how to contain it better the next time she stays here.
The deep click of the closing door announces that it is just the three of us now. In the awkward silence I notice my balls are aching from the unfinished foreplay earlier. I imagine them like rotten plums, ready to explode and leaking rotten, lazy, early forties, pre-cum.
“I need to make a phone call to work,” I say. I step into another room, feeling bad that I am leaving Kanu and Cindy to resolve the tension.
Ozzy, the CEO-founder picks up on the second ring. He’s 37 but he answers the phone with, “Yo.”
“Hi Ozzy. Look I’ll be straight, I’ve fucked up.”
“No. My ex wife just turned up with my son. I forgot he is supposed to be with me this weekend. Our pattern has changed and… yeah it’s a fuck up. I don’t think I can come to the retreat.”
“Yeah. We booked out the whole hotel. Didn’t you read the email?”
“I don’t read your emails, Ozzy.” I am only half joking.
“Others are bringing family and partners too. We have all the rooms, dude. How old is your son? He can have his own room.”
“See you there then. Look forward to meeting him. Oh, he might need some outdoor clothes. You know the hotel is in the middle of nowhere right? There’s a pool and a gym at the hotel but he might get bored quick. If he wants to explore the woods or go shooting or anything.”
He’s wearing an aquamarine, cartoon fox outfit, “Yeah, I think his clothes are more… urban.”
“Hold on,” I hear Ozzy tapping on his laptop. “Yeah I thought so. They have an outdoor clothes shop there. It looks a bit tweedy, but fuck it. If he wants to go exploring at least he has the option.”
“Well you better get going, I think you’ve got the furthest of everyone to travel.”
“See you then.”
“See you.” He hangs up.
> Be me
> 41 yo empath
> Has GF and son
> Scared of spending time with either
In the living area Cindy and Kanu are sitting on the couch. Kanu is telling a story, waving his hands around and actually making eye contact. Cindy is smiling at the right points. This is the first time I’ve seen Kanu looking anything but bored since… I don’t know. Kanu pauses when he notices me.
“Don’t unpack your bags. You’re coming with me to the hotel.”
“Don’t sound too happy about it,” teases Cindy.
“Yes. You’re right. It’ll be fun. Sorry.”
“I’ll cancel my shifts,” says Cindy. She pulls a massive phone out of her microscopic handback. The handbag is expensive but has been warped into a twisted shape.
“Can’t I come too?” she asks, bringing a hand to her chest, mock offence.
“What about your daughter.”
“She’s with her dad for the weekend.”
“Fuck it, why not. I’ll see if the neighbours want to come as well.”
“Great,” she says, ignoring my sarcasm and squeals. Her excitement makes me feel hollow. Why am I such a dick. Am I a shit dad?
“What do you do for work?” asks Kanu.
“I erm… I work in a bar.” says Cindy.