Updated: Sep 26, 2021
Lana pushes a cart full of groceries down the snack aisle, both kids reaching out and calling for crackers and cookies. They're starting school soon, and though we'll miss having them around the house, I think we're both ready for the break.
"Should we give in this one time?" she asks, her sweet smile twisted up toward me.
I nod, reluctantly. She knows I can't say no. Not to her, not to their little faces. It's not in my blood. It hasn't been since the day I met her.
As she's reaching for the animal crackers, I notice a figure out the corner of my eye. The figure is a man I haven't seen in ages. When I realize who it is, I reach out and try to turn our cart away. It's not that I don't want to see him, I just don't know what to say. But it's too late, and he's already slack-jawed walking toward us.
"Damon... Lana? Is that you?" the man asks. He still looks the same. Not a year older. Not a day older, really.
I glance toward Lana and we both have the same look in our eye. The one where we want to disappear.
"Ethan," I say, reaching out a hand with the fakest smile I can conjure. "It's been years. How's everything going for you?"
He scans over our cart and the children. "Better than it has been for you guys by the looks." He laughs and immediately retracts it with a 'just kidding', but I know he's serious. I'm sure the last thing he thought he'd ever see was me with a couple of kids.
"We're happy, Ethan," I say, wrapping my arm around Lana. "Happier than we've ever been. What about you? Still partying with strangers?"
He straightens his shoulders and I'm reminded what a big guy he is. "I see you two keep declining my invites. You should come to a party tonight. I'm stocking up now. It's going to be at the Winterfawn mansion up on the hill by the lake in town. You could find a sitter. We cou--"
"I think we're good," I say. "Haven't missed that it for a second. You should try this, the whole settling down thing. You might be surprised."
"Mommy," Eliza says, her eyes glossy as she looks up at Lana and I. "I'm going to throw up."
Ethan laughs. "I think I'm good with a pass on this one."
I lift Eliza from the cart and hold her against my chest. "It was nice catching up with you, but we better get this little one home."
He waves goodbye to us as Lana pushes the cart behind me. Eliza grips firm to my shoulder as we walk, her tiny fingers pressing into my neck.
Lana looks up at me, her eyes wide. "Do you wish you were going tonight? I mean look at us? We're in the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon with two kids. You could be getting ready for a viewing party."
I rub my hand down over Eliza's back and bend to lean into Lana's soft lips, kissing her with the same passion I had five years ago. "This is where I want to be. Do you hear me? In this store with you, picking out animal crackers, rubbing our daughter's back."
She smiles and presses into my side as warmth rushes through me. It's the truth. This is where I'm meant to be, and that will never change.