* * * *
“Are you sure?” Peter asked, stuffing his wallet and phone into his pockets while Andrew fastened his shoes.
“Yeah, absolutely, you two go out, have a good night,” Helena told him, having just refused their offer to join them on a night out. She felt they deserved some time together, what with having spent more than week putting up with her and the kids, and she could see they were happy about the prospect of some alone time.
Peter grinned back at her, silently thankful that he got Andrew all to himself, and told her, “We will… Don’t wait up.” Andrew followed him to the door, saying a goodbye to his sister while she saw them out, waiting until they were already seated in the back of the awaiting taxi before closing the front door. She let out a long breath and made her way back into the living area. The children had been playing in the paddling pool around the back for most of the day and worn themselves out. They now sat in the living room, oblivious to the setting sun whilst completely engrossed in the animated film playing on the wide-screen television.
Helena smiled at the sight of them together, sharing a blanket, Leah’s head resting against her big brother’s arm. Away from the raucous noise coming from the television, the Brit allowed herself the indulgence of thought, casting her mind back to her children’s development in behaviour since her and Robbie’s split. She knew the effect it had on them would not be positive, but she had been too caught up in her own turmoil to foresee the extent of the distress they were in. They became shadows of themselves, afraid to voice their opinions lest their words crack their already fragile family home into shattering completely. Time had healed their little family, there was on doubt about that, though even now Helena could see the missing pieces in her childrens’ personalities; she could only hope that they had not been permanently scathed because of their parents actions.
“Mummy?” Leah’s voice broke through Helena’s thoughts, causing her to lift a smile to her face. The little girl, upon seeing the change in her mother’s expression, continued, “Why didn’t he just leave Nemo alone?”
Frowning, Helena inquired, “What, sweetheart?”
“The diver. Why did he take Nemo away from his daddy?” Leah questioned, her brow slightly furrowed in both confusion and annoyance. Nicky turned from the screen, then, staring at his mother as he, too, awaited an answer.
Helena offered them a little shrug. She understood the parallels her children were making with the character from the film and their own situation, though was unsure how to explain it to them without them seeing her as the horrid ‘diving dentist’ who had stolen them away from their father. “He wanted him for himself, didn’t he? He didn’t understand that Nemo needed his daddy,” Helena tried, waiting for their reaction.
Nicky was first to answer, Leah merely offering a blank stare, and stated bluntly, “He should have,” before turning back to the screen and engaging in the film.
Feeling slightly stung by her son’s words, whether or not that was his intention, Helena shuffled back in her seat. Leah was still watching her, however, almost expecting her mother to further her explanation. Swallowing the lump in her throat, Helena told her softly, “He’s not away forever, though, baby…Nemo sees his daddy again.”
“I know…and Dory…” Leah told her, then, as the little blue fish sprung onto the screen, added, “She’s my favourite.”
“I like the fish that make the faces,” Nicky voiced, and Helena felt the tension had lifted enough for her to leave them to their own devices to make a drink.
Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, Helena’s thoughts wondered to her predicament with Dylan. Their dance around the sheets had been unplanned and unexpected, though Helena could not deny that she had enjoyed it. It was this fact that unsettled her, however, having been so certain of herself a mere week earlier. She had always appreciated a beautiful woman, always been able to look easily at toned limbs and tight-fitted outfits, though never in a manner that had ever suggested that she wanted anything more than to own their perfect bodies. And, what with having kicked her own body back into shape after giving birth to both Nicky and Leah, she found herself doing that less and less each day. But there had always been something different about Dylan. Helena believed the woman would be her undoing, though she couldn’t stand to ignore what had happened between them any longer. Dylan had not yet been in touch and she wondered if the other woman was regretting what had happened, or perhaps Dylan believed she regretted what had happened and wanted to give her some space. Either way, despite being unsure about her feelings towards the matter, the Brit knew she could not put off their discussion of it any longer.
Once the kettle had boiled and her tea had been concocted, Helena took a sip from it and went in search for her mobile phone. The little device had been left on the counter top in the kitchen and Helena was unsurprised to find no alerts to either a message or a missed call. Opening a new message, she tapped her thumbs lightly over the keys, not yet typing any letters in while she figured out what to possibly say. Whilst waiting, she added Dylan’s number to the message and took a deep breath as she willed her brain to come up with something acceptable.
Having already disregarded and deleted her first two attempts, Helena settled for a simple, ‘Hey, I think we should talk about what happened the other day. When are you next free?’ There was a part of her that wished to do nothing about their situation, perhaps just not acknowledge that it had ever happened, but the rest of her forced her into hitting ‘send’ and lifting her tea back up to her lips for a steadying mouthful.
Having not expected such a quick reply, Helena almost choked on her tea when her phone began to buzz, signalling a new text message had been received. Willing her insides to refrain from vibrating, Helena quickly reached for her phone and gauged the reply. ‘I’m free tonight…?