SINCE INSTITUTING MY EXPERT ORGANIZATIONAL design in Dody's kitchen, putting away the dishes was a snap. Now if only I could get them to adhere to my refrigerator-shelf-labeling system, life would be even easier. But it almost seemed as if they didn't care. I scolded Fontaine as he set a jar of Dijon mustard next to a carton of free-range, grain-fed, self-actualized chicken eggs.
"Hey! Look!" I tapped hard on the correctly label shelf. "It says right here: condiments. Mustard is a condiment."
He scratched the side of his nose with his middle finger. "Do the words OCD mean anything to you?"
"Those are letters, not words. And you're the one who told me to organize."
"I had no idea what a field of land mines that would create."
"Just put the mustard where it belongs and nobody gets hurt, OK?"
"On one condition. You have to call Des."
"Extortion. Persuasion. Whatever. He probably thinks you're mad at him." Fontaine set a jar of pickles next to the soy milk just to piss me off.
I moved the pickles to the pickle shelf. "I am mad. It was humiliating. God, Fontaine. It was like he couldn't remember my name."
"Maybe he was protecting you. Like, maybe she's some crazy stalker who'd come after you with a machete."
"Spaghetti? Who's having spaghetti? We just ate," Dody asked, wandering in from the dining room with Paige and Jordan.
"I want cake for dessert. Not masghetti," Jordan pouted.
"See what you started?" I said to Fontaine.
I covered both my ears. "La la la. I can't hear you."
"Are you calling Daddy, Mommy? Are we going to see him tomorrow?" Paige asked.
They were supposed to, yes. But he hadn't called to confirm, so I couldn't be certain. Richard didn't like to be tied down with tiny details, such as keeping promises to his kids. Plus he was still mad at me for staying here with Fontaine.
"I'll check with him, Paige. I'll go call him right now."
"Hello?" Richard drawled into the phone.
"Richard, hi. It's Sadie. I wanted to check with you about bringing the kids." If I could make this conversation short and to the point, maybe we wouldn't end up fighting.
"Oh, yeah, I was just about to call you."
I braced myself. Here came the cancellation and some lame-ass excuse, like he had to donate a kidney that day or his boss was sending him to Barbados.
"Listen, I want to apologize for being upset with you last time. I guess Fontaine has a right to stay wherever he wants. And if the kids aren't freaked out by him or anything, I guess I shouldn't make you cut your vacation short."
I pulled the phone away and examined it. This must be a toy, with my wishful imagination creating words in Richard's voice. He thought apologizing was for pussies. (His expression, not mine.) But the phone was real. I put it back to my ear.
"Richard, are the terrorists making you say this? Do they have a gun to your head?"
He chuckled. "No, but I've done a lot of soul-searching lately. I'm tired of fighting with you all the time and I guess I haven't been fair – about you staying at Dody's, I mean. It's only for a couple months, right? And you promised me Fontaine is behaving himself, so I'm OK with it."
I sank down to the floor in a heap. Could he mean it? This was 180 degrees from normal.
"Richard, this is so…so open-minded of you."
"Yeah, maybe an old dog can learn a few new tricks, huh? You know, I've been seeing this therapist, and she's taught me a lot. You should be proud of me."
I bit my tongue. So what if he was sleeping with his therapist? If she could turn him into a nicer man, then so be it. It wasn't any of my business.
Richard continued. "And listen, just to prove I really mean it, why not let me come pick them up this time? I can be in Bell Harbor by noon and take them up to my brother Chet's place for a couple days. You know, maybe keep them a little longer this time, if that's OK with you. I've got a few vacation days saved up and I've been missing my P and J something terrible."
I put my head in my hand. This was unbefuckinglievable. Aliens had taken over my ex-husband's body and somehow turned him human in the process. My insides liquefied. I felt whooshy and soft. Dody kept telling me to forgive and forget. If he was finally coming around, maybe now was the time to give that a test run.
"The kids are anxious to see you too, Richard. I'm sure they'd love to have some extra time. Are you sure you don't mind picking them up?"
"No, it's no problem. It's sort of on the way. Just make sure you pack their life preservers in case we go on Chet's boat."
"Sure, OK." Was he actually becoming safety conscious too? I looked out the window for a flying pig.
"Great. Thanks, Sadie. I really appreciate you being so understanding. Chet and his kids will be there. We're going to fish and camp out, just like we used to do as a family. I'm really looking forward to it."
After our good-byes, I hung up the phone and sat cross-legged on the floor until Jordan found me. "Mommy, what are you doing? Are we going to see Daddy?"
"Yes, baby, you are. And I think you're going to have a very fun time."