Sami didn’t even try to keep a smile pasted to her face as she walked out the front door of Buchons’ to meet her ex husband. She’d given up on fake pleasantries right around the time she’d given up fake creamer. It should have gotten easier, meeting him week after week when he picked up the kids for his days. For a while, it had. She’d thought they might even had become friends.
Except he’d fallen in love.
And she wasn’t sure she ever could again.
“I want to tell everyone,” he’d gushed, his eyes brighter than they’d ever been when they’d been married. “I’ve found The One.”
She’d tried to bite her tongue, tried to maintain eye contact, but the words had slipped out. “It’s pretty great when you think you’ve found someone to spend the rest of your life with, isn’t it?”
He’d shuttered up at her bitter words, the arrogant mask he’d worn the last three years of their marriage hardening. “It is,” he’d agreed. “It’s wonderful to find someone who understands you.” In the six months since, he’d been distant. His coldness manifesting into a fastidiousness that had leaked into his relationship with the kids. She’d spoken to him, at length, but his only reaction had been dismissal and an increase in tardiness.
She watched him now, using a napkin purloined from his glove compartment to wipe down his squirming son. His hair was perfect, rumpled just enough to be edgier than a man over forty should be. His shirt – a crisp pale blue – was tucked into jeans with a label she knew cost far more than the clothes he’d bought when married. Everything about him screamed midlife crisis, especially the blonde leaning against the side of the car watching the children with an amused smile.
Sami shifted her eyes, not ready to face the love of Franklin’s life. “Their backpacks are in my car around back. It’s not locked.” She eyed the convertible. The car seat in the back looked out of place and she wasn’t certain the three kids would be comfortable shoved in like sardines. “You might want to put the top up.”
Franklin rolled his eyes. “I’m not an idiot.”
Sami bit back the obvious retort. “What time do you want me to come get them on Sunday?”
“About that,” Franklin glanced back toward the car before leaning in to speak in a low voice, “I’m not going to be able to keep them until Sunday.”
“Well, I made reservations at this fantastic little bed and breakfast for tomorrow night.”
“What?” Sami knew her voice was beginning to squeak by the way Penny glanced over at her. She and Ben were regaling their father’s lover with stories about the lizard which had, Sami noted distantly, grown in size if their hand gestures were any indication.
“Well, it’s our six month anniversary.”
Sami leaned closer. “You knew that before today,” she hissed.
Franklin shrugged, unrepentant. “I’m sure you can find a sitter.”
Sami’s mind raced, going through her back up childcare list, discarding one after another. One friend was out of town, another had the flu. A sudden thought struck her. “You should be finding a sitter,” she said.
Franklin looked shocked. “I don’t have anyone you’d allow to watch them.”
Sami had to admit he was right. When he’d left her, he’d left everyone behind while he started a new life. She had a feeling that if it wasn’t for the kids, she’d never have seen him again.
“Hey, Frank? We should probably get going. Sami has to work and the kids are bouncing.”
Franklin looked over to where Archie was rubbing his face against the previously flawless exterior of his car. “Archie!” Sami winced at the sharpness of his voice. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Before Sami could intercede, help came from an unexpected place. “Jesus Christ, Frank. Chill out. They’re kids. Kids are messy.”
“Don’t roll your eyes at me,” Frank said, but he calmed instantly.
“I’ve been telling him he needs to get on medication, Sami. His OCD is out of control right now. I’m sorry we’re late. I had an appointment run over. Mrs. Hoyt had surgery on Wednesday and the poor thing needed a shampoo and style badly.”
Sami felt herself thaw. Reluctantly. “It’s okay, Mike.”
“And what’s this about tomorrow night, Frank? We have the kids. It’s on the calendar. I know it is because I put it there.”
“It’s our six month anniversary,” Franklin said. Sami noted he didn’t get angry when Mike called him Frank.
“We’ll celebrate next week,” Mike said firmly.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Sami nearly kicked herself. She couldn’t help it. She liked the man her ex-husband had fallen in love with no matter how hard she tried to hate him.