Maybe I’d have to talk to Milo about all of this. He’d be really disappointed in me, but he’d help me out, assuming there was a way to help me out.
We got to the zoo in time for Jack to see the otters and the prairie dogs, and he was overly excited about both of them. We spent a long time in the nocturnal exhibit with the bats, and Jack had way too much fun. As usual, his happiness was contagious, and I was having a great time.
The best thing about the zoo was that most of the people there were children, and children didn’t react to us the way adults do. Some people still stared at us, and a small cluster of people followed us closer than was polite, but it was nothing that I couldn’t shake off. Jack didn’t even notice it at all.
The highlight of the trip was the dolphin show. Jack made sure we sat right down in the front row, so when they jumped out or came to the edge, we got splashed. Afterwards, we went down to the lower level so we could see them in the aquarium. I stood next to the glass, watching them swim as if they were dancing with each other.
“You know, I swam with dolphins once,” Jack said casually. “Mae had always wanted to do it, so the two of us went down to Florida, and we spent all day in the ocean. It was this thing we paid for, so it wasn’t like we randomly found wild dolphins or anything. But it was super awesome. We asked Peter to come with, but he said no, because dolphins are just big fish, and there’s nothing exciting about swimming with fish.”
“Dolphins are mammals!” A little girl was standing next to me, her face pressed up to the glass, but she sounded completely offended when Jack called dolphins “fish.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jack grinned at her. “My brother thinks they’re fish.”
“Your brother is an idiot,” the little girl said.
“He sure is,” Jack laughed.
The girl’s mother just noticed her talking to us, and she apologized profusely as she dragged her daughter away, all the while managing to ogle Jack as she did.
“So you and Mae swam with dolphins?” I asked, walking away from the tank and changing the subject from Peter. Even in jest, I was uncomfortable with Jack saying anything about him.
“Yeah, it was a really spectacular trip. We should go again,” Jack suggested. We wandered around the aquarium, and he had his hands shoved in his pockets as I admired the seahorses. “Milo would love it, and I know Mae would be up to going. We have to go during the day, and the sun gets pretty hard on you, but if you eat a lot and just crash the whole next day, you should be okay.”
“That would be really awesome.” I couldn’t imagine anything cooler than swimming with dolphins, but the thought of Mae made me less enthusiastic. “But do you think Mae would really go?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t she?” Jack asked, but then it dawned on him what I meant. “Oh. Well... when this is all over, I’m sure she’ll want to go.”
“You really think so?” I raised an eyebrow. “Because, from the way Ezra makes it sound, there is no happy ending to all of this. She’s gonna be miserable.”
“I know,” he sighed.
In the center of the aquarium, there was a shallow pool full of stingrays and sharks that people could pet, and Jack stopped at it. He reached in the tank to touch them, but he wasn’t that into it. I’m sure he actually adored that kind of thing, but I had him worrying about Mae now too.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring the entire day down,” I said.
“No, you’re fine,” he said, taking his hand out of the water. “Were you talking to her today before we left?” I nodded. “How is she doing?”
“Not so great,” I admitted. “But at least she hasn’t made a decision yet.”
“You mean she’s still considering doing it?” Jack looked at me with wide eyes and his skin paled a little. “I thought that after Ezra gave her that ultimatum, she’d just kinda get over it. I mean, not quickly or anything, but I thought that’s where she’d be headed.”
“You didn’t see her when she fought with Ezra.” I thought about how she had literally been on her knees begging him. “For her, I don’t think there is any getting over this. Ever. Either she loses Ezra, or she loses a child.”
“I know Daisy means a lot to her, but she’s not really her child.” Jack chewed the inside of his cheek. “She didn’t give birth to her or raise her or even speak to her. I understand that there’s a connection, but I don’t get why she’s willing to sacrifice everything for it.”
“I don’t completely get it either, but then again, I’ve never been a mother,” I said. “And that’s really all Mae has ever been.” I took Jack’s hand in mine. “But you don’t think she’ll actually do it, do you? Or even if she does, her and Ezra won’t really split up over this? Will they?”
“I honestly don’t know,” he sighed resignedly. “Once I would’ve said that nothing could break them up, but the longer I live, the more I realize that nothing lasts forever.” Realizing the implications of what he said, he smiled at me and looped his arm around me shoulders.
“Except for you and me. We’re in this ‘til the end, baby.” He kissed the top of my head, and I leaned onto his shoulder, and I really, really hoped he was right.
By the time we left the zoo, Jack managed to cheer me up. On the car ride home, he forced me to sing along with the Backstreet Boys, and he started making threats about taking me to a karaoke bar someday.
When we got home, Matilda was the only one watching the brand new TV in the living room. Jack had bought her one of those pet DVD’s that were all images and sounds dogs would like, and this one had wacky misadventures with cats or something.
Matilda was so engrossed in the movie that she hadn’t run to the door to greet Jack, so we decided to watch it with her and see what all the fuss was about. He sat down in the recliner, and I sat on his lap, resting my head on his shoulder.
“Maybe we should get a cat,” Jack said. Matilda was parked on the floor right in front of the TV, staring intently at a kitten chasing a string. Every time the kitten meowed, she’d cock her head and prick her ears up.
“She would probably eat a kitten.”
“Oh, she would not. Mattie would never hurt anything, would you, girl?” His voice got higher when he talked to her, and she glanced back at him and thumped her tail on the floor. “See? Harmless.”