Lifelong Learning, Part 1
"Thanks for flying with us."
At the sound of the pilot's farewell Olivia along with all the passengers rose from their seats to collect their carry on luggage. Smart phones in all varieties lit up as people let their loved ones know either by text or voice call that they had landed.
"Hi, honey. We just landed. I'll meet you at-" Olivia instructed until she heard familiar squealing on the other end. "Fitz, is that Ollie?"
"Yes. I have you on speaker phone for him. He is having a major squealing fit now that he hears your voice," Fitz chuckled. "We'll see you at the top of the escalator."
Olivia was elated. Soon she would see Ollie. Traveling was the hardest part of her job at Templeton. Whenever she had an upcoming trip, she became slightly melancholy at the thought of leaving him. She called him her little slice of heaven. At twelve months, he was starting to show his personality. He loved to talk. It began with indecipherable, but constant gibberish at 5 months. He was content to lay on his back in his crib and "talk" for long stretches. The sounds he made were funny because of the rises and falls of his voice. Sometimes it would be interrupted by a squeal or groan. It became a family joke that continued to blossom when Gerry, on a visit home from college, recorded him and used it as his voice mail message. Then Karen made it into her cell phone ringtone. After that, it was open season on using Ollie's voice in some way or another among the Grant clan. All the Grants had some form of Ollie's voice on their voicemail or as a ringtone.
He still had the striking blue grey eyes, but his skin had browned. Olivia loved to watch him and Fitz together. Working at Templeton afforded her the lifestyle she wanted. She was at home every day with him. When she had a lot of writing to get done, Granny would relieve her. Inevitably she would go searching him out and place him in her lap while she typed, with a watchful eye out for his random banging on the keyboard.
She hadn't spoken to her mother or Savannah in almost a year. While the pain was still there, it wasn't as fresh and raw as it had been. Olivia did speak with and see Sierra and Samuel often. It had been a painful year for her father because of his divorce from Selena. Olivia had insisted that her Dad spend the week after the divorce had been finalized at her house. It had been a pretty full house with Gerry who was home on break, but they had all made some great memories between all the activities she had planned to keep his mind occupied.
Olivia hadn't heard anything else from Jake except for the lawsuit against GG. It had been a mistake for him to sue her. He'd received a fine, community service, and the consequences of the restraining order. He couldn't be within 100 feet of Olivia which had implications for his attendance at any conference she attended. This severely hurt him professionally. All this held not a candle to what the judge threw at him for, "wasting the courts time with such a frivolous, wrong headed lawsuit against this upstanding woman." That was how the judge had put it. Even thought Jake had been the one tazed, the judge had been chiefly concerned with the trauma against GG. He received thirty days in jail and a hefty fine.
Mellie was only a mild irritation, but that was just Mellie. GG jokingly called her a constant boil on the Grant family's butt. "Throw on some salve and sit down on it," she'd say when Karen and Gerry were out of earshot.
Truly, life was good for Olivia. She even had a mug with, "Life is good" emblazoned on the front.
"Livy," Fitz whispered from behind her as she stood at the luggage carrel. He hugged her from behind. She swiveled around and gave him a quick hug and kiss.
"Where's Ollie," she asked looking disappointed and perplexed at the same time. Then she heard a familiar squeal. He stepped to the side and there was Ollie in the arms of Lauren.
Olivia smiled at Lauren and pulled Ollie from her arms.
"Hey, Jolly Ollie! Mommy missed you so much!" she said.
"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" he sang. He grabbed either side of Olivia's face and gave her loud smacks across her face.
"Like father like son," Lauren cajoled.
"Absolutely not. Ollie's kisses are better," Olivia teased, winking at Fitz.
"Ladies and gent. Nature calls. I drank too much coffee on the drive to the airport. I'll be right back," Fitz said.
"Bye, Bye, Bye, Bye, Daddy!" Ollie chanted.
"Now that Mommy's here you have no use for your old man," Fitz responded, tweaking Ollie's cheek before leaving for the bathroom.
"So, Liv, how was it? Attendance good? Sale many books?" queried Lauren as they waited for her luggage to come around the turnstile.
"It was fantastic. My keynote address was standing room only. It boggles the mind. I'm not really saying anything new. I want to return to the fundamentals of education with a focus on reasoning, speaking and listening skills, and problem solving," Olivia explained.
"I'm sure the folks at Templeton are excited. When do you have your next conference?" Lauren asked.
"The first part of next month, but it isn't one of the planned trips. Templeton added a city to my tour."
The expression that crossed Lauren's face was a mixture of disbelief and some other unreadable expression. Then she turned away to pull Olivia's luggage off the carrel.
"Liv, I like to mind my own business in things like this, but do you think its a good idea to leave on another trip so soon?"
"What do you mean? Did Fitz say something about Ollie?" Olivia asked.
"No. No. Ollie is fine. It's my brother I'm worried about. He mopes around when you are gone. He is a bear, Liv. I don't think he's going to take this news of another trip well..." Lauren shared.
Olivia frowned slightly not quite knowing what to make of what Lauren revealed.
"Okay, Ollie! Let's get Mommy home and away from all these airplanes," Fitz said grabbing Olivia's luggage.
Olivia was just about to climax when Fitz turned his head and kissed her leg. Both of them were raised high and resting on either side of his head as he took his sweet time showing her how much he missed her. After a long absence like this one-4 days-she expected a lot of extra attention from him. It was their brand of make up sex. It was not making up after an argument, but making up for lost time.
A little later when they were laying close, limbs intwined together, Olivia decided to do some investigations in light of Lauren's comment.
"Honey," she called softly to him, absently rubbing his hair.
"How were things when I was gone?"
"Fine," he mumbled into her chest.
"Really?" she said, moving so she could see his face.
"Well, Ollie missed you so much his talking was cut in half," Fitz said lightly.
"Honey, I'm serious. Lauren said you were moping around and being a bear."
"Don't listen to Lauren. She is always meddling and sticking her nose where it doesn't belong. I love my sister but she a busy body," he accused.
"Templeton added another city to my tour. I leave the first part of next month," she said. "It is 7 days and 6 nights in Boston."
Fitz pulled back, a frown resting on his face. "No. They just can't add cities like that without checking with you first. Seven days? This was supposed to be your last trip until next year," he said stonily.
"Actually they can add cities. It's in my contract as Daniella reminded me when I said the same thing. I leave on a Sunday and return on a Sunday. Honey, it shouldn't be too bad," she said, feeling torn.
He sighed and sat up in the bed. "Liv, I support you in your writing and your work at Templeton, but you being away is really hard on the family."
"But for most of the year, I'm home...able to be at home with Ollie? We talked about this before I took the job. Aside from this added city, we knew what we were getting into," she said plaintively.
"I know I agreed to it, but now that I'm living it, Livy, I don't like it. I'm not happy with it. I want you to talk to them about other options or reducing your travel," he said matter of factly.
"How long have you felt this way?" she asked.
"Since your first trip."
Six Months Later
"Livia, I'm sorry, baby," Selena admitted, tears gathering in her eyes. She sat holding Olivia in her arms whose face brimmed over with sadness if not tears. Olivia was all cried out. They sat on the sofa at the apartment Selena shared with Savannah. They also shared the status of divorcee.
Olivia pulled back so she could see her mother's eyes. "But what did I do to make you...hate me? Dad told me about Joe. I know...I understand that he is Savannah's and Sierra's biological father... Did you love them more because you loved him more?" Olivia pleaded. She walked over to a small table to get a napkin for her mother's tears.
Selena took it with a sad smile and the realization that her daughter was always trying to care for others. "Looking back, I think I didn't realize...never actually realized until our divorce was final how good a man your father is...has always been. He took care of us and provided for Sierra and Savannah like they were his own. Joe isn't half the man your father is. He is mostly about the appearance of things, but he doesn't want to do the work required to make a family work," Selena explained.
Olivia closed her eyes in silent thought. They sat there for awhile until Olivia rose to her feet. "Mom, I still don't understand why you haven't wanted to be in my life since Ollie was born. You have a grandson. He's one and a half and you've barely seen him. He's doing fine. He has so many people around him who love him-"
"Livia, I know that. You are are blessed with a loving husband and a very supportive family. Despite actions to the contrary, I always prayed that you would get married and have a loving family, be successful. My prayers have been answered sevenfold. That's why I wanted to meet with you today. I don't want to miss my chance to be there for you or be Ollie's grandmother. Livia please forgive me. I want to be back in your life," she pleaded.
"Mom, what about Savannah? She lives here with you. That's a definite conflict since she loathes me," Olivia observed.
"Savannah doesn't loathe you, Livia. She is really hurting-" Selena attempted.
"Why do you always take her side? You always make excuses for her. She hates me, mom. There is no denying it. I used to make excuses for her, but there is no excuse for the things she's done to me or attempted to do to my family. That's why I don't think this will work. I love you, mom, no matter what has happened. I also know that you love Savannah. You won't be able to interact with me without letting her back in, besides there is something-"
"Livia, please don't say that. I've made some big mistakes that I will regret until I leave this earth, but I won't get over this. Please let me see my grandson. Let me be there for you in whatever way you need me," she said, a hint of desperation in her voice.
Olivia returned to her seat beside her mother. "Mom, I agreed to see you because I was going to come and see you even before you contacted me through Sierra. I have some news," she said. She realized how, over the years, she had wished her mom would have said these words.
Selena didn't say anything. She simply waited for Olivia to say whatever it was she had come to say. Fearing the worst, Selena held her breath.
"We are moving to California at the end of the month," said Olivia.
"So, Livy, how did she take it? I imagine not good because you been inside your head all night," Fitz predicted, gently rubbing the back of her neck that felt full of tension.
They were sitting in a booth at Dave and Buster's. They had just been able to get back into the habit of this weekly tradition since Ollie had 18 months. It was not quite the same without Gerry, but tonight Gerry was home along with Ethan. Karen had been giddy with excitement at the possibility of seeing him. Their youthful romance was constantly on again off again. Gerry, Karen, and Ethan walked through the arcade, entertaining Ollie who was chattering about everything he observed.
"I don't know, Fitz. I'm glad I talked to her because I feel better about our relationship. I have accepted that she will loves Savannah to a fault. She will never stop making excuses for her. But she finally acknowledged all the wrong Savannah has done. She wasn't happy about us moving away...even tried to get me to reconsider...sort of late for that..." Olivia explained with a frustrated chuckle. "After all we've been through, she sort of accused you...well really all the Grants for trying to snatch us away from her. And you know she hasn't seen us in over a year. But the more I think about it, moving away is for the better. At least now, when she plans to visit I won't have to worry about Savannah showing up. Even though things are not perfect, I feel some peace about it all."
"Is she coming to see Ollie soon?" Fitz asked.
"Yes. I think it would be nice to have both of them, my mom and dad over at the same time. They are cordial to one another. I think it'll be good for Ollie."
"I think so too," Fitz said. He looked around the dining hall wistfully. "Livy, but I'm going to miss coming here once a week. This was where we had our first date...our first kiss..."
Olivia snaked her arms around his waist, "I know and now we are bringing our son here."
"Are those tears, honey?" Fitz asked.
Olivia laughed. "Yes, but they are tears of joy. It's going to be waterworks all this month. Abby thinks she's slick, but I know she is planning a party for me. I'm sure you know all about, Fitz, but are keeping it under wraps. I know her. When Abby gets quiet and contemplative, something is always up. But I'll act surprised."
Fitz raised his eyebrows. "I don't have a clue about anything you are saying."
"Yeah, I know," Olivia said in sarcastic belief.
They sat at the table occasionally reminiscing and occasionally laughing at the way Ollie kept Karen, Gerry, and Ethan on their toes.
Olivia held the phone as Daniella did her level best to convince her to go back on the lecture circuit for Templeton Press.
"Olivia, we understand your concerns. You can set your own schedule. You can work with the Annual Meetings Director. She has all the conferences we have scheduled thus far. We can work this out. Please reconsider. The workshops you give in concert with your books really help to push your book sales. We are willing to renegotiate your contract if you do another series," explained Daniella.
"Daniella, I love working for Templeton but the workshops all over the country are just not working for my family," Olivia explained.
"Okay. Don't decline just yet. I'll send you another proposal. Show it to your husband and we can work this out. Promise me that," Daniella pleaded.
A spark of excitement rushed through Olivia at being wooed by Templeton. It made her want to accept and convince Fitz later. She did the next best thing.
"Yes, Daniella. I'll give it some thought," Olivia agreed before hanging up the phone. She noticed GG watching her from across the room.
"Who was that, dear?" Granny inquired.
"It's Daniella from Templeton. She's laying it on pretty thick. Apparently they want me to enter into another contract to do a series of workshops nationwide like the ones I completed some months ago."
"Oh. Didn't you enjoy doing those? You always seemed so energized when you returned home," said GG, moving closer and taking a seat facing her.
"I really, GG. I love the writing and researching. But there is something about connecting in person with the educators who read the text and really showing them how to incorporate this sort of assessment in their classroom or school wide. It's a rush," Olivia said.
Granny reached for Olivia's hands across the table. "You know, dear, I'm not one to pry, but is it correct that you did not take the contract because of my grandson?"
"No...well...yes...Fitz didin't like the traveling. I hate leaving Ollie. Fitz did bring it up first. How he didn't like the travel. We talked about it and decided that I wouldn't renew that part of my contract. I'm okay with that. Besides, now that Ollie is going on two, we are going to try again..for another baby."
Olivia was confused by the look of disappointment on Granny's face. She thought Granny would be happy about that.
"Olivia, you know I love Fitzgerald. But I have told you many times that he is...how can I put this lightly...pretty entitled. He always thinks he should get his way. I'm excited that we're moving to Berkeley, that he got that Superintendent's job. But I think you should reconsider the job if you really want it. It seems like they are willing to work with your schedule. Just consider it and tell Fitz if you want to continue those workshops and the traveling. Maybe he and Ollie should go with you sometimes...when it works out."
"Maybe Ollie and I should go where?" Fitz said, walking into the room.
GG squeezed Olivia's hands. "Take care of you, honey. That's your first job. Everything will fall into place," GG said in a low clear voice.
Olivia stood up and kissed GG on the cheek. A look of acknowledgement passed between them. "To Lauren's to get more boxes. She'll end up keeping Ollie occupied and we can do more packing," Olivia said in answer to Fitz's question.
Sounds good to me," said Fitz.