#67 Bonus grandma
“You have a beautiful home,” Arthur Peterson tells me as he looks around the living room, nodding appreciatively.
“It’s a bit empty,” his wife disagrees with a frown.
“Mom, we only just moved in.” Andre is not amused by his mother’s criticism.
“We?” she repeats, staring him down. Such a small woman, yet she’s got such a powerful presence. I really wish she could have met my mother. It would have been love at first sight.
“Yeah, I erm…” Andre puts his arm around my waist, pulling me closer. “I moved in with Dylan this week. He was basically already living with me at the apartment, and when the house was ready, we decided it made no sense for us to move backwards.”
“You live here now?” His father is smiling as he looks around again.
“It doesn’t look like you live here.” Emmy nods at the only painting on the walls so far. It’s one Aston made, and it’s basically an abstract painting of several intertwined naked women. I fell in love with it the second I saw it, and he gifted it to me last week to congratulate me on moving in here with Andre. “That hardly screams Andre.”
Before Andre can defend a painting I know he doesn’t even enjoy all that much, I cut in. “You definitely need to see the library. That room screams nothing but his name.”
“Library?” she asks, surprised now. “There is a library?”
I motion for his parents to follow me, proudly opening the door into what’s already Andre’s favorite room in the house. We haven’t moved all of his stuff in here, and we’re busy selling and storing most of his furniture since he can’t use it here, but the library is completely decorated. The first thing he wanted to do the morning we woke up from the best sex of my goddamn life was to box up all his books and move them in here, along with his gazillion cactuses. The result is the most amazing library ever.
“Oh wow,” his father breathes.
Even Emmy seems awestruck.
“When I saw this room, I knew this was the house for us.” I press a kiss to Andre’s cheek when he joins me again. “I get that we’re moving fast, and I understand you have reservations about me, but I swear I’m nothing like Eric.”
Emmy seems to thaw a little, appreciating my head-on approach to her concerns. “One single room doesn’t convince me, but I guess it’s a good start.”
Andre sighs heavily. “Mom…”
“I love it,” Arthur says, trying to cut through the tension still lingering. “Can we see upstairs too?”
“Of course!” I’m beyond happy to show them every single room in the house, convinced it will help me make my case. Surely seeing Andre’s clothes in the hamper, his book on the nightstand, and his toiletries in the bathroom will show his mother that this is truly our house, and that we’re serious about each other.
Then again, he also lived with Eric for a long time, and she thought he was a good match for her son at some point. It sucks that I have to battle demons I didn’t create, but I’m up to the task. I’ve got a lifetime to prove to Emmy that I’m worthy of her son. Or at the very least not completely unworthy.
After the tour, I drive the four of us downtown to Giovanni’s, a great little Italian place with the best meatballs in the city. Shaughna worked here once upon a time, which is how I know about this gem in the first place. For the first twenty minutes, we make polite chit-chat about our jobs, the weather, and the food. When a couple comes in with a toddler and a baby, Arthur moves the conversation in a different direction.
“How is the baby-making going?” He looks from me to Andre. “Or am I not supposed to ask?”
“You can ask,” I assure him. “So far, no luck. The first month was a bust, and we just finished trying for the second time, but Deidra is way too stressed for me to have much faith in it right now. I can’t imagine anything hatching in someone riddled with so many stress hormones.”
“Hatching?” Andre asks, laughing softly. “What are you doing there? Laying eggs?”
Emmy is not amused. “What if it doesn’t work?”
“Mom, don’t stress him out.” Andre gives her a hard look. “It’s only the second month. They’re both fertile, no health issues whatsoever. It will happen eventually.”
“I’m sorry I asked,” Arthur mutters. “I’m just excited to become a grandfather.”
I all but melt when he says that, but Emmy is quick to cut in again. “Except you won’t. It will be Dylan’s child, not Andre’s.”
“We’re figuring out the legal stuff, and it’s not easy, but we very much intend for it to be our child,” I assure her. “This baby will be very lucky to have two moms and two dads.”
“But what will happen when-”
“Mom!” Andre grabs my hand underneath the table, squeezing hard for support. “Nothing will happen. Could you just get on board? Or at least not voice all your concerns? You know I’m already stressed about this. You know how hard this has been on me the past months. Dylan and I are finally on the same page. Why do you want to ruin this for us?”
“I’m not trying to-” She stops talking and sighs deeply. “I’m sorry. It’s just a lot. You can’t stop a mother from worrying.”
“I’m not saying you need to stop worrying, I just mean…” Andre sighs as well, sounding exactly like his mother. “You know what I mean.”
“We all do.” Arthur pats his wife on the back. “She means well.”
“Don’t patronize me,” Emmy hisses to her husband. “I don’t get how you can be so calm. One minute, Andre is still single, and the next he’s got a boyfriend he’s living with and trying to have a baby he won’t have any legal rights to. I’m not overreacting, I am well within my rights to-”
We all look up when a kid shouting my name interrupts Emmy’s angry words. Not just any kid either. It’s my favorite kid in the whole damn world.
“Blaze!” I jump up to hug my baby brother, lifting him off the floor to twirl him around. He laughs loudly, and even waves at Andre when I put him back down. “Do you remember my boyfriend?” I ask Blaze.
“Yes,” he replies quietly, getting shy. “That’s Andre.”
“Hey Blaze.” Andre gets up to give Blaze a hug as well. “Are you here all by yourself? Did you learn how to drive a car?”
Blaze giggles. “No, I’m here with mommy.”
Sure enough, Amber appears behind him, all smiles and rainbows as per usual. She hugs me and Andre before turning to Emmy and Arthur. “You must be the Petersons! Dylan mentioned he was having lunch with you, but I had no idea it would be here. Blaze loves the meatballs here. It’s so nice to meet you!”
Even Emmy can’t stay annoyed and upset with someone practically bouncing off the walls in excitement over meeting her. “It’s to meet you too, Miss Dyer.”
Amber laughs loudly. “Oh no, I’m not a Dyer. That’s Dylan’s mother’s last name. She passed away, unfortunately. Years ago. I’m his father’s wife.”
“My stepmom,” I say, using that word out loud for the very first time. I’ve never thought of her that way before, not really, but lately things are feeling different. Of course it’s weird to call a woman younger than me my stepmother, but she’s been so supportive of the baby thing that I can truly see her becoming like a grandmother to our kid.
Amber’s eyes fill with tears and she puts a hand over her heart. “Oh Dylan…”
No one but Andre understands what’s happening when Amber and I embrace tightly, both overcome with emotion. She squeezes me tightly, neither of us saying anything. We don’t need to. It took us a long time to get to this place, and she will never replace my mother, but I’m grateful for how good she is to my father, the half-brother she gave me, her support when it comes to pretty much everything in my life, and the fact that she never once referred to herself as my stepmother all these years.
“Okay, I’m joining you guys for lunch,” Amber decides when we finally break apart. “It’s not like I can pry Blaze away from Andre right now, and quite frankly, I don’t want to.”
When I look over to see what she means, I realize that Blaze is snuggled up to Andre in our booth, talking his ear off about giraffes – what else, right? Emmy and Arthur seem completely overwhelmed with everything that is happening, but they graciously accept the fact that Amber is joining us without even asking if that’s okay.
“I know it’s too soon,” she says when she sits down, putting her shopping bag in her lap. “But I couldn’t resist. Look what I bought!” With a flourish, she pulls a tiny little onesie out of the bag, holding it up so we can all see that it’s got a rainbow on it, along with a unicorn and the phrase My daddies love me. “Isn’t it just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?”
“It is,” Arthur agrees immediately.
Andre looks up from his conversation with Blaze, his eyes meeting mine for a moment. He looks the way I feel: eternally grateful for all that is Amber, and overcome by the feeling that soon enough, we might be lucky enough to have a tiny little baby wearing that onesie.
“I know you’ll be the real grandma,” Amber tells Emmy, patting her hand. “I’m just the… well, the baby’s granddaddy’s wife. But that won’t stop me from buying a ton of cute baby stuff.”
“You’ll be the bonus grandma.” My voice is wobbly, and if she won’t stop all the baby talk soon, I might start to cry. “In fact, the two of you are the only grandmothers. There might be four parents, but Imani and Deidra don’t have their mothers in their lives, just like me. Only they’re not lucky enough to have a stepmother like mine.”
Amber’s eyes fill with tears again, and she takes a deep breath to center herself. “Four grandfathers and two grandmothers should be enough, right?”
“It does take a village,” Arthur says with a grin. “I can tell you stories about Andre as a kid… He was a handful.”
“I was not,” Andre mutters, rolling his eyes.
“Tell me all the stories,” I order his father, happy to move on from this heavy topic. “I need to know everything.”
The next hour, all of us have lunch together while Emmy, Arthur and Amber tell stories about Andre and Blaze. Amber even shares some stories about me as a kid that she must have heard from my father. By some miracle, Amber joining us saved the whole afternoon. By the time we part ways and I drive Andre, Emmy and Arthur to the coffee shop, everyone is in high spirits. Seeing Liv sitting at a table with Aurora in her arms does wonders as well, as do the many cupcakes she forces upon us.
All in all, I think I’m finally on my way to winning over Emmy. I better be, because whether she likes it or not, I’m madly in love with her son, he is living with me, and we’re having a kid together. Still, it’s good to see that she’s not as weary of me anymore. I even get a hug goodbye when it’s time for them to drive back home.
“That went well, right?” I say to Andre as we wave goodbye to his parents, their car disappearing around the corner.
“Well?” he repeats, shaking his head. “Are you crazy? That went amazing. Thank you so much.”
“For what?” I ask, trying to figure out what I did to deserve a thank you.
“For being you,” he states simply. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too.”
We kiss on the front porch of our house like the cheeseballs we are. Some days, I really love my life. Today is definitely one of those days.