Chapter Thirty-Two--Closed Book

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  • Dedicated to Young Fish (Flesh Eater)

It takes exactly five minutes and forty-two seconds for one of the kids to notice what we're doing behind them. I had completely forgotten that they were there until I open my eyes to a scrunched and freckled face screaming, "Aunt Jenna and John are kissing!" She manages to shriek this and draw out the word for so long that I'm sure every single adult upstairs now things we're snogging right in front of their children.

We should never be allowed to babysit.

"Evie." Jen leans forward and takes the child's hands, their faces eye-level. "Here's the thing. When you're a big grown up someday, you'll want to kiss someone that you love. Your parents do that. It's how adults show each other that they love and enjoy being around each other, okay?" She's patient without being condensing, something that a lot of people don't know how to do. "Go finish the movie. I hardly ever get to see John, but I get to spend time with you every single week. Can you forgive me?" Evie nods reluctantly. Jenna smiles and leans forward, pecking her on her chubby cheek. Evie smiles and giggles a little bit. "Love you, honey," Jen says before pointing back to the floor.

After that, we settle back and actually watch the toaster manage to save his friend, the electric blanket , in the forest. This movie just keeps getting more and more frightening. After about thirty minutes of silence, Jen stretches out on the worn blue sectional, putting her head in my lap and falls asleep almost immediately. I glance down at her legs, chuckling to myself at the perfect pair of nude nylons that she's wearing. She would've rather eaten her own liver than be caught dead in these when she was in high school. How did she manage to change so much and still hold my infatuation?

The movie's over the kid's energy isn't even close. "Can I wake up Aunt Jenna?" A kid asks, pulling at his race car t-shirt and hunting for a ball that rolled underneath the couch.

I untangle my hand from her hair, trying to think of a way to respond when Jen whispers, "Go tell grandma that the movie's over."

She rolls on her back to look at me through barely open eyes. "Why didn't you tell me that you're awake?" I sign with a slight smile.

"I didn't want you to quit playing with my hair and you would've if you thought I knew that you were doing it." She laughs a little bit and starts to sit up. She's not wrong. There's no way I would have been doing something that intimate if I was aware that she was mentally present. Kissing her is one thing. You can kiss a complete stranger with almost no problem. But sometimes it's those smaller, closer, longer gestures that send my hands shaking with nerves. It's probably that constant worry of not meeting Jenna's invisible expectations that I've always fabricated and laid across my brain.

"I have to get out of this demon dress. Come on. We'll return the kiddos to their respective wranglers and I'll show you ten-year-old Jenna's smoking hot room," she whispers with mock suggestiveness, winking at me.

"Sounds perfect." I pull her up after me and we manage to get every member of the procession back upstairs to the main room.

James's wife mouths to us, "Thank you so much," as she starts to pull her youngest to the floor for a diaper change. Annabel looks over from her place at the kitchen sink, elbow-deep in a pile of apple-smelling suds.

"Behave," is all that she mouths to Jenna, who nods, exasperated. Josephine snickers.

"Oh, yes. We'd all better watch that horrid and risqué John, he will definitely jump her," Jo signs, making Ben cackle.

He glances at from over the top of the plaid couch where he's sitting next to Josephine. "It's like the man wore horse blinders at uni."

"Good," Jenna signs before strategically turning in front of me to sign something to Jo. Based upon her cackle and go for it, babe, I'm not sure that I want to know.

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