“Sure is, though, that’s why they pay me the big bucks.”
“It sure looked impressive when I was there.”
“Multi-Award winning,” he said, without a trace of hubris. “What are you doing at the NGO?” he asked, taking a long pull of his mineral water.
“I needed a change,” I admitted.
I really didn’t want to get into how pushy his dad had been once our son was born. That would mean explaining about Billy, and I still wasn’t ready to do that.
“I can appreciate that,” Jinx said with the soft smile that always made me melt.
I fumbled for my mineral water, shaking with physical desire, my mind, and my body suddenly at war with each other. I tried to remind myself that I was mad at him. There was no way anything was going to happen. No matter how desperately I wanted it to.
“Will you see me again?” Jinx asked. He glanced down at his drink; his face clouded with worry.
“I-I don’t really think I’m ready to date anyone,” I stammered.
“I’m not just anyone, though, am I?”
“I really don’t know who you are.”
“We were friends, once upon a time. I’m doing my best to get back to that. How was I then?”
I felt my heart aching for him. Jinx was so close I could feel his body heat. Little whiffs of his cologne would hit my nose, pushing my mind and emotions back to the past. I had felt so safe in his arms once.
“I-I don’t know. I have to go,” I said, jumping up and leaving in a hurry.
I needn’t have bothered. He didn’t try to follow me. Just the same, I took a cab back to the house, having the driver go around the block so Jinx wouldn’t know where I lived. It was too much. I opened the mineral water I had put into my purse without thinking and took a long drink. It was delicious. I could see why he liked it so much.
Irene was playing with Billy when I got in. She really was quite good with him. I felt fortunate to have her around when I couldn’t be.
“How was it?” Aria asked, sitting down on the couch.
“Strange?” I paced across the room.
“Well, for starters, he is working as a copywriter. That was why he was at the advertising firm. He’s their main guy apparently. Without him, there are no words. The voice-over people have nothing to say, and the animations would be silent. I never really thought about what an important job it is before.”
“Sounds like a lot of responsibility,” Aria said.
“I know, right? But that’s not the weirdest bit. Not only is he not gambling anymore, but he’s also not drinking either. Only had Coke and mineral water.”
“Bit of a drunk, was he?”
“Oh, terribly! He could drink an Irish dock worker under the table and still win thee games of darts in a row. I actually saw him do that.”
“There are docks in Vegas?”
I stopped and shrugged. “Well, no, the Irish dock worker was visiting, but still, it was impressive. It’s part of this whole cleansing thing Jinx is doing trying to get to a clean slate.”
“Well, it seems clear to me,” Irene said, speaking up for the first time, “you need to tell him about Billy.”
“How do you know I didn’t?” I asked.
“It would have been the first thing you said,” Aria’s grandmother pointed out.
She was right, of course. Nothing much really got past her, and I had never known her to be anything but logical.
“I’m not sure I can do that,” I admitted. Feeling week in the knees, I took a seat next to Aria on the couch.
“You have to. It’s the right thing. Your boy needs a daddy, and there is nothing dangerous about this fellow that would justify keeping his son away from him.”
“I dunno, there is a lot of history,” Aria said, though I could tell she agreed with her grandmother.
“Most of it good as I recall. More the reason to let my ex in. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Even if you two don’t come to anything, you both have more important concerns right now.”
I knew she was right. Irene didn’t deal in bullshit and could see through to the heart of almost any situation. I was still hesitant but leaning towards not only telling Jinx about Billy but letting him have visitation if he wanted it. That was a significant change that I hoped would be the right thing.
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. Seeing Lila again set my mind back to, what in retrospect, seemed like a happier time. Remembering how things had been only drove home how much I had messed things up between us. I hadn’t really thought about how much I might have hurt her until I got out of rehab. I didn’t really have the clarity of thought to do so. There had been a time when we had really loved each other, which made it even worse.