Tim Parnell was at the Cairbre’s dinner table for the fifth Sunday in a row. He and Joanna had been dating now for over six months, and the chemistry was electric between the two of them. Both Dylan and Bjorn were happy to see their mom so relaxed and enjoying herself. For some kids, it is hard to see a parent happy with someone other than their birth parent, but for Dylan and Bjorn, life was not all white picket fences.

Dylan knew his father’s name, but he hadn’t ever met him. His mom had met him in a coffee shop where she worked when she was in college. He was a little bit older than her, and already out of college. When she found out that he was married and that she was nothing but a fling, she vowed never to have anything to do with him again. When she discovered that she was pregnant, she changed schools and moved across the country.

Dylan barely remembered Bjorn’s dad. He was a small child when Joanna started dating the guy. He was from Sweden and apparently had swept Joanna off her feet. He lived with them for a few years, and Joanna gave birth to Bjorn during that time. Dylan had vague memories of the fights before he left. The man wanted to travel the world and thought Joanna should go with him. He argued that the brats could just be left with Joanna’s mother. Of course, he eventually took off, and the last anyone heard was that he had been kicked to death by an ostrich somewhere in Africa.

After the Swede bailed on them, Joanna’s mother had described the situation in the old woman’s typical, crusty manner. “Your man-picker’s done busted.” Grandma was pretty accurate. Joanna dated a few more men, but nothing seemed to click until she met Tim. It had only been six months, but he seemed to be a wonderful guy, and the boys liked him too.

After they cleared the dinner dishes, Tim high-fived the boys, telling them he would see them soon. He was heading to Seattle to close a deal for his company. He was a salesman or something for some trendy, corporate social media company. The boys didn’t totally understand what he or the company did, but it sounded pretty cool. Plus, he seemed not to worry too much about money.

Dylan poked his head around the corner and saw exactly what he thought those noises were. His mom and Tim were locked in what was obviously a very passionate kiss. “Gross” was the first thought that flashed through Dylan’s mind, as he headed back into the kitchen to help Bjorn with the dishes. Watching your mom kiss someone was awkward at best, but he was happy that she found a decent guy that was so good to him and Bjorn. Truthfully, he was a little curious. He’d kissed the girlfriend that he dated during the last school year, but it wasn’t anything like the kiss that he had just seen.

“Bjorn and Dylan,” called Joanna after Tim left, “could you guys come in here, please?”

The boys looked at each other with a knowing glance. That was mom’s “let’s have a talk” voice, which usually ended with extra chores, or some other, less-than-thrilling impact on their lives. She asked them to sit on the sofa and looked at them for a few moments.

“So, what do you boys think of Tim?” she asked.

“He seems pretty cool,” Bjorn blurted out, happy that the first words out of her mouth were not about something she needed help with around the house.


“Mom, he seems like a pretty nice guy.”

“I agree with you both. Tim is a nice guy, and he treats us all very well. He’s just made us an offer that I want to talk with you guys about,” she shared and then paused looking at the boys’ faces.

Dylan first thought was that, of course, he had wanted to move in, or something even more permanent, but something was very coy about the way his mom was approaching this. He could tell that she seemed genuinely excited about something and was trying to pop some big surprise on them.

“Okay, Mom! What is it?” Bjorn asked impatiently.

“This almost seems too real to be true, but … Tim has a condo near Playa del Carmen, and he’s asked us to spend Thanksgiving in Mexico with him!”

Both boys’ eyes grew wide, and they eagerly listened and discussed plans for the trip. They would both have to miss a couple days of school, but they both absolutely agreed that it would be worth it.

• • •

Chapter 12 Chapter 14


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