Quality Time

Monday afternoon Hanley came for a visit and had dinner with us. Of course I asked her for a drawing for Draw A Bird Day.

Just like with Lila, it’s so much fun seeing how quickly Hanley grows, and how her tastes and interests change over time. It’s also fascinating to see how kids absorb and learn about the world around them. Both Tom and I were a little daunted by the math concepts she’s learning in pre-K. Tom said as he recalls, that was fourth grade stuff.

When Tim and I received Lewis DeSimone’s story “Quality Time” as a submission for Best Gay Romance 2014, my interest was piqued by the concept. The narrator, Greg, has fallen in love and moved in with Victor. Victor has a five-year-old daughter (Hanley’s age now; Lila’s age when we received the story). I think Lewis writes Sarah exactly right for her age.

Sarah stays with her father and Greg on weekends, and Greg is learning the challenges and compromises that come with an immediate family and an ex-wife. It’s a timely story considering how common co-parenting is and LGBT parenting is becoming. And it’s a reminder that at the heart of all these stories and issues is one thing: family.

Here’s a look into the dynamic of Victor and Greg’s family.

Sarah’s excitement about the ballet carries her through the day. It’s all she can talk about over lunch, though Victor’s loaded her plate with the dreaded carrots she threw a tantrum over the last time. She squirms atop the Yellow Pages, a blizzard of energy.

From the beginning, Sarah has seemed to me more her mother’s child than Victor’s. Perhaps because she’s a girl or because, like Christina, she entered my life as an interloper of sorts—an outsider in the sheltered male enclave. She has Christina’s liveliness and curiosity—a willingness to ask questions of everyone and everything at any time—which particularly upsets Victor’s characteristic reserve. When he introduced us in June, the weekend after I moved in, Sarah scowled at me for a long moment, her nose twitching as Victor’s does when he’s angry. “Is he going to be here all weekend?” she snarled, still staring. “Greg lives here now, Sarah,” Victor said, causing her to spin around in shock. But by dinnertime, she’d become distracted by the truckload of new toys her father had bought to appease her (Victor’s nothing if not prepared) and insisted on sitting beside me—as if I, too, were one of her new playthings.

We take a walk after lunch to the Public Garden. It’s a surprisingly warm day for early December, but Victor still wraps a wool coat around Sarah. By the time we cross Beacon Street, beads of sweat are forming on her forehead. Looking askance at her father, she unbuttons the coat and puffs out a gentle sigh of relief.

In the park, she reaches her free hand toward mine, the other already clasped in Victor’s. Together, we stroll along the winding path, Sarah swinging in the air as we lift her over puddles. She’s unimpressed with the standard kiddie attraction, McCloskey’s ducklings, not even deigning to leapfrog the bronze figures with the other children. Instead, she pulls us toward the lake, frozen now, crowded with circling ice skaters. We stop on the bridge, Sarah peering through the pale blue grate to watch. Beneath us, a young couple glides along the ice, hand in hand, the woman’s light hair escaping from her hat in single strands. The man releases her for a spin and promptly plummets onto the ice. She helps him up, and they both laugh. As they hold hands once more and continue together, their movements seem all the more elegant, flecks of ice flying up in clouds behind their skates.

You can read the rest of “Quality Time” in Best Gay Romance 2014, on sale now in trade paperback and ebook format.

Excerpt reprinted with permission from Cleis Press. All rights reserved


2 thoughts on “Quality Time”

    1. I agree. She’s always surprising me with things she knows and can do. Also, she may be the only child I’ve ever known who asks for seconds on salad.

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