Realizing he’s not going to get scraps anytime soon, Thor moseys over to his blanket and lies down with a loud sigh.
Jill watches Seth roll out the dough, stepping in now and again to give him some tips. Seth is grinning when the dough is ready to be cut.
“I wanna do the gingerbread men.”
I raise my brows at him, and he bites his lip then looks over at Jilly and adds, “Please.”
“Go ahead.” She nods and then steps next to him to show him the best way to position the cutter to get the maximum number of cookies from the dough.
“Dad, are you gonna cut some?” Seth hands me the beach ball with a smile.
Jill takes the soft cookies from us and arranges them on cookie sheets as we cut them, then puts them in her double ovens when we’re done.
“Okay, sugar cookies are done. Next up: chocolate chip.”
“My favorite!” Seth exclaims and fist-bumps her. “Can we eat them hot from the oven?”
“Is there any other way to eat them?” she asks in a loud whisper.
Seth laughs and helps her clean up the sugar cookie mess on the table and all I can do is watch silently. My stomach is clenched, my chest aching, and it’s in this moment, as I watch this amazing woman with my son, that I know that I love her.
She’s it for me.
Now I just have to convince her of that.
Jill and Seth return to the kitchen to mix the dough for the next batch of cookies, and I know that this is as good a time as any to talk to Seth.
“You have flour on your cheek,” Jill says and rubs the white powder off Seth’s cheek.
“Seth, I have a question for you,” I begin softly and join them, pulling eggs out of the carton.
“I didn’t leave the lid off the orange juice again this morning. I promise.”
“Not about that.” I laugh and tousle his hair and then decide what the fuck and kiss his head.
“Yuck, Dad. Jill is here.”
Jill laughs and pulls Seth to her to plant her own lips on his head.
“There, we’re even.”
“You’re both weird.” His lips twitch as he fights his smile and he ducks his head, measuring the sugar like Jill showed him.
“I want to ask you what you think about me and Jill dating each other.”
Jill’s eyes widen as they whip up to mine and I offer her a reassuring smile.
“I don’t care.” He shrugs like it’s no big thing at all and continues measuring.
“Well, I’d like to date Jill, and I want to know how you feel about that.”
“Dad,” Seth replies with a long-suffering sigh, as though he’s the dad and I’m the kid, “I already know that you and Jill are dating.”
“You do?” Jill asks. “How?”
“I’m not stupid. You guys make gross googly eyes at each other all the time.” He rolls his eyes and then makes fun of the way we look at each other before dissolving in a fit of giggles. “Plus, if you really got caught at the ranch in the storm a few weeks ago, you would have stayed at Uncle Josh’s house.”
This kid is too smart for his own good.
“I don’t want you to be uncomfortable, Seth.” Jill frowns as she watches Seth mix the eggs and sugar in the bowl.
“Why would I be uncomfortable? Are you going to kiss and stuff like Uncle Josh and Cara do?”
“Absolutely,” I reply before Jill can and grin at her reassuringly. “I will kiss Jill.”
“Ugh, can you keep trying to do it when you think I can’t see you?”
I let out a loud laugh and pull my kid in for a quick hug. “I love you, son.”
“You have a girlfriend,” Seth taunts Zack, backing out of his grasp.
“I want you to know,” I begin seriously and hold Seth’s face in the palm of my hand, “Jill is very special to me, Seth. This isn’t like what you saw with your mom.”
“I’m not a little kid,” Seth replies with a shrug as Jill frowns at him, curious to hear more about what Seth saw, I’m sure. “But it’s cool. Jill’s fun and you’re happy, so . . .” He shrugs again, because shrugging is Seth’s favorite form of communication, and then frowns. “Are we going to bake cookies or talk about mushy stuff?”
“I want cookies,” I reply and pull the flour toward me. “Here, I don’t think you had enough flour on your cheek.” I dip my fingers in the white powder and wipe them on Seth’s cheek, making him giggle.
“Do not have a flour fight in my kitchen,” Jill warns us. Seth and I grin at each other, then each take a small handful and throw it at Jilly, making her hair and red T-shirt white.
“I’m sorry, did you say something, sugar?”
“You’re both brats!” She laughs and brushes the flour out of her hair. Thor comes running over to see what all the ruckus is about, and manages to get coated in flour too.
“Thor looks old.” Seth giggles.
“He looks very distinguished with his gray hair,” Jill agrees and then pours the chocolate chips into the batter, giving it a good stir. “Let’s drop these onto the cookie sheets and then we can bake them.”
She pulls the sugar cookies out of the oven and sets them on a rack to cool as we replace them with a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Finally, when those are in the oven, she sighs and blows a wayward strand of hair out of her face. “You know, maybe we can bake the peanut butter another day. This is hard work.”
“Pansy,” Seth taunts her and then laughs his head off.
“No chocolate milk for you,” Jill replies, throwing him a mock glare.
He quickly recovers. “I was just kidding.”
While the cookies bake, I order pizza, and when the first batch of chocolate chip is done, we all sit at Jill’s table and sip chocolate milk and nibble the hot cookies.
“So good,” Jill moans.
“These are even better than Grandma’s!”
“Don’t tell her that,” I warn him with a laugh.
“Nah, that would just hurt her feelings.”
There are moments when my kid can be the most compassionate person I’ve ever met. He’s always worried about hurting the feelings of those he loves. I hope he never loses that.
“I accidently farted in class today.”
“Aaaand we’re back to being twelve,” I mutter under my breath as Jill chokes on her chocolate milk, laughing her ass off.
“I didn’t mean to!”