"Time to get up kiddo. Gramma June's expecting you at 10." Peter smiled indulgently as the boy pulled the blanket down just enough to be heard.
"Can I go with you today?" The smile faded.
"What's the matter? You like going to Gramma June's...Did that Bronnel kid say something again?"
"He said Gramma June can't be my real gramma 'cause we don't look the same."
Peter sighed. He wished El was here, she was so much better at this sort of thing.
"I know that Gramma June isn't related to us, but she does all the things real gramma's do and she loved your dad lots and lots...and if we hadn't bought you home, then she would have. So, I think that makes her just as real a gramma as Nana Ruth or anyone else. Ok?"
The boy thought about this for a moment.
"Ok. Pancakes for breakfast?"
"Cereal for breakfast."
"Cereal. Pancakes tomorrow with mama. If you're dressed in time."
"What do you know about the Fuller Regression Program?"
"Can Mo come to Gramma June's?"
"No. Eat your cereal."
"But he'll be lonely."
"Satchmo's still in trouble for that carrot cake, the one Clinton's mum sent us."
"Oh, yeah...bad Mo."
"Yep. Bad Mo."
The two finished their breakfasts and Peter was helping him put on his shoes before he spoke again.
"Tell me about daddy?"
Peter looked up at him. With thoughts about real gramma's, it was, he supposed, that there would be questions about real dads.
"Your dad was one of the smartest men I've ever met. He was polite and kind and had this big smile. He painted and made statues and did origami."
"Like in my book!"
"Exactly like in your book. I miss him a lot. He was a good man and would have been a great dad."
"Why isn't he my dad now?"
Peter tied the last bow.
"Well, he made a lot of bad decisions, that got him into a lot of trouble. Then some stuff happened that made him really sad and someone made a bad choice look like a really good choice. He was too sad to ask for help."
"When you translate the psycho-babble, it sounds like they've found a way to induce some kind of permanent amnesia.
The thing is, the guy in charge, Fuller, isn't a neurologist or even a psychologist."
"Can we watch Dragon?"
Diana rolled her eyes. The kid had barely sat down...
"What about Princess? Aunt Christie likes Princess."
"Nope. Dragon." He smiled up at her, eyes wide and Diana found herself weakening.
"Why don't you ask Christie, ok?"
She shut the car door before she could give in entirely and moved around to the driver’s seat.
"So what did you and Gramma June do today?” She kept her eyes on the traffic as he told about his day.
“We took Bugsy to the park and Uncle Mozzie was there! He brought cupcakes, but Bugsy wasn’t allowed one. And then we went to the museum and there were dinosaur bones and mummies and statues and butterflies!”
“I always liked the dinosaurs.”
“And Uncle Mozzie bought some postcards so Mama could see where we’d been too. And I got to put them in the mail box. Can we have pizza?”
“I don’t know, I think Christie was planning on cooking something special.”
“Pizza?” Diana smothered a laugh.
“Carrot cake? I thought Jones mum sent you one? He was telling me about it the other day.”
“Mo ate it.”
“Howard Fuller. His peers called him a crackpot to my face. They said he was obsessed with finding some kind of ‘fountain of youth’
El tugged the blanket up down from where their son had pulled it over his head and kissed his cheek. She had missed her boys terribly during the fortnight she’d been away, but she was back home now, everyone safe and sound, just as she had left them.
“He asked about his dad this morning” Peter leaned against the doorframe, a little bit lost.
“Oh hun...” El stood and went to her husband, wrapping her arm around him. “Whether Neal is our friend, or our son, he’ll always be ours. No matter what. OK?”
“I found Neal. I think Fuller didn’t know what to do with a success. So they stuffed him in some underfunded group home upstate.”