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Lunchboxes in May

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They didn’t argue often (they bickered at the drop of a hat) but they argued about Leila and kindergarten. Grace thought a private school was ideal, seeing as they had the money and it would allow them discretion and privacy. John thought Leila should be homeschooled by Grace. And, most surprisingly, Harold wanted to enroll her in public school. The cracks to fall through in the public school system, he explained, were large enough to fit any child, and certainly large enough to suit their needs.

John’s plan, much to his chagrin, was ruled out almost immediately. Harold cited passages from various child development books about socialization and pecking orders and synoptic passageways. But the kill order was Grace.

“I’m not a teacher.” And she calmly told them that while she happily donned the unexpected mantle of motherhood, this wasn’t on the table.

So they settled for a magnet school technically under the public school’s domain but with an excellent teaching staff and a small student to teacher ratio. Getting her in was only a matter of keystrokes for Harold, and John watched as Harold produced a list of supplies and a helpful brochure for first time parents.

“Will I get a lunchbox?” Leila, unlike the adults in her family, was much more concerned with the important details. John swung her up onto his shoulders. “I want it to be red.”

“Kindergarten is only half days, sunshine. You’ll still be eating lunch at home with Grace and Harold,” he said. From on top of his shoulders Leila squirmed. She was growing fast for her age and sprouting like a beanpole, all legs and arms constantly in motion around a little frog belly.

Harold, always the voice of reason, stepped in. “You can have a lunchbox next year.”

“Okay,” she said, and playfully kicked her legs into the air. John envied this about Harold. While Leila listened to him and Grace, she listened to Harold, hung onto his every word. It could be half an hour before nap time and a snack too late and where John would get a pout and the bubbling start of a temper tantrum, Harold would get a solemn nod.

They were at the loft. They’d expanded the apartment to fit them more comfortably, an extra bedroom for Leila, and a master bath for Grace. But it would always be the loft. It was a soft Saturday morning in May and the line of expansive windows that looked over the park were now Leila’s favorite part of the house. He’d been with her around them at first, at the level of exposure they represented, but he loved watching her press her face to the glass and point at the people below. To her they were just windows.

He walked over to the sofa and began to tip slowly towards it. Still on his shoulders, Leila squealed until he safely dropped her onto a cushion and placed a kiss on her blonde head.

Grace sauntered in from the bathroom with a towel around her shoulders, draped in a powder blue silk dressing gown, and smelling like tea tree oil shampoo. She’d cut her hair again, this time curly and shoulder length, but she’d kept the gold color she’d started dyeing it after she’d come to them. She matched Leila and even though it was artificial, it was endearing.

“You still have all summer before you start, cupcake,” she said, and sat down next to Leila and handed her a bright red plastic hair brush. Leila’s face lit up. She loved combing Grace’s hair. Watching her try to be gentle with Grace’s hair, watching her little face compress with concentration as she hit a snarl, fascinated him. John didn’t quite understand the ritual of it, but he loved watching them; two beautiful women in his life he didn’t deserve.

Harold touched his shoulder, a gentle pressure. “Your breakfast is getting cold, John”

John smiled. “It can wait.”