… … …
Monday to Thursday, William's nanny, Heather, picked him up from school. The two of them would go home, and Gillian would finish work as soon as she could. But on a Friday, it was a Foster family tradition that Gillian finished work early and met him at the gate. And then it was games night.
On the drive home, they would discuss William's school day, which usually involved a recounting of all the things a boy named Sammy had said that day. Sometimes Sammy's observations were accurate, sometimes they weren't. William seemed unsure whether or not he should ever believe him. Gillian couldn't figure out whether William and Sammy were friends.
Today, the children had been asked to talk to the class about what they were going to do during the summer break and William enthusiastically told Gillian what he had offered.
"… And I said I was going with my mom, and Cal Lightyear and 'M&M' -" He paused in his tale and burst into a squeal of laughter.
Gillian glanced in her child rear view mirror to see him with his head back chuckling away to himself. She had to giggle herself. His laugh was so contagious.
"What's so funny?" she asked him.
"Mrs Rose didn't know that 'M&M' is a person," he giggled, "She thought I was taking M&Ms with me."
Gillian shook her head as she laughed. She too had been rather puzzled when William had first used that nickname for Emily.
"Did you tell the class all the places that you want to visit in England?"
His laughter calmed and he continued his story. "I did! I said we're going to Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square and the big eye, and Sammy said there is no big eye, but I told him there is, because you said there is. And Mrs Rose told him there is a London Eye, and it's like a big wheel. And I told him that we're all going to go on it and -"
He stopped, suddenly, and Gillian glanced in her mirror again to see why. He looked deep in thought, but not worried about anything. This caused her to worry. It was after these silences that he usually asked her questions that completely showed up her lack of geographical knowledge of somewhere like the continent of Asia.
"What's wrong, sweetheart?" she enquired gently.
"Is Cal Lightyear going to be my dad?"
She choked on her next breath and thought she could probably have coped better with something about the exact location of the Taj Mahal.
"Erm… What makes you ask that?" She tried not to stutter her response.
William seemed oblivious to her state of shock. "Sammy asked me who 'Cal' is and I told him that he's Cal Lightyear and he's my mom's friend, and my friend, and he said that no one has the real name Lightyear…"
Gillian could tell from his tone of voice that William had pulled a face to show he clearly thought Sammy was crazy, a look in the mirror confirmed it.
"… And that his mom's friend Bill is gonna be his dad. His first dad died like mine did."
Gillian had thought that William was too young to question her friendship with Cal. She suspected that Emily teased Cal about it from time to time, but had expected that she would be safe. Apparently she had been wrong.
Glancing at William as much as she could without endangering them, she observed his reaction, hoping that he wasn't too disappointed as she told him, "Well, some moms do have friends who they are going to marry. But Cal isn't that kind of friend."
William was quiet, looking at Gillian, his little lips pursed in thought again. And his face wasn't giving much away about how he felt. Then he commented, "'M&M' said Cal Lightyear is a cool dad."
Gillian smiled and nodded her agreement. "He's a very good dad." And she wouldn't mind at all if he was William's.
"George said his mom's friend Joe is gonna be his dad; Julie has two dads!" William continued, his eyes wide with amazement. "Do I need a dad?"
From the way he said his question, it didn't sound like he was particularly missing having a dad, just that he was wondering why he didn't have one and, like he had said, whether it was a necessity.
The psychologist in Gillian was telling her that these questions were nothing to worry about. William was starting to notice that other families were different to his and was bound to wonder these things.
The mom in Gillian was wondering how she was supposed to explain to her five year old son that he didn't need a dad. And that the man who doted on him like a father was not going to take up that role... When she really wanted to be able to tell him otherwise.
"Honey, some children have a mom and a dad; some only have a dad; some only have a mom -"
This time, her glance at William revealed he was grinning quite proudly and was probably not as concerned about the dad thing as she feared.
"Exactly…" She decided to try a light hearted approach. "And I love you enough for a thousand moms and dads," she told him, playfully.
"A million moms and dads."
He laughed loudly and Gillian was relieved that she seemed to have picked a successful way to handle that.
"A zillion moms and dads," William contributed.
Gillian grinned warmly. "A trillion zillion moms and dads."
They continued in this fashion, the numbers getting larger and larger - and eventually into made up '-illions' - until Gillian parked the car at their house and turned in her seat to face a still giggling William.
"You ready for games night?" she asked him.
He nodded enthusiastically and released his seat belt. "Can we play The London Game?"
Gillian had expected that. It was the only game William had wanted to play since Cal had bought it for him two months ago. She suspected William would know the name of every location featured on it by the time they arrived in London in two weeks' time.
"Of course we can," she replied, echoing his enthusiasm.
William grinned, showing all his little white teeth. Gillian lost herself, adoring him for a moment as she often did. She shook herself out of it and turned to get out of the car. But William's voice, serious again, stopped her.
She had a heavy feeling in the pit of her stomach that this was going to be a dad question, or a Cal question. She plastered on a confident smile and looked back to him.
His little forehead was creased in deep thought. "What's yorkser?"
Momentarily thrown by the new topic, Gillian just managed to stop herself from exclaiming "What?"
Then she managed to withhold a laugh. One minute he was sending her heart into a flurry wondering how she was going to explain the complicated situation that was her friendship with Cal to a five year old, and the next he was asking about (what sounded like) English counties. She'd have thought, after eight months, she wouldn't be surprised by anything William said. Apparently she was wrong about that as well.
Recovering, she asked him, "Erm, do you mean Yorkshire?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Pudding."
Her smile was of utter adoration. "You mean Yorkshire Pudding?"
"Is it like chocolate pudding?" he asked excitedly.
Gillian thought, 'I wish', then answered him, "No, Yorkshire pudding is very different."
"Sammy said people in England only eat Yorkser - Yorksh -," he was determined to get it right. "Yorkshire?"
Gillian nodded encouragingly.
"Yorkshire pudding and corniss pasty... What's pasty?" He wrinkled his nose. "What's corniss?"
Gillian smiled, indulgently. "I tell you what. Let's go inside, get some juice and I'll tell you all about Yorkshire Pudding and Cornish Pasties."
"Okay," he grinned.
They got out of the car, William dragging his school bag out behind him.
"Can we not eat spaghetti bolognaise with the pasta that's shaped like shells in England?" he asked as they walked towards the house.
"Oh yes we can eat that in England, honey. English people don't just eat Yorkshire Pudding and pasties," Gillian replied swinging his arm back and forth as they walked.
"That's good. 'cause that's my favourite," he beamed up at her.
As they entered the house, William was asking her what her favourite food was, and seemed to have completely forgotten the whole conversation about Cal being his dad.
However, Gillian had not. And wasn't likely to.