Parental Musings


graeme_icon.gif jaiden_icon.gif

Scene Title Parental Musings
Synopsis Jaiden and Graeme meet up in the market to discuss family, and the inability to turn off after everything that's happened.
Date March 01, 2018

Red Hook Market

Jaiden had arrived in the city earlier that morning. A flight into an airport outside of town followed by a short drive into town had him meeting a few people here and there, distribution of some food shipped from his storage in Kabetogama to New York to help alleviate the potential starvation - just a little - and now he finds himself at the coffee stall. It’s one of the few places in the Zone that even serves coffee, the proprietor having some sort of supernatural way of grinding and roasting the beans perfectly. This is, of course, in addition to being able to get the beans. How in the heck she manages that is unknown but, somehow, she does.

Sitting quietly at the counter, he’s sipping on a cup of black coffee, no sugar or milk for him. Those are so difficult to find nowadays that he prefers his coffee black to save the more important things for others. Dressed in an overcoat to keep the warmth in, his cane rests lightly against the outside of his weak right leg, his foot bouncing slightly in time to a busker playing a guitar on the corner.

A brief break in the day finds Graeme making his way through the market, and although coffee had been his initial goal he spies Jaiden with a grin and a wave. And once his order is placed, instead of waiting with everyone else he pulls another chair up to the counter.

"I'd forgotten you were going to be in town," he admits as he sits down. "Or are you a day early? How's it been?"

For all that Graeme spends enough time up at Kabetogama when can and visits his daughter (both of the girls really) sometimes there's less conversation. Most of the time there's no need for it, the years have made Graeme quiet and reserved for the most part. "It's been busy down here." Pause. "And my sister moved back to the safe zone, too." That part, and however he feels about it, is something he'd omitted over the phone.

“Day late, actually.” Jaiden slips into easy conversation with his co-parent, as if the conversation had just been paused for a little while. “With the theft of the food from the red cross, I broke into the stores up at Kabetogama and had a truckload shipped out. With luck we’ll feed about forty or fifty families before we run out. It’s not a lot but it’s better than nothing.” He gestures to the small box truck parked in the corner of the square, a short woman - a nun, from the habit - wearing work boots and blue jeans handing out boxes of food to a crowd of people.

“It’s good to see you, Graeme.” Jaiden adds, clapping the man on the shoulder, giving him a smile and ordering a cup of coffee for him.

Jaiden nods about the busy comment. “I know, I know. It’s kind of why I’m showing up, here and there, to see if there’s anything I can do to help out. I’m not one to just rest on my laurels, you know. Besides, we’re not all the sort that can't get tired.” He taps his bad knee. “What I wouldn’t give for your endurance, now and again.”

There's a nod. "I've got so much between teaching, and finishing up my own coursework that I can hardly keep track of much else," he admits. "One of the alphabet soup agencies that's involved with starting to get school systems organised and regulated again, wants teachers to have proof of continuing education… for during the war." Graeme rolls his eyes, briefly. "It's ridiculous, and then all this on top of it."

He shakes his head, and says, "Anything you need done up there, I'll be there next weekend and I'm sure Tori will stop having me carry her around and give piggyback rides long enough for some housework, you know." And although Graeme was already smiling, his eyes light up just a bit more at mention of his daughter. "She's probably grown again, hasn't she."

Sharing pictures comes as second nature for Jaiden at this point and, thankfully, a small supply of paper and, yes, an old-style polaroid point and shoot means that Jaiden has plenty of pictures to share. Reaching into his bag, Jaiden pulls out a small stack of photos - recent ones - for just such an occasion. “She’ll never get too big for piggyback rides, Graeme.” The photos are pushed closer for him to flick through, Tori featuring in about half of them with her younger sister, Lis doing various things around the Kabetogama homesite. Building a snowman was a popular one, with both girls showing toothy grins as their lopsided snowman is built from the ample snow the place gets through the winter, with others of Remi and the girls baking, and a couple of Jaiden being pounced by the girls - knocked into a snowdrift. Lots of laughter.

“I can understand why, on a purely bureaucratic bent, why they want that kind of thing. They need standards, blah blah blah, but it’s not like teachers, in the middle of dodging whatever battle was happening around them, can take the time to learn what best method to get your sullen six year old to learn math using sticks, or whatever it is that they teach in those classes.” Jaiden, many times, has said he doesn’t understand education and how it works other than it being super necessary for proper development for the children. “Tori has started reading to Liss at bedtime. It’s the cutest damn thing you’ve ever seen, if you believe that. The favorite is Goodnight Moon, but another one is Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat.”

Jaiden shakes his head. “Nah, pretty much taken care of. Digging out from winter mainly, but the sun’ll take care of that before you know it. You could bring a couple of lessons. Mrs. Hillcrest still comes in every few days to give the girls their lessons, and a few of the other local kids have started showing up too. It’s a good exchange for both of us. She gets food and help in her cabin, and the girls get some schooling and socialization with the other kids.”

That smile continues while Graeme looks at the pictures of the girls, and when he's put them back down, one of the ones of both of their daughters and the snowman has been held back, a half silent quirk of eyebrow upwards in question.

"I'm glad you get all these pictures, Jai," he says. It's a conversation they've had numerous times over the years, with the occasional photo that Graeme keeps and adds to a small album that he keeps with him. "I know I've missed so much, but… that's the world as it was." And Graeme's restless even now that the war is long over, hasn't been one to settle down. Which means that he spends less time with his family than he might otherwise like. But he is there when he can be.

He shakes his head. "First they all have to decide how much math is appropriate for six-year-olds. I'm trying my hardest to steer it away from the standardised testing and rote memorisation that we were dealing with before, but I don't know how well it will work. They still need to eventually be prepared for the exam to get into Brooklyn, and that's going to end up being what matters."

A shrug, and Graeme turns, watching people go by in the market. "It's not going to be enough," he says of the world around them, the food crises, the state of things, lets the words hang in easy but uneasy silence. Easy for who the conversation is between, but the subject matter shifting back to current events adds tension. —

“She’s still your daughter.” Jaiden nods as the picture is taken, a silent ‘go ahead’ implicit in the motion. “I’m not going to stop bringing you photos, even if you tell me to. I know you love Victoria just as much as I do. You just have duties that you can’t get away from. She’ll understand when she’s older. I promise.” He reaches out to squeeze Graeme’s shoulder before sitting back, sipping the rest of his cup.

“If not us, then who?” A rhetorical question from the big Australian as he finishes his coffee, setting the worn mug down on the bar top that he has claimed for his own. “We have to do what we can in the best way we know how. Hell… I’m a little jealous of you right now. I’m kind of…. rudderless… at the moment. With the war over, with the trials over, and reconstruction, I’m kind of a warrior without a war to fight. It’s… hard… to turn off.”

Graeme offers a sympathetic or perhaps empathetic smile to his co-parent, and a nod. "I know," he says. "It's hard for me too, honestly. I can pour myself into one thing and another and all I can hear is the voice in the back of my head, saying that it will never be enough."

The picture is carefully tucked into the pocket of his jacket next to his wallet and a few of the pictures that he carries, "I love the photos," he says, "and I'm grateful for them." The teacher's own coffee cup is turned around, the last few sips taken, and then the empty cup fidgeted with. "You should come by the brickfront when you get a chance," he says. "It's coming along, slowly getting fixed up." A slight snort, and he adds, "And you can play with Thor some. It always helps me turn it off for a little bit." Graeme chuckles, or maybe it's just the opportunity to get some help with the puppy that he's angling for. Or both. "I try not to bring him with me when I come to the market, too much of a distraction or a disturbance." —

“I swear, Thor’s better trained than our daughters or their mother. At least with him he’ll stay when we ask him to, doesn’t rip up clothes, steal food, or poop on the floor.” Things that both daughters have done multiple, multiple times. Jaiden chuckles softly and nods. “I’d like that. Remi wants me to stay at her place, but that skinny brickfront was our home for how many years? Through thick and thin? It’s just….” He sighs. “It’s going to be hard going back there, knowing Lizzie’s not around. Seeing Ygraine again, though….that’ll be nice. I hear she’s doing something similar to what happened with the Dome all those years ago.”

God, they’re really both that old. Jaiden in his late thirties, with a busted up leg.

Jaiden tucks a few bills into the mouth of the jar the coffee lady is using for tips, turning back to Graeme after a moment. “If you get any pointers, let me know. I’m just…. I mean… I’m hoping to get involved with something so I can just do something other than feel guilty for doing as well as I did during the war. Call it survivor’s guilt, because that’s definitely what it is.” He looks around the square that they sit in, taking in the sights of survivors, scraping out existences on the carcass of a ruined city and sighs, shaking his head. “I went to Minnesota because it was so far out of the way civilization wouldn’t encroach, and now that speck of land in the middle of nowhere is one of the last civilized places in the country.” His eyes close. “Will it get better, Graeme? Ever?”

This time it's Graeme's turn to set a hand, gently, on Jaiden's shoulder in reassurance. "I mean, it took time to get him puppy-trained, the girls will learn too." There's a grin. "I didn't realize how much of a mess infants were until we had one." He grins a little more, and says, quietly, "And then two."

Because that's the sort of family unit they are. There's never been much distinction made as to who fathered which child, no favouritism, no differences.

"Stay with Remi but at least come by the brickfront. Remi needs you, too." He pauses, considering for a while. Watching the crowd go by. It's a rare moment that the two men get to spend without their children or the mother of said children needing something from them, and the silence is enjoyed as best as they can. "Liz… she wanted us to stick together and that's exactly what we've done," Graeme says. He sits quietly for a moment, and says, "It will get better, because it has to. You helped out a lot of people during the war by being able to do as well as you did," refugees that Graeme brought up and that bit of border crossing on the lake that they used to smuggle them across. The supplies that were stockpiled.

"Even if it doesn't feel like enough, because it will never feel like enough." He pauses. "You took all those pictures during the war and after. You should see about organizing a show again."

The Family, as Jaiden calls it, is the strangest juxtaposition of people. Two fathers, two daughters, one mother. It’s odd, but it works for them and that’s all that really matters. They give a lot of love to the girls, and they probably think they’re really lucky to have so much attention from multiple parents. “Unlike a dog, we can’t give them away and can’t put them in the pound.” He’s teasing, of course. He’d never do such a thing.

Jaiden lets out a breath and reaches over to clasp Graeme’s shoulder. “Thanks.” he murmurs. “I really, really needed to hear that. I’m not planning to leave Remi or the girls ever. I will come and visit the brickfront. To say hello, at least. Maybe visit for a while.”

"We'll have tea and some sort of dinner," Graeme says, and then there's a short snort of laughter. "Ygraine's almost sold me on tea. Keyword, almost." He shakes his head. "Convinced me that if I'm up twenty-two hours a day I don't need extra coffee while I'm home. It… it works." A nod, and a small grin follow. "Usually."

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