Satisfied with that thought, I took in my surroundings. Rumpus, the family dog, stood wagging his tail, eager for a pet. The pool was the largest I had ever seen in a private back yard. It was not Olympic-sized, but it almost seemed that way. John kept the pool in meticulous shape, but everything else looked shabby. The outdoor redwood furniture needed a coat of fresh stain and the scruffy chair pads should have been chucked in the trash long ago. Except for night-blooming jasmine growing near the house, there were no flowers, no color anywhere except the blue of the pool. Orange trees acted as fencing along two sides of the lot, but a tall gray brick wall shut off the western edge of the property from a very old house and barn belonging to my mother-in-law. That was where Alma grew up and it was rented, I would soon learn, from a peculiar family.
George and Jimmy asked me to help them put on their new pukka shell necklaces, and when they opened their bright Hawaiian-print swimming trunks they begged to get into the pool, but I wanted to hear about all I had missed while I was gone. Their teachers seemed nice, both told me. There was a bit of a silence and then George asked, “Why is it such a big deal to be in the Stewart family?”
I said I wasn’t sure what the big deal was. “Maybe it’s because John’s family has lived in Moraine a long time and they’ve owned Stewart’s Market for a long time, too.”
Jimmy, who was in second grade, chimed in, “Some of the kids in my class wanted to know what it’s like to have a new dad who owns a grocery store.”
“What did you say?” I asked.
“I said I already had a daddy. But is John my new dad?”
“In a way,” I said. “John is my new husband, and your step-father. But you have a daddy, your real daddy. He just does not live with us anymore. He loves you both very much and he will be seeing you often, even though we have moved to Moraine.”
“Do we have to call John, ‘daddy’?” George asked.
“No. You call him John.”
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