New Winslow S6E72
They were staying in a small town, but it was a different small town. There was a tiny downtown, but it wasn’t the one that Roman had been to every single day for twenty-two years. Instead of the little wooden general store with the diagonal parking spaces out front, there was a small supermarket with a public parking lot behind it. Banners hung from the street lights, welcoming tourists. Beneath them, whiskey barrels full of bright pink and yellow flowers spilled cheerfully onto the sidewalk and strings of tiny lights weaved from pole to pole.
The hotel they were staying at was only a few streets away from downtown and Roman felt confident he could walk that far without any issues. Celine had agreed with him, so she was currently back at the hotel with the babies while Roman and Jamie made their way up the sidewalk. The new faces and new storefronts were distracting, but he was so excited about this surprise that he forced himself to keep walking past each one.
“Seriously, Dad, where are we going?” Jamie asked.
“You’ll see,” Roman responded cheerfully. “What? Can’t keep up with me?”
Jamie laughed, speeding up so that he was a few steps ahead of Roman, who moved to match pace with him. Each time Roman caught up, Jamie moved a little faster until they were both running, weaving between benches and barrels until Roman realized they’d just missed their destination.
“Whoa, stop!” he called, slightly out of breath, and Jamie froze ahead of him. “No, no, I’m fine. ” We’re here.”
He waited until Jamie was back, the fear almost gone from his face, but still noticeable enough to send a pang through Roman’s mostly-healed heart. “Hey,” he said quietly. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t,” Jamie said dismissively. “Alright, so what’s so exciting?”
He looked like he was about to say something else, but then he turned to the elegant building beside them, then back to Roman in confusion. “What’s going on?”
Roman ignored the flutter of nerves in his stomach as he led his oldest up the stairs and into the tiny restaurant. Inside it was dimly lit, with candles on the tables and warm yellow lights inset into the walls providing most of the illumination. A few booths were tucked against the far walls and an unlit fireplace took up the nearest. He could see customers sitting at a table close by, sipping wine as they talked quietly. This wasn’t usually Roman’s scene, but that was the whole point of this trip, wasn’t it?
He led Jamie to the sharply-dressed host, who greeted them cordially. “I have a reservation for two, under Beckett,” Roman said, the words unnatural on his tongue.
“Right this way,” the woman said, picking up a couple leather bound menus and disappearing into the dining room.
Just like on the street, Roman wanted to stop and look at everything that was happening around them. He could see Jamie doing just that, his face a mix of confusion and wonder as he took in the elegant dining room. The host led them to a booth near the back, beside a window that looked out over the river behind them. Then with a smile, she disappeared.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Jamie asked.
Shit, why did he feel nervous right now? “Remember when you wanted to make me a restaurant dinner at home, since I couldn’t go to one?” Roman asked. “Well, I wanted to have you with me when I finally could.”
Jamie looked at Roman and, for a second, he thought maybe he’d misjudged. But then he realized Jamie was trying not to cry.
“Bud, hey, it’s okay,” Roman said, reaching over to rub Jamie’s shoulder.
“Are you sure?” Jamie asked him. “Shouldn’t it be Mom?”
“She agrees with me,” Roman said. “Besides, we haven’t been able to spend much time together, just us lately. And I know how much you’ve been helping her at home.”
He hadn’t meant to bring his kid here and make him cry. And he knew if he’d been caught crying in public at sixteen, he wouldn’t have been happy about it. But Jamie just discreetly wiped his eyes and smiled at him. Roman nudged one of the menus toward him. “Order whatever you want,” he said. “We’re on vacation.”
Jamie had decided what he wanted to eat fairly quickly. Instead, it was Roman who embarrassingly found himself overwhelmed by the menu. He wasn’t a particularly elegant man, but he did run a restaurant. Even if it was a local pizza shop. He knew his way around food. But it had been over two decades since he’d been anywhere nearly this nice. Finally, he settled on steak frites and was able to relax slightly as the waitress took their menus away.
Seeing Jamie across the table from him gave Roman a bit of a jolt. Jamie had hit a growth spurt recently. He wasn’t quite as tall as Roman yet, but Roman wasn’t sure he had even a year left until that happened.
“So how are you doing, bud?” he asked Jamie.
“School’s good? Track? What events are you doing?”
“The hundred meter and javelin.”
“Javelin? They’re letting you throw that thing?”
Jamie rolled his eyes, but he smiled indulgently. “Yeah, and I’m pretty good.”
“When’s your next meet?”
“In New Winslow?”
“No, Shelburne Falls.”
“I’ll be there.”
Jamie looked at him. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, seriously,” Roman retorted. “I have my truck. I’ll be there.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Jamie. I’ll be there.”
The waitress came back at that moment with a basket of rolls. Roman let Jamie choose first, then pulled one out for himself, tearing it apart and relishing the puff of steam that came out as he did so.
“You’ve been thinking about college?”
“Only all the time.”
Roman laughed, even as something tugged in his chest at the thought of his baby going to college. It really was coming, and despite everything, he was on the other side of that barrier now.
“So what are you thinking?”
Jamie looked around, like the people at the surrounding tables might suddenly crane their necks to hear his answer. Then he leaned in. “I want to learn how to do magic like Mom.”
Not what Roman had expected. And he knew nothing about it. But the idea wasn’t a bad one. “Oh?”
“Yeah,” Jamie said, his face brightening as he took another roll to replace the one he’d demolished faster than Roman’s brain could comprehend. “She started teaching me, like tarot and stuff. And that’s really cool and so’s everything about, you know, herbs and energy.”
“That’s great,” Roman said. “Have you looked into…I guess, are there magic programs?”
The look Jamie gave him was enough to show Roman how foolish the question apparently was. “No,” Jamie said. “No, I want to go to UMass Amherst and study psychology. But I also want to study magic. Like, seriously. I know I don’t have Mom’s whole thing. But I could learn, right?”
Roman thought of Andrew, then tried to move past the slight flush of (unnecessary, he knew) shame. “Of course,” he said. “I know a guy who’s gotten a lot of magic skills through studying it. And as far as I know, he can’t do the things Mom does.”
Jamie’s face fell a little. “What’s up, bud?” Roman asked.
“A few months ago, when that woman was over,” Jamie said warily. “What happened? I know it was magic, but I was scared to ask.”
Olivia. Roman wasn’t quite sure how to handle this one. “What do you know about it?” he asked.
“I heard her crying upstairs,” Jamie replied. “And Mom was helping her. That was magic, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Roman said. “It’s not my story to tell, but yeah.”
He thought maybe Jamie might push, but instead, he just took a third roll. “Yeah, alright,” he said. “I was going to ask Mom, but I thought maybe she’d get mad. And then I was going to ask you, but then I got distracted. And then you-”
He cut off so quickly that Roman thought at first maybe he’d choked on his bread. But then he just gave Roman a look. “If you come home, are you gonna get stuck again?”
God, Roman couldn’t keep up with the jumps in conversation. “We don’t know,” he said honestly.
Again, Jamie didn’t push like Roman thought he might. Instead, he pulled out the last roll and tossed it across the table, where Roman clumsily went to catch it and missed. “Anyway, that’s what I want to do,” Jamie said. “Set fires with my mind and help people.”