The next day rolled around, uneventful but peaceful. Still no news from Ren – although according to her ex-husband, Niall, she had met up with him on the twenty-eighth. Aimi tried not to feel disappointed. And failed horrendously.
It wasn’t until Aimi came back from her morning run, salt and pepper hair a frizzy halo around her flushed face, that she remembered Shaun at all. The reminder became pretty obvious when she saw him standing on her front patio holding his phone.
“Shaun. What are you doing here?” Not that she was complaining – but it was nine-thirty in the morning and he lived halfway across town.
He turned then, beaming widely, and shrugged almost shyly. “After what you said the other day, I figured you were worried about your daughter. So I brought coffee, and cake from that bakery you like.”
Cake, at half nine in the morning? Aimi rolled her eyes, but she warmed to the idea as he handed her a disposable coffee cup. The creamy, sweet smell of hazelnut latte filled her nose, and she was sold. “Come in, then,” she replied with a smile, pressing the cup close to inhale the delicious smell.
Shaun wasted no time making himself at home – why would he, when he had known her for years – and opened the box of cake with a flourish. “Strawberry cheesecake, I know it’s your favourite.” There was a hefty slice of chocolate and raspberry sponge for him, freshly made of course. Shaun wouldn’t accept anything else.
Aimi reached for her box with a thankful smile, noting there was even a fork in there too – but before she had the chance to even touch it, the box snapped closed.
“Not until you tell me what’s wrong.” Shaun grinned at her from across the room, perched on the armchair with his own coffee in hand.
Aimi huffed, rolled her eyes, and sank into the couch. “It’s silly,” she muttered, “really, nothing to bother with.”
“I don’t have kids,” Shaun admitted, “but I know that when family is involved, nothing is silly.”
He had a point, and she didn’t like it. Her tanned fingers fidgeted with the ridge of the cup’s lid, eyes staring at the caution: hot sign as if it held the answers to the universe. After a moment she puffed out a breath, sinking further into the cushions. “Ren’s barely spoken to me since she moved out,” she replied softly, “and apparently she was with her father last week, but she can’t even bother to text me.“
“Oh.” Shaun’s thick eyebrows furrowed as he rubbed the back of his neck. He was in thought, pondering his words so he didn’t offend.
But now Aimi was on a roll, and it all came gushing out. “I’m being left behind, and I know it. We used to be so close. Now it’s as if she hardly remembers me, and I don’t have anyone to blame because her fiance is lovely, so what if I’m the problem?” Her hands clenched around the coffee cup, hot against her palms. She ignored it. “What if she forgets me entirely?”
What if, just like her ex-husband, Ren was bored of her? Niall had been sweet and loving, grateful she came all the way from Japan to marry him all those years ago, but over the years it became clear he wasn’t interested any more. What if Ren was the same?
Shaun was silent – and somehow, silence was worse than dismissal. His features were impossible to read, save for his thick brows lowered in thought. Eventually he sighed, set down his cup – and then strode across the living room to wrap her into a tight embrace.
It took two seconds for Aimi to melt into it. Despite having been outside he was blissfully warm. His curly hair tickled her face but she didn’t mind, pulling him closer rather than pushing him away.
“She moved recently, right?” Shaun muttered as he broke the hug. His warmth stayed with her long after. “She’s just busy with her new home and her fiance. She hasn’t forgotten you at all.”
“I’ve texted her almost every day, the most I get is three word replies,” Aimi sighed. As Shaun settled back into the armchair she glanced up, but his signature smile was genuine. With another sigh, Aimi sipped her coffee.
It was as delicious as she remembered; sweet but not sickly, with that rich hint of hazelnut behind the strong coffee. The tension retreated from her shoulders as she smiled.
“See? Coffee makes everything better,” Shaun replied wisely, “but seriously, try not to worry. If she comes to dinner on Thursday, you can talk to her then.”
That was a pretty big if. Ren hadn’t replied, perhaps hadn’t even seen the message, and it was beginning to seem like a lost cause. But, she told herself, Shaun’s right. I haven’t been forgotten. I just miss her.
Still, it didn’t much help the concern swimming in her gut.
“I’ll message her, if it helps,” Shaun offered with a sympathetic smile, “let her know she’s still invited to dinner.”
“Thanks,” Aimi replied, returning with a smile of her own. It lifted her spirits a little, knowing Shaun was in her corner. And even if Ren didn’t come, the evening might at least take her mind away from her worries. For a few hours, anyway.
Shaun’s dark hands reached for the cardboard cake boxes, and his grin widened as he said, “now, I think it’s time for cake.”
Aimi rarely ate cake – and never so early in the morning – but she deserved it this once. She should have changed out of her workout clothes first, but the delicious, fruity cheesecake was calling to her.
She would put her worries about Ren out of her mind, she decided. Because Ren was an adult, and so was she, and she didn’t have to live her life around her daughter.
Still, in the back of her mind, she really hoped Ren would come to dinner.