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‘Daddy do you still love mummy?’ Ollie asks his father.
Just like Ava instructed, AJ picked Oliver from school, and they are spending the afternoon together before he returns him home later tonight.
‘I do. We love each other but we love you much more. Why would you ask that question?’
‘Jonathan said you don’t love mummy that’s why you left her, and you don’t love me anymore.’
‘What? Who is this Jonathan?’
‘My friend. He said his mummy said that you don’t love mummy anymore and he said you don’t love me anymore.’
‘That’s not very nice.’
‘When I told him he was lying he pushed me.’
‘He did what?’ AJ wants to drag this Jonathan character by his ears. ‘Are you okay?’
‘I wanted to push him back but mummy always said not to fight with your friends.’
‘But he’s not your friend if he goes around saying things like that.’
Oliver shrugs with childlike candour. ‘It didn’t hurt though. I just won’t play with him tomorrow.’
If only life were that simple. ‘Have you told mummy this?’
‘No. She’ll only get worried.’
‘Why does she worry?’
‘She can’t cook.’ Oliver laughs, ‘she always tries to cook, but it’s not good.’
‘Nah it’s not.’ AJ laughs, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything but you have to know that mummy and I love you so much and we would never let anything happen to you.’
‘I love you too daddy.’
Impulsion is his strongest vice, his parents always did say, AJ was a shoot first ask later type of child, right from the womb. A lot of his life choices lately are on impulse, no care for anything or anyone else, just an immediate need to satisfy his own selfish urges. He is big enough to admit that to himself. Things with Wendy are rocky at best and an impending blast at worse; he would say they are careening to the worst in short time and his son is paying the price for that. One constant in his life is the love he has for his son; he would have said that about his marriage, but his actions are to the contrary so he won’t kid himself about that; but Oliver means the world to him. Despite not being the model father of the year, he would do anything to protect Oliver including lay down his life. He is the one thing he and Ava got right; all light and goodness. Six years old and the brightest light in their lives. He has all the virtues of Ava, another thing AJ would happily admit. Ava was right she’d been the one to raise AJ whilst he worked; she spent two years at home with him, was there for all the big and little moments. They went everywhere together in Paris and subsequently when they moved back to London, they were peas in a pod and when she went back to work, she never dropped the ball even when he was always busy with the restaurant.
‘Hey, do you have a minute?’
Ten PM. It is later than she likes him to be around, but Ava let AJ put Oliver to bed when they arrived home.
‘Sure.’ She shut her laptop to look at AJ.
‘Who is Jonathan? One of Oliver mates.’
‘Jonathan Gillespie. They are in the same class.’
‘He’s going around saying stuff.’
‘About us. His mum has been saying stuff about us and I guess Jonathan picked it up so-’
‘Fuck sake.’ Ava groans, this is just what she does not need for her son. ‘What did you tell him?’
‘That no matter what we love him very much. He thinks you’ll worry that’s why he didn’t tell you.’
‘He should tell me. I’m his mother and it is not his job to worry about me. I’m the adult here.’
‘I told him Jonathan is not his friend if he goes around saying things like that.’
‘I’m going to have to talk to his mother. She’s that type.’
‘What type?’ AJ smiled but that look on Ava’s face stopped whatever casual banter he was about to start. ‘I made some food for you guys.’
‘Why?’ She didn’t mean to sound so bitchy.
‘Because I wanted to make something for my son. Is that so bad?’
‘No, it’s not.’
‘I made enough for a week, put some in the freezer.’
‘Did Ollie mention something about my cooking?’
‘Ava… I simply wanted to make something for him. I used to cook for the family-’
‘Except we are no longer a family.’
‘He’s still my son and we are connected. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to, I simply wanted to make something for him. For the both of you. Sorry if I overstepped.’
She doesn’t contradict him. He did overstep. They are no longer a family, but she does not want her child to be a casualty of whatever nonsense is going on between them. She needs to get on with hiring a cook.
‘Right. I’ll see you later. Good night.’
‘Night.’ She leaves the butler to close the door behind him, tomorrow morning she has to deal with a mother at the gates.