“I haven’t been here in a long time,” Jacob said.
He turned right from Twenty-Third Avenue into the Denver Zoo and then took an immediate right into a parking lot.
“You can’t park here,” Jill said. “This parking is only for …”
Jacob waved a white security card in front of a post and the gate rose.
“Oh,” Jill said.
Jill wasn’t sure what to say. Only really rich patrons were able to park in this lot. She and Katy usually parked at least a mile away. But that was on Free Admission Day, when all of Denver came to the zoo. She’d never paid to get into the zoo. Of course, she’d never dated anyone who had a job.
Is that what she was doing? She shook her head slightly. No, this was not a date. Friends? She barely knew Jacob. No, they weren’t friends.
What was she doing?
He pulled into a spot that was stenciled in block letters: ‘MARLOWE.’ Trying for cool, she said, “Why are you parking here?”
“It has my name on it,” Jacob said.
“But your last name is Lipson,” Jill said.
“Actually, my name is Jacob Marlowe,” Jacob laughed. Holding his hand out for her to shake, he added. “It’s nice to meet you, Ms. McGuinsey.”
“We’re Ropers now.” Jill sighed. Squaring her shoulders, she imitated his tone. “Jillian Roper and my daughter, Katherine Roper.”
They shook hands. Jacob winked at Jill and she laughed. He moved to get out of the SUV.
“But your dad’s name …”
“Is Lipson.” Jacob settled back into the driver’s seat. Turning to look at Jill, he said, “My mother was the last of the Colorado Marlowes. My parents gave me her surname. You know, I’m carrying on the family name and stuff like that.”
“Ready?” Jacob asked.
Jill nodded. Stepping out of the SUV, she opened the back door for Katy. At the apartment, Katy took one look at Jacob and clammed up. She didn’t squirm when Jill changed her clothing. Katy even waited patiently while Jill slipped into her jeans. In fact, Katy hadn’t said a word in a Katy ice age — fifteen minutes. Katy’s silence added to Jill’s general unease.
By the time Jill opened her door, Katy was out of her car seat. Katy held her arms out to Jill. Lifting her daughter into her arms, Jill felt a little less strange. For a moment, Katy and Jill hugged each other in silent bliss.
Jill jerked out of her reverie. Jacob’s waiting! Trevor always wanted to “get going.” “Hurry up, Jill. Why does it take you so long?” he’d always say.
When she rushed around the SUV, Jacob had unpacked Katy’s stroller and was holding Jill’s purse. He was already wearing her backpack. Jill flushed with gratitude.
Embarrassed at her response, she bent to put Katy into the stroller. Certain Jacob had moved off, she stood up quickly. She found him holding the handles to steady the cheap stroller. She smiled and took her purse from him.
“I should probably push,” Jill said. “She gets very shy …”
“He can push,” Katy said.
“You don’t have to …”
“I’d love to,” Jacob said.
Jacob and Katy set off across the parking lot, leaving a stunned Jill behind. Certain they would leave her behind, she hurried to catch up with them. But Jacob stopped walking. He turned, smiled at her, and reached for her hand.
“Do you mind?” he asked. “I don’t want to lose you.”
Smiling, she took his hand.
“So Katy, what do you like at the zoo?” Jacob asked.
To Jill’s amazement, Katy actually answered. Katy was the quiet, obedient child around Trevor. Of course, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…
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