“Everything,” Katy said. “I like animals. The zoo has special animals you don’t find on the farm.”
“The farm?” Jacob asked.
Jill cringed when Katy began singing “Old MacDonald.” Trevor hated the sound of Katy’s singing. She was about to hush Katy when Jacob joined in the song. Jill was so surprised, she stopped walking. Feeling the tug of Jacob’s hand, Jill took a few quick steps to catch up.
Trying to gain some sense of normal, Jill said, “We have to go here for a ticket.”
“I have a pass,” Jacob said.
“Oh,” Jill said.
Her cheeks went bright red. Overwhelmed with the “I don’t belong” feeling, she let go of his hand. She was out of place. She glanced back at the car. Why had she come?
Noticing Jill’s distress, Jacob stopped walking. He touched her arm and Jill looked up at him.
“My mother loved the zoo. She came here every day the last year of her life,” Jacob said. “She left a donation when she died. That’s why I have the parking spot and the pass. You know, last Colorado Marlowe and all. This is my first time using it, so I don’t really know what I’m doing.”
“Would you mind if we agree to something?” Jacob asked. “Can you just ask me about things rather than deciding there’s something wrong with you? This is all very new to me. Talking and being clear is the only way I know to make it better … more comfortable … easier.”
His empathy brought tears to Jill’s eyes. Blinking back her emotion, she nodded.
“I’ll try,” Jill said.
“Great! I’ll try to do the same,” Jacob said. He stopped walking. “Where am I going?”
“This way!” Katy said at the same time Jill said, “Through the gate.”
Jacob gave the volunteer his pass. The elderly woman searched Jacob’s face and said, “I knew your mother. They don’t make them any better than Celia Marlowe.”
Reading the woman’s name tag, Jacob said, “Thank you, Shirley. We all miss her.”
Shirley looked up to see Jill for the first time.
“You must be Jill,” Shirley said. “It’s nice to finally meet you.
Flabbergasted, Jill gawked at the woman. Shirley bent down to give Katy a zoo sticker.
“And who are you?”
“I’m Katy,” the little girl said. “Who are you?”
“I’m Shirley.” The volunteer smiled. Standing up, she said, “Is this little one yours?”
“Yes,” Jacob said.
“Celia’s grandbaby … She looks just like her.” Noticing the forming lines, Shirley said, “I better get busy. It’s nice to see you, Jake. Enjoy your visit.”
Jacob, Katy, and Jill moved into the zoo.
“What was that?”
“My mother was loved by a lot of people.” Jacob shrugged. “Don’t take it too seriously.”
“She knew my name! Why did you say …?”
“What was I going to say?” Jacob asked. “No, Shirley. I’m on a non-date with my step-horror’s fiancé’s ex-wife.”
Jill’s head jerked up to catch his eyes. Jacob laughed.
“Your step-horror? Mike called her your …”
“I was trying for polite,” Jacob said. “Ladies present and all.”
Looking at Jill, he could not contain his joy at being with her. He beamed. She smiled in return.
“Where to first?”
“Elephants! Elephants!” Katy bounced in the stroller.
“She likes to see the elephants first,” Jill said. “But we can go wherever you want to.”
“Elephants it is,” Jacob said. “Where’s that?”
“This way! This way!” Katy said.
Jill laughed. Impulsively, she put her arm through his elbow. He smiled. They began their journey into the zoo.
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1 continues tomorrow…
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