Jocelyne smiled softly to herself as she took another sip of her drink. Across from her, Clara and Gus did the same – It was clear they were enjoying each other’s company just as much as she was.
“This is nice, isn’t it?” Jocelyne said at last, breaking the silence.
Clara nodded enthusiastically. “Can we go back to making this a regular thing? Please?” She asked. “What happened to doing this every couple weeks? No kids. No husbands. No… whatever you’re calling Mark these days.” Clara smiled at her niece.
Gus nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I really missed this. Guess things have just been too crazy lately… But hey, we finally settled that big case last week. I’ve got loads more free time now.” He smiled.
“Yeah, and we’re in between productions now down at the theater.” Jocelyne smiled. She loved her job so much, but directing was hard and time-consuming work.
The siblings looked almost expectantly at their aunt, who merely shrugged. “Rory’s still driving me up a damn wall… But her Papa gets to be the one to deal with it today.”
“Jeez, what a little ball of energy.” Gus laughed. “So much for ‘empty nest syndrome’, huh?”
“Oh, I still miss the twins like crazy. It’s not the same without them.” She sighed sadly. “But Rory seems determined to make up for it by being annoying as fuck. All the damn time! I love that little thing to death, but…”
“She’s a handful.” Jocelyne smiled in understanding. “I get it. Charlie used to be the same way, remember?” She shook her head for a moment. “See what you have to look forward to, Gus?”
Clara giggled. “Yeah, Auggy. You’ve been hearing our horror stories for years… Think you and Noah should maybe rethink this whole ‘parenting’ thing?” She teased. “You still haven’t found a surrogate yet, right? It’s not too late to back out, y’know.”
He chuckled softly, shaking his head. “Well, you guys have given us plenty of practice over the years with your little munchkins… Okay, maybe not so little anymore.” Gus smiled. “We know what we’re in for. And we’re ready.”
“Famous last words.” Clara stuck her tongue out at him. “I kid, I kid! All the bullshit you put up with is totally worth it. You’ll see.” She assured him. “Right, Jocelyne?”
Jocelyne nodded. “Though it doesn’t always feel that way…” She admitted.
As expected, her aunt could immediately tell that something was wrong. “Oh no. What happened?” Clara’s brow furrowed in concern.
“You haven’t heard the news?” A soft sigh passed her lips. “Apparently I’m a ‘bitch’ because I don’t want my 16-year-old nephew to live on his own. Some nerve, right? What was I thinking?” Jocelyne’s voice dripped with sarcasm.
“Oh.” Her aunt laughed. “That.”
“What, you actually did know about that?!”
Clara nodded. “River told me… Made us reminisce about the first time she called me a bitch.” Her lips curled into a smile. “Oh, and if it makes you feel any better, apparently Zayne feels terrible about it. I guess he was really harping on it at first… Enough to tell his cousins about it, at least!”
“Sounds like he’s not ready to give up that whole ‘moving out’ dream quite yet though.” Gus chimed-in. “So be on the lookout.” He teased.
Jocelyne’s eyes widened. “Wait, you know too?!”
Her brother shrugged. “I didn’t know about the ‘bitch’ part… But I knew he got into some fight with you about living on his own. The girls told Emma about it when they were with their dad this weekend.”
“Of course they did.” She shook her head. “Jesus, is anything private anymore?”
“With our kids? Are you kidding?” Clara giggled.
Jocelyne said nothing for a few moments. She’d been preparing herself to tell her aunt and brother the whole ridiculous story about her conversation with Zayne. Guess I don’t have to explain as much as I thought. Still, talking it over with them would help, wouldn’t it? Give her some perspective on the situation?
At last, she took a deep breath. “So… aside from the general ridiculousness of this whole thing… It’s not even legal, right?” She asked, her eyes flicking toward Gus. “I mean, Zayne claims there’s some law saying kids can live on their own with their parents’ permission? But I’ve never heard of anything like that before…”
“Well…” Gus shrugged. “Technically, he’s right.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
“I mean, the law’s there. It just rarely gets used… I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone put it into action myself… Not that I’ve been practicing law that long, of course.” Gus laughed. “And it’s usually used for things like when a kid’s working or going to school away from home. Nothing like what Zayne wants to do.”
“How serious is he about this thing anyway?” Clara asked. “Are you sure this wasn’t some weird heat-of-the-moment teenage rebellion?”
Jocelyne bit her lip uncertainly. “I dunno. He’s always complained about wanting to be more independent… And ever since he talked to me, he’s been acting so strangely.” She confessed. “Doing his own laundry, washing his own dishes, cleaning his room, even when we don’t ask him to…”
“Ha! He’s buttering you up!” Clara burst into laughter. “That’s adorable.”
“I know.” Jocelyne almost laughed herself. “As if that’s gonna change my mind…” She shook her head slowly. “But I guess he’s trying to show me just how serious he really is about this whole thing… When will he finally give it up?!”
“Probably in about two years.” Gus replied, smiling. “When he finally does move out.”
“Ugh. I was afraid you guys would say that.” Jocelyne held her face in one of her hands for a moment. “How am I supposed to put up with him until then? What if he starts pushing again?”
Clara shrugged. “Sorry, Jocelyne. I think you’re on your own with that one… Remi and River gave me a lot of shit when they were growing up, but I don’t think they ever tried anything like this.”
“Yeah… Not sure what to say about this one.” Her brother admitted. Gus paused for a moment before continuing. “What do you think Lucas would do?” He wondered aloud.
“Ground Zayne for the rest of his life for calling Jocelyne a bitch?” Clara suggested. “You know he wouldn’t put up with that shit from his own kid.”
“Well, yeah.” Gus agreed with a soft chuckle. “But that’s not exactly what I meant.”
Jocelyne could not help but laugh as well. “I take it you were talking about the whole ‘I wanna move out’ thing?”
What would Luc do? She couldn’t help but wonder. It was a question she’d asked herself many times over the past ten years, though she tried her best to avoid it. After all, it wasn’t about what her brother would have done, was it? He’d trusted Zayne to her care. He trusted her judgement. Hadn’t he?
Still, it was hard not to wonder sometimes.
Clara’s eyes suddenly lit up. “Aha! I’ve got it!” She grinned at Jocelyne and Gus. “He’d drop Zayne off in the middle of nowhere with a tent and a sleeping bag and say ‘good luck’.”
“Ha-ha, very funny.”
“What? Living in a tent worked out pretty well for grandpa, didn’t it? And look where we are now!”
Jocelyne just rolled her eyes. “Great-grandpa wasn’t sixteen when he moved to Windenburg, Clara.”
“I’m just saying, that seems like a very Lucas-thing to do.” She shrugged. “Give Zayne a good scare, let him see it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, and wait for him to come crawling back home.” Clara paused for a moment, thoughtful. “Y’know… that might not be the worst idea, actually.”
“Clara!” Jocelyne and Auggy cried out in unison.
“What?” Their aunt shrugged. “Okay, okay… Maybe forget the tent part. Oh! There’s a crappy little apartment in Remi and River’s building the landlord’s dying to get off his hands… Close to home, cousins nearby to look out for him… Wouldn’t be awful, right?”
The other two simply stared at her, dumbfounded.
“Jesus, you guys can’t take a joke, can you?” Clara sighed in exasperation.
Gus rolled his eyes and went back to sipping his drink. “Y’know, Clara, I always forget that you’re a hell of a lot funnier on your blog than in real life… So don’t quit your day job, okay?”
“Oh, fuck you!”
While the other two resumed their conversation, Jocelyne said nothing. She knew Clara had been making her suggestion in jest… But something about the idea had stuck with her.
An apartment in the same building as Remi and River… That wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Just to let him try it out? Wasn’t that what Mark was always telling her to do? Give the kids the freedom to make their own mistakes? So they could learn from them?
What the hell is wrong with me?! I can’t do that… I mean, it’s crazy, right? There’s no way I could ever actually go through with it…