"This is a really good picture of your mom, I don't think I've ever seen it before."
Pete laughed, "Well that's because it's not my mom, it's my step-mom."
"Seriously? She looks just like your mom!"
"Yep. She does."
"I guess your dad has a type."
"As my mother said it was her only younger."
"Yeah, to be fair to my mother though she had no idea I heard her say that. She was on the phone with my aunt and would have died if she knew I had overheard her. She never said anything negative about my dad or Julie in front of us kids. She was really good about that."
"That's amazing. My mother bashed my father and my father bashed my mother constantly. I always felt like I was betraying the other one by even hearing it."
"Yeah, they had an agreement. She stuck to it more than he did, but they both did their best."
Cara picked up the picture again, "It's uncanny."
"Yep. There are times they are really alike personality wise as well. Which was a little surprising at first, but then not really. There are some areas where they are really different which made more sense to me. I mean after all Mom and Dad didn't stay together so it would make sense he'd want something different, but not too different because Mom is pretty amazing."
"How do they get along?"
"Dad and Julie? Well they are still married so I guess well enough."
"No, I mean your mother and step-mother. Mine hated each other. My step-mother was sure that my mother was trying to steal money from my dad and my mother was sure my step-mother was the evil step-mother from the stories. Now that could have been our fault because we didn't like her, but still."
Pete laughed again, "They actually got along really well. Here is where I will say again that my mother is amazing. Dad and Julie were married within 6 months of my parent's divorce being finalized. As my aunt used to say, the timing was a little too cute. My aunt did not agree with not saying anything bad about my father, though she was careful how much she said when my mother was around. But we figured it out once we were older anyway. There is no way Julie wasn't on the scene before my parents split. And my mother was still really kind to her."
"That's a little weird right?"
"A little. I asked her about it a few years ago; how she dealt with it. She said that Julie was a symptom of a diseased marriage not the disease. She couldn't fault Julie for falling for my dad, after all at one point she had as well. She said she wished that she and dad had had the courage to end their marriage ahead of time so that there wouldn't have been any questions from other people but it hadn't worked out that way.
I asked her about her feelings for Julie and she said that honestly at times she was a little jealous of her, but not because of my dad, because of the custody arrangement. She said it was hard to spend holidays away from us and so sometimes she would be a little jealous that Julie was getting us on that day. And that she imagined Dad felt exactly the same way when it was her turn to have us on a holiday."
"Does Julie realize she looks like your mother?"
"I would think she would have to. She doesn't really say anything though. But there are times when she is out with my sister and people comment on how much her daughter looks like her, and Gabby looks just like mom so..."
"That must be kind of weird for her."
"Maybe. Probably. As long as he never calls her by the wrong name it's probably okay."
"What about your mom? Does she have as strong of a type?"
"Ha! No. She's dated a few guys since she and Dad split and they have all been really different than Dad and really different from each other as well. I think variety is her type."
"But she never remarried?"
"She said she doesn't have an urge to get married. She did it once doesn't need to do it again. That's usually when she breaks it off with whoever she is dating. When they decide that she was kidding and really does want to get married. They start asking and she shows them politely to the door.
And it's probably good that she doesn't. At least for the working system we all have. Dad is not as gracious with her boyfriends as Mom is about Julie. He cannot stand any of them."
"Do you think he's jealous?"
"Oh yeah. Totally. But I don't think he realizes it any more than he realizes that Julie is pretty much a younger version of Mom. Just oblivious. Though I think Julie notices and isn't thrilled. That's about the only time I've seen them fight is when he's being a jerk about someone Mom is dating. It's amusing. Not that he and Julie are fighting, but that he's so oblivious."
"It sounds like you all have good relationships though, for the most part?"
"Yeah, I mean, I love Julie. She's been a really great step-mother, my dad can be a little challenging at times and I think she's been good for him. The one area she is different from my mother is patience, especially with him. My mom doesn't suffer fools gladly and when Dad was acting the fool she would let him have it. Julie is a little more gentle. Dad likes to feel like he's in charge, and is the man of the house. My mother is not good at playing the little woman role, but Julie is a little quieter and softer and doesn't seem bothered by Dad's bluster. I think we all ended up doing well because Mom and Dad decided to put Gabby and I first as far as emotions about each other and because Julie was so nurturing that she couldn't help but be a great step-mom. And then when Cole was born we all fell in love with him, even Mom, so that took care of any lingering animosity."
"Having a brother that much younger than you just must be weird though right?"
"What? Eighteen years isn't the typical age gap between brothers? It's different, but better I think. There was no jealousy between us. And Gabby and I loved babysitting for him when he was first born so there wasn't even resentment that we had to take care of the baby instead of go out with our friends. It was like a treat to get to watch him."
Pete took the picture from Cara's hand and put it back on the shelf.
"Well? Now that you know more about my weird blended family are you sure you still want to move in with me?"
"Hmm...let me think for a second. Your parent's are divorced but still nice to each other. You love your step-mother and have nothing but nice things to say about her. Your little brother is the cutest kid in my kindergarten class, don't tell anyone I play favorites, your sister has great taste in shoes and happens to be my size. I would be crazy not to."
"And? What about me?"
Gabby stepped back and sized him up with a look then nodded. "You'll do."