I kind of thought that Moira would be more upset about not seeing her grandparents or cousins at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but kids her age have a really frightening ability to adapt to change once they've gotten past the temper tantrums. It's been almost eight years and I'm still going "boo-hoo, being a girl is hard even with a bunch of folks who've gone through the same thing to help!" and she's like, well, I left everybody I know except Mommy behind on the other side of the country and my new friend Josephine's parents speak French so now I'm just going to pick up more French than Mommy did in three years of school and also I never get lost when running around the neighborhood like Mommy does. She's six, she did video calls with her extended family at the holidays, and they ran out to show "Josie" the new toy she was sent.
In fact, the only family member she has seen in the past six months is "Daddy", because June/Jonah and his fiancée Alana got the idea to come down during Mardi Gras. I gather it had sort of been a bucket list item for June in her old life, except that her ex-husband didn't think it sounded like his sort of thing when they were younger, and it's not something you do at June's real age, but when the world thinks you're twenty-four, you and your cute redhead finacée do it. I think they both also wanted to be seen as being good, mature adults, about Moira, even though neither June nor I wants there to be any sort of regular arrangement. I almost wish we could get Alana to go through a cycle at the Inn, just so that we'd all be on the same page, but that's apparently not practical even if stuff didn't often go wrong. Anyway, I can't exactly treat June/Jonah as someone who can just disappear from our lives once the opportunity arises, in part because my parents want to keep up appearances. Then again, they can't just up and move like I just did and start fresh.
It was a weird few days. Moira was shy around "Daddy", and I felt bad about not making the fact that there is a Daddy out there somewhere who likes her (maybe loves her; I mean, how could June not?) but just can't see her very often more a part of her life, especially now that she's got friends at school and sees other family arrangements more often and asks a bunch of questions. June, meanwhile, does know how to be around kids so Alana thinks "Jonah" is closer to Moira than is the case. They mostly did young-single-person stuff, but there was a daddy-daughter outing, from which we now know that Moira really doesn't like boats.
(In the time since this happened, Alana has made overtures about Moira spending a week with Daddy during summer vacation, and I asked Junah if this would be tied to him visiting "his mom and dad" and, yeah, this is complicated!)
More fun was a couple months later when Gabriel had a work thing in New Orleans - some conference or other. We hadn't chatted online much over the winter and spring, because he met a girl who seemed pretty cool from what showed up on his Instagram, and while we still thought of each other as mostly friends (although I guess sleeping together that once makes us "friends with benefits"), a message from me popping up on his phone at the wrong time could get a bad reaction. Ironically, it was her who got back together with an ex a couple weeks before this business trip.
Which suddenly added new possibilities to "we should meet for lunch while I'm out there".
We did that, obviously, and it was really enjoyably casual. Meeting for lunch in this city is terrific, because the sheer number of good places to eat is overwhelming, and I joked with him about being on the dating apps just so that I could get a bunch of guys to introduce me to local restaurants (though I'd found this place myself). He asked if there was anyone, and I said no, that so far the guys who were okay with me having a daughter were not exactly folks I'd risk a second kid with. Like, they figured it made me desperate or something and I wasn't going to pay for babysitters on three nights to get laid once. Joke's on them; Moira loves sleeping over at her friend Josie's and Josie's mom Justine loves hearing stories about men being dogs the next day just as much as hearing about someone being great in bed, even if she does think I should be getting laid more.
(I don't bring up the girls I've swiped right on, because that's not happening. Jordan says I should have worked at being bi earlier, because otherwise your nose overrides what you'd trained yourself to find sexy or something.)
Once it was established we were both single, he said he could extend his stay into the weekend, and maybe we could do something Friday night. We settled on Preservation Hall, which is obvious but should be fun, especially since it was on the list of things I hadn't done here yet, and agreed to meet that night.
I was planning to keep it casual again - camisole, shorts, hair in a ponytail, minimal makeup - and got all the way to the point where I was starting with the makeup after dropping Moira off at Josie's when I got a call from Jordan, who had just got in after a long night in Hong Kong and was kind of buzzed. I put her on speaker as I worked on my face, and when I mentioned it was Gabriel in town she was all like "ooh, you like that boy, don't you? Go get 'im!" I protested that it wasn't like that and I wasn't going to get anyone, she said "uh-huh" and that she was probably keeping me late, so she hung up and left me to it.
(I feel like I usually call Jordan "he", but she was really being a she that night!)
I started with the lipstick, but what Jordan had said was on my mind, and it looked kind of dull all of a sudden. "Damn it," I said, actually said out loud, "I do like that boy!" So I stripped back down to my bra and panties, threw the closet opened, and went straight to the third date dress, the blue one that has a hidden underwire because there's no hiding bra straps with the bare shoulders and it's made to make my cleavage pop. It also doesn't do much to hide the shape of my ass and has some round cutouts just above the hips. I've actually got makeup that matches it, and four-inch heels that do as well. Not necessarily the sort of things I like wearing when I'm probably going to stand in line for an hour, but Gabriel deserved it and I'll admit it, I didn't feel like leaving much to chance. I did what I could do with my hair on short notice, chuckled at what my mother would think of me in this moment, and headed out.
He liked what he saw, and I managed not to fall on my butt as we stood in line and chatted. We got good seats, the music was a ton of fun - it's a tourist trap but one that pulls the tourists in because it's genuinely a lot of fun and really makes you feel like you've had a proper time in New Orleans (and as a recent transplant, I'm not immune to that feeling). It's a quick show, about an hour, so we walked around a bit more, had some late night beignets, and then I let him get me off my feet in his hotel room.
Afterward, we both lay on the bed, naked, kind of joking about how this was kind of sexier than L-shaped sheets on TV and wondering if smoking afterward leveled you out like it always seemed to in movies - I don't know about anybody else, but I always have this want-to-do-more-but-can't feeling if sex is good, and I'm not sure if it's me, Krystal, or just the weird sense of being a guy turned into a girl. I kind of liked being naked in that moment, though, walking up to the window and looking out, knowing he was looking at me, and not having any clothes in between us. "It's gonna be weird if we ever do this anywhere but a hotel, isn't it?"
He laughed. "It is, especially since hotel sex is the best sex."
"I know, right? The sheets are always perfect, the bed never squeaks, there's no worry about being interrupted, you're on neutral ground and someone else is gonna clean up... God, I must sound like such a ho!"
He walked but and put his arms around me. "You're just sayin' facts."
"I guess, but... There's some folks who would be really shocked about me having opinions like this, and some who look at me and think ho sells me short, and I--" I stopped, realizing that I was saying things I usually only said with other folks who'd been to the Inn. "I just sometimes still feel surprised that I'm an adult woman with adult responsibilities and interests, you know? Like, I'm sure you heard that I missed high school graduation, and never went to college or got married, so even though I've got a kid of my own and a job where people act like I know what I'm doing and mostly do as I say, I always feel like I'm putting one over everything and should be heading into first period geography in the morning."
He walked up, put his arms around me, and kissed my neck. "I think you're amazingly together."
"You're just saying that because you see me once a year in my best outfit."
"C'mon, you're pretty good in no outfit at all!"
I laughed, kind of enjoying a man appreciating me and not thinking about it too much in the moment. "I'm just saying, tomorrow I'll be in a t-shirt trying to get Moira to try new food and you'll be on a plane. You're not getting the full Krystle Kamen experience."
"I think I'd like it."
I shrugged, turned around, and feeling that he had started getting hard, pushed him back to the bed, thinking maybe I could do a bit more.
The next morning, I called an Uber and went home, because the deal-sealing dress is cool and all, but public transportation in a dress where you have to cross your legs ain't great. Heck, I was lucky enough to get a woman driving the car, which is a way bigger deal than I ever could have imagined.
So a kind of funny thing is, I did sit down with Justine and talk about the good sex I had while the girls played the next morning and, like, I never really had girlfriends I could do that with back in Massachusetts. Like, with Ashlyn and Jordan it was always a former-guy conversation and Original Moira and I just never had a sex-talk sort of friendship. But Justine and some other women I know do stuff like that, and I wonder if maybe Ashlyn was right - going to a place where nobody knows me is a chance to start fresh.
I do still kind of feel like a visitor myself, in part because Moira has acclimated so fast, but I'm getting there - the fact that folks from before are kind of odd and unusual must mean something.