Anyway, she really needed to talk to one of her parents and there was only one of her parents she could talk to about this right now, plus Garen-Dad was probably the best choice anyway. Dad and Vivienne definitely weren’t relationship-status winners. Like, in the grand scheme of things the pair of them would be lucky to get a participation trophy when it came to relationships.
But Dad literally hadn’t spoken to her since she stormed out over a year ago, after the argument they’d had following her wedding. Jessie admittedly had waited until the actual wedding to spring the poly thing on her assorted family, which was perhaps not the wisest choice, but she didn’t want to deal with the whole judgmental thing ruining the anticipation. She’d really thought everyone would get over it with time but so far that really wasn’t working out for her. So instead of Flooing into the apartments in RMI, Jessie had sent an owl to Garen-Dad asking him to meet her at one of the coffee shops up on Pearl Street, mentioning that she needed some advice. He had owled back fairly quickly and they had arranged a time.
And that’s why Jessie was in a coffee shop and not a dragon reserve on that Friday afternoon. She was drinking a honey cappuccino and tapping her fingers against the table. She’d chosen an outside table because the weather was beautiful for the fall (as it usually was in Boulder) and was about to get up and start pacing or something when she saw Garen-Dad walking towards the coffee shop and waved at him, mentally bracing herself one last time for the upcoming conversation.
“It’s so good to see you,” he said, greeting her with a hug. By now, Garen knew the safest course with Jessie was to never enter a conversation with an expectation of what it would be about or how it would go. He hoped he could give her the advice she needed--he hoped it was about healing the rift with Aaron--but because it was Jessie, he knew she could just as likely be asking for advice on opening a bakery or driving stick-shift.
“Hey Garen-Dad,” Jessie chirped, sitting back down after the hug. She would have grabbed a smaller table normally, but all the free tables outside the coffee shop at the moment were had four chairs at them. “How’s everyone?”
The question came out a little more down than Jessie usually was. She was still in intermittent contact with Mads and Drew, but she was pretty upset by the fact that Dad wasn’t talking to her. Jessie had never been a big person for family time, but she was learning that she did actually rely on it - even if it was just a little.
Garen didn’t miss the worry in her tone. “Well, Madeleine loves being a first year, but I’m sure she’s covered that in her letters. And Drew’s fifth year is going better than his fourth, as far as I can tell.” There had been no fights and no panicked conversations in the counselor’s office, so Garen was counting it as a win. “Aaron has been… doing a lot of spell research.” More specifically, he was spending a lot of time doing research while sulking, and guiltily changing the subject every time Garen brought up Jessie.
“Yeah Madeleine has definitely kept me up to date,” Jessie laughed. Drew was less likely to write letters, but Mads definitely made up for it by sending letters so long that the trans-Atlantic owls gave Jessie dirty looks upon arrival.
“Um. So.” Jessie paused and fidgeted with her half-full cup. “I was hoping for some advice, but it’s about, you know, my relationship and stuff so…” she trailed off, hoping that Garen would be willing to offer his help but also unsure whether he was willing to dive into her particular set of problems.
“Okay,” Garen said encouragingly, without hesitation. Jessie had come all this way, and Garen was pretty sure she didn’t have anyone else to ask these kind of questions. At least, no one else whose advice he’d agree with. He braced himself. “What’s going on?”
With a deep breath, Jessie started off by explaining the situation. “So like I mentioned,” mentioned was a strong word, “Maariya has a boyfriend, right? He was at the wedding, I don’t know if you remember.” Blessing had briefly met Jessie’s parents but it had been awkward and while Jessie was pretty sure he and Dad would actually get along (they were both nerdy professors, although in different fields) that was not a friendship that had been kindled on that day. “Anyway, Maariya decided she wants kids and so she and Blessing - well, you know.” Jessie took another deep breath. “Anyway so there’s a - baby now. And I uh,” the woman sighed.
“Garen-Dad, I don’t want kids. I really don’t. I love Mads and Drew but they’re not my kids, they’re yours, and I don’t want to be responsible for a baby, or live with one, and I wasn’t exactly asked about it so I’m… thinking about getting a divorce.” Jessie shut her eyes in a wince then met Garen’s gaze. “But I just. I’m not sure, you know?”
Oh. This was a real problem. Garen had expected Jessie’s usual kelpie-in-the-bathtub antics, not this.
“Well,” Garen said, slowly, trying to think while he talked. “First of all, I think it’s not fair that you weren’t asked about it. I know you and Maariya’s relationship is,” he struggled to find a word that was accurate but not dismissive and landed on, “works differently from what I’m familiar with, but you’re married and you should have been part of the decision to bring a baby into the family.
“So,” he continued. Garen had done a lot of research about polyamory after they came back from the wedding, because Jessie was his daughter. Even though learning about it just made him more uncomfortable with the idea of polyamory, he’d wanted to understand. He tried to access the part of his brain that remembered how this was supposed to work when everything was consensual. “I guess the question is, what relationship do you want to have with Maariya, going forward?”
If there was one thing Jessie had inherited from her biological father, it was a complete failure to handle relationships with other people. Mostly she didn’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about the past and future and focused on the present, with the knowledge that she might flit away fairly quickly. The idea behind getting married had been to forestall that flitting away, but now things were different. Now Jessie was pretty sure that just walking away from Maariya wouldn’t cause her, personally, any harm. But also she knew that saying that to Garen-Dad probably wasn’t the right response. On the other hand, it was the honest one.
“I just feel like we’re in different places now and it’s kind of time for me to move on,” Jessie responded, framing her honesty in a true-but-better-phrased box. “I’m not super mad about it, I just don’t think it’s the right time and place for us anymore.” Now she felt a little guilty; marriage was supposed to have taken care of this problem.
“Okay,” Garen said, which was apparently what he said when he didn’t agree but was trying to be accepting. “Because if you still wanted to be with her,” he suggested uncertainly, “you could stay married and just not be each others’... primary?” He said it in a hopeful, questioning sort of way. He wasn’t sure if he was using the term correctly. “But it sounds like that’s not what you want.”
“It just doesn’t seem fair to have a kid involved,” Jessie shrugged. “I don’t want to be involved with the kid and it doesn’t make sense for me to be involved with Maariya and not her kid, especially since babies are so needy all the time. There just isn’t a way to separate those two things right now.”
Garen agreed, but there was a deeply-rooted principle that meant he couldn’t bring himself to recommend divorce. Not in so many words. “Earlier, you said you weren’t sure. Why not?”
“I don’t want people to think I wasn’t taking it seriously,” Jessie admitted, somewhat abashedly. “Everyone already thinks I just do things without thinking, and I don’t want this to be one of those things.”
Oh. Garen suspected he knew exactly which people Jessie meant. “I know things are messy with Aaron right now,” he said at last. “But this is about your life, and your happiness. You can’t base your decision about this on his opinion, or anyone else’s. That’s not a good reason to stay married.”
Jessie swirled the coffee in her cup and thought for a minute. Garen-Dad was probably right, but he was also giving her the answer that she’d hoped for which seemed kind of antithetic to Garen-Dad as a person. After all the family stuff he’d dealt with, especially with Dad, Jessie had expected him to tell her to try and work it out. But maybe this was different - Dad had definitely not randomly had a kid or whatever.
Well okay technically he had but that was a long time before Garen-Dad and it was more complicated than that.
“Do you think he’ll be more or less mad at me?” she asked wryly, looking up from her coffee.
The answer was so obviously more, and he’ll also turn into a border collie and mope under the couch because he’ll think it’s somehow his fault, but Garen didn’t want to tell Jessie that. “I think, hopefully, he’ll agree with you that it’s not fair to have a kid involved when you don’t want to raise a kid.”
“Yeah all right,” Jessie nodded. “Okay. I think that’s what I’m going to do then. Thanks, Garen-Dad.”
“Any time,” Garen said, knowing Jessie was likely to take it literally. He felt sad for Jessie, even though she didn’t seem sad. He tried to reassure himself that this was the most mature decision Jessie could be making, and it was wise of her to end the relationship now instead of later, but that didn’t sit well either. “Come visit more,” he entreated. “Madeleine would love to see you. Aaron is just going to have to get over himself.”
Jessie agreed to come see them more, changing the topic to what Madeleine and Drew had been up to during the year. She hadn't seen Garen-Dad for ages, and she wasn't about to let the whole thing with Maariya ruin the visit, even if it had been what instigated it.
cowritten by Austin & Sophia