“It’s nothing. We met up at the mixer for Operation Love. We’re just going out to dinner.”
Finn held up his hands. “You don’t need to explain a single thing to me.”
Maggie’s face crumpled. “I should cancel it. It’s not worth upsetting Oliver.”
“No, you shouldn’t. Oliver is six. He’s bound to try to put his foot down from time to time. I think they call it pushing the boundaries. If you let him have his way with this, you’re going to create a little tyrant.” He folded his arms across his chest. “Do you want that?”
“No, Finn. I most certainly
do not. But maybe it’s too soon,” Maggie said. “He’s just a little boy grappling with adult issues.”
“Only you know if that’s true or not. Keep in mind why you came here to Love in the first place. To change your life. You can’t do that by standing on the sidelines.”
“I need to talk to him, but what should I say?” Maggie asked. As a mother, Maggie usually had all the answers or at least a hunch about how to handle things. At the moment she felt clueless. She trusted Finn’s advice.
“I think you should simply tell him you’re meeting up with Hank because you’re trying to get to know people here in town. Don’t make too much of it. If you do, he’ll pick up on it and freak out again.”
Maggie nodded. “You’re right. That sounds good.”
On impulse, Maggie threw herself against Finn’s chest and wrapped her arms around him. “Thank you. Not just for this advice, but for treating Oliver so well. Even though he’s in a bit of a funk right now, you made one of his dreams come true today.”
When she released Finn, she noticed he was staring at her with a strange expression on his face.
“What is it?” she asked, wondering if she had something stuck between her teeth.
“Nothing. It’s just that...you’re a fantastic mom, Maggie. Oliver is very blessed to have you. He’s not at the age where he’s going to say it to you in so many words, but I know he feels it. Right here,” Finn said, tapping his chest.
Tears stung Maggie’s eyes. The compliment from Finn meant everything to her. Every day she got up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other trying to do her best for her son. It felt gratifying to hear she was doing a decent job of it.
“Thanks, Finn,” she said, her voice choked with emotion. She prayed he was right about Oliver. She felt so tangled up inside knowing he was upset about her plans with Hank. Being a mother wasn’t all peaches and cream. It was tough, never-ending work, and not for the faint of heart.
She took a deep breath as she headed back into the store. Somehow she was going to have to find a way to talk to Oliver about her date with Hank.
* * *
Finn knew he’d blown things earlier with Oliver. When Oliver had spoken to him after their flying adventure about Maggie’s date with Hank, he’d been completely shocked by Oliver’s comment about wanting him to become his father. The comment had come out of the blue. In response, Finn had stumbled and fumbled, without a clue as to how to compassionately deal with a six-year-old boy’s tender wishes.
He had deliberately withheld that information from Maggie when she’d asked him about what was bothering Oliver. It would have been awkward to tell her what Oliver had said to him. He was still wrapping his head around the six-year-old’s comment and annoyed at himself for not responding well to it.
When he walked back into Keepsakes, Finn looked around the store for Oliver. He was sitting down at a little table Maggie had set up for him. His elbows were on the table and his head was slumped down next to the coloring book. He wasn’t coloring or doing anything other than brooding.
A quick glance in Maggie’s direction showed her distress over the situation. He didn’t know what was bothering him more. Oliver’s upset mood or Maggie’s frame of mind.
“Hey, Oliver,” he called out. “I’ve been thinking about something.”
Oliver barely moved. “What?” he mumbled.
“You still haven’t met Boomer yet,” he said in a casual tone.
Oliver quickly raised his head up. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Boomer? Your dog?” Oliver’s voice was infused with unbridled enthusiasm.
Finn folded his arms across his chest and rocked back on his heels. “Yep. One and the same. He gets really lonely when I’m away from the house. And he really likes visitors, especially kids your age.”
“Really? Do you think he would like me?” Oliver asked. He stood up from his chair and walked over to Finn.
Finn laughed out loud. “Are you kidding me? He’d be crazy about you.”
Finn shot a glance at Maggie, asking her a question with his eyes. She nodded discreetly.