Grace sits in the passenger’s seat of a car. She looks at the rear-view mirror and sees her daughter, Willow, sleeping in her car seat. She smiles at the sight. She looks over to the driver, Max, who is focused on the road. Grace takes in a deep breath and looks forward.
Grace: I could’ve took a cab to your place, Max. You didn’t have to make the trip.
Max: It’s nothing. Plus, Willow wanted to take a ride.
Grace smiles. She’s happy she’s still here, in Willow’s life, as she gets older. She may only be 3 years old, but she still feels accomplished that throughout everything that’s happened within the last couple of years, she’s still here, with Willow, and still being in her life.
Max: Are we going to your mother’s house for her birthday in January?
Grace: Yeah, she insisted the family be there; my dad bought her a camera and now she wants to take all of the pictures for the house.
Max: *laughs* That’s adorable.
Grace: *scoffs* Definitely annoying in my opinion.
Grace turns around and looks at her daughter.
Grace: Yes, little bean?
Willow: Santa got me a horsey for Christmas!
Grace: *confused* Oh… really?
Grace looks at Max to confirm what Willow is saying. Max mouths out that it was a rocking horse. Grace laughs silently.
Grace: That’s great, sweetie! You have to show me your horsey when we get home!
Grace looks down at her phone when she receives a message from her best friend, Ari.
Ari: Are you in upstate yet with your "boyfriend"?
Grace rolls her eyes at the message. Grace looks outside her car window and sees the once-grass-now-covered-in-snow fields pass by. Everything around them is white, wintery, cold. She thinks about how she got to this place. How did her and Max get on good terms after feeling like they could never be. She cares about him, and he’s the father of her daughter, but she never saw herself being in his car, driving up to his house outside of the city, to spend the day with him and their daughter.
They enter the house as Max places Willow down and she runs off.
Max: Willow, make sure to take your outside boots off!
Willow climbs up the stairs, clearly not listening to her father. Grace carries her overnight bag into the house and places it to the side next to the front door.
Grace nods and looks around the house. She slowly walks to the kitchen as she observes the house.
She walks into the kitchen and sees Max at the kitchen counter making a pot of coffee. For a second, she thinks about how different life would be if she stayed. She would be married, living in a house outside of the city; no noise, no busy lifestyle. She would probably be a full-time mom that signed their kid to do all the extra activities in daycare and become a part of the PCA when Willow is old enough to go to public school. She wonders how much she would either love or hate having that life.
She snaps out of it when Max turns away from the counter and brings a coffee mug to the kitchen table. Grace walks towards the kitchen table to take a seat.
Grace: Thank you.
Max: Of course. Are you hungry?
Grace: No, no; I’m fine.
Max sits across from Grace at the kitchen table.
Grace: So you’re gonna leave your Christmas tree up all year round this year?
Max: *laughs* Willow insisted we keep it up for another week. She likes the lights, I might get her some lights for her room or something.
Grace: *smiles* She’d love that for sure.
Willow: *from a distance* Daddy!
Max gets up from his seat, and Grace follows. They walk to the stairs to see Willow trying to bring down her rocking horse.
Max: Baby, don’t bring Simon down the stairs, me and mama will see him upstairs.
Willow: But I want him down there!
Max: *stern* Willow.
Max walks up the stairs to help Willow put back the rocking horse to her room. Willow causes a fuss and begins to cry. Grace looks at the top of the stairs, growing anxious as she watches her daughter throw a tantrum.
Max: Willow, Simon can’t go downstairs; he likes to be upstairs.
Grace begins to walk up the stairs to talk to Max.
Grace: Maybe we should just bring him downstairs for the time being.
Max: No. We’re not gonna teach her that the way to get her way is to throw a tantrum.
Grace: But it’s–
Max: No, Grace.
Max picks up Willow and she takes her in her room to talk to her. Grace’s face flushes red. She turns around to walk back down the stairs. When no one is looking, she looks up at the ceiling and tries to fight back tears. She walks back into the kitchen and sits back down at the table. Her coffee is now lukewarm. She shoves the coffee away and takes her phone out. She scrolls through her photos and comes across the pictures she had of when Willow was a baby. Sometimes, Grace wonders just how did she get to this point; even though she was in Willow’s life as a baby, the older she gets, the more she feels like she doesn’t know her own daughter.
Within her scrolling, she comes across a photo with Jamie. She stops at the photo, staring at it longer than she intended to. She jumps when Max walks into the kitchen.
Max: Sorry, she had to be put down for a nap. She gets fussy when she’s tired.
Grace: I bet.
Nothing more is said, they just both sit in the kitchen. Max scrolls on his phone as Grace sits there watching him.
She doesn’t want this lifestyle.