“Would you like for me to squeeze your melons?”
Jesus fuck…was I hearing voices now?
My hand stilled on top of the cantaloupe it was groping and I tried to not make any wide sweeping movements as I looked over to my left, expecting to see an Eric angel making lewd Miley-like gestures with his wings, like they were a giant foam finger and he was blurring the lines of decency at the VMA’s. But instead it was the real thing.
Eric. Not Miley.
“Oh thank god,” I laughed seeing him standing there smiling at me.
“Gee,” he smiled. “I would’ve offered to squeeze your melons a long time ago if I’d known you would smile at me like that.”
Don’t jump the man. Don’t jump the man. Don’t jump the man.
Trying to think of something to say that didn’t involve me offering him the two melons behind my Superman emblem, I asked, “How did you find me so quickly?”
I always parked on one side of the Farmer’s Market and then headed straight to the opposite end, so by the time I’d gone through the whole thing I ended up back where I parked. We’d only just gotten there when we ran into them, so now I was clear across on the other side.
“Would it be bad form to admit I whistled for the boys and hitched a ride with them?” he asked, looking amused, but a little unsure.
Would it be bad form to admit I might love him a little for the sheer fact he seemed to appreciate my Lord of the Flies parenting style?
Or maybe I wouldn’t mind if it was just us, with him introducing me to the beast in his pants.
“Not at all,” I grinned, but remembering I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t come alone – even though I seemed to be every time I turned around – not seeing any of our kids, I asked, “Where’s Pam?”
His smiling lips were smiling no more when he answered, “I sent her ass home.”
“What?” And thinking maybe I had something to do with it, I added, “I hope it wasn’t because of me. I wouldn’t have minded having her join us, but I just got the feeling she wasn’t up for it.”
I couldn’t blame her, really. The boys could be a handful, even on their best behavior. I was just lucky Eric didn’t seem to be afraid of Treyson.
Hell, he was lucky he hadn’t shown them any fear.
They fed off of it.
Eric grimaced and said, “She was acting like a spoiled brat. I just…I didn’t feel like putting up with her attitude, so I sent her on her way. We took two cars here because she was going to meet up with her friend Miriam at the mall when we were done, so she’s probably just throwing her tantrum via my credit card right now.”
“Oh,” I replied, feeling my eyes go wide. My boys could be hell on wheels, but their mischief was usually good natured, if not costly to repair. Or maybe I was just lucky to have had boys, so I didn’t have female hormones to deal with other than my own, but if they’d mouthed off to me I sure as hell wouldn’t have let them go footloose and fancy free down to the mall with my credit card afterward.
“What?” Eric asked, staring back at me. “I see plotting going on behind those blue eyes of yours.”
“Nothing,” I answered a little too quickly.
Taking a step closer to put his body right up against mine, he looked down at me and whispered, “Tell me.”
My name. My mother’s maiden name. The name of the street I grew up on and my first pet’s name. The mascot of my high school and my father’s middle name.
With his body pressed against mine I found I was willing to give him the answer to every online account secret question I could think of, so I couldn’t stop myself from giving him the answer to the question he’d actually asked when I whispered back, “I would call and cancel the credit card so she couldn’t use it.”
My brain cells finally infused with some much needed oxygen when he took a step back. But when an evil grin spread onto his face as he reached into his pocket where I’d seen him stash his cell phone, I quickly put my hands on his arm to stop him and said, “No…don’t. I’m just bitchy when it comes to stuff like that with my kids, but she’ll be embarrassed when she goes to use it and it doesn’t work. It’s mean.”
“Maybe she needs a good dose of her own mean-spirited medicine,” he glared, but pulled his hand back out of his pocket sans cell phone.
I was dying to ask what had happened between them, but I barely knew him – his offer to squeeze my melons notwithstanding – so I kept my mouth shut and only joked, “Well, you know how us girls can be. Irrational.”
Jason and Trey ran up to us then, with each of them grabbing one of my hands and began pulling on me pleading, “Mom! Come see!”
Digging in my heels – made more difficult thanks to my flip flops – I pulled back and said, “You know the drill. If it eats, drinks, or poops, the answer is no. Otherwise state your case. I’m not running off with you two to places unknown when one of us needs to be free to post bail.”
Eric chuckled and as leader of their two-man band of brothers, Jason stood tall and squared his shoulders saying, “There’s a guy selling an old telescope three aisles over. It still works, but it costs twenty-five dollars and we only have eighteen between us.”
Grinning at them, I taunted, “So you want me to, what? Spot you the seven bucks when I can’t even spot the carpet on your bedroom floor thanks to the piles of toys and clothes on top of it?”
“What if we swear to God we’ll clean our room as soon as we get home?” Trey asked with wide hopeful eyes.
“I think God will strike you dead where you stand,” I laughed and took a step back, like the lightning bolt was on its way.
“We promise,” they pleaded in unison.
Damn puppy dog eyes.
They spotted the sign I’d given in without me having to say a word, so I looked over at Eric and smiled asking, “Wanna watch me barter?”
“Among other things,” he smiled back, poofing my panties away.
We followed the dynamic duo, with them running ahead and then stopping to turn around and make sure we were still behind them, but I lost track of them and everything else in my head when I felt Eric’s hand take my own.
Looking down just as his fingers laced with mine, I looked back up at him when he asked, “Is uh…this okay?”
Would it be okay if I shoved his hand down my shorts?
But all I did was let my inner dork shine through and grinned saying, “Yes.”
“Good,” he grinned back and then asked, “So, are the boys into stargazing?”
“No,” I chuckled. “They want the telescope for the watchtower of the tree house they plan on building in the backyard.” Giving him a meaningful look, I added, “For defensive purposes.”
“Ambitious,” he chuckled.
“Among other things,” I laughed. “I’m just thankful they haven’t found that cannon they’ve been keeping an eye out for.”
He didn’t say it in a way that made it sound like a question, so I looked up at him and repeated his words from earlier back at him saying, “I see plotting behind those blue eyes of yours.”
I might not have known him very well yet, but I could still see him tucking whatever it was he’d been thinking away for future use before he asked, “How far along have they gotten with their tree house?”
Smiling, I answered, “The pipes – as in pipe dreams – are fully formed, but other than that it’s pretty bare bones right now.”
All they had were some scavenged pieces of wood Sam had brought home for them from some work sites, but what they wanted to build amounted to a fortress worthy of any medieval lord.
Moat and drawbridge included.
And the requisite alligator swimming in it.
There was more plotting going on in Eric’s head, but before I could go digging any information out of it, we arrived at the table where they boys were standing. On Sundays people could sell their wares at various tables – kind of like a yard sale mecca – so it was easy to spend hours going from table to table looking for treasures. The boys and I usually stopped by a couple of times a month to kill time, but as we eventually found our way back to the car one telescope heavier than we’d arrived, I would admit it was a hell of a lot better killing time with Eric’s hand in my own.
I really wasn’t ready for the day to end, so I’m sure my eagerness at getting to spend more time with Sookie came through in my reply to her offer to join them for dinner when I said, “Yes!” And ratcheting my sappy soppiness back down to acceptable levels, I added, “I’d love to.”
“We’re just doing burgers and dogs on the grill, so it’s nothing fancy,” she offered. But she could offer me a shit sandwich and I’d happily join her.
I. Had. It. Bad.
“You can call Pam and ask her to join us if you want,” she added. “We have plenty.”
Thankfully Pam already had plans, so I didn’t feel as guilty for not wanting to invite her so she could ruin what turned out to be a great day and said, “She’s already got dinner plans with her friend.”
She’d met Miriam in one of her classes at the design school she was attending and I was surprised she seemed to take to her so quickly, but happy she had nonetheless. Pam didn’t let many people in, so it was nice to see her finally take a chance on someone.
Hopefully she’d be willing to take a chance on Sookie once she got to know her better.
I followed them back to their house and no sooner did we pull into her driveway when I noticed someone lurking off to the side of the yard.
I acted like I didn’t see him when I got out of my car, but the boys I was becoming more and more enamored with must have spotted him too because they leapt out of Sookie’s car and yelled, “Hi Mr. Bill!”
His thin lips pulled up tight onto one side, making me think he was constipated again, but my lips didn’t return the gesture like they had the last time.
Maybe because they were too busy brushing against Sookie’s.
She’d gotten out of her car and walked right up to me, leaning up onto her tippy toes to gently press her lips to mine. And when she pulled away I could see the mischief in her eyes before she grabbed ahold of my hand and raised her other when she turned to wave at him and called out, “Hi Bill! You remember Eric, don’t you?”
His only response was a wide-eyed and wide-mouthed, “Aahhh…”
“Fa la la, fuckwit,” Sookie whispered, still smiling at him.
“Yes,” he eventually choked out. “I ah…remember him.”
“Oh good,” she smiled wider and holding up our still joined hands, she added, “You’ll probably be seeing a lot of him since we’re seeing one another now.”
Well…since she opened the door…
I might as well walk through it.
The boys had already torn into the house and left the front door wide open, so I saw no reason why I should waste the opportunity. Sweeping Sookie up into my arms bridal style, she squealed before peals of laughter came out of her and I nodded once at Bill’s now furious expression and smiled saying, “Good to see you again,” before carrying her into the house.
I used my foot to shut it behind me and when her laughter calmed, she asked, “Do you think he got the hint?”
Her eyes were sparkling and while on some level I knew a lot of that was for his benefit – not that I minded one bit – I didn’t want her to think my playing along had all been an act.
And that was how I ended up kissing her.
She was still in my arms, so it was easy for her to wrap hers around my neck as she deepened the kiss and for a moment it was just me and her in our own little world.
At least until we heard, “Hello?”
Sookie pulled away and we both looked over to see Sam standing there with a shocked expression on his face, so I put her back on her feet as she said, “Hey Sam. You remember Mr. Northman, don’t you?”
“Eric,” I corrected and put my hand out to shake his, which he returned warily.
“Of course,” he said and then looked at Sookie adding, “I just didn’t realize you and him were uh…”
His hands started gesturing in the air in front of him, but Sookie just laughed and said, “Yeah, uh…it’s a new development. You weren’t meant to see that.”
“Didn’t look so new to me,” he muttered.
Her eyes narrowed at him before her eyebrow arched in a challenging sort of way, but all she said was, “Dinner will be ready in an hour.”
Sam matched her narrowed eyes and arched brow before grabbing a set of keys off a hook by the front door and said, “I’m meeting some friends, so I’ll pick up something while I’m out.”
“Pick up a better attitude before you come home too!” she called out to his retreating back.
“Did I do something wrong?” I asked, feeling like their tiff was my fault in some way.
Sookie shook her head at the door Sam had just left through before turning to me with a smile and saying, “Only if you consider getting me worked up and dropping me like it’s hot is wrong, then yes. You did something wrong.”
“I didn’t drop you because you’re hot,” I said warningly and stalked towards her. “But I’m more than willing to right whatever wrong you think I’ve committed.”
“IT’S MY TURN!”
The sound of one of the boys yelling stopped both of us cold, reminding us – or maybe just me – that I couldn’t attempt to right my wrongs by throwing her down and having my wicked way with her.
No matter how right I was sure it would feel.
But since I’d already grabbed ahold of her hand, completing part one of my now halted Sookie-throw-down, she kept it firmly in hers as she led me down the hallway to what turned out to be the boys’ bedroom. She hadn’t been exaggerating about not being able to see the floor underneath the piles of toys and clothes, but they were perched on top of it all in the middle of the room now struggling to retain sole possession of their coveted telescope.
Spending the entire afternoon with them, I could see they were definitely spirited and their seemingly endless supply of energy could make one wonder if they were weaned on Red Bull, but I really liked them. They were smart and quick witted, even if they sometimes made dimwitted moves.
“HEY!” she called out, getting their attention. “I believe you swore to God you were both gonna clean this pigsty when we got home. He takes those things seriously on Sundays, so you better get crackin’ before he cracks both of your butts for lying.”
I couldn’t quite decipher their looks, but incredulous seemed to about cover it.
Sookie dropped my hand so she could put both hands on her hips as she warned, “Don’t you look at me with that tone of voice. Get movin’!”
Was it too soon to be a little in love with her?
Aside from our mutual assumptive hiccups, everything I’d seen so far in the way she interacted with everyone – me included – only made me want to see more. To learn every little thing about her.
Stick a fork in me because I was done.
Sookie was done with the boys’ hesitation too because she marched forward, balancing her weight on the piles underneath her feet with practiced ease, and took the prized telescope away from them both. Turning back and walking out the door, she said, “You can have it back when I can see the floor.”
My eyes were too busy staring at her ass as she marched back down the hallway for my feet to follow behind her, but when she rounded the corner I looked back at the boys and figured I’d give them a little incentive to get back on their mother’s good side by saying, “Hurry up, so you can tell me all about your tree house. I’m going to go out back and scout out the best tree for the job.”
I’d been drawing blueprints in my mind ever since Sookie mentioned them wanting one. I’d built a Pam-sized dollhouse for her when she was five, but the little boy who still lurked inside of me was excited over the idea of building a tree house. Not that I’d been asked to, but Sookie had already seen a glimpse of my highhanded ass at the grocery store, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
And the mention of cannons and a watchtower only added to the enthusiastic battlements erecting in my mind.
So watching the boys dive into the piles beneath their feet like it was Christmas morning at my offer only added to my excitement.
Maybe I wasn’t too old to start all over again.
And my feet finally moved forward, thinking maybe if I hurried, I could get another kiss from Sookie before they finished cleaning their room.