“Alright, let’s go,” I ordered, putting the car into park and shutting the engine off. “I want to get some cash from the ATM so we can get the two of you haircuts after dinner.”
Me and my two younger ones had just pulled up to a little one-stop-shop strip mall not far from the house where we could get them haircuts, pizza or Chinese, a gallon of milk and karate lessons all in the same place. I was willing to fork out for any and all of them except for the karate because the last thing they needed was expert instruction on how to put a smackdown on the other one.
I knew I’d end up stringing the both of them up by their black belts in the backyard as soon as they’d earned them.
It had been three days since I’d last seen Eric, but we’d spoken on the phone a few times and texted each other even more. We had plans to go out on our very first grownup date on Friday night and it couldn’t come soon enough. I felt like a giddy schoolgirl every time I saw his name flash on my caller ID and while I was eager to see him again, a part of me was scared, of both the things he made me feel and how easily I seemed to be falling for him. Hadley of course thought I couldn’t move fast enough, which I found out when she appeared at my door not long after Eric had left on Sunday night.
“Do you think I’m moving too fast?” I asked, before turning around to see Hadley’s ‘Fuck no!’ face staring back at me. And seeing it form so quickly, I didn’t wait for a response and argued, “But I barely know him!”
And yet I still knew the approximate length and girth of his man bits thanks to my wannabe porn star coochie mama trying to dance on his pole.
“So you’ll get to know him,” she sighed, looking at me like I was a Class A idiot, and then giggled, “And if you get to know his ‘O’ face before you know what his middle name is, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
“You sure are a giant hussy for being a married woman,” I giggled and threw the nearest thing I could put my hands on back at her.
Luckily for her it was a throw pillow and not a Tonka truck.
“How do you think I’ve stayed married so long?” she laughed. “Remy likes it when I talk dirty.”
Then I wished I’d kept the pillow so I could try and block the sound of her giving me an instant replay of her in-between-the-sheets moans and groans.
“Stop!” I laughed. “I don’t wanna know what your ‘O’ face looks like!”
It was already a miracle I didn’t know what it looked like by now. Those two didn’t let a little thing like a lack of privacy come between them and cumming. So much so I thought they should seriously consider changing their last name from Savoy to Sexhibitionist.
They’d been caught at amusement parks, public parks, public restrooms, and highway rest stops. It wasn’t like they dropped their drawers any and everywhere, but they both seemed to think a dark corner or a large bush was a good enough hiding spot.
Hadley had shown up at the house unexpectedly on Sunday night because Sam went running to her when I gave him the lowdown on the ins and outs of who was the parent and who was the child in our relationship. Of course I wanted him to get along with Eric, but I wouldn’t force him to be best friends with him.
But that didn’t mean I would let him show his ass every time Eric’s showed up at our house either.
I supposed he thought she would back him up in his viewpoint that mom didn’t need a life of her own, so he learned the hard way not to rely on his Aunt Hadley for backup when she popped him one in his arm for being a twat and ran right over to get the lowdown on whether or not Eric had been in and out of me yet.
Did I mention she was a hussy?
So once I was done explaining to Hadley everything I’d kept from her over the previous month – from our run in at the grocery store, to my assuming assholery at the club, and our Farmer’s Market reconnection – now I was more or less looking for her input on what I should do.
Because I really wanted to do Eric.
So I supposed Hadley wasn’t the only hussy in the room and I was probably just as much of a twat for thinking she would backup my more virtuous self.
“Sook,” she eventually sighed when her laughter died down. “I’m gonna tell you what I told Sam. Life is too short. We all know what it feels like to woulda-coulda-shoulda only for it to be too late and if Eric makes you happy, then there’s no reason why you can’t pursue it. You’re single and he’s single. And from what you told me about how he interacts with Jay and Trey then you should really think about investing in some handcuffs to keep him here. Weeping angels and kinky sex aside, that pretty man is a keeper.”
I certainly wasn’t considering throwing him back, but was I actually ready to reel him into my panties? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to keep him dangling on the line for a little while? I was too old to compare our relationship to the start of my only other intimate one with Alcide, but that fact alone told me I was out of my element.
And I was out of my mind whenever Eric got close to me. Enough that I knew I’d be out of my panties in a New York minute the second we were alone.
Did they actually still make chastity belts?
Looking around at the different shops set up in the strip mall, I didn’t see anywhere I might be able to buy one, so I headed for the ATM with my little men underfoot. Mrs. Fortenberry had taken off as soon as I’d gotten home, saying Hoyt had sounded congested when she’d talked to him earlier, so she was going to his place for a few hours to check on him. I didn’t want to picture what she was forcing on him at the moment – rectal thermometers came to mind – so I was busy jamming down on my mental delete button, trying to erase the image from my mind, and wasn’t paying attention when the money spit out of the machine. Four little hands made a grab for it, with both of them jumping up and down a second later, squealing at the top of their lungs, “WE WON! WE WON!”
I’d only done it one time before months earlier when they’d both been in a crabby mood and I’d made the mistake of goofing around with them by pretending the ATM was a Las Vegas slot machine, with me whooping and hollering at every twenty dollar bill it spit out, and that was all it took for them to recreate the scene every time we stopped for cash since then.
Only when I’d done it, we were in a closed vestibule where there weren’t any other people around to witness our asshattery. Now they were causing the other Wednesday night shoppers to come to a stop on the sidewalk and look at me like I’d dropped both of them on their heads when they were babies.
But seeing the sparkle in their eyes and the matching grins on their faces when they both looked up at me, I decided I didn’t give a shit what anyone else thought.
Fuck them if they couldn’t find any joy in a sure thing like an ATM. After all I could still remember a time when an ATM wasn’t a sure bet.
So I giggled along with them until I ended up choking on it, hearing from behind me, “Can I play?”
I would recognize his voice anywhere, so I turned around and could feel my cheeks starting to burn thanks to the smile I couldn’t wipe from my face and asked, “What are you doing here?”
For all I knew Jason and Trey were making eighty dollars’ worth of paper airplanes, but seeing the smile on his face, I really didn’t care. And my mind was further mushed when Eric took a step forward, putting himself barely an inch away from my body, as he leaned down and let his eyes flicker to the ATM before looking back into my own, saying just loud enough for me to hear, “Hoping to get lucky.”
“Well it is Hump Day.”
Apparently my suddenly moistened set of nether lips loosened my upper ones as well, but hopefully he would think it was the Geiko camel trotting around in my head, still yelling out, “Hump Day!”
And if he asked, that was who I was going to blame it on.
She didn’t mean it literally. She didn’t mean it literally. She didn’t mean it literally.
No matter how much I wanted to explore further all that Hump Day entailed, I knew now wasn’t the time. But looking down at her, I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d never run into Sookie over the years when now it seemed like I was running into her everywhere.
Not that I was complaining.
Far from it, actually.
I’d never been one to subscribe to fate, but I couldn’t help but ponder if there wasn’t some higher power at work that kept putting her in my path. Even if she wasn’t all I could think about over the last few weeks, I wouldn’t have been able to ignore her presence.
Jason and Trey still bouncing around us, holding up twenty dollar bills clenched in their fists and yelling out, “Vegas, baby!” would’ve made it impossible anyway.
I searched my mind for something to say that I could say in front of the kids and eventually asked, “So what are guys up to besides hitting it big on the slots?”
They’d been hard to miss – by anyone within a fifty foot radius anyway – but I couldn’t have wiped the smile from my face seeing them, even if I hadn’t already known who they were. There was something about watching them just goofing around amongst themselves that warmed me, while a small part of me felt guilty for feeling a little hostile towards Aude for never allowing our family to have those kinds of moments. It had been obvious by the smile on Sookie’s face she didn’t care if they were making a spectacle of themselves. The boys were happy, so she was happy to let them do it, but I could already picture Aude storming off in a huff if Pam and I had done the same thing.
And I felt even guiltier for keeping the goofier side of me lassoed down to keep the peace and thereby kept my daughter from having those same kinds of carefree moments too.
Sookie smiled back at me with her eyes sparkling when she answered, “I’m about to fill their bellies with pizza and hope they’ll hold still long enough to get their hair cut while they’re fighting off their food comas.” Her eyes darted around looking for something when she added, “And you? What brings you here on a Wednesday night? Karate lessons?”
“Do you think I’ll need them to take down Bill?” I chuckled.
I figured all I would have to do was break a few stems on one of his rose bushes before he’d pass out with a case of the vapors.
“No,” she smiled and then took a step closer, adding in a whisper, “But I can think of a few other uses for those cloth black belts that don’t involve keeping your robe closed.”
“And what might those other uses be?” I asked, happily playing into her flirty little hands.
And I’d have given anything to have her hands on any part of me right now.
“You’ll have to wait to find out. That’s like Date Five material,” she laughed, fanning her overheated face.
So my mind raced, with my mouth racing even faster as I said, “If we count the dinner party at your house, meeting up at the supermarket, meeting up at the Farmer’s Market, and dinner back at your house that night, then this would count as date number five.”
“Then it’s too bad you don’t have any of those cloth belts,” she teased.
I was fully prepared to walk into the karate studio we were standing in front of and rip the belts off of the little kids lined up on the mats we could see through the window, when two other little kids rejoined us, with both of them moaning, “We’re starving.” And looking up at me, Jason asked, “Are you having pizza with us?”
I didn’t want to assume Sookie would want me to join them, so when she invited me to, I happily agreed. I’d gone there with the intention of getting something for dinner since I hadn’t felt like cooking when I got home from work and Pam was out with her friend Miriam again. We hadn’t talked about what happened at the Farmer’s Market on Sunday, but I had already made my feelings known on the subject.
I was leaving it up to Pam to bring up her feelings on the matter when she was ready.
So far she wasn’t.
We all walked into the pizza parlor together and placed our order before finding a booth. Since Jason and Trey automatically filed in one behind the other onto one side of the table, I had no choice but to join Sookie on the other side.
I didn’t notice right away when my hand automatically took the liberty of settling itself on her leg, but I also didn’t pull away feeling that same leg tense underneath my palm when Trey asked, “Are you mom’s boyfriend?”
It was the most I could say, not really knowing what the right answer was. I knew I wasn’t seeing anyone else, nor did I have any desire to. I also didn’t think Sookie was seeing anyone else, but considering we hadn’t even been out on a real date yet – no matter how much I wanted to believe this was Date Five – I wasn’t sure if Sookie would think it was too soon to be putting labels on our relationship.
“Oh no! You broke Mr. Eric!” Jason chimed in with a laugh and then leaned towards Trey, adding conspiratorially, “But I’d put my money on him bein’ the boyfriend. Let’s ask the Magic 8-Ball.”
I felt the smile forming on my lips watching Jason grab onto Trey’s head and he shook it, before staring hard down at his crown, when Trey’s voice took on an ominous tone as he said, “Reply hazy, try again.”
I chuckled along with them and tried to remember a time when I’d felt so…whole. I supposed it was before Aude’s diagnosis and while I hadn’t felt lonely in a long time, I’d gotten used to just being alone. Of course I still had Pam, but she’d always been on the go and hadn’t slowed down at all as she’d gotten older. But sitting there with Sookie and the boys made me realize how much I enjoyed being a part of a family again.
Whatever it was we were calling ourselves.
I still wasn’t sure, at least not until Sookie tried to hide her amusement by chiding, “You two knuckleheads knock it off. Eric and I are dating. That’s all you need to know for now.”
“Is that so?”
All four of us looked over at the sound of the voice I at least recognized to see a stone faced Pam standing next to our table. Miriam was standing awkwardly at her side, but Pam’s glare was fixed on Sookie, so I tried to break the tension by introducing them all to one another and then asking Pam, “What are you doing here?”
She’d only said they were going out. Not what they’d be doing, but I still hadn’t expected to run into them here.
I also didn’t expect her venomous response.
“What am I doing here? What are you doing here?” she asked in a huff. “You said you didn’t have any plans tonight, so I guess you’re lying to me now?”
I felt my hand dig into Sookie’s thigh and she immediately covered it with her own, rubbing small circles across the top of it, so I tried to rein in my rising anger when I said, “Not that I have to explain myself to you, but I just happened to run into Sookie and the boys when I got here. It was a happy coincidence, so quit shitting all over it by acting like a little shit and mind your manners.”
While I hadn’t censored myself around her in a long time, I rarely cussed at her. And perhaps sensing she was about to get a dressing down that didn’t involve any of her beloved fashion designers, Pam held back whatever nastiness I could sense was on the tip of her tongue and only asked, “So it’s true then? You two are officially dating?”
She’d said the word ‘dating’ like we got off on taking turns actually shitting on one another, so I bit out my response of, “Yes. I already told you that on Sunday.”
I’d never been more embarrassed by her attitude than I was at that moment. Pam had always been my girl – a Daddy’s Girl in every way – but her outright insolence was making me see a whole new side of her.
A side I didn’t like at all.
Our personalities were very much alike when it came to our stubbornness and when the silence became deafening in our mutual stare down, Sookie reminded me of their presence when she injected a bit of cheer into her voice as she asked, “Would you two care to join us? We ordered plenty of food.”
Pam’s expression didn’t change and she ignored Sookie completely until I raised an eyebrow back at her, so she finally looked over towards Sookie and forced a pathetically fake smile onto her face as she said, “No thank you.” And letting her eyes drop down to the booth for a moment, she looked a little disgusted seeing the boys had chosen to ignore the awkwardness by playing tabletop football using sugar packets, before bringing them back to me as she added, “There doesn’t seem to be room for any more.”
“We can move to another table,” Sookie offered immediately and thanks to my hand on her leg, I could feel her start to stand up.
But she sat back down just as quickly when Pam said, “No. I seem to have lost my appetite.” She swallowed hard, seeing my hardened expression at her audacity, and added, “I think we’ll be leaving. It was nice seeing you again,” before turning on her heel and leaving, with Miriam trailing after her.
I shook my head watching her leave before turning to face Sookie as I said, “I’m so sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” she replied, looking back at me regretfully. A small smile played on her lips a moment later when she added, “At least it wasn’t Sam. He probably would’ve crawled underneath the table and popped up right in between us, wedging his ass down on the bench seat.”
I tried to smile, but I was sure it looked just as pathetic as Pam’s and the pizza arrived a moment later, so Sookie took the time to put slices of pizza in front of each of us. It seemed I lost my appetite too, so when I felt her hand land on top of my leg as she gave it a gentle squeeze, I turned to see her lean towards me as she softly said, “I’ll understand if you don’t want to go out on Friday night.”
“What?” I asked, a little louder than I’d intended.
If Pam’s nasty attitude made Sookie rethink dating me, then her life was about to become infinitely worse.
Sookie only shrugged and looked down at the table, saying, “Unless it’s just me she doesn’t like, Pam doesn’t seem to be ready for you to be dating anyone. So if you want to give her more time to get used to the idea, we can try picking this up again sometime in the future.”
Her voice had gotten steadily lower – and sadder – the more she went on, so I immediately responded, “No. I love my daughter, but she doesn’t get to decide who I want in my life and she doesn’t know you at all to be able to judge what kind of person you are.” Sookie didn’t look all that convinced, so I explained, “Pam hasn’t had to share my attention with anyone since her mother died and I’ve only gone on a handful of dates since then. None of them more than once, so she never even met any of them and hasn’t had to try to get to know anyone in that sense. She rarely lets anyone in as it is, but I’ll talk to her and try to get her to see reason. But I don’t need her approval. I just hope you won’t let her posturing dissuade you from seeing me.”
Sookie’s eyes didn’t leave mine the entire time I’d been talking, so I could see the hesitation she’d been feeling give way to relief when she eventually smiled and asked, “Are you kidding?” Then she gestured towards the boys and when I turned to see what she was talking about, I realized something else.
Sookie had excellent peripheral vision.
Because even though she’d been looking at me, she somehow still noticed the boys were currently trying to eat the majority of the same slice of pepperoni pizza they were each holding onto, with both of their faces covered in sauce.
There was even a little growling involved.
“If those two don’t scare you off, then how can I be afraid of a tiny little thing like Pam?” she laughed.
The knot that had been forming in my gut, thinking Pam’s attitude had just cost me the one person I’d truly been happy with since Aude, unraveled like a fishing line that just hooked a marlin. So it was no wonder my hands took some more liberties by hooking Sookie’s face and bringing it to my own so I could share my gratefulness in the form of a kiss.
A kiss that was only broken up, hearing Jason snicker out, “Told ya they were boyfriend and girlfriend,” while they each reached over and stole the last two slices of pizza that we’d been ignoring on our plates.
“It is certain,” Trey added in his Magic 8-Ball voice before shoving more pizza into his mouth.
And I was still wearing a smile on my face as I walked over to the counter to order another pizza, thinking they just might be right.
And judging by the smile on her face, I was almost certain Sookie would agree she was now officially my girlfriend.
But I’d give Trey’s head another shake later on just to be sure.