Who the fuck is hot when they have a slight overbite and they’re braying like a hyena?
I’ll tell you who.
I’d give him a second middle finger, but then I would have to explain why.
Our food came within minutes, so I at least had that to focus on. Jason was gumming the hell out of a soft French fry and was thoroughly enjoying himself. But he seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
Or maybe I’d only just now had the time to notice?
Weekends were the only time I really got to see him and even then I usually had work to do, so it was distracted time.
Me distracted by work and him distracted by whatever I could find that would hold his attention, but also wouldn’t hurt him.
He had quick grabby hands and I was shit at not leaving pens lying around the house.
Most of the time he’d find them holding up my hair.
On weekdays I only ever saw him if he happened to be awake when I got home, first thing in the morning before I left for work, or when he woke up in the middle of the night. And since he’d slept through the night before, I might be losing that time with him too.
I didn’t know whether or not to be happy or sad about that.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist – or even a genius billionaire in an Iron Man suit – to figure out the only thing different between now and a week ago was Captain Causality.
I liked that Jason took to him so quickly, even if I felt a little guilty for it, like I’d been denying him the company of a positive male role model in his life.
One that looked like a model to boot.
Hopefully I’d figure out what to tell him about his father before the day ever came when he would inevitably ask about him.
Or…I could be hit by a bus!
Somehow Captain Conjecture and I had started playing the Name Their Shame game, while people watching, giving unsuspecting pedestrians made up shady lives.
“That one over there,” he picked, gesturing with nothing more than his amused eyes to a guy that looked like an office drone. The last time his wrinkled white shirt had seen any iron was likely when he had a burger for lunch.
Looked like a little bit of ketchup had dribbled onto his tie.
“He’s an insurance agent by day,” he said as though it was one hundred percent true. “But by night?” he added and then paused for dramatic effect.
It was working.
Leaning in, he whispered like he was doing his best to throw off the wire taps not recording our conversation and said, “A Ghostbusters impersonator.”
“Is there a big demand for that these days?” I laughed.
“No,” he chuckled incredulously and grinned, “Ergo, the office day job. But he dreams of making it big one day. Until then, he’s available for birthdays, office parties, bar mitzvahs, and the occasional minor paranormal disturbance.”
“Well,” I nodded, playing along. “So long as it’s minor.”
He really did have a great personality. It was so unfair.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Fluffer,” I automatically replied and then looked over with a grin. “My job of shame would totally be the fluffer on a porn set. Do you think they wear something like lubed up dishwashing gloves, maybe ribbed for their pleasure? The fluffers, not the fuckers, unless they’re doing some stupid fuck the French maid scene. But it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘hand to mouth’.”
He was amused, but when I actually looked at him, I could see the teasing I’d gotten so used to in such a short amount of time was missing from his eyes.
This was his Captain Serious face.
“Sure,” I agreed, straightening up and hoping there wasn’t something else he wanted to know about my underwear. “Ask me anything.”
I could talk about Rubbermaid glove wearing fluffers, fingering or otherwise manhandling porn stars, all day long.
But my unmentionables?
I’d rather not mention them.
At least not sitting outside at a sidewalk café.
I’d just had no way of knowing that he would want to know about who had been in my underwear –and not my underwear themselves – until he asked, “Is Jason’s father in the picture?”
God only knows what he saw on my face, but whatever it was had him physically pulling back a bit and adding in a hesitant tone, “I was just wondering, you know. Like if he has visitation on weekends or something?”
The lie I’d told countless times by now was on the tip of my tongue, but something held me back.
For whatever reason, I didn’t want to lie to him.
So I didn’t.
I answered his question, although not the real question behind it, by only saying, “No. They’ve never met and he doesn’t have visitation.”
“Oh,” he frowned, looking down at the baby and then looked back at me with an apology in his eyes as he said, “I don’t know the circumstances and it’s none of my business. So all I’ll say is that he’s a great little guy and he’s lucky to have you as a mom.”
“Ha!” I snorted out derisively before I could stop myself.
Little did he know just how wrong he was.
Pointedly ignoring my bark of denial, he went on to add, “Now, about my package.”
Ooohhh…now we were getting somewhere.
And wanting to waste no time at all in getting there, I asked with a cheeky grin, “Boxers or briefs?”
“Boxer briefs,” he chuckled after a moment’s hesitation.
With the cutest blush on his cheeks.
“But what I was actually talking about,” he said after clearing his throat – several times – and went on to explain, “was my salary.”
“Is it not enough?” I asked in a panic, feeling horrified and offered, “I can pay you more. Name your price.”
He can’t go away!
He just can’t!
And not just because I now knew he wore the blessedly hot boxer briefs.
Looking over at an oblivious Jason, all I could think was that I’d failed him.
“No, Coo…” he began to say, before seeming to come to a decision and just said, “Fuck it. I’m calling you Cookie in times of seriousness.”
“Of course,” I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Cookie just screams seriousness.”
And so he wouldn’t feel left out, I added, “And I’ll call you Captain.”
Whether or not I added anything to the tail end of it was a tossup, but wasn’t life?
“Very well, Ms. Brick Shithouse,” he mockingly glared and then turned serious again, when he said, “What you’re paying me is more than enough. Excessive even. I don’t know what your financial situation is like working for the government or if you’re using part of any child support you may be getting to pay me – and again, it’s none of my business – but I just don’t want you to have to struggle in order to pay me that much.”
Well, that was sweet.
But money was so not my problem anymore, so I just waved him off and said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s family money.”
Let him think I was a poor little rich girl.
It would be a misconception far kinder than the truth.
“Seriously, Captain Currency,” I smiled, when he just stared back at me all…seriously. “It’s all good.”
“If you say so, Chocolate Chip,” he smiled softly after a long moment.
“Now you’re talkin’,” I grinned, hoping to get away from the ick of serious talk. I got enough of that at work and he was really good at distracting me from it.
God knows I had a stack of files to go through before Monday morning rolled around.
But they were all the way over there, in my bag with my holstered middle fingers, so I just patted my distended belly and said, “I think I can squeeze a few cookies in if I try really hard.”
It was all lies, of course.
I could pound those fuckers down like nobody’s business.
“Nope,” he said with a grin – a grin that worked wonders on not getting my hackles up over being denied the right to sugary baked goodness – and stood up, holding his hand out for me to take.
So I did.
I wasn’t stupid.
There were boxer briefs attached to that appendage, if you followed it far enough.
Not that I was going to.
Really more than likely not.
But he was stupid if he thought I would be letting the idea of cookies go, now that he’d engaged my easily triggered cookie protocol.
He let go of my hand the moment my feet were under me, using both of his to grab Jason and then the check – which I let him with minimal fuss, since I was apparently paying him so much – just as he said, “We’re walking it off.”
Plopping my ass back down onto my seat, I informed him in no uncertain terms, “No we’re not.”
“What if where we’re walking it off ends with ice cream?” he asked enticingly.
How old did he think I was?
Well he was right because I hopped off of my chair and said, “Yay! Ice cream!”
More so to make Jason laugh than being that excited over it.
But it was ice cream.
But I only needed to take the three steps to the curb to come to a completely different decision and let him know it by saying, “Nope.”
“Yep,” he shot back automatically, sounding like he hadn’t lost many back and forth games in his day.
So he must have duct-taped Pam’s mouth shut when they were younger because that was the only way he would’ve won.
Maybe that was the Christmas Incident of 1998?
She wouldn’t give me the details and only shuddered in horror the one time it had come up.
But since he hadn’t been a Pee Next to Me bathroom occupant, I lifted up my high heel covered foot and said, “Not in these shoes.”
“You don’t have any others in that bag?” he asked, pointing at my purse like it was the manifestation of Lee Harvey Oswald himself, and then dramatically added, “What am I saying? Of course you don’t. They were last seen all over the floor by your front door until I put them away…”
“Hey!” I bit out with a glare and a grin, seeing the playfulness behind his own eyes. Then jabbing at his Man of Steel chest with my pointer finger, I gave him a what-for by adding, “I’ll have you know that was a legit timesaving move. It didn’t matter what I put on in the morning, by the time I got to the front door, there would be a pair of shoes that matched waiting for me.”
“What goes with naked?” he laughed. “Because you had no clean clothes left until I washed them all.”
“Black stilettos!” I shrieked back. “Black stilettos go with everything to include birthday suits!”
We’d probably attracted a lot of attention with our faux fight on the city sidewalk, but we couldn’t have known.
Not now that we seemed trapped in each other’s stare.
A trap we didn’t break free of until I felt more than saw a little old woman shuffle past us, patting my arm on her way by and saying, “You tell him, sweetie. You just keep putting pictures of you naked into his head and you’ll win every fight for the rest of your lives.”
“Ha?” I squeaked out, feeling my brow rise up, not sure if it was meant to be funny or…well, not.
Then stopping to admire Jason, she looked up at Captain Not of his Come and said, “Your son is beautiful.”
Louder and more neener-neener sounding, it couldn’t be helped, seeing she’d gotten him too.
Looking lost, like he didn’t know what to say or do, he didn’t have to do anything because she just went on her merry way, wreaking her wrinkled havoc with a wry grin.
Say that five times fast.
“Umm…” I hummed out, not quite sure how we’d gone from Ghostbusters to porn to picturing Cookie in nothing but a pair of black high heels to Mythbusters in such a short timeframe.
Because there was no way I was going to be able to stop myself from imagining her naked with black high heels on, just like there was no way I was Jason’s father, in spite of us all sharing the same blond hair and blue eyes.
A fact I could admit I wasn’t happy about and not just because I was admittedly attracted to Cookie, naked or not. But because he was a great kid and every kid deserved to have a father in their lives.
I would know.
Mine had been taken from me way too soon.
But I also knew that not every man deserved to be a father, so maybe his was a shitbag and he was better off without him.
“You know what?” she asked and without waiting for a reply, she said, “You can take him for a walk and I’ll just head home. I have stuff I need to work on anyway.”
“Nope,” I repeated for the umpteenth time since I’d met her. But she’d mentioned during lunch that she hadn’t been outside in a long time and angled her legs, so they’d get a little sun, waxing quixotic about real actual daylight.
Besides, she clearly worked too much and she had all weekend to do whatever she needed to do, so I gestured to the SUV parked behind her car and said, “We’ll just follow you home, so you can change.”
I could see the internal fight going on behind her eyes, with her want to go battling against what was likely her ingrained need to finish her work.
So I played dirty, holding Jason up with my hands wrapped around his middle, just under his arms, and his face right in front of hers, swaying his body like he was on a pendulum and said in a hypnotic tone, “Ice cream.”
Grinning at him, she then glared at me to say, “This is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.”
“Take it up with my lawyer,” I shrugged. Then pulling the baby’s back, back against my chest, he kicked his arms and legs out like he was in a Broadway chorus line, while I looked down at her and teased, “Hey! Wanna be my lawyer?”
Pretending to think about it, she ticked off her fingers musing, “Well, you did already brief me on your boxer briefs situation and you’ve already seen all of my underwear, so really, it’s in both of our best interests if I accept.”
Nodding like it was a done deal, she said, “Attorney/client privilege will protect both of our interests.”
Hearing her talking about protection – not of the rubber dishwashing glove variety – made me remember there were a few other questions I had for her.
One of which being, how well she could shoot her gun.
But that wasn’t a conversation to be had on a city sidewalk, so I strapped Jason into his car seat and shut the door, turning to tell her I would just follow her back to the house, when I ended up frozen where I stood.
“Can you drive a stick?” she asked, dangling the key she’d removed from her key ring that morning out in front of her.
“I was born able to drive a stick,” I heard myself say.
It was all lies, of course. But I knew how to drive a manual transmission now.
Taking the keys from my hand, she pressed the single key into it and turned to walk around to get into the SUV. But before she could get far, I grabbed onto her arm to stop her, waiting until she looked back at me to ask, “You trust me with your car?”
It was a classic – literally – and worth well over a hundred thousand dollars.
It may have been just a car to her – albeit a car with sentimental value – but even if she’d grown up in the lap of luxury and didn’t blink at the monetary value of it, I knew what it was worth.
Looking at me like I was both sweet and the doofus my sister had declared me to be, I found out Pam hadn’t been that far off the mark, hearing her reply, “I trust you with my son. That is just a car.”
I kind of wanted to kiss her right then.
Kind of a lot.
But I wasn’t Ryan Gosling and this wasn’t a romantic comedy. I knew because I wasn’t Ryan Gosling and when I was able to focus on my surroundings again, I found myself standing on the sidewalk all alone.
The female romantic lead never left the guy standing on the sidewalk all alone when kissing was an option.
Seeing Cookie now sitting in the driver’s seat of the SUV – laughing at me – I knew she hadn’t felt kissing was an option either.
I would’ve been more disappointed over that fact, but I had the key to a 1963 Corvette Stingray in my hand.
And I knew how to use it.
Having learned my lesson, I put the seat back as far as it would go and then sunk down into the leather interior.
And I may have come a little.
There’d been a definite twitch, either way.
And I may have had a little more dribble in my drawers feeling the engine rumbling when I turned the key, but that was just an involuntary response, like blinking or breathing.
I knew I was committing adultery, but hopefully my Harley would understand and be open to a threesome.
It took hearing the car horn beside my head for me come out of my car porn fog and look over to see Cookie pulled up alongside of me, with the passenger side window down.
“You okay over there?” she laughed. “You look like your head is about to explode.”
Automatically moving my hand down to adjust the head that could easily explode in that moment, I chuckled back at her, “Close, but I’ll clean the interior if it does.”
I didn’t even care if she took it to mean I was about to come in her car.
It was come worthy.
But she only shook her head and said, “Don’t feel like you have to go straight back to the house. If you want to take the long way, through Canada or something, just bring me back some real maple syrup and we’ll call it even.”
Both the offer and the woman giving me the option.
Without waiting for any response from me, she just waved and went on her way, while I sat there just being.
In my Zen like state, a lot of thoughts crossed my mind, but they all had one thing in common.
The cookie crumbs all led me straight back to her.
And – eventually – I made my way back to her, even if I maybe had taken not the most practical route back to her house.
I was just familiarizing myself with the area.
Or so I would claim, if asked.
By the time I had the car parked back in the garage and made my way into the house, I knew I had taken too long seeing Cookie on the couch, with her work spread out in front of her.
The baby was in a bouncy seat contraption that had toys on all sides to keep him occupied, but I had a feeling they’d spent way too much time in this exact setting.
It wasn’t good for either one of them.
At least she had changed into a pair of shorts and a shirt with a green arrow on the front, even if she’d kicked off her shoes by the front door.
She’d thrown her hair up into a ponytail and washed the makeup from her face, which I already knew did things to me. So maybe I sounded a little more indulgent than I actually felt, when I walked over and picked the baby up, before turning around and taking the file away from her, insisting, “Nope. We’re going.”
“I didn’t expect you back until November at the earliest,” she grumbled with a glare aimed my way.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” I shot back in a smartass tone. “Now, get up. We’re going.”
Even while doing as I said, she still groused, “You know, you’re Jason’s caretaker. Not mine, right?”
Biting my tongue, so I wouldn’t end up telling her how I really felt – that she needed one as much as he did – I only made sure the diaper bag was fully stocked and all but shoved her out the front door.
“Where are we going?” she asked, after I’d forced her into the SUV with a look I’d learned in the military.
The ass puckering look of a drill sergeant.
Knowing I would need something to keep her mind occupied, a simple walk wouldn’t do. She would only end up thinking about work, if I didn’t open my big mouth and inadvertently ask her inappropriate questions.
Like what sex toys she preferred.
Groaning to myself for putting that idea into my head, I shook it off and said, “Patience, Patience?”
It was a girl’s name.
A popular one, if that girl had been born in the sixteen hundreds.
“Nope,” she smiled. “Sorry, Charlie?”
“Nope,” I repeated.
But it was a prophetic guess, considering where we ended up.
I didn’t know if the city aquarium had tuna fish, but it was close enough.
Cookie seemed happy with it and I felt better about choosing it hearing her say they’d never been. Since it was already later in the day, it wasn’t as crowded, so we got to leisurely stroll through the exhibits, with Jason being carried by one of us instead of being trapped in his stroller, where he wouldn’t be able to see everything as well.
His eyes were wide as saucers, looking at all of the fish on display, and he kept thrusting his hand out and making baby exclamations, demanding, well…something.
To tell him what they were?
To pull one out and let him hold it?
We settled on putting his face close enough to the glass that they probably looked even bigger in size than they actually were, with him trying to either kiss the glass or eat them.
Either way, his mouth was wanting to do something involving them.
When we reached the exhibit with small octopuses, Cookie had been holding him at the time, and she walked up to the glass, taking Jason’s arm in her hand, and holding it up while saying in an ominous tone, “Hail HYDRA! Cut off one head, two more will take its place!”
“What?” I laughed out.
Was she championing being well hydrated?
They were octopuses.
Keeping well hydrated was sort of necessary.
“What?” she squawked back at me in disbelief.
“What, what?” I repeated, wondering if we were about to enter into some sort of Abbott and Costello routine.
It wouldn’t be surprising if we did.
I liked that about her. Her quick wit and sarcastic mouth.
And just her mouth in general, if I was being honest.
“You don’t know what ‘Hail HYDRA’ means?” she asked, looking a bit horrified.
I barely had the chance to shake my head before she was marching up to me and listing off, “Captain America, The First Avenger? The Winter Soldier? Civil War or Baron Wolfgang von Strucker from the Avengers Age of Ultron?”
“Red Skull!” she all but shrieked at my confused expression.
Then putting her face in mine, as far as she was able to given the height difference, she sounded like she was speaking to an amnesia patient as she asked, “Does none of it sound familiar?”
I’d said it like a question because I had a feeling it wouldn’t be the right answer.
And seeing the look on her face – the one that said I was right in that it wouldn’t be the right answer – I quickly followed up with, “I mean, I know who the characters are. Captain America and that green hulk guy.”
“Green hulk guy,” she whispered in distress.
But I interrupted her interruption and kept on explaining, “But I’ve never seen any of the movies, except a little of that Thor one once.”
“Which one?” she demanded.
And she didn’t appear to like my reply when I asked, “There are more than one?”
Like legitimately gasped, as though I’d told her Santa Claus was dead.
Wrapped in a plastic tarp and stowed in the back of her SUV.
Hell, if he was, she would never know.
She hadn’t even known she had a jogging stroller back there.
Shaking her head, she patted my chest and sighed out, “Oh, Padawan…you’ve got a long weekend ahead of you. We’re marathoning the movies. All the movies. In the chronological order of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not in the order they were released in the theaters.”
“Okay,” I smiled, more so at the knowledge she wouldn’t be buried in her work all weekend if we were watching movies.
All the movies, apparently.
But I didn’t find out until we were on our way down to the food court to get the promised ice cream that I had even more marathons to look forward to.
Asking her if the green arrow on her t-shirt had anything to do with one of the Marvel characters, led to her telling me we also had to watch the shows.
All of the TV shows.