"Did you and Claire have a fight or something?" Dawson asked him during lunch.
When John first started working here about a year ago, Dawson never sat to eat lunch with him. He hardly talked to him even. From the few things Claire had told John he suspected it was because Dawson was expecting him to shit on him. He seemed to be under the realization that John was sticking. The drive sucked and John hated like hell getting dirty every day, but he learned more here than he would other garages. Dawson wasn't afraid to pass on the knowledge he had to John. Dawson wasn't eons older than him, but he'd been working on cars since he was like eleven. So, he knew things John hadn't even thought of yet. He could admit that. More often than not anymore Dawson made his way into the break room during lunch and sat with John. Sometimes they didn't say a word. Neither were huge talkers so he doubted Dawson took any more offense to their companionable silence than John did.
"You know, I'd feel a whole lot better about the fact you even know who she is if you didn't ask me that every time you think I'm in a bad mood. My bad moods are not because of her."
"Because of her, maybe not, but she usually has something to do with it."
"And this concerns you, why?"
"It doesn't. You don't seem to have many people to talk to about things. I was asking a question."
"We didn't fight."
"Then what's your deal today?"
"She wants to go see a movie tomorrow night with a group of her friends."
"So? What's the problem? You don't like movies or something? I hate to tell you this, movies are a pretty popular thing to do on dates. Even I know that."
"I don't know anyone who can babysit."
"Oh," he said with a nod.
"I honestly never thought about the fact I'd need a babysitter outside of work so haven't looked. How do you go about finding one?"
"Like I'd know?" Dawson asked.
"You have a sister. She has kids." Dawson hadn't told him that, Claire had. He knew he had a sister, but not that she had kids.
"Oh. Right. I don't know. You live in an apartment complex, don't you? Surely there are younger girls around who'd be interested in making some cash once in a while. I mean, that's what you're talking, right? Saturday night or something? You're not talking every night."
"No! I don't even know if it'd be every week. She's mad we can't go because of me."
"She said that?" Dawson asked.
"No," John admitted. She hadn't said it, but he knew she wasn't thrilled that she wasn't going.
"Did you tell her she can't go?"
"No, of course not, but she seems to think she shouldn't or can't without me."
"Well, it's Saturday night. Last I checked that was a pretty popular night for couples to go on dates."
"I know that! I mean, I've never needed to be aware of that before, but I know what people do on Saturday nights."
"She probably wants to show off to her friends since this is one of the first weekends she's been home since you've been dating."
"I know," John mumbled. He absolutely loathed the idea of meeting up with anyone in her group of friends again in his lifetime.
"Well, what are you prepared to do about it so next Saturday night she's not mad at you again?"
"I doubt I'm going to find one in a week, Dawson. This is my kid we're talking about not my car or a dog."
"Well, you could probably find one where you live fast enough. A week should be long enough to know if your little girl's at least comfortable with someone so you could leave her with her for a couple of hours."
"I guess," he said. He'd never needed to pay attention to things like young girls who'd be interested in babysitting until now. He did know Claire wasn't going to sit at home every Saturday night this summer so he needed to figure something out. He told her to go without him, but she hadn't wanted to do that.
"Do you go to church?" Dawson asked.
"No," John said. "What does that have to do with babysitters?"
"You maybe could find one there if you did," he shrugged. "I'd say an area junior high or something, but they're closed for the summer now. So I went to the next thing I could think of where kids go."
"Kids go to church during the summer?"
"Well, church is year-round."
"I suppose," John said. "I just never thought about it."
"I asked you…"
"You asked me because you like her. You weren't asking out of concern for me or what having Holly full-time would do to my relationship. Besides hoping it'd destroy it, maybe."
"I won't deny that might be true. I knew New Year's Eve I didn't have a chance with her."
"You did?" John asked. So why had he tried to kiss her then? Why'd he call her when she went back to school? More than once it had sounded like.
"Sure. The things she did for you, coming here at all let alone twice," he shrugged. "It's pretty obvious she loves you."
"Then why did you call her?"
"Because you didn't seem to want to love her back."
"And now we're stuck with a mistake I made three years ago and it's coming back to bite me in the ass."
"You wanted the kid!"
"Because she's better off with me. I didn't worry about a social life because I didn't really have one. It wasn't an issue when having her full-time was just a theory."
"Why don't you call her mom and ask her to take her?"
"She hasn't seen Holly since the end of March. I could ask her parents, I suppose, but that seems kind of …"
"Rude?" Dawson asked.
"Yeah," John said.
"Any chance Claire has thought you could ask them and thinks you just don't want to go?"
"I don't know, possibly I suppose. I don't want to open up the door to them being able to say I just got custody of her and am already trying to unload her on them."
"It's been over two months. Everyone's entitled to a break, even parents."
"Well, I suppose you're right, but I chose to do this so I have to figure it out without involving her parents."
"Your parents are out?"
"Not even a chance that'd happen in hell."
"That bad huh?" Dawson asked.
"You don't know the half of it."
"Well, I don't know what to tell you."
"I'll figure it out," he said.
"What movie anyway?"
"A View To A Kill," John said. He was, admittedly, a little bummed they weren't seeing it, too.
"She likes James Bond?"
"I don't know if it was her choice or just a group of her friends picking a movie to see. I think this is the first weekend all of her friends are back. Some are on quarters versus semesters. She tried to explain it to me, but she may as well be speaking Latin for all I got out of it. They get done at different times, that's about all I can say with certainty."
"It's pretty good."
"What?" John asked.
"You've seen it?" That sort of surprised him. He just had a hard time wrapping his head around Dawson doing anything but sitting here at his garage working on cars. Aside from sleeping. Then, John wasn't entirely sure the guy slept. He knew his boss and Pruitt were here a lot later into the evening than John was. He also knew Dawson worked weekends a lot, which meant Pruitt did, too. (John supposed that could account for some of the marital problems he'd overheard Pruitt bitching to Dawson about.)
"Sure, last weekend."
"Great, thanks, I'll be sure to tell her that."
Dawson chuckled softly. "I guess if I knew she was a Bond fan I could have asked her and saved you this fight. I mean, anything I can do to help, you know…"
"Don't even say it, all right? Just don't go there."
"She wouldn't have gone with me anyway. We both know that. Now, a couple more months of you not having a babysitter…"
"Yeah, I get it," John mumbled.
He balled up the sandwich wrapper once he was done with his sub. He got it very plainly. She wasn't going to wait around for him to find a babysitter forever. She wasn't going to sit home every Saturday night all summer. John had to figure it out or he'd lose her. She wouldn't go out with Dawson. He knew that much. She just wouldn't do that, but something told John that if he didn't have a solution to this problem it'd get old for her real quick. So, maybe she wouldn't go out with Dawson, but there'd be someone who wasn't John's boss who didn't have a kid who'd probably appeal to her. He wouldn't put it past Dawson to try if he found out he and Claire weren't getting along. He didn't care what his boss said, he'd seen him try to kiss her with John here in the bathroom (and knowing John had a hickey on his neck) so he knew the interest in her wasn't just a one date thing.
It was the first time having Holly had interfered with anything in his life. Until now having her hadn't posed any real problems. He'd asked his friend if she'd be willing to pick Holly up in an emergency, but he hadn't had to use her. Mrs. Kuzinski had both Amy and Claire's names so either of them could pick up Holly if need be. She had asked him to try to call her so she'd know, which he understood her wanting him to do. Of course if an actual emergency cropped up he probably wouldn't be able to make more than one call.
"You're mad we couldn't go to the movie with your friends tonight," he said. He, truthfully, hadn't been all that shook up about not being able to go. They were her friends. He had no burning desire to see half of those people outside of Shermer High. She'd been different tonight, though, when they were having sex. Not in a bad way, exactly, but he hated the idea that she'd have sex because she thought she should not because she wanted to. He'd gotten the distinct impression she hadn't exactly wanted to. She hadn't said no, but she hadn't wanted to be on top of him at all.
"I'm not mad."
"You are. I can tell. Don't lie to me."
"I'm not mad. Disappointed but not mad."
"I told you this wasn't going to be easy, Claire."
"I know that!"
"I'll make it up to you."
"I don't know. I'll start looking to see if there's someone around here who can babysit if we want to go see a movie once in a while. I didn't realize you even liked James Bond."
"Who doesn't?" she asked.
He supposed she had a valid point. James Bond was the ultimate in cool, really. He just hadn't had her pegged as the type that dug spy movies. The movie had been out for a couple of weeks already, so it wasn't as if her friends had planned to see it on opening night and they couldn't go.
"I guess I don't know."
"You don't, I suppose?"
"Like James Bond? Of course I do. I prefer Sean Connery, I guess, but what's not to like?"
"My fault I suppose for not thinking ahead to when you were home for the summer and thinking of a babysitter."
"You've been kind of busy." She said that and he believed she meant it, but there was a tone in her voice that suggested she wasn't being entirely sincere. Why on earth would he have looked for a babysitter?
"I know, but I still should have thought of it." He should've been prepared. A girl like Claire wasn't going to want to sit at home every Saturday night or spend Saturdays with him and Holly as they did back in January.
"I wasn't here for you to think of it."
"Now you're justifying my actions to me."
"No, I just, I understand. I just wanted to go."
"I told you that you could go! I didn't stop you from going. I'm not sure I get why it was such a big deal I went with you."
"I wanted to go with you."
"I still don't get why that was a big deal. None of your friends like me and I bet more than one will stop talking to you when they find out who you're going out with."
"They wouldn't do that."
"Right. So, let's just say Tammy Olsteen brings me to one of your parties a couple of years ago. You wouldn't have told everyone she was slumming? And made sure she never forgot that she no longer fit in with the likes of your crowd."
"See. Why do you think you're immune from that behavior?"
"I don't! I just think if they have a chance to actually get to know you. I mean, Brady thinks you're all right."
"Brady isn't totally in your group of friends, though. I mean, he is, but he gets along with people I got along with, too. So, he's a bad example."
"But he'd tell other people…"
"I'm not sure I want people vouching for me."
"So, you just never want to do anything with my friends?"
"I think I'd prefer maybe starting small."
"Yeah, like maybe something with one of your friends and her boyfriend. You know, something where you're not springing me on twenty or thirty of your friends at one time."
"So you really didn't want to go tonight?"
"Not really, no. I would have gone if I had a babysitter. I wouldn't have liked it much probably."
She sighed softly.
"You want me to lie? I'm not going to do that. You figure out something we can do with a couple of your friends. You can't tell me that wouldn't make you feel better?"
"I don't know. I didn't think about it."
"I thought of calling Betty or her parents, but I really don't want to open that door. You know?"
"I can't believe Betty hasn't seen her in over two months."
John shrugged. "I'd like to be as surprised as you are, but I'm not. I figured she'd go to the other extreme for a while and then come around."
"How long of a while?"
"I don't know. I'm not her and I'm not friends with her to know what her frame of mind is. I assume she thought a baby would be the answer to whatever problem she was having at the time. Clearly, it's not. It's actual work. I wasn't much help at first, couldn't have been even if I'd wanted to be. I wouldn't be here right now, living and breathing, if my old man found out I'd knocked someone up when I was sixteen."
"Why would he have reacted so badly? Weren't your parents real young?"
"I honestly think my dad, when he had a clear enough head to think straight, wanted better for me than he had. I don't know because he sure had a funny way of showing it. I think that's why they stayed in Shermer despite us not really fitting in here as the years went on. I was ten when he gave me my first package of rubbers."
"Ten years old?"
"Yup. Fifth grade."
"You knew what they were for in fifth grade?"
"I knew what girls were for in fifth grade, sure. He must have known I did, too, because he told me what they were for. He didn't tell me to go out and use them, but I guess he figured the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Would you rather he didn't do that?"
"Well, no, I just can't even imagine. My mom, God."
"Yeah, I can imagine what your mom's version of sex education was. Keep your knees closed? Something like that. Seems she didn't have to worry much about you anyway so it worked."
"Yet you still believed her? Betty I mean."
"Well, sure. My mom didn't lie to my dad about anything like that. They were just stupid, at least that's the impression I've gotten. If she had I bet he would've warned me about that, too. I was too drunk to really think clearly on it. She was eighteen. I didn't think she was a scheming bitch out to get pregnant. And by me! She wasn't one of those chicks that hooked up with different guys at every party. I wouldn't have believed someone like that. I'd always gotten the impression before that night that she was pretty cool. She knew I wasn't the kind of guy to walk away from an offer like that. I don't know. It was stupid. Forget believing her. I should never have done it without one. I've thought on that night more than once over the past couple of years. I wish I could understand what was going through her head, but here we are."
"I just feel bad for Holly."
"Me, too. I hope she comes around and figures it out before she gets too old and Betty can't repair the damage she's doing. I wasn't the world's greatest dad at first. I didn't want to have anything to do with her, but I figured if I was paying her money I should get something out of that expense. I won't deny at first that's what she was to me. An expense. I was risking getting arrested by selling my shit for a kid I didn't even want. I earned money working for my dad, but he watched me pretty closely so I had to come by money other ways."
"Now, though," he shrugged.
"You love her."
"Yeah. I can't even imagine," he sighed softly. He slid a hand over her hip. She'd have to go home soon. He was starting to hate that part of the night most of all. She'd stayed here a couple of times since she'd been home, but they both knew it wasn't a habit they could get into more than once a week at best. Her mom would never buy her staying at a friend's house more frequently than that.
She turned then to face him.
"I'm glad she has you and is with you."
"Thanks to you. I can't ever repay you for that, you know that?"
"I don't want you to repay me."
"I know. I'm just saying. What you did for me. Have you even asked your dad how much someone in his office would have charged for that?"
"No," she admitted.
"So you have no idea the amount of money you saved me. How much sooner I was able to get her. Betty's parents were great, but I'm not sure as Holly got older she wouldn't have figured out they were doing more than her mother was."
"I knew pretty early on that I got the shitty end of the stick when it came to parents."
"I don't want Holly to think that about both of her parents. I hope she doesn't have to think it about either of us."
"I didn't do it for you to feel as if you have to repay me."
"Are you sure? I don't like hearing you say things like that."
"It's just an expression. I'm sure you're wishing at the moment it hadn't gotten done as quickly as it did."
"Why do you say that?"
"We wouldn't be here tonight."
"We would be, because you still had her on weekends and you wouldn't have even thought of finding a babysitter if you only had her weekends."
"You're probably right." He hadn't thought on that. "My boss hasn't called you since you've been home, has he?"
"No. I haven't heard from him since…" she paused as if thinking it over. "March, I guess. I don't think I've heard from him since you came to school that first time. I mean, I saw him last week…"
"Yeah, I know, you don't need to bring me lunch. You certainly don't need to bring him lunch."
"It seemed rude…"
"Worry about not being rude to me. Don't worry about whether you're rude to Dawson."
She laughed softly, kissing his neck. She nipped at the skin there a bit and moved on top of him.
"I guess you're not mad at me," he whispered as she kissed lower along his chest. "At least not anymore."
"You know how much I like you on top of me and you didn't want to earlier."
She shrugged. "I have a boyfriend. I want to do stuff with him in front of my friends. I've never had that before, you know? I mean, dates to dances don't count. I've always been the one without a date. I was always the one everyone knew would be somewhere because I had no one else to conflict with plans. Tonight I wouldn't have been. I liked the thought of it. That's why I didn't want to go without you."
"Don't be sorry, John."
"I'll fix it," he said.
She sighed softly.
"I don't suppose you have friends who have little sisters," he asked. She clearly wasn't out to get him excited for sex again. Of course her being on top of him naked sort of got him excited for sex again whether those were her intentions or not. She was just being touchy, which was fine, too. Touches from Claire were not anything to get bummed about.
"I do actually," she said.
"And this didn't occur to you?"
"No, I guess it didn't," she said.
"Dawson said I could find someone here this week for next Saturday, but I don't think I'd trust a random stranger to babysit her less than a week after meeting her. I mean, the rent's cheap here, but I know what I'm getting. I'm living with all the other people who want to live in Shermer but can't afford better than this."
"It's not that bad."
"It's not the Projects, no, but I'm still not sure I'd want to trust someone here to watch her."
"I get that," Claire said.
She was quiet for a minute as she slid him inside of her. He loved this feeling more than he probably should, her doing the work of taking him inside of her just made him love it more.
"I guess you don't have to go home yet?"
"Not quite yet."
"That is very good to hear. You're not laying out tomorrow, are you?"
"I'm not sure, why?"
He chuckled softly. "I think your mom will know you weren't at a movie," he said, running a fingertip over one of the hickeys he'd left her. It wasn't on her neck but if she wore a bathing suit it'd show.
"I didn't tell her I was at a movie anyway, but don't worry she won't see it."
"I don't think so. Why would they?"
"I thought you mentioned going to the beach Monday."
"Oh, yeah," she said. "I guess so then."
"Good," he whispered.
"Good for you. Not so good for me to show up with random hickeys on me."
"There's nothing random about them."
"I told you, Claire, pick a friend or two and I'm in. That's not why we're not there tonight. I honestly don't have a sitter."
"I know," she said.
"I can't deny I'd pay good money to see and hear their reaction to them."
She laughed softly at that, but it didn't distract her from what she was doing at all. That was just fine as far as John was concerned. He liked her focused on this particular task very much.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com