“So, you're having a full weekend, I guess,” John said, taking a seat on the couch next to her. Justin had let him in today. John was finding it difficult to wrap his mind around the boy he saw today being the same one he'd first seen a year ago. There was such a difference between three and four. Not that John had much reason to pay attention before now.
“Huh?” Claire said, glancing up from getting Frank ready. It was supposed to be nicer out today than it had been yesterday. She was still putting him in a coat, though, with a hat and stuff. He didn't think it was going to get that cold, but he understood babies required different things. This wasn't the first baseball game of the season they were going to, but likely it would be the last unless he could convince Claire to leave the kids at home for a day and use the tickets Bill and Justin use on two adults.
“Bill says you had lunch with Nancy yesterday.”
“Oh, yeah, she met us for a while. Justin and Bill played, Frank slept, and we talked.”
“Yeah? I guess I didn't realize you were that friendly with her.”
She shrugged. “She called me after school started for her again and asked how I was doing.”
“Seeing if you were reconsidering your decision to go back to school, you mean?”
“I think she may have been doing that, too, yes. Anyway, I asked her if she wanted to meet us sometime. She mentioned this weekend and I figured why not.”
“She asked about you, too.”
“She knows I see you.”
“And she hasn't called the police on you yet for letting me hang around your kids?”
“No. She wouldn't do that, John. I mean, I'm sure she would if she had a reason to, but she knows it was a long time ago when you talked to her.”
“She just asked me how your job was going. I told her you were very busy.”
“I get it.”
“I think she finds it funny that we're friends.”
“Mommy,” Bill called down from upstairs.
“Phone's for you.”
“Okay, I'll get it down here.”
“He sure likes answering that phone.”
“I know. He thinks he's helping Mom and me out, which he is in a way I guess.”
Claire stood then and went to the couch nearest the phone to pick it up. It blew his mind how many phones they had in the house sometimes. Then again he supposed if he actually started using more than a handful of rooms in his house he'd have more than the one regular phone and one cordless phone he currently had. He just didn't see the need for more than that.
“Hello,” Claire said while John sat on the floor to keep an eye on Frank while she took her call. He was awake more and more every day. He even gave John a smile or two the last couple of times he'd seen him. John tried not to let that get to him, but man it was hard to shield his heart from the effects of a baby's smile on him. He was a pretty cute baby even when he was drooling like crazy from the effects of cutting teeth. John had never given something as basic as smiling as being something a baby would have to learn to do just as they learn to do everything else. He just sort of figured it was automatic, apparently that wasn't the case.
“Oh, hi, how are you?”
“No, I can't today. I'm going to the Cubs game.”
“I'd love to, sure because after so long of not being in school I find it hard to get back into things. It's a lot different being on this end of things again.”
Bill and Justin came downstairs, dressed and ready to go. They did not have mittens on, but they were wearing jackets and caps. Likely, Frank's hat and mittens wouldn't be needed, but it was better to be safe he knew that.
“Bill, grab Mommy a piece of paper and a pen will you?” she said. “One second,” she said into the phone. “I need to get something to write with.”
Bill rushed to the kitchen and came back with a pen and small pad of paper John knew Mrs. Standish kept by the kitchen phone all of the time. He'd pictured Claire talking on that phone before she'd gotten a line of her own, doodling on the pad of paper.
“Okay, I'm sorry about that, I'm ready.” She wrote whatever it was down. “Okay, I'll call you this week sometime then.”
“No, I appreciate you thinking of me, I'm not insulted at all. Thank you.”
“I'll see you in class tomorrow, I guess anyway, so we can figure out a time then maybe.”
“I hope the Cubs win, too. Thanks. Bye bye,” she said.
She hung up then, tearing off the piece of paper.
“Bill, can you put the pen and paper back in the kitchen please?”
He did as asked as Claire folded the piece of paper up and put it in her wallet. She had a purse, but she very rarely used it anymore because of Frank's diaper bag. She just put her wallet in the diaper bag.
“Did you have something else to do today?” John asked curiously.
“No, that was one of the grad assistants in one of my non-Engineering classes. He's putting together a study group and thought I'd like to be a part of it.”
“He thought you'd want to in all of your spare time?”
“Well, no, but I've talked to him a few times already. He knows I'm concerned about having to study again after so many years of not doing it.”
“It's not like you haven't had deadlines or papers and tests of your own to grade in the past few years.”
“I know, John. It's just so stupid that I have to take elective classes because I don't qualify for the more advanced classes yet since I haven't had the pre-requisites. So, this Anthropology class is kind of kicking my butt. It's a lot of reading and it's a lot to remember.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“And it's not like I couldn't bring the kids with me if I had to, but I'm sure Mom will babysit if I need her to. That's assuming the group doesn't meet during the day on campus in between classes. I'll have to talk to him more tomorrow after class.”
John sighed softly. He wasn't even going to ask how the guy had gotten her phone number and decided to call her on a Sunday afternoon when, evidently, he'd see her tomorrow during class anyway. From her answer about being busy the guy must have brought up meeting today.
“Are you ready then?” he asked.
“We are,” Bill and Justin said in tandem. They were excited. They always got excited when they went to things like this. Frank didn't care yet and obviously would never remember being at any of the games he'd been to so far.
“Yes, sorry. I just have to get my jacket. The bottles and everything are ready to go.”
He was completely impressed and surprised (though why he didn't know) at how efficient she was at getting Frank ready to go anywhere. She knew exactly what he'd need and she to this point had never been wrong.
“Why are you getting in on that side?” she asked him when they were in the garage. He'd helped Justin into his seat while she strapped Frank into his. Bill got in after she was done since Frank's seat was in between the two older boys.
“Huh?” he asked.
“You're not driving?”
“You usually want to,” she said.
He liked driving her car. He wasn't afraid to admit that and she knew it, too.
“I can, sure,” he said, going over to the driver's side.
“Are you sure you want to come with us?”
“Yes,” he said.
He'd had to work yesterday and then he'd had to go out last night. One of his friends was getting married and a group of them had thrown a bachelor party for him.
“I have to admit, you don't look as bad as I expected.”
“What were you expecting exactly?”
She blushed and he sighed softly.
“I wouldn't do that, Claire.”
“I know,” she said softly. He reached for her, tilting her face up so she had to look at him.
“Somewhere in there you must not be sure.”
“Well, we're not really together or anything so there's nothing stopping you.”
He shook his head. God it tore him up that she thought that way. That she thought he'd think she wasn't worth waiting for.
“Loving you would stop me.”
“Yeah, but not everyone is going to love everyone back so loving someone isn't going to stop people from having sex with people. It certainly didn't stop Dan.”
“It'd stop me until you tell me that I don't have a chance.”
“John,” she whispered.
He tilted his head a little, regarding her. Unshed tears in her eyes and he once again wanted to beat the crap out of her husband. He slanted his mouth over hers and she gasped softly into his kiss. She didn't pull away, though. She drew away after a couple of minutes. Bill and Justin were giggling in the car, so evidently they didn't mind seeing him kiss their mom.
“I swear to you I didn't do anything,” he whispered. “I won't deny there was entertainment there, but I wouldn't do that with someone like that anyway.”
“Entertainment? Is that what they're calling it?”
He chuckled. “I figured it was the better way to phrase it.”
“So someone like that propositioned you…”
“I'd say no.” He closed his eyes a bit. “Let's see a choice between you and everything that's good and, well, disease-free. Or someone who's probably been with more guys than I've known in my adult life. Yeah, not a difficult choice for me, sweetheart. I get that that appeals to some guys, and I won't deny six or seven years ago I didn't do some stupid things.”
“You slept with strippers?”
“I don't think what I did could be classified as sleeping, no.”
“Very funny,” she said wryly.
“You're not going to get mad at me for something I did years ago, are you?”
“No,” she said.
“Thank you. Now are you ready? We're going to be late if we don't leave pretty soon.”
“I know. I'm ready.”
“Are you mad at me for kissing you?”
“No,” she said.
“I'm not,” she said.
That surprised him because he'd never kissed her in front the kids before. He'd always assumed that was off limits. He wasn't sure why he'd done it today, but he wanted to. He missed her. He really missed her. The girls last night hadn't at all been tempting to him. If he needed any more proof that he was pretty well gone last night would have been it. He hardly even bothered to look because he'd much rather look at Claire. He hadn't seen her naked since she'd had Frank other than the few times he'd been there when she fed him. That wasn't completely naked, though. He knew, though, that she'd gotten her shape back pretty quickly.
Truthfully, he was more hung over than he let on to her he was. The friend whose bachelor party he'd gone to the night before had met his fiancé last Christmas. Actually, he and Claire had met her at the New Year's Eve party they went to. It bothered him more than he wanted to admit that Adam was already at the bachelor party stage and John hadn't even gotten to the dating stage. It wasn't her fault, he knew that. He just hadn't counted on actually developing feelings for her and wanting more from her.
That first night she'd had sex with him he thought he'd hit the mother lode. Good sex, very good sex with nothing expected from him but giving her more good sex. It was what most single guys would dream of being in the position of having in their grasp. Somewhere along the line, though, he knew it wasn't just sex and he wasn't going to walk away unless she told him he had to.
“Good,” he said.
The game was a good one, the Cubs won. Bill hadn't enjoyed the game nearly as much as the one they went to in July against the New York Mets. He'd cheered for the Cubs, but he'd enjoyed somehow getting a glimpse of something from what he probably still considered home. John could understand that.
“Are you going to come in?” she asked when they got back to her mom's place.
“I shouldn't. I have to be in Joliet early tomorrow morning and I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night.”
She smirked at that.
“I noticed you didn't drink any beer today.”
“I was driving.”
“I could've driven if you wanted beer.”
“Nah, I liked seeing you drink a beer.”
“I'm so glad I can again.”
She’d stopped nursing Frank a week or two ago. Until then, things like beer had continued to be off-limits. The one glass of wine or champagne she allowed herself while pregnant once in a blue moon she didn't even do when she was nursing. He admired her dedication to making sure she didn't do anything wrong.
“I kind of figured you needed it more than I did. It's all good.”
“You could come in for a while. I'm sure Mom made something for dinner.”
“Come on, John, it's Sunday dinner.”
He sighed softly. “I suppose.”
“I'm sure she made enough for you, knowing you were going with us to the game. I think she mentioned pork chops.”
“All right, you don't need to convince me anymore. I will have dinner with you.”
“Good. I won't keep you late then, I promise.”
“You could keep me late if you want to, sweetheart.”
“You just said you have to leave for Joliet early tomorrow.”
“I know, just saying. You know, I'd stay late with the right incentive.”
“My mom's cooking isn't an incentive?”
“Not the incentive I had in mind, no.”
She smiled a little, getting Frank out of the car while John helped Justin out. Bill had already gone on inside, not waiting for either of them.
“They had fun,” he said.
“They did. Thank you for the programs. They already had one from an earlier game.”
“I know, it's fine. Bill likes to keep score.”
“Why does Justin call him Willy?”
“I don't know. I really don't. He can say his B's, he just chooses to call him Willy.”
“Did you used to call him Billy?”
“We did, yeah.”
“So, he's maybe trying to say Billy?”
“Maybe. I don't know. Bill doesn't mind so I haven't corrected him. I just figured maybe it was kind of his name for his big brother.”
“I can see that. I just haven't ever heard you or anyone other than Justin call him Will or Willy.”
“No, no one else does.”
He tugged on her jacket a little while Justin followed Bill inside. He leaned in and kissed her.
“Thank you for a nice day. I could've called and canceled. I thought about it to be honest, but I'm glad I didn't.”
“You're welcome. I'm glad you didn't, too. It's more fun going with you.”
“So, they've seen us kiss.”
“I know that.”
“Does that mean I can kiss you in front of your mother now?”
He chuckled when she realized he'd been teasing her.
“When the answer to that is yes, sweetheart. You can be assured my work schedule the next morning be damned I wouldn't go home early.”
“Hmm, I'm not sure I'd do that on a Sunday night anyway.”
“No sex on Sunday's?”
“No, not ever. Just you know, again. Certainly not with anyone home. I wouldn't want to be rushed or anything.”
“Ah,” he said. “Should I block off another five or six hours from my calendar then?”
“Probably longer,” she said, walking away from him then.
He could only hope that time came sooner rather than later.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com