Callie was feeling excited. A few days ago she had sat in a crowded bar mentally willing Erica to say yes to her impromptu offer of help in finding a place to settle for her and her son, Lucas. And she was excited that Erica would be at Seattle Grace too. It would be great to have someone to hang out with who understood what it was like to be a single Mom, even if Lucas wasn't Erica's biological child.
They had talked on the phone twice since then trying to find a mutually agreeable day for the outing and each time Callie found herself wanting to extend the conversation and feeling even more excited about seeing her. She knew it was just the excitement of a potential new friend, someone who was like her in a very important way, but a part of her wondered at her reaction at Rumors when she first met Erica. She couldn't really rationalize an explanation in her head, so she pushed it to the side. Instead she focused on everything they had in common. They were both doctors, although Erica was in a better position to make demands as an attending than Callie who was still a resident. Their kids were around the same age and now they would even be working at the same hospital. For Callie, Erica felt like her first opportunity at a genuine friendship in a long time.
She took one last look in the mirror satisfied that she was at least presentable and walked out of her bedroom.
"Come on Allie, we have to be at the bookstore in 15 minutes," she yelled to her daughter.
Erica drove carefully into the crowded parking lot, past the Wal-Mart and Best Buy, following the small path as it wound its way around to the back where additional stores and eateries were located. She found a spot that seemed less crowded and parked. She turned in her seat.
"How you doing, kiddo?"
The small brown headed boy looked at her with bright eyes. He had been peering out the windows excitedly for the last twenty minutes.
"Where are we?" he asked.
"Apparently the center of town if the traffic is any indication," she responded unsnapping her seatbelt and getting out.
She opened the back door and began unbuckling him from the booster he sat in. She put him down and reached for his hand, but for once he did not take off at run. He stood, silently looking around. She locked the car and they proceeded to cross the parking lot.
They were a few minutes early, the drive having gone faster than she had anticipated. "Is this where we're moving to?" he asked with a little fear in his eyes.
She looked at him. "No, we're just meeting a friend here. She's going to help us find a place to live. She has a little girl about your age, so she knows all the best places for kids."
"But this place is scary," he said clutching her hand. "Well they don't live here."
"Okay," he said, but he sounded unsure.
They entered the giant bookstore and Erica immediately began searching for the coffee shop. She looked down at Lucas whose eyes brightened at the well lit store with shelves and shelves of books.
"I'll let you wander around in a bit," she said.
That must have made him happy. She felt a pull on her hand and had to smile. He was skipping now, a smile plastered on his face as they made their way to the back of the store.
Erica looked around for Callie, unsure if she would be here yet. Her eyes moved around the cafe and settled on a small area near large windows with comfy couches. There was Callie, dark hair in a pony tail speaking to a small girl who was the spitting image of her. The girl was sitting on the carpeted floor a book in her hand, talking animatedly to her mother. Erica pulled Lucas with her and approached.
Callie's head turned to her, her eyes lighting up. "Hey to you too. You made it."
"It didn't take too long."
Erica felt her stomach do two or three hundred flips in the space of a few seconds as Callie got up from her seat. She wanted to hug her. It seemed right somehow. It was a strange thought since she didn't usually do that with causal friends. Sam and Danielle were the exception because they were her good friends, but she and Callie really didn't know each other that well. A few phone conversations and a night spent talking and drinking at Rumors did not make you hugging buddies. And yet the feeling persisted.
"Al, come on up here honey," said Callie.
The little dark-haired miniature of Callie got up shyly, going automatically to her mother, the book she had been looking at it clutched in front of her.
"Erica, this is Allie. Al, say hi to Erica."
Allie was the most adorable little girl Erica had ever laid eyes on. She had Callie's chocolate brown eyes and facial features, but instead of saying anything, she buried her face in her mother's legs.
"Aw come on, Al," her mother begged placing a comforting arm around the child's back and rubbing.
"That's okay," said Erica pulling Lucas to stand in front of her. She held both his hands as he stared at the girl and her mother.
"Hi Allie, this is Lucas. He's sometimes shy too."
Allie turned around standing in front of Callie's legs, reaching up with one hand and clutching her mother's shirt.
"Whatcha got there?" Lucas asked pointing at the book Allie was holding. Allie glanced up at her mother, who nodded.
"Come on, Al. Use your words."
Allie put her head down and held up the book. It was a book about lizards. Lucas stepped forward to get a better look at the cover.
"Cool!" he shouted. "Look Aunt Erica, it's about lizards. Do you think there's a picture of a Komodo dragon?" he asked his aunt, tracing the cover of the book with one finger.
"Why don't you ask Allie?" said Erica.
He turned to Allie and stepped closer to her. "Are there cool pictures? I once saw a real Komodo dragon on TV. It was huge!" He indicated exactly how big, by stretching out his arms as far as they would go.
"Right, Aunt Erica? It was bigger than me."
Allie's eyes had gone wide, but she seemed intrigued as her eyes followed Lucas and his outstretched arms.
"Yeah, it was bigger than you, kiddo. Lucas, this is Allie and Allie's mom Callie. Say hi."
"Hi! What should I call you?" he asked Callie.
Callie looked at Erica briefly. "Well since you're Erica's special little guy and she gets to call me Callie, you can call me Callie too. Can I call you Lucas?" she asked.
He giggled. "Of course, that's my name. But you're a grown-up. I can't call you Callie. I'll just call you Aunt Callie."
"Um..." Callie looked at Erica.
"I hope you don't mind," said Erica. "He calls everyone he likes Aunt or Uncle or a relative of some type."
Callie smiled and watched as Lucas and Allie interacted. Lucas had coaxed Allie to the floor, both getting immersed in the pictures.
"Sit," said Callie. "Can I get you anything? You might want to get some sustenance before we start."
"What kind of day do you have in store for us?" asked Erica with a smile as they both sat.
"Well I want to drive you around to some of the areas that I found more promising when I was looking, visit the schools, see what's close by. I don't know how important location to public transportation or highways is to you, so I figured I'd show you everything."
She picked up the folder next to her and opened it pulling out page after page of print-outs and maps
"You have an itinerary for us?"
Callie blushed. "Yes?" she squeaked. "Sorry, obsessive compulsive organized person, you're dealing with. I make lists of everything."
"No, no I didn't mean to insult you. It's great. I just didn't expect you to put so much effort into it. Thanks. I really appreciate it."
Erica looked at her and smiled warmly, wanting to express how much she appreciated Callie's efforts. "I'll owe you a number of dinners after this."
Callie blushed again. "No, that's not necessary, I'm just glad I could help."
Erica looked at her, letting herself linger on Callie's face, focusing on the exact shade of her eyes in the sunlight, the shape of her mouth, the way wisps of hair fell around her cheeks.
"Would you like to go out to dinner with me?"
Callie blinked in confusion. Erica cleared her throat and tried again.
"Friendly dinner, I mean. That would help too. There is no easier way to ease into a new place than with a new friend."
She tried to sound casual and friendly and not at all like she was asking Callie out. She had acted on instinct with the whole dinner invitation thing. She was flirting with Callie and she should stop, but it felt good and she liked to see that blush on Callie's face that seemed to be coming on frequently. Still, it was dangerous and she needed to get her own head back on a friendly track.
Callie said nothing in response. Erica took a breath getting ready to beg forgiveness, but Callie was quicker and completely disarmed her.
"Okay," she said flashing Erica another one of her full-out grins, the one that seemed to come from somewhere within Callie's core and took over her entire face.
Erica let herself be captured by it and smiled back.
By the time they had driven everywhere on Callie's list, everyone was exhausted. The kids lost interest in seeing new places and even visiting schoolyards had lost its appeal. They were asleep in the back of Callie's car.
"Thank you so much, Callie. I have an idea of where to start my search at least."
"No problem. I wish there was something available in my neighborhood, but I don't think I've seen any for sale signs go up."
"That would certainly make things easier."
They had met at the bookstore, but after some deliberation and a look at Callie's itinerary, they decided that it would be best to leave Erica's car in Callie's driveway. They would end their little adventure near Callie's house and it was located closer to the expressway Erica needed to use for the trip home. Now they were approaching Callie's house.
Erica relaxed into the passenger seat, closing her eyes and trying to figure out what she had at home that she could prepare quickly for dinner. After the long drive back to Bentley Lucas would be cranky, she knew, but after some food, she hoped he would settle down to sleep quickly.
"Oh my God!" she heard Callie exclaim.
Erica opened her eyes immediately, her heartbeat picked up and her stomach dropped as adrenaline shot through her system. She looked around trying to spot the danger, her hands out in front of her ready to brace. Callie pulled over and pointed.
"For Sale," she said. "It must have gone up today because that sign was not there this morning when I left."
Erica was breathing hard. "You scared the heck out of me for a For Sale sign? Are you trying to kill me?"
"Erica, look where it is."
Erica looked, still trying to settle her breathing. The house was nice. It had an interesting colonial design and looked well maintained. She looked around wanting to find some landmark that would reveal why its location was significant, but nothing was coming to her. She looked at Callie.
"What? Where are we?"
Callie pointed. "My house is right there," she pointed across the street, where now that it was made plainly obvious, Erica could see her own car in Callie's driveway.
She laughed. "Son of...well this must be some type of sign. I'm going to get a phone number. I'll meet you across the street?" she asked smiling.
"Okay," said Callie smiling as she watched her get out.
An extra large pizza later the kids were in the living room, going through Allie's DVD collection, while Callie and Erica cleaned up the remnants of the hurried dinner.
"Thanks for letting us crash your dinner plans," said Erica trying to fold up the pizza box.
"We had no dinner plans. It was fun," answered Callie loading the last of the dishes into the dishwasher.
"Seriously, I can't thank you enough. You spent most of your day driving me and Lucas around and then you let us join you and Allie for dinner. I had no idea what I was going to feed him."
Callie laughed. "It was just pizza Erica. It was fairly easy to make, you know you just pick up the phone and dial."
Erica gave up on the pizza box and just set it by the garbage.
"It was great pizza, had with great company," Erica said softly. "Really great company."
She was staring at Callie as she set the dishwasher. She knew her voice had changed. It had gone just a little huskier which meant she was reacting to Callie in a physical way. She also knew she had to put a clamp on that. She cleared her throat as Callie turned around leaning against the dishwasher, arms crossed in front of her.
"It was a lot of fun and with any luck they'll be more pizza nights," said Callie. She closed her eyes momentarily before continuing. "That was awfully presumptuous of me. Of course, only if you want there to be more pizza nights or other type of nights," her eyes stayed on Erica as she spoke the last few words.
They were staring at each other smiling. Erica knew she needed to break the gaze, look away before Callie saw the effect she was having on her. But it was hard to do, incredibly hard. Finally Callie smiled and started the conversation again.
"So, do you guys want to stay for a movie?" Callie's eyes shifted to the doorway leading to the living room. "We were planning on watching Toy Story tonight," she finished hopefully.
"I would think you want us out of your hair by now," Erica said as she laughed.
She didn't know if she should stay. It had been a long day and she was working a shift at Presbyterian tomorrow, but Lucas was having a good time and so was she.
"No, not at all," said Callie seriously then backed away from the serious tone, as a more reflective quality laced her next thoughts. "Actually I'm a little surprised. Allie usually tires of new people pretty quickly; so do I. I don't know, maybe it's because other people bore us?" She laughed. "I feel like we're holding both of you hostage because we're enjoying you so much. That doesn't really happen to us with other people."
Erica stepped closer, hands in her pockets. "I'm enjoying it too," she said, again with the soft voice.
She closed her eyes, knowing without a doubt that she needed to leave. She liked this woman. She liked this woman a lot. She was nice and funny and smart and a great Mom. She was also incredibly attractive and sexy and was making Erica's heart thump really loud and really fast. She needed to go.
Lucas and Allie came running through the doorway.
"Mom, Mom. Aunt Erica they have Toy Story, look!" said Lucas handing Erica the DVD case.
He had been doing that a lot lately, calling her Mom and Aunt Erica. She hadn't talked to him about it, had just responded to whatever he was calling her, but she was worried that she was causing him some psychological damage by not clarifying things for him. She put her hand on his head and brought him closer to her leg as she took the case from him.
"It looks like they do. We have this at home too kiddo," she said gently, tilting his head and looking at him seriously.
"Yeah, but we haven't watched it with Allie and Aunt Cal. Allie doesn't know my favorite parts," he whined.
She looked at Callie who shrugged. "It's up to you guys," said Callie carefully. "We'll be watching it either way, so you are welcome to stay."
"Please, please, please, can we watch it here?"
He was jumping up and down tugging on her free hand.
"Okay, okay, but then we need to go and it's straight to bed for you. No arguments."
He snatched the box from her hands. "We'll go set it up," he said as he turned and handed the box to Allie who had been standing by the doorway.
"I'll put it in. It's easy. Mom lets me do it all the time," they heard her say as both kids bolted for the living room.
Erica ran her hands through her hair. "Are you sure you're okay with this?" she asked Callie.
"I am very okay with this. I would have been stuck watching the whole thing if you guys didn't stay. This way we can start watching it and sneak out when they're all into it."Callie walked toward Erica and grabbed her hand. "Come on, let's put in our time," she said as she led her to the living room.