“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
-Sidney J. Harris
After the guys left, it was now only the women and Hayley’s four-year-old daughter. Hayley lived in the richest part of the town and the streets were filled with boutiques, which in turn were filled with all sorts of leading brands.
Diana was pleasant to be around and really cute. She liked Benjamin a lot and always followed him around while Benjamin shied away from her. However, It didn’t go unnoticed that he was always watching her when she wasn’t looking.
Hayley parked her car in front of the rich-looking salon. I looked at Abigail, who bit her lip, her expression mirroring my thoughts. We could never afford the luxury they offered. Daniela gave us a warm smile as she urged us to exit the vehicle.
“Hey, we got it covered,” she said as we exited.
“It’s unnecessary, you know,” I said, wanting to retreat to the comfort of the vehicle. Abigail bobbed her head, looking uncomfortable as me.
“Look, just don’t think about it. Aiden and Nicholas gave us their cards this morning. They said you girls wouldn’t accept it if they gave it to you.” Daniela flashed two cards before us.
“They did?” I asked with wide eyes as I and Abigail shared a look unable to decide.
“Of course, they did. They wanted their girls to get pampered today and spend to their heart’s content,” she replied with a broad grin.
“I-I can’t take it,” I shifted on my feet. Why would Aiden want to spend so much money on me?
“Come on in. What are you waiting for?” Hayley hollered from the door making us all cringe again. Shit, the girl really needs to reduce her volume. She looked at us and shook her head with a sigh. “Aiden and Nicholas were right. They said you wouldn’t take it. Girls, they are loaded. You have nothing to worry about,” she said and dragged us inside.
We went in hesitantly and regretted as soon as we came face to face with pure luxury. I sent an uneasy look to Abigail who shrugged and mouthed “Go with the flow.” Though she felt uncomfortable at first, she was now enjoying the comfort. The fact that Nicholas was spending for her must’ve made her feel special since Erik did none of these things for her.
After contemplating for a moment, I nodded and smiled at her. She deserved this after what that freak put her through. Besides, this was a normal thing in a relationship, isn’t it?
“Hayley, it’s good to see you again.” A woman in her early thirties with a warm smile appeared and hugged Hayley and then little Diana kissing her cheek.
“Hello, Michelle, good to see you too.” Hayley greeted, and we stood there awkwardly as they shared pleasantries. “These are my friends Daniela, Clara, and Abigail,” she introduced us. “Clara here needs a complete makeover,” she said pointing at me while I squirmed under the gaze of the new woman.
“Sure. Come here, Clara. Aren’t you beautiful?” Michelle gushed making me blush. She led us into another room and made us sit comfortably in the chairs while her staff tended to us. Diana was taken to the kid’s spa section where she was being pampered.
“You are a natural beauty,” Michelle said with a kind smile coming behind me. “Let’s start with your eyebrows, shall we?” She nodded at one of her staff and now I was being probed from every direction.
In the next few hours my eyebrows were groomed, my hair was trimmed and deeply conditioned so it was now soft and wavy, my short nails were shaped and being painted while I sat there with a face mask that smelled like fruits.
I relaxed after the first ten minutes of the session and enjoyed the pampering. I have been to salons before but it was only to dye my hair. I never thought about the other things before. I had no man to impress and my work kept my mind off other things. Now I had Aiden, and I wanted to look nicer for him.
He liked me the way I looked, but I wanted to do something more to keep him interested. Abigail, on the other hand, was immersed in the session. Once they cleaned the face mask, I opened my eyes to see Abigail exiting a room only in her undies and walking in an extremely uncomfortable position.
“What happened to you? You walk like a crab,” I giggled, unable to control my laughter.
“Bikini wax,” she replied, cursing under her breath.
“Bikini what?!” My jaw dropped with my eyes almost bulging out of its sockets. Before I could ask further, I was taken inside the same room Abigail has exited and my face paled on seeing the contents in front of me.
“I-I think I will skip this,” I tried to exit the room only to be dragged in by the now laughing Hayley. To my horror, I was cladded in one of the panties similar to Abigail and walked out like a crab making Abigail laugh at me this time.
“Your expression is priceless, you know?” Abigail held her stomach when she doubled over laughing at me.
I snorted and sat in the chair unable to come out with any retort. I started it first, and it backfired. Daniela and Hayley’s laughter turned into gasps when I dropped my towel that was covering my body. I froze for a moment, realizing what I had done.
“Oh, my God!” They looked at me with pure shock while I tried to hide my body with a towel I found nearby. I tried my best not to look at them.
Michelle was kind enough not to ask any questions when she groomed me inside the room. I should’ve worn the robe. Abigail had seen my scars before, so she didn’t appear shocked. I showed her the day when I told her about my accident and she cried just by looking at my scars.
“Just some scars that remind me that I am a survivor,” I muttered under my breath trying not to tear out. Thinking about that day made me cry. I didn’t know how I made it out alive.
“She met with an accident and the scars are results of that,” Abigail answered their unasked question and luckily they nodded and asked nothing after that.
The beautiful lake stretched for miles and I felt relaxed. It has been a long time since I have come out with the guys to relax. I watched Ben who was taking in the surroundings excitedly with a huge grin on his face.
“Hello, little man, ready to learn some fishing techniques?” I asked, and he nodded his head.
Saxon and Gabriel took the fishing equipment’s out while Nicholas carried the drinks to the boat. I was in charge of Sam and Benjamin–both were six and got along well. Reaching the boat, Gabriel steered while we sat back enjoying the view.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I wish I had Abigail with me,” Nicholas said and inhaled the fresh air. Water lapped at our boat, the gentle sound calming our mind and soul.
“I miss her too. She would love this place,” I agreed with a smile which I did a lot these days.
“I am so glad to see you happy after all these years, Aiden,” Nicholas said squeezing my shoulder. “I can only imagine what you had gone through now that I have Abigail. It’s not even an hour and I already miss her so much.”
I nodded in understanding. “Does she know about us?” I asked, and he shook his head.
“I don’t want to freak her out. I will wait until she is comfortable with me. I want her to get to know me and trust me,” he replied.
“She will understand,” I replied and opened my mouth to say something when Saxon called out.
“Check this out. This is heaven!”
I smiled at Sam who was trying to hook the bait in his fishing tackle. Benjamin watched him curiously.
“Hey, little guy, want me to show you how it’s done?” I asked Ben, who nodded eagerly and brought his fishing tackle over. I enjoyed teaching my son how to hook the bait and watched with pride as he sauntered towards the water to catch a fish.
Gabriel taught both Sam and Ben to throw the hook and explained why it was necessary to stay calm until the fish caught the bait. I now understood what Daniela meant and mentally thanked her.
We drank beers while the boys had juice. After a few hours, we had a decent catch and the smile on Benjamin’s face when he caught his first fish was priceless. I captured the moment immediately with my mobile camera and took more pictures of him. I had no picture of him as a child. Though I felt sad thinking about all those days, I missed him growing I felt happier now.
We returned to the banks and ate our lunch while each one boasted about their catch. The sun was a high and slight increase in temperature made us sweat. Saxon was the first to go into the water and the rest soon joined.
We all took a swim in the lake and had a great time until I realized Ben did not move from the shore. I looked at Ben who sported an uncomfortable look on his face.
“Hey, come on in. You don’t like to get wet?” I called out. When I didn’t get a reply, I got out of the water and went to sit near him, “Hey what’s up? You can talk to me you know,” I asked.
“I can’t swim,” he said and his lower lip trembled. I looked back at the lake to see Sam swimming like a professional.
So that is why he is feeling so bad about it. “That’s it? What am I here for? Change now,” I cheered him up and he looked at me with a hopeful smile.
“You would teach me to swim too?” He asked in a low voice and I felt that familiar ache again in my heart.
“I would do anything for you, Ben. If you want me to jump in the fire, I would do it without a second thought,” I said in a sincere tone, my eyes never wavering.
“All right, come on. Let’s go.” I stood and extended my hand for him to take.
Ben looked at me as if he was contemplating something. He never called me by my name, even from when we were introduced. He added an uncle before everyone else’s name before he addressed them, but he never addressed me anything. He always started with a Hi and ended with thanks or some kind of greeting.
“Dad… higher!” I heard Sam’s squeal. Gabriel threw him up in the air and caught him again before he touched the water.
“Are you going to be my dad?” He asked, and I felt my heart stop for a second.
I looked at his expectant face without replying. It was an emotional moment and didn’t know what to say to the kid. It hurt when my son asked if I could be his dad. I couldn’t lie to him and sure as hell won’t allow him to call me an uncle or by name. He is my blood. He is my son to love and protect.
“I am your Dad,” I replied, anxiously waiting for his reaction. A relieved breath whooshed out of my lungs when a bright smile lit his face which in turn lifted my spirits.
“I now have a dad,” he said more to himself before hugging my legs.
I scooped him up kissing him. “You always did,” I answered and held him closer.
“Dad, will you teach me to swim like Sam?” He asked and my heart swelled with pride when he addressed me as his dad for the first time.
A traitorous tear escaped my eyes and rolled down my cheek.
“I will teach you to swim better than him. But, first, call me dad again,” I said, my voice cracking with the onslaught of emotions I never felt before. Who thought, hearing that one word from my son would feel like this? And I made him repeat the word at least a hundred times before taking him to the water.