David parked his pick-up truck in its usual spot in the driveway behind the Suburban. Debbie drove the nice vehicle, and he drove a work truck. He didn’t mind to give her nice things; he wouldn’t have it any other way. He loved to take care of his family. He knew what a fortunate man he was.
He had been a bit of an outcast when he was in school. It wasn’t his fault that he had been born with a cleft-pallet. He had the corrective surgery as a small child, but still, the tell-tale sign of the deformity slightly remained. That’s what he loved so much about Debbie; he would tell anyone who would listen. “Debbie loves me, just as I am.”
And of course Debbie would blush; all one hundred and eighty pounds of her. She was a bit lighter when they had met in high school, but still, she had always been overweight. David accepted her just as she was too. They appreciated their challenges and adored each other.
When the twins came along it was a really tough time for the young family. With the extra weight that carrying twins naturally put on her, Debbie was a bit of a mess. She ballooned up to almost two hundred pounds, and she was only in her early twenties at the time. Then to add more of an added stress to an already difficult situation she developed gestational diabetes. She had to spend a lot of time in bed resting and she really had to watch her diet.
During that pregnancy her and David bonded closer than they had ever been. He would dote over her and she would fuss that he really didn’t need to. He would work all day and then he would go home and tend to his wife. He would massage her swollen feet and try to make her just a little more comfortable. He was so concerned about her health, and she was so troubled that she was taking advantage of him. The love that was nurtured during that time had gone on to sustain them throughout the pregnancy, and then through another.
Debbie’s pregnancy with Kelly had gone much better. She still had to deal with the gestational diabetes, but it wasn’t nearly as debilitating as it had been when she was carrying the twins. It seemed that the pregnancy that time was a time of bonding for the rest of the family as they anxiously awaited the birth of the little girl that they knew that she carried.
The twelve years that the couple had been together were happy ones, and their relationship just seemed to blossom year after year. They had four years to just enjoy each other’s company; and then came the boys, and then they had another three years to adjust before completing their small family.
The boys were outside shooting some hoops at the basketball court that comprised the other half of their driveway. David couldn’t count how many times one vehicle or the other was hit by a stray basketball, but he didn’t mind. The boys loved sports, and basketball was right up there on the list of their favorite things.
“Want to shoot a couple?” Mitchell pitched the large orange basketball at his approaching father.
“Just don’t have the time, right now, son.” David smiled as he hefted the ball in an arch and landed a perfect shot.
“Ah, come on,” Stewart insisted. Let’s do a little one on one – you know, me and Mitchell against you.”
“And how is that possibly one on one?” David asked.
“You’re bigger than we are! That’d only be fair!” Stewart offered with a grin.
“Yeah, come on, dad. Just for a little while.” Mitchell joined in.
“Not right now, boys. Your mother’s waiting on me. I’m already late. Tell you what; how about we go to the lake on Saturday; just the three of us? We could play some baseball, and maybe even catch a fish or two. It might be something that I could make happen.”
“Really!” Mitchell exclaimed. He loved it when their dad spent time just with them. David never had outings with only one of his sons, and they never minded. Had he even suggested such a thing they would have wondered why. The twins were inseparable. They weren’t of a mind either one of them to be at odds with the other. They were constant companions and playmates. David had often wondered at their oneness; but had decided that it was most likely because they were identical twins; both sharing the same everything.
“You promise?” Stewart was the smart one. He knew that a maybe wasn’t quite the same as a promise.
“How about a contingent promise? Like if it works out then fine, and if not we’ll do it another day.” David was always stretching his son’s vocabulary. He would introduce a new word, and in the introduction he would use it in such a way that even though the word was strange; still the meaning was clear. He didn’t let on that he was educating them, but still, he did it every chance that he could. He thought of them as ‘teachable moments.’
“I don’t like the sound of that.” Stewart protested. He was looking for an absolute.
“Surely it’ll be okay.” Mitchell pitched in. He was ever the peace maker.
“I’ll do the best that I can to make it happen.” David looked at Stewart for his approval. Stewart looked over at Mitchell who wanted desperately for him to be agreeable.
“I guess that’ll have to do.” Stewart ran off to the side of the drive to where the basketball had rolled off to. “It sure would be great, though, if we can!” He tossed out there; just to let his desires be known.
“It sure would be.” Mitchell agreed with his brother. “We haven’t been fishing for a long time.”
“We’ll see. I’ll plan on it, but like I said, can’t make any promises; at least not yet. Maybe I’ll know more later on in the week if it’ll work or not.”
Both boys went back to their basketball hoop shots and let their dad have an uninterrupted passage inside.
Upon opening the front door David was greeted by the family pet. Millie was a little black poodle that had come from the pound. She had been abandoned by her first family. The reason that they gave her up was because she jumped up as high as she could and barked. They had actually had the poor little thing’s voice box removed. It seemed to both David and to Debbie that that would have been punishment enough for her behavior, but to add insult to injury they then surrendered her to the pound.
She had such a friendly disposition that the children had fallen in love with her immediately. The woman at the animal shelter was hesitant to pair her up with the Strong family because of the behavior issues Millie had. She was afraid that they wouldn’t keep her.
“We’ll give her a good home,” David had promised, and Debbie had stood by his side and agreed. The children begged to have her. “Look at her! She’s so cute!” Little Kelly had exclaimed. She had only been three at the time. Millie had ran up to her and had licked her all over her face and Kelly was a mess in fits of giggles. The boys had taken to her right away too, as when she got excited when they had passed her cage she jumped up in the air as high as she could and tried to bark. But she couldn’t bark; only squeak.
They took her home and then they invested in a trainer who taught Millie how to mellow out; just a little bit. She no longer jumped up all of the time, and she rarely tried to use her broken vocals. She was still a joy for the children though; showering them with wet kisses and sitting on their laps any moment that they would let her.
“Hey girl,” David bent down and petted Millie. Her little tail went wild with delight. “Where’s everyone?” He asked, not expecting an answer. “You need out?” And David headed through the entryway to the back of the house and opened the door for Millie to go into the fenced in back yard. He closed the door and turned around and Kelly came running up and jumped into his arms.
“Daddy!” She exclaimed. She was always so happy to see her daddy. “Want to see what I did today?” She asked with the wide-eyed wonder of a five-year-old.
“Sure, baby. I’d love to. But where’s your mommy?” David knew better than to let himself be distracted. He didn’t have a great relationship with his wife because he took her for granted…
“Oh, she’s in the kitchen. You know, where she’s always at.” Kelly offered.
David carried Kelly along on his way to greet Debbie. “Hi, babe. Have a good day?” He asked, as he gave her a light kiss, naturally tucking Kelly over to his other side to do so.
“I did. I’m a little late getting dinner though. The kids and I stopped at the market to pick up some fresh salad and I ran into Molly Pickett. You know what a gabber she can be. She was too funny. That woman sure does have a great sense of humor! She has no concept of time though! I didn’t mind. I knew that you’d be late, but that girl, I tell you!”
“Yeah, she’s a good gal all right. Glad she’s your friend and not mine. She’s a bit too much for me.” David meant it. Molly was just a little bit too much for him that was for sure. He was much more subdued, but he never fussed. He enjoyed that Debbie had such a good friend. He just made sure to be scarce if she happened to visit.
“What did Daniel want, anyway?” Debbie was reminded of why her husband was late in the first place.
“It was pretty interesting actually. You go on, pumpkin; tell your brothers that it’s time to come in and eat.” No one had to tell David that dinner was ready. He could see the pasta topped with meatballs sitting in a serving dish, and the salad was also all prepared. The table was set for dinner and he could smell that the rolls were just about ready to come out of the oven. Until he smelled the food he didn’t realize how very hungry he was.
He sat Kelly down and off she went on her errand. Kelly loved to help out. David was indeed a fortunate man. “Dinner looks great. Those rolls done?”
Debbie smiled. She didn’t know how she got along without him. “I’ve got the timer on them. It’ll be just a couple of more minutes.”
“He’s going to New York.”
“New York? Wow. Now that’s interesting. What’s he going to do in New York – visit Jessica?”
“Well, I’m sure that he’ll do that; but actually he’s going to go to visit with Jesse’s friend, Penelopy.”
Debbie’s eyebrows went up a little. “Isn’t it too soon for any kind of a relationship?” She couldn’t help herself, it just slipped out.
“That’s probably why he’s going there, and she’s not coming here.” David stated pointedly.
“Yeah, I guess I was a bit quick to judgment, wasn’t I?” Debbie admitted.
David wasn’t harsh as he replied, “Just a little bit. It does seem like it’s too soon, but he’s got that baby to think about. The guy’s about beat up over there; trying to run the farm and his crew and the livestock: Add an infant and he’s about plowed over.”
“When you put it like that, you’ve sure got a point. Do you think it’s serious, you know, with Penelopy?”
“Looks like it could be. He’s got a lot of responsibilities that he’s willing to put on a back burner just to go and see her.”
“He’ll be good to whoever he ends up with. Look how good he was to Mitzi.” Debbie was saddened by the thought. Mitzi was way too young to die. And to never know her infant daughter. She couldn’t even imagine.
The clamor of children bursting through the door lightened up Debbie’s mood, as David continued.
“He wants me to hold down the fort while he’s gone. The whole place.”
“What did you say?” Debbie looked at David. She knew that what he had just shared was an enormous responsibility.
“What could I say? Of course I told him I’d be glad to help out. And he’s going to pay me good for doing it. I’d do it for him, as a friend, but the extra money will come in handy.”
Debbie took the rolls out of the oven. Dinner was done. She sat them on the stove and put a brushing of butter on each one as she let her husband continue.
“He’s leaving on the 15th of this month. That’s two weeks from Saturday. Which reminds me; I told the boys that I’d take them to the park this Saturday, if you don’t mind, and if time allows. Maybe you and Kelly could plan a ‘Mommy and Me’ day?”
“Oh, that’s perfect. We haven’t done that for a while. It’ll be fun. That way we can all have our fun before ‘Daddy’ has to work his arms to the nubs.” Debbie grabbed up a serving dish for the rolls and said, “Dinner’s done. Let’s get it served. I don’t know about you, but I’m starved.”
David smiled as he grabbed up the pasta dish and the salad. He sat them on the table and headed off to wash his hands. Daddy was home, and it was time to eat.
Brad anxiously picked up the telephone. He didn’t know what he was going to do if she didn’t answer. It wasn’t like him to depend on anyone; that is except for himself; but he had told Ernie that he had the perfect girl for the job. He looked at the reflection of himself in the mirror as he heard the first ring. Come on, answer it already. He unconsciously straightened a few misplaced hairs on his thick brown mop. He then smoothed his hand through his fully mature beard. He was pleased with what he saw, but annoyed as the third ring echoed in his ear. Come on, come on. Be home.
Jessica was in the small garden that was outside of her studio apartment. She was gathering roses for a centerpiece for her small dining room table. She heard the phone ring and headed inside; picking up the phone on the third ring, but not before checking out the called ID.
She liked the upper hand that it gave her. She straightened her back and sounded as professional as possible. “Hello?” She said, with as much ‘sexy’ as she could muster in her voice. She wanted the work, and she needed to be at the best of her game. Jessica knew that Brad had a lot of clout, and she wanted to impress him on every front. It was no secret to her how he looked at her; but she didn’t let on. She was definitely ‘hard to get’. Her mama didn’t raise no fool.
“Hey, it’s Brad. I got a gig in Manhattan, but you’ll need to be there here in the next few. Sorry for the short notice. I just got the call and I thought about you. It’s for a car commercial.”
“A car?” The ‘sexy’ gave way to the incredulous. Jessica wasn’t sold. She had an image to protect. “I don’t know, Brad. Weren’t we shooting for a more ‘high fashion’ image? You know that I’m trying to build myself a reputation here.”
“That’s my girl. Always the professional. Not to worry. You’ll be modeling those designer jeans that you wear so well; just in a bit of a different setting.”
“What kind of a different setting? You know I want to keep it classy.”
Brad couldn’t help but smile. He loved Jessica’s spunk. He had been in the business in the heart of New York for so long. It was refreshing to actually work with someone who had principals, and not only that, but had the guts to strand on them! “It’s a classy commercial doll. You’ll even get to showcase a Beamer. Does that suit you, Jesse?”
“What time do you need me, and what exactly is it that they want me to do?”
“The film crew is already there. They had the spot filled with one of their regulars, but she’s a no show. The girl’s a Prima-Dona, and she’s probably going to be sorry when she figures out that it’ll be hard to get work, acting like that. Ernie’s pretty mad. It could even land you with some pretty steady work; and that wouldn’t be nothing to sneeze at. We’re wasting time here. I’m just around the corner. Can I pick you up?”
“You still didn’t tell me –”
“I’ll be there in ten. We’ll talk on the way.”
The phone went dead in her ear. Ten minutes! That wasn’t any time at all! Jessica hurried and clipped her roses and got them into some water. She set the vase on the table and shot into the bathroom. A photo shoot; and be ready in ten minutes? What did he think she was; a genie?
She looked in the mirror. It was a good thing that she always wore make-up and that she was a guru at hair design! She freshened up her rouge and applied fresh lip-stick. She decided to go red. She loved how gutsy it was, and how it made her lips pop. She grabbed her brush and put her hair up in a tussled pony. Then she rushed into her bedroom and opened her closet wide.
First she grabbed a skinny pair of jeans. She slipped out of her sweats and stepped into the designer side of herself. She then paired the jeans up with a leopard patterned top that was snug fitting on the top with a little bit of looseness in the material to compliment the waist of her jeans. She looked in the full-length mirror. She wasn’t sure about the shirt and so she peeled out of it. She selected a tiny black blouse instead. It looked good against the jeans and there was no mistaking the slender figure underneath the tailored v-shaped neck with the tapered sides. She added an airy scarf that was pink and orange and sprinkled with flowers. It gave just that right burst of color. Not only that, if she needed to, she could slip it right off. She stepped her bare feet into some pumps and grabbed up a pair of heels; just in case. She was ready!
It was a good thing too. Brad wasn’t all that much for chivalry. He honked his horn. Jessica didn’t mind as she left everything in wild abandon; shoes in one hand; keys in the other; threw her purse over her shoulder and hustled out the door and locked it behind her.
Jessica could feel the tightness of the jeans as she had to bend down to get into Brad’s sports car. She sure did like his fancy little Mazda, but it challenged her as she got in it! She regained her composure as she settled down in the seat and buckled up. Brad wasn’t all that great of a driver. Oh, he could drive okay, but he sure did like the gas peddle, and he had the tickets to prove it!
“You look great.” Brad smiled. He knew that she would. She could show up in a pair of sweat pants and look good. She had a natural beauty that he appreciated. Jessica knew that she looked good and returned Brad’s smile.
“I would have liked to have had time to get around.” She fussed.
“It’s a waterfront shooting so what you’ve done with yourself is perfect. Your hair will look great in the shots too. How’d you know to put it up like that?”
“Desperate people do desperate things.” Jessica quipped. “But you never did tell me any more about the shoot.”
“Well, I’ll tell you this; you won’t be needing the heels. Good call though. That’s what I like about you. You think good on your feet. It’ll be pretty standard. BMW’s a good firm. It’ll be top of the line; but I’m sure that you know that. And you’ll like Ernie. I’ve worked with him a lot. He takes good care of his own.”
“Good to know.” Jessica was in her element and was happy. Brad glanced over at her and was having some less than honorable thoughts as he admired her sexy little body sitting so close to him. He sure did like his car.