I stand on my front stoop, waiting for a blue Honda Accord. I look at my Uber app and see it’s five minutes away. I fold my fall jacket and lay it down beside my tote bag with the two pies I’m bringing to the party. Sitting my denim-covered butt down on my jacket, I check my phone nervously.
Lex went on and on last night about the single men who will be at her house. Also, all the lovely couples who she considers good friends from their neighborhood. I’m nervous about her shoving men at me all day, and I hope her friends like me.
I’ve been looking forward to going to one of Lex and Al’s Sunday, ten-hour football parties. They go all day, and I guess everyone is kicked out at eleven at night unless the last game is a close one. Al has four large TVs set up in a media room. Lex told me to dress warm because they keep the basement cool. Everyone walks in and out of their walkout basement’s French doors to a fire pit where they have two other TV set up outside on the patio, and that is where the men smoke their cigars.
She’s been understanding that I haven’t been able to come over to one since I move to the city. I was supposed to go last weekend, but that was before I decided to take a long weekend trip. A trip that turned into the first part of this week, to fly out to see Henry in San Francisco. I decided last minute to stop in Chicago to visit Elliot and Drew as well.
I got home late Thursday night, and I’ve not had any time to recoup and regroup. I babysat Sage Friday night so that Vi could go on another date with Kara. I giggle to myself. Kara is hilarious. Vi might be on to something, they seem to get along, and I was surprised to feel a little bit of their chemistry when they came over for dinner last week. Yesterday afternoon, Saturday, I had a job interview that came up suddenly.
The blue Accord pulls up and stops in front of my stoop. I gather up the pies and my coat and sit in the back seat.
“The address 800 High right off Main Street?” the driver asks.
“Yes, that’s correct. Thank you.”
“Great, I have another passenger heading to the same address, it’s residential, correct? Maybe a friend of yours?” He looks at me in the rearview mirror. I shrug my shoulders. I have no clue which of their friends live around me, Lexi hasn’t mentioned anyone.
The driver turns off Fountain then Connell Avenue onto Riverside Drive. This street runs perpendicular to mine but is like a different world. I never run down this street, on its brick sidewalks in front of these homes. I’d love to see inside of the homes that have the river as their back yard. I took a boat tour down the river this past summer. The back of the houses along here looked beautiful with pristine, manicured lawns with pools and private boat docks.
The driver stops in front of a three-story brick house. A tall gentleman dressed in jeans and a wool sport’s jacket is arguing with a teenager on the lawn; their discussion seems heated. The man is leaning in and speaking directly, very carefully, into the kid’s face.
The man looks over his shoulder to the Uber driver and raises a finger to let the driver know just a minute.
“Oh my, I do know him,” I gasp out loud. It’s Aiden, the man I met at lunch with Lexi.
The Uber driver, a middle-aged man, says, “Wonder how long I should wait while he argues with his kid. He’s a big man, and I don’t think I should toot my horn. Are you in a hurry?”
“No.” I’m staring at Aiden’s back, watching him argue with, I assume, like the driver, is his son. His son steps up to him and gets right back into his face, the boy’s face is beet red, and he shoves Aiden. Aiden reacts quickly, grabs the boy by the shoulders, takes him to the ground, and pins him down.
I don’t think; I react. Unfastening my seatbelt, I’m out of the car in a split second. I run over to them and shout, “Enough!”
I grab Aiden’s shoulder and jerk him as hard as I can to get his attention. He looks up, surprised, and starts to say something. I don’t give him a chance. “Both of you get your behinds up and off the ground this instant.”
Aiden rolls off the kid and bounces quickly up to his feet. The kid pushes to his knees and slowly stands. I have raised five boys. I have seen this shit a thousand times before; when men can’t control all of their emotions they end up acting like Neanderthals. “I’m sorry to break up your father-son bonding time, but I can’t sit back and watch this nonsense.”
I point to the cute, dark-haired boy, who now not only looks pissed but also embarrassed. Good. “You should know better than to put your finger in your father’s face like that. And Aiden,” I look to the blond giant of a man standing beside me with a scowl on his face, “you should know better than to express your anger this way. You’re a grown man.”
“He’s not my father, and he doesn’t know shit,” the boy spits before he jogs down the pretty tree-lined street.
I sigh, the poor kid is very upset about something happening in his world. I look up at Aiden. He is standing with his hands in his jean pockets, staring down the street, watching the kid run out of sight. “I’m sorry I got involved. I’m a mother of five boys, I’m trained to break up fights before the bleeding begins.” I smile at him, trying to ease this situation. I don’t know the deal, but by the tension I could feel between the two of them and by the worry I see on Aiden’s face, I know it’s not a good situation.
Aiden shakes his head, “Thank you, Willow.” He turns towards me and looks down. Green eyes, tiny lines, and a worried brow scan my face. He shakes his head, his lips twirling in a half-smile, “I wouldn’t have beaten his ass. I’d like to, but I wouldn’t have. I just pinned him down so he knows not to challenge me again.”
He reaches inside his sports coat and pulls out his phone. He walks over to me, puts his hand on the small of my back, and leads me to the Uber and opens the door. I get inside, slide my pies over, sit them on my lap, and fasten my seatbelt. Aiden stands beside the open car door and types something on his phone. He then gets inside and slams the door. “Thank you for waiting,” he says. Those are the only words spoken on the twenty-minute drive through the city to Lexi’s house.
“Come with me upstairs, and we’ll use the master bathroom.” I follow Lexi out of their basement, up to three flights of stairs to her and Al’s bedroom. “Oh, Lex, I love this dark purple wall color. I haven’t been up here; it’s huge,” I say when we walk through the double doors and into her room.
“I know it’s one of the reasons we love this place.” She goes into her bathroom and leaves the door open. I sit down on her bed, and pick up the book on the bedside table.
“Ooh, you’re reading historical romances, I see.” I hear her laugh, and I put the book down and look around the room. I love this color. Jake would have never slept in a purple bedroom.
“There, I feel much better. Feel free to come up and use this bathroom tonight at any time.” She plops down beside me on her bed. “Are we still in the man-hating phase? If not, has anyone caught your attention? What do you think of Lamar? And have you noticed how one gentleman here can’t seem to take his eyes off you?”
I fall back on the bed. “Lamar’s nice but not my type. I think he is more friend material for me, and I’m considering leaving the man-hating phase of post-divorce.” I smile and roll to my side. We giggle and face each other like we used to do when we were girls, sharing a bed, and having a sleepover.
“I’m glad you are moving past that phase, and yeah, I didn’t think you and Lamar would be a love match, but I had to try.” She giggles, “What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t at least give it a shot?”
“Thanks, but he’s not for me.”
“How was the job interview yesterday?”
“Great, I think I’m going to take it. You’re not mad that I didn’t apply for Sarah’s position, are you?”
“No, I just want you to be happy. So you are going to manage a wedding, bridal dress shop a couple of streets over from your house. Did you get a wedding dress certificate that you forgot to tell me about, and would that be certificate number seven?”
“Ha, ha. Stop teasing me about my community college, and no, I have no idea about wedding dresses, I’ve never even had one on.” I giggle. I can’t believe out of all the jobs in this city I felt drawn to this one and wanted to learn about something new.
“You’ll be great. Back to men, have you noticed Aiden Markley has been staring at you all day?”
I nod yes, “I’m sure. We shared an Uber here today together. There was a scene in front of his house when the driver stopped to pick him up. He was arguing with a kid, and I intervened after they went down to the ground to wrestle, I thought it was his son, but I guess not. Do you know who he is to Aiden?”
“Wow, yeah, I bet that’s Ryan. I don’t know the whole story, only that Aiden was once Ryan’s stepfather when he was a little boy. Ryan showed up out of the blue at Aiden’s house after dropping out of college two months ago, needing a place to live. That’s all I know. So, Aiden Markley was rolling around on the ground? Wow, wow, wow, he must be losing it to let things be seen in public, he’s extremely private. Rumor has it, he’s retiring from law. Everyone’s gossiping about his next move right now, he’s never lost a case, and he’s only forty-five. He’s shocked his law partners apparently when he told them he was going on a hiatus.”
“Do you think it’s because of the boy, Ryan?” I ask, I hope not. I hope things aren’t dire enough for that.
“Nah, the rumors started before Ryan showed up at his doorstep. They started before he even finished his last big case. The gossip is he wanted to fight for the rights of people against corporations because his father was corrupt. Now that’s he has accomplished saving thousands of innocent people from corporate greed and violations, he’s moving on to something else. You should hear what people are guessing what his next move will be.”
“Huh,” I say, and she smiles.
“Huh is right. He’s hot, isn’t he? He’s single. He’s only been married the one time, no biological children. You know where he lives, he bought that house shortly after winning the Nettle case a few years ago. You two have similar eyes.”
I giggle, “You are such a dork, do you know that, Alexa Ann Fairbanks?”
She laughs, “Why am I a dork? I’m no dorkier than you, Willow Faye Reese.”
I roll my eyes, “I don’t want to talk about boys right now. I have a favor to ask of you. Can you meet me tomorrow at Nordstrom instead of having lunch at The Outline? I made an appointment with a personal shopper to help me buy a new wardrobe for work. They scheduled me tomorrow at eleven, Monday morning. My appointment is for two hours, and I was hoping to get your opinion, then I’ll buy you a quick lunch at their restaurant.” Hopefully, she’ll help guide me in the right direction. I know I need an update. “I’m scared shitless about working where I have to look a certain way. You know my work attire, my casual attire, and my home attire are all the same. It consists of jeans, tee shirt, and a few frilly tops. Laura, the owner of Vine’s Bridal, made certain to mention twice that my outfit was to be up to date. It must give an air of elegance and grace.”
She flops to her back into a fit of giggles, and I follow suit. Lex looks over, then wipes tears out of her eyes, “Did she really say that to you?”
“Yep, those were her exact words to me after she offered me the position.” I giggle and look down at my jeans, white tee shirt, and navy-blue, short cotton blazer.
“You do need an update Willow; I can meet you tomorrow.” She turns back on her side, and so do I. “I’m glad you’re here. I never want to go back to us, not being us, doing silly things like this, hiding out in my bedroom when there are twenty people downstairs. I wish we could throw on some PJs and hang out here the rest of the night.”
I yawn and rise on my elbow. “Speaking of PJs, I know the last game hasn’t started yet, but I’m pooped out from traveling. How upset will you be if I duck out now so I can go home to my PJs and my romance novel?”
She yawns too, “All right, I’ll let you off the hook tonight, and I’ll see you tomorrow.” She reaches over and hugs me, God, I love Lex, I don’t ever want to lose our connection again.
“I know I promised never to make my pig-headed, crude, male remarks anywhere outside our basement. But damn, honey, you are making it hard rolling around on our bed with Willow,” Al’s voice booms through the large bedroom. He shocks and scares the crap out of me when he runs and leaps onto the bed and lies down in between us. He kisses Lexi’s surprised, smiling face. He then looks at me and winks, “Hi Willow, how are the boys?”
I giggle, “Good, I was glad to hear Brooklynn won her game this morning. Thanks for having me today, and also, thanks for trying to keep your crude comments to yourself. We were not rolling. We were hugging goodbye for the night.” I nudge his shoulder since he is lying right beside me. I scoot myself up and straighten my jacket. “I’ll meet you at Nordstrom’s at eleven. Thanks, guys for a fun night, I’m looking forward to attending as often as I can. Good night.” I turn to leave their room.
“Oh Willow, Aiden was looking for you, he left, but he said he wanted to speak to you,” Al calls after me. Lex then titters, “We’re not talking about boys tonight, Al. Night, Willow.”
I hear a groan and a smothered giggle, but I don’t look back. I can’t help it; I giggle too, all the way down the stairs out their front doors, so happy for my friend.