I walked into the old Victorian townhouse and was immediately met with the smell of cookies and the sound of off-key humming. It brought a smile to my face.
Caleb came out of Mrs. Burgess’s living room, shoving the last of a chocolate chip cookie in his mouth. He mumbled something that was probably “hi, mama” around the mouthful.
I chuckled and tousled his hair. “Cookies before dinner? I see Mrs. Burgess has been spoiling you again. Is that a reward for getting your homework done?”
He grinned, revealing chocolate smears on his teeth. “Yep!”
“Well, I suppose that’s alright then.” In the last two years or so, Mrs. Burgess had offered to watch Caleb a couple of days out of the week when I was at work. I’d been resistant at first, but she seemed to really enjoy spending time with him. “Let’s get upstairs – “
“Nora? Is that you, honey?” The elderly woman stepped out of the kitchen, a large smile on her face. “Why don’t you sit and visit for a while? I just put on a pot of tea.”
Tea and cookies didn’t sound like a half-bad idea. I nudged Caleb towards the stairs. “Run on upstairs and play, Caleb. I’ll be up soon.” After he’d gone up the stairs, I helped Mrs. Burgess with the tea. A few minutes later, we were in the very dated living room, each with a couple of cookies and a cup of tea.
Ever since Caleb and I had moved in here, this had become an occasional thing and had steadily become more often. Mrs. Burgess was a very nice, grandmotherly woman, and I enjoyed having tea and a chat with her.
She asked after my parents and Josh, even Loralee, asking when she would bring around Logan again. And we spent quite a while talking about Parker. It felt like talking to my grandmother, if I’d ever had one. The closest I’d ever had was Elaine, Carter’s mother, but we’d never been close. I suspected that Mrs. Burgess looked at me as a kind of granddaughter, even though she’d never had any children of her own.
After a while, I finally had to excuse myself and head upstairs. I needed to throw something together for dinner before it got too late, and I really ought to do some research on my next article. It was promising to be a real doozy. I’d just wanted to do a piece on the deputy mayor, but, well, some things were turning up that I hadn’t expected.
“Hey, Mama, is Parker coming over tonight?”
I turned away from digging through the refrigerator and looked at Caleb. He’d gotten up from the computer and climbed up onto one of the seats at the bar. “He wasn’t planning on it. Why?” Though we’d been dating for four months now, I’d only let Parker even come up to the apartment just over a month ago.
“Well, you could call him and ask him to come over. He likes you. He’d do it.”
I had to smile at his reasoning. “Why do you want him to come over?”
“Why not? He’s fun, and he plays the guitar. He said he’d teach me.” The little boy grinned broadly. “Wouldn’t that be cool, Mama?”
“Definitely,” I agreed.
I walked around the counter and sat down next to him. “Caleb…what would you think if Parker were around more? Maybe in the mornings?” Part of me couldn’t believe I was asking my son that, but I was a grown woman. I knew where the relationship was heading. Parker had made some comments in that vein, but, really, I actually felt like I wanted it to happen. I felt ready to take that next step. But that hinged on Caleb.
“Sure,” Caleb agreed happily. “Can he make French toast like Grandma? Cause, Mama, yours is okay but maybe Parker’s would be more like Grandma’s.”
I laughed and leaned over to hug him tightly. “Well, I don’t know if he can, but maybe we’ll see.”
The little boy grinned. “Okay!” He hopped off the bar stool and ran down the hall to his room. I could hear him rummaging around in his toy chest.
I took out my phone and dialed Parker’s number. “Hey, Parker,” I said after he’d answered. “I was just wondering if you’d like to come over for dinner tonight? It’s nothing special, and I know it’s short notice – “
“Hell yes,” Parker said, cutting me off. I thought I could actually hear the smile in his voice. “I’ll be there in two shakes.”
True to his word, he was very soon sitting in the living room with Caleb while I cooked. Caleb was talking his ear off about the monster that lived under his bed – the one he made me spray every night with lavender water.
“And it’s got tentacles!” Caleb spread his arms out wide. “This long!”
“That is some monster,” Parker laughed. “But it must like you, don’t you think? It’s so big but it’s never hurt you.”
Caleb frowned thoughtfully. “Maybe.”
I called the macaroni and cheese done and poured it into a dish. “Dinner is ready. Caleb, honey, go wash up.” I smiled apologetically at Parker. “I told you it wouldn’t be anything fancy.”
Parker got up and made his plate before sitting next to me on the loveseat. “Are you kidding? Mac and cheese is my favorite.”
Caleb continued to dominate the conversation while we ate, but I could tell his energy was flagging. By the time he had finished eating and trudged into the bathroom for his bath, it was obvious he was ready for bed.
“He’s quite a kid,” Parker said fondly.
“He is. I got very lucky.” I finished the dishes and sat down next to him. How do I bring this up?
I was given a temporary reprieve as Caleb hollered to me that he was finished with his bath. Excusing myself to Parker, I helped Caleb finish getting ready for bed. Tonight, he asked me not to spray the monster. He’d decided he wanted to talk to it.
I left his room, chuckling softly. “I think Caleb is going to make friends with his little monster.” I stopped when I saw Parker on his feet, looking like he was ready to go.
“It’s getting late.” He gestured to the darkness outside. “As much as I’d like to stay, I thought I should head out.”
“You could stay,” I said quietly. Surprise flared in his eyes. I crossed the room and took his hands in mine. “I wouldn’t mind if you were still here when I woke up.” A flush burned my cheeks, but I refused to turn back now. I wanted Parker. Part of me still wasn’t sure why he wanted me, but that side was slowly getting easier to ignore.
Parker brought my hands up and kissed them softly. “Are you sure, Nora? This is a little sudden. If you want to think about it…”
I shook my head. I’d been thinking about it for quite a while; I’d even found myself at the drug store a couple of weeks ago, buying condoms for just this eventuality. “I’m sure, Parker. So, if you’d like to stay…”
He smiled and pulled me into a kiss.