Word count, start of day -- 16,800
"Enjoy your lunch, honey?" I asked in the general direction of the back seat.
"Oh yeah!" Came the exuberant reply. "That was a fun place."
I concurred with her assessment. "That did seem like a real nice play area." What did I expect for Annie's neighborhood? Only the best for her crowd. The fast food place and used book stores were about the only places I could afford to shop at in the entire Short Grove area. And that was with both me and Gwen making decent money, working decent jobs.
"Nice slide," was Natalie's response.
"Did you get a good prize in the kid's meal?" In this part of town, there was no telling what the prizes would be. Rolex watch? Shares of stock? Diamond jewelry? Undeveloped real estate?
"Aw, dad, I left it there! Let's go back and try to get it."
"Are you sure?" It was probably somewhere under her butt. Anyway, there was no telling how many kids had touched it or slobbered on it by now.
"Wait, I see it." I glanced in the rear view and saw her leaning straight forward, trying to reach the floor. Not the safest move I've ever seen. But kids were fearless. "Sit back, sweetie, we'll get it when we get home."
"I want it now!"
"We'll get it at home. Sit up!" She did, but then crossed her arms in front of her. I came close to laughing. It was never a good parenting move. "Must be a nice toy," I ventured.
She shrugged in an exaggerated fashion. What a trip parenting was. "I guess so."
For some reason I could not let this sit. "What was it?"
She lit up. Her face and eyes danced and her arms flung forward in enthusiasm. "A dinosaur! You know, from that dinosaur brand new movie! Can we go to that dinosaur movie?"
"We'll have to wait and see, sweetie."
She accepted this, then said in a calmer voice, "Maybe we can go with Erin. Erin is nice. We're friends now."
This caught me off guard. "That's great. We'll have to see about the movie."
"She liked the toy. She wants to see the movie. Maybe we can see the movie together."
"Well, Natalie, I don't know about that. We'll have to wait and see. I may have the phone number somewhere. Maybe we'll call soon."
Maybe we would call soon. Or maybe she'd forget all about this conversation. I'm not sure which I was hoping for.
We pulled into the driveway and headed toward the house. The toy dinosaur was safely housed in Natalie's pocket.
"Looks like mom's not home yet," I commented, pointing vaguely to the empty spot next to my car.
"Mom is still getting beautiful," she said in a sing-song pitch, spinning and twirling as she did so. Oh, to be six years old again.
"Yes, she is," I agreed, "Now let's get inside now. Come on."
Natalie was coming down from her lunch and playing high by vegging out in front of the tube when Gwen arrived home some time after three. "Hey, mom," Natalie called from the rec room, not moving herself even one inch. "Are you beautiful?"
Gwen and I were in the front foyer. We both laughed at our daughter's unintentional humor. "Well, am I?" she asked,
flicking her new nails through her new hair.
"Sure are," I answered with a kiss. She was. Her brunette hair shone and bounced lightly, and her fingernails were sculpted and painted to perfection. "We ought to go out tonight, have a nice dinner somewhere," I said, holding her close. "And maybe after, if you're lucky, " I held her back and appraised her, "maybe you'll get lucky."
She kissed me again, grinding her hips into me. "I'll take that as a yes," I said, disconnecting the embrace.
"I'll call to get a sitter."
"Hey, Natalie!" I called in the direction of my daughter.
Gwen got on the phone and I called my daughter a second time. By the time she joined us in the kitchen, Gwen gave me the thumbs up sign. It seemed like we would have a sitter for tonight. "Natalie," I said to my daughter, crouching to get eye level with her, "your mom and I are going out to dinner tonight, on a date." I looked at her secretively and stage whispered, "We are going to celebrate how beautiful your Mom is tonight." She laughed and gave Gwen her own thumbs up sign. Girls will be girls, I suppose.
I stood and embraced my wife from behind. "We've got a sitter for you tonight."
"Can Erin come over tonight, Dad? You said she could maybe come over some time?"
I coughed, ignored the comment, then just asked Gwen who she managed to wrangle for the job.
She answered, "Marissa, from across the street." She pointed in approximately that direction. "She'll walk across the street about seven."
Natalie forgot about Erin and danced a little jig. "Oh, good, Marissa's fun." She clapped her hands together.
We had about three good babysitting candidates, all teenagers, two from the street. It was very convenient having a sitter who was able to walk home after the evening and not have to go out for another drive after coming back from a date.
"Any preferences where you want to go tonight? What are you in the mood for?"
She eyed me provocatively. "What are you in the mood for, big boy?"
I winked at her and said, "I'll choose desert, baby, but you have to choose dinner."
"No, I'll leave it all up to you." Great. She was hardly ever in this good a mood. Might as well take care of it, and if it goes well, take care of her later tonight. I reached for the phone book and Gwen headed up the stairs.
I walked into the bedroom and came up short. "Whoa!" I said.
Gwen was in her panties, the little pink high cut ones I got her for our last anniversary. Her shirt was stuck halfway over her head, obscuring her face. She was evidently being careful in the removal of her clothes so as not to mess up her new hair.
She was moving slowly and her back was arched, so her firm round breasts were fighting the restraints of the matching pink bra.
"Hold on, honey, I'll give you a hand setting it off."
She stopped squirming back and forth and I heard a muffled "thanks" escape the cotton-knit blend of the blouse.
"I got it," I said reassuringly. I approached her from the side. Her hands were up in the air, which made here body extra tight and leaner than it was when gravity was in full effect. This was a nice look. Why hurry? I walked up slowly behind her, and with my right hand I popped the clasp on her bra. It was a move I was finally getting good at, after all these years. She accused me of only buying bras that I could easily get her out of. It was a crazy charge, albeit a funny one.
"There you go, hon, happy to help, no need to thank me."
In a blur of blouse, hair, and flesh, Gwen shipped around, turned and pinned me to the bed. "That's not what I needed help with, buddy."
"Really," I asked, pulling her close at squeezing a butt cheek in my hand. "Seemed like you were having trouble getting out of your clothes. I just wanted to help. It's who I am, it's what I do."
"You helped all right, buddy. You helped yourself."
I rolled her over and kissed her belly. "Couldn't resist, baby. I mean, who could resist this?"
She wiggled out from under me and stood. You'll have to resist until after I take a bath. And even until after we go to dinner." She frowned, mocking sorrow. "Poor baby, you'll have to wait a few hours.
"A few hours!" I pouted, setting my face dramatically in my hands.
She headed into the bathroom, giving her backside a shake on the way. "Hey, Brian," I hear her call, "Who is this Erin person the Natalie was talking about earlier?"
"Erin?" I asked. "Oh, she is a girl we saw at lunch today."
"Do we know her from around here or anything?"
"No, she's not from around here." I debated momentarily. Lying was an option, because how believable a witness would a first-grader make, if it came to that? But, I was not an experienced liar, never was, and probably never would be. "But we know her parents."
"Really? From where?"
"That couple we had dinner with that time. From the retirement home that I audit. The one I did the taxes for?"
"Oh, right. How old is their child?" Maybe this going to work out after all.
"Erin is four. She seems like a real good kid."
"Great. Sounds like they had fun. It's great you ran into someone you knew." I breathed a sigh of relief as she turned to the master bath. Then she spun around a hundred and eighty degrees. "That redhead? Annie whatever her name is? The one who called here that one time?" Her voice rose with every sentence.
I gulped. "Yeah. Annie and Dennis Bainbridge. We had dinner with them once."
"And I had to get hammered just to keep from thinking about how you couldn't keep her eyes off of her. Then she calls right my house right after. I know what that hussy wants, she is not fooling me. Gwen crossed her arms over her chest to make her point seem more emphatic. I was hoping she was also calming herself down.
"That's not true, Gwen. Come on, so she's young, that's not her fault."
"You mean she's pretty and that's not her fault."
"Oh come one, honey. I love you."
Gwen seemed to soften at this point, her arm muscles visibly relaxing. "I love you, too, Brian. That's why this girl's antics drive me crazy."
"It's nothing, " I reiterated, trying to reassure her more. "We just met for lunch, talked about-"
"You met for lunch? What was this, a date? You going for the double play today, me and her? This wasn't just some random coincidence? You actually planned lunch today?"
There was no use denying. "Look I did their taxes and she had financial questions. So she wanted to ask me. I tried to answer her questions, I don't know what I did wrong." Innocence. Maybe innocence would work.
"So she just wants you for your financial advice? Like I could believe that." She turned and this time went into the bathroom. I heard the lock go.
By the time we went for dinner, she was calm. She said she understood my side of the story, but still did not trust Annie's intentions. This was incredibly flattering to me, but I did not mention that fact to Annie. Nor did I defend Annie, either. I was having enough of a time defending myself.
We had a pleasant enough dinner at a reasonably nice restaurant. After returning at a reasonably decent hour, we made love with reasonable passion. She performed perfunctorily, but even perfunctory sex is better than no sex at all.