Room For More(7)

By: Beth Ehemann

“You sure you’re not hungry at all?”

“Nope. I’m good.” She lifted her coffee cup to her face and closed her eyes as she inhaled. “This is perfect.”

“Sorry about the food. We were going to stop and get you something, but two little people I know kept asking me to stop the truck so they could pee.” I cocked an eyebrow at Lucy and Piper.

“Uh oh, they do that. I should’ve warned you.” Kacie gave each of them the “mom look.”

“It’s okay.” I winked at the girls. “I just feel bad that you aren’t eating.”

“Oh, don’t worry about me. Darla always has extra food. I’ll steal something from her in a bit.”

“Is that who was sitting at the desk just now?”

She nodded and took a sip of her coffee.

“What do you think of her? She kept looking at me funny.”

“She just thinks you’re hot.” She giggled. “I don’t really know her yet, but from what I’ve seen so far, I like her. A lot, actually. She’s sweet and really funny. Sometimes inappropriate, but mostly funny.”

“Inappropriate, huh?” I shook my head. “Sounds like the perfect woman for Viper.”

“Do you think Viper will ever get married?”

“No way.”

“Who’s Viper?” Lucy asked.

“Uh… Viper is one of my friends.” I chose my words carefully. No way could I ever accurately describe Viper to a six-year-old without scaring the hell out of her.

“Does he play hockey too?” Piper chimed in.

“Yep. He’s on my team.”

“Why did his mommy name him Viper?” Lucy scrunched up her nose in disapproval when she said his name.

“That’s not his real name, baby, it’s just a nickname.” I laughed quickly. “His real name is Lawrence Finkle.”

Lucy and Piper shoveled their soup in their mouths, seemingly unaffected by what I’d just said. Kacie, on the other hand, stared at me with her mouth open.

“Viper’s real name is Lawrence Finkle?”

“You didn’t know that?” I cocked my head slightly to the side.

“No!” She gawked at me in disbelief. “That’s like… the nerdiest name ever!”

“Finkle Tinkle,” Lucy said to Piper before exploding in laughter.

Piper crossed her eyes and responded, “Finkle Tinkle Winkle.”

Lucy threw her head back and laughed so hard the vein in her neck popped out. A second later, Piper joined her, giggling hysterically.

I looked at Kacie and tilted my head toward the girls. “Easy crowd, huh?”

She didn’t even hear me. She was too busy staring down at the two laughing hyenas with that mommy glow all over her face. If anyone ever asked me to, it would be really hard to describe exactly what love looks like, but I got to witness it firsthand every time Kacie looked at her girls. The way she loved them made me love her more, if that was even possible.

A moment later, she came out of her Twinkie coma and looked at me, her eyes red-rimmed. “Seriously, thank you for this. You guys just made my afternoon a thousand times better.”

I grabbed her hand and pulled the top of it against my lips, not kissing it, but holding it there. We were at her work and with the girls, so I was trying to be respectful, but I needed to have physical contact with her.

We sat hand in hand, listening to the girls chatter about how excited they were to start school and what they were going to be for Halloween.

“Wait, you already know what you want to be for Halloween?” I asked incredulously.

Kacie squeezed my hand gently and winked at me. “It’ll change at least a hundred times between now and then.”

“What are we gonna be for Halloween?”

She frowned at me curiously but didn’t respond.

“Oh, c’mon! We have to dress up! I do it every year anyway; now I have a real reason,” I exclaimed, waving toward Lucy and Piper. “Granted, I might have to tame my costume ideas a bit, but I’m cool with that.”

The girls rattled off all of the princess names before moving on to farm animals.

“So what do you think we should dress up as?” I repeated.

Her eyes slid from the girls back to me. “I don’t know. What do you think—” She stopped talking mid-sentence and the color drained from her face as she stared at something over my shoulder.

“Kacie?” Following her gaze, I spun around in my chair, but there was nothing there. By the time I turned back around, her face had gone to the opposite extreme. Her cheeks were red and flushed as her eyes darted all over the room nervously.

“What’s going on? Are you okay?”