Room for More(8)

By: Beth Ehemann

“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?”

She looked at me, but her eyes didn’t meet mine. Her mind was somewhere else. “Yeah,” she stammered as she rubbed her face. “I’m okay. I think I’d better head back. Maureen just walked by and I don’t want her hating me any more than she already does.”

I didn’t say anything, hoping she’d elaborate. Instead, she gave me a fake smile and turned her attention to the girls, obviously not wanting me to ask any more questions.

“Let’s clean up so mommy can get back, okay?” Kacie stacked their soup cups and silverware on the tray and stood to throw it in the garbage. She was about five feet from the table when the tray slipped out of her hand and everything crashed to the floor.

“Stay here one minute,” I said to the girls as I got up from the table and rushed to help her. I reached for the soup cup in her hand and noticed she was trembling. “Kacie, your hands are shaking. What the hell is going on?”

Sighing heavily, she sat back on her heels with her shoulders slumped, looking at the ground. “It’s Maureen. I think she hates me.”