Rose walked into the kitchen with her swimsuit on and a towel wrapped around her waist. She sat on the bar stool next to mine and took the beer I held out to her. For the first time since I had met her she looked uncertain. I kept my smile hidden and asked, “Do you think you could stay and watch the boys tonight?”
She took a drink of beer, tapped her finger against her lip and said, “Something is different about you.” She took another long drink of beer and stared at me for a moment before she said, “How late are you going to be?”
I smiled. “Late. I’m meeting with the president of a company I plan on investing in, so there’s no telling how late it could run.” I drank the last of my beefcake said, “It might be best if you just staid the night in the guest room.”
“You’d like that wouldn’t you,” she said with a smile.
I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I think it’s a good idea. If I don’t get in until three it doesn’t make much sense to have you drive home, sleep a couple hours and come back.”
“Fine, but don’t think you can hop into bed with me when you come home drunk.” She wagged a finger at me and said, “I know how these business meetings go.”
“I promise,” I said while holding my hand up, “there will be no drunken interruptions to your sleep.”
“Okay, well let me run home real fast and get a few things first,” she said before finishing her beer.
“That’s fine. I’m going to order up some pizza, so hurry back,” I said. Rose hopped offbthe barstool and walked past me. I couldn’t help myself and smacked her on the towel covered ass.
She looked over her shoulder at me and said, “You realize this means war.”
It would have been easy to worry that I had crossed a line, but the smile on her face and the sway of her hips as she walked away told me that if I was in trouble it was the kind I was looking for.
Once the door closed behind Rose I ordered the pizza and opened another beer. The smile on my face almost hurt, but I couldn’t stop it. Hell, I didn’t want to stop it. I could not remember the last time I had felt so good and so in command of my own life. It was definitely before the boys’ mother decided to leave me. I hadn’t seen it coming and the resulting divorce had left me unsettled and I had lost some of my zeal for life. Somehow, in one day, three different women had managed to return me to the life I had once loved.
The boys got home shortly after I hung up and proceeded to share their adventures with me. Swimming, video games, and Pete’s new pet snake topped the highlights, but with that out of the way the daily videogame challenge was issued. Four mostly contested games of PacMan ensued and I was Alberto retain my domination in the category of “old people” games.
With my title secured once again, I told them I had to go back to work. They weren’t happy, but when I told them Rose was staying the night and that pizza was on the way their sighs turned to cheers. I felt bad leaving them, but it would be almost bedtime before I would leave, so I told myself I wasn’t a bad father and almost believed it.
When the pizza arrived we sat at the table and attend while cartoon children fought with little monsters on the television. I was on my second slice when Rose returned. She wore a t-shirt and baggy shorts that masked her figure and I wondered if she was sending me a message.
“You’re just in time, Rose. Have some pizza,” I said.
“Thank you, Michael.” She sat in the chair beside me and helped herself to a slice of pepperoni.
The boys told Rose about my video game victory while she ate. Her knee rubbed against mine while they spoke and as I finished my final slice I felt her hand on my thigh. She didn’t move it from there, but she drummed her fingers upon it as if to say that at any moment I could receive a treat.
“Well I need to get in a quick shower and change before my meeting,” I said as I pushed my chair back. “You boys make sure you get your dishes in the dishwasher once you’re finished, okay?”
“Yes, dad,” they said in unison. I smiled at them and then Rose before I turned away and headed upstairs.
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