“Parker, this was a very good choice.”
“Terrific choice. Oh my God, this is amazing. Why doesn’t our Pizza Hut have all this?”
I was like a kid in a candy store. As soon as Parker had spotted Pizza Hut, plans to eat at the swanky restaurant Brian had suggested flew out the window. Rielynn had spotted the familiar logo and chimed in. We were currently sitting in the familiar joint, but the menus were anything but normal. Instead of the simplistic menu of pizza, wings, and pasta, my mouth was watering with images of tuna focaccia sandwiches, crinkle fries, calamari, and a dessert called the Chocolate Volcano.
“I’m going to gain twenty pounds,” I breathed, flipping through the menu a fourth time.
“You’re an itty bitty thing,” Brian teased. “No worries there.”
Rielynn was feeling like a very big girl. She had studied the three options on the kids menu as hard as I was the rather large adult menu. She pointed to a plain sauced spaghetti. It even came with ice cream for dessert.
“Dada, za! za!”
“Yup, you can have pizza,” Nick said. Parker clapped.
Hearing the kids, the waitress came by and took our orders. I ordered first for myself and Rie since Nick and Brian both insisted. Brian was next and I almost groaned when he ordered a cup of soup and salad. I was beginning to rethink by tuna focaccia sandwich with fries until Nick started talking.
“I’ll have the lime pepper chicken chop, the favourites platter, a garden salad, and a mango tango smoothie. We’ll also need a cheese pizza kids’ meal.”
“Why don’t you just order the left half of the menu?” Brian quipped as Nick relinquished his menu. Nick leaned back and stretched.
“Well I don’t think I’ll be fainting at dress rehearsal tomorrow morning Mr. Broth Soup and Rabbit Greens, light vinaigrette.”
“I’m saving my appetite for dessert,” Brian countered. He looked at me. “If I can talk anyone into splitting some.”
I opened my mouth, but Nick beat me too it. “I’d love too. What a doll. Isn’t he a doll?”
Brian gave him a look that could kill. Nick was unfazed, opting to stand up instead and pull up the sloppy shorts he seemed to have tossed on without much thought. “Macie, may I take your daughter for a moment?” He bowed ridiculously towards Rielynn. “There’s a couple coin rides by the entrance that are calling these kids names.”
Rie’s eyes lit up. “Car! Car!”
“Vroom!” Parker echoed.
“Sure,” I said. I started to get up, but he stopped me. “We’ll be right back.”
For some reason, my OPMS didn’t flare up. Nick scooped Rielynn up on his left and Parker on his right. Rielynn wrapped her arms around his neck. She looked happy. Comfortable.
“So what does your husband do?"
I didn’t have time to process how I felt about Rie's reaction. Brian was unrolling his silverware and I had to replay his words before I realized it was a question. “He’s a doctor.”
“Does he have a speciality?”
“He’s doing a lot with surgery, but I know he loves the research side of it too.” I took a sip of my tea. “He told me he was actually working on something major about six months ago, but I don’t know what it is.”
“I guess you two don’t see a lot of each other?”
“It’s been crazy,” I admitted. “Do you know where the restrooms are?”
“Over there,” Brian said. I stood up and smiled.
“Thanks. I’ll be right back.”
I headed in the direction he pointed. I didn’t have to pee, but I also didn’t want to talk about Charlie. I had to pass the small game area in order to get to the bathrooms and I paused for a second to watch. Nick was straddling the back of a little car that Rielynn and Parker were sharing. Their hands were on the wheel and they were giggling as Nick made the machine move side to side, the computer screen in front of them showing a crazy animated car chase.
“C’mon Rie! Turn it! Parker hit that pedal. You’re doing it! You’re doing it!”
It was the cutest thing I had ever seen in my entire life. It took a lot for me to duck into the bathroom. I sat on the toilet for what I considered an appropriate length of time and washed my hands for an equally appropriate second count. I walked back out and almost shrieked as I bumped into solid body.
“He asking your life history?”
Nick smiled down at me. Parker and Rie were still playing in the car. I folded my arms and smiled back, trying to gloss over my near panic attack.
“Just about as much as you’ve asked me,” I said sweetly, not willing to admit that Nick’s questioning hadn’t felt so in-your-face.
“Is that the thanks I get for rolling out of bed and saving you from a pseudo-date?”
The over-dramatic look on his face made me laugh. “It wouldn’t have been anywhere near a date.”
He shook his head and smiled again. “Midge, you have no idea.”
“Midge? What’s a midge?”
He was growing more amused by the second. “Popularized in Lady and the Tramp, the proper definition would be something like,” he turned and checked on the kids before looking back at me. He scratched his chin. “a short pretty individual that makes the lives of lots of people better with their midginess.”
I laughed. “Midginess? What’s midginess?”
The smile that followed my question was drop dead gorgeous. It was playful, sincere, and scary in how targeted it was right to me. “Midginess is dangerous.”
Before I could continue the conversation, he turned back and butt-thumped the car, sending the kids rocking and squealing once again.
“You okay?” Brian asked as I returned to the table feeling slightly lightheaded (and knowing exactly why).
“Fine,” I smiled. I spotted the waitress. “Here comes dinner,” I announced.
Dinner was just as delicious as the menu had made it appear. Rielynn made a royal mess with the spaghetti, but she ate every last bite. Brian, Nick, and I split the volcano dessert and by the time the bill was paid, I wasn’t sure if I could stand up.
“Howie asked if we could all meet in about a half hour to go over the game plan tomorrow,” Nick told Brian as we left the table.
“His hotel room.”
Brian looked at his watch. “Okay.”
“Why don’t you go on ahead? I think I’ll give the kids one more car ride for the road.”
“Don’t be late,” Brian warned. Nick didn’t bat an eye. “I won’t.”
“Thanks for dinner, Macie,” Brian said, turning to me. I smiled.
“Thank you for paying.”
He flashed me a grin. “No problem. You were great company.”
He waved as he left. Nick and I hoisted our increasingly sleepy-eyed children up out of their high chairs. As soon as the door closed, Nick snorted.
“Surprised he didn’t kiss your hand m’lady.”
“Chivalry doesn’t have to be dead,” I shot back.
Before I knew what was happening, Nick grabbed my free hand. He pressed his lips to it and held it tightly. My eyes widened.
“I lied to him,” he said, grazing his lips over the skin.
“What do you mean you lied?”
He pulled away then, dropping my hand. “I have something else in mind besides just letting the kids have another ride.”
I felt my eyebrow arch. “Like?”
He gave me a look of pure seriousness.
My immediate answer should have been something like ‘no way.’ Instead, I didn’t even get to answer. Rie cuddled up against me and it was her tiny voice that answered for the both of us.