An entire week elapsed before I saw him again. Rielynn and I were back at The Little Gym. She was playing happily on the ramp while I tried to remain polite, yet extremely busy on my cellphone. I had just managed to download Euchre when the mom next to me gave me a nudge with her elbow.
I glanced over at her. She was watching her little girl, a prissy little thing that kept touching this gigantic headband that was literally bigger than her head. “Excuse me?”
“Nick,” she said smugly.
My blank stare must have irked her because she folded her arms and smirked. “He’s invited me to his house a couple times.”
“Yeah,” she flipped her hair, heavy with blonde and red highlights. The amount of eyeliner she wore bordered on obscene. “His bedroom,” she rolled her eyes backwards in ecstasy. “It’s all black. Black walls, black satin sheets...you get the picture. It’s totally hot.”
It took every ounce of my reserve not to start laughing. I had seen every bedroom in his house and not one of them was painted black. The master bedroom, if my memory serves correctly, had a lot of beige with hints of brown and blue. She was waiting for a reaction. I tried to sound like I bought even the tiniest bit of the story. “Wow, I bet it is,” I replied, trying to give the right inflection where needed. She did another hair flip.
“He’s a total animal. I had so many bite marks to cover,” she giggled.
I giggled along with her, but it was as fake as the two brain cells she had floating in her head. I felt sorry for her; obviously this woman had spent way too much time reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
“What about his wife?” I asked a minute later.
“Oh, she’s not a problem,” she said dismissively. “She’s all into body building and she’s like never home. I should know because I’m like her best friend when she does bring Peter to class."
I shouldn’t have said anything because I had to endure the laugh again. “Yeah, Parker. I’m such a ditz with names.”
“Yeah, that happens. Listen--”
I was about ready to say a quick goodbye, take Rielynn and run far, far away when Nick walked through the door carrying Parker. He saw me and smiled.
Highlights mom whispered it in my ear. She snapped my last strand of patience.
“Can a father not bring his son somewhere without being objectified by sexless mommies?” I hissed back.
That did it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman’s eyes get as big as hers did at that very moment. Her mouth opened but nary a squeak came out.
“Rie, time to go, baby.”
Rielynn stood up from the ramp. The giant headband baby who’d been ignoring her anyhow, just kept on doing her thing. I scooped her up the moment she was within reach.
Nick hadn’t yet taken Parker’s coat off. I walked over, feeling overly confident, or overly stupid. One of those two.
“If you’d rather, I’ll show you mine.”
He looked confused for a second. Slowly, he smiled.
“I didn’t think you’d offer.”
I glanced behind my shoulder. The Queen of highlights was gawking at me. I gave her a smirk that I actually hoped would send her scuttling back to the others. I turned back to look at Nick.
“I’ve spent enough time with the hens today,” I said. “I’d like some normal company.”
Nick must have seen where I was looking because he seemed all too aware of what I was hinting at. “This rooster wouldn’t touch any of those hens with a ten foot pole,” he said conspiratorially, leaning towards me. “Any cock-a-doodle-dooing is just sad imagination.”
I laughed. “So my offer’s on the table.”
“What do you think Park?” Nick turned to look at the little boy. Parker smiled at me and then at Rielynn.
Twenty minutes later, Nick Carter was pulling up behind my car at the house. I got out wondering if I had lost my mind. I fleetingly wondered if Charlie would mind my visitor and then dismissed the idea. After all, it was refreshing to have someone to talk to again.
“My tour will probably be more like thirty seconds than sixty seconds,” I explained as I dug the key out of my purse. Rielynn stomped her feet right beside me, her hands pressed against the heavy wooden door. It swung open slowly and she charged headfirst inside.
“You’ve got my complete attention,” he assured me.
I looked back at him and smiled. He moved Parker to his other side. He had gotten a haircut. Either that or he had combed it. Gone were the jogging pants, odd colored shorts, or random t-shirts. He looked like he had stepped out of a magazine. He looked really good.
“So,” I said an octave louder than I would have liked. “we walk right into the living room. The dining room is in the corner, partitioned off by the half wall...”
The tour was standard fare; kitchen, bedrooms, bath and a half, and backyard. Parker spotted the slide/swing set right away.
“Dada, sing! sing!”
“Old MacDonald had a farm...”
“No, sing! Sing sing!”
Parker’s arms went like jet propellers. Rielynn tugged at my shirt. She obviously fed off of his enthusiasm.
“Side, side, side!”
“Good thing we didn’t take off our coats,” I said, opening the door. “Let’s go.”
The day was cool, but the sun warded off any chill. Everything about the playset was created for a toddler. I held Rielynn’s hand as she clumsily made her way up the stair/ramp towards the top of the slide. Nick pulled Parker off his hip without complaint and deposited him in one of the swings.
“Weeeee!” Rielynn said happily as she reached the top and then, legs swung out, bottom perfectly planted, sailed down towards the ground. A squishy ground cover had been installed all around, lessening my fears of bodily harm. A half hour went by with the sounds of two happy toddlers filling the air.
“Is your wife still in town?” I asked in between the laughter.
“No, she headed up to Toronto. She had a speaking engagement.”
“It’s too bad she didn’t make it to the gym,” I said. “I would have liked to have met her.”
Nick nodded. “I’m sure the feeling would be mutual. Those other ones were beginning to grate on her nerves. I’ve only continued going because Parker likes it.”
“That’s why I decided to try afternoons instead of just quitting,” I said. I placed Rielynn in the swing next to Parker. She turned to him and smiled.
Parker smiled back. “Hi-hi!”
I laughed. “Do you think babies can flirt?”
“I think these two are doing a good job,” Nick chuckled. “What a tease.”
I grinned. “You best be talking about your son.”
“He’s innocent I tell you!”
We both watched Parker blow a giant kiss.
“Innocent, my ass,” I said, pushing Rielynn. She copied the motion.
“Well, flirting or not, the two of them getting along makes what I want to ask you easier.”
The sound of his voice put me on alert. I kept pushing Rielynn, but my attention was on him. The wind shifted directions and I caught a pleasant aroma of aftershave. “Ask me what?”
He smiled, but his eyes took on the look of a shelter dog desperate to be adopted.
“Well, it’s just a tiny little favor...”