AJ pulled into the parking lot, killed the engine, and sat there with his hands on the steering wheel. After sessions with John a Starbucks pick-me-up was usually in order and that was definitely the case at the moment. He dialed his house and waited for Kim to pick up:
"Hey, I'm at Starbucks. Do you want anything before I go in?"
"Yeah, get me a Tall hot chocolate with whipped cream, please," she requested.
"Sure thing, babe. I'll be home in a bit."
"Okay. Love you."
"I love you, too, bye."
AJ hung up and went inside. There were a couple of people ahead of him, so, he waited his turn before ordering.
"Hey, Alex! I haven't seen you around lately. How are things?" the cashier asked, making polite conversation with him.
"Hi, Ash. I just got back from the road on Friday. Things are good, Kim's pregnant and I'm so excited," he said with a grin.
"That's great, congrats! How's Jordan?" she wondered, it had been longer than she remembered since she had last seen his son.
"He's good, getting bigger every day." It seemed like only yesterday that he was just a baby...
"Time sure flies, doesn't it? So, what can I get you?"
"A container of chocolate-covered coffee beans, a Tall hot chocolate with whipped cream, and my usual," he ordered casually.
"Ah, something for the missus, huh? That and one Grande white chocolate mocha frapp coming right up. Is she having cravings yet?"
"You know it." He cleared his throat. "Uh, no, those are actually for me."
"Well, if Kim wants any, make sure you give her some. Never deny a woman chocolate. Ever. Especially a pregnant one," Danielle added with a smirk.
"I'll keep that in mind," he said with a chuckle. AJ waited for a few minutes as Danielle and Ashley made his drinks and set them on the counter. He handed them a ten. "Keep the change. Have a good one, ladies."
"Bye," they both said.
AJ walked out and back to his car. He set a drink on the hood so he could get his keys out of his pocket. He unlocked it, got in, and put Kim's drink in a cup holder next to him. He took sip of his, popped a few coffee beans in his mouth, and continued on his drive home.
He got back around twenty minutes later and went into the kitchen where Kim was cooking dinner. "Mm, what smells so good in here? Your drink." He set it on the counter for her.
Kim kissed his cheek. "Hi. Thanks for this." She took a sip. "Enchiladas with black beans and rice and plátanos con crema (plantains with cream) for dessert. Should be done in twenty minutes."
AJ's stomach grumbled just thinking about dinner. "You really know the way to my heart, don't you? Can't wait. Can I help with anything?"
"Can you whisk the stuff in that bowl together for me?" She pointed to it.
"Sure, you just sit down and chill." AJ grabbed a whisk and got to work.
"So, how'd it go?" Kim asked about his appointment.
"It was okay. Can we talk about it later, though? You know how they always leave me drained."
"Hence the Starbucks," she noted.
AJ chuckled. "Yeah. All done, is that good?" He showed her the contents within the bowl.
"It's perfect. You can leave it as-is."
He set it on the counter. "Anything else?"
Kim shook her head. "Nope, the enchiladas are in the oven and when those are done the plátanos can go in and they'll be done by the time we're finished eating."
"Great." He joined her at the island and they both sipped at their drinks. "Is J upstairs?"
"Mhm. Ooh! You brought home chocolate-covered coffee beans? Gimme!"
AJ laughed with a slight shake of his head. "Don't deny a pregnant woman chocolate..."
"Whoever told you that is 1,000% correct," she said.
Just then, Jordan came running into the kitchen.
"Don't run in the—" Kim started with her mouth slightly full.
"What? What?" AJ matched his son's tone.
"Come see what I made! Come on!" He tugged at AJ's arm.
AJ laughed. "Okay, I'll be right back. I'm taking these with me and hiding them, you'll spoil your dinner, missy."
They both went upstairs to Jordan's bedroom. "Isn't it cool?"
It was a LEGO tower with various colors. "You made that all by yourself?"
"Great job! High five! Wanna make something together?" AJ asked him.
The two of them set to work on making a race car track and before they knew it, it was time for dinner. Kim knocked lightly on the door frame. "Alright, my two construction workers, it's dinner time. Who's hungry?"
"Me!" they both shouted together.
"Go wash up and set the table."
They both left the room and Kim followed. Once they did that, AJ put the plantains in the oven and they sat down to eat. The enchiladas were corn tortillas stuffed with chicken, rice, cheese, peppers, and corn. The black beans and rice had a kick to them, but weren't too spicy.
"This is really good," AJ said as he took another bite of his enchilada.
"Thanks. Do you like it, Jordan?" Kim asked him.
"Yep! You're a good cook, Mommy," He continued to eat as well.
She chuckled. "Thank you, sweetie. Eat up, there's dessert next."
"But not too fast. Don't want you to get a tummy ache."
"Did anything exciting happen while I was out?" AJ asked.
"No, your mom called, though," she said nonchalantly.
He looked up from his plate. "What did she want?"
"Nothing specific, she probably wants to talk since you just got home and all."
"Right. Did you tell her why I was out?"
"No, why?" Kim eyed her husband curiously.
"Just wondering," he mumbled.
"I don't tell your mom your business, if that's you're worried about. That's for you to tell anyone you choose."
"Yeah." AJ went back to eating without another word.
Kim figured that he was just tired and didn't say anything for a few minutes. "Was Starbucks crowded when you went in?"
"No, there were a couple people in front of me, that's all. Ashley congratulated us on the baby."
"Aw, she's such a sweet girl. Any other familiar faces?"
"Danielle was working, too. There were no paps either, or at least none that I saw out in the open. I was definitely not in the mood to deal with them," he replied with a scoff.
"I wouldn't be either," she agreed.
"I think it's hilarious how if I get a cup of coffee it's somehow news. Can't do anything without those a-holes following you around."
"Yeah, don't forget, I've had my pic snapped by them from time to time as well." She rolled her eyes.
"One of these days I'm going to buy a video camera and tape them and see how they like it."
Kim laughed. "You definitely should."
"Can I have some more milk, please?" Jordan asked.
"Eat a few more bites and I'll get you some," AJ said.
"But I'm full," he whined.
"Full enough to not eat dessert?" he tested.
Jordan just looked up with a small smile.
"That's what I thought," he smirked. "A few more bites of each, please."
"Okay," he grumbled. He did as he was told and AJ took his empty cup into the kitchen. He filled it halfway and went back to the table.
He placed the cup in front of Jordan. "There you go."
"Thank you, Daddy."
AJ sat back down and continued to eat for a few more minutes until his plate was empty. "I'm done."
"Me, too." Kim said.
"That was muy delicioso. I'll take your plate."
"I'm glad you liked it, thanks. The plantains should be done."
"You know I like anything you make. I'll take yours, too, buddy," he said to Jordan.
AJ went back into the kitchen, scraped the plates' extras into the trash, and put them in the dishwasher. He took the small casserole dish out of the oven with some hot pads and set it on the counter. He took clean plates and the bowls of strawberries and cream to the table and went back for the plantains.
"And the pičce de résistance," he announced in a thick fake French accent.
"You're silly, Daddy."
AJ set it down. "Alright, dig in." He turned to Jordan. "Do you want some, J?"
"Do you want strawberries and cream?"
He made Jordan a plate before getting himself some. "Mm, so good. I'm gonna need to do a full workout to burn all of this off," he realized with a groan.
"I'm glad you approve," Kim replied.
He laughed. "Yeah, but my waistline won't."
Within a matter of minutes, Jordan had made a mess of himself while eating.
"You need to get cleaned up. Come on." AJ stood up.
They two of them went into the bathroom and made sure that he washed his face and hands before they came back to the table.
"Are you done?" Kim asked Jordan.
"Okay, you can go play or watch TV."
Jordan went upstairs to his bedroom.
"I'll help clean up."
AJ and Kim cleared the table, put leftovers in the refrigerator, and loaded the dishwasher. He was washing some extra things that were in the sink and Kim sat at the island.
"So..." she said to break the silence.
AJ just continued to stand at the sink, remaining quiet.
"Mhm," he responded after a moment. "All done." He turned around and rubbed a hand over his face and sighed. "I'll be upstairs with J if you need me."
After Jordan was put to bed at 8, AJ and Kim went into the living room to relax.
"You wanna watch a movie?" Kim asked.
"Sure. Wanna flip for it?" AJ took a quarter of his pocket. "Heads, I pick the movie. Tails, you pick." He flipped it and it landed on tails. "Your choice. I'm gonna go make popcorn while you decide." He got up and went to the kitchen. "Want anything to drink?"
"Water, please," she requested.
AJ grabbed a Coke and a water bottle from the fridge and put a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Once that was done, he put it in a bowl and took their drinks back to the couch.
Kim had decided on watching 27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl.
"I hope this doesn't suck, but I guess I'll give it a shot." He handed Kim her drink and set the bowl of popcorn between the two of them. She pressed play as the main menu came up and the movie started.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
AJ woke up with a start, taking a few seconds to recognize his surroundings. After taking a few deep breaths to calm himself, he wiped the cool sweat off of his face with the blanket. He felt chilled and realized that his shirt was damp.
He fell asleep about halfway through the movie. His session with his therapist had taken a toll on him and he just couldn't stay awake. Kim finished the movie and cleaned up before covering him with an extra blanket and going upstairs to bed.
AJ kicked the blanket off and got up from the couch. He went into the kitchen to look at the time on the stove. The green numbers read a little over a quarter after one in the morning. He sighed softly and went to the fridge, taking a water bottle and opening it. He sat down at the island and sipped the water, thinking about the nightmare that had intruded on his sleep. Since that was anything but positive, AJ decided to just go to bed. The longer he stayed awake, the worse sleeping would be in the long run.
He made a pit-stop at his walk-in closet and changed into a dry t-shirt, tossing the damp shirt on the floor before going into his bedroom. He crept in quietly and climbed in beside Kim.
After a few minutes of staring at the ceiling, AJ turned on his side away from Kim and tried to get comfortable. When that didn't work, he turned on his stomach and put his arms under his pillows. He took a few deep, calming breaths and tried to relax...
AJ shot up in bed, his breathing heavy. He woke up in a cold sweat again.
"Mm...Alex? Are you alright?" Kim wondered as she turned to face him.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Go back to sleep." He got up and went into the bathroom to splash some water on his face. He grabbed a towel and patted himself dry. Just as he looked into the mirror, he jumped at seeing Kim in it.
AJ turned around. "Scare me half to death, why don't you?" he hissed.
"Sorry. You're soaked in sweat. Are you feeling okay?" She felt his neck and cheek. "Hm, you don't have a fever."
"I know that, Kim."
"Do you want another shirt?"
She went into his closet and got him another t-shirt without failing to notice the one on the floor. "Here." she said and handed it to him.
He put the dry one on and took the other to his closet, throwing it on the floor with the first.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Kim asked as he came back to bed.
"Yeah, let's just go to sleep. We can talk about it in the morning." AJ got back under the covers.
Kim stretched and yawned. "Okay. I love you, Alex."
"You, too." AJ rolled over on his side with his eyes wide open, knowing that he still had a long, restless night ahead of him.