Home for the New Year Chapter Seven

“You do realize the Cocoa Catch-Up is just a catchy way of saying game night.” Liz handed Dirk the satchel full of children’s games.

“It’s more than that.” Dirk set them on the floor behind the seat. Ever since he decided his feelings for Liz were more than a lingering crush, Dirk’s attentiveness to details tightened. The back seat was clean and there was enough room for Cameron to lay down if he was tired, or if he wanted to invite a friend to join them on a trip. He hoisted Cameron up into the seat. Cameron slid to the middle and rested his elbows on the armrest between the driver and passenger seat. Dirk raised his brow as if to say that isn’t going to fly. Cameron grinned, sat back, and reached for the seat belt.

“I’ll be able to…” he bobbed his head “catch up on the comings and goings that have happened since I’ve been out of town.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “You could just visit people.”

Cameron coughed and she gestured with her hand. “He’s getting sick. Maybe I should stay home with him, and you can go ahead and…” she over shook her head when she mimicked Dirk’s, “Catch up.”

“I’m supposed to play Operation with Sammy.” Cameron released the seat belt and motioned to slide toward the door.

Dirk held up a hand to say stop. The engine was running and the heater warmed the car. Dirk smiled to show Cameron that everything was going to be okay. “Cam, let me talk to your mom and then we’ll get you to game time with Sammy.” Cameron’s nod added a degree of confidence to Dirk’s approach.

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“Tell me what’s going on,” Dirk implored. He stepped away from the pickup and guided Liz toward the bed to give them some privacy. It didn’t work because Cameron watched from the rear window.

“Nothing,” Liz started.

“Then we’re good to go,” Dirk half asked half stated. Nothing always meant something.

“People are going to start talking about us,” Liz blurted.

“Why do we care what they say?” Dirk said.

Secretly, that was exactly what he wanted. Once people associated them as a couple he wouldn’t have to worry about someone figuring out what he knew all along. Liz was one of those women men would go to battle for. Dirk couldn’t count how many times over the years he’d feel defeated by a problem and have a new plan after a couple of minutes of talking to Liz. He loved how she couldn’t stay mad at him. She’d give subtle reminders of what he had done to make her angry, but the bite wasn’t there. It was more of her way of processing the problem. She had faith in her corrections. And rightly so. Since he’d been home, Dirk saved a meme for every day he was gone. He promised himself, he’d show her he knew how to change. It was time people saw the change in him and said something about it.

She kept her eyes trained on her feet. “You get to go away. I’m the one that has to hear the jokes about being with a younger man.”

“I’m only four years younger than you.”

Her eyes pleaded with him to understand. It was her hair. Because of her hair color, she looked older than him. Dirk wanted to tell her to dye it but that would corroborate her concerns.” 

“What if we got tattoos?”

 That got Liz’s attention. Her head jerked up and she opened her mouth to say something. Instead, she exhaled a disbelieving sound.

 “Look. You’re special to me. I want you to believe it, and I want everyone in the world to know it. I don’t care about age. It’s a number.”

He gestured with his eyes toward the pickup. “And your son really wants to play Operation with Sammy.”

Liz glanced toward the cab and sighed. Dirk almost felt sorry for her. But, making his point was more important than placating her. “Are you embarrassed to be with me?” His heart hitched as soon as he asked the question.

“No, it’s nothing like that,” Liz set her hand on his heart. It was almost like she understood the power behind the question and wanted to protect Dirk from it.

“Then we’re good?”

“What if it doesn’t work out?” Liz nibbled on her bottom lip.

“What if it does?” Dirk countered. He used his finger to raise her face toward him. “One of us is right and there’s only one way to find out.”

Liz swallowed and inhaled deeply before nodding her agreement.

Dirk rotated his face toward the window. Cameron’s face revealed a different struggle. It was a mixture of anticipation and frustration. Cameron’s expression was a reflection of the battle within Dirk’s heart. Dirk raised his brows to let Cameron know it was going to be okay. He took Liz by the hand and guided her to the pickup. The first chance he got, he was going to kiss her and kiss her good. Then she’d know he meant business.

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