The two boys nestled under the piles of pillows and blankets had become so common Liz remembered to buy extra juice in the morning. She pressed the remote to turn off the television, eliminating the blue glow over them. Liz imagined the blue was somewhat similar to the air outside. Winter was back, and it was five below zero outside.
Bryce had picked up the boys from school, giving Liz some time to run her errands uninterrupted. They had dinner together. Then he took off to watch an opposing team’s basketball game.
He explained to Sam and Cameron, “Basketball players transition to baseball pitchers, catchers, and basemen. When the other schools play against Ashbrook, I pay attention to our boys. This way, I can hone in on the other teams’ strengths and weaknesses.”
The boys munched on their chicken tenders and fries with eyes full of appreciation. The man who would one day become their coach took his role seriously. After Bryce left, they mimicked Bryce by comparing the qualities of superheroes and bad guys. “He would be better if he didn’t talk so much,” Cameron pointed at the screen. “I could have taken his weapon.”
“That would be a violation of some sort,” Sammy replied. “Otherwise Captain Blueacres would have done it. See, he’s just standing there listening. I think it’s a superhero rule to listen to what the bad guy says before you defeat him.”
A little snore snuck out of one of the boys. Liz ’s heart expanded with warm feelings. Cameron and Sammy’s friendship would evolve into Cam and Sam. They’d entertain shenanigans that would have her asking the age-old question, “What were you thinking?” Like the boys, she was making comparisons. For the boys, it was athletes and superheroes. She compared the boys to Tom and Dirk; with the only difference being, both boys had better go to college.
Liz was on her way to the bedroom when a firm knock on the door pulled her back into the living room. She expected to find Bryce on the other side and planned to say something to the effect of him waiting until the morning. She flipped the switch for the light and cracked the door open. Dirk’s coat thick enough to make him look like a navy colored Michelin Man was enough to elicit a gasp. Liz’s heart pounded in her chest, and a smile erased her sleepy features. There was no consideration of the cold or the time. Liz pulled on the door to widen the opening. A cold rush of air bit at her skin. Barefooted, she motioned to greet him with a hug.
Dirk wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a hug so strong it lifted her off the ground. He twirled her and stopped when both of them were in the safety of her warm home. Dirk closed the door behind him. His rich voice filled the room. “I know we were supposed to get together tomorrow afternoon, but I had to see you. It’s been too long.”
The covers stirring garnered the attention of both Liz and Dirk. That’s when Liz remembered where she was. She marveled at how Dirk’s presence brought her to a place of pure happiness. Not that her son didn’t bring her joy. Somehow, Dirk had the gift of bringing her to a dome filled with love and lightness that pushed her worries to the wayside.
His coat swished when he walked toward the hall that separated the bedrooms from the living room. Waves of cold from the outdoors wafted behind him. The chill seeped through the gaps in Liz’s flannel pajamas.
Dirk stopped when a wall created a barrier between the boys and Liz and Dirk. He cupped Liz’s cheeks with his hands. “This is all I’ve been thinking about for three weeks.” He pressed his lips into hers. At first, the touch was gentle and seeking. When Liz softened to accept his touch, he pulled her to him. His kiss went from sweet affection to making a claim. When he pulled away, Liz fought to take in a breath. He caressed her cheek with his thumb. It was rough from working in the elements and reminded Liz that hard situations did not intimidate Dirk. His voice was hoarse from the combination of a whisper and the residual passion from the kiss. “I don’t care about time or distance. You are mine. One day I ’ll make it official.”
It was Liz’s turn to caress his chin. The scruff from his close shaved beard bristled beneath her fingers. She was about to ask what exactly does “Make it official,” entail when Cameron’s sleepy voice interrupted their conversation. “Mommy, can I go to the bathroom.”
Liz glanced back at her son. One eye was half open. Then she looked at where they were standing. She and Dirk were halfway in front of the bathroom door. If they were five steps further into the hall, Cameron would have been able to slip into the bathroom with her unaware. Her eyes darted from the bedroom that was ten feet away to the kitchen that was across the living room. One represented take it to the next level. The other symbolized the home and hearth. Which would she choose?
Dirk made the decision when he gazed into her eyes and said, “We need to have a talk about your friendship with Bryce.”