Home For the New Year Chapter Sixteen

At some point in the night, Liz escaped to the corner of the couch. Her legs were tucked under her, and her head leaned against her couch cushion. Dirk pushed a strand of hair that had formed a line on her forehead. He inhaled the subtle vanilla from her shampoo and kissed her temple.

Bryce scooped his Sammy into his arms, and the two men slowed their movements to soften the disruption their presence caused. Dirk’s hand gripped the nickel handle as he pulled the door behind him.

Bryce trotted down the walkway with Sam. Dirk shuffled ahead to open the door to help him. He marveled at how attentive Bryce was toward his son. The man, with broad shoulders and large hands that looked like they could accidentally crush a person with a handshake, gently tucked a blanket under his son’s neck.

Dirk would have noticed the wobble when someone slept in an upright position, but he never would have thought to do something to solve the problem. He and Bryce were similar in size but differed in their approach to reaching solutions.

Because of Bryce’s interruption, Dirk didn’t get a chance to set the record straight with Liz. The disruption of Bryce’s presence gave Dirk more information and space to rethink his approach. It was time he got home to his own bed and made some decisions. Dirk was at the front of Bryce’s Ford Expedition when he heard Bryce’s warning. “Liz is really into you. Don’t blow it.”

The command caught Dirk by surprise. Was Bryce’s comment a suggestion or a threat? He shoved his hands in his pockets and pulled out his keys. “I don’t plan to.”

“Then you have to up your game. Do more things, so Liz misses you.”

A ripple of energy surged across Dirk’s chest and stuck in his heart. He spat out, “That’s a little difficult when she has you to entertain her.”

“I wouldn’t call arranging play dates for our sons entertaining.”

The steadiness in Bryce’s voice aggravated Dirk. He flexed his jaw and prepared for the argument that wanted, or better yet, needed to happen.

“Besides you’re worrying about the wrong person.” Bryce’s walk was purposeful and focused. He circle around Dirk and sopped at the front his pickup. “There are other men lined up waiting for you to blow it.”

Of course, Liz was special. She had a way of making a person feel like they were the only one in the room. That’s why everyone loved her. Dirk was so focused on Bryce, it never occurred to him that other men would find Liz attractive enough to want her for themselves.

By this time, Bryce was at the driver’s side door. He opened the door and leaned in to turn on the ignition. But he didn’t remain in the seat. Instead, he returned to meet Dirk in front of the vehicle.

“First, you don’t have to worry about me. I’ve had some guy steal my wife. I wouldn’t wish that kind of heartache to my worst enemy, let alone to my best friend.” He leaned against the bumper. “But I hear what other guys say. They’re waiting for you to blow it.”

Names. Dirk wanted names. “Who do I need to correct?”

“Don’t waste your energy on posturing. Focus on the prize.” Bryce gestured with his thumb toward Liz’s house. “ Where do you see this thing with Liz going? Are you with her for a good time, or is she someone you see in your future?”

When they were in a group, Bryce was light and goofy with his personality teetering between someone who was looking for an anchor and someone who only wanted to have a good time. One on one, Bryce showed an opposite facet. He had the gift of laser precise focus. That’s probably how the routine between Liz and him developed. Rather than mince words, they learned what worked.

Dirk began his explanation knowing Bryce would give him the space to speak. “One time when we were was fifteen, Tom and I were working on a project for our geography class. Anyway, Liz barged in the kitchen for a snack. She stopped to take a look at what we were doing. Liz rolled her eyes and declared our project a failure. Of course, Tom and I got a little grumpy. Tom tells her to mind her own business. I was getting ready to watch the fight. But, Liz doesn’t take the bait. Instead, she stormed out of the room. Tom was all smug. We both thought he succeeded in putting Liz in her place. A minute later, she came back with a purple plastic bin.”

Dirk chuckled with the memory. What was it with women and their bright colored bins. Liz may have grown into a woman, but she still had a closet full of colorful containers for craft projects. He continued with his story. “She opened it. That thing was full of markers, glue, colored pencils, and all kinds of crafty equipment I’ve never seen. The next thing I knew, she plopped herself in the empty spot between Tom and me. Liz pulled out a light blue pencil and used it to point at what we started. First, she told us what we were supposed to do. The next thing we know, she was pulling out pieces and doing what she said.”

Bryce responded with one of those I’ve lived the experience grins. Dirk was torn between being bothered and the bond that says I’ve been there too. For the time being, he chose the latter. “We got an ‘A’ on the project.”

Dirk focused on the stars. The clear sky gave him a direct view of the cosmos. In contrast, Dirk’s life was more like the Montana weather. The frequent bouts of wind blew him back and forth. Where he landed depended more on the climate. It was unsettling, yet Dirk learned to work with it. He returned to his talk with Bryce. “Something hit me in the chest so hard I lost my breath for a second. I knew then and there she was going to be my wife.”

“Why didn’t you do something about it then?”

“I was too young. Liz was dating Cam’s father. I’m sure there was a whole lot of other reasons that made sense at the time. It took everything in me to hold back telling her she should be with me.” A gentle nod of his head affirmed his intention. “ I didn’t know when or how. I just sensed that we’d be together.”

“What’s your gut say now?”

“To watch out for you?”

“Well, your gut has missed the mark.” The quirk in Bryce’s brow was the only giveaway to his disappointment with Dirk’s answer. “Liz is the older sister I always wanted, but my parents gave me a brother instead.”

“Really? Older sister.”

“She’s taught me more about relationships than my brother.”

Dirk’s shoulders raised before he had time to control his reaction.

Bryce held out his hands to create distance. “Take it easy big guy! She talks to me about things I should do to impress this woman I think I like.”

Dirk was starting to feel better about the situation. Then Bryce added. “That’s how I know you’re about to blow it with Liz.”

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