Brad whistled. His eyes fell on the big screen television at the edge of the living room. “Liz has a nice setup for a single mother.”
“What are you trying to say?” Dirk cracked open a beer and passed one to his mother’s “gentleman friend.”
“I don’t know I expected a small cottage maybe, with a house that needed some yard work done. As they stepped onto the patio, Brad pointed with his beer at the trimmed hedges at the end of Liz’s yard. “Your girlfriend has her act together.”
Dirk had known Liz and Tom long enough to know there was a difference between their families. He was raised by a single mother who was a front office manager for the town veterinarian’s office. Grace made enough. Growing up, Dirk didn’t want for much. Liz and Tom were raised in the typical American family. Two children, two parents, in a house with play station and family room.
The differences didn’t matter to them. What mattered was they were together through thick and thin. Their bond was one that lasted until their adulthood. That’s what Dirk wanted to tell Brad. Instead, he said, “Ever since Liz’s father passed, her brother makes sure she’s taken care of.”
“You have some big shoes to fill.” Brad nudged Dirk. “Then again, nowadays, men don’t mind if a woman takes care of them.”
Dirk bristled. He had no intention of Liz “taking care of him.” His job was dirty, but he made enough to be able to take care of her. When they had children, she could stay home with the kids.
Cameron ran up to Grace, who was on the other side of Dirk. His birthday boy baseball cap was off-center, and his face was flush from running. He spoke the magic words, “Grandma Grace, I need your help.”
“What is it, honey?”
Pride swelled in Dirk. His mother loved Liz’s son, as though he was her own. He, in turn, loved the flares of jealousy that rose in him when his mother did things for Cameron that she would never in a million years do for Dirk.
“Can you talk to my mom about a dog.”
Liz had gone back inside to post a sign telling people to go around and enter through the gate. So for the time being, Dirk and Grace were left to navigate the situation without her interference or guidance. Grace’s eyes darted to Dirk when she asked, “What do you want me to say?”
“Just tell her that a dog is a good present for a boy. I know she’d listen to you.”
Grace released the words one at a time. “So, you have already asked your mother for a dog?”
“And let me guess she said, no.”
“I tried to tell her the dog would protect us from danger.” He pouted, “She said that we have Dirk to protect us.”
Brad was in a place where Cameron couldn’t see him, so he was free to chuckle. Grace’s jaw tightened in what Dirk imagined was an attempt to hide her amusement. “I can try to talk to your mother. But if she says, no, we can go with plan B.”
“What is that?” Cam asked.
“You can come to my office and help take care of dogs that are in recovery. I’m sure they’d appreciate a kind word and a pet from someone who is as thoughtful as you.”
Cam blinked several times. With each blink, Dirk imagined that he was processing the alternative Grave had offered him. “Okay. But can you talk to mom for me. It would be fun to have a dog to sleep in my bed. I have the perfect one…” He stopped before finishing his sentence. “Hi mom.”
When Dirk was a kid, his mother said she could tell he was up to something because a sign appeared above his head. After being around Cameron, he knew she spoke literally and metaphorically. Cameron’s entire demeanor changed. His smile stiffened and he held his eyes wider. “I was just telling grandma Grace that I’m glad she brought a friend to my party.” He nodded and spoke with emphasis. “Special friends are important.”
Liz’s eyes darted from Grace to Dirk and back to Cameron. Dirk could tell she was looking for clues about what they discussed but couldn’t find any. She straightened Cameron’s hat. “Yes son, we all need a special friend.”
Dirk’s feelings for Liz etched deeper in his heart when she glanced at him and threw him her flirty smile.
“Well, I should go back to the party.” Cameron wrapped his arms around Liz’s waist and hugged her. “I love you, Mom. Thanks for the great party.” He moved too quickly for Liz to wrap her arms around him. She motioned to reach for him as the ran away.
Grace joked, “He’s getting bigger. You’re going to have to move faster if you want to hold on to him.”
Liz watched after Cameron. The smile in her voice didn’t make it to her eyes. “You know what they say about change. It’s inevitable.”
Something about Liz’s delivery triggered Dirk to look up into the sky. It was blue with some puffs of white clouds. He shrugged off the feeling.
This is a shout out for Paula. I have finished the story. So far it is roughly 40k words. Now I’m going back to fill in the holes. Translation: I’ll be able to post more frequently. I hope you enjoy the chapter.
Categories: Home For the New Year