Sammy and Cam lounged on chairs in Liz’s front yard. She sat on the raised dock. Her feet were propped in a chair and an iced tea on the table. She suspected that soon enough, the boys would join her under the comfort of the bug zapper. It was getting to be dusk, and the mosquitos would be out foraging. Until then, she enjoyed the evening sounds of the birds chirping, and the soft breeze.
Bryce’s pickup rolled into the driveway. The boys engrossed in the game systems in their hands seemed oblivious of his arrival. He trotted to where Liz sat. She set her feet on the ground, but he had already chosen the chair across from her. “I’m surprised Dirk isn’t here.”
It was the second mentioning of Dirk being in town. The thought that people knew something she didn’t, unsettled Liz. Why wouldn’t he tell her he was home. Then it hit her. What if Dirk planned to surprise her? Anticipation replaced the uneasy feeling in her stomach. Dirk was up to something. Bryce knew about it, but couldn’t keep it to himself. It had to be good.
“Why would he be here?” Liz pressed her lips together, but it wasn’t enough to hide her delight. A slight smile formed at the edge of her lips.
“Oh, he hasn’t talked to you?” Bryce frowned. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
The change in Bryce’s expression concerened Liz. She didn’t want Bryce to feel like he ruined whatever it was Dirk planned. “I won’t tell Dirk you said anything,” Liz tried to reassure him.
“I don’t think it matters,” Bryce waved away her answer. “I’m sure you’ll hear from him any minute.”
As Liz predicted, Sammy and Cameron joined her on the porch. Cameron said, “Mom, I think I need some of that lotion you use to chase the bugs away.”
Ever since the sunburn, Cameron cared about skin care. Although the way he learned the lesson was not the method, Liz preferred, she was glad the message sank in. Some people listened to wisdom, while others had to make the mistake and feel the pain. Cameron was growing into the latter. Her baby was turning into a boy. Visions of Dirk and Tom and all their shenanigans made her shudder. It was a good thing she worked for a doctor’s office. Liz retrieved the bottle from her bag. She placed a dollop on her palm and passed it to Bryce to do the same for Sammy. “Have you talked to April?”
“He talks to her all the time,” Sammy rolled his eyes. “If he not talking, they’re texting.”
It turns out you were right,” Bryce said. “Women aren’t afraid of men with children. April says it’s…” he cleared his throat, “attractive.”
“Can I get that in writing,” Liz joked. She spoke to the air around them. “Bryce Carson said I was right.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Bryce rolled his eyes playfully. “Seriously though, I was thinking. Did you want to have a family-style barbecue? I’d bring April, and we could hang out.”
It was too good to be true. A barbecue with her own friends? A family barbecue? Liz enjoyed hanging out at her brother’s house, but she always felt like the third wheel. That the invitation was more out of obligation to family. She was a single mother and her brother loved her, but invited her because he was watching out for her. Bryce’s invitation was an honest to goodness, let’s get together because our families like each other, barbecue. It made the direction of their relationships seem that much more real. Both of them were heading in a direction that included happy family memories. “That would be great. Would tomorrow be too soon?”
“It probably would,” Bryce said.
Liz got so caught up in the excitement she forgot that Dirk might not be there. He probably came home for a quick trip and would head back to the oilfield Sunday afternoon. “Right. We have to wait for Dirk’s weekend off.”
Bryce cleared his throat. “If you want, I can take the boys for the night. We could have guy time. You know, watch the Lego movie and make some frozen pizza?”
Cameron’s eyes widened with pleading. “Please, mom?”
“What would I do all alone?” She egged him on.
“You could take a nap. I’d be home in time for breakfast. You could make waffles for all of us.”
“Yes,” Sammy chimed in. “With chocolate chips.”
Liz thought back to Bryce and Grace’s insistence that Dirk was in town. Bryce was probably in on the surprise. Her heart fluttered with anticipation. Managing to maintain a straight face, she said, “I suppose I could do my hair and take care of some laundry.”
That was all she needed to say. Both boys ran into the house. They appeared in a matter of minutes.
Cameron had a backpack loaded with his Power Ranger pajamas and a clean outfit for the next morning. Liz waved to the boys as Bryce pulled his pickup out of the driveway. When it came to the boys’ feelings and their basic needs, Bryce was great. When it came to women, he suffered. The man couldn’t keep a secret to save his life. But that was okay. He gave Liz plenty of time to practice her reaction for Dirk’s “surprise” visit.