Daniel and I have been smooching off of each other the entire Valentine’s weekend. Not day, weekend. We were so on each other all the time. I loved it. Of course we had to go back to work first thing Monday, but for that moment we were in a different world. The best world.
Justin has been hounding me all week wondering what my answer was about him looking over my work. So much so that some nights or days, whenever I was writing, I was thinking about Justin editing my work. Making it better. Making it a novel an agent would want. Was he ever an agent before? Is that why he’s asking me? It got so annoying—him pecking at my mind—that this week has probably been the most unproductive week of writing in the history of ever.
Daniel has a small desk in his room where I go to write on my laptop. I hate writing out in the open because I get so self-conscious that I think Daniel’s hovering over my shoulder just to take a peek. He thinks I’ll never let him read it, but that’s not true! I will. If it ever gets published, he can read it.
I was in the zone when I felt my head nudge forward by a pressure at the highest point.
“How’s it going?” Daniel asked. My hands started shaking as I quickly closed the laptop. Daniel turned me around and smiled. “That great, huh?”
“You know I don’t like you reading it just yet.”
“I know.” He stroked my cheek. “Just came in to tell you food is here.”
“You made food?”
“Ordered. I’m way too tired to cook.” Then, as if it weren’t apparent enough, he yawned.
I laughed. “I guess we’re staying in tonight?”
He shook his head. “Nope, nope. I’m going to take a nap after we eat and then I’m off to Mike’s place.”
“Mike…” I mused. “Remind me who that is again?”
“Mike and Dee had a baby remember? I told you. Anyway, it’s their second and I wanted to visit them and say hi.”
“Do you want to come?”
“Come on. Come. You never get to know my friends.”
I nodded. “Okay. Alright. You’re right. Should we bring something?”
He nodded and smiled. “A bottle of red. Dee hasn’t been drinking and it’s her favourite.”
I didn’t know if that was weird or sweet, but I just nodded as much as a bobble head and grinned like it was the best gift ever.
“Afterwards, I’ll let you know your gift.”
My eyes brightened then, and I was eager to come home as soon as we left.
Mike’s and Dee’s place was a rustic one. They lived in Brooklyn with a fire place, brick walls and a staircase that led to what I assumed were the bedrooms. Dee never set her newborn down. Even when I handed her the bottle of red, she grabbed it skilfully with one hand while her whole arm was occupied by her new baby, Tom.
As soon as we entered the front door, their six year old, Cindy, jumped out from around the corner and scared us. Well, scared me. I screamed and woke Tom. Much to the chagrin of the exhausted Dee. I apologised profusely and she softened up. When Daniel hung his coat, he put his hands up, drew his face long and started wriggling his whole body after Cindy, pretending to be a monster. Cindy, the whole time, kept laughing and running and screaming. Daniel kept repeating, “I’ll catch you!” and laughed with her. His whole face lit up bright. He did a complete 180 and caught Cindy when she was turning a corner. He grabbed her in his arms, picked her up and started tickling her, she squirmed like a worm and failed to break through his lock.
“Who got you!?” Daniel asked. “Who got you?”
“What!? No!” Daniel laughed, continuing to tickle her and not letting go. “Who got you!?”
“Noooo someone caught you!”
“I’m not saying!” she laughed.
“I’m not gonna stop tickling you unless you say…” he sing-songed.
“You did! You did! Daniel did! Sto-o-o-p!!”
“Alright, I’ll let you go, now.”
He set her down and once her feet touched the floor, she turned around and hopped with her arms up in the air, saying, “Again, again!”
“Later, Daniel’s tired.”
“Daniel,” she stomped her foot, furrowing her brows and pouting her lips, “monsters aren’t supposed to be tired.”
“That’s because other monsters haven’t been working a nine-to-five, I’ll get you later, though.”
Her face lifted and she started twirling the pink dress she was wearing. “No you won’t.”
“Oh, yes I will.”
“No, you won’t.”
“Ohhhhh you wait and see.”
“Mmm-hmm!” Cindy started cat-walking away with so much attitude it was too cute to bear.
At this point, Daniel joined Mike, Dee and I in the living room. The white sofas faced each other.
“Sorry, guys,” Daniel said to Mike and Dee, and then put a hand on my leg and eyed me. “Sorry. I didn’t even introduce everyone. This is my girlfriend, Anna; Anna, this is Mike and that’s Dee.”
We all nodded and said, “Nice to meet you.”
“Cindy has been asking about you all week,” Mike said to Daniel. Mike wore a night blue, cotton vest over a flannel, long-sleeve, collared shirt. His pants were dark beige. He seemed like the most conservative father in the world. The type of man that dreamed of being a father. He never stopped smiling either, his chubby face full of lifted cheeks, and perfect white teeth.
“She keeps asking for the monster,” Dee giggled, pushing back her blonde hair from her baby’s face. “I swear, she can’t get enough.”
“I hope it’s not too much,” Daniel smiled.
“Oh of course not,” Mike said. “She loves it when Uncle Daniel visits anyway.”
“Uncle Daniel?” I murmured confusedly.
Daniel smiled and returned his hand on my knee. “No, no, that’s just what they call me.”
“Because she loves him so much,” Mike said.
“Oh,” I smiled politely.
Daniel has mentioned Mike and Dee before, but I never knew they were this close, especially with their kids. I mean, I thought they were just acquaintances.
The three of them started talking about work, play and all kinds of things. I was watching on the sidelines wondering where I fit in. Mike, Daniel and Dee laughed a lot. So much that Dee had to shush the both of them.
“Well, I just wanted to stop by and say hi. And say congratulations on the baby, he’s beautiful.”
“Do you want to hold him?” Dee asked.
“Uhh…” Daniel looked at me hesitantly. I furrowed my brows at the expression on his face. A weird expression. Almost as if he was worried about me.
“Oh come on, hold Tom.” Dee cut through, standing up and handing Tom over to Daniel. “Support his head. That’s right. There you go.”
Daniel’s eyes immediately fixated onto Tom. He was rocking Tom up and down in slight, bobbing movements. “Wow. Look at that nose.” Then, he laughed. “Oh my God, that tongue is so adorable and tiny.”
“He likes you already,” Dee said.
Daniel looked up, interested. “How do you know?”
“If he’s sticking out his tongue a lot, he likes you,” Mike said. “Besides, he’s not squirming as much. He’s peaceful in your arms.”
“You’re a natural,” Dee said.
I watched Daniel with Tom, as if I didn’t even exist. As if no one in this room existed. He had a moment with the baby that I could never see, feel or connect with. And it scared me.
Then, Daniel came up for air. “I—we should go.” He stood with ease, cradling Tom well and handed him over to Dee. “Congratulations again.”
“Thanks for coming over, guys,” Mike said.
“Thank for having us,” I replied.
“No problem. Stop by any time,” Dee smiled. “It was lovely to meet you.”
I nodded. “You too.”
“Cindy!” Daniel called out. “We’re leaving.”
“Aww, man!” Cindy whined distantly.
We all giggled. Daniel shook Mike’s hand, hugged Dee, and stroked Tom’s flabby cheek with the part between his middle and top knuckle of his fore- and middle-finger. Then, we were off.
In the cab drive home, it was quiet. Not like we had a fight, but like it was calm waters. Smooth sailing. Daniel was off somewhere and I could see it was without me. He was looking out the window with a big, dopey smile on his face. I started to smile. I read somewhere that seeing someone smile\laugh is almost contagious; makes you smile\laugh.
I held his hand. He didn’t look my way. Then I was worried, that worried, scared feeling came back again. My stomach churned. I squeezed his hand when I said, “Hey.” He looked my way. “You okay?”
Daniel grinned. “Of course.” And even in the deep night, I saw him swallow hard.
“Seeing you with those kids. You being a ‘natural’ and all.”
Daniel sighed. “I knew you would think something of it. I was just messing around.”
“But…Cindy and Tom…”
Daniel groaned. “I know you barely knew them. Sorry, I didn’t clue you in.”
“It’s not that,” I shook my head. “It’s just that you seemed so at home with their kids.”
“Think I was going to steal one?” Daniel joked.
Despite myself I laughed. “Daniel, be serious.”
“I am serious. And I know where you’re going with this.” He scooted closer and embraced me with one arm. “Even if I wanted kids, I know you don’t—” he put his hand up to stop me from interrupting— “but I want you more than something I don’t even have.” He cleared his throat and looked out the window. I tried to take a glance of his face by leaning forward but I couldn’t see. Then, he looked back. “This is not to say I even want kids: disclaimer,” he squeezed my arm on the word and I smiled. He shrugged. “Not everyone can have the best of both worlds.”