1. WATER BOTTLES, BUTTER & AMSTERDAM
-The Davis Family-
Next item on the list: tampons.
Damn it mom!
She mostly takes care of these things herself, that was the agreement. So lucky this particular item almost never appeared on the grocery list. Mom must be desperate. I'll turn a blind eye this time.
Grocery shopping is one of the few things I can do that actually makes a difference to my mother's weekly routine. I was surprised at the frequency she had to go to and thro the shops. Being a nurse, irregular hours and shift changes are ever rampant, why not lighten the burden anyway I can? We split the other household chores equally. My class schedule at the local community college gives me ample time to do the shopping, my homework, go to work and work out. Albeit I only work Sundays but every little helps I suppose.
It is just the two of us.
It wasn't always just the two of us though, not 6 years ago it had been the three of us. Until one night at the dinner table my father told us he had other plans.
"I got offered a job.... in Amsterdam." He'd announced out of the blue while I forked mashed potatoes into my mouth.
"Amsterdam?" My mother looked utterly shocked. I have no idea what went through her mind right at moment but I bet she hadn't expecting what followed. Neither had I.
"I'm going to take it." He replied straight-faced, no discussion no emotion.
"Move to Amsterdam? But... but my job... our family... and Mirren has school..." My mother is frazzled at the sudden news.
"No" He shakes his head still no emotion "I mean I'm taking the job."
She looked up frowning about to say something but the look on his face keeps the words in her throat.
He simply got up, went upstairs, grabbed the bag he'd already packed and walked out of the door. All the while I'm still sitting there with a mouth full of mashed potatoes. Both my mother and I have no idea what just happened.
My father chose work over us.
Well that is what we thought at first. Then we learned he wasn't going alone at all. I'll never forget the look on my mothers face when she received the divorce papers the very next day. She couldn't wrap her head around what had happened, their relationship had been fine till that day. It's like he woke up one morning and decided he'd had enough of her, of us.
I never saw him again, not quoting the odd email here and there. Mostly telling me about his fantastic new life.
My father had become a creep to me. I couldn't even think about him without my eye twitching. Talk about being emotionally wounded...
If he'd had enough of me, I've had enough of him. How on earth could someone just up and leave his family like it was nothing? Like we didn't matter anymore. Like none of it had ever mattered...
I pushed the shopping cart towards the deli section shaking my head at the resurrected memory. I stand there mulling of the different types and brands of butter available. The list just says 'butter' like it always did. But there are a million choices here! I've told her again and again to specify band and type. I'm a remorse buyer... I'll exchange an item several times before checking out, still thinking another one would have been a better choice.
I feel a tug on my sleeve.
A small 8-year-old boy materialized by my side. He had a dollop of black hair on his head and a small freckled noise. He's adorable; I've always liked kids. Having no siblings myself I've wondered how it would have been like to have one or two or even three.
"Hello sir, could you reach that blue pack of butter on the top shelf for me? I can't get to it."
"Sure." I reach up and retrieve the requested package. He smiled as I hand it over.
"Thanks man," he sticks his hand out very mature-like "I'm Chris."
Suppressing a giggle I take his hand and shake it.
"Mirren, nice to meet you Chris." I point to the pack of butter in his hands. "Is that a good brand? This list only says 'Butter' so I have no idea which one I should get."
Chris screws up his face obviously giving my question serious thought. He turns to the rows of butter and points out a certain brand.
"That one is good for cooking and this one is good for making sandwiches." He says seriously then his fingers points to another packages a few rows down.
"That one is Dane's favourite, it has sea salt in it. He says it tastes better. I think it tastes nasty." He crunches up his noise to illustrate his point.
"Maybe I'll get one of each, the list doesn't say if it is for cooking or sandwiches." I muse. Chris lights up happy to have helped out. "She can't complain if I take both. " I smile at him. "Moms huh." I joke rolling my eyes
He just nods.
"I better get back before Dane panics and has Dad announce my name through the stores intercom." Chris sighs as he speaks. "He's done it before."
He turns lightly on his feet and waves at me as he speeds off. "Bye Mirren." Nice kid.
Next item: Cereal.
I turn into the cereal aisle. Again a million choices but I've got this one covered and put my cart towards the Froot Loops. A few feet in front of me a girl about 10 years old is juggling several boxes of cereal while reaching for a box of oatmeal. As she grabs the oatmeal the boxes in her arms slips from her grasp spilling all over the floor. I automatically stoop down to help.
"Hey thanks." She smiles, she has light strawberry blond hair and freckles on her nose.
"No problem kid." I return his smile stacking the boxes on her outstretched arms.
"I think the oatmeal momentarily got better of me, I'm Risa." She twists her hand under the boxes and offers it to me. Kids these days, who says none of them have manners?
Bemused I shake it gently careful not to disturb the tittering stack she's holding.
"Hey Risa, I'm Mirren. That's quite a lot of cereal you got there."
She nods agreeing with me, "Yeah, my dad says we all have small bodies but huge stomaches. But my big or my biggest brother (I have two you know) is the only one that eats oatmeal in the morning." She shakes her head. "I hate oatmeal it tastes ylugg." She beaconed her head to the far end of the aisle.
"I'd better get back. Thanks for helping me." He twists her hand again rotating it gently into a wave, turns and walks away. I stand there a moment and reflect on the kids in the store today. Picking up my Froot Loops there is only water left on my list.
Loading up the water bottles I accidentally hit a shelf with my elbow and bottles start toppling over. I swerve trying to save them from hitting the floor and am helped by two foreign hands. Once the bottles have been sufficiently stabilized I see the boy attached to the helping hands.
"Thanks that might have been ugly." I comment sighing with relief. He's a head shorter than me and about 13 or 14 years old I guess. He has dark brown hair and freckles on his nose.
"No problem. A grocery store is full of unexpected dangers, you must always check every corner you round and every aisle you walk through. We weary buyers have to look out for one another." He offers me his hand. "I'm Edward." This is getting weird.
"...Mirren." I say taking his hand and shaking it. He had a good shake and a firm hand.
"EDDY!" A mans voice calls out among the ails. Edwards rolls his eyes and grins at me.
"Gotta go, masters voice is calling." He says and races off towards the voice.
I chuckle not completely sure what to think about my shopping trip today. I head to the check out area.
- The Fallen family -
Where is Chris? I told him to get the butter 10 minutes ago. Well not 10 but at least 5 minutes ago. I head towards the deli section and see Chris talking to a strange man. Dammit Chris! I've warned him not to talk to strangers!
The man nods reaching for a pack of butter on the top shelf handing it to Chris.
Oh... he'd asked the guy for help.
I stop and hide behind a stack of laundry detergent watching Chris handle the situation. They shake hands and the man, I mean young man, really young man but definitely not boy, asks him something in return making Chris point to several packs of butter.
From my hiding place I can take a good look at the stranger. Light blond hair; fair skin, straight shoulders, toned body I'm guessing from his posture and probably a really nice butt even though his baggy cloths hide most of it. He's is cute, I sigh, man whom am I kidding? Cute? This guy isn't cute he's striking.
Chris bids the guy goodbye and heads off to find dad. The stranger turns and guides his cart to the cereal aisle where Risa is. Intrigued I creep along the detergent and peek around the corner.
Risa is trying to juggle too many boxes all at once while reaching for my oatmeal spilling everything on the floor. My muscles move instinctively but the stranger is helping her before I have a chance to take a single step . I watch their exchange and see more of the strangers face. Soft brow with smooth cheeks and a permanent healthy blush. I groan, hell could this guy be even more appealing?
My heart sinks into my stomach cause I know I could never catch a guy like that. I'm nowhere near his level even is he were to be gay. Which he probably isn't. I retreat along the detergent to accidentally meet up with Risa as she exits the cereal aisle.
"Got my oatmeal?" I asked trying to act nonchalant.
"Yeah Dane, I've got it. Had to battle a dragon to get it though!"
"A dragon?" I smile ruffling her hair. She grins showing off her white teeth.
"Yeah, a hug yellow dragon. Biggest talons you've ever seen."
We return to dad and the cart, he's mulling over a choice of BBQ coals. Don't they all burn? I mean what is the difference? I count heads; Dad, Chris, Risa, Lily and......
"Where is Eddy?" Looking around, four pairs of shoulders shrug in unison. I grunt and head off in search for my perpetually lost younger brother.
- The Davis family -
A large family piling their stuff on the conveyer belt swamps one of the checkout counters. Chris is amongst them spotting me heading towards a different cashier.
"Mirren!" He calls out and waves, Risa and Edward lift their heads and follow suit. Siblings, I should have known! Standing next to each other you can clearly see the trances of genetic kinship. Their calls attract the attention of the father who'd had his back to me.
"Mirren Davis!" He grins and I immediately recognize my junior high track coach.
"Mr Fallen?" Stunned I shake his outstretched hand. This was the last person I imagined running into at the grocery store as it's never happened before.
"You know Mirren Dad?" Risa asks, her identical twin by her side giving their father the exact same questioning look as plastered on Risa's face. The other girl's hair is much darker; her face a tad sharper and she's a little shorter but other than that their features are exactly the same.
"Of course I do, he used to be on the track team years ago." He smiles down at his girls "How are you son?" he asked returning his attention to me.
"Fine Mr Fallen. Just getting some stuff in." It was kind of nostalgic to see Mr Fallen again. I'd loved track, running made me feel so free especially after Dad left. You don't have to pretend to cope when there's nothing but the road under your feet.
A young man about 20 rounds the corner holding a jerry of milk in each hand.
"Dane! Dad knows the yellow dragon!" Risa squeaks while her twin giggles.
The guy frowns at his sister depositing the milk on the conveyer belt. He's got a slim build yet obviously strong enough to be able to lift six gallons of milk in one easy swing. As he looks up his eyes widen in understanding. He has dark chocolate brown hair; light grey eyes that set off his simple tanned features. And lest we forget... freckles on his nose.
"Does the yellow dragon have a name?" he asked with a serpentine smile holding out his hand to me. I take it as five voices call out my name in unison. I'd have laughed at this particular odd occurrence but was momentarily caught up in the sensation of his warm hand pressed to mine.
"Hi Mirrin, I'm Dane. So was Dad your track coach or something?" He asked retracting his hand to rest is on Chris's shoulder next to him.
"He sure was." Mr Fallen spoke up. "Good runner legs. Heard you did well on the high school track team too."
"I did ok." I shrug, I only ever ran for my own enjoyment. Competition never interested me but there is no I in team right?
Edward was the next to speak up, grinning at his big brother.
"Hey Mirrin we're having a cook out today wanna join?"
"That's a great idea!" Mr Fallen brightens up. "Just a few neighbours in our yard, your welcome to come. Your mom too."
"I couldn't impose ..." I start but am shushed by 10 waving hands. Dane just stood there bemused at his family's reaction watching them with his arms crossed.
"It's no problem Mirren." He confides to me. "Dad always makes enough for an army."
For some reason I felt like I really did want to go, see how it would have been to have brothers and sisters like this. Their open and friendly manner just pulls you in.
"Well, I'll check with mom first she has a late shift tonight. Would it be ok if she came by after work?"
"Sure, Dane give him our details while I pay for this." Mr Fallen turns to the cashier as Dane pulls out his cell phone.
"Do you have a cell phone? I'll text you our address."
2. BASEBALL, BBQ & BLOOD
He's unfair that's what he is. Good-looking, modest and kind? That's cheating ... something must be wrong with me. I'm calm and composed and there is that lack of nerves and utter clumsiness. Which usually grabs ahold of me in moments like these. Did I just demand his number? Something must definitely be wrong with me; forward isn't my middle name.
I automatically count heads as the gang loads the van. A habit I picked up after mom couldn't anymore, it's a relaxant to me now. I return the cart to its bay near stores entrance. I see Mirren manoeuvre towards his car; I give him my best smile as I firmly slide the cart home. I one smooth hard shove.
"Starts at seven!" I shout out before I can catch myself doing so. He nods in reply and focuses on filling his car with his own groceries.
Where did that come from? I wonder heading back to my family. Where is that distinct crippling nervous feeling? I am coming down with something.?
- The Davis Family -
Pasta salad or Bombay potatoes?
"Just bring some grub, whatever you want." A simple yet vague reply to my text.
OK Bombay potatoes it is.
I'm actually looking forward to the cook out. Dane was one fine man... I bet he'd be a nice friend to have too if nothing else. Coach Fallen was always nice to me, especially after dad left. He'd heard about it through the grapevine and encouraged me to deal with the anger through running. It really helped and it still does.
I peel the potatoes to broil, look around the empty kitchen and feel the big empty house around me. Must be nice to have a large family.
After the Bombay potatoes were done I spent a long time in front of the mirror deciding what to wear. I'll be the first to admit I have no taste what-so-ever. Mom still buys my clothes she knows I detest shopping. Yet she always choses stuff a few sizes too big and colours even I cringe at, my lack of fashion sense seems to be genetic. Exasperated I just throw on the cleanest clothes I can find and head out to my car. More than a little anxious...
- The Fallen family -
The yard is empty so we still have time. Dad is preparing the grill and I'm getting the gang cleaned up. Eddy's old enough to take charge of younger siblings and I'm fine with that. A little less hassle to worry about. All cleaned up we set up the yard for the cook out.
We're a little team at times like this.
Doing what needs to be done and doing it fast and fastidious. I can't help it they make me feel so damn proud sometimes. Even though at other times they make me want to wring their pretty little necks the little shits.
The yard starts filling up and I'm mostly preoccupied with getting every one fed and watered.
"The dragon's here!" Risa shouts out. Damn that girl has a voice on her, while Lily doesn't utter a sound. I look over to the gate and see an awkward Mirren standing there with a large bowl in his hands. His awkwardness seems so misplaced; his looks give him the right to be confidently at ease in any situation. I've never been one to prejudge someone or harbour prejudice about people for any reason. I've always prided myself for being that way... maybe I was wrong. Maybe I always have prejudged people without realized it. I prejudge handsome men.
I make my way to him, smiling. The awkward look is cute on him, pity his shirt doesn't really match... anything. Just as I halt in front of him Eddy swoops down and grabs the bowl out of his hands.
"Ooh potatoes!" he whoops disappearing with his prize stunning Mirren. He chuckles as if my loud family is amusing to him. I don't take offense...they are amusing.
"Hey man, come on through. Grab a plate and fill it up." There it is again, words are just spilling out of my mouth like I'm some suave confident dude. I don't have a temperature (yes I checked) and I haven't been drinking either...
He grabs a plate and while I'm distracted by Risa he heads over to the grill. Mirren relaxes talking to my dad; he seems to look up to him but seeing their height difference that isn't too hard. Dad roars in laughter slapping Mirren on the shoulder, my dad can make anyone feel welcome, it's a gift it truly is.
Chris shanghaied him into a game of catch after he licked his plate clean. Lucky plate... I was about to tell Chris not to harass our guests but Mirren seemed only too happy to comply. To my chagrin I don't get to spend much time with Mirren as the evening continues.
To my chagrin? Really?
There is always a demand on my time with a family like mine. Yet I can't stop myself from keeping him in my line of vision. Damn he's cute.
- The Davis family -
Catch "So you're into baseball huh?" Throw
Catch "Yeah, I love it." Chris flashes me a wide grin. "Uncle David coaches our little league team." Throw
Catch "Coolness. What position?" Throw
Not that I know much about baseball but is seems like a good question to ask.
Catch "First base player. Uncle says being left handed gives me the advantage." Throw
Catch "First base..." I muse. "Erm... Chris I don't know much about baseball. That's the one before second and third right?" Throw
In my mind I'm face palming.
Chris gives me a look of utter disbelief as if knowing nothing about baseball is something utterly unheard of. "Well" Throw Immediately enthused with excitement. "Naturally it is almost the most important position on whole the field!"
Catch "Really?" I ask bemused by his eagerness. Throw
Catch "Duh! A first baseman needs to be able to concentrate, as he will probably be involved in nearly every play." He says in a playacting a sport commentator reading off the teleprompter. Throw
Catch "Sounds very important." I nod failing to hide a smile. Throw "You all play ball?"
Catch "Yup - he nods- Eddie's a catcher and Risa a pitcher. She's good too with a strong arm. Lily prefers the shortstop." Throw I lift my brow quizzically. Pitcher and catcher I've heard of but shortstop?
Chris giggles at my lack of understanding.
"The shortstop has more ground to cover than any other player does and must be fast, quick, agile and have a strong throwing arm. They'll field more ground balls, in more off-balance positions, than any other player." He recites having the playbook memorised. Throw "Lily is quiet but boy she's fast together with a throwing arm like Risa's she's a really good shortstop."
Catch I glance over to where Dane is sorting out the empty food dishes, replacing them with full ones. "What about Dane?" I ask trying to keep my interest casual.
Chris gives me a smile I can't quite place.
Catch "Dane used to play third base mainly. But now he assists Uncle David in coaching us." He leans in holding the ball before throwing it back to me. "The teams nickname for him is Brother Hen." He confides in me. "But don't tell him that though." Throw
"I won't" I grin.
We continue the game for a while longer. Chris is really easy to chat with for an 8 year old. Dane though is the real attention grabber for me that evening.
- The Fallen family -
Mirren seems to flinch ever so slightly each time he catches the ball. His throw is really good and strong. But every catch is accompanied with a flinch I guess he hasn't learned the first lesson of baseball yet.
I'm helping dad clear the grill as everyone is done eating. Suddenly a chill splices my spine as I hear Lily yell in pain. I race over to her and see a cut halfway up her calf. Snagging something as she fell of the porch stairs.
Mirren is right beside me; he quietly takes control of the situation telling Eddy to fetch the first aid kit. I'm usually the patch-up guy in the family but he seems to know what he's doing so I let him.
- The Davis family -
"Edward, go fetch the first aid kit." I delegate keeping my eyes on Lily. Edward is back in a flash. "The cut isn't bad though it's long it isn't deep. I don't think there's a need for stitches. It looks worse than it is." I announce absorbed in cleaning the cut and surrounding craps, disinfecting all the small wounds.
I glance up at the girls face. "I don't think I've met you yet." I smile. Talking to the patients keeps their mind off of what you're doing; my moms second RN rule.
She give me a weak smile "Lily." Her voice is soft but not timid. "You're good at this." She says. I feel Dane stiffen next to me but don't pay it much attention.
"Thank you, I should be though it is was I'm in college for."
"To be a doctor?" She asks and I laugh shaking my head. No one else around us interrupts. Only the chatter of the other guests fills the background.
"No, not a doctor. A nurse." I smile warmly at her applying the Band-Aids. She returns it, cut completely forgotten.
"Why a nurse?"
"Cause I like to help people. It makes me happy."
"You have a hole in you shirt." She giggles pointing at my disgraced t-shirt.
"Yeah" I sigh dramatically playing it up a little for her. "I need some new clothes real bad. But I hate shopping and I'm really bad a it too."
She gives me a thoughtful look. "Dane picks out all our stuff even Dad's. He colour codes everything. See?" She reaches behind her neck and twists the cloths tag to show me. It displayed the letter L and a green dot. "So whatever we pick with the same colour code it will always match. He says it saves time in the mornings."
I turn my head toward Dane to say something when I'm confused by the look on his face. He's staring at Lily open mouthed; I glance around and see all the siblings are staring at Lily in exactly the same way.
"You should go shopping with Dane." She continues. "He makes it fun and always picks good stuff. Right Dane?"
This seems to jog Dane out of his trance but he keeps his eyes on Lily. "Sure, why not if you ever need help just ask." He says. With this she stand up pats her shorts as if to expel non existing excess dust.
"Thanks Dragon." She quips and runs off again.
- The Fallen family -
Lily is talking.
We all stare at her as she easily converses with Mirren.
Mirren of course has no idea Lily's hardly uttered more than a few words at a time since mom passed away. She certainly never talks to non-family members..
"You should go shopping with Dane." Lily says handing me another surprise. "He makes it fun and always picks good stuff. Right Dane?" she prompts me with a pointed look.
"Sure, why not if you ever need help just ask." I direct my voice to Mirren this is so weird she must really like him. Satisfied with my reply Lily gets up.
"Thanks Dragon." She quips and runs off again. We all stare after her none of us know what to say. Eddy notices Mirren confusion first.
"So nurses learn how to make patients talk huh?" He asks.
"Make the patient comfortable. Moms second RN rule." Mirren smiles picking himself off the ground.
"What is the first rule?" I ask he turns to look at me with a twinkle in his eyes.
"Keep in shape. Lifting patients is easier with some muscle for back up."
"That's why you have a good throwing arm." Chris chimes in tossing him the ball, he wants to continue their interrupted game.
"I suppose so." He shrugs nonchalantly; his modestly is really attractive to me.
"But you flinch every time you catch the ball." I intersect and notice Eddy raise his eyebrows at my statement.
"Yeah I noticed that too." Chris nods heaving Mirren up. I gently pry the ball out of Mirren fingers. Enjoying the feel of his skin a little too much. I ignore Eddies smirk.
"Don't be afraid of the ball." I toss be ball loosely between my hands, sounding like some eastern Martial Arts guru. "You're gonna get hit for sure but you can control it. If you put the fear of getting hurt behind you, it won't stop you from playing." I toss the ball back to Mirren seeing the displaced look on his face his deep brown eyes boring into mine. Then Chris drags him away to continue their game.
"Well" Eddy come up beside me his arms crossed. "The dragon got Lily to talk. That's new."
"His name's Mirren." I mumble as I stare after them. He's never going to lose that nickname not in this family.
"So gonna be his knight in shining armour?" He smirks as I punch his arm. "What? You've been watching him all evening."
"You're imagining things Eddy." I turn away from their game of catch to prove my point.
"No I haven't, he's been watching you too even if its on the sly." I feel a momentary flutter of butterflies in my stomach. He has?
Eddy sees the reaction on my face, I suspect he sees much more than I think he does. When did he grow up so fast? "You should ask him out."
"I don't have the time, you know that." I busy myself with unnecessary work turning away from them.
- The Davis family -
Almost all the guests have gone, I help clear away the tables, pack up left over food and clear the yard of rubbish. I'm reluctant to leave. Being around the Fallens is really comforting and warm. Mom won't be home till very late, covering someone's shift.
Having exhausted every excuse to stay I grab my jacket to go. Dane's beside me in a second with a covered plate.
"For your mom." He says. They all accompany me to my car and see me off. As I round the corner Dane is the last one standing on the curb watching my car drive away.
I enter an empty home. This house really is much too big for just mom and me. But she could never part with it; being born in this house she adores it. I know her wish had been to fill every room with kids but Dad said one was enough. The only decent thing he did when he left was pay off the house and sign it over to mom. But the house is sad, it likes being filled with noise and movement and I don't provided to much of that.
I put the plate of food in the fridge and leave a note on the kitchen table.
Suddenly every ounce of strength leaves me and I immediately crawl into bed. I hate the silence of our house at night so I put on some snooze music. The melody calms he down and I roll myself into my duvet, cocooned in warm softness drifting off to sleep imagining arms holding me in the night.
3. A DUGOUT, A DRAGON & A JAR OF PICKLES
I wake up late, damn its almost noon. I hear mom is up and quickly go down to kitchen.
"Morning mom, why didn't you wake me?" I hug her and join her at the kitchen table. She smiles at me broadly.
"You looked like you needed your sleep honey. You were out of it." She get up and grabs the coffee pot. "Want some?"
I nod and take the cup she offers me. Mom in a good mood today, she let her hair down and wore some comfortable if not threadbare sweats. Her off-day ritual.
"How was the cook out? The plate of food you left was really good." She says retaking her seat pulling her knees up to her chin cradling her coffee cup. She always kept her slim figure and she works to keep her frame strong for work.
"Great!" I perk up instantly as if the caffeine is going straight to my brain. "I didn't know Mr Fallen had such a large family. Three boys and twin girls. I don't know how they all fit in that house though, it's a lot smaller than ours." Oh man coffee is the nectar of the gods. It's pure, pure liquid ambrosia.
The landline rings and mom reaches to pick it up without leaving her chair.
"Hello, if you can name an 80's a rock band you may proceed with your call." My mom ever the rocker chick.
"Van Halen is an adequate choice. You know any songs?" She must be in a really good mood to toy with an unexpected caller like this. Her eyes widen and she covers the mouthpiece to muffle her giggles, "He's singing Jump." She tells me making the 'its so cute' face.
"Fantastic! That was a stellar performance!" she exclaims when the caller is finished singing. "Now who are you and what can I do for you?" She listens and cocks an astonished eyebrow at me.
"I don't think we have a dragon living here..." I chock on my coffee laughing pointing to myself. Waving for her to pass me the phone. Mom smirks and refuses to hand it over.
"Oh wait is seems like I do have a dragon living here. I would have never guessed I've never heard him roar before you know." She speaks into the phone and pauses to listen.
"Oh really? Healing talons huh?" She grins as me while I impatiently motion for the phone. It could be Dane but then again he's never called me dragon. She holds the phone out of my reach enjoying my frustration.
"So you want him to come to your game next week?" Obviously surprised she looks up at me still listening to whoever it is on the phone.
"Oh I can come too? Oh you mean I have no choice in the matter. Oh I see" She nods into the phone enjoying her little chat with I now suspect Chris. "Well if you insist. Oh you do? I don't want to cramp your style you know." Her shoulders are shaking as she's keeping in her laughter.
"Ok next Saturday at 10, we'll be there. Yeah I know where that is." Moms listens quietly for a second and then blinks looking up at me.
"He hung up." She giggles.
"Mom! You didn't give me the phone!"
"So cute!" she squeaks. "It was Chris by the way. He, as you heard, wants us to come and watch his game next week."
"You don't mind?" I ask. I've never been to a baseball game before but cheering the Fallens on seems like fun. I get to see all the Fallens too.
"It's something to disturb our rut." I love my mom
- The Fallen family -
Man I'm always so nervous before a game. Honestly I'm worse than the players!
I sweep my eyes along the stands and am shocked to see Mirren among the spectators, with a woman.
"What are they doing here?" I mumble more to myself than anything else.
"Oh Chris called them last week, demanding they came and cheer for us." Eddy tells me, he should be sitting in the stands with the crows but Eddy isn't one to watch from the side-lines.
"He what!" I spin around.
"Relax I was there Chris was very polite, the mom cracked me up though. Got Chris to sing a song through the phone, one of dads favourites."
"You're kidding!" What a strange pair they make. She wore a black t-shirt with a white bunny and a grenade on it coupled with a pair of torn jeans. A mom rocker chick... who would've guessed? I wouldn't have. They seem so mismatched together, just like they're clothes...
I swear his mother was the loudest supporter the stands. They clearly had no idea how the game was played but it didn't stop them.
"What is that?" Uncle David nudged me during an exceptionally loud outburst.
"Mirren and his mom, friends of ours. Chris made them come to the game."
"Did she take something?" he asked with a worried eye seeing her jumping in up and down in the stands. He probably things she's on crack or the like.
I bet she gets that a lot. "It looks like that is just the way she is." I reply, seeing Mirren completely relaxed and cheering almost as madly as his mother. Which made me sure his mother wasn't acting out of the ordinary. Not more than usual anyway.
Uncle David shrugged and returned his attention to the game. We're up.
"Good for morale I guess." Riveting guy isn't he?
- The Davis family -
Chris's team won but is was a close shave apparently. Not that we had much of a clue what was going on. Mom was having the time of her life and I was happy to see her act goofy like she used to.
The whole family ran towards us after the game. To my dismay Dane stayed in the dug out clearing equipment away. Chris ran up to us surprising my by grabbing my waist and hugging me. Shocked I look up at mom; she just lifts her shoulders and smiles.
"Good game buddy" I said patting his back not really sure what to do.
"We heard you roar!" He released me jumping up and down.
"I think the whole park heard it." Risa said while Lily nods they all look at mom and she blushes.
"Sorry guys I get carried away." She lifts her hands up in defeat.
"You roared like dragon mommy!" Chris bounced.
"What do they call a female dragon, a dragonette?" Edward mused out loud.
"No Dragoness." Risa corrected. Lily shook her head.
"Maybe Dragin?'." Chris added entering the discussion turning to face his siblings. Lily shook her head.
"Probably just Dragon though." Edward continued.
"Or Dragonella, I think I read that somewhere." Risa mused but Lily shook her head.
Chris lights up as a thought struck him. "Draka!" All of them shake their heads at this. Mom and I stare and grin at their interactive discussion.
"Its queen." Lily suddenly speaks up. Silencing the group. "You know like with cats." She looks up at my mom. "What's your name dragon mom?"
Mom smiles down at Lily "It is Cheryl, sweetie." She has a soft spot for little girls.
"Queenie, it is!" Lily states as they all nod their head in unison. 'I'm Lily."
"Edward." They all give Edward a strange look he just shrugs. "I like Edward more than Eddy."
"But you don't sparkle." Lily quips.
Dane is still in the dugout busying himself with whatever it is he's doing. His cap is hiding is face but the jersey is clinging to his body nicely.
Mom and Edward catch my stare and follow my gaze. They turn to smirk at each other instantly a bond is born.
- The Fallen family -
The gang is still grouped around Mirren and his mom. I finished up in the dug out and join them.
"Dane this is the dragons mom Queenie. Queenie this is Dane." Chris introduces us. I hold out my hand and smile as she shakes is clearly enjoying the goings on of the gang.
"Nice to meet you. Dane. I'm Cheryl."
I laugh. "You've already been rechristened I see, I'm afraid you'll never be able to shake that off. Once they latch on to something they tend to not let go." His mom shrugs her stance is lose and nimble.
"I don't mind, a new name is rather exciting." She pats Lily on the head and I cross looks with Eddy. I think I missed something while I was in the dug out.
"Did you enjoy the game?" I direct my question to Mirren; he looks up caught of guard by the attention. Was that a blush?
"Yeah, but honestly we had no idea what was happening most of the time."
"It showed." Risa stated. Lily nodding her head.
"Risa!" I hiss, she was to fare away for me to nudge her.
"What! It was fun, they were always cheering even when we weren't doing well."
"Your dad not here today?" Mirren asks looking around playing field.
"He's gone fishing with a buddy. It has been years since he did, so we made him go today." Eddy informs him.
Chris turns to me. "Dane I'm hungry!"
Damn lunch. I was so focused on the game I forgot Dad wasn't there to have lunch sorted out. I guess my momentary distress was clear on my face.
"You guys like hotdogs?" Queenie lowered his face to level with Chris and the twins. She looked up to me knowing as the eldest I'm in charge.
"Come over to our house. I have everything for hotdogs I just have to stop for stop extra buns." She suppresses a grin and nudged Mirren in the ribs jarring him to respond.
"Yeah. That would great." A smile I hadn't seen before flashed across his face. His demeanour shifted and getting as excited as Chris and the twins were. His eyes were shining bright, I would have agreed to anything at this point.
I notice Queenie and Edward exchange smirks but ignore it as best I can.
- The Davis family -
I stand leaning against the doorframe taking in the scene in front of me. The kitchen is crowed with kids, it's noisy, busy and there is food everywhere. I can't help but smile.The house hasn't felt so alive in years and it's happy for it. Dane comes up next to me and joins me in the doorframe.
"Sorry, the gang can get pretty loud when they're hungry."
I shake my head "Oh I don't mind. I like it." I wasn't going to tell him I have to switch on the radio at night just to get away from the silence. That would sound completely nuts.
There isn't much room in the doorframe for both of us. Our arms almost pressed together. I try not to enjoy his warmth as much as I am.
"You want kids?" he asks quietly
"Yeah. I want a big family, I always have."
I sense I'm being watched and I look up into his light grey eyes staring into mine.
A thrill runs down my back and I visibly shudder at the intensity of his gaze.
"Yes?" I'm grateful to tear my eyes off Dane, my heart can't take much more of this.
"Could you get an extra jar of pickles from the panty?"
"Sure." I rush off to the pantry while I hear Risa yelling for Dane's help.
- Familia -
Edward watches Mirren hurry off and Dane help Risa clean up a mess she made. He's standing next to queenie as she is frying up unions.
"I think your son likes my big brother."
"I think your big brother likes my son."
They were silent for a while as Mirren emerged with the pickles.
"He seems to really like having us here. He didn't not want to leave after the cook out too."
Cheryl looks up at Edward giving him an enquiring look.
"He's lonely." She finally concedes deciding Edward wasn't going to be talked to like a child.
"After his dad left he folded in and shut the world out. But deep down he's a people person I'm sure that is why he chose to be an RN like me."
Edward nodded continuing to watch Dane and Mirren not watch each other's every move.
"He flinches every time the catches the ball."
Cheryl sighed scooping up the fried onions placing them in bowl. Dropping the bacon in the pan next. "He's afraid to get hurt if he really opens up to someone."
"Dane has been taking care for us since mom died. With that and work he thinks he has no time for dating."
"Lets see how it panes out. Maybe some gentle nudging is all they need."
Edwards looks up at Cheryl.
"You're real nice Queenie, you should meet our dad."
"Hey we're playing match maker for Mirren and Dane. No one else." She points her spatula at him. Edward grins scooping up the fried onions taking them the kitchen table, while Cheryl shakes her head smiling at herself.
4: THE GANG, THE CLOTHES & THE DATE
- The Fallen family -
"Dane!" Dad yells from the family room.
I enter to find the whole gang sitting in the official family meeting position. All crammed together on the large red sofa.
"What is going on guys?"
"The gang wants to discuss something. Personally I think it is none of our business..." But there is no saying no to the gang...
"Okayyy." This can't be good. I sit on the only chair strategically placed directly opposite them.
"We want you to date." Risa spoke up, Lily nods.
"We would like you to," Eddy rephrased sensing my reaction. "open up to the fact that dating could be an option."
"Guys come on. This isn't funny."
Dad's silent letting the gang lead the discussion. He's watching my reactions making me nervous. They start to protest my objections.
"Where would I find the time?" It's more an exclamation than a question.
They start to protest again but I raise my hands to silence them.
"Maybe in a few years. When everyone is on his or her feet." Dad scowls at my argument.
"A few years!" Chris yelled utterly horrified.
They all shake their heads, even Dad. Damn...
"Honestly, I'm fine. I don't need to date anyone right now. I'd rather here with you guys."
They all look at me; they know I love them more than I ever let on. I know they're concerned for me. But dating? Really? After a particularly long silence Dad speaks up
"Maybe the gang is right. I've been counting on you too much these past few years..."
"No dad, don't think that. I've never done anything I didn't want to."
"I know but outside of work you're pretty much with the gang full time. You've taken over their care completely and I've let you."
"No Dad!" I raise my voice, I'm angry now. Dad is second-guessing himself. There is no way I'm standing for that. "I never...' But I'm cut short by Lily's soft-spoken voice.
"We want you to date dragon." I stare down at her and sit back down instantly deflated.
"Mirren? Why would you think I'd want to date Mirren?" They all give me an exasperated look even Dad. "Why would you think Mirren is gay and would even want to date me?" Again five faces give me a pointed look.
"We're not blind bro. I mean even Dad noticed there is something there." Eddy sung his arm towards dad, who was nodding in agreement.
"He's lonely." When Lily speaks everyone falls silent. "He's always alone in that big house. Even the house it sad about it."
"Lily, someone like Mirren probably has a lot of friends."
Eddy shakes his head. "Not according to Queenie; she said after his dad up and left them he changed. You're the right gender trust me, she said so."
"I remember that. It was very sudden." Dad chipped in. Go Dad.
"That's why he always flinches when he catches the ball." Chris spoke up.
I nod sighing.
My cell phone startles me. Lily jumps up, grabs is off the table and checks the caller ID. "Its Dragon." I stare at the ringing phone, the gang stares at me and I gulp.
Taking the phone from her hands I answer the call.
- The Davis family -
"Hello, Dane speaking."
Damndamndamn I'm shaking. The stupid phone is shaking in my hands.
"Hey Dane its Mir- er Mirren." Did my voice just crack?
"Hey, what sup?" his voice is soft and soothing I relax a little but not much.
"Hey I need a favour but your really don't have to if you don't want to. I mean you probably don't have time to anyway. You know what I shouldn't have even bothered you. It isn't really important at all. You already have so many things to do and to worry abo-"
"Mirren! Slow down! Breathe." I get cut off mid rant and suck in a big gulp of air. "Good now breathe again and tell me what his favour it."
"Well, Sunday is the annual get together of my dads side of the family. My... my grandparents make us go every year." I explain. Pausing a moment to form a coherent sentence.
"I need new clothes." I blurt out.
"So you need my help?"
"Are you free Saturday?"
"Saturday? Well the twins have bal- he falters mid sentence. - my Saturday just magically cleared."
"Great! Thank you so much."
"I'll pick you at noon?"
"Yeah great. I'll see you then." Click. Damn that hang up was too quick wasn't it?
My cheeks are soar. I haven't smiled this much in ages.
I had been in a good mood all day. The Pick-Your-Own garden I help out at sometimes wasn't too busy and the sun wasn't scorching me. Tonight was movie night with mom and tomorrow I get to spend some quality time with Dane. Alone
I was more excited than I really should be about that. He's my kind of handsome all right; simple with a wicked smile; to me he was nothing but gorgeous inside and out. Sighing I shake my head, I really should bury these feelings before they get out of hand. I've been battling over this all week hardly getting a wink of sleep for my efforts. Something attracted me to the Fallen's, to Dane. Yet I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I could be nothing more than friend looking in from the outside.
I should stay away.
I should but really did't want to.
I relaxed into my chair, no one at the register and no one arriving. A few moments of peace which is somewhat of a rarity here. I love my job though. Its dirty and outdoors but simple and enjoyable. A great contrast to the sterile environment of a clinic.
Mom had to change shifts to be able to attend that stupid family thing Sunday. Another lonesome movie night for me it is.
- Familia -
"Why is almost every one of your t-shirts a Large?"
Mirren shrugged, he was getting a little nervous as Dane riffled through his wardrobe. Dane stopped flipping through the Tees and looked Mirren slowly up and down. Assessing his measurements, Mirren assumed.
He was right of course but Dane was also taking the opportunity to innocuously check Mirren out.
Giving up on Mirren's wardrobe he turned to face him. Mirren's bedroom was large and spacious but gave the impression a schizophrenic lived in it. One side was very neat and orderly. All the clothes, from t-shirt to trousers to socks where perfectly arranged not a thing out of place. His bookcase; large and filled to brim, all ordered and stored according to size and alphabet, not a speck of dust anywhere.
The bed and desk were more or less a complete disaster zone.
The bed contained the largest and most fluffy comforter Dane had ever seen. It seems to have a life of its own sprawled over the large bed like that. How did he not get lost in that thing? His desk was covered with papers and junk. There was a drawing board stuffed in the corner and millions sketches pinned to the walls by his bed.
"You wanna go?" Mirren was anxious to get the shopping trip over and done with. Dane tried not to let that hurt his feelings. The gang had been ecstatic with their "date", but Dane knew this was far from being an actual date. Mirren had sounded desperate on the phone and needed his help that all..
"Yeah lets, I know what I'm dealing with now." They left the house and drove to a strip mall down town. Dane explained he always shopped there and it would speed things up if he knew where to go. They entered a generic store and Dane headed straight for the men section. Within 15 minutes Dane handed Mirren a few long sleeved shirt and several T-shirts to try on.
Mirren took the clothes and slipped into a fitting room without argument.
Dane waited just beyond the curtain watching Mirren's shadow cast on the floor.
"I think the small is a little too tight."
"Can I see?"
To be honest Dane thought it looked fantastic on him. He had the body to pull it off for sure. But Mirren seemed uncomfortable in the tight tee.
"Hmmm" he mused for the theatrics of it."Try the medium." Dane made to exit the cubicle.
"Stay it won't take a sec."
Dane sat down on the small tool in the corner of the cubicle while Mirren peeled off the too tight tee. Dane tried to look away but that was just not going to happen.
Mirren revealed a long smooth torso, nicely toned and slim.
"Short distance runner huh?" Dane mumbled to no one in particular.
"Yeah how'd you know?" Mirren grinned apparently oblivious to Dane's stare.
"You have the body of a sprinter not a marathon runner." Dane answered taking in Mirren's movements has he slipped on the larger size. Dane decided to ignore the nipples as long as he could.
"Hey, this feels really comfortable."
"Looks good too..."
Hell yes! Dane thought but said "Yeah this brand has a good shape in tees for your body." Sighing slightly. "It should be illegal to look that good in blue."
Mirren erupted a serious man giggle at Dane words.
"Very funny, the button down now?"
Dane gulped hard, squirming a little on the stool.
"Yeah try the regular fit first." He pointed to the left shirt of two identical looking shirts. As Mirren shook off the blue tee making Danes heart throb he smiled to himself. This actually was a little fun.
He slipped on the shirt and slowly buttoned it down. The mirror told Mirren that except for the wine red colour it looked pretty much like any other shirt.
Dane stood and gripped the shirt at Mirren's waist bunching up the fabric in his fists.
"This fits you like a barrel, see? It's loose even though it is your size and hides your shape."
"I guess." Mirren couldn't really see it but then again Dane had never been this close to him before. Suddenly the cubicle felt really small.
"Try the other one you'll see the difference." Dane retook his stool in the corner as Mirren quickly switched shirts. "Are the new clothes only for the family get together or are we making a substantial wardrobe change today?"
"Both." Mirren answered fumbling with the buttons. "My aunt always finds fault in my clothes. Personally I don't see what all the fuss is about. Clothes are clothes for Christ's sake. The thing is she isn't discreet about it and blames us for dad leaving. So she using every thing she can to poke at us." Mirren sighed looking in the mirror. "It hurts mom but she doesn't let is show."
This time Dane came up to stand behind him.
"This looks - sexy as hell - very good on you. Do you see the difference?" Dane looked at Mirren's body through the mirror. "This is a slim fit shirt." Dane explained sliding his hands down Mirren's sides there was no excess fabric to bunch up this time. "It accentuates your long torso and gives you more shape." Dane lifted his eyes and captured Mirren's through the mirror. So many emotions circling behind those deep brown eyes tugging at his hearth strings. Right then and there Dane stopped the illusion of resistance, it had been futile from the start. He's known it then too but who's ever honest about their own desires?
He stepped closer wrapping his arms around Mirren's waist.
"Your aunt is crazy if she can't see passed your clothes."
Mirren's mind froze, several things happening all at once. He was very relaxed being held by Dane enjoying the feeling of his arms around his body at the same time being overrun by Dane's scent suddenly enveloping him.
Like a warm blanket soothing, comforting and enticing all at the same time. Mirren closed his eyes to inhale deeper relaxing into Dane's embrace pulling him closer. He smelled like ... lime flowers.
The softly kissing lips on his neck threatened to destabilize his knees.
"I've got you." Dane held him up and slowly pivoting Mirren's hips to face him. "Don't worry, I'll catch you if you fall." He smiled that sly smile Mirren fell for in the grocery store.
This man was bulldozing through all the walls around his heart and it was scaring the shit out of him.
Danes brow puckered in concern lowering his forehead to touch Mirren's
"I promise I won't let go."
Mirren swallowed a sob as tears threatened to well up. He grabbed Dane surprising them both by the force of his kiss.
- The Fallen family -
A few hours later I parked in front of Mirren's house. He's been silent during the car ride staring out of the window. Oh man, I hope he hasn't changed his mind about us now. I know I took a leap of faith there but...
Mirren moved in his seat to face me melting my fears away instantly.
I've never seen his face so calm and relaxed before. His lazy smile had me wrapped around his finger as tightly as his hand was wrapped around mine.
He seemed reluctant to get out of the car. I was reluctant to let him.
"Worried about tomorrow?"
"Yes and no." he smiled. Where's that nervous blushing guy from before, I wonder. "We have some nice cousins but it just mostly feels like mom and I against the world when we're there."
"You're not alone you know." I whisper leaning in watching Mirren's eyes sparkle as he closes the distance between us. A kiss of delicious lips and soft flicker of tongue. A hint of what may come.
"I could really get used to this" He sighed as I caressed his cheek mmm so soft.
"That's the plan, Dragon."
"Not you too!" Mirren rolled his eyes in mock annoyance. "I've never really had a nickname before. My dad used to call me sport but that's about it."
"As long as you're with us you'll never get rid of Dragon."
"As far as nicknames go Dragon isn't so bad I guess. Definitely something I could live with." He giggles, then sighs looking back to his big house. "I should go let you get back to your family."
"Actually I have no plans at all tonight which is a first. Fancy some company?"
Mirren's answering smile leaves no room for doubt.
"I'll just park and check in with Dad. That all right?" Mirren pecks me on the cheek and is out of the car and in the house in a heartbeat.
I park the car and call dad.
"Hey Dad put Eddy on the phone will you? I need a favour."
- The Davis family -
Hours later Dane and I are still huddled in the couch watching our second movie with a fresh bowl of home made popcorn in my lap.
Movie night has never been so comfortable as it was now. Leaning up against Dane's chest I feel his heart beat softly against my back. His arms are around me and all I can do is sigh at the warmth of his embrace. We shake slightly as he chuckles at the actor's antics on screen. I shift my head a little and watch him.
Did I just kiss those lips?
He catches my stare and smiles. Is that smile really for me?
He pulls me closer to him and plants a soft little kiss on my nose. An act so light and intimate I shiver at the touch. Feeling this he pulls the blanket of the back of the couch and spreads is out over us.
I'm about he stop him saying I wasn't cold. But now I'm cocooned in warmness and I feel completely at ease. I feel at home.
Let me know what you think if you have comments, suggestions and/or constructive criticism, comment below or email me. It makes writing here worth while. It really does trust me on this.
I've read through it many times but if I've missed any mistakes I apologize. I try to catch em all! -I've since edited it cause the many mistakes were poking my eyes out!
This is a piece of fiction. My piece of fiction which may not be borrowed, altered, taken or copied without my explicit permission. These stories are registered under my name.