Ah kids. No matter where you are with them, they always manage to steal the show or, in my case as an author, the book. Being a mother and grandmother, I have a lot of experience with this phenomenon. Yet still marvel at how the little ones always seem to get the last word.
As a child, my daughter was enamored with dolls – super heroine dolls – thank you very much. One day she prepared to transform into a powerful warrior princess. “Where I will right all the wrongs in the universe.” That was when she glanced over at me to proclaim, “And you can be my horse.”
Similarly, my granddaughter loved to play dress-up. There was one time in particular, shortly after her grandfather—horror of horrors—had told her no about one thing or another.
With the skirt of her princess dress fluttering around her, she swooped down the stairs with a pink plastic wand in hand, ready to make her imperial proclamations. “Today we are going to play royalty. Grandma, you are the Queen, I will be the princess and…Grandpa is a frog.” She wielded the wand his way once, then again. “He’s a big frog.”
Another time, granddaughter and I waited in the car one afternoon when a man came by with a well-groomed poodle on a leash. The perfect opportunity for a learning experience. One that turned out to be mine and left me speechless.
Me: “Oh look at the beautiful dog. It’s a poodle.”She: “How do you know that?”
Me: “Because I know dogs.”
She: “What’s his name?”
Me: “I have no idea.”
She – With a brief sniff: “Seems if you know dogs, you’d know his name.”
In Night Stars and Mourning Doves, my Dearly Beloved novel from The Wild Rose Press, widower Eric Matthews gets the same treatment from young son, Jay and some of his new friends when they attend an ice cream social at nursery school.
As some other children scampered into chairs along both sides of the table Jay and Allie chose, her student’s father sat down at one end. Elyse took her seat opposite then bit her lower lip to stifle a laugh. The chair he battled to get into must have been five times smaller than he was. Pushed back from the table edge with his legs sprawled to one side he managed to settle into position.
“You could trade for a regular sized folding chair.” She couldn’t help it when the corners of her mouth curved upward. “We have a few of those along the wall.”
“I’m good.” He grunted as he scrunched down on the tiny piece of molded plastic with one hand placed on the ground for balance. “That is as long as this one will hold my weight.”
Elyse smiled again then, despite her best efforts, a small chuckle escaped. “I’m sorry.” She brought two fingers to her lips and cleared her throat. “Are you sure you’re comfortable?”
“I wouldn’t go that far. But I’ll be okay.”
Those blue eyes sparkled back at her and she laughed out loud. “You’re a real trooper, Mr. Matthews. I like that in a ma—parent.” Parent, her student’s father. She needed to remember that fact when she referred to this man. She shook her head and shrugged. And not even man. This person, her sister’s soon to be brother-in-law whose child attended her school.
“I appreciate the compliment, Miss Elyse.”
She pulled out of her thoughts in time to catch the impish wink sent her way.
“The guest of honor is here.”
As someone made the announcement, Elyse quickly tore her eyes away from his and stood. “Everyone. We’re here today to celebrate Miss Diane’s very special accomplishment.” She went on to explain, in language the children would understand too, what that accomplishment was. “So let’s give her a round of applause,” she said and was pleased when the audience immediately complied.
Jay took the lead when the clapping stopped. “Daddy, Allie and I will have chocolate sauce and sprinkles on our ice cream.”
Eric reached for the syrup bottle. “Use your manners.”
The boy rolled his eyes then smiled at the little girl beside him. “Please.”
Elyse picked up the bowl of multi-colored candy dots then turned to the other two children who sat with them. “Would you like chocolate sauce too? We also have strawberry.”
“Chocolate, please,” they replied with paper bowls lifted.
While Eric squirted on the requested topping, she added sprinkles then passed out plastic spoons.
Stretching forward, she placed one in Eric’s opened palm then allowed her fingers to linger. Warm flesh closed briefly over hers as if in answer to a question she hadn’t asked.
It took her a moment to let go. “As soon as we finish here,” she straightened and coughed. “Miss Carrie is going to read everyone a special story.”
“On the cozy red reading rug,” Eric added and set his hand back on the table.
“Allie got more sprinkles than me.”
At the complaint from her right, Elyse picked up the container. “I don’t think so. But here are a few more.”
“I could use another shot on mine.” The comment came from the other side of the table.
With a leg now extended on each side of his chair, the man faced her straight on, pulling her in. Even with a solid table and four children between them, out of the blue remnants of her usual panic began to surface. With strict and sudden concentration, she forced her breathing to slow, her hands to steady but bobbled the container before she could get it under control. “Here you go.”
“You’re welcome.” When she looked up, his focus had been diverted by Allie.
“You’re welcome.” When she looked up, his focus had been diverted by Allie.
“Where does Jay come from?” she was asking.
Elyse forced her attention off him only to have it snap back again when he spoke. “We come from a small town north of here. About five hours away.”
No child that age would understand those concepts.
Elyse decided to help him out. “You’d have to get in the car and ride for a very long time, even stop for lunch before you get there.”
“I already told her that,” Jay piped in, his voice reflecting a four year-old’s tolerance for the efforts of his elders. “At the very first. Allie just got a new baby brother—”
Eric shot Elyse a look of sheer terror. “Well, I—”
Ready to leap to his aid, she purposely closed her mouth.
“Yeah, where? Where do we come from? Where do we come from?” one of their young table mates joined in and started the rest in the chant.
This father in charge stared at the tabletop first then slid his gaze to the floor as he proceeded to flush eight shades of crimson. From the opened collar of his sport shirt to the edge of his hair line and back again.
“Babies are born out of love,” he blurted after a moment and the chanting ceased.
“But how?” one youngster persisted.
Folding her arms on the table, Elyse would have commiserated with his plight, if she hadn’t been so charmed by his boyish discomfort. And she certainly had no intention of coming to his rescue again. She was having way too much fun as an observer.
He coughed into the crease of his elbow, then rested his hands in front of him as he shot her a wary glance.
His gaze swept along one side of the table then the other. “You all came about, we all came about because two people, our mommies and daddies decided they wanted us to be here. Very much.”
At the emotion in his voice, her heart squeezed so hard it took a moment before she could breathe, let alone find enough voice to respond. The gaze she lifted was met with a surprising ration of warmth from his. With enough heat left over to wrap around her like a sweet and tender blanket.
Oh, Eric. What a beautiful thing to say.
Hands clasped together, she blinked away intrusive tears. “That’s a very nice way to see things, Mr. Matthews.”
Luckily, her mind intervened before she spoke from her heart.
Elyse Monroe may be her sister's maid of honor, but that doesn't mean she has to follow the bride's example and fall in love. Battle-scarred and weary from previous relationships, she has no desire to take a chance on another--no matter how many hints her little sister drops about the best man. Devastating life events have taken a toll on Eric Matthews. After losing his wife and unborn daughter, he's come home to heal. Serving as best man at his kid brother's wedding is the only relationship he cares to contemplate--no matter how attractive the maid of honor. Thrown together again and again by wedding duties, Elyse and Eric reluctantly agree to explore a possible relationship--only to have their casual date turn into a glorious night of passion. Can two hearts, convinced a happily ever after will never happen, recognize love when it finds them?
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