The Birthday Party

A Gods of P B & J Story

I stepped back and admired my handiwork, feeling very pleased with myself for my newly acquired domestic skills. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly Van Gogh worthy, but cake icing wasn’t a science. You could read “Happy Birthday Noah”. Sort of. If you squinted. And knew what you were looking for. Dammit, I knew I should have bought a cake at the store. This is exactly what happens when single mothers try to overcompensate for deadbeat dads who leave their families to chase their dreams to the other side of the country. Needless to say, my life was complicated.

To further complicate things, my BFF/single dad partner in crime/angel of mercy Adam had kissed me on our last kid/adult playtime outing and I had no idea how to process that. Neither of us had spoken about it. I almost thought I had imagined it. But no – I remembered the feeling of the rock-hard pecs under my fingertips, the soft, supple lips and the playful wink just before he trotted off to finish our game of hide-and-go-seek. Nope. Not a dream.

I had desperately wanted to talk to someone, ANYONE, about it. But any of my friends would only have wanted juicy details and turned it into some sordid little event when clearly it was something far more substantial. Right? Oh, I really needed the girls from Sex and the City for a little one-on-one sit down right now. Wait, they wouldn’t do. I needed the girls from . . . where were my representatives from the single moms of America? Why do all the television shows portray single life as a big party? How am I supposed to get advice?

On cue, Adam walked into the kitchen. “How’s the cake? The kids are having a great time but I think they need their sugar fix.” He chuckled as he got closer to the counter. I tried to hip check him but he was too fast. “Does that say “Happy Birthday Noon?” I scoffed at him, taking a knife to the icing. “Of course not. It says Noah. Clearly. Can’t you read?”

My friend Heather came to my rescue. “Adam, can you take these out to the kids?” It was a fresh tray of chips and dip. She could see the relief in my eyes although she didn’t know exactly why. As soon as he was out of the room she was by my side. “Okay, spill. What’s going on with you and Mr. Hottie?”

I looked at her and rolled my eyes, quickly averting them to play with the icing on the cake. “Seriously Heather, Mr. Hottie. You have a nickname?”

“Well, we used to call him Mr. X. But since you’ve become his best friend we decided to go easy on you.” She smiled as she exited the kitchen carrying a pitcher of Kool-Aid. Did they seriously have a nickname for Adam? And did they think he was a hottie? I mean, he was, but was I BFFs with Mr. Hottie? Oh, this was so out of my comfort range.

I went out to assess the kidling situation and saw chaos in my living room. It looked like a grammar school convention had erupted. Adam was in the middle, smiling and playing with all the kids like he was one of them and I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of him. My ex would never act like this around the kids. I loved that Adam could relate to them on their level. Leaning against the door frame I watched him, and thought to myself, “Kim, you’re in serious trouble.” What have the gods of P B & J gotten me into now?

The Lies We Believe

The sadness has returned. That old familiar friend. Uninvited, unwelcome, she sits with me and whispers into my ear about all of my failures and all of my fears. She tells me of the things I cannot do and the things I cannot be simply because I’m me. She smiles her sly smile, knowing I believe her lies. Because I have to believe in something. And she knows it isn’t me.

You Were Right Here

I had such a vivid dream last night. You shifted in your sleep, the bare skin of your thigh brushed against my back side. Your arm snaked around my stomach, pulling me tightly against you. My back against your chest, your groin against my backside. I felt your hand push my blonde tresses aside and your plump lips placed soft, wet kisses along my neck. Your hand moved from my stomach to my hip to the triangle between my legs, causing my breath to hitch in my throat. I reached behind me, running my fingers through your hair, tugging and pulling your mouth closer to mine.

Turning towards you, your hands tangled in my hair. Our mouths fused together, tongues dancing in tune. Rolling, you entered me in one swift, smooth movement. My sharp intake of breath and your groan sounded together. Bodies molded to one another, rising to a crescendo. I clung to you, wrapped myself around you, allowing you to take all of me. We came as one, reaching a peak and crying out loud in perfect harmony. We descended, collapsing together into a pile of contentment. You pulled me against you, arm snaked around my stomach, pulling me tightly against you. My back against your chest, your groin against my backside, and we fell asleep.

I woke and reached for you, only to find your side of the bed empty. My heart fell and I slumped into your pillow, inhaling the last vestiges of your cologne after these long months alone. I remembered you were gone and I sighed, tears slipping from my eyes. The dream was so vivid.

A Long Night

He came up behind me and I felt his warm breath on my neck, his words falling out of his mouth in a slur. “You always thought you were better than me.” His mocking tone was full of contempt that only came out when he drank. Normally sweet and gentle, Paul was harmless until he had a few drinks. Then his insecurities and fears surfaced and he inevitably directed them at me. I stood still, afraid to move or say anything. I never knew what might further agitate him. I had learned the hard way that silence was best.

He circled me, fingers pulling at my french twist until it unraveled and my honey locks spilled against my shoulders. “You and your fancy hair, your fancy dresses, always acting so prim and proper.” He leaned in closer and the sickly sweet smell of bourbon on his breath made my stomach turn. “But we both know the real truth don’t we? We know exactly how far you’d go to get what you want. All the way down to your knees, right baby girl?”  I fought the urge to slap him. His use of humiliation always took me to a dark place and I knew he was pushing me for a reaction so he would have an excuse. I wouldn’t give it to him. I refused to be his punching bag tonight.

Morning Song

The morning sun peeked through the blinds in the window, casting a glow across his stubbled face. Lying on my side next to him, I took advantage of his peaceful slumber to appreciate the sheer beauty of the man. His short, dark hair was tousled and mussed and my fingers ached to reach out and play. Long, dark eyelashes closed together hid his piercing blue eyes, the color of the wild cornflowers that grew in his native Texas home. My eyes trailed down his nose, focusing on the small bump which he had gotten in a long ago fight years before he met me. I had heard the story many times but it never failed to charm me.

Moving my gaze down I rested my attention on his plump, red lips; the cupid’s bow creating a natural pucker even in sleep. I took in a deep breath and marveled at the perfection before me. I couldn’t resist any longer. My finger inched forward and traced along his bottom lip, while I subconsciously bit my own. He stirred, eyes fluttering open slowly. I moved my hand from his lips to his hair and allowed my fingers to weave through the silky strands. “Good morning.” A sly grin crossed his face and his strong arms pulled me against his chest, encircling me in his arms. A deep, soft southern drawl filled my ears. “Mornin’ darlin’,” as I felt those plump lips press against mine.

Hide-And-Seek

A Gods of P B & J Story

Hiding behind a bush, I felt my knee joints stiffen in the crisp late March air. I had somehow gotten roped into an early (annoyingly early) Saturday morning game of hide-and-seek with my children, Noah and Hannah, and my bestie Adam and his daughter Katie. Adam and I had forged a platonic bond since my ex-husband practically disappeared from our lives and Adam stepped in to guide me through the early stages of single parenthood, being a widow himself. The five of us spent a lot of free time together. Which I didn’t generally consider a bad thing. Adam was quite unaware of his attractiveness. All the moms in Noah and Katie’s kindergarten class admired his broad shoulders, his muscular build, his Romanesque features, his perpetually tousled, slightly longish brown hair, his chocolate colored eyes framed by thick, dark lashes. These were things I, of course, had never fallen victim to, being besties and all. I mean – awkward, right?

A cascade of water droplets from an overhanging tree branch rained down on my purple and grey beanie and broke me from my thoughts. “Gotcha mommy. This was so easy. You’re it!” Noah danced around while his animated voice rang out, calling everyone else from their hiding spots. I stood slowly, stretching my groaning muscles. Apparently, every single part of my body was in open rebellion because my first morning cup of coffee was still sitting on the kitchen counter, likely cold and the cream congealed. I silently mourned the loss of caffeine. The gods of peanut butter and jelly were clearly not smiling on me today.

We all gathered around the large oak tree in the middle of the park – base camp. Noah continued his dance, pleased with himself for getting the jump on me. I let him have his victory, telling him what a good hunter he would make. “You know kid, you could be an FBI agent. Track down the bad guys, find their hiding places. You’re a natural.” I playfully ruffled his hair and he beamed a bright smile at me. “Okay, I’m it. Everyone find a place to hide. And this is the last round. Then we go for breakfast.” Cheers erupted from the girls, who were already bored after the first round.

I closed my eyes, leaned into the tree and began to count. “One, two three.” I could hear footsteps scurrying away from me. There was no use in trying to figure out where the sounds led. Without my morning dose of caffeine, my mind was in a fog so concentration was pointless. “Four, five.” I let out a deep sigh and rested my forehead against the tree, wishing I was back in my warm bed, snuggled under the comforter. I loved my kids with all my heart but this single parenting gig was taking its toll. Doing it all, all the time, alone – that wasn’t in my life plan. “Six, seven.” Adam had been kind enough to watch my kids a couple of nights to give me some ‘me time’. Still, it wasn’t so much about having time to myself as having only myself to lean on. Well, except for my bestie. But I couldn’t impose on him forever.

“Eight, nine.” I jumped when I felt strong hands grasp my sides. I turned and, in one smooth movement I found myself encircled in Adam’s arms. “Shhh.” He put his finger to my lips and grinned then bent his head down and softly kissed me. My immediate reaction was to freeze. No wait, wrong game, this was hide-and-seek. Wait, this wasn’t a game. Was he serious? His lips felt warm and soft against mine, pressing gently with no sense of urgency. He was serious. I relaxed into it and my lips parted slightly, allowing the kiss to deepen. I let out a soft moan and felt a crimson blush creep over my face, which thankfully he couldn’t see since he was kissing me. I’m not certain how, but my hands ended up resting against his chest and for just a moment everything in the universe felt right. For just a moment.

“Mommy, you gotta count all the way to ten.” Noah’s voice called out from his hiding spot. Adam and I tried to fight the laughter. He kissed me again. “I’ll go hide. Come find me.” He winked and trotted away. I closed my eyes, silently thanking and cursing the gods of peanut butter and jelly. I wasn’t sure what kind of trouble they had just gotten me into but I was certain I was in for a wild ride.

Heartbroken

Sometimes you get your heart broken by a lover. These are the times we struggle within; was it something I said – didn’t say, was it the way I looked or the way I smelled? Sometimes we come up with the most outrageous notions just to ease our minds and blame ourselves when really – maybe it wasn’t our fault at all.

Then there are the times we get our heart broken by a friend. I learned very early on not to put my trust in friends just for this reason. If I held them at a distance they couldn’t hurt me as much. But I recently let one too close. Why? Isn’t that the 64 million dollar question. She seemed trustworthy, she seemed interested, she seemed different than everyone else, like she didn’t have an agenda, like she truly cared about me. To my credit I didn’t let her all the way in – I never do. But just enough to break a piece of heart big enough to matter.

She won’t read this, she doesn’t read my work. If she did I wonder if it would even affect her. Our last conversation I told her I needed some time alone and she didn’t even ask what was wrong. If she did maybe she would know how to fix it. And maybe that’s my fault after all.

Sisters

“I know you are but what am I?” My voice echoed my older sisters’ in a copycat singsong as I stuck my tongue out at her and disappeared around the corner to hide from her. We were staying at my parent’s house for Thanksgiving weekend and our inner children had come out to play. I heard my mom call out from the kitchen where she was pulling plastic dishes of leftovers out of the refrigerator for dinner.

“Girls, behave. I can’t believe you’re acting this way. You’re grown women.” The rest of her words were garbled as she stuck her head inside the fridge, most likely looking for the sweet potato casserole my father had finished at breakfast. He could never resist it, even in the morning.

I ducked into my bedroom and flopped onto my bed, looking around with a bit of nostalgia. My mother had left everything the same as the day I left for college six years earlier. The posters on the walls had faded, the boys in them were now forgotten, replaced by newer, younger models and revered by girls who didn’t know better and had no worries, at least as far as I was concerned. Sometimes I wished I could go back in time.

Jillian finally found me, peeking her head around the corner. “What’s the matter, you’re not gonna get all grown up on me now are you?” She nudged me over and laid on the twin-sized bed next to me, both of us squished together hanging on for dear life.

We both stared at the poster on the ceiling above the bed, very strategically placed, and I asked her, “Do you remember the time when all the tires on Danny Smith’s car went flat during the homecoming football game?” I bent my head towards hers so they were touching.

“Yeah, who could forget. The quarterback’s car got punked in the middle of a crowded parking lot during the biggest game of the year. It was legendary. I wish I knew who did it. Danny dumped me right before homecoming. Whoever let the air out of his tires was a hero to me.”

I turned to look at her and smiled. She sat straight upright. “YOU? You did that? Cara, why didn’t you tell me?” Her eyes started to get teary.

“I was afraid you would start bragging to everyone and I’d get in trouble. But nobody messes with my big sister. Not even the star quarterback. Especially the star quarterback.” I grinned at Jillian just as she pulled me up into her arms and squeezed me tight.

“Care-Bear, I love you.”

“Right back at you Jilly Bean.”

Endless Love

Meet me under the sycamore tree
We’ll find the initials we carved so many years ago.
I’ll let you hold my hand
While we sit and gaze at the stars.
When I see a shooting star
I’ll make a wish that probably won’t come true
Because they never do.
When the crickets chirp their nighttime symphony
I’ll let you kiss me.
Just like you used to.

But better.

Today

Today I thought about you again. I told myself I wouldn’t but I did. I think, I hope every day I will think of you less than the day before. It’s the grand lie I tell myself to get through the day. To get myself out of bed. To make me function. Because if I give you the power to be more than you are then who am I? People may disagree with my logic and say it doesn’t make sense. My logic is actually illogical. In my head I know it is. But my heart, oh my heart is the grand liar. My heart tells me that you’re the same person you were a year ago when I still loved you. And that’s the biggest lie of all.

Justification

Just for now let’s pretend that it didn’t happen.
We’ll pretend we’re both good people.
We did the right things for the right reasons.
And nobody got hurt, at least that’s what we’ll tell ourselves.
And if our conscience tries to interject – hit it off at the pass.
We did what we had to do to survive.
We did the right things for the right reasons.
And nobody got hurt.

Let’s Play Ball

Daily Prompt – Hike

I sat in the bleachers, laptop perched on my knees, finalizing some paperwork for my client. As a sports agent, and the child of a major league baseball player, I was a natural for the job. The only problem – I was a female in a male dominated world so I had trouble being taken seriously. I looked up at my pitcher on the mound. He was giving a final pre-draft workout. “Great job Ryan!” I clapped my hands in support as he tipped his ball cap at me.

I had focused back on my laptop when I heard a commotion on the field. Ryan was arguing with the coaches at home plate as the catcher walked to the dugout. I quickly made my way down to the field.

“What seems to be the problem gentlemen?” I looked at the men around me, their eyes boring down on me, scowls on their faces intended to intimidate me. “Our catcher’s got a cramp. Can’t get down in a squat. Sorry, Jessie, we’ll have to cut the tryout short. I’m sure everyone got a good enough look at your guy.” Like hell. He had only been on the mound for fifteen minutes. This had nothing to do with my client and everything to do with his female agent.

I stood firm and crossed my hands in front of my chest. “Then get another catcher. You’re a baseball club, I know you have more than one catcher.” I could see by the looks on their faces they were formulating the next lie to stall me and prevent Ryan from throwing anymore today. I wasn’t going to let that happen. “Never mind.” I said, grabbing a catcher’s mitt and pulling on a chest protector. “You can’t do that Jessie.” I turned to them with a determined look on my face. “Watch me.”  I strode to home plate, kicked off my heels, hiked up my skirt and squatted behind the plate. “Okay Ryan, lemme see the curve.”

Sin on a Bun

Daily Prompt – Sandwich

I walked in the back door and dropped my shopping bags on the floor. Kim and I had spent most of the day at the mall and I was exhausted and starving. “Jack, I’m home.” Silence. He hadn’t said anything about going out. I walked into the kitchen and saw it, sitting on the middle of the kitchen island. The sandwich. Circling the island slowly, eyes locked on the heavenly looking snack, I took a deep inhale and closed my eyes, savoring the aroma.

He had shaved the leftover smoked Virginia ham from our dinner the night before and added thinly sliced sweet Vidalia onions, pan-seared long enough to soften and caramelize them to heighten their sweet flavor, then tangy bread and butter pickles, freshly preserved by my mother over the summer just like Granny used to make when I was a child, a hint of Dijon mustard with a slight bite, all on a freshly baked Kaiser roll from my favorite neighborhood bakery.

The sandwich looked absolutely sinful. My stomach growled, a painful reminder that I had skipped breakfast. It was obvious he had put a lot of effort into this masterpiece. “Jackson. You home?” My words echoed through the silent house. Bending down to eye level I stared at the sandwich and weighed my options.

He walked into the kitchen carrying a six-pack and caught me with the last bite in my hand, crumbs on my lips, an orgasmic look on my face and a guilty expression. I could hear the disappointment in his voice. “I forgot the beer.”

Final Goodbye

Daily Prompt – Sidewalk

The city of lights. Paris in spring was our favorite time. Strolling arm in arm along the Seine. Sipping cappuccino at a sidewalk café. Spending hours perusing the finest art in the world. And the romantic nights when the city came to life with light and love. Paris without you is just a maze of streets. It’s lost the romantic mood of days past. The Eiffel Tower is just a hunk of metal. The Arc de Triomphe is just a piece of concrete. Even Mona Lisa’s smile mocks me.  I sip the last of my Sancerre from the stemmed glass and take a final look around our favorite restaurant. A single tear escapes and slides down my cheek, but I don’t bother wiping it away. I step out onto the sidewalk and pull my scarf tighter around my neck, bracing myself against the chilly winter air. It seems fitting leaving you behind now, when everything is dead, before spring arrives with the promise of a new day.