Sunday, May 18, 2014

Gabe Chapter 3

Friday evening Gabe came home from shooting early. He picked up a pizza on his way. Half pepperoni and mushroom, Sean's favorite, and half the works minus the fungus as he called them. What was mom thinking introducing Sean to such a disgusting food? They sat on the brown leather couch with the pizza balanced on the wooden coffee table in front of them and soda's on each side of the box. They made it their normal Friday night tradition, especially when Gabe was gone so much of the week at work.
The hours of working on a tv show do not usually lend themselves well to full time parenting. Early mornings and late nights can be standard. Gabe left before Sean awoke and usually got home in time for dinner, but sometimes had to leave again for events or promotions. With so many activities each evening, the weekends were their time to hang out and catch up. Sean shared all his adventures throughout the week, including his visit to Chris' house and his mom who made the best zucchini bread cookies he had ever tasted. Gabe teased him, “exactly how many zucchini bread cookies have you ever had before?” but Sean laughed back that he had tasted plenty of zucchini bread and these cookies were better than anything!
Gabe felt happy his son was able to get together with his new friend, as well as the other friends he had in the neighborhood on the other afternoons. He worried about Sean while he worked and very much appreciated that Rose cared for him so well. She never missed a beat and loved him as much as moms do. He didn't know what he would do without her.
They were deciding on a movie when Sean blurted out he wanted Chris and his mom to come over on Sunday and hang out. “They have church in the morning, but can come over in the afternoon. If it's ok with you?” Sean questioned his father with light green eyes begging puppy dog style. “I really like him and I want you to meet his mom. She's really cool and even took us to the park and told us we weren't allowed to come home until we were good and worn out, preferably dirty like boys should be. She's really funny.”
Gabe thought about it for a minute and couldn't think of any plans they had on Sunday. “Why don't we do a barbeque,” he offered. “They can come and swim and we'll make dinner before they have to go home in the evening. Sound alright?”
He took Sean's enthusiastic bounce and huge smile as a “Yes” and started planning in his head what food they should serve and anything they would need to plan before then. “Why don't you go call Chris right now before we start another movie?” Sean grabbed the phone; Chris' number appeared in the contacts, and dialed anxious to get the plans approved.
Anna sat at her desk putting the finishing touches on a pair of light gray dress pants. She stopped and stretched her arms over her head. Her back popped like pop corn as she pushed her shoulders back after several hours working on this latest sewing order. The cell phone rang and Chris brought it to her. She often received business calls and he had never been allowed to answer it. She briefly considered he was now old enough to answer even a business call politely and properly and she should tell him it was ok, but for now she just pushed the green button and said hello.
The caller, Sean Josephs, energetically extended an invitation for them to come over on Sunday, “Could you come over and swim on Sunday? My dad said we could barbeque steaks and have dinner if you guys come over. Please say yes.”
She relayed this information to Chris who waited patiently for her to answer. “I think that should be fine,” she said finally and then Chris shouted excitedly; Sean responded similarly in her ear through the phone. He told her to wait for a second so she could talk to his dad.
Anna heard a shuffling as Sean handed the phone to his dad. Gabe Josephs’ deep voice answered “Hello.” She couldn't be certain it was him, but he sounded like he might be the actor, she would just have to wait until Sunday to know for sure. He outlined a plan of swimming and grilling, steaks, salad and dip and chips for dinner. “Make sure to bring your suits and your appetites and leave the rest to me,” Gabe insisted.
Anna told him they would arrive about two and could stay for dinner but she has an early day on Monday and couldn't stay too late. With the plans solidified, Gabe said goodbye, but Anna hung up without saying anything. He dismissed it thinking maybe she accidentally hit the button too soon or maybe she just didn't really have a habit of saying goodbye. He had met a few people like that in the business, people who felt they didn't have time for all the pleasantries. It wouldn't have anything to do with him since he hadn't even met the woman before. But based on Chris' description of her, he wouldn't have expected it. Oh well, I guess 12 year olds don't have the best perspectives on their mothers.
Anna heard him say good bye. About to respond, she thought of Rose and his attitude. She tried to say good bye but choked instead and the phone slipped from her hand. She grabbed for it to try again but as her fingers landed on the phone she brushed the red button ending the call. Anna debated for a minute calling him back and apologizing for the rude hang up, but would that just draw more attention to it? He probably didn't care at all what she said anyway. A man like that isn't likely to think highly of me anyway. Then, Anna noticed the time. She should have made dinner an hour ago, Chris was probably starving by now.

Sunday brought a lazy morning. Gabe and Sean sometimes attended services in the morning, so breakfast was a large event of bacon, pancakes, hash browns, fruit, and eggs. So full they could barely walk, the two of them dressed in church clothes and headed out the door. Gabe did not claim to be particularly religious but Sean enjoyed his Bible study classes and spending the time with his friends. Gabe decided it was a better place for his son to be than sitting at home playing video games and so it slowly became a habit.
When they arrived home, Gabe checked the cleanliness of Sean's room, then, sat around, feeling uncharacteristically impatient. The steaks marinated, the macaroni salad prepared, and bean dip was ready to go. He reached for the remote and tried to relax watching the Dodgers losing to the Giants while Sean ran around outside with the dogs.
After meetings at church Anna and Chris stayed for a few minutes to talk with a few friends, but Chris practically yanked her arm out of the socket in his enthusiasm to leave and get to Sean's house. He was normally more reserved in front of crowds of people and Anna wondered what had gotten into her son. They drove home changed out of their nice clothes and into something more comfortable. Chris already wore his swim trunks, but she made him bring dry clothes as well, just in case. She grabbed some tuna sandwiches, she prepared earlier in the morning, out of the fridge, a couple bottles of juice and an apple for her and an orange for Chris. They climbed back in the car and headed north toward Santa Monica.
Anna remembered the way. It had only been a few days since she had been here, but the beauty of the view and the breath taking houses lining the streets weaving up the mountainside once again stunned her. Each house seemed to have its own style, but the eclectic neighborhood blended well together. Finally they pulled into the Joseph’s driveway and turned off the car. Chris jumped out, but Anna sat there for a moment steeling herself to face a man she did not respect and figured she probably wouldn't like.
She called Chris back from the porch to the car to grab the sunscreen and his towel while she slowly extricated herself. The normally slow Chris beat her to the door. He waved his hand at her to hurry and when she reached the porch, he rang the bell.
The doorbell toned and Gabe jumped up to answer it. “Sean, they're here,” Gabe called to his son lost somewhere on the hill below their house that makes up their backyard.
As he opened the door he met two sets of the bluest eyes. Chris he knew well, but Gabe felt completely off guard by the lovely woman standing in front of him. She wasn't actually gorgeous by Hollywood standards. She wouldn't have been cast for anything based on her looks, but Gabe froze mesmerized by her girl next door appearance.
She heard Gabe call to Sean that they had arrived and she felt each heart beat as he turned the handle and opened the door. Each beat spelled impending dread until the door fully opened and she met Gabe Josephs face to face. She prepared herself to dislike him. She was not prepared, though, to meet the stare of his deep brown eyes. She recognized him, but hadn't seen him in anything in several years. The few gray hairs and deep laugh lines around his eyes only improved his appeal. She couldn't speak and seemed to need every bit of energy just to keep breathing. They stood there silently looking at each other until she squeaked out “Hello” and they were saved from saying more by Sean arriving to grab Chris and pull him inside. Sean energetically led him running through the house outside to the yard to finish whatever exciting adventure Sean had started before they arrived.
Gabe stepped aside, still not having said anything, but with a broad swing of his arm ushered her inside. From behind her Gabe said, “I'm glad you could make it today. Chris has told us so much about you when we were at camp, I feel like I know you a little already.” Ok, small talk, I can do this.
Why do I feel so nervous?
“Chris said he really had a great time with you guys at camp and really enjoyed Sean spending the day with us this week.” Anna smiled, just to be polite, then her hair fell slightly across her face. Why do I always appear so unpolished when I'm trying to be stoic? She brushed the strand behind her ear and willed it to stay put for once. They stood there silent for a moment while Gabe struggled to think of something to say.
What is wrong with me, I usually can't shut myself up? Gabe thought to himself. “I planned to barbeque steaks for dinner. Have you already eaten lunch?” Anna nodded slightly, trying desperately to ignore the electricity shooting up her spine when he spoke to her. They stood there silent for a moment. Oh, this afternoon is going to take forever. What am I possibly going to here for six whole hours?
In an effort to distract herself, she started looking around the house for something to talk about or some small interruption. Rose! “Is Rose here?” Anna asked carefully avoiding looking at him. She couldn't think if she looked in his dark brown eyes again.
“No, she had other plans today,” Gabe answered tentatively. Is she uncomfortable? I need to figure out something to get this conversation started.
Why would Rose make other plans when she knew we were coming? Did Gabe not want her here for some reason?
Her caution flag rose and she started to imagine the worst possible reasons for Rose's disappearance. Anna suddenly became very aware they were alone in the house and she had no idea how far away the boys were. “Do you want to go out and find the boys? They are probably running down the hill with the dogs,” Gabe offered.
As she stepped onto the patio she saw an old picture in a carved cherry wood frame hung on the exterior wall. Sean dressed in his cub scout uniform held a florescent green pine wood derby car in front of his dad's smiling face. Anna noticed a large cut across Gabe's jaw and a scrape like road rash on his cheek. But Gabe still smiled. Was he really happy to spend time with his son or is he just that good an actor?
“That was a great day,” Gabe began sharing the story of how the first kit they bought had been destroyed. Sean ran around chasing the two dogs, took a corner too quickly and bumped Gabe's leg. The wooden block jumped and the saw chopped it in half. Sean had drawn out an intricate design on the car and felt devastated because it was ruined. An 8 year old boy doesn't consider whether or not his car will run well or if it is even possible to cut it that way. Many times derby cars are actually a competition between the dads and who can create the greatest, coolest, and fastest car. But Gabe wanted to let Sean have his dream car.
Once the first one died, Gabe and Sean headed to the scout store to pick up another. “What is a dad to do but run down to the nearest scout store and pick up another one?” Gabe shrugged. “He had to redraw what he wanted for the car, but it wasn't too much hassle once we got another one.”
Even if he is a jerk to his wife, he loves his son; that is clear. Anna smiled at him in spite of herself.
At the scout store the clerk recognized him and asked him for a picture and autograph. He signed a slip of paper, but really didn't have time to wait while the guy dug his phone out of the back room and found someone to take a photo of them. Sean became impatient, as 8 year old boys often are when they are bored and started pulling him one direction while the man tried to get him to stay.
Anna smiled at the picture he painted and laughed as he demonstrated the employee on one arm wanting a photo and Sean on the other pulling him out the door. He threw himself left and right, as though a human rope in a small tug of war, until both parties released him and he fell face first out the door onto the parking lot gravel.
“I have a scar. See?” He showed her a thick white line extending from just below his jaw to the center of his chin. Anna had the overwhelming urge to run her finger along it. Instead she grabbed hold of a patio chair. She breathed deeply to take her focus away from his face.
“The new car, prepared and painted, was ready to go that evening. It came in second to last in every race it entered,” he added with a laugh. “Add to that the ugly scab crusted on my face that opened and bled every time I smiled. I had miserable pain the whole evening. My face felt on fire,” Gabe finished his story.
“But you look so happy here. You're completely smiling,” Anna pointed out.
“It's what you do for your child. Sean needed me, so I smiled,” Gabe said softly.
Once again her heart started racing. It's comments like those that make me believe he might be a nice guy. Sean is such a great kid, can Gabe be as bad as I have made him out to be?
Anna looked at him quizzically and smiled, for real this time. Encouraged, he launched into a narrative of the following year when they decided to try rocket ship races instead of a derby. The plastic hanging attachment kept splitting the rockets and Gabe ended up giving away the last kit to one of the boys who couldn't afford to buy another one. The end result was Sean didn't have a rocket, so Gabe took an old derby kit, glued wings to the sides and fashioned a screw and paperclip to the top and showed up to race. He left off the wheels, although it might have been a funnier rocket ship with them on. He hadn't had time to cut it or shape it to cut down on wind resistance and feared it would be very slow. Luckily, the weight of the wooden block, plus the wings, and screw, plunged it down the wire at light speed and Sean won every race that year. He transformed into the happiest 9 year old on the planet.
“I have a picture of that night tucked away somewhere I am sure,” Gabe laughed thinking about the goofy things he's done over the years for his son, while she looked around for other pictures. On the other side of the kitchen window hung a metal sculpture of an adult turtle followed by a baby turtle. Anna had similar stickers in the back window of her car. She actually had 6 turtles total, two large ones and four small and once upon a time she had hoped to have the need to install all of them to represent a larger family, but the two turtles still swim together as she looks out her rear view mirror.
Anna launched into similarly comical attempts at doing things for Chris. Now that she had relaxed it felt so easy to talk to him. He laughed in all the right places and she kept looking to see the dimple in his right cheek when he smiled. Gabe, intrigued by her, began to wonder how difficult it must be to raise a son by herself. All the boy activities came naturally to him, but she would have to make an effort to take Chris camping, play sports, and do all the crazy things a boy wanted to do. Has she always been interested in trains and ninja turtles or did she become involved in all that because she raised a boy on her own?
Soon, two hours had passed. From time to time they heard the boys running somewhere down below, shouts and cheers floated up to the patio, but as yet they hadn't seen any sign of them. Gabe assured her they were fine. “There isn't anything down there that can hurt them. They are probably in the tree house in the avocado tree, or the fort Sean thinks I don't know about that he is fashioning under the lemon tree.”
Gabe raised his eye brows as he mentioned the hideaway and Anna tried not to smile but it just escaped as a smirk. He keeps up with his son and cares enough to know what he's up to even when he doesn't know his dad is watching. That's a good parent. She wanted to run down and see the tree house. Was it something they had done together or did Gabe just pay someone to come and build it?
Gabe walked over to the fence and called down the hill asking the boys to come up so they could all go swimming. The two dogs made it up the hill first and Gabe laughed at his pets who obviously heard the word “swimming” and took off running up the stairs. A beautiful black lab bounded from behind a bush at the edge of the patio, his tongue hanging out. Gabe threw a toy in the pool and the dog reacted by jumping in after it. A blond lab slipped past Anna and without waiting dove into the water too.
“Meet Torti and Sunshine. Torti is the black boy, short for tortuga. You can see why by the way he swims. Sean named our only girl sunshine because we found her wandering around the property we rented last year in Hawaii. The only sunny day our entire visit, we managed to coax her to come to us. She's still barely more than a puppy.” Gabe, clearly proud of his dogs, bent down over the side of the pool to rub Torti's head. “I think dogs are important for any family, especially with kids,” he added.
A little out of breath, their faces streaked with sweat and dust, Sean and Chris surfaced excited and ready to jump in the water. Sean sprang at the pool and Gabe, with quick reflexes, grabbed his son around the middle. They swung in a circle bringing Sean back onto the cement.
“Head to the shower first. I don't want the filter clogged with all the dirt in Santa Monica you've managed to collect and bring up with you,” Gabe chuckled and raised his bare foot at his son. Anna panicked for a second thinking he would really kick him, but a second later he aimed a soft kick at his son’s backside that barely brushed him as he walked away toward the outdoor shower beside the back door.
Chris, you get to wash off next, you're just as filthy as Sean is,” Gabe rubbed the top of Chris' head and then pretended contamination, before wiping his hand on his jeans leaving a dark streak on his thigh. Anna laughed at the act and nodded to Chris when he turned to ask if he really had to do what Gabe said. “Go on, the pool will still be here when you get back,” Anna winked at Chris and motioned to the shower.
“Do you have your suit on already or do you need to change?” he asked Anna as he stripped off his jeans to reveal orange and yellow swim trunks.
“I need to change,” she responded and he walked with her to show her the bathroom. He indicated the guest room next door where she could leave her clothes and things.
She turned into the bathroom and had almost shut the door when he returned outside. Sean and Chris who were waiting desperately on the edge of the pool yelled “They're back, cannon ball,” followed a large splash shooting water into the air and all over Gabe. Gabe stripped off his shirt and dove in after them. She smiled again, boys will be boys and closed the door for some privacy.
Alone in the bathroom, she looked in the mirror, her hair had escaped the pony tail in puffy clumps. Most of her mascara had rubbed off from dabbing her eyes as she laughed earlier. Staring herself in the mirror, she realized she was, in fact, attracted to Gabe, but the next second she steeled herself. He is a good looking man and a good father but she couldn't erase what Rose had said.
Besides, attraction or not, a man this famous would never be interested in me. Why do I even care? That's it, she told herself, he's a married man and here and now she needed to stick him permanently in the friend zone, if that.
She changed into her suit and slipped a pair of dark blue cotton shorts on over the suit bottoms. Not as skinny or toned as she would have wished, she worked out several times a week and was getting stronger. She still needed the shorts to cover her well endowed rear end. She definitely wasn't the model thin type Gabe probably saw every day on the set. “Friend Zone!” she actually said out loud in a shouted whisper so no one else heard her talking to herself.
Gabe splashed around and dunked the boys when he looked up to see Anna standing in the doorway. Her turquoise suit brought out a glow in her face, but she still wore shorts over her suit. She tried to decide if she would join in, sit on the side, or occupy the lounge chair. One glance at Gabe with his shirt off, well toned and naturally tan skin, and she decided the farther away she remained the safer and better for all of them. The dogs were right in the middle of the melee, offering barks to the noisy play.
For 15 minutes she just sat there while Gabe periodically glanced over at her hoping she would get in the pool too. “Maybe we should go get your mom and pull her in,” Gabe suggested to Chris with a sideways look and a smirk. Chris wholeheartedly agreed and all three of them jumped out of the pool and ran to Anna. Her face suddenly paled. The boys each grabbed an arm to pull her in, but she panicked when Gabe just scooped her up and carried her over to the edge. “You can swim right?” he asked Anna seriously over her increasingly louder protests.
Before she could answer Chris chimed in, “She can swim,” giggling at his mom's predicament.
Move over sunshine,” Sean call to the yellow lab as Gabe jumped into the deep end throwing her away from him so they didn't crash together as they entered the water. They sputtered to the surface.
Anna, a good swimmer, easily made her way underwater back to where Gabe tread water, determined to get her revenge. She immediately threw her hands on his head to dunk him. Taking a cue from the adults, Sean and Chris jumped back in the pool attacking Gabe as well. A few minutes later, Anna took the opportunity to disappear and swam along the bottom to the other side of the pool, leaving the boys to continue what she started. After several minutes of trying to drown Gabe, Chris dared Sean to a diving competition. First one dove then the other, followed by a remarkable front flip by Gabe. After a few turns each, Chris dove in and swam to where his mom hung on the edge of the pool.
“Mom, it's your turn. We've all dived in several times and you haven't done it even once. Common on, you gotta,” He coaxed.
She swam over to the metal ladder and grabbed hold of the rungs. In a swift motion, she pulled herself up and out of the water but her shorts weighted with pool water slipped off her hips and down around her ankles exposing the whitest legs Gabe had ever seen. She yelled in dismay and grabbed for the treacherous piece of clothing that had abandoned her when she most needed it. Her face blushed bright red as she realized she had not only exposed her glowing white thighs, but she had fallen backside first back into the pool.
“Mom, that was the worst dive I've ever seen,” Chris teased her when she surfaced, then he offered to fetch her shorts which had sunk to the bottom. Chris and Sean both raced to the bottom of the pool, and Chris came up with the dark blue fabric in his hand. Anna slipped the shorts back on and headed to the shallow end this time so she could exit while holding them up and not risk exposure again.
As she walked around the cement pathway surrounding the pool, she shook her head in embarrassment. The pink humiliated tint to her cheeks reflected in the sun. She stood on the edge of the diving board staring them down. What can I possibly do to show off a little? She wanted to impress the boys and make up for the obvious lack of coordination she had shown a few minutes earlier. Besides it’s always a little fun to show them just how not-old I really am.
She nodded her head when she had finally decided, her mouth curved on one side into a mischievous grin. I might be crazy, but I'm going to try it. No guts no glory. She turned to face away from them with her back to the water. She waited momentarily trying to get up her nerve. She swung her arms over her head in a move she had done a hundred times, but hadn't tried in at least ten years. Arching her back as much as she could, she dove in backward, hands entering first. She remembered to blow out to avoid water up her nose and pulled herself up before she touched the bottom. When she reached the surface, she heard Sean and Chris erupt into cheers and chants that Anna had won the dive contest. Gabe clapped and yelled too. Sean whispered to his dad, “isn't she a cool mom?” Gabe nodded in agreement wondering to himself why his heart had started racing. He attributed it to the half second as she dove that her tankini top floated up and her white stomach was exposed. Hormones, nothing more, nothing less.
With that thought, he pulled himself up on the side of the pool and announced, “time to start grilling the steaks.”
The boys decided to make up crazy strokes and to swim laps across the pool to see who swam faster. Anna walked out of the shallow end, grabbed her towel and dried off. Her shorts were still dripping after several minutes so she slipped them off under her towel, made sure to wrap it tightly, and went into the house to ask if she could help with the food. There in the kitchen stood Rose. Anna's face brightened when she saw her.
I brought some vegetables and fruit. I figured Gabe wouldn't even think of it and I was right,” she said smiling. Rose ran her hand along his shoulder and messed up his still wet hair.
He looked sheepishly at her and admitted the bean dip and corn tortilla chips were the only dishes remotely plant based. Anna smiled at the two of them and offered to help arrange the new contribution on a plate for them to sample.
“Did you enjoy your day?” Anna questioned.
Rose told them about the lovely drive up the coast. She and Doug, Anna assumed Doug was a friend, had toured a small Native American museum in one of the small cities north of Ventura. Rose described the beautiful furniture and d├ęcor at various antique shops they visited. Anna shared how much she really loved old furniture. She admitted to being a bit of a trash digger.
“I stop and pick up good furniture that people leave on the curb by the trash or leave in alleys behind apartments. If it is real wood or metal in good condition I bring it home to paint or refinish and sell. I love taking something incredibly ugly and putting in a few hours work to end with a lovely, useful piece for some family to really enjoy and make good use of.” Anna knew she babbled on, but she really loved her work and her thoughts drifted a little when she thought of it. Most people don't understand the treasures I find in the items they just throw away.
Rose described a few cute quilt shops and pulled a lovely flowered fabric out of a shopping bag. When she suggested it would make the perfect curtains for the family room, Gabe responded good-naturedly, “Stop trying to decorate my house.”
Anna stiffened. That attitude again. His house, as if Rose didn't have any claim to it. Rose shrugged her shoulders responding with a laugh, “You can't blame a girl for trying.”
Gabe turned and whispered to Anna loud enough that Rose could easily hear, “Bet you anything that fabric will be hanging from my windows by next week, regardless of what I say to her.” He noticed that she no longer smiled. Anna grabbed a carrot and made an excuse that someone should probably be watching the pool, “for safety sake.” She turned and left both Gabe and Rose wondering what had just happened.
A few minutes later, Rose came outside to say hello to Sean before she announced she was leaving. Anna reacted, obviously surprised. Of course if I was married to Gabe I would probably also leave whenever he stayed home. She obviously spent plenty of time with Sean throughout the week and didn't feel the need to stick around on the weekends.
Rose waved goodbye and walked herself to the door. Gabe tended to the steaks that were nearly finished while Sean and Chris climbed out of the water and dried off. With Gabe outside, Anna felt safe to go into the kitchen and bring the remaining food out to the patio table. Once he turned off the grill, they sat down at the table outside to eat. All the food tasted delicious, and the boys kept them entertained with tales of their adventures and antics from earlier in the afternoon. Chris was an avid fan of all rocks and sticks. They had each gathered a collection of various size sticks to act as swords, staffs, and wands. Chris pretended to be a mage, but Sean, not exactly sure what a mage was, opted to be a wizard. They followed a quest through the hillside hunting elusive treasures and magical stones to increase their powers. The dogs were trusted animal allies brought along to sniff out dangerous traps and pesky rodents.
Gabe kept glancing at Anna, making her more and more uncomfortable. He finally realized that he hoped to hear her laugh again and smile a real smile, the kind that reached her eyes. Coming to his senses he shook his head with a snap to clear his thoughts. Rising hastily, he started clearing the dishes. Unsure what to do, Anna asked the boys if they were done and then took an armful of dishes into the kitchen.
Gabe faced away from the kitchen entry, loading the dishwasher. She wanted to place the dishes next to him on the counter, but he shifted unexpectedly. He bumped her arm and the last plate slipped through her fingers. She grasped at its edges before pinning it on Gabe's extended foot, only inches from it crashing to the floor. His fingers brushed hers as he struggled to pick up the plate as well.
Once the dish sat firmly on the counter, he looked at her and seemed to want to say something but only managed, “Thank you for helping.” She stared at the floor, only briefly peeking up at him, never meeting his eyes. “Sean really had fun with the two of you today. He thinks you are a really cool mom. He's said so twice now,” Gabe added.
Anna smiled, for real this time, and echoed that she and Chris had enjoyed the afternoon. “Especially when I won the diving contest,” Anna tried to keep her tone light. Gabe swallowed hard and commented that Anna and Chris would need to come back again for a rematch.
Maybe next Sunday would work for you,” he offered hopefully.
Maybe,” Anna answered curtly, in a quiet and reserved tone as though it would be a great sacrifice to do so. I can't make it through another afternoon like this. I hate to take a friend away from Chris, but I don't want Chris around Gabe. Who knows what types of attitudes he may pick up.
Decision made, she turned and hurried out of the kitchen. “Chris, it's time to get changed into your dry clothes,” she called. Both he and Sean complained loudly. She explained, “I have to work early tomorrow and we still have a drive ahead of us. Sean can come over again on Thursday if Rose can bring him again. Sean, why don't you have her call me and tell me if it's ok?”
She watched Sean run to ask his dad. She was surprised when he promptly returned to say his dad had said yes and Rose would bring Sean down. “As long as you can bring me home again, he says it's fine.”
“Don't you need to check with her to make sure she can drive him?” Anna turned to ask Gabe.
“No, she'll do it. She's not doing anything else that morning, so it will be fine,” Gabe answered very sure of himself. This time Anna frowned visibly and she wondered at the wisdom of allowing Chris to spend time with Sean at all. She would make a point of having a serious discussion with Rose when she saw her Thursday morning.
He wondered at her disapproving face. How had things gone wrong this time? Women, who in the world can understand them?
After changing in the spare bedroom Anna and Chris gathered their things and said good bye. “Please thank Rose again for the fruits and veggies and thank you for the dinner and a good afternoon.” Anna's words were warm and friendly but with an edge to her voice. They walked out to the car and drove away with a wave to Sean as they left.

That night after Sean had gone to bed, Gabe sat on the couch still thinking about their guests. He enjoyed having them over. Both Anna and Chris were nice and friendly, most of the time. A few scattered moments seemed like Anna was mad at him. Who is she anyway to drive me crazy like this? She's probably some anti-depressant popping, overly judgmental wanna-be soccer mom who decided she didn't like something and criticized me for it. That's fine, let her be that way. I'll invite Chris over again because Sean likes him, but next time I'll just ignore her the way she ignored me. She wouldn't even look me in the eyes when I spoke to her. Stuck up woman!

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