Sadie sat with Dani and a couple other friends at lunch. She was quiet and this was noticed by the group.
“Sadie, what’s wrong?” asked Dani. “You haven’t been yourself today,” she said as he put her hand on Sadie’s. “You can always talk to me, you know that.”
Sadie sighed and faked a smile. “Thanks, D. I appreciate it.” She nibbled on the turkey salad sandwich Sadie had packed for her. “Really glad it’s Friday, but kinda bummed. I haven’t heard from Jared since our fight, and he hasn’t been to school in two days. I’m worried,” she confided, and picked at the crust on the sandwich. “Lots going on, you know?”
Dani forced a smile and said, “Yeah, I know,” and pulled her hand away.
A classmate walked by their table, and bent down beside Sadie. “Hey, Jared’s in Seattle with his Dad. He texted me last night. Thought you ought to know,” he said then stood up to leave.
Sadie grabbed his sleeve and asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”
The boy shrugged and said, “I don’t know. He said something about staying out there for a while. That’s all I know, Sadie. Sorry.” He walked away.
Sadie’s friends stared at her while she processed the information. “I need to call my Mom,” she said and stood up the leave.
Dani grabbed her hand and asked, “Want me to go with you?”
“No, I got it. Thanks, though,” Sadie said and went outside to call Eva.
“Hey, Sadie. You alright?” Eva asked when she answered the phone.
“Yeah. Jared’s in Seattle with his Dad. Tyler just told me,” Sadie replied. “Why would he do that? Does his Mom know?” she asked and sniffled.
“Babe, Rita has no idea where he is. Hold on, I need to call her real quick,” Eva said, and the line hummed quietly.
Sadie stood against the cool brick building and waited. When Eva came back on the line, she said, “Okay. I called Rita. She’s beyond relieved, which I can totally understand. And, I sent a text to Michael.” Eva paused, then said, “I knew about this after you left this morning. But I didn’t call or text you because I knew you’d be upset. So, being the overly protective Mom that I am, I wanted to wait until I had news. As it turns out, your friends are better investigators than Dad’s friends or even Michael.”
Sadie sighed. “Not really. He texted Tyler last night. And Tyler didn’t know why Jared left. Only that Jared told him he was going to stay there awhile,” she said, and sighed again. The bell rang for end of lunch. “Mom, I gotta go. Lunch is over and I’ve got Creative Writing in, like, three minutes. I’ll see you at home,” Sadie said, and hung up. She pushed herself away from the wall and went inside for class.
After ending the call with Sadie, Eva decided to cancel her plans with Susan and Michael. She shot a quick text to them both, and sorted through more of the estate sale folders. “This is crazy,” she said out loud and sighed. Ginger and Alex stood over a nearby table, sorting and cataloging more of the inventory from their respective stacks. Eva picked up her list and walked over to their table.
“Who’s idea, exactly, was it to take on this monstrosity?” she asked the duo and placed the list on the table.
Ginger pushed hair from her eyes and sighed. “I blame Alex. He’s usually responsible for this stuff.”
Alex said, “Hey! It’s not my fault this time.” He looked at Eva. “Chances are real good it came in a month ago and didn’t get handed to us until this week,” he stated and bent back over the inventory stack.
Eva rolled her eyes and conceded, “Whatever. I need another assistant. And, I’m starting to think y’all do, too.” She looked at the overflowing table in front of her and sighed. “How in hell are we going to manage this? We literally have the weekend to get this ready.” She clapped her hands together and yelled, “Okay! Let’s do this! Back to work, kids.” Walking back to her table, she realized she needed to call Daniel. She grabbed her cell and excused herself.
When Daniel answered, he sounded out of breath. “Hey, any news?” he asked.
Eva said, “Yeah, that’s why I’m calling. Jared took off to his Dad’s.”
Daniel’s surprise was full in his voice. “Wow! And nobody noticed a purchased plane ticket or anything?” he asked.
“Well, with the twenty-four hour deal, they couldn’t get a look at his records. But, you know, now that I think about it, Rita didn’t call me back this morning. I actually found out from Sadie.” Eva sighed, and paused. “I canceled my play plans with Susan and Michael, by the way. So, you’re off the hook for tonight.”
“Are you kidding?” Daniel asked. “I’ll be there at six with my laptop and pizza. Just because you canceled your plans doesn’t mean I have to,” he joked.
“Yeah, that’s true,” Eva said with a smile. “Alright, we’ll see you at six, then. I’ll grab beer on my way home.”
Daniel cheered and made whooping sounds. Eva laughed. “Okay, goober. Pizza, beer and a movie or two. See you in a bit.” She hung up her phone and shook her head, the smile still on her face. Just then, her phone chirped. It was Louis.
She answered the phone, the smile wavering. “Hey, babe. How was your flight?” she asked
“It was alright. You should see this hotel, Eva! It’s friggin’ huge! Easily the most posh place they’ve put me up in, yet. How’s everything there?” Louis asked. Eva thought she could hear him smiling through the phone.
“Fine. Jared took off to Seattle without telling anyone, including Rita. Ginger, Alex and I are ass deep in inventory paperwork. And Sadie’s hanging out with Daniel tonight. I’m just gonna work until I pass out, I think,” Eva replied, not sure why she lied to him about Daniel.
Daniel arrived promptly at six, with pizza and laptop in hand. Eva heard him pull into the driveway and met him at the door, a suspicious smile on her face. Taking the pizza from him, she said, “You know, I will never figure out how you manage to get pizza around on your bike.”
Daniel laughed and moved into the entryway. “Trade secret. I’m not telling.” He looked around and asked, “Where’s Sadie?”
“She’s upstairs,” Eva replied, carrying the pizza into the kitchen. “This Jared situation has really thrown her.” She put the pizza on the table and got paper plates from the pantry. “I wonder if it wasn’t a big ruse, you know? I mean,” she paused to wipe hair from her eyes, “Rita sounded upset, right? But, she didn’t think to call or check his cards online.” Waving her hand in the air dismissively, she said, “I don’t know. Tonight will be fun. Sadie needs a bit of fun. Even if it is with her boring, old parents.”
Daniel nudged Eva’s shoulder with his. “Speak for yourself, there, woman,” he said with a laugh. “Hey, your television is HDMI compatible, right?” he asked and held up the laptop.
Eva thought for a minute, then said, “Uh, I think so. Go check things out.”
Daniel said, “I’m on it,” and headed for the living room.
Just then, Sadie came down over the stairs sporting fuzzy pajamas and a Hinder t-shirt over a thermal top. She stopped in the doorway and asked, “Did I hear Dad, and were you guys, like, laughing?”
Eva rolled her eyes, and replied, “Yeah, he’s in the living room setting up the laptop. By the way, you look really comfy.” She gestured to Sadie’s outfit.
Sadie smoothed her hands over the pajama bottoms, and said, “Yes, I am very comfy. I figured a movie and pizza at home warranted jammies.” She lifted the lid of the pizza box and sniffed. “Mmm, this smells awesome.”
Daniel came in the kitchen and said, “All set. Hey, Sadie.” He smiled and hugged her with one arm. “You ready for a night of epic proportions?” he asked, winking at Eva.
Eva and Sadie laughed. “Yes, Dad. I’m ready,” Sadie replied.
They filled their plates with food, grabbed beer and coke, and headed into the living room. As Sadie and Daniel sat down, Eva’s cell rang. Sadie crouched by the laptop and scrolled through the instant play menu on Netflix.
Eva stood up and said, “It’s Louis. I’ll take this in the kitchen.” She yelled, “Just pick something and I’ll be right back!” Rounding the corner she answered the phone. “Hey, babe. Things alright?”
Louis sounded out of breath. “Yeah, just washed off the jet lag and airport smell before dinner and drinks with the competition tonight. How’s things there?” he asked.
Eva glanced in the living room. “Good. Sadie and Daniel are doing pizza and movies. Just hanging out. What’s your schedule like tomorrow?” she asked, still hiding her participation.
“There’s a big general assembly thing in the morning, lunch then assorted workshops,” Louis replied. “You wouldn’t believe what Steve signed up for. It’s a veritable who’s who in the marketing field. I’m going to make some amazing contacts while I’m here.” He paused, then asked, “What have you got lined up?”
“Still working on this damned estate sale. I’m going to have to hire extra people just to run the paperwork, not to mention the actual sale itself,” Eva answered. She heard Sadie laugh and covered the mouthpiece. When the laughing stopped, she said, “I gotta get back to it. Call me tomorrow?”
“Of course!” he exclaimed. “I’ll call you during lunch.”
Eva smiled. “Thank you. I love you,” she said, waiting for a reply.
“I love you more,” Louis said, then he hung up.
Eva stood there looking at the phone. “Seriously?” she asked herself, and went back into the living room. “Okay, so what did we decide on?” she asked.
Sadie was grinning from ear to ear, and Daniel looked frightened. His face wore a paleness. “We are going to watch Clueless,” he said slowly, and looked at Eva. “Please don’t make me watch this.” Sadie sat cross-legged on the floor in front of him and she started clapping. Daniel looked at Sadie, and back to Eva. “I’m serious.”
Eva rolled her eyes and sat beside him on the couch. “You’re such a baby. Hit play, Sadie.” She could hear Daniel making slight whimpering noises, and she chuckled.
“Well, the good news is your mother isn’t charging me with kidnapping, but she is really pissed off. Mostly at me for not calling her as soon as you landed.” Jared’s father stood in the living room of his Seattle brownstone, twirling the cell in his hands. “She did say that you’re to call her later, and give her your return flight information,” David said. “Which, incidentally, you will do.”
Jared sat on the edge of the overstuffed chair and nodded. “Yes, sir.” He stared at the floor. After a few minutes of silence, he looked up at his Dad and spread his hands in front of him. “It’s just that…things aren’t working for me there. I need a change.”
David watched Jared closely. “Is this about Sadie?” he asked.
Jared returned his gaze to the floor. “Yes, and no. I don’t know.” His hands clenched into fists. “I felt trapped. Like, she did it on purpose. You know, to keep me around.” He stood up and paced. “I know she’s not like that – she’s super smart, Dad. But, I also know how girls can be.”
Jared leveled a stony glare at him. “This is not funny.”
“I know, I know,” David said with his hands held up in surrender. “Look, Sadie is a great girl. Very intelligent. She isn’t the kind of person to trap a guy with a baby.” He walked over to Jared and put his hand on his shoulder. “Listen, she told you out of love and respect. That counts for something, right?” Jared nodded. “Okay, then. Now, let’s get some food and start looking for flights.”
Jared conceded. “Alright. Can we get Chinese?”
“Sure,” David answered. “I know just the place. Grab your coat.”
Louis sat at a large, cloth-covered table in the hotel’s banquet hall having drinks after dinner. To his left languished a beautiful red-head, the CEO of a potentially rival company. Emily was on her fourth martini, and had the attention of the men in the immediate vicinity. She leaned towards Louis and put a well-manicured hand on his shoulder.
“I was thinking,” Emily whispered, “you and I should go up to your room and hammer out a collaboratory plan for our companies.” Her fingers played with the collar of his jacket. “You know, unofficially.”
Louis smiled and gently removed her hand, placing it in her lap. “As tempting an offer as that is, I think we should take a rain check tonight. We’ve got eight more nights of discussion ahead of us,” he said, matching her innuendo.
She smiled and drained the rest of her martini. Licking her lips, she eyed him and said, “And they shall be very productive, as well.” Emily stood and placed her business card on the table, then left.
Louis watched her walk away, slowly letting out a breath. “Damn. I’m gonna be in so much trouble while I’m here.” He downed his drink and eyed the other women in attendance.
By the end of the movie Daniel was laughing, mostly at the over the top Valley Girl acting. Eva was glad to have the pseudo-family time. They hadn’t done this since Sadie was a little girl. Back then it was The Little Mermaid and coloring books. Now, its Supernatural and writing books of her own. Eva watched Sadie and Daniel, the ease at which they interacted. They needed this, she thought to herself.
When the movie was over, Sadie looked at the clock. “I should probably get to my homework. We’ve got an essay on Alexander the Great due tomorrow.” She stood up, bent over and hugged Daniel. “Thanks, Dad. Goodnight. Goodnight, Mom.” She hugged Eva and went upstairs.
“Night, babe! Love you!” Eva yelled after her. A muffled “Love you too” could be heard through the ceiling. Eva and Daniel laughed lightly, and they looked at each other. A feeling of unease permeated the air. She asked him if he had a good time.
“Yeah. It was great,” Daniel admitted, “and the movie wasn’t so bad. Not exactly my cup of tea, but hey. It made her happy.”
Eva watched him, and said, “Yeah, I think you needed some time together.” She didn’t want to admit how much she enjoyed herself. “So, hey. Your mom’s coming in, like, 10 days or something, right?” she asked as she stood up and grabbed the empty popcorn bowl.
Daniel stood up, too, and started picking up beer and soda cans. “Yeah,” he replied. “Her flight lands at BGR in the early afternoon a week from Monday.” They walked into the kitchen. “She seems really excited. Hell, I’m excited.” He put the empties in the recycle bin and watched Eva move about the kitchen. “She laughed when I told her Sadie wanted to see the Black Bears game against Maryland.” He shrugged and said, “Go figure.”
Eva smiled and put the leftover pizza in the fridge, glancing at Daniel. “It will be a great visit, I’m sure. Sadie’s looking forward to it, that much I do know.” Putting the empty box with the recycling, Eva said, “You know, I’m really glad you’re more of a presence in Sadie’s life. Especially right now.” She hesitated, then added, “Things aren’t going so well with Louis.” She crossed her arms and leaned against the pantry.
Daniel mimicked her stance, and leaned against the counter. “How ‘not so well’ is it?” he asked gently.
Eva looked at the floor, and rubbed a spot with her sock-clad toe. “It’s been better. Like, a lot better.” She looked up and saw him watching her closely. She waved her hand and said, “I shouldn’t discuss this with you, I’m sorry.”
He walked over to Eva and put his hands on her upper arms. “Hey…no, no. You’re having a rough time, and I’m here. No reason why I can’t at least listen. Our daughter witnesses things. I want her happy. If there are problems in your relationship with Louis, they will affect her in some way.” Daniel put his arms around her and pulled her into a tight hug. Eva grudgingly allowed the contact, and hugged him in return. She pulled away sooner than Daniel would have liked and tucked hair behind her ear.
Daniel became shy, and said, “Well…I guess I should go, now. You’ve got a busy day tomorrow, and whatnot.” He went into the living room to collect his laptop. When he returned to the kitchen, Eva was standing at the window. “You sure you’re alright? I mean, I can stay if you want – on the couch of course,” he said hurriedly and held up his hand.
Eva smiled in his direction. “You’re very sweet, Daniel. But, no, thank you,” she said and let out a sigh. “I just need to face facts is all.” She walked over to him, stood on her the tips of her toes and kissed his cheek. Even in the low light Eva could see him blushing. “I’m going up to have a bath before bed. Can you let yourself out? I’ll set the alarm from the bedroom.”
Daniel gave himself a mental shake, and said “Yeah, no problem. Have a great night, Eva. And, thank you for the Sadie time. It was wonderful.” He waved and headed for the door.
Eva sighed and walked slowly up the stairs, thinking about that hug. When she got upstairs she knocked on Sadie’s door, but there was no response. Either the girl was asleep, or wearing ear buds. Eva shook her head and went into the bedroom to watch Daniel leave. She looked out the window in time to catch him looking up at her, and she pulled away, waiting until she heard his motorcycle start before setting the alarm. I need a drink, or twelve, she thought to herself and started the water for a bath.
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