"Father Figure"

by: AmyK

(taken from an original idea by Carrie - used with permission)

 

Alyssa licked the peanut butter off her finger as she walked to the dishwasher and placed the knife inside. Noticing the dishwasher was full she casually flicked the setting to rinse, and walked back to her sandwich.

"It's been a while since I've had PB&J," Alyssa thought to herself. She picked up the sandwich and a glass of milk and walked into the living room, ready for a good hour of mindless humor. She plopped herself into the corner of her couch and flipped the TV on, getting ready to surf the cable channels. She was just about to take a bite when the doorbell sounded, annoying her to no end, she’d just gotten comfortable. She put down the sandwich, flipped the TV back off and made her way to the door. She opened the door prepared to see a salesman or the kid to collect for the paper, what she didn’t expect, was to see him.

"Joey?" She said after a moment’s pause. Her mind was running a mile a minute, never in a million years did she expect to see Joey standing on her doorstep.

"Hi Lyss." Joey smiled as he nervously ran his fingers through his immaculately styled flaming red hair with dark brown roots. Her eyes were just as green as he remembered… she hadn’t changed a bit.

"I… wow… Joey! Hi!" Alyssa stood there with her hand covering her mouth and her eyes wide open, she simply could not believe after more than 4 years, Joey was standing there in front of her.

"So, can I come in?" Joey asked after a second of silence.

"Yeah! Of course, yeah, come in." Alyssa held the door open wider as her stomach suddenly took a nosedive. Anthony. Joey didn’t know about Anthony. Joey had no idea that there could even be a Anthony.

He slid past her and eased his way into the room. Alyssa stood there dumbfounded, watching her first love move a magazine off the couch and make himself comfortable. He casually looked around the room while Alyssa stood near the door examining him closely. It had been so long since she'd last seen him. He looked so grown up... so manly....

"Nice place." He said casually.

"Thanks." She said as she noticed she was still holding the door open. She closed the door and sat down on the couch opposite Joey, keeping her eyes on him the entire time.

"So, what's been going on?" He asked her.

Alyssa could smell his sweet scent from across the room. It brought back memories too painful to bear. She shook the memories from her head and answered him. "Everything's good. I hear things are going well for you and the guys."

"Yeah, we are doing pretty good." He smiled and looked at the picture of Alyssa and her mom in a frame on the end table.

Alyssa's eyes shifted to the hallway then back to Joey. Joey frowned and looked behind him toward the hall, "Is someone here? Did I come at a bad time?"

At that moment the patter of little feet could be heard running down the hall. A small boy with light brown wispy hair came into the room and crawled into Alyssa's lap.

Joey smiled. "Who is this?"

"Joey, I uh… I'd like to introduce you to my son. This is Tony." Tony buried his head in Alyssa's chest. "He's just a little shy."

"A son? Wow! I guess things have changed! How old is he?"

"Tony, this is Joey. He's Mommy's, um, friend. Can you tell him how old you are?" Alyssa said a silent prayer that Joey wouldn’t make the connection.

Anthony held up three pudgy fingers and smiled up at Joey. Joey smiled down at him. "So, you're three? Well, Tony, it's nice to meet you. Can I shake your hand?" Tony nodded as Joey stood up and reached down to take Tony’s tiny hand in his enormous palm.

"Sweetie, are you hungry. Mommy just made a peanut butter sandwich. Would you like that?" Tony’s hair fell across his forehead as he nodded again. Alyssa settled Anthony at the table in the kitchen and placed her uneaten sandwich in front of him. Tony smiled and slowly peeled the two slices of bread apart, taking a bite of the jelly side first. Alyssa smiled at her son, then sat back down to talk to Joey who had comfortably positioned himself back on the couch.

"He's cute." Joey said as he craned his neck to see into the kitchen. Tony waved his peanut butter bread at Joey and laughed. "Weird, but cute." Joey laughed and focused his attention back to Alyssa.

"Yeah, he takes after his father." Alyssa said softly. Whoa, did she say that out loud? Joey just stared at her with a kind of dopey smile. "What?" She asked cautiously, hoping he wouldn’t pick up on her awkwardness.

"I just can't get over the fact that you're a Mom."

"Imagine how I feel!" They both laughed and the room fell quiet again. "So what brings you here?"

"Just visiting. I haven't seen you in a while and I wanted to see what was going on with you." He slowly scratched at his sideburns, but couldn’t keep his eyes off Alyssa; it had been a long time.

"Well, let's see... what's happened since I last saw you?" She said as she thought. "I mean, aside from the obvious." She looked towards the kitchen as Tony took the last bite of the jelly bread and wiped his sticky hand on his jeans. Lovely.

"Besides the fact you have a family now..." Joey smiled at her and looked over at Tony who had jelly covering his face.

Alyssa ached to tell Joey the truth but she felt this wasn't the time or the place. "Well let’s see… Mom and Dad had moved in with me for a while. They lost everything in the flood so they stayed here while they rebuilt."

"That must have been hard. Why didn't you call?" Joey asked with genuine concern.

"I did call. I've called several times but you were busy. I'd get your publicist or your manager... never you."

Joey hung his head. "I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it." She smiled quickly to let him know it was okay. Alyssa searched her mind for some other news to give him. "Beau and Elizabeth have divorced."

"Really? Why?"

"Beau was cheating... Again."

"Is Elizabeth okay?"

"Yeah she's already found someone new. His name is William and they are doing good together. Beau is dating a girl named Kimberly. She's really nice. I like her."

"How's your sister? Are her and her husband still together?"

"Melody and Thomas are fine. Caroline and Caitlyn are 13 now. I can't believe it. It makes me feel old to have 13 year old nieces." Alyssa heard a little voice coming from behind her in the kitchen.

"Mommy... I'm done."

Alyssa excused herself and cleaned Tony's mess off the table as well as his face then escorted him back to his playroom. Joey watched her every move, still unable to believe Alyssa, his Lyssa Bear, had a family. He looked around the room for evidence of a father, but saw none.

Alyssa came back into the living room and sat gently on the edge of the couch facing Joey. "So how is your family? Are Steve and Trina still together?" She asked to break the silence.

Joey nodded, "Everyone’s doing great." He sat for a moment and pondered whether or not to ask the question that was plaguing him at that moment. Finally he couldn't resist. "So how are you and Tony's dad doing?"

That question caught Alyssa off guard, though she should have expected it. Her forehead creased in thought as she tried to think of how to answer the question, but not tell the whole truth. Joey sensed her apprehension and said, "I’m sorry, that’s really none of my business."

"No. I… it’s just kind of awkward." She said slowly, he had no way of knowing just how much his business it was. "We haven’t talked much, not till just recently."

"I’m sorry." Joey said, looking like he really meant it.

"It’s okay." Alyssa forced a smile and cleared her throat, "So, um, how long are you in town for?"

"Well, we’re technically on a break for a couple months, but we’re going to start recording here in about 4 or 5 weeks. But that’ll all be local, you know, down at Smokey’s in Orlando." Joey nodded.

"Cool." Alyssa smiled, this whole evening was so unexpected.

"Do you have plans this weekend?" Joey asked out of the blue.

"I… well Tony has swimming lessons on Saturday."

"Over at the rec. center?" Joey laughed. They had spent many nights swinging on the old rusty swing set at the rec. center.

"Yeah." Alyssa smiled and nodded, "They’ve cleaned the place up a bit, you should see it."

"I’d like that. What time are his swim lessons?"

"What? Oh, um, at 11." She stuttered. "Are you, I mean… do you want to come watch?"

"Sure, then maybe we can grab lunch after? I’d really like to get caught up." He explained as he traced circles on the back of the couch, an old nervous habit he’d thought was gone until he showed up at her house.

Alyssa thought for a second then said "Sure, that’d be great."

"Great." Joey stood up and wiped his hands on his cammie pants. "Well, I don’t want to keep you from anything, I guess I should have called first. But I wanted to surprise you."

"You did." Alyssa laughed softly. "Thanks for coming by Joey, it’s great to see you again."

"You too." He leaned over and gave her a big, warm hug. "I’ve missed you Lyss." He said softly, dangerously close to her ear.

"I’ve missed you too Joey." More than you can imagine… she thought to herself. He hadn’t changed his cologne since she last saw him, and the scent sent her mind reeling. She had a bottle of it stashed away in her secret drawer, and took it out occasionally, for the times when she really missed him.

"So I’ll see you Saturday?" He asked as he took a half step back.

"Yeah." Alyssa nodded and tucked her dark blonde hair behind her ear. "Eleven o’clock."

"I’ll be there." He smiled, then leaned in quickly to kiss her cheek. "See you then." He pulled the door open and left before she could respond. She’d tell him Saturday. She had to. He had to know.

 

*~* *~* *~* *~* *~* *~* *~* *~* *~* *~* *~*

"Mommy! I can kick!" Tony shouted with glee from the shallow end of the pool.

"I see that! You’re such a big guy." Alyssa leaned on the plastic picnic table in front of her. Tony’s swim instructor held his arm gingerly as he practiced floating on his back. His bright blue swimming shorts had neon green lizards all over them; she couldn’t miss him even from across the pool.

"Which one is he?" Joey said as he pulled one of the plastic chairs across the cement. He turned his baseball hat around so that it was backwards and smiled.

"Hmm? Oh… over there floating on his back. In the blue and green shorts." She smiled and shaded her eyes from the sun. "Hi, I’m glad you made it."

"Yeah me too. I actually got a little lost on the way over. They closed off Juniper drive and I got all turned around." He laughed and looked out at the pool.

"I should have warned you. You have to go the back way, up Timber." Alyssa said as her heart began to race, she planned out how she was going to tell Joey and she wanted to get it done before the swim lesson was over. That way Anthony wouldn’t have to see Joey’s reaction if it was negative. Alyssa grabbed the tiny, dry t-shirt off the table and nervously unfolded it on her lap. "So Joey…?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you… I mean have you ever thought about having kids?" She asked as she meticulously folded the yellow shirt.

"Sure, I’ve thought about it. But there’s no way I could do it now." He laughed and looked toward the kid filled pool. "I still feel like I am a kid. I don’t know how you do it Lyss." He shook his head. "I mean, kids are great, but I’d make a better Uncle Joey than a daddy any day of the week."

Alyssa’s little disclosure disappeared from her mind as she processed what Joey said, "Yeah I… I um, know what you mean." She said uneasily. It was the first thing that came to mind that didn’t scream, "Well Anthony’s yours."

"Does Tony’s dad help out?" Joey asked a second later, oblivious to her awkwardness.

Alyssa hadn’t quite gotten her frame of mind back, as she uttered, "No."

"Not at all?"

"He doesn’t know." Was all that came to her mind. The minute she said it her mind switched back to reality. "I mean… he didn’t know. For a while he didn’t even know."

"But he hasn’t even helped since he found out?"

"Joey, I don’t need any help."

"Yeah but still." Joey frowned.

"Can we please talk about something else?" Alyssa asked as she focused on Tony across the pool.

"Sure… I’m sorry." Joey mumbled.

"It’s okay." She said nonchalantly. "So fill me in on what’s going on with the group. I mean, I watch MTV so I have a pretty good idea, but I’d like to hear your side." Alyssa smiled at Joey.

"Well, it’s going really good, obviously." He smiled and scratched at his goatee. "We’re going to start work on our new album like I said, in just a couple weeks. We just wrapped up our tour last month and then we went to Japan for a few weeks."

"How was that?"

"The tour?" He asked.

"Japan." She smiled.

"It was great. Lots of good food."

"I’ll bet." Alyssa laughed and sat back in her chair. "How are the guys? Man, the last time I saw them Justin was like, what? 15 or 16?"

"Yeah, something like that." Joey laughed. "Well he’s grown up a lot. A whole lot. He’s a little pimp daddy now. Or so he likes to think." Joey shook his head.

"How about Chris? Is he still dating that girl?"

"Dani? Yeah, they’ve been going out forever it seems like. I can’t believe she’s hung around this long, he’s such a spaz."

"Yeah but that’s cool."

"Yeah I guess." Joey shrugged and smiled. "If you go for that kind of thing."

"What kind of thing? A commitment?"

"Yeah." Joey shuddered at the thought. "I mean, I can’t commit to something next week, nevermind next year, you know?"

"Yeah, I guess." Alyssa shrugged and waved at Tony as his instructor lifted him out of the pool.

"Did you see me float?" Tony asked as he walked quickly over to where Alyssa and Joey were sitting. He was a good kid, and he knew better than to run by the pool.

"I saw that sweetie! You did great." Alyssa grabbed the big towel off the table and wrapped the dripping wet three year old in it.

Tony’s little lips were blue and his teeth were chattering but he kept on talking, "And Mandy told me to go like this-" He inhaled deep and held his breath for a second, "And I did and then I went like this-" He ducked his head as if going under water, "And then I was in the water and I opened my eyes and it hurt but I could see her!"

"You could see her under the water? That’s so cool T. Are you hungry?"

"Yeah, can we get a happy toy cheeseburger?" He asked as he climbed onto Alyssa’s lap.

"You bet." She laughed and rubbed his tiny arms with the towel. "Let’s just get you warmed up first."

"Is the water cold in there?" Joey asked the shivering child.

"Yeah." Tony nodded as water dripped off his nose and onto the towel. "What’s your hat?"

"My hat?" Joey took his baseball hat off and looked at it, "It’s a Red Sox cap. You know who the Red Sox are?" Joey asked.

"They play baseball."

"That’s right." Joey said. "He’s pretty smart." Joey smiled at Alyssa.

"Ha, watch this." Alyssa smiled proudly, "What city do the Sox play for?"

"The red ones are in Boston and the white ones are in the other one."

"What other one?" She prompted.

"Cleveland?" Tony asked, turning around to face his mother as she pulled his t-shirt over his head.

"Nope." Alyssa shook her head causing her hair to tickle Tony’s nose.

He laughed and said, "I forget…"

"It’s where Uncle Jason and Aunt Katie live." Alyssa whispered.

"Chicago!" Tony threw his arms in the air and jumped off Alyssa’s lap. "Can I wear it?" He asked as he dripped water on Joey’s feet.

"Heck yeah you can wear it. You’re one smart little kid." Joey laughed and placed the too big hat on Tony’s wet head. "That looks good on you."

"Thanks." Tony smiled and sat on the ground in front of Alyssa so she could strap his feet into the little Nike sport sandals.

"When we leave you’ve got to give that back to Joey okay?" Alyssa said as she velcroed his sandals in place.

"Why?" Tony whined as he stood up.

"Because he has to wear it." Alyssa explained. "See he’s got really really bright red hair? And sometimes when people see that they want to come up and talk to him, and if he wears the hat then people won’t bug him. Pretty cool huh?" She folded the towel and stood up as they got ready to go.

"But people won’t bug me." Tony said as the hat fell over his eye.

"Yeah well, Joey needs the hat." Alyssa said as Joey stood up and ran his fingers through his hair. "Do you mind if we just hit Mc Donalds?" She asked as they headed toward the pool exit.

"That works for me." Joey smiled, "Hey T-man I’ll make you a deal."

"What?" Tony looked back over his shoulder at Joey. Tony instantly liked anyone who talked to him like a person, not a child.

"If you’ll let me wear that hat, I’ll carry you up on my shoulders, how’s that?"

Tony thought about it for a minute before he nodded, while Alyssa looked on smiling. Joey knelt in front of Tony and reached for the cap. He put it on and held his hands out for Tony, "Come on big guy." Tony lifted his arms and Joey picked him up onto his shoulders. "You okay up there?" Joey asked as he adjusted the brim of the cap.

"Yeah I’m okay."

"Can you see your car?" Joey laughed and fell into step beside Alyssa.

"Not yet. It’s blue." Tony said as he scanned the parking lot from his perch 6 feet up. "I’m really high mommy look!"

"I see that, wow you’re bigger than me!" She shaded her eyes and looked up at Tony.

"I can see the top mommy!"

"I’ll bet you can." Alyssa laughed and led the way through the parking lot toward their car.

"Do you want me to drive? I’m just right here." Joey pointed at his black Xterra.

"Um, Tony needs his car seat." She explained, "I’m just over there." She pointed across the lot.

"Ahh, okay." Joey followed her as Tony placed his small hands on Joey’s forehead to steady himself.

Alyssa unlocked the car doors with the clicker on her key chain then stood in front of Joey, "Okay kiddo, let’s get in your seat." She reached her arms up for Tony as Joey leaned forward. She lifted him off Joey’s shoulders and placed him in the backseat on the passenger side. Tony reached across and buckled himself into the car seat and smiled as Alyssa leaned into the car to check the buckle. "Looks good, you ready to go?"

"Yeah." Tony nodded and laughed as she attacked his cheek with kisses.

"Right on." Alyssa slammed the car door shut and let Joey pass her to get in the passenger seat.

"How long has it been since you had McDonalds?" Alyssa laughed as they backed out of the parking space.

"Actually, we eat there a lot on the road. We did that sponsorship thing." He shook his head and laughed.

"Ahh, that’s right." She laughed and turned the radio off.

"So hey Tony, are you going to get a happy meal?" Joey asked as he adjusted the vanity mirror on his visor to look into the back seat.

"Yeah, and a toy."

"That’s pretty cool, can you eat it all?" Joey asked.

"I think I can." Tony nodded. "But you can eat it if I can’t."

"Okay." Joey laughed.

"Are you gonna get a happy meal and a toy too?"

"I think I’m going to get a Quarter Pounder." Joey said. "You can help me eat that if I can’t finish, okay?"

"Okay." Tony nodded in the back seat and reached for his Power Ranger on the seat behind him.

"He’s a cool kid." Joey said softly to Alyssa.

"Yeah." She nodded as she fought back tears. This was how she imagined it should be, a family ride to McDonalds for happy meals. PMS made her over emotional as it was, and Joey’s surprise arrival that week just added to it.

"Are you busy tomorrow?"

"Not really, we have church in the morning. Why? What’s up?"

"Justin’s having a cook out at his moms and I thought it’d be cool if you came."

Alyssa thought about that for a minute. Joey hadn’t made the connection, probably because the thought just wouldn’t enter his mind. But the others… they’d be more likely to think about it. There really wasn’t a resemblance, Tony looked a lot like Alyssa’s brother so that was good, but who knew what others would see. "Maybe… I’ll see if I can find a sitter."

"You can bring Tony." Joey laughed. "He’d have a great time. I’m sure Dani and Chris will bring Taylor."

"Whoa! They have a kid?" Alyssa’s jaw nearly hit the floor.

"No, no, no." Joey laughed and shook his head. "Taylor is Chris’s little sister. Remember? She was born right before Christmas, before we left on our European tour?"

"Oh man, that’s right. Sheesh I about had a heart attack. So she’s what? Four?"

"Yeah, she’ll be five in a couple months."

"I’m gonna be four in a couple days." Tony added from the back.

"A couple days huh?" Joey asked, glancing at Alyssa.

"A couple months." She said as she pulled into the parking lot at McDonalds. "Not until November 17th."

"Yeah in November." Tony nodded.

Alyssa parked, then walked around the car to get Tony out of the back seat. She held his hand tight as they walked across the parking lot with Joey only a step behind. "Mommy! Mommy! Can I play on the slide?" Tony shouted as he jumped up and down, practically tripping over his own feet.

"If you eat all of your lunch, then yes. But you have to eat at least half of your burger."

"I will, I’ll eat it all." He bounced around, pulling Alyssa’s hand all over the place.

"We can catch up a little while he plays." She smiled over her shoulder at Joey.

"Okay." He laughed and watched the toddler break loose from his mom at the door and run to the counter to examine the toys he had to choose from. They waited in line and ordered, then grabbed a table outside by the play area to eat their lunch.

Tony picked the pickles off of his cheeseburger and put them on Alyssa’s wrapper, "Yucky." He made a face.

"Yucky nothing kid, pickles are good. I don’t know where you got the idea that they’re yucky." She laughed and popped them in her mouth.

"I’m with you, kid. Nasty." Joey made a face at Tony and they both laughed.

"Since when don’t you like pickles?" Alyssa asked as she dipped her fries in ketchup.

"Since always. They’re gross." Joey laughed.

"You people are strange." Alyssa shook her head and laughed. They sat and listened to Tony’s recount of the swim class as they ate, then he asked if he could go play on the play yard.

"Yeah, you ate real good honey. Just don’t go in the balls." She smiled as Tony unstrapped his shoes and placed them under the table.

"I won’t!" He shouted gleefully as he ran barefoot across the concrete to the tiny pipe looking entrance.

"He can’t go in the balls? That’s like the best part." Joey laughed.

"No way, they find all kinds of gross stuff in there." She shook her head.

"Oh come on, kids don’t really pee in there do they?" He asked.

"Probably." Alyssa laughed and looked over her shoulder as Tony climbed his way to the top of the little slide. "But I read a story once where there was a family of rattlesnakes in one of these things one time."

"Lyss, this is Florida, there aren’t that many rattlesnakes out here." Joey laughed and shook his head.

"Yeah but that just makes me nervous." Alyssa smiled and finished the last of her soda. "So Joey, fill me in on what you’ve been up to."

"There’s so much I don’t even know where to start." He smiled, and glanced over her shoulder to watch Tony slide down the neon green slide. "Well I’m sure you’ve seen on MTV or whatever, most of what I’ve been up to."

"Yeah, but on a personal note…"

"On a personal note… it’s been the time of my life." Joey smiled slowly. "I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing."

"That’s really great to hear." Alyssa smiled, and sighed as she dipped the last of her fries in the ketchup.

Joey and Lyss sat around for a while longer, catching up on the details of the last four years. "So tomorrow, you’ll come?" Joey asked as he wadded up the paper trash in front of him.

"Yeah." Alyssa nodded slowly. "That’d be uh, fun."

"Cool, I can - whoa!" Joey’s eyebrows shot up and he stood up quickly.

"What?" Alyssa jumped up to follow Joey’s gaze toward the play area, hoping Tony hadn’t been hurt.

"He’s peeing! The kid’s peeing!" Joey laughed as he took three quick steps toward the play area.

"Tony?!" Alyssa asked as her jaw hit the floor.

"No." Joey shook his head and laughed as the other little boy in the balls pulled his pants up.

"Mommy I can’t get out!" Tony cried from the other side of the balls.

"That… that kid just peed in the balls." Joey couldn’t contain his laughter.

"See?! That’s what I’m talking about, that’s gross." Alyssa frowned at Joey. "Come here baby." She said to Tony.

"But mommy that boy peed in the balls! I can’t get out!"

"Go around the other way." Alyssa tried not to laugh as the tiny three year old held on to the side of the ball cage thing and climbed around to the exit.

"Mommy, he just peed right there!" Tony said, sounding traumatized.

"I know he did angel, let’s go get you cleaned up, I think we’re about done here." Lyss took Tony’s hand as they walked quickly inside to the bathroom. Joey followed, still laughing under his breath.

"I can’t believe that kid just pulled down his pants." He laughed as Alyssa pulled Anthony toward the ladies room.

"Not in there, mommy."

"We have to wash your hands, God only knows what kind of gross stuff was in there." She frowned.

"No that’s the potty for girls." Tony held his ground and frowned back at Alyssa.

"You go in there with me all the time, come on Tony, don’t argue." She tugged at his hand but he didn’t move.

"I can take him." Joey offered, as he tried to contain his giggles.

"No, he can go with me." Alyssa tried once again to pull Tony towards the ladies room.

"I wanna go with Joey in the potty for boys." Anthony stuck out his lower lip and scowled.

Alyssa held his gaze for a second before sighing, "You don’t mind?" She asked Joey.

"Nah, it’s cool." Joey took Tony’s hand and led him into the men’s room. "You gotta pee?" Joey asked.

"No." Tony shook his head and tried to pull himself up on the counter.

"You sure?"

"Yeah."

"Because you don’t wanna pee outside like that other kid."

"I don’t have to go." Tony grunted as he tried to reach the faucet. "I can’t turn it on."

"Oh, sorry, here buddy." Joey leaned over and hoisted Tony up on the counter and turned the water on. Anthony held his tiny hands under the stream of water then held them out to Joey. "You done?" Joey asked.

"I need soap." Tony explained carefully to the novice.

"Oh. Right. Here." Joey pumped a small amount of soap into his own hand, then wiped it on the toddlers. Tony sat there holding his hands out to Joey, who just stared at the little boy. "You need some help there?"

"Yeah." Tony nodded so Joey reached over and rubbed the soap over both of Tony’s hands, then held them back under the water to rinse them. He set the now clean Tony back on the ground and handed him a couple paper towels.

"Joey?" Tony asked cautiously as he threw the trash in the garbage can.

"Yeah?"

"My mommy has a picture of you in her room." Tony whispered softly.

Joey knelt in front of the small boy and said, "What?"

"She has a picture of you in her room."

"She does huh?" Joey smiled, feeling almost guilty listening to this little boy talk about his mom.

"Yeah." Tony nodded. "And you have on a big hat."

"A big hat huh?" Joey laughed, remembering that picture well. He was indeed wearing a big hat, a huge sombrero to be exact. That was one of their last weekends together before he left for Europe, they had gone to Tio Leo’s restaurant and sat in a booth almost all night talking.

"Yeah." Tony nodded and reached for Joey’s hand. He held it tight as Joey pushed the heavy door open and Tony trotted towards his mom. "Joey held me on the counter and I showed him how to wash my hands!" He laughed at the absurdity, that he would have to teach Joey how to wash his hands.

"You did huh? Well Joey doesn’t know a lot about washing kids hands. He’s not around little guys like you very much." Alyssa laughed as they headed out to the parking lot.

"I’m learning." Joey smiled, still holding tight to Tony’s hand.

"Yeah, you are." Alyssa said softly as she disarmed the car and opened the backdoor to load Tony in again. She sighed as she buckled him into place, then headed back to the recreation center to drop off Joey.

"Do you remember where Justin’s mom lives?" Joey asked as he leaned on the window sill right beside Alyssa.

"Not exactly. Kentwood, right?" She asked quietly, so not to wake Anthony, who had fallen asleep on the way.

"Yeah, on Baltimore." Joey nodded. "Do you have paper? I can draw you a map."

"Sure, here." She flipped open the glove box and dug around for a minute, finally emerging with a pen and a scarp piece of paper.

Joey quickly scribbled a map, then handed her the paper, "There’s the number too, in case you get lost." He smiled.

"Okay. So what time should we get there?"

"Whenever." Joey shrugged. "I’m going to get there around noon, I’m sure everyone else will be there before me."

"Are you sure it’s okay I bring Tony?"

"Sure, yeah that’s no problem." Joey shook his head. "They have a pool and everything, so if you want to bring your suit you can go swimming."

"Okay, do I need to bring anything else?"

"Nah, Lynn’s got the food part covered." Joey laughed and dug his keys out of his pocket. "So… I’ll see you tomorrow." Joey said quietly as he leaned into the car and brushed his lips over her cheek.

"See you tomorrow." She repeated as a blush crawled up her cheeks.

"Drive careful." He smiled and waved as he walked toward his car a few stalls down. Alyssa waved lamely as she backed out of the parking spot, and headed home.

She’d tell him tomorrow. She had to. He had to know.

 

 

On to part 2…

 

Copyright � 2000 Amy Lynn