"Anthony, come on." Alyssa sighed and tugged at the toddlers hand as they walked up the brick walk way to Justins moms house. She adjusted the beach bag on her shoulder, trying not to spill the contents.
"But mommy there are they have basketball right by the car!" Tony tripped over his feet as he tried to point to the basketball hoop set up in the driveway.
"I know sweetie." Alyssa helped him up and continued walking toward the house.
"I can play ball like Jordan."
"I know you can honey. Uncle Jason taught you, huh?"
"Yeah." Tony wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his blue and white plaid over shirt as they stopped at the front door.
"Let me look at you." Alyssa kneeled in front of Anthony and sighed again. His dark blue safari shorts were too big and his tiny wife beater was bunched up around his waist. "All righty, youre looking good kiddo." She smoothed his hair down and stood up straight.
"Youre looking good too mommy." Tony said as he laughed and tugged at her hand.
"Thanks." Alyssa laughed and rang the doorbell, anxiously waiting to see the guys.
They waited for a couple seconds before they heard foot steps coming down the hall, followed by voices and a couple loud barks. Justin pulled the door open quickly and held two medium sized labs back with his foot. "Hey! Alyssa right? Come on in." He laughed as the dogs tried to hop over his leg.
Anthony cringed and grabbed tight to Alyssas shorts, "Mommy?"
"Oh theyre okay, theyre really nice dogs, theyre just happy to see you guys." Justin said as he pulled back on the collars.
"Its okay Tony." Lyss reached down and pried the tiny hands from her shorts, then picked Tony up to balance him on her hip. "Hi Justin." Alyssa smiled and followed him into the house with the dogs surrounding his feet.
"So whos this?" Justin asked as he tugged Tonys shirt sleeve.
"This is Tony, can you say hi to Justin? This is his house."
"Hi." Tony mumbled as he buried his face in Alyssas shoulder.
"Hey you know what?" Alyssa whispered as they walked through the house towards the back door.
"What?" Tony whispered back.
"That basketball hoop outside is Justins, and Ill bet he knows how to play really good." She whispered as she raised her eyebrows and smiled.
"I can play basketball." Tony said.
"I know Ill bet Justin doesnt know that though."
"I can play basketball." Tony said loudly.
Justin turned around as he reached for the handle on the big double french doors, "You can huh?"
"Yeah I play like Jordan." Tony smiled shyly.
"Like Michael Jordan?" Justin asked, appropriately surprised.
"Yeah. Da Bulls!" Tony raised his hands over his head and cheered.
"Right on! Thats pretty cool Tony, maybe we can play a little one on one later, how does that sound?" Justin pushed the doors open and stepped outside.
"Yeah. And then I can show you how you dunk it, you can dunk it like this and it goes POW." Tony made the slam dunk motion then wiggled free of Alyssas arms to walk beside Justin, his shyness almost completely gone.
"You can slam dunk it? Thats cool, I cant do that."
"I can show you." Tony smiled up at the curly haired giant as Alyssa laughed.
"Joeys over by the pool." Justin nodded in that general direction then excused himself as he walked over to where his mom stood by the grill.
"Tony, come on." Alyssa said as the toddler began to follow Justin.
"But I want to go with Justin and slam dunk it." Tony frowned.
"Not right now sweetie. Justins going to help his mom cook up some lunch, but hell play with you later."
"Then can I go help cook lunch?" He asked, not moving any closer to Alyssa.
"Not right now honey, come on. Lets go say hi to Joey."
"But I want to cook with Justin." Anthony frowned and looked back toward the grill.
"Nope, not right now." She took his hand and pulled him toward Joey and the others by the pool. "Hey Joey." She said quietly as she snuck up behind him.
"Hey Lyss." He pulled her in for a big hug as the bag fell off her shoulder. "Hey Tony." He smiled at the little boy and stepped back. "You know everyone here, right?"
"Um no." Alyssa looked around and saw only a couple familiar faces.
"Well here, let me introduce you around then we can go in the pool." Joey smiled and took the bag from Alyssa. He set it on the ground beside the shaded table as Tony pulled his hand out of Alyssas. She sighed and rolled her eyes as Joey took them over to where Chris and Dani were sitting with a little girl in the chair between them. She was eating potato chips off of a plate in front of her, meticulously licking her fingers between each chip.
"Hey guys! You remember Alyssa right? This is her son Tony." Joey said as they walked up. "Lyss, this is of course Chris and Dani, and the little chip eater over there is Chriss little sister, Taylor."
"Hi, of course I remember Alyssa." Chris laughed and stood up to hug her. "Who could forget the gumby girl."
"Oh God." Alyssa blushed and covered her face as she hugged him back. "I totally forgot about that. For the record I dont do that anymore."
"What?" Joey asked, smiling, but confused.
"Jesus Joe, dont you remember? She would like, hug herself and she could clasp her hands behind her back, then pull them over her head?" Chris laughed and sat back down as Tony cowered behind Lyssas legs.
"I cant believe I used to be able to do that." Alyssa laughed and turned to Dani, "How have you been? I cant believe you stayed with this monkey humper."
"Hey!" Chris protested. "I did not."
"You totally humped that stuffed monkey, you know you did." Alyssa laughed and pointed at Chris.
"I did no such thing." Chris said to Dani.
"I was there hun, and you did." Dani laughed.
"What?" Joey asked.
"Remember? When we all went to Epcot and there was that store with huge stuffed animals? Chris humped the monkeys leg." Alyssa laughed as Tony pulled at her hand.
"Mommy I gotta go." He said softly.
"Oh Joey, where are the bathrooms?" She asked quietly.
"Um, inside the house there, down the hall on the right." He pointed back towards the french doors.
"Okay, well be right back." She smiled at the others and took Tonys hand.
"I want Joey to go." Tony said shyly.
"Tony honey, Ill take you." She said softly.
"I can take him." Joey said as he reached out his hand to the kid.
"Its okay Joe, really."
"I dont mind." He laughed as Tony bounced up and down and took Joeys outstretched hand. "Lets go little man." They headed toward the house and Alyssa sat in the chair beside Dani.
"Hes cute." Dani smiled.
"Thanks." Alyssa watched as Joey tossed Tony up onto his shoulders and walked across the lawn.
"How old is he?" Chris asked.
"Hell uh hell be four in a couple months." She said carefully.
"Im four." Taylor said as she licked her fingers again.
"You are huh? Are you in school?" Alyssa asked.
"Yeah I go to preschool with Miss Janet and Miss Candy." The little girls explained.
"Do you like it?"
"Yeah, I get to read my books a lot and play on the bars with Michelle."
"That sounds like fun."
"Uh huh." Taylor nodded and reached for another chip.
"So wow its been a long time huh?" Chris asked.
"Yeah." Alyssa nodded and tucked a stray hair behind her ear.
"Man, when Joey told us hed ran into you again, it was pretty shocking. I mean, after what? Four years or so thats weird."
"Well we didnt run into each other really, Joey came knocking on my door." She smiled and tried to change the subject, "Ive been following your guys story though, youre doing pretty good."
"Yeah, weve been busy." Chris nodded and took a drink of his soda.
"Chris, did you call that guy? Whats his name, Paul?" JC asked as he walked up to the table.
"No shop talk today." Dani sighed and covered her ears. "Come on you guys, how often do you actually get time off?"
"Pete, and no I didnt talk to him." Chris answered.
"Were not talking shop, this has nothing to do with work." JC said as he removed his sunglasses.
"Ill bet." Dani rolled her eyes and took a chip off of Taylors plate.
"So you need to call him because if you dont call him now hell be booked." JC said to Chris.
"I know, Im going to call him Monday." Chris nodded.
"All right, you got his number?"
"Yeah, its on that card you gave me. All ten of them." Chris laughed.
"Who is this guy?" Dani asked.
"Hes the guy thats going to come do the landscaping for the backyard." Chris said. "I want to get it done before we leave again."
"Not work stuff, dont worry." JC smirked and put his shades back on and walked away.
"He hasnt changed at all." Lyssa laughed.
"Nope, not at all, and he wont either." Chris shook his head and watched as Joey and Tony walked back across the yard.
Alyssa watched over her shoulder as they walked side by side down the brick walkway. Both of them started down the little steps with their left foot, then hitched their shorts up when they got to the bottom. Alyssa smiled, then looked away quickly as her heart sped up. Shed have to find a way to get Joey alone and talk to him about Tony.
"Come on, Ill go introduce you guys to everyone else." Joey said as they walked up.
"It was nice seeing you guys again." Alyssa smiled as she stood up and followed Joey across the huge lawn. Joey walked her and Tony around the yard and introduced them to everyone there, then headed for the grill to get their steak and chicken.
"Can I play ball after lunch?" Tony asked as Alyssa cut his chicken for him.
"Youll have to ask Justin, its his basketball hoop."
"I have an idea, Joey can play too!" Anthony laughed and took a sip of his juice.
"You bet." Joey smiled.
"Then I can go in the pool and go " He inhaled deeply to show how he could hold his breath.
"Yeah, I have to go with you though kiddo." Alyssa handed him his plate and began to cut her own steak.
"I can go by myself." Tony argued as he took a tiny bite.
"No way Jose." She shook her head. "If youre not going to wear your water wing things you cant go in without me."
"I can go with Joey." He challenged.
"Nope. Me." Alyssa raised her eyebrow at Tony and stared him down.
"But Joeys a growed up."
"Grown up, and yes he is, but you cant go in the pool unless I am with you." She explained. "Not that I dont trust you." She said quickly to Joey.
"No, hey thats fine." He laughed and wiped his mouth.
"Its just, kids are so quick you know." She continued to explain.
"No problem." Joey smiled and took another bite of his steak.
They finished up their lunch then Anthony jumped up and pulled at Alyssas hand, "Can I play ball now?"
"Youll have to go ask Justin." Alyssa said again. "Hes right over there by the door." She pointed and Tony followed her finger.
He looked from Justin, to Alyssa, and back, "Will you ask him?"
"Youre the one that wants to play" Alyssa smiled and shook her head. "Hes nice, you met him earlier."
"But he has the dogs?"
"No, theyre in the house."
Tony sighed and walked the 15 feet over to where Justin stood talking to Lance. "Can I play ball?" He asked quietly, standing just behind Justin.
Lance and Justin continued talking, not hearing the small boys voice. Tony looked back at Alyssa and frowned, then turned back to Justin and said it louder this time, "Can I play ball?"
Lance glanced down and saw Tony standing there looking up at Justin expectantly. He cleared his throat and nodded at Tony. "You have a visitor." Lance said softly.
"Huh?" Justin turned around, expecting to see someone standing there, but from 6 feet up he saw nothing. He glanced back at Lance and saw that he was looking lower, then turned to see Tony, "Hey! Tony my man, whats up big guy?" Justin laughed and knelt to Tonys level.
"Can can I play ball?"
"Yeah, you wanna play now?" Justin asked.
"Sure thing." Justin stood up and addressed Lance, "Tony here is gonna show me how to slam dunk, wanna watch?"
Lance laughed quietly and said, "Ill never miss the chance to see someone school you in basketball."
"You gonna school me, kid?" Justin asked as he placed his hands on his hips.
"Yeah, and so you can dunk it." Tony smiled up at Justin and put his hands on his hips too.
"Cool, lets head out." Justin looked around the backyard and caught Alyssas eye, "Its okay if we go out front?" He shouted to her.
"Yeah." She nodded. "Ill be out in a minute."
"Right on." Justin smiled and held the french doors open for Lance and Tony, then followed them through the house to the driveway out front.
Justin hopped in the car and parked it on the street to open up the "court" then grabbed the basketball from the back seat. Joey came out of the house and asked, "Can I team up with you guys?"
"We can be two teams." Tony said as he watched Lance take his sweatshirt off to show his wife beater under it.
"Tonys my partner." Justin bounced the ball as he walked up the driveway. He rolled the ball to Tonys feet and said, "Show me what you got."
Tony picked up the huge basketball and bounced it with both hands, trying as hard as he could to not let it get away. He bounced the ball and turned completely around in a circle, then stopped the ball and rested his foot on top.
"Wow! Youre pretty good there Tone." Joey clapped from the sidelines.
"Yeah I play like Jordan." Tony explained.
"You like Jordan huh?" Lance asked.
"Da Bulls!" Tony shouted and threw his hands over his head.
The three grown men laughed and Justin reached down to high five Tony, "Thats right, Jordans the man."
"Yeah hes the man." Tony nodded and slapped Justins huge hand.
"So show me how you dunk big guy." Justin picked up the ball and handed it to Tony.
"I have to you have to pick me up." Tony looked up at the basket miles above his head.
"If I pick you up to make the dunk, will you pick me up?" Justin asked.
"No!" Tony laughed. "Youre too big."
"Then how am I supposed to dunk?" Justin smiled at the boy.
"Youre big and you can jump higher and dunk it." Tony explained as he held the huge ball in his hands.
"Okay, lets see you dunk it." Justin picked Tony up under his arms and ran him across the court to the basket. He lifted the small boy up as high as he could and Tony slammed the ball through the net.
"Whoa! Good shot Tony!" lance and Joey clapped from the sidelines.
"See? I can dunk like Jordan." Tony laughed as Justin put him back on the ground.
"You sure can, you rock." Joey high fived Tony and dribbled the ball quickly.
The big kids played a little basketball with Tony running around with them trying to catch the ball, and every couple minutes Justin would hand the ball to Tony and then pick him up so he could dunk it. They were up by 10 points when they called a half time break.
"Hey Tone, youre giving these old guys a run for their money." Alyssa laughed as she stood with her arms crossed over her chest.
"Im schooling them." Tony said as he walked over to where Lyssa stood.
She bent to tie his shoe and laughed, "You sure are."
"Hes really good." Joey said softly as he stood beside her. Tony ran over to Justin and Lance and shared their bottle of water. "I mean, considering hes only 3. He can dribble that huge ball and everything."
"Yeah, Jasons still a sports nut so whenever they get together he teaches Tony some other sport. I think next time itll be soccer, Jason went to Chile over the summer and fell in love with the sport."
"Cool." Joey smiled and watched as Justin helped Anthony take his button down shirt off. He folded it in half and set it on the sidelines with Lances sweat shirt, that way Tony looked like the others in tank tops and shorts.
"Youre really great with him Joe." Alyssa said a minute later. "You all are."
"Yeah, kids are cool." Joey squinted and licked his lips. "But at the end of the day Im glad hes going home with you."
"Hell be beat." Alyssa looked at her watch, it was almost 3:00pm, "Hes missing his nap right now, Id be shocked if he made it till four."
"Ill be shocked if we make it till four." Joey laughed. "Hes a great kid, really. He acts so grown up, I mean these guys love him."
"Yeah, he hasnt been raised with other kids, so hes like a little grown up." Alyssa smiled and sighed.
"Do you want to have little brothers or sisters for him?" Joey asked as he watched Lance kneel in front of Tony and show him how to wipe his face using his shirt.
"I I think so. Eventually." Alyssa cleared her throat and smiled up at Joey, "I mean, I loved growing up with my brother and sisters. Hed love having other kids around."
"Yeah Id like to have a big family." Joey nodded.
"Really?" Alyssa asked, a spark of hope lit inside her.
"Eventually." He nodded. "You know, maybe closer to 30."
"Oh yeah." She nodded and turned back toward the house, "Can you guys keep an eye on him? Im going to go mingle."
"Hmm? Oh sure. Well keep him out of the street." Joey laughed.
"Thanks." Alyssa smiled and walked back into the house. She didnt have a lot to worry about, there was a four foot wall around the whole house, and a security gate blocking the end of the driveway. They would have to pick Anthony up and put him over the gate for him to be in any real danger.
The boys played for a while longer with Tony running around by their feet "blocking" Lance and slam dunking the ball every chance he got. Lance took a quick step to the side and accidentally tripped over Tony, sending them both to the ground. Anthonys little face puckered up and he immediately began to cry, more scared than hurt.
"Whoa! Hey, are you okay? Time out guys." Lance said as he reached over to help Tony sit up, "Im sorry big guy I didnt see you." Lance got a worried look on his face just as Tony let out a howl.
"Jeez Lance, just body slam him why dont ya?" Justin said as he and Joey ran over to the crying boy.
"Im sorry big guy, here, come here." Lance scooted over beside Anthony and pulled him onto his lap. Tony immediately buried his now tear covered face into Lances tank top as he placed his hand on Tonys silky baby fine hair. "Its okay buddy, are you hurt? Where did you fall?"
"Owwww!" Tony cried as Lance got a panicked look on his face.
"What did he fall on?" Justin asked as he leaned over the two on the floor.
"I dont know, his hands are a little scraped." Lance held Tonys hand open and brushed the dirt off softly. "Hows your head? Did you hit your head?" Lance asked as he ran his hands over the boys tiny head.
"What happened?" Alyssa asked as she ran out the front door and down the walkway towards the driveway.
"Lance body slammed him." Justin said.
"I did not." Lance glared at Justin and rocked Tony back and forth. "It was an accident, I didnt see him."
"Are you okay baby?" Alyssa asked as she knelt in front of Tony and stroked his head. "Did he hit his head?" She asked Lance.
"I dont think so, he pretty much fell on his butt." Alyssa went to take Tony from Lance, but he had a death grip on Lances tank top.
"Did you hit your head, baby?" Alyssa asked softly.
"No my hand." Tony held up his hand for his mom to inspect.
"Oh yeah, you skinned it." She said as she raised it to her lips to kiss it. His cries subsided as she said, "Lets go on inside and clean it up."
"No!" Tony said as he peeled his face away from Lance. "It hurts when you clean it."
"It wont hurt, itll help so it wont get infected."
"I dont want to." Tony started to cry again.
Lance adjusted him on his lap and looked at his own hand, "Lookit kiddo, I biffed my hand too, lets go wash our hands then we can go in the pool. I think were done with our ball game, what do you think?"
"Did I win?" Tony asked as he wiped his eyes quickly.
"Of course we won." Justin smiled and tousled Tonys hair, "We kicked their butts."
"Mommy can I go in the pool?" Anthony looked up at Alyssa with red watery eyes.
"Um sure." Alyssa looked at her watch and saw that it was almost 4:30. Hed be pooping out soon, and she was ready to head home.
"Come on tough guy." Lance held Tony tight as he stood up and brushed his butt off. "Im real sorry Lyss." Lance said softly as he walked by her with her son in his arms.
"Its its okay." She forced a smile and followed them into the house. Tony laid his head on Lances shoulder, and by the time they got to the bathroom he was sound asleep and drooling on Lances shirt.
"Oh man, hes racked out." Justin said softly as he and Joey followed them into the bathroom.
"Hes beat guys, Id better just take him home." Alyssa said as she tried to cover her yawn.
"Do you want me to just carry him to your car?" Lance whispered over Tonys head.
"If you wouldnt mind." Alyssa smiled. "I need to go get my bag and things." Alyssa left the small group of boys in the bathroom as she went out to the back yard to get her bag.
"Whoa Lance, youre bleeding." Joey said, looking at Lances elbow in the mirror.
"Oh man " Lance glanced in the mirror to see around Tony.
"Here, Ill take him." Joey said as he reached for Anthony.
"Dont wake him up." Lance whispered as he carefully pried Tonys hand off his tank top and handed the sleeping boy to Joey.
Joey adjusted Tony in his arms and held him against his chest as the child turned his sleeping face towards Joey. "Hes cute when he sleeps." Joey whispered as he stepped out of the bathroom.
He walked carefully out to the front of the house to go wait by Alyssas car. He held Tony tight with one arm as he reached over to open the gate and stepped through. Joey walked to Lyssas car and leaned back carefully as Anthony continued to sleep in his arms.
Alyssa bounded out of the front door with her beach bag over her shoulder and a diet coke in one hand. Her dark blonde hair was falling out of her pony tail, and she didnt have a speck of make up on but Joey couldnt take his eyes off of her. She hadnt changed at all since the last time they were together. Oh sure, her life had changed she had a son now, among other things. But she hadnt changed.
Alyssa slowed down as she spotted Joey standing by her car with her son their son nestled asleep in his arms. She caught her breath as her heart sped up, now would be the perfect time to tell him. She smiled slightly and pulled the gate closed behind her then walked up to Joey.
"Thanks." She said softly as she unlocked her car door.
"No problem. We really wore him out."
"Yeah, I should hire you guys to come tire him out every night. Hes out like a light." Alyssa opened the back door and adjusted Tonys seat so Joey could put him down.
"Yeah." Joey laughed lightly and leaned into the car, depositing Tony in his seat, then he stood back, not sure how all the buckles went.
Lyssa leaned into the car and strapped Tony in as he slowly peeled his eyes open and looked at her, "No mommy I want to go in the pool." He said as he began crying.
"No baby, youre tired. Were just going to go home."
"Nooooo!" He whined, still half asleep. "You said we could go swimming."
"Sweetie, youre pooped. We can go swimming at grandmas this week, hows that?"
"I want to go with Justin." Tony whined again as big alligator tears fell down his cheeks.
"Nope, were headed home honey. Im pooped too." She shook her head and leaned to kiss his forehead. He angrily pushed her away and kicked the back of the seat in front of him. "Hey. Anthony, thats not cool. You can be upset but dont kick."
"I want to go in the pool." He shouted.
"I told you no. Were going home now." She said firmly as he continued to cry. She cast a sorry look at Joey and shrugged, "Im sorry about all this."
"Its okay." Joey laughed and shook his head. "Youre the one who has to drive home with his feet in your seat."
"I know." She sighed and unlocked the front door. "I uh I had a nice time today. It was great to get out of the house, you know?"
"Anytime." Joey smiled and held her door open for her as Tony continued to cry in the back seat. "Like I said, were off for the next couple months, we should hang out more."
"I Id like that." She nodded. "And I think we should talk." She glanced over the back seat at Tony.
"Okay." Joey smiled and followed her eyes into the back seat where Tony was still crying. "Drive careful." He said as she hopped into the car and rolled her window down.
"I will. And hey, thank the guys for playing with Tony, he he really like play with the big boys." She smiled.
"Hes a good sport." Joey squatted and leaned his arms on her window sill. "Ill call you this week, okay?"
"Okay." Alyssa nodded shyly and smiled.
"Cool." Joey leaned in and kissed her cheek quickly. "See ya Tony." Joey waved over the back of the seat at the still screaming child. He shook his head and stood up as Alyssa carefully pulled out into the street and drove away. He did not envy her.
On to the next part
Copyright � 2000 Amy Lynn