The next morning, their last day in Los Angeles, JC didn't even bother calling Lori. She hadn't returned his calls in the three days they had been there; he wasn't going to expect her to be there on the last day. Their flight wasn't until noon so JC took Kyle down to have a late breakfast in the hotel restaurant. As much as Kyle liked room service food, he liked restaurant food even more. Just the atmosphere and the neverending supply of spoons amused him to no end.
"Daddy look." Kyle smiled and held his sticky spoon over the end of the table. It was his third spoon of the meal already and he had a devilish look in his eye.
"If you drop that on the floor you're not getting another one." JC warned as he took a bite of his toast. "I mean it."
"Yeah, he have." Kyle nodded and craned his neck to look for their waiter.
"No." JC met Kyle's eye and shook his head. "That's your third one already. If you keep dropping them on purpose you're going to have to eat with your hands."
"Ecky." Kyle made a face.
"Yeah, that'd be yucky." JC reached over and took the spoon from Kyle's hand. He set it on the table and pointed to Kyle's eggs, "Eat up kiddo. We've got a long flight ahead of us." JC yawned at the thought of another six hours in the air, then sat back and finished his coffee.
They finished up their breakfast with only two dirty spoons then went back to their room to pack everything up. As JC went over the room one last time before they had to leave, he debated calling Lori. "Like it would make a difference now." He grumbled and switched the light off. Lori had blown it big time, and if she actually answered her phone he wasn't sure if he could stop himself from laying into her.
"We go ona pane and we go ina air and we fye!" Kyle sang as he danced around the living room with Lello in his hands flying over his head.
"Are you excited about flying again?" JC asked as he shut the bedroom door and reached for their suitcases.
"And you know what? When we land we get to go home. How cool is that?"
"Is cool daddy. I have a room and a pool."
"Yep, we'll go home and see your room and your pool." JC laughed. "Grab the handle there so we can go."
Kyle grabbed the nylon handle on the smaller suitcase and followed beside JC as they left the hotel.
For most of the six-hour flight, Kyle colored in his French coloring book and asked JC to tell him what it said. He didn't speak much French, so he made up stories about the characters in he pictures, and Kyle seemed happy. They also watched part of a Disney movie before Kyle fell asleep less than an hour before they were supposed to land.
With Kyle asleep in the seat beside him, JC had time to reflect on the week. The anger he felt each time Lori hadn't answered resurfaced and he tried to rationalize where she could have been or what could have happened. She had been doing so good since she came to visit him in Florida before they left for Europe, it just didn't seem right that she would just not be there when they agreed to it.
By the time they landed, JC was more worried than angry and he decided to call her work once again as soon as they got to their house. They got a ride home from Lonnie who met them at the gate, then JC put Kyle down in his own bed.
"Daddy?" Kyle mumbled as his head hit the pillow.
"Yeah buddy. We're home."
"Yep, it's time to go to sleep." JC whispered as he pulled Kyle's little car blanket up to his shoulders and slid Lello under the sheets beside him. He leaned down to kiss Kyle's forehead, then ducked out of the room and went downstairs to call Lori's office again.
JC pulled a soda out of the refrigerator and popped it open as he pulled the phone from the wall charger and dialed her work number from memory as he sat on the back of the couch. When Lori's message came on her recorder JC hit 3 to be sent to an operator then waited. "Counterman Stanley, this is Michelle, may I help you?"
"Yeah hi, my name is Josh, I'm looking for Lori Sczlansky?"
"She's on vacation this week, is there something I can help you with?"
"No I uh, I'm kind of concerned actually. I've been trying to reach her all week. I brought she was supposed to meet with her son this week and now I'm just kinda worried you know, since she didn't return my calls or anything."
"Oh, well she's on vacation this week."
"Right, you said that."
"She went on vacation to Baja California with a group of girls from here. They won't be back until Saturday I think."
"I you're sure?"
"Yeah I'm sure." She smiled. "I was supposed to go but I couldn't really afford to fly, you know?"
"She's in Mexico?"
"Yes, they'll be back Saturday." She said again. "I can leave a message to have her call you when she gets in on Monday though if you'd like."
JC was literally speechless, "I uh n-no that's okay." He licked his lips quickly, "Thanks." He hung up and took a couple deep breaths. His blood pressure rose as he continued to fume for a moment. Without waiting to calm down he dialed Lori's home number and let the anger brew until her machine beeped telling him he could leave a message. "I hope you're having a good time down in Baja. Next time you want to see Kyle you can spend your own damn money and fly out here. I'm not accommodating you any more. Kyle and I flew out there and spent four days waiting to hear back from you. We wasted four whole days in LA because you had something better come up. I want you to call me the second you get this message." He left his home and cell numbers, as if she didn't have them, then hung up and fumed for a few minutes.
JC forced himself to take five deep breaths while he closed his eyes and tried to focus on something else for a minute, the first thing that came to mind was Jessica. He calmed down slowly, then used speed dial to call her house in Connecticut.
"Hello?" An unfamiliar voice answered a moment later.
"Hi, is Jessica there please?"
"Yeah, hang on." He heard the phone drop onto something hard. "Jess! Phone! Make it quick though, Jeremy is supposed to be calling tonight so we can go to a show."
"Okay, okay, sheesh." Jessica's voice got closer to the phone, then she picked up, "Hello?"
JC sighed and tried to force a smile, "Hey..."
"Hey!" Her mood brightened considerably when she heard his voice. "How'd it go?" Jessica asked as she opened the fridge.
"Is that him?!" Katie whispered loudly as her eyes flew open.
Jessica frowned at Katie and nodded, "Go away." She whispered back as she took a Coke out and opened it.
"Ugh, don't get me started." JC ran his hand through his hair and tugged gently when he reached the back of his head.
"Why? What happened? Is everything okay?" She asked, turning her back on Katie. She walked into the family room and curled up in the recliner with Katie following her every step.
"Yeah, no, we're fine. I mean nothing bad happened or anything, but Lori wasn't there."
"What do you mean she wasn't there?"
"I mean we flew out to LA and she wasn't there. I called like a dozen times and she wasn't at home or at work so we went by her house and she wasn't there all week. She never showed up and never called."
"What?" Jessica frowned deeply trying to think of a reason why she might not be there. "Is she okay?"
"Yeah, get this. So we got back this afternoon and I called her work to tell them I was worried because she wasn't there and didn't return my calls and guess where she is?"
Jessica's mind drew a blank, so she said the first thing that popped up, "Jail?"
JC laughed bitterly, "No. Much more glamorous than jail, but I like that guess."
"Where is she?"
"Oh she's down in Baja with some friends from work. Yeah they're down there on vacation. I know that if my son was flying all the way from Florida to see me and I hadn't seen him in a couple months, I'd definitely take off for Baja, wouldn't you?" Bitter sarcasm poured from his lips as he spoke.
"Are you serious?"
"She's in Mexico?"
"Yep." JC sighed, trying not to get angry all over again.
"What I uh wow, well maybe she forgot it was this week?"
"Yeah, I can see that. I mean, I've only told her for the last six weeks or whatever that we'd be out for four days this week. I can see how me giving her the exact dates we'd be there may have confused her. You're right, I must have been crazy." His sarcasm stung.
"Listen Jace, don't get mad at me."
"I'm not mad at you but when I call you to vent I don't expect you to take her side."
"I'm not taking her side, I'm trying to think of what might have happened."
"I know what happened Jess, she chose a vacation with her friends over Kyle." JC snapped at her again, but this time she remained silent on her end of the line. "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm taking this out on you, I'm just pissed off."
"I know you are Jace."
"It's just... it makes me so mad that she would do this. I mean, before I would have expected this but she's been doing real good for the last couple months. This is just it's really annoying."
"I know it is " Jessica nodded. "How's Kyle?"
"He's fine." JC nodded with a small sigh. "I don't even think he noticed that she wasn't there."
"Well that's good then."
"Yeah but it doesn't change the fact that she's a complete flake." JC sighed. "I left her another message at home, but the people at her work said they wouldn't be back till this weekend, so we'll see if she calls."
"That should be interesting."
"I'll have had a few days to calm down."
"Thank goodness." Jessica smiled slowly.
JC sighed and shook his head again; "I should have just taken my rights and ran when I had the chance, huh?"
Jessica grinned, knowing he didn't really mean it. "You still can you know."
"I know, I know." JC sighed. He knew that no matter how mad Lori made him, he just couldn't see taking Kyle away from her forever. He just didn't have it in him. "I should get going though, I'm exhausted."
"I'll call you tomorrow when I'm more awake and stuff." JC said softly as he tugged on his lower lip.
"I'll be here." Jessica smiled, twirling her hair around her finger. That was a new habit of hers and she didn't know where she had picked it up. "Love you."
"Love you too." JC closed his eyes and smiled, pretending she was there. "Bye." He said softly before he hung up and headed upstairs to go to sleep in his own bed for the first time in more than two months.
He peeked into Kyle's room as he walked by and wondered to himself how Kyle would feel when he woke up and his daddy wasn't five feet away in the same room. JC smiled slowly and laughed, knowing he'd have a hard time falling asleep without the sound of Kyle's snoring close by. For a minute JC considered bringing Kyle into the master bedroom with him, but in the end he simply yawned, and went to his room alone. A good nights sleep was just what he needed.
The next morning a very awake and bouncy Kyle woke JC up just before eight in the morning. "It's too early buddy." JC grumbled as he tried to pull his pillow over his head.
"I hava pool." Kyle said softly as he lifted the corner of JC's pillow and smiled down at his father with his hair sticking up at a dozen angles.
"You've got bed head."
"No you." Kyle giggled.
"No way Jose, you do." JC tossed the pillow off the side of the bed and stretched his arms over his head. "We've gotta get back on Florida time kiddo."
"Yeah." JC yawned. "Okay, so we're up. Do you want to watch cartoons?" He reached for the remote and clicked the TV on.
"Pancakes? Dude, I don't know if we have stuff for pancakes. I don't think Heather stocked up." JC sat up against the headboard and pulled Kyle onto his lap. "Should we go downstairs and see what we've got?"
"We'll see." JC nodded. "Okay, lead the way."
Kyle jumped off the bed and padded down the hall with one sock on and one bare foot. JC followed behind him and held his hand as they walked down the steps. "Daddy?"
"I like my how."
JC chuckled softly and ran his hand over Kyle's head to smooth down his unruly hair, "I like our house too."
Kyle's single bare foot slapped the tile floor as he walked into the kitchen and pulled the pantry door open. "Uh oh."
"Uh oh? What's up?"
"We have no pankays."
"Pancakes aren't in the pantry."
"No." Kyle shook his head and looked up at JC. "I hava pocorn?" He reached for a bag of microwaveable popcorn.
"Not for breakfast." JC shook his head and put it back. "Let me see if we have the stuff for pancakes and if not we can find something else."
"Have pocorn lato?"
"Maybe later." JC nodded and shut the pantry door. The refrigerator proved to be almost empty with nothing he would need to make pancakes. The freezer had two boxes of chocolate chip waffles though, so he popped four into the toaster and made up some juice from frozen concentrate. "We've gotta go shopping so we have some food in here."
"Yeah." Kyle rested his chin in his hand as he sat at the table and waited patiently for his breakfast.
They sat together and ate the waffles with a little bit of peanut butter on them while they sipped apple juice and tried to wake up enough to focus clearly. As JC finished his last bite he went to the answering machine on the little desk and winced. The number 32 flashed on the little red display.
JC hit play and grabbed a pen as he sat on the desk to take notes. More than half of them were hang up calls or wrong numbers, and most of the rest were just friends checking in. JC made notes and planned to call them all back over the weekend to let them know he was back in town and staying for a while. When he got down to the messages that were left during the week he was in LA he anxiously waited to hear Lori's voice leaving an explanation, but there was no call.
The last message on the tape was from Sean, and made JC's morning. "Hey Jace, this is Sean. Listen, Jimmy called this week and I know you're in LA, but you said you wanted to be in on any collaboration talk. He wants to work out a time to come out and work with you guys on the new stuff. He'll be in town next Tuesday to talk with Johnny about this, so I'm sure they'll give you a call then. Catch ya later kid. Say hi to Kyle for me." The message ended and JC's smile grew. Working with Jimmy Dothan would be a dream come true for him, and he couldn't wait to get the call. He didn't care what song they played with, just working with him would be amazing.
"He say hi for me?" Kyle asked as he walked up with a smear of peanut butter on his upper lip.
"Yep, that was Sean. He said to tell you hi." JC leaned over and wiped it off, then licked his own finger.
"We cawin sahn?"
"Nope, we're not going to call Sean right now, it's too early. But next time we see him you can go say hi."
"Daddy maybe he caw?"
"Maybe he'll call us, yeah. Then you can say hi."
"Kay." Kyle nodded and walked over to his basket of toys by the TV.
"You know what kiddo?"
"Yeah." Kyle said without looking up from his collection of toys.
JC smiled, Kyle always said 'yeah' when he asked that. "I am so glad to be home." He collapsed on the couch behind Kyle and smiled up at the ceiling. "We can sleep in as late as we want and eat whenever we want and lay on the couch all day."
"Ina pool and pay." Kyle nodded.
"We can go in the pool and play on your play set. Man, this is the life Kyle." He put his hands behind his head and sighed. "You have no idea how good you have it." He added softly.
"Yeah." Kyle laughed and pulled his toys out to play on the floor.
"Yeah." JC whispered as he closed his eyes and smiled with content. He never wanted to leave his house again.
JC and Kyle spent the weekend hanging around the house by themselves. They played in the pool and on the playset, then reorganized Kyle's bedroom so that the bed was closer to the door and the dresser was under the window. Kyle had a great time 'helping' move the bed and other furniture while JC's body ached from all the moving.
Every time the phone rang JC's heart jumped, thinking it would be Lori, but it never was. He knew she was returning on Saturday, so he gave her a day to get in and check her messages, but when Tuesday morning rolled around and she still hadn't called he was getting upset. Jessica was quiet about it, she never brought Lori up or even talked about her unless JC said something first, which he rarely did.
On Tuesday JC all but forgot about Lori calling and waited instead for Johnny to call. They played in the pool for a few hours then stopped for a quick lunch outside. "We can see Jussin?" Kyle asked out of the blue.
"You you want to see Justin?"
"Okay." JC nodded. "We'll give him a call a little later, maybe we can go see him tomorrow."
"Kay." Kyle took a bite of his sandwich and looked at JC thoughtfully. "And he go ina pool?"
"Maybe." JC smiled. "When we call him later we can see if he wants to go in the pool."
"Kay." Kyle nodded and swallowed his bite. He yawned loudly then looked up at JC with tired eyes.
"You're pooped." JC seat his sandwich down and leaned back in his chair. "I think you need a nap."
"All righty. Finish your orange there and we'll go up and lay down."
"Daddy hava nap?"
"Maybe." JC nodded. He was feeling tired too, a nap might do him good.
"Kay." Kyle sighed and took another bite of his orange slice then wiped his mouth on his bare arm. He meticulously stacked his little slivers of orange peel beside his napkin with the rest of his sandwich and slid off the chair. "Kay we go."
JC laughed and followed Kyle into the house and up the stairs. He was always surprised how sometimes it was all JC could do to make Kyle lay down for an hour, and other times he was willing, if not happy, to take a nap.
With Kyle settled in his bed for his nap, JC went back downstairs to pick up their lunch mess. As he stepped out into the surprisingly warm fall weather, he forgot all about the mess and sat on one of his padded chaise lounges. He leaned back and kicked his feet up, then let his eyes drift closed as the sun warmed his face.
It wasn't long until a sound from inside the house tore through his half-sleep. The phone was ringing and he had forgotten to bring it out with him. JC jumped off the chair then ran into the house to catch the phone before it went to his answering machine. "Hello?" He asked breathlessly.
"H-hi, JC?" Lori asked.
"Yeah. Hey I got your messages. I totally - "
"Forgot?" JC snapped.
"No, JC I didn't forget. I just I thought it was this week."
"Don't give me that."
"I have it on my calendar that you guys were coming out this week. Monday through Thursday."
"I know." Lori sighed.
"And you're just now calling? You've been home for three days and now you decide to call?"
"I've been unpacking and stuff. I brought back so much stuff from Mexico, I don't know where to put half of it." She laughed softly.
JC bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from telling her exactly where she could put it. "So ?"
"So, I uh I was hoping I could see Kyle."
"That depends, when will you be here?"
"I just got back from Mexico JC, I can't just pick up and fly to Florida."
"Okay so what are you proposing?"
"I was thinking you guys could come back out here. I mean, I know you have fun out here and everything. You've always got work or whatever out here."
JC laughed bitterly, "We just spent almost a week there doing nothing but waiting for you to call back. I'm not flying out there again."
"It's not like you can't afford it."
"That's not the point." JC sighed. He couldn't believe she actually had the nerve to suggest them coming out again. "The point is that we were out there to visit you, and you weren't there like we planned. I'm not taking him out to LA again. If you want to see him, you can come on out to Florida. I'm not putting myself out any more than I have to to try to accommodate you Lori."
"Accommodate me? Pardon me, but I believe you volunteered to bring Kyle out."
"Yeah, I did. So that you wouldn't have to spend any of your own money to fly out again. I was under the impression that you were hard up for cash. But seeing as how you just spent a week in Mexico and brought home enough souvenirs and gifts to fill a suitcase, I no longer have that kind of sympathy."
"Well I can't afford to come out there right now."
"Then I guess whenever you get the money to fly out that's when you'll be able to see Kyle." JC shrugged. That was perfectly fine with him, he was in no hurry to see her.
"JC " She sighed.
"I got the dates wrong, okay? It was a mistake. An honest mistake. Don't hold that against me."
"I'm not holding it against you. We were just out there and I don't feel like dragging him all the way across country again any time soon. If you want to see him, you'll have to come out here."
"I can't afford it." She repeated slowly.
"I don't know what you want me to do about that."
She sighed into the phone. "So that's it? I can't see him?"
"No, I didn't say that. I said you could see him whenever you wanted to. You just have to do it out here."
"JC, I can't afford to fly out to Florida at a moment's notice."
"Well, like I said, I don't know what you want me to do about that. I'm not flying out to California and I'm not paying for you to fly out here. You chose to blow your money on a trip to Mexico." JC shrugged.
"Can I even talk to him?"
"Sure. He's asleep right now though, maybe you can call back later." JC clenched his teeth.
"Yes, he's taking a nap."
"Well what time does he get up?"
"Probably around three."
"So I can call at three?"
"You can try sure. I don't know if we'll be here or not though."
"Oh come on." She sighed and rolled her eyes. "Is that how you're going to be now?"
"What? I said I didn't now if we'd be here. Sometimes we go up to the park or out by the pool. I'm not the vindictive player here Lori, that part is all yours." JC knew that each little jab he took at her stung, but he didn't really care. There weren't enough words to make her feel his true anger.
Lori bit her tongue and took a deep breath. "Well since I can't see him and you don't know if you'll be home this afternoon, do you think we can set up a calling schedule or something? So that we can both plan on being by a phone?"
"You think you can follow one?"
"Yes." Lori said through tight lips. "I'd like to talk to my son, if that's okay with you, a couple times a week."
JC rolled his eyes and sighed. A couple times a week? He couldn't imagine going more than a day without seeing Kyle, nevermind not talking to him. Since the day he'd fallen into JC's life, they had never spent more than a few hours apart. "Sure, when do you want to call?"
"I'd like to call tonight then maybe every Tuesday night and Saturday morning?"
"Okay." JC walked over to the little desk where a calendar was pinned to the wall. He flipped it forward to the correct month and grabbed a pen. "What time?"
"Well on Tuesdays I'm usually home by five, so lets say five thirty?"
"That's eight thirty Florida time, he'll be just about ready for bed." JC said.
"Yes, but can I call?"
"And Saturdays why don't I call around nine or ten your time?"
"Which is it? Nine or ten?" JC asked as he wrote the times in the little boxes on the calendar.
"Um, ten I guess."
"Okay." JC nodded.
"I'm sorry I missed you guys."
"Yeah, me too." He dropped the pen on the desk. "So are these times for this week? Or are you going to try to do this every week?"
"I'll call at those times every week. At least until I get some money to fly back. That probably won't be until after Halloween though."
"Okay." JC nodded. "I'll let Kyle know. I know he'll be excited, since he didn't get to see you last week." He played up Kyle's feelings a bit; the truth was that Kyle didn't seen fazed by the fact that his mom hadn't shown up. JC sat at the table by the windows and picked up the little sugar bowl left out from breakfast. He stirred the sugar and sighed as some spilled over the edges, "So you're going to call back tonight then?"
"Okay." JC stuck his finger in the spilled sugar and licked it off. "I'll talk to you then."
Lori paused; she wasn't expecting such an abrupt end to the conversation. "B-bye."
JC didn't respond he just clicked his phone off and dropped it on the table beside the place mat. He picked at the edges where some of Kyle's breakfast was dried to the fabric. With a deep frown he pursed his lips and thought about going out for the night so they wouldn't be there when she called. If she called.
He decided against it as he picked up the phone to call Jessica, the calming and rational voice he needed to hear. "Hello?" She answered with what sounded like a yawn.
"Were you sleeping?"
"Hmm?" She yawned loudly then laughed, "Yeah. You woke me up."
"It's almost one in the afternoon."
"I know, I was taking a nap." She smiled. "What's up?"
"I just got off the phone with Lori. She wants to set up a calling schedule so she can talk to Kyle twice a week." JC said softly as he drew circles in the spilled sugar.
"Wait, what'd she say?"
"She'll call every Tuesday night and Saturday morning."
"No, I mean about last week."
"She said she thought it was this week instead and she just forgot." He frowned quickly, but sighed. "I dont know. She's probably lying through her teeth, but what am I going to do? From now on if she wants to see Kyle she's going to have to come out here. I'm not wasting my time and money to fly out to see her."
"Well that's good." Jessica nodded. "Did she even apologize though?"
"Yeah, kinda. She was sorry she missed us, but but anyway. She'll be calling twice a week now so that's a step in the right direction."
Jessica scowled, "Yeah, I suppose. I just hope she can do that. She doesn't seem like the most responsible person out there."
"Don't even go there Jace." Jessica smiled bitterly and shook her head.
Kyle groggily walked into the room and crawled up on the chair next to JC. "Hi." He mumbled.
"Hey buddy." JC said softly.
"Is that Kyle?"
"Yeah, he's up. Do you want to say hi?" JC asked.
JC held the phone out to Kyle. "Hey, Jessica's on the phone. Do you want to say hi?"
"Yeah." JC handed the phone to Kyle.
"Hi Jessi." Kyle yawned.
"Hi Kyle, are you sleepy?"
"No I a nap."
"You had a nap?"
"Cool, me too." Jessica laughed. "Did you have fun in Los Angeles? Your daddy said you went to the beach."
"Yeah we see a ossin ana pool."
"That sounds like fun."
"We see a toto ona wall but no see mommy."
"You saw a toto?"
"Ona wall." Kyle nodded.
"But you didn't see your mommy?"
"No ona phone and no ina how."
"Ooooh." Jessica nodded as she deciphered his toddler language.
"Jessi you see?"
"You want me to come see you?"
"See a ossin."
"Oh, nope I can't see an ocean."
"See me ana ossin."
"Oh, you want me to come see you and take you to see the ocean?" She asked with a smile.
"Okay, I'll have to talk to your daddy about that."
"Kay, bye." Kyle handed the phone back to JC then took off for his basket of toys.
"Hi." JC laughed into the phone as he held it up to his ear. "See what I mean? He's a talking machine."
"You saw a toto?"
"A turtle. There was a sea life mural on the side of a building and he thought it was the coolest thing ever."
"Ahhh, okay. I couldn't understand what he was trying to say."
"We're working on that." JC laughed as he leaned to look out the windows to the backyard. "But hey, I've gotta run to the bank to transfer some money over, so I'll give you a all later, okay?"
"You can transfer money online you know."
"I know, but I haven't set that stuff up yet so I've gotta go do it before the bank closes at three thirty."
"Your bank closes at three thirty?"
"I don't make the hours." JC laughed.
"Florida is weird man. Thank God I don't live there." She laughed, then blushed quickly. "Call me later so we can talk."
"I will." JC nodded. "Love you."
"I love you too." She said softly so that her roommate wouldn't hear her.
"Bye." He smiled, then hung up the phone. "Okay pal. I'm gonna run upstairs and get my stuff, then we're out of here, okay?"
"Kay." Kyle climbed up onto the couch with his Elmo doll and a thick cardboard book.
"Cool." JC left Kyle along and ran upstairs to where he kept his bankbook. He got the transfer slip he needed, then threw his shoes on and hopped back down the stairs to get Kyle and go. "Hey Kyle, are you about ready to - " He stopped mid-sentence and looked at his son. "Dude."
"Hi daddy." Kyle giggled as he bounced on the couch, fully naked.
"Where are your clothes?"
"I doe have." Kyle stopped bouncing to shrug.
"You had clothes when I went upstairs where'd they go?"
"I see that." JC walked into the living room to find Kyle's clothes strewn across the coffee table. "So uh so what's the deal here? You just don't want to wear these?"
"No." Kyle shook his head then started bouncing again.
"Well what do you want to wear?"
"You've gotta wear clothes buddy."
"I doe have." Kyle sighed, then jumped off the couch. "Daddy you have."
"Heck yeah I'm wearing clothes." JC looked down at his jeans and t-shirt. "Come on, throw these clothes back on so we can get going."
"I doe wan."
"We have to go buddy. I have to go to the bank and then to Chris' real quick." JC reached for Kyle's pants and held them out to him. "So come on, let's go."
"No daddy, no cose."
"Yep, you've gotta wear clothes."
"My simmin cose."
"You can't wear your swim shorts, they're still wet." JC shook his head.
"Nope, can't do it pal." JC handed him the jeans.
"I'm gonna go, but you've got to come with me."
"No I say."
"You can't stay." JC sighed and reached for Kyle's arm. "Just put the pants on, then we can go."
"My sim pants?" Kyle asked as he ran toward the stairs.
"You've got dimples on your butt kid." JC laughed. "Just toss these pants on, we're only going to be gone for like, a half hour. When we get home you can take them off again."
"I doe like." Kyle frowned and sat on the bottom step.
"You love these pants, now come on. The bank is going to close and I have to do this today. Put these on."
"No." Kyle's giggly mood turned foul as he stuck his lower lip out and crossed his arms over his bare chest.
"We're not doing this power play today Kyle." JC raised his eyebrow at the little boy. "Put the pants on right now, or I'll take you to the bank naked." Kyle turned his head to look at his dad, and stuck his little pink tongue out at him. "All right, if that's how you want to do it." JC dropped the jeans on the stairs and picked Kyle up off the step, completely naked.
"No!" Kyle screamed as he realized JC was headed for the car. "No daddy! My simmin pants!"
"Nope, you had your chance." JC threw open the car door, brushed the crumbs off the car seat then placed Kyle in it. "You're going naked now."
"I have dean?"
"It's too late, your jeans are inside now." He climbed in the driver's seat and opened the garage as he started the car. "You should have just put them on when I asked you to."
"Daddy I have no cose."
"I know you don't." JC watched over his shoulder as he backed out of the driveway slowly.
"Daddy!" Kyle screamed with a deep-set frown.
"Hey. Don't shout in the car."
"I have no cose." Kyle said in a normal voice.
"I know. You didn't want to put them on."
"No you didn't."
"I have now?"
"Nope, we don't have clothes in the car, sorry." JC pulled out onto the main road and headed for the bank.
"It's not cold."
"I code wiss no pants."
"It's not cold outside Kyle, I don't know how you're cold."
"No daddy, I have pants."
"We don't have pants."
"Yeah!" Kyle shouted as he kicked JC's seat.
"Hey. I told you not to shout and you know you're not allowed to kick. Knock it off."
"No." Kyle pouted as he adjusted his tiny bare butt in his seat.
"You're the one who decided to go naked. I offered you some jeans to wear and you didnt want to wear them."
"It's too late now." JC shook his head.
Kyle cried and fussed a little more on the way to the bank, but was curiously quiet while JC pulled up to the drive-through teller. JC filled out the transfer form and zipped it over to the woman behind the glass, then signed the slip when it came back. They were done before he knew it and he headed for Chris' house.
"We go home?"
"We're going to Chris' house for a minute."
"No." Kyle began to cry again. "I no wan see Chris."
"Then you can wait in the car." JC sighed and turned onto the freeway then carefully merged into the rain slick slow lane.
They drove over to Chris' house and pulled into the driveway. "Are you coming in or are you waiting in the car?"
"I say." Kyle grumbled.
"Okay." JC lowered the back windows then jumped out of the car and walked up to the front door only a few feet away. He knocked, then looked up at the clear sky as he waited for Chris.
"Hey, what's up?" Chris smiled when he opened the door.
"Not a lot. I came by to see if you had that stuff."
"Remember when we left Europe I couldn't fit my stuff into my bag so you took one of my bags of souvenirs or whatever?"
"Yeah." JC smiled. "Kids shirts, a couple magnets and a sweater or two?"
"Those are yours? Damn, I was wondering when I bought all that shit." Chris laughed.
"Yeah, those are mine. Thanks for bringing them."
"No problem, you wanna come in?"
"Nah, I've gotta get going."
"Okay." Chris left the door open as he ran up his stairs to get the bag. JC heard him swearing out loud upstairs and a few doors slamming shut before Chris appeared again with the duffel bag in his hand. "This?"
"Yeah." JC took the bag and hoisted it onto his shoulder. "I didn't remember you had it till I went looking for this stuff last night."
"Man, I could have kept it all." Chris shook his head. "Hey, where's Kyle?" He asked as he leaned out the front door.
"He's in the car."
"Well dude, bring him in."
"Nah, I can't stay." JC shook his head. "And he's not wearing any clothes."
"You let him leave the house in his underwear?" Chris gave JC a look and stepped all the way outside.
"No, he's naked." JC smiled slowly.
"What the hell are you talking about? Why'd you make him come over here naked? You're the meanest dad ever." Chris smiled as he hopped down the stairs and walked up to JC's car.
"I told him to get dressed and he wouldn't." JC shrugged. "I had to get to the bank before it closed, so "
"You took him to the bank naked? That's bordering on child abuse." Chris shook his head and managed to suppress a laugh as he pictured them walking into the bank together.
"We went through the drive up thing." JC explained. "He had his chance to get dressed and he gave me attitude then stuck his tongue out at me, so he went as is."
"He doesnt have a stitch of clothing on him." JC shook his head and opened the car door. He tossed the duffel bag on the floor at Kyle's feet, then stepped back.
"Hi Chris." Kyle pouted from his seat.
"Hey Kyle, what's up?" Chris smiled and reached in to mess his hair.
"I have no cose." Kyle said as he sniffed and wiped at his eyes.
"I see that. Where'd they go?"
"Isat my how."
"At your house?"
"Well how come you're not wearing them?" Chris tried not to laugh.
"I doe no." Kyle's bottom lip stuck out as he continued to pout.
"That's okay little guy. You know sometimes I cruise around naked too."
"No " Chris laughed. "No, I don't go to the bank naked. I'd get arrested. But you know at home and stuff."
"Shut up Chris." JC shook his head.
"I'm just trying to make him feel better."
"Well you're making me sick to my stomach." JC laughed. "Are you ready to go home and get some clothes on?" JC leaned over Chris' shoulder to talk to Kyle.
"Yeah." Kyle pouted.
"Okay. Say bye to Chris."
"See ya later Kyle." Chris laughed and took a few steps away from the car.
"I'll call you later." JC laughed and pulled the drivers side door open.
"Okay. And get some clothes on your kid man."
"You going to Joey's thing on Saturday?"
"Yeah, what's it for again? Is it someone's birthday?"
"I don't think so." Chris shook his head. "He's spent the last week having some dude over to do this built in bar-b-que thing so I think he just wants to fire it up or something. I don't know. I'm bringing the meat though."
"I'll bring the buns." The two older men laughed.
"Seriously though, I've got like, tons of steak in my freezer from that Alley Cat place. It's the fu - best." Chris glanced into the back seat.
"We've gotta bring stuff?"
"You wanna rely on Joey to have food?"
"True. Okay, yeah. Then I'll see you there Saturday."
"With clothes on the kid." Chris laughed and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Yeah, he'll have clothes on." JC laughed and started the car Kyle sulked in the back seat with his arms crossed over his chest. Chris turned and trotted back into his house as JC backed down the driveway and out to the street.
"Daddy?" Kyle sighed. "We go home?"
"Yep. We're going home now." JC smiled in the rearview mirror as Kyle looked out the side window with his bottom lip still poking out. He couldn't believe he'd taken Kyle out naked, but he also knew that they wouldn't have that argument again any time soon.
JC smiled proudly as he focused on the road ahead of him. As impossible as he thought it was, every day he felt more and more like a father, and less like a guy playing house.
Copyright © 2002, Amy Lynn