24 Hours

Vivian comes to the door wearing a tank top shirt and pajama bottoms.  She's braless, her make up is off, and her hair is up in a ponytail and her cheeks are red and eyes puffy.

"I'm sorry Vivian," I say grabbing up Steven up into my arms.

Steven wiggles against the hold I have on him, reaching for Vivian.  "Come and play cards with us."

"Vivian has better things to do than play cards with us," I say and sniff.

She stands there staring at me with these sad eyes and it's killing me to know that I did that to her.  When I found out that Britney had cheated on me I was pissed off beyond belief.  When I saw her face when I finally sat down and told her that I was leaving, I thought I'd die, but to see Vivian standing there being upset, I thought that I'd start to cry all over again.

Vivian looks away for a moment, takes a breath and sighs.  "Let me get my sweatshirt and I'll come over to play."

Steven and I both seemed shocked by this, but it's Steven's voice that fills the air.  "Really?"

"Go on in and grab my sweatshirt off the couch," she says pulling Steven out of my arms.

I let him down and we stand there staring at each other as Steven runs into the room.  There's so much I could say to her right now.  So much I should say to her to try to apologize about my behavior, but I can't seem to get the words out.  I'm about to say something to her when Steven runs back with the sweatshirt.  "This one?"

She looks dazed as she takes it from him and pulls it on over her shirt.  "Let me grab my key and we'll go down there and play some cards.

Steven holds onto Vivian's hand like it's Lisa's hand and looks up at her with a smile as she turns a little to grab her key.  "Justin says that I have to get in my pajamas so does he.  He has to get in his pajamas so we can have a pajama party."

Vivian smiles at him.  "I bet you guys really know how to have a good party."

Steven nods wildly.  "Yeah."

I love the idea that he gets so excited like this.  He never acted so happy about seeing any of the other girls that I've dated.  Dated?  Where the hell did that come from?  I'm not dating Vivian.  Hell right now I don't even know if we're friends or not.

A few minutes later we're all climbing onto the master bedroom bed.

Jonathan is in the middle of shuffling the cards in his blue sweatpants and long white t-shirt while Steven gets a pillow to sit on.  He's got on his Tennessee Titans pajamas that I got him last Christmas.  I lean against the headboard and Vivian sits next to me, but puts a pillow between us.

The cards are passed out.  I look at my cards for two seconds then look at Steven.  He's holding his cards with two hands looking at them.  He barely knows which numbers are which, but he can tell which cards go together and that seems to be good enough to play the game.

"Who goes first?" Vivian asks.

"I do," Steven says.

"Steven always goes first," I explain.

"Cuz I'm the baby," he says.

"You're not a baby," I argue.  "You have to stop saying that."

"Oh," Vivian says, "Leave him alone.  He's allowed to be babied for a few more years."

"Few more years?" I argue.

"Yeah," she says.

"Justin," Steven says, "Do you have any threes?"

I look at my cards and have to give him three cards.  "That's a good one Steven."

He smiles and pushes his hair out of his face.  I make a mental note to get the kid to a hair stylist the next time he comes to visit.  It seems like Daddy and Lisa have been busy lately because they haven't noticed how long his hair is.  "I rock at this game."

The knock at the door startles me.  I realize that it's just dinner coming and I look at Vivian.  "We ordered dinner," I say, "You can have some of mine if you want."

"No," she says, "I'm fine."

"You can have some of my French fries," Jonathan says.

"You should eat your French fries," she says to him.  "Aren't those your favorite?"

How does she know these things?  She's never told me she knew so much about my brothers.  Its more than Britney would have ever known.

"Yeah," Jonathan says, "But I'll share with you."

I'm dumbfounded by their reaction to her.  I know that they've always liked Vivian, but tonight I think they're actually flirting with her.  It amazes me because they were never this way with Britney, they always hung out with her, but after a while she became like a sister to them and wouldn't at all have a reaction to anything she said or did.

The tray is rolled in and I give the porter a few dollars before he leaves us with our burgers and chicken nuggets.

When I turn to tell the boys to eat at the coffee table I look around and don't see them.

"Guys?" I say.

"We're in the bathroom washing up," Vivian calls out.

I walk into the bathroom and find both boys washing their hands.  Vivian is holding Steven up carefully as he washes and for an instant I can swear I see her doing this very same thing with her own children.  She's motherly like that.  I didn't realize it until now, but basically she mothers me all day long.

"We're almost done," Vivian says, catching my eye in the mirror.  "Come on over and wash up too."

I move and stand behind Jonathan.  I take the soap from him and lean to run my hands under the water before I start to wash up.

"The soap at home is better," Steven says.

"We've got Harry Potter soap that comes out green, but makes white bubbles," Jonathan explains.

"Please tell me THAT wasn't in that gift basket," I laugh.

Steven shakes his head.  "No, Daddy got it at the store."

"Well," Vivian says, "I guess you're done Steven.  Go wipe your hands and we'll go eat."

"Ok."

Steven leaves the room and so does Jonathan and then it's just me and her standing there.  I rub he soap over my hands and of course only sexual images come to mind.  I love baths.  It's such a girly thing, but making love to Britney after we'd relaxed in a bubble bath or in the jacuzzi was one of the highlights of our relationship.  I'm a romantic at heart and it hasn't gotten past me that a woman likes to be wooed a little instead of just fucked.

"Justin," Vivian's voice comes to my ears.

"What?" I ask.

Her hand sits on my arm and I didn't even feel it there.  Her fingers smooth over the muscles of my forearm and slide down my hand.    She motions towards the door and smiles at me almost as if she understands that there is something on my mind that has taken me away from our conversation.  "The boys are hungry and are waiting for you."

I nod and move my arm away from her to wash the soap from my hands.  "I'll be out in a minute."


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