You know those movies where the guy steps into the doorway and blocks out all the sun.  That silhouette where you can see the outline of each of his biceps, but can't see his face and then you start imagining that he's snarling at you and that you're already dead meat, you just don't know it yet?  That's what happens when Timothy stands in my doorway.  It happens every time, no matter what his reason for coming to knock on the door.  It's not just the size of his body that does it either.  He's a very intimidating man in the first place, but this man at my door always comes with a purpose.  Social calls aren't his style and even though I'm his youngest sister, Aunt to his two children, and only other relative on this coast of the country, he still has only darkened my doorway three times in the year that I've lived out here.

His chin dips, the cleft in it flattens a bit then moves back into place as he flexes his jaw.  "Tamara."

I cringe when the name is said.  The attitude there is definitely something I should be worried about, but I can't seem to think of what I've done between the last time I saw him and now.  I haven't seen him in three weeks since I was working a fundraiser in Anaheim and our paths crossed.  How could I have done something wrong if I haven't had contact with him?

"Aunty Tammy."

I look down and see my nephew Tad coming out from behind my brother's leg.  He's a good three feet tall but looks dwarfed against the background of my brother's physique.

"Tadpole."  He giggles as I lift the five year old into my arms and settle him on my hip.  "What are you doing here?"

My brother doesn't smile when he sees us together.  I know that he's relaxed normally when I'm around my niece and nephew, but today he's all business, not even breaking at the sound of his own son's laughter.    "I was wondering if you could baby-sit tonight."

"Baby-sit?" I ask.

"Cassandra has the chicken pox and since Tad already had them last year while Cassandra was at camp he's getting bored with the staying home thing."  Timothy scratches his chin, "I've got an assignment that I'm going on that is taking me out of town and--"

"Poor Cassy," I say and look at Tad.  "Getting sick of staying home?"

Tad's head shakes over dramatically.  "Yeah."

"How's Delaney taking all of this?"  I ask him about his wife.  She and I seem to get along better than he and I do.  She is the one that has made sure that I have contact with the kids.  My brother is on assignment a lot with some big name clients so when I can I step in and play dad for the kids.  I'll show up at their school to see plays and end up at least a few weekends since I've moved out here watching Cassy's soccer games at the sports park in town.

"Fine."  My brother shrugs and I know that something is probably wrong there, but I don't ask.  It's not my place to ask since he normally doesn't ask me those types of questions.  Personal matters aren't important to him.  He loves his family more than life itself, but for the most part as long as business is ok then life is ok in his eyes.

"How's work?" he asks.  I can imagine that he's already asked around and kept tabs on me.  He's probably heard about me being around the Oscar's last night and probably heard that I was assigned to Lance.  I can never tell if he approves of my relationship with Lance or not, but I know his rule about not dating celebrities or at least not bringing myself into the spotlight--that's been tattooed into my brain for almost seven years now, from long before he met Delaney and had the kids.  It's a standard rule in the industry, but one to live and die by in our family.

I shrug.  Nothing really big has happened to me business wise lately.  Last night was fun, but not an event that would be considered out of the ordinary in my family.  "Fine."

"I saw that you were at the Oscars last night."  I would question how he knows that, but it's common knowledge for him who is where when one of his clients is at an event.  "Denny was there and saw you.  Said that you're a real pro now."

"It was nothing--"  Truth was that I was filling in for someone that was assigned to be there.  True I could have assigned it to be someone else's job, but I thought I'd take a chance and see what the hype of the awards was all about.  I wouldn't admit this, but I was also spying on Lance a little.  I didn't want him to come home and tell me how great it was and have missed out on the chance to experience some of it.  It hadn't really turned into the evening that I thought it would have, but we both survived.  "Volunteer stuff that I do in my spare time.  Security is more my game, you know that."

"Still," he says, "Being part of something like that is something special."

My heart goes into my throat.  This is starting to sound like one of those sappy Hallmark movies where the brother who has been the jerk is now telling the younger sister that he's about to die or something and that he wanted one last visit so that he could say that he was sorry and that he loved her.  It makes my skin crawl.  I don't normally have a sixth sense about things in my family, but all of a sudden I feel like he's going to tell me that he's going on a very dangerous assignment and that I won't see him again.  I hate that feeling.  That gut feeling that just makes you want to throw up.  "Yeah well--"

Luckily Tad seems to recognize the tension there.  "Aunt Tammy?"

I turn and find my nephew looking almost afraid to disrupt the conversation.  "What Tadpole?"

His eyes are wide with excitement.  The last time I saw him was when I showed up to his birthday party two months before.  I hadn't gotten an invite for some reason and I decided to stop by to say hello and to drop off his present.  I don't know if Timothy forgot to invite me or thought that I was working, but it was a very uncomfortable situation all around and that was the reason for most of the tension between us since then.  "Can I spend the night at your house tonight?"

"Do you have your things with you?" I already know he does.  Timothy wouldn't think of making more than one trip across town to come and find me.  He wouldn't even ask me this if he wasn't sure that I'd take Tad in for sure either.

"Yeah."  I love Tad's excitement.  He wiggles to get out of my arms.  "In the car."

"Well why don't you get your bag out of the car and let me talk to your Daddy for a minute and then we'll find something to do with the rest of the day."


Timothy gives him the keys, picking out the car key for him.  "Be careful," he says, "Only get into the back seat."  His warning I'm sure is because it's been on the news lately that kids have gotten into trouble with cars when left alone near them.

When Tad is gone Timothy turns to me and shocks the hell out of me.  "I saw the footage of you with him last night."  He steps towards me and pulls me into his arms and hugs me.  "You did alright.  Didn't even look as if anything was out of the ordinary."

I step back and stare at him.  I know that he's proud of me.  If he wasn't he would tell me, but he's never actually said the words "I'm proud of you."  Only Ron the brother just up from me in line would say that.  He's a little softer than the others even though he won't admit it in front of the family.

"It was a bit of a struggle," I said, "The event was a lot bigger than I thought it was and I was on edge because of the security issues, but it wasn't my place to point out how many inconsistencies I saw there."

"Always the one to point out someone's faults."

"Wonder where I get that from?" I feel that a little bit of a joke might be appropriate now since he's relaxed a bit.

"Aunty Tammy?"

I see Tad coming up the steps again with a bag in his hands that looks to be twice the size of him.

"How long are you staying for Tadpole?" I ask.

"I figured only a night or maybe two," Timothy speaks rigidly again.  "That's if it's ok with you."

"Sure," I say, "Lance will be here, but I assumed you know that."

"Of course."  Timothy looks nervous again as he takes the keys from Tad.  "Give me a hug kiddo and I got to run off to work."  He looks at me when he gets Tad into his arms to hug him.  "I'll be leaving in the morning for New York.  Call Delaney if you need anything tomorrow and you can bring him back whenever.  He'll probably want to call home tonight which is fine of course."

Tad smiled.  "Yeah. Mommy misses me sometimes."  He's such a brave little kid, almost to a fault.  His mother is a lot easier with him, but with Timothy he gets little or no sympathy about most things.

Timothy hands his son over to me and pushes the bag inside the door.  "Make sure to lock up."

"You know I always do."  My mouth moves quicker than my brain and I find myself feeling a bit out of it as Timothy's eyebrows raise at me.  I never snap back at him about things of that nature so it's probably a shock to hear something that might come from Ron, coming from me.

If he's got a speech prepared for me about it, he stuffs it down into his throat.  He takes a deep breath and leans to kiss the top of Tad's head then leaves without another word.

"Bye Daddy," Tad says loudly.

Timothy waves, but says nothing more.  Just when I think he's going to drive away he comes back to the door.  "His booster seat."  He sets it inside the door, waves again and leaves.

"So what are we gonna do today squirt?" I ask.

Tad is a bundle of energy and runs into the living room.  "Can we eat?  Daddy had to go to a meeting and we didn't get to go to McDonald's like he promised."

"Sure kiddo."  I don't normally have kid friendly food in the house because I normally go over to visit Tad and Cassy at their house, but I fish out some crackers and put a few on a plate for him before I go to find stuff to make sandwiches with.  "Eat some crackers and I'll make some peanut butter and apple sandwiches."

He's instantly into the kitchen with me.  "Peanut butter and apple?" He makes a sour face, something that I'm sure that his father has never seen.  Timothy wouldn't put up with anything like that.

Tad takes a cracker and leans over the plate to eat.  He's very careful with the food.  "Tadpole go and take those over to the coffee table and sit and eat them.  I'll make us the other stuff and we'll even have some fizzy waters with lunch."

"Fizzy water!"  Tad isn't allowed soda.  Timothy and I weren't allowed it either so it's easy to see why he wouldn't have any.  Too bad Delaney is practically addicted to it.  She's been trying to cut back a lot, but with her schedule and hustling the kids around the city I can see why she would need the extra kick in the pants every day.  Delaney is what I would call a typical Bel Air mother.  Her husband is the bread winner of the family and with the family inheritance coming his way if God forbid something happened to Daddy then he'd have enough money to live on for the rest of his life, Tad's life and Tad's son's life.  Timothy doesn't work now for the work of it.  He works for the pride of it and Delaney fund raises for the pride of it.  Every so often she'll get a mention in People Magazine and Time did a short piece on her a year ago because she successfully raise a little over three million dollars for Breast Cancer Awareness.

My hands stop in the process of what I'm doing.  My mind wanders again.  Finally my brain snaps into place and I start to work again.  Fizzy drinks.  Diet Coke.  OH.  I'm sure she doesn't share her soda with Tad and Cassy, but every once in a while I'll sneak them a twenty four pack of flavored seltzer waters that they like.  Tad's favorite is black cherry and Cassy chooses the peach ones first.  It's amazing how such a simple thing as carbonated water could turn the lights on in a kid, but when they get them they are super careful with them and even go to the extent of claiming twelve of the twenty four pack before even one has been opened.  Delaney knows that I give them the waters when I visit them, but Timothy probably doesn't have a clue about it.

"Can we play cards?"

I pull out everything that I need for sandwiches and find that I'm low on bread.  I know that Lance is into his sandwiches, but I thought I had at least six or seven more slices than are now in the bag.  I need to remind him again to write stuff down if it's running out.  It's a running joke with us, him being the forgetful "husband" and me being the "nagging wife". 

Tad's eyes light up and he looks just like his dad.  Timothy used to get that excited about things, but now he's too even keeled of a guy to get excited about much of anything.  At least in front of me anyway.  "Can we?"

"Can we what?" I ask then shake my head.  I've gotta keep on my toes around Tad.  No day dreaming about Lance or brooding over my brother's strange behavior.  "I don't know if I have a deck of cards."

"I've got three Aunty Tammy."  He opens up his bag and pulls out three decks and brings them over.  "I have Old Maid.  I have Go Fish.  I have a regular pack."  He shows me the cards and with a very Personality A Type answer says, "We can play one game of each if you want."

I sigh at the thought of playing that many card games.  If Lance was here he'd play.  He's great at cards, a little too great from what I can tell.  He told me that in a few weeks he's going to meet up with his buddies in Vegas for the weekend to play in a celebrity poker tournament.  It's for a good cause and all, but when he told me when he told me where they were staying at a suite in The Palms I know that this isn't just any little trip to Vegas.  

I take a deep breath.  "Why don't you pick since I picked what kind of stuff we're eating for lunch?"

"Go Fish is the best game," Tad says.  "I'm gonna go make the piles."  He runs away and I watch him in the living room as he sets out two piles of cards on the table then puts the rest of the pack on the table top.


The sandwiches get made quickly and I bring them to the coffee table.  Tad looks at me and then looks towards the kitchen.  "They're on the bottom shelf," I say quickly so he can go and get his drink.

He disappears and comes back with two twenty ounce bottles of Crystal Bay sparkling waters.  He has a black cherry one for him and one of Cassy's peach ones.  "You can have this.  I'll buy one for her at the store with Mommy."

"I'll make sure I replace it," I say knowing that I'll probably stock up before I go over to their house again.

Tad opens his bottle and takes a noisy drink.  Little kids love that.  The fizzy sound and then that kind of ahh sound that they make after they drink really cracks me up.  Every once in a while Lance will do that as a joke, but it's a lot better coming from Tad.  "Maybe your boyfriend will get you another one."

The subject change is a shocker.  Tad has met Lance a handful of times, but hasn't really hung out with him much.  He has never really called him my boyfriend so it's a definite change of pace.  "What do you know about my boyfriend?" I ask.

"Daddy says that he's a singer and works in the movies."  Tad puts his bottle down.  "Does he do musicals like Orphan Annie?"

"Not quite."  I find myself not being able to stop the laugh that comes out.  Lance would not appreciate the fact that he's just been compared her to Little Orphan Annie.  "He does songs that go on the CDs that go with the movies."

"Does he have ones on movies that I watch?"

What was the last thing he was watching?  Probably some cartoon movie or something like that.  I've heard of big stars doing voice work for cartoon movies like that and I'm sure that would be on Lance's agenda, but first I think he wants to have a few songs under his belt before he gets back into the acting or voice over work.  "I don't think so."

"Daddy says that he won an award, but he says that it was an act of GOD--" Tad explains.  "Did God make your boyfriend have an award?

"I don't know," I explain, "He probably had something to do with it."

"Can we play cards now?"  Tad picks up a sandwich with one hand and tries to balance the small hand of cards with the other.

"Tadpole.  Eat or play, but you can't do both real easy."

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