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Home Sweet Home

"Okay spill," Bee said the moment I walked through the door. "How was it?"

"Where's the kids?" I asked, looking around. It was too quiet.

"Outside," she replied, waving her hand as if that was the least of her concerns. She plopped down on the couch. "Dish."

"The food was good," I said. I took a step towards the kitchen.

"Oh hell no," she said. "I didn't babysit just to hear about some creme brulee. What happened?"

I felt the rush of blood invade my cheeks. I could still feel the phantom of the kiss on my lips. "We just caught up."

"Uh-huh," Bee said in a way that made me feel as if I was covering up for some X-rated foray.

"We did!" I cried. I sank into the recliner across from her. "We talked about high school and about our families. We danced."

"Danced?" she repeated, leaning forward. "Now that's what I wanted to hear." She sashayed in her seat. "A little bump n' grind?"

I sighed. "It wasn't like that."

Obviously seeing the stress creased in my forehead, she held up her hands. "Okay," she relented. "Then what was it like?"

Those eyes. Those hands that used to be so clumsy and clueless, not so inexperienced now. I sank down low in the chair.

"He kissed me," I muttered.

"Oooooh!" Bee let out a little girlish giggle. I watched her odd-shaped earrings shimmy, smacking her against the face. She leaned towards me, totally absorbed. "How was it?"

"My life isn't like one of your hubby's risque paintings," I scowled. She continued to grin at me. I closed my eyes. "Amazing. I used to think he was the best kisser ever, but he's...improved." I fought my smile and lost. "Damnit, it was good."

I could tell by her body language that she took pride in finally cracking the admission out of me. "So then how come you're back so early?"

My smile dropped. "I---" I stared down at the carpet. Hoover had been drooling again. A large, dark stain stretched out before me. I was going to have to find time to get the carpet cleaner out tonight and listen to a half hour of loud howling while I removed the offending spot. "I got scared," I mumbled.

"Scared of what?" Bee asked dumbfounded.

I pulled my gaze from the stain and stared out the window. "He wants more than I can give him," I said exasperated. I knew she wasn't going to be able to understand.

Sure enough, a quick glance up caught her rolling her eyes at me. "What's to give? The guy's loaded. What he wants," she paused, taking in my outfit. "You've got."

"Wow," I said dryly, full on meeting her eyes. "If that doesn't make me feel like a cheap prostitute, I don't know what does."

"I'm sorry," she said quickly. "It's just that I don't know what you think is wrong with you."

I snorted. Where did I begin? "Bee, I've got two kids, a big crazy dog, and enough baggage to last me a lifetime."

"So? Everyone has baggage."

I stood up, effectively beginning to shut the door on the conversation. "You know what kind of baggage I'm talking about."

Her goofy expression disappeared under a cloud of 100% seriousness. "You can't let him ruin your life forever. That's what he'd want. The bastard--"

"I made a promise a long time ago that my kids were my life and that I would NEVER let a man ruin my life again. Brian Littrell broke my heart once. Sure, it wasn't the worst end to a relationship that I've had by far, but I'm not doing anything to complicate Cole and Tibby's lives. Cole's lived through enough of that," I said, interrupting her. I didn't want to think too much about him. Not now. Not ever.

"Kids grow up. You're still young."

"If the kids leave, I guess I'll just take up Bingo," I said stubbornly. "Speaking of kids, when are you finally going to have some so I can start spoiling them as much as you spoil my two?"

Ah-ha! That was the perfect thing to say to turn the tables. Bee's face turned scarlet. She picked at the hem of her brown Bohemian vest.


"March?! Really?"

My excitement couldn't hide her own. She broke into a full-on grin. "Yeah, the sonofabitch finally knocked me up."

The squeal that I let out impressed even me. I raced at her, practically crushing her shoulders.


"Collleeee-y, mommy's back and crunchin' Auntie Bee! Come look!"

I took a step back and Bee and I both began to laugh. Tibby put her hands on her hips and gave us her most serious 'adult' look. "You two behave now, okay?"

"Oh, what I have to look forward to," Bee said.

"Did you hear me?" Tibby said. "You two--"

"We're behaving," I said. "Are you?"


Even at a distance, I could see she was filthy. Her latest hobby was making mudpies. She loved convincing Cole to turn the hose on a small patch of the garden only to sit there and stock up her imaginary bakery with oozing 'chocolate' confections.

"You're dirty."


"Take your clothes off and I'll go start you a bath," I said. I slipped off my heels. Tibby's eyes widened.

"I don't want to run all nudey around the house!" she exclaimed.

"You did when you were smaller," I said, smiling at the memory of my little exhibitionist.

"Well I was stupid then," she argued.

"You're still stupid," Cole said, bursting through the backdoor. He tugged on her ponytail affectionately and then stopped. He appraised me warily.

"Hey buddy," I said. "What were you up to?"

"He's not here is he?" he asked, ignoring my question. He folded his arms and I could tell he was arching in his sneakers to look taller.

"It's just your mom and me hanging out," Bee answered. She held out her hand. "Where's my payment?"

"Payment?" I asked. Tibby giggled as she dropped to the floor. She began to wrestle with her sneaker.

"Auntie Bee and Coley played pooter!" she announced.

"Poker," Cole said, scowling.

"Poker?" I repeated. "Bee--"

"A little gambling never hurt no one," she said.

"Only addicts," I mumbled. She held out her hand. "Pay up, C-man."

Cole turned and headed back outside. A second later, he returned with a birdhouse in his hands. It was the same one that I had spied in Bee's backseat when I had left. Bee clapped her hands.

"Best damn paint job I've ever seen," she declared. Cole grinned.

"What do you think mom?"

My eyes took in the beautiful brilliant blue paint that covered the raw wood.


"It's great," I said, smiling, but at the same time feeling that weird sensation that only bubbled up whenever I reminisced (which was happening all too often lately). "In fact," I walked over and examined the paint job more closely. "This reminds me of the color of my high school football team's uniforms."

Which also reminded me of my time spent behind the bleachers, but that was part of the story that Bee and the kids were never going to hear.