“Now look straight at the camera.”
“You can smile but don’t smile.”
“No, that’s too much of a smile.”
“Still too much.”
“I need to see your ears more. Tuck your hair farther back.”
I felt like I was getting my mugshot taken. I might as well have been holding a black sign with my prison number on it. The Walgreens guy looked like his happy meter only lasted thirty seconds and I had already well-used that allotment of pleasantry.
To make matters worse, Rielynn was clinging to my leg, the biggest smile possible.
“Chee! Chee! Chee!” she kept repeating, her little voice growing louder and louder.
By the time the camera snapped, I was pretty sure my eyes were fully closed. The guy looked at the camera and sighed.
“We’ll take another,” he said glumly.
And if taking my picture wasn’t bad enough, the guy looked ready to murder by the time we got to Rielynn. After all, how do you tell a two year old not to smile, to keep her hair out of her eyes, and even worse, how to stand still? I even stood behind the guy and gave her my most serious face, but she thought my face was hilarious and I just made matters worse.
I couldn’t even use the threat of insect to produce a terrified face. If I said spider she’d just grin even more.
“Rielynn, frowny face,” I said.
The end result wasn’t really a frowny face, but at least she didn’t have her mouth open to show every single one of the teeth that she had already grown. The guy nodded.
Ten minutes later, Rielynn and I were the owners of some horrible 2x2 photos. As Rielynn and I saw on a bench outside the store enjoying a Magnum Ice Cream Bar, I fished my phone out of the bottom of my purse.
“We have pictures.”
“Great!” Nick sounded genuinely happy. “How awful are they?” he teased. I laughed.
“Rielynn looks like she’s part chimp and I look like I’m headed to prison for murder.”
“I can’t wait to see them. When are you headed to the office?”
“Right after we finish our ice cream,” I said. Judging by the looks of Rielynn’s face, we’d be ready to leave in about five minutes. She had devoured the treat.
“Park and I will meet you there. 2nd Avenue South,” he reminded me.
“Got it,” I assured him. “See you soon.”
I hung up and tossed the phone back in my purse. Today more than ever my purse was a war zone. Besides the passport photos, I had birth certificates, a marriage certificate, social security cards, and my driver’s license.
As I pulled out of the parking lot into traffic I still couldn’t believe that I was actually doing this. I was getting a passport. I was going to pack myself and my daughter up and going to a foreign country for almost a week. Was I crazy?
Nick and Parker were waiting outside. It took a few minutes to find parking and another minute or so to pull Rielynn out of the car. With my purse weighing me down on one side and a two year old weighing me down on the other, we headed towards them.
“Hi!” Rie shouted as we walked towards them. Parker madly waved. “Hi!”
Nick smiled. “Your purse looks pregnant.”
I grinned. “Then it probably shouldn’t travel.”
The look on Nick’s face was priceless. I laughed.
“We’re going. I don’t go back on a promise.”
The smile returned. “Thank goodness.”
He held the door open for me, a welcomed surprise. The four of us made our way into the building, walked through the metal detectors, surrendered our phones, and followed the security guard’s directions to the County Clerk’s office.
I’m guessing that the County Clerk’s office isn’t overrun at any time, but especially with passport applications. A woman in her 60’s sat behind the desk, looking like she was just waiting for five o’clock.
“How can I help ya’all?” she asked as we entered.
“My daughter and I need passports,” I said.
She looked surprised. “Passports?” she repeated. “Coming right up.”
It was my turn to be surprised. She pulled open a drawer and pulled out the paperwork. She smiled at Rielynn and Parker.
“They are so cute,” she gushed. “How old?”
“Two,” Nick and I said at the same time.
“Oh, I just love twins. Nick and I looked at each other. He spoke first.
“Thank you. We do too.”
That wasn’t the answer I was expecting. He gave me a conspiratorial wink and then leaned closer to the clerk. “I have a passport courier on standby. The passports need to be expedited.”
The clerk started to talk logistics with Nick. I put down Rielynn at the same time Parker wiggled down Nick’s body, his sneakered feet hitting the floor with a soft smack.
“Ab-da-ka-chuh,” Parker said to Rielynn. She nodded as if it was the most logical thing she had ever heard in the world. She waved her hand in his face.
Parker giggled, stomping his foot and gesturing back.
I looked up. Nick was watching me watching them. He glanced down at the kids and laugh lines appeared by his eyes. It made him looking extremely handsome, or I guess more handsome. Even though he was wearing a tattered Mario Bros. shirt, he looked good. Hot even.
It was the worst time in the world to realize that the dad you’ve been hanging around lately was hot. It was even worse timing knowing I was applying for a passport to go on a trip with him.
He was still smiling, but he was looking kinda doubtful. Pull yourself together, I chided myself. I stepped towards the counter. “Sorry, what?”
“You have to fill this out,” Nick said, pointing at several lines. “I’ll watch the kids.”
The clerk handed me a pen. Nick brushed against me as he stepped out of my way. It caught me off guard.
“Good catch,” the clerk whispered to me, causing my pen to almost slide and ruin the paper before I had even begun. My head snapped back up. I had two choices. I could explain to her the situation or I could take the easier route. I glanced behind my shoulder. Nick was on all fours on the ground, crawling after Rielynn. She held her hands up and shrieked, stopping just so he could catch her. Parker quickly scrambled onto Nick’s back. I turned back around and smiled.