"Kuala Lumpur," Nick repeated as if he had just said something equally mundane like 'Target' or 'JCPenney.'
"I don't even know where that is!"
My voice was higher than normal. I cleared my throat and stared at Nick as if he had lost his mind.
"It's in Malaysia."
"Malaysia," I repeated dumbly. Nick grinned.
"I thought you were a teacher. Y'know, Malaysia? It's in Asia. I always remember that because of the end of the name - 'Ayyyysiaaaaa.'" He held the word until he practically morphed into the Fonz. All that was missing was the thumbs up.
"So let me get this straight," I said slowly. Poor Rielynn could have caught fire and I probably wouldn't have noticed. I was that stunned. "You want me and Rielynn to come to Malaysia to watch Parker while you do a concert. In Asia."
"Ayyyysiaaaa," he repeated. "Exactly."
"What about Lauren?"
He shook his head. "She has a competition."
"A family member?"
His eyes darkened. I knew a sore subject when I spotted one. "Won't go there," he said in a voice that told me there was a world of hurt beneath the surface..
I didn't know what else to say. Nick obviously felt like he was losing me, but he threw every ounce of persistence into his sales pitch.
"It's for like, five days tops. You'd have a really nice hotel room and you could sightsee. I'd pay you really well for your time and--"
"I wouldn't take money," I shook my head. "That's what friends do."
Nick's eyes brightened. "So you'll do it?"
I held up my hands. "Now, I didn't say---"
"Do you have an international passport?"
I frowned. "No."
He stood up from the lawn chair I had procured for him. He scratched his chin as he planted his feet wide.
"We can expedit those for you and Rielynn."
"I really don't think--"
Rielynn ran towards me, a bright smile on her face. She was holding something in her hands. Parker was on her heels.
"What do you got?" I asked, dreading the answer, but taking comfort that whatever it was she hadn't yet eaten it. She had probably eaten more bugs in her short life than all the contestants on Survivor combined.
Parker looked up at Nick, pointing at Rielynn's hand. Nick knelt down in the grass.
"Whatcha got?" He asked. He looked almost as excited as the kids.
Ever so slowly, she opened her hands. I leaned close. I don't know what I was expecting. Knowing my own daughter, I should have been prepared. Instead I was thinking thoughts of dandelions and ladybugs. Instead, I saw a giant, I mean giant earwig crawling up her wrist.
My award for even 'Acceptable Mother of the Year' flew out the window. I grabbed her arm and began to wave madly. The earwig went airborne and I was sure it had landed on me.
"Get it off!" I cried, going apeshit. My hands batted at my hair and my skin crawled. I lifted my shirt, raking my fingernails over my stomach, twisting to get my back. All I could envision were those pinchers...
Two strong hands grabbed mine. I tried to fight them off until I realized he was also repeating the same phrase over and over.
"Parker caught it, you're fine. Parker caught it. You're fine."
In that one instance I went limp. I felt like I had run a marathon. Rielynn was staring at me, stunned. Parker was engrossed in looking at the monster currently scuttling along the ground.
"I don't like bugs," I whispered.
"I see that. Sit down."
Somehow I ended up in a lawn chair, a Juice Box in my hand and a smiling blonde guy kneeling by me. He even poked the straw through my container.
I felt better once I took the first sip. I looked down right into his eyes. His lips parted, his head tipped back.
"So about Kuala Lumpur...."
If it wasn't for Nick saving me from the earwig, I could have successfully blown him off. Unfortunately, it now felt like I owed him a life debt. After Nick and Parker left and Rielynn was fed, bathed, and put down, I waited up for Charlie. While I waited, I took a little trip with Google Maps.
The only time I had been out of the country was when Charlie had taken me to Toronto for their annual beer festival. As someone who didn't really care for beer, I went more for the scenery than anything else. Yet, while in beer country, you kinda have to do like beerheads do. Somewhere between getting tipsy on some warm lager and pledging my never ending love to Salt n Pepa on the main stage, Charlie proposed. It was a crazy, whirlwind vacation.
It had also been our last trip. By the time we got married, Charlie didn't have any spare time for something like a honeymoon.
The pictures I brought up of Malaysia showed a beautiful country that had a really intriguing blend of old and new. I thought about how excited Rielynn would be and all the new things we could see together. It would be refreshing to stray away from our boring routine. How could I say no?
But then again, how could I say yes? It would be different if I was friends with Lauren and she asked me along. That would be okay.
I exhaled loudly in frustration. As someone who had take a few women's studies courses, I was going against everything taught. So what if Nick was male? Just because he had invited me to help watch his son didn't mean he was thinking anything other than platonic thoughts. He seemed like he was in search of a true, normal friendship with another parent as much as I was. How was that wrong?
"You're up late."
I was so lost in thought I hadn't heard Charlie come in. It was almost midnight. I rubbed my eyes and smiled.
"I wanted to talk to you and ask you something," I said. "You'll never believe--"
"How about in the morning?" he said gently. As he stepped closer to the light I saw just how bad the bags under his eyes had gotten. "I'm beat."
There was no way I could say no. I stood up and wrapped my arms around his waist.
"You work too hard," I murmured. He kissed the top of my head.
"It's my calling," he replied. His hand slid along my back.
"Tomorrow morning, I'm all yours."