"IT'S ONLY A TOOTHBRUSH, SADIE. Maybe it's because you have terrible breath."
I was sitting in Penny's garish ladybug kitchen before picking the kids up from Richard's. Des was spending the next few days in Seattle at a medical conference so I had some time to wander. I stirred my lemonade, wondering if she was right. Maybe I was reading too much into it. "I just think it was cute."
She rubbed her still-flat tummy, a habit she'd developed since learning she was pregnant. "It is cute, definitely. But you shouldn't move there for some guy, especially one who may not be staying."
"Dody's the one who keeps saying I'm moving there. I never said that!"
"Not directly, but you've been dropping hints all over the place. All you can talk about is how fun it is and how friendly everybody is and how much better than Glenville it is. Honestly, it's like you don't even care how you'd be totally abandoning me right when my baby gets here!" Penny covered her face with her arms and burst into tears.
Ah, those first-trimester hormones are powerful little bastards. They will kick you in the knees and make you fall flat on your weepy face. I set my lemonade down to hug Penny's heaving shoulders.
"I'm not moving there. I agree it would be stupid."
"But it wouldn't!" she hiccupped. "It would make perfect sense. It is so much better there than here. Where am I supposed to take my kids to play? There are no parks within walking distance of my house. There isn't a beach or fudge shops or kite stores. Bell Harbor has that, plus those cute little houses that all look different from each other." She wiped her face. "Just think of it. You could buy a darling little bungalow and paint it purple if you wanted to. I have to get a frickin' dispensation from the pope to put a birdbath in my yard, stupid neighborhood association."
"Maybe you should move to Bell Harbor," I said.
"Maybe I will, but you go first."
I sat back down, wishing there was some gin in my lemonade. "So now you're saying I should move there?"
"Probably. But don't do it for some guy."
When Dody and Fontaine had suggested I move, it was easy to dismiss the notion. After all, Fontaine had business motives and Dody is a whack job. But Penny adding her name to the petition changed things.
"Wouldn't you miss me?"
She hiccupped again. "Yes, but I'd come to see you all the time. Princess Buttercup loves the water."
"Who is Princess Buttercup?"
"My baby. That's what Jeff calls her."
"But what if it's a boy?"
"Then he's going to get beat up a lot."
The television blared through the door of Richard's apartment. I knocked a second time, and Jordan opened it a minute later.
"Hi, Mommy." He jumped into my arms, squeezing me tight. That would never get old.
"Hello, beautiful," Richard purred. Oh, that was definitely old.
I stepped through the door into his starkly furnished apartment.
"Wow. I love what you've done with the place."
Richard chuckled. "Yeah, well, you kept all the furniture, remember?"
I smiled. "Are the kids all packed?" The sooner I could get out of there the better.
"What's your rush? Would you like a drink?"
"No, thanks. We have to run. And I'm driving."
"Got a hot date back in Mayberry with this Dezzz character the kids keep buzzing about? Who are they talking about?"
"Nobody special. Just a friend." I kicked aside a newspaper on the floor, looking for the kids' shoes.
"A friend, huh?" Richard leaned against the wall. "Friends are good to have. Is it serious?"
I stopped looking for shoes and gave Richard a stern look. "That's not exactly your business, is it?"
He smirked. "Oh, so it is serious? What kind of name is Dezzz? Is he a biker or something?"
I saw Paige's sandal stuffed under a couch cushion and crossed the room to pull it out. "He's a doctor. Come on, kids. Help me get your stuff together."
Paige hopped around on one foot. "Mommy, where's my other shoe?"
"It's here, baby. Let me help you."
We scurried around, gathering their things and stuffing them into a duffel bag. I didn't take extra time to fold anything. It would all go into the wash as soon as I got back to Dody's anyway.
"Daddy, don't drink my juice box, OK? Save it for me," Jordan told him.
"OK, J. I will. Are you sure you have to rush off, Sade? We could order a pizza, open a bottle of wine. You could tell me all about your new friend. Or better yet, we could reminisce." His innuendo was loud and clear. Let's put on a movie for the kids and sneak into the other room for a quickie.
I shook my head vehemently. "No, I have stuff to do. I need to stop by the house before we head back to Bell Harbor."
He frowned. "You don't need to check on the house. I could do that for you, you know."
"That's nice of you to offer, Richard, but I have a couple things I'd like to pick up. Kids, give Daddy a smooch. We have to go."
Paige kissed his cheek and he gave her a hug. Jordan tried to do the same.
"Hey, J. Real men shake hands, remember?" Richard chided.
I bit my tongue. Heaven forbid Richard's son show any sensitivity.
Jordan nodded and held out his hand.
"OK, I think that's everything," I said. "See you later, Richard." I started to walk out the door. The kids scampered ahead but Richard gripped my arm and squeezed. "Sadie, tell the truth. Is it serious between you and this guy?"
Was he jealous? After all this time and all he'd put me through?
I wasn't naive enough to think it was serious with Des. I didn't know if it ever would be, but I wasn't about to let Richard know that.
"It's desperately serious, Richard. I've never been so in love."