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07.03.2019

"Melissa! Stop it," she said sternly.

The little terror did indeed stop. For two seconds. Then she started back up and ran out of the room screaming like her ass was on fire. Her ass would be on fire soon if she didn't shut the hell up.

"Is that all you're going to do?" I asked.

"No," Liz replied as she looked up from the paper she was signing. "Next time she runs by I'm going to kick her."

Not conventional by any means, but I was okay with that. I was daydreaming about shoving a Roman candle in her pants and dousing it with lighter fluid.

"So, Melissa seems a little…high strung," Carter said to Jim.

Jim nodded his head in agreement. "She's a cute kid, but I can only stand her in small doses. This one time we took her to dinner with us and she was being a nightmare so Liz made her go sit out in the car while we paid the bill. We got halfway home before we realized she wasn't in the car," he laughed. "Remember that Liz? Hilarious!"

Carter looked at me in horror and I tried not to make eye contact. The whole way here all I did was brag about how good Liz and Jim were with Gavin and how they'd be naturals at parenting. Oops. I forgot about that story. In their defense, Melissa was Satan. I would have driven off without her too.

Melissa made another lap through the kitchen and true to her word, Liz stuck her foot out. The annoying third-grader went sprawling across the floor.

"NO WIRE HANGERS EVER!" Liz yelled at her.

"You're weird," Melissa stated as she stood up and went running back out of the room.

"Nice work there, Mommy Dearest," I told her.

"So, Liz, when you have kids of your own, how are you going to discipline them?" Carter asked.

I gave him a pointed look. We were supposed to be inconspicuous here. Asking blunt questions like that was sure to send up a red flag.

Liz shrugged. "Eh, I'm not big on discipline. If it's funny and no one is bleeding, you're not in trouble. That's my philosophy."

Gavin walked in then and leaned his head on my arm.

"Melissa told me no one is allowed near her no-no zone. What does that mean? I don't like her. She's loud. I told her my mommy wasn't afraid to punch a kid," he said with a sigh.

We heard Melissa yelling in the other room and some loud banging.

"What the hell is she doing in there?" Liz asked.

"The cat's being bad," Gavin said.

Liz and Jim’ cat was known to be a little ball of terror, wreaking havoc on unsuspecting people when they least expected it. One time, when I was on the floor tickling Gavin, she hurtled through the air from God knows where and landed on my back with her teeth and claws inserted two inches deep into my skin. I hated that cat, but I think I hated Melissa more. Hopefully the cat was putting her in her place.

"Did the cat scratch you guys?" I asked, looking over his arms for claw marks.

"No, she won't stay in the suitcase," he explained.

All the adults at the table looked at each other in silence. At the sound of another thump from the living room, we all jumped up and ran out of the kitchen.

After making sure Melissa hadn't immediately moved herself into serial killer territory by suffocating a cat, we headed home.

"That really wasn't the best representation of their parenting skills," I tried to explain as Carter pulled out of their driveway.

"Hey, Gavin," Carter said as he glanced in the rear-view mirror. "What new word did Aunt Liz teach you today?"

"Ladyboner," Gavin said as he looked out his window.

Carter gave me a pointed look.

"Aunt Liz said you got a ladyboner for Daddy. Did you buy him a present? I want one too," Gavin complained.

After stopping at my house to pick up a few things, we went back to Carter’s and put Gavin down for a nap. Carter finally gave up trying to convince me that Liz and Jim were off the list when I said one word.

Drew.

If I was willing to give that giant child a try, he needed to keep an open mind with my friends. At least we agreed to wait until after the store opening tomorrow to tell Gavin that we would be moving. If we told him now, he would bug us every minute from now until we moved asking if it was time yet. I didn't need to fight the urge to lock him out of the house while I was busy with the store. One person can only take so much.

After Gavin's nap, Claire’s dad stopped by to pick him up for a sleepover. He walked right in the front door without knocking and proceeded to make his way through every room. Once he had seen all there was to see, he told me the house was "good enough." Oddly, that was the nicest thing he had said to me since we met, and I kind of felt like we had a moment.

I leaned in to give him a hug and he stopped me with his hand to my forehead.

"You don't want to do that, son."

I stepped back and gave him a sympathetic look.

"Nam, huh? Still hard for you to get close to people?" I asked.

"No. I'm still not sure you aren't g*y and if you try to play grab-ass, it's gonna get real awkward when I have to snap your fingers in two."

I was going to break that man one of these days, mark my words.

We said our good-byes to Gavin and Claire left soon after to head up to the shop and get a few last minute things made for tomorrow's opening.

I offered to meet her up there after I showered and ran a few errands.

Claire had given me a spare key to the shop, so I let myself in through the front door two hours later. It was dark outside and I left the lights to the store off as I carefully made my way to the kitchen in the back.

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