She made a mad dash for the couch and the phone, knew his ring tone when she heard it. She sounded a little breathless when answering though she did her best to sound casual. The last thing she wanted was him thinking she’d been waiting for the phone call. She was, but wasn’t thank you very much.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
“You sound like you were running.”
“You're such a smartass.”
“I didn’t say anything.” His voice went up an octave. It did that when he said he wasn’t doing or saying anything while he really was.
“Mmm hmm, right.” she giggled. “I ran for the phone, OK? I didn’t want the voicemail to pick up.”
“I could’ve left you a sexy voicemail.”
“I’d rather talk to you.”
“You were dying to talk to me.”
“No, I wasn’t.”
“You miss me like crazy don’t you? All the long, lonely nights without me. How do you get by?”
“Are you serious? You sound like an Alan Rickman movie, just so you know.”
“I miss you.” he said. “I am a little lonely.”
“Aren't you having fun with your family?”
“Fun and family don’t always go in the same sentence at Casa de Anderson.” He replied.
“Well what's up?” Gina got comfortable on the couch. The cookies had just come out of the oven and the movie was ready to go so she could relax. It was a typical Thursday night at home. Since he left she had been overworking but decided that could stop with the weekend approaching. She was having a night in and was glad that he called.
“I'm hiding out in the shed because I just wanted a moment’s peace.” Anderson sighed. “My brother’s here being better than I am. You’d think I would be used to that after all these years but it still makes me wanna knock his teeth out. My mother hates my sister’s new girlfriend; her name is Annika.
“And my brother-in-law is still a world-class douche. I would've thought they’d have some kind of medication for that by now. Even an analgesic cream would do. How my sister puts up with him I have no idea. I wish you were here. You could’ve been a buffer.”
Anderson had gone home to Parker, Colorado for his father’s 65th birthday. He wanted Gina to come with him but she wasn’t sure a family introduction at that kind of event was a good idea. Taking attention away from his father was the last thing she wanted to do. They got into an argument about it because Anderson thought she just didn’t want to meet his family.
The idea made her nervous but she was ready to dive in head first. The way he described them made her uncomfortable but she was going to do it. She just wasn’t going to do it right now. Another time would be better.
Anyway, taking vacation at the same time was bound to arouse suspicion at the office. Gina didn’t give a damn if everyone and their mama speculated she and Anderson were a couple. Fraternization was technically against the rules and frowned upon. It was constantly broken but she would be OK if they didn’t become the poster children for that fact.
“How's your dad?”
“He's not happy about all the attention; he's the low key sort. But Mom has already told him to shut up and smile because people love him and are happy he's not dead. Yeah, it was an amazing pep talk. He seems to be listening for now. He’s enjoying all the food.”
“I bet.” Gina smiled.
“I showed Mom the pictures of us from the aquarium.” Anderson said. “She thinks you're beautiful. I happened to agree. My asshole brother thinks I paid you to go out with me.”
“I don’t know if that’s an insult to you or to me.”
“It’s an insult to me…it’s always an insult to me.”
“Tell me one good thing that’s been happening there.”
“Aunt Janine’s key lime pie.” He replied. “She's making me one to bring home and that’s exciting. I’ll share if you're nice to me.”
“Shall we count the ways in which I can be nice to you?”
“Damn you should be here with me. It would've been the perfect excuse to get a hotel room and get away from these nuts. I'm really hungry but dinner is later tonight than usual. Being alone I have no excuse to have dinner somewhere else, you know?”
“I can't say it’s a good thing you don’t see your family more often but I hear the tension in your voice. It’s a good thing you don’t see your family more often.”
“I love my parents.” Anderson said. “If I didn’t look like my dad I would swear I was adopted. I have three siblings and nothing in common with any of them. We’re like four strangers picked to live in a house and loathe each other. You’re lucky you're an only child.”
“You're kidding me right?” Gina asked as she got up from the couch. It was time to put a hurting on those cookies. She would worry about the repercussions tomorrow morning at the track. “All of my dad’s hopes and dreams were thrust onto me. He was hoping to have the first female President of the United States or Supreme Court Justice. He was a little freaked out when I told him I wanted to go into the Secret Service or the FBI.”
“He wasn’t proud of you?”
“Don’t you remember graduation from the Academy? He was like a one-man trumpet section. It was sweet but a little embarrassing. Still, he would definitely prefer a career where I didn't carry a gun and didn’t deal with people who used them so frivolously. Not that I’m a super duper field agent or anything.”
“You're an amazing agent. When you are in the field you're a sight to behold. I might be a little biased…you're always a sight to behold to me.”
“How would you feel if I ate a tray of chocolate chip cookies and didn’t exercise in the morning?” Gina asked.
“I could give you a workout.” He said.
“Wow, what a difference six months makes.”
“I miss you. I mean I know why you didn’t want to come but I wish you were here anyway.”
“You're so sweet.”
“I'm a little pathetic actually; and maybe in love.”
“Maybe?” Gina cleared her throat. Damn, she didn’t want to clear her throat. That made her sound unsure.
“Did you put a question mark on the end of that too?”
“I don’t want to get crushed.” Anderson said. “I know you understand that.”
“Its no fun if there's not that guillotine feeling about the whole thing.”
“Its no fun if the feeling isn’t mutual.”
“How mutual?” he asked.
“Anderson, I don’t think you can get more mutual than mutual.”
There was a pause. There was an awkward pause. Gina filled the space with chocolate chip cookies and a little regret. This had the potential to be all weird and uncomfortable for a long time. She knew Anderson; he couldn’t navigate weird and uncomfortable very well. If it was going to get fixed then she’d better do it.
“I love you, butthead.”
“I love you too.”
“When you come home we’ll shake off all the bad karma with a marathon Mario session.”
“I want to play something I can win.” He replied.
“We could always play some checkers.”
“You are so mean.” Anderson laughed. Then he cleared his throat. “So we just uh…”
“Go. You need to have dinner with your family and pretend to like them for your parents’ sake. It's gonna take a lot out of you.”
“It seriously will. Call me later and leave me a naughty voicemail…it’ll ease the pain.”
“If you let anyone else hear it, I’ll kick you in undesirable places.”
“It'll be just for me.” he promised.
“OK, I’ll do it.” she smiled. “It's gonna be fun.”
“I think it'll be fun for the both of us. I’ll call you tomorrow or Saturday morning if I don’t get a chance. Goodnight babe.”
She hung up the phone wearing a big goofy grin. He loved her. It wasn’t as if Gina didn’t know that. Anderson wasn’t one for hiding what he was feeling. Even when he tried he was just bad at it. She appreciated that. Hearing it was nice though, even if she had to say it first.
He had fears; most were irrational. They were still his and Gina respected them. She always made sure he felt secure in their relationship. It was a good thing and she wasn’t with him because she couldn’t be with anyone else. She was with him because she loved him. Counting the ways wouldn’t be that difficult.
“Hey sweetie.” Anderson’s mom walked into the shed. “You need to stop hiding out and come have dinner. It’s just the three of us tonight.”
“Mmm hmm, but you'd know that if you didn’t have your head buried in the sand.”
“I'm sorry, Mom.”
“Its alright.” Kay Anderson smiled. “We’ll have dinner and then you can entertain your dad sitting through one of his movies with him.”
“I like his movies.” Anderson stood from the bench and slipped his phone in his pocket. “Where is everyone tonight.”
“Well Michaela and Annika went to Denver for a night on the town. Meghan said that Lucas is feverish from the teething so she's going to keep him at the hotel. Paul just said not tonight. He said he would see us at the party Saturday afternoon. So it’s just the three of us.”
“I hope I haven’t seemed anti-social Mom. I’m really happy to be home with you and Dad.”
“Were you talking to Gina?” his mother changed the subject. She knew her baby boy was a little different from his siblings.
“Yeah.” he nodded. “She really wanted to be here but our vacation time just didn’t work out.”
“We’re anxious to meet her.”
“She's not hiding from you. She didn’t want to overshadow Dad’s day…she knew meeting the girlfriend would be a big deal.”
“You haven’t brought a girl home since Kalina.”
“Oh wow, I surely don’t want to talk about her.” Anderson’s stomach dropped just thinking about his college girlfriend. She hadn't even really been his girlfriend, though he didn’t find that out until it was too late. He stayed away from women and relationships for years after that. To this day he had a disdain for sorority girls that concerned him but couldn’t be helped. “Gina is awesome, Mom. She’s funny and smart and I just…I love her.”
“Does she know that?”
“She does now.”
“Have you thought about maybe taking the relationship to the next level?”
They walked into the back door of the family home. Anderson could only smile as the smell of Salisbury steak filled his senses. There were many, many good reasons to come home again. Probably just as many as there were to stay away.
“I know Dad knew you for four months and was so smitten he got down on one knee. That’s not exactly how we do things these days.”
“All I'm gonna say is that I better meet her before you do anything, young man.”
“Yes ma'am.” He smiled.
“Now go and wash your hands and get your father. It's time to eat.”
As Anderson headed into the powder room he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. It was her, he could feel it. She was going to leave a message that would definitely get him through the next couple of days of family time. He really wished she was there but if she couldn’t be this would be a great reminder of what was waiting for him when he got back to the East Coast. He would take his time with levels and all the other things that created complications. Gina understood that, she understood him, and that was worth getting right.