“Good afternoon, Prescott Eastwick this is Kate can I help you?”
“It’s Stanley Mom.”
“Oh hey, I was just getting ready to call you. Are you home now?”
“Do you have homework?” Kate asked.
“I just have some science. Can I do it on Sunday?”
“Yes but it'll have to be right after brunch. I don’t want you rushing around at the last minute. What are you and Amanda having for dinner?”
“We’re making pierogies.” Stanley replied. “Detective John is taking you someplace nice right?”
“That’s what he said. He told me to wear the prettiest dress I had.”
“He really likes you Mom. He like likes you; I can tell.”
Kate knew Stanley was smiling when he said it. She loved her son’s smile; loved that despite all he’d been through that he was a happy kid. Still she never wanted to be the kind of mom who put a man, or a potential man, ahead of her son. When a relationship was new it was easy to get lost in it.
You wanted things to go well. You wanted them to be fun and even sexy. You were re-experiencing feelings or discovering some for the first time. Everyday was a new adventure. Letting the everyday go in favor of the shiny fantasy was a trap.
Kate knew as a mother that she couldn’t let that happen. Stanley being safe, secure, and happy was always first. If she had the time and energy to grab a little life for herself after that, Kate would do her best. John understood about the tightrope that she walked on as a single working mother. They only went out on Fridays, talking and texting throughout the rest of the week. This was dating and something they both enjoyed after the rigors of everyday life had its way with them.
“John is a good guy.” Kate said.
“I like him. I want you to have fun tonight.”
“Hey, I thought I was the mom here.”
“You don’t have enough fun.” he said.
“I have fun Stanley.”
“Well you have fun with me but that’s not the same. You gotta have fun with a guy. You have to put on pretty dresses, get flowers, and kiss. That’s what grownups do.”
“Is it really?” she smirked. Her kid was too smart for his own good.
“Can I watch Jurassic Park tonight?” he asked, jumping subjects with his usual aplomb.
“Yes, but I want you in bed by 9:30.”
“What time will you be home?”
“I’ll be there no later than eleven. I’ll kiss you goodnight when I come in.”
“And you like Detective John, right Mom?”
“Yes, I do. We’ll talk about it some more tomorrow. Sometimes being a grownup is complicated. I have to get back to work kiddo…I’ll see you later tonight.”
“OK, love you.”
“I love you too.”
Kate hung up the phone and sighed. This was only Date #4 but her son seemed to be investing something in it. He never had a father so she couldn’t blame him. When they moved from Buffalo they left Kate’s older brother behind, who had been a really positive influence in Stanley’s life.
Was it possible, with her son’s feelings in the middle to take things slow? She didn’t want the relationship everyone else wanted for her, not even Stanley. Kate wanted something that was just hers for a little while…a special magic. There was part of her that wanted to believe she could have it with John.
It had surely been a long time since she felt so giddy, even in the beginning. What was truly important though was that the both of them walked the path they wanted as individuals and possibly a couple. John and Kate had to be the most important elements of the whole thing. The tightrope got thinner and thinner until it eventually snapped. Kate didn't want to think about that anymore. She picked up her cell phone from her desk and sent out a quick text.
‘Just one more hour until the end of another long week.’ –Kate
She got a response within five minutes. That made her smile. Feeling like someone always made time for you was a good feeling.
‘You wouldn’t happen to have plans for tonight, would you beautiful?’ –John
‘I do, with a great guy. But I'm in the dark; he says it’s a surprise.’ –Kate
‘I bet he's anxious to see you. A week is too long to wait.’ –John
‘I'm having a stop/don’t stop moment.’ –Kate
‘I have a lot of those with you Kate.’ –John
‘So I’ll see you at 6:15.’ –Kate
‘I'm looking forward to it.’ –John
She was grinning from ear to ear when Elle Greenaway walked into the office. The look on Kate’s face made the investigator smile.
“Whoa, I know that look.”
“What look?” Kate asked.
“That’s the look of love. It’s unmistakable.”
“I can't say its love.”
“But its something, isn’t it?” Elle asked.
“Oh it’s definitely something.”
“Just enjoy every moment of it. Life is long and there aren’t many moments where we experience pure bliss. The look on your face is pure bliss.”
“Thanks Elle. Did you need something?”
“Nope, I just came to see how you were hanging in there. Is Hotch still working you hard?”
“Yes but he had court today so there was a bit of a reprieve. I'm sure we’ll be jumping back in with both feet come Monday morning.”
“There's a rumor circulating that the insurance company wants to settle.” Elle said.
“Wouldn’t that be something? Oh well, its not as if there aren’t a dozen other cases to work on.”
“I know right? The fun never ends around here. Have a good weekend Kate.”
“Thanks, you too.”
When Kate was alone again she started closing down for the weekend. John would be there at 6:15, they were meeting in the lobby. It would be weird to change from job Kate to date Kate in an office bathroom but this would be one of those times when she didn’t care. She grabbed her dress bag, cell phone, and went to the bathroom at the end of the hall. The office was still busy, it was always busy, but Kate Wolcott’s day was over.
They were flirting, kissing, and holding hands. Tonight would be a little different though. John made reservations at a nice restaurant. He put on one of his best outfits and went to Baird’s for a dozen forget me nots.
So far things had been casual and they both enjoyed that. A date like tonight’s would be a game changer. John would have to take the results of it like a man. Kate seemed excited to do something a bit more formal but he wasn’t really sure how any of this would go.
The truth was that other than his ex-wife John hadn't really been in a relationship. That was probably sad to say at 45. He was popular in high school, a football player, and dated a few girls. There was never anything serious. Then he met his wife in college.
They were married for many years and when they divorced he went into a self-imposed exile. There were years of bad blind dates and a few trips to some websites after emerging. When John met someone he thought he liked a lot there she broke his heart. He was trying again with Kate but felt sometimes as if he was trying for the first time.
“Wow,” John saw her walking from the bank of elevators. “Oh wow.”
Kate smiled as she approached him. They hugged and John kissed her cheek.
“You dress up extremely well, Detective Barton.”
“And you look…wow.” He smiled. “I bought these for you.”
“Thank you.” she slipped her hand in his as they walked to the exit. “How was your day?”
“It was busy so I'm definitely looking forward to a relaxing evening.”
“So no exerting energy?” Kate asked shaking her head.
“Well I'm sure if the situation is intriguing enough I won't be able to help myself.”
She laughed, resting her head on his shoulder when they walked out into the late autumn evening.
“I'm tempted to drink to how good you look in blue.” John smiled. “Don’t get me wrong, I always think you're beautiful, but this dress…”
“It’s been in the back of my closet for over a year just looking for a chance to shine.”
“It brings out your eyes. We’ll drink to that; to having a chance to shine.”
“I like that.” she touched her glass to his.
Camille was a small, intimate restaurant about three blocks from where Kate worked. There were soft white lights and a violinist playing romantic music. It was reservation only, could sometimes be months before couples got a table. Kate didn’t know how John had done it but she was impressed.
“Too bad it’s going to get really cold soon.”
“Why do you say that?” John asked.
“Stanley is actually getting better with his scooter. It’s been a week since he's run over Whiskers’ tail. I think she's understanding the echolocation and getting out of the way. She might think that Stanley is speaking cat.”
“Do you guys have some winter plans?”
“Well we’re definitely used to snowy winters.” Kate replied. “I think there's actually more in Buffalo than in Newberry. Stanley likes to stay in and read, do puzzles, and play his computer games. I keep him busy. He has been asking for a sled recently. I hear Newberry has some great hills.”
“Are you worried about buying him one?” John asked.
“I'm petrified but I promised myself that I’d let him live life. He's ten years old, you know. Blind or not I don’t know why I expected him to be anything but a daredevil. Last week he asked me if I thought he could be an astronomer. He said there were too many obstacles. I told him he could be anything he wanted and he would be good at it.”
“At that age I was sure I wanted to be a detective. I’d been reading detective novels since I learned to read, and loved cop shows. But I was also playing football, winning trophies, so I was torn for years. I broke so many bones when I was a kid…I know my mother worried about me all the time. I was her only son; five sisters.”
“You're not giving me consolation.” Kate laughed.
“Oh no, there's a lot to look forward to.” he took her hand across the small table. She had perfect hands and John loved how they felt in his. If he was trying not to be crazy about this woman it was time to approach it from a different angle.
“We’re not talking about Stanley anymore, are we?” she asked.
“We’re talking about whatever you want to. You should buy Stanley the sled. I’ll take him over to the park and let him go crazy with all the other kids. He’ll be fine.”
“Do you mind if I ask a personal question, John?”
“No.” he shook his head as their dinner arrive. He ordered the spicy shrimp marinara while Kate ordered the grilled chicken stir fry with brown rice and broccoli.
“Why didn’t you and your wife have children? From what you said about her it seemed like you two planned to be together forever. And I know you like kids.”
“We tried.” John stopped to say a small prayer over his food. “We tried for years and years. Laura even went to get tested; the doctors said she was fine. She demanded I get tested too.
“They discovered I had low sperm count. There was only about a 30% chance that I could get her pregnant. They suggested adoption, which I wasn’t against, but Laura wanted the entire experience. When she asked me for a divorce I granted it.”
“It’s alright. Laura is happy now and so am I.”
“Tell me something that makes you happy.” Kate owed him that much after bringing up that sore subject.
“If I can get one day in relaxing that makes me very happy.” John smiled. “I work a lot, as you know. I'm probably a workaholic but I come by it naturally. My dad worked for the highways…he worked hard. So Sunday is usually the one day a week just for me. I take a run, make a nice breakfast, and work on one of my projects. Right now I'm building a coffee table and a new bed frame.”
“I did notice that I never see you in church. I didn’t want to say anything.”
“It's OK John.” Kate squeezed his hand. “I was never a big churchgoer either but Sam and Jessie invited us. I thought that was very kind. I like the sense of community, the positive message that never overwhelms me, and Stanley likes Sunday school.”
“Laura and I used to go every Sunday. Newberry is a church going town, even if citizens sin every other day of the week. I just don’t want to be a hypocrite. I bless my food, sometimes I remember to pray at night before bedtime, but church has never been major for me. That won't be a problem, will it?”
“Not for me. I know how busy you are so it’s good that you have some time off to yourself. I know from experience that’s not easy. I have one hour or so after Stanley goes to bed to just be Kate. That’s not a lot of time to unwind.”
“What would you do with a whole day away?” John asked.
“I don’t even know.” She laughed. “I think I want the full spa treatment. I’d get a deep tissue massage, have a mud bath, a manicure and pedicure. I’d pretend I didn’t have a care in the world. It’s just one day though. It could do wonders for my body but my brain would still be harried. I bet I’d be thinking about grocery lists and bills to pay and Stanley’s schoolwork.”
“You need a whole spa weekend.”
“Yes, that’s it! It’s a pipe dream. A hot bath with some candles and cheesy love songs will just have to do.” Kate sighed. “Friday nights have been pretty relaxing for the past month though.”
“Really?” John raised his eyebrow.
“Mmm hmm.” She nodded.
“They have been for me too, Kate.”
“I like it too.” Kate gently sucked on his bottom lip before deepening the kiss.
“It’s just been a while.” He stroked her cheek. “A long while; I'm rusty on the dating rules.”
“Rule #3, kissing is OK.”
“What are rules #1 and 2?” he asked.
“Rule #1, don’t talk about your child all the time.” she teased his lips with hers as she laughed. “Rule #2 is just be yourself, which nearly negates Rule #1.”
John pulled her close and kissed her passionately. Kate moaned, pressing her upper body on his. The stupid console was in the way. Damn good thing the console was in the way. If not, she might have been in his lap by now. It had been forever since she sat in a parked car kissing. The giddiness coursed through her veins like expensive champagne.
“I should walk you to your door.” John said.
“OK.” She nodded.
She slipped her arms around him and they were kissing again. They just indulged in the softest, sweetest pleasure. There was no rush; no need to move to the next level. It was all about that moment. And in that moment John didn’t think the devil himself could’ve taken Kate from his arms.
“Do you want to shake it up?” he asked, a sparkle in his blue eyes as he licked his swollen lips.
“Yes.” She nodded. Kate didn’t have to think about it, the answer was undoubtedly yes. She was in such trouble.
“If you can get a sitter than maybe we can go out on Wednesday next week.”
“That’s a great shakeup.” Kate said. “I’ll definitely speak to Amanda. And she also told me about two other girls in town who sit. She thinks they'd get along well with Stanley too.”
“That’s really good news. Let me walk you to your door.”
John got out of the truck. He didn’t want to get out of the truck but it was getting late. Walking around to Kate’s door, he opened it and held out his hand. She held his hand as they stepped up onto the curb.
“I had a wonderful time tonight Kate.”
“Me too. I like you in your dress clothes.”
“I actually took these slacks to the cleaners.” John said.
She laughed, giving him a hug on the porch. It felt good; it felt good in her belly and the tips of her toes. Kate wasn’t sure she was ready to believe this was working. It had just been a really good month for her. A month wasn’t much when you thought about it. She just had to give it time because something in her belly told her this was right.
“How would you feel about pizza and a movie at your place on Wednesday?” she asked. “You’ve taken me out four times now and I've really enjoyed myself. But I want to spend a little time with homebody John.”
“OK.” He nodded, giving her one last goodnight kiss. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Kate unlocked the door and went into the house. John went down her steps, getting back into his truck. Homebody John was pretty similar to wears pressed slacks John and carries a gun John. He liked cold beer, good food, keeping the people of Hillsborough County safe, and he definitely liked Kate Wolcott. He was crazy about her as a matter of fact.