“Hey Stanley, didn’t we talk about your room last week? You were supposed to clean it over the weekend.”
“I'm sorry Mom but I just don’t see the problem with it.” he could hardly get it out without a fit of giggles.
“Oh haha, you're so funny.” She playfully rustled his hair. Kate watched as the ten year old made his way from the door to the bed, tongue clicking the entire way. He didn't trip over any of the multiple things that were scattered all over the floor. She picked up a few books and put them on his desk as he climbed into bed. “Tomorrow after homework and dinner there will be no TV. I want you up here cleaning. It’s a mess.”
“OK.” Stanley nodded. “Mom Thanksgiving is in two weeks. Are we going back to Buffalo?”
“Sam and Jessie invited us to have dinner at their house, which I thought was very kind. The car ride to Buffalo would be seven hours and I honestly don’t think my car would make it. A flight would only be an hour but two roundtrip tickets are really expensive. I'm sorry sweetie.”
“Is it really OK or are you just saying that so I won't feel so bad?” Kate sat down on his bed.
“No, it’s OK. I just miss Uncle Kyle.”
“I know you do Stanley.”
“He said that he and Aunt Vanessa would send a plane ticket for me to spend some time there over Christmas since I have a school break. That would be OK, right?”
“Of course it would.” Kate smiled. “Now its time for sweet dreams, kiddo.” She kissed his forehead as Stanley slid under his blankets.
“Mom, do you know how to ice skate?” he asked.
“Yes. OK, what I should say is that I used to know how. Why?”
“Cate Hale, she's in my class, is having an ice skating party for her birthday next month. She invited me to come.”
“That was nice of her.” Kate said. Stanley was settling in and actually making a few friends. It was tough but he always faced the challenge head on. Her little boy didn’t hide from anything. If he could face his mother’s murderer a few sixth graders were easy.
“I don’t want to fall flat on my face in front of everyone. Can we go there together first so I can get the hang of it?”
“Sure. We’ll go over the Thanksgiving break.”
“Maybe Detective John will want to come too.” Stanley said. He was grinning as he spoke.
“I'm sure he would. Ice skating is pretty popular around here.” Kate stood from the bed. “Do you have Rufus?”
“I got him.” Stanley pulled the ratty black teddy bear from under the covers.
His mother had given him Rufus when he was just two. It was one of the last connections he had to her. At ten it was a little weird still sleeping with a teddy bear but Rufus was more than that. He was family.
Kate turned off the overhead light but left the lamp on. That was mostly for her peace of mind. She turned on the CD player before walking out; Stanley liked listening to nature sounds as he slept. Tonight the CD was rainforests.
In her own bedroom, Kate went straight for the radio and her love songs show. She pushed the door up, stripping down to her bra and panties. Then she fell face down into the middle of her bed. It was only Monday, how could she be so tired. The four day Thanksgiving weekend would be just what she needed to get some energy back. As for tonight, all she could do was get to bed early and hope for peaceful dreams.
Her phone vibrating on the mattress made Kate sigh. That was a nice feeling. Probably unable to afford it, she was definitely going to look into a more comfortable sleeping experience in the future. A co-worker just got a Sleep Number bed. She said it was like sleeping on fluffy clouds of happiness. Kate could really use that.
“Hey John.” Kate smiled, turning over on her back and pulling up her knees.
“You sound tired.”
“I am tonight.”
“I won't keep you too long I promise. I have good news and bad news.” He said.
“Give me the bad news first.”
“I have to cancel our Wednesday night plans. I was just asked to pull a double shift.”
“Oh John, that’s a lot of work.”
“I know, but Vega’s wife just had a baby. He only got three weeks off and it’s been a lot on his wife. He’s been switching shifts all over the place trying to be home in the evenings so she can rest. It was hard to say no.”
“That’s because you're really sweet.” Kate replied. “What's the good news?”
“We can still do pizza and a movie on our regular Friday night. I also um…” John cleared his throat. “I was at this little store in Manchester and I bought a book on massage basics. I know how busy you are and would probably never get a chance to have your spa weekend. So I thought I could bring the spa to you.”
“You’ve been reading up on massage?” Kate asked. She shifted position on the bed so she could relax on her pillows.
“Actually I've been staring at the book, slightly petrified, but that’s the plan yes.”
“Oh my God,” Kate laughed.
“You're laughing?” he asked.
“Yes, I'm laughing…you are so cute.”
“You're cute too Kate. I'm sorry about Wednesday.”
“It’s OK; Friday is just fine for me. I guess we’ll have to find another way to shake things up.”
“You put on your thinking cap and I’ll put on mine.” John said.
“I'm definitely thinking about it.”
“I’d convinced myself that I was going to see you early. Having to wait two extra days is a real blow.”
“That’s nice to hear.” Kate said.
“That’s not the only reason I'm saying it. I'm glad it makes you feel good though.”
“Over Thanksgiving break I'm going to take Stanley ice skating. A girl in his class invited him to a birthday party. He wants to have a practice run before the big day. Would you like to come with us?”
“Yeah, I would but I don’t want to impose on time you spend with your son.”
“You're not doing that.” Kate shook her head. “Stanley told me to invite you. He likes you, John.”
“I like him too. I’d love to go ice skating with you guys.”
“Good. Do you have Thanksgiving plans?”
“Sam Kassmeyer invited me over for dinner at his house. I think a bunch of sad, single officers are going to be there.” John said.
“I'm going to be there too.”
“And the invitation just got a little sweeter. My sister invited me home but I'm on duty so…”
“You have to work on Thanksgiving?” Kate asked. “That sucks.”
“Well, yes and no. I'm on call, which means if anything happens requiring deputies then I can be dispatched. We’ve had some serious incidents over the years but we've also had some quiet days. Do you think you'd like a massage Kate?”
“Wow, you jump subjects faster than Stanley.” She laughed.
“It’s OK. And I'm counting the minutes until the massage.”
“Yes I am.”
“I'm a fast learner.” John said. “I always have been. I'm also excellent with my hands.”
“You're going to make me say something terribly flirty, John Barton.” She said.
“If you do then I’ll respond in kind. It's only fair and more than that’s, it’s exciting.”
“I'm blushing.” Kate said.
“Is this a stop/don’t stop moment?” John asked, levity in his tone.
“We should be together for those.”
“We will be together on Friday.” She said.
“I'm really looking forward to seeing you.”
“Maybe after the holiday we can work our way up to two days a week.” Kate said.
“I’ll make the time. I just didn’t want to push since I know how busy you are and you have Stanley to look after. But I’d really like that.”
“Me too John.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow or text you if things get too busy here.”
“OK. Kiss, kiss, kiss, moan, kiss.”
“Smile, kiss, kiss, hug, moan, hate for you to leave my arms.” John replied. “Hey, this might sound weird but do you think I could stop by tomorrow and have a hug. I just want to wrap my arms around you.”
“It doesn’t sound weird, it sounds wonderful. It’s a great idea.”
“I’ll stop by after work so that should be a little after eight.”
“Good, I’ll see you then.”
She hung up her cell phone, sighed, and relaxed even deeper into her pillows. The man was something…he made her tingle all over. He was going to give her a massage and just wanted to come over and wrap his arms around her. That was nearly too good to be true.
But Kate felt it was real. By now she would've gotten some red or yellow flags that she chose to ignore. There was nothing like that with John. She asked a question and got an answer. When she sent a text he replied in a timely manner.
There was no evasiveness or strange feelings in her stomach that Kate made excuses for until she couldn’t anymore. She lived in a small town now; everyone told her what a good guy John Barton was. It could be age; he was ten years older than she was. He was steady, strong, and sure of himself.
Even though he was shy about some things she still felt those aspects of him. The sweetness was an extra bonus. John wasn’t a guy, he was a man. Kate wanted a good man in her life and it looked like she might have finally found one.