Wednesday night was Charlie's favorite because it was her date night with Neal. It had been going on for as long as she could remember – probably even longer – and they always did something fun together, like visit the Met or paint coffee mugs for her moms or play old but fun board games.
Neal arrived right at five to pick her up from her daycare on the third floor of her mom's office building. She could read the digital clock on the wall of the playroom and was standing by the door with her coat and her backpack when he walked inside.
He smiled at her and held out his hand. "Hey, Charlie. Do you have all of your things?"
She grinned and gripped his hand. "Yes. I have to show you the picture that I drew today for Momma."
"I can't wait to see it at dinner. Where do you want to go?" Neal led her out of the daycare, tipping his hat to Miss Amber, the front desk lady, when they passed her. He let her push the elevator's down button too. That was always Charlie's job.
"I don't know. Where do you want to go?"
He chuckled as they got into the empty elevator car, and she pressed the button for the ground floor. "How about a hamburger?"
Charlie wrinkled her nose, and he laughed louder.
"No good? Mac and cheese?"
She shook her head.
"This could go on all night, ma chérie. What are you in the mood for?"
"Grilled cheese?" She hadn't had it in a while, and there was a place on Roosevelt Island that Neal always took her for the sandwich. The tram was awesome, and it meant she could spend a little more time with him because it was further away than their usual date night places.
He nodded and hailed a cab once they were outside of the FBI building. When they were seated inside the cab and on their way, Neal reached out and tucked her hair behind her ear. "How has your week been?"
She couldn't help but giggle. Neal treated her like an grown up, and this was a question she'd heard him ask her mothers, Uncle Peter, Aunt El, and the other adults before. "We're learning about dogs. Do you think Mom would let me get a dog?"
Neal seemed to seriously consider it. "You'd have to ask her, but dogs are a lot of work. Do you think you would help feed it and take it for walks every day?"
Charlie nodded her head vigorously. "Every day!"
"How about this weekend we borrow Duke from Peter and Elizabeth? We would have him for two whole days to see what it's like."
Charlie pursed her lips and considered this. She knew what he was trying to trick her in some way but couldn't figure out how. Finally, she nodded. She really loved playing with Duke so getting to hang out with him for two whole days would be fun. "Okay."
"I'll talk to Peter and El. I’m sure they'll be okay with it."
He smiled and planted a kiss on top of her head. "Anything else exciting happen at daycare?"
"Mrs. Yancey brought her pet lizard in for show and tell, but he just sat there. I don't ever want a pet lizard."
"Did you have a pet?"
"When I was a kid? Uh, no, I didn't. But I've had plenty of experience helping out with the Burkes' dogs: Satchmo, Bing, and now Duke." Neal looked sad and Charlie leaned against his side.
The rest of the cab ride to the tram was quiet. After Neal paid the driver, he pulled Charlie up into his arms and balanced her on his hip as they boarded the tram. This was one of her most favorite parts of the city, but she didn't stray far from Neal's side today. In fact, she sat on his lap to look out the window.
Neal leaned close and kissed her cheek. "What's on your mind, Charlie?"
She shrugged and kept her face turned toward the window.
"I like our Wednesdays," she said slowly, not sure how to really say what she was feeling. The grown ups always told her to try though.
"Me too. What's wrong?" He started rubbing circles on her back, and she usually loved that. Now, she just squirmed away from his hand, uncomfortable and not sure how to explain why.
"You said we'd always have Wednesdays."
"Yes." Neal gently took her chin in his hand and turned her face so that they were eye to eye. "Is this about Ellen?"
Charlie nodded. Ellen's first birthday was next week, on a Wednesday of all days. Although their Wednesdays had rarely been interrupted by baby Ellen before, she was getting old enough to start joining them on some of their dates. But Charlie liked having Neal all to herself one night a week.
He frowned. "Charlie, nothing's going to change about our night together, okay? No matter how old Ellen gets or if there are other babies in the future. I can't promise that there won't be a Wednesday here or there that we'll have to raincheck, but we'll always get to spend time together."
"Yes. I promise."
She threw her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder. "Okay."
He held her close and then patted her back until she released the near-chokehold. "You and me, we're partners in crime, right? Who else is going to help me find the best and most unique birthday presents for your moms or Sara? Who will help me teach Ellen the finer points of riding the tricycle? Sorry, chérie, but you're stuck with me."
Charlie relaxed against his chest and put her ear right over his heart so she could hear the steady beats. "I love you," she said.
"I love you too, Charlie." Neal put his arms around her and held her tightly for the rest of the tram ride. This was her favorite thing in all of New York; Neal had promised to always be there, and she believed him.
Thank you for reading!