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Brownie Bribe

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“Wait a minute,” Honey said. “You have the entire evening away from your family and you want to go home?”

“It’s not that I’m not grateful for this surprise,” Jessica said, surveying the spread Honey had laid out. There were several movies from Blockbuster, big bowls of popcorn, some sort of strange green tube filled with ‘face mask,’ and a salon’s worth of nail polishes. “I’m just concerned something will happen while I’m having a sleepover.”

“Louis has promised to take good care of the boys.”

“Louis believes he can take care of the boys. What if Eddie joins a street gang? They’re recruiting young, and my husband is too trusting. He’ll invite those kids right in and next thing you know, I’m going to be on 20/20.”

“You will not,” Honey said, pulling a pan of brownies out of the oven. They were a little crispy, but that was how Jessica liked them.

“They always blame the mother. I don’t want John Stossel on my lawn, peeking in my trash cans, telling everyone I was too busy engaging in childish things.”

“It’s not childish. If it was childish, would I have rented The Breakfast Club?”

“Good movie,” Jessica said. “Didn’t you learn the lesson of that movie? Being an absent parent leads to kids dressing silly leads to getting detention leads to failing life.”

“Well that’s... probably not the message the filmmakers intended. What about if, instead, we watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?

Jessica pulled the box out of Honey’s hand. “Hooligan gets away with everything because he’s good looking. I don’t want my boys to think just because they’re the most handsome, they can get away with anything. Emery’s already thinking that way.”

Sixteen Candles?”

“Racist.”

Honey winced. “That was insensitive of me.” She picked up the tray of brownies, and a knife, and drifted towards the living room. Jessica followed.

“I could see what on Pay-Per-View,” Honey said, flipping her remote.

“And while we’re watching TV, my boys are next door. Eddie’s bulling his brothers, and now Evan has to live with his head stuck in the bannister railing. Again.”

“Oooh,Carrie’s on,” Honey cooed. She started slicing up brownies, plating them and setting them right on the coffee table.

The smell of chocolate was overwhelming.

Jessica, in a moment of true weakness, sat down next to Honey. “I suppose one movie wouldn’t be the end of the world. It takes longer than that for Eddie to sneak out and get a tattoo.”

***

Two movies, half a pan of brownies, and a delivery of awful spring rolls later, and Honey was asleep next to her on the fold-out couch.

“Adult women sleeping on a couch like college students,” Jessica muttered, carefully sliding out from under the blankets. “Ridiculous.” She grabbed another brownie and slipped out the front door.

Her own house was in one piece, not currently on fire. That was a good sign, but that didn’t mean anything until she got inside.

Eddie was in his room, sprawled out on his bed, drooling a little.

She poked her head into the boy’s room. Two boys, no visible injuries or bandages. Instead, they were sleeping like angels. “My boys,” she whispered.

She pushed the door to her bedroom, expecting darkness. Instead, Louis was sitting up, a reading light attached to a hardback book, the cover resting on the bedside table next to him.

“Couldn’t sleep?” she asked.

“Shouldn’t you be braiding hair or playing with Barbies?” he asked.

“My back needs a real mattress these days.”

He patted the bed next to him.

“Did the boys give you trouble?”

“Of course not. We watched basketball and the boys ate all their dinner.”

“You’re such a good father,” Jessica said, snuggling against him. “And a successful businessman.”

He grinned.

“I’ll sneak back in before Honey wakes up. I think it’s important to her.”

“That’s sweet.” He kissed her temple. “But I’m not exactly sad you’re back.”

“The boys are asleep,” she whispered.

He raised an eyebrow at her.

She pulled him down, kissing him.