Kevin treaded the carpet in the living room mimicking a century on duty. A Fed-Ex van pulled up. As it did, Kevin bolted for the door. Opening the door before the bell could be rung, he signed the electronic pad. Then he shut the door in haste before Cass could get a glimpse at the box.
“What is that?” Cass tried to see the box.
“It’s for Annie, nosey or somethin’?” Kevin stalked off to the kitchen.
She followed and watched. He must have the damn Hope Diamond in there. She watched him drum his fingers on the box. He was alternating between the box and the kitchen table.
“Are you going to open it?” Cass crossed her arms and tilted her head up slightly. She leaned back on the freezer.
“Not now, maybe later.” Kevin tried to be disinterested as he turned the radio on in the kitchen. He hummed along as he kept himself busy getting ready for the big party. Finally, he stopped making the peanut butter and jelly finger sandwiches. He could feel Cass watching him and it was un-nerving.
Cass flashed him a know-it-all grin as he glanced to the box.
“Don’t you have to get ready? Isn’t Bone picking you up?” Kevin asked while pouting, Cass could tell, his daughter did the same thing.
“Okay, you win, but you better cool it on the gifts. Look at everything you two bought yesterday.” Cass had reprimanded him and casually left the room. Box upon box from expensive shops and boutiques had been delivered yesterday. Kevin feigned the, ‘I’m making up for lost time’ excuse. Cass could hear the carton being torn open as she climbed up the stairs. “I bet you are a blast at Christmas,” she laughed.
A.J. had promised her a day and evening out with no stress. A.J. figured she needed it since they were heading to Lexington the next evening. Cass just wanted to get drunk and miss the plane.
Before getting ready, she glanced in on Annie. Cass had seen the pattern that if Annie wasn’t with Kevin, she was in her room, or the ‘Palace’ as Cass had begun to call it. Walking in she gasped. Clothes were thrown all over the room. Boxes, tissue paper, and bows littered the floor. These weren’t everyday clothes either, but expensive party dresses made of velvet, satin, and taffeta. All of them had matching shoes, hats, and gloves. Cass touched Annie’s hand. Annie frowned. “What in the world are you doing?”
“Today is my tea party. I want to look beautiful for Kevin.” Annie half signed and half squawked out her problem. “I don’t look beautiful with my bandages and my hair.” Annie signed faster than Cass could catch it. When Annie pointed to the spot on either side of her head that had been shaved, Cass understood.
Cass tugged the small hand of her daughter. Looking around the room, Cass grabbed exactly what she was looking for, an old, faded pair of dungarees. She pulled Annie to face her. She held up the jeans. “Baby if you went to this tea party with Kevin wearing your old pants and boots, he would still say you are beautiful. All these pretty dress are nice but I’ve always told you that what counts is in here.” Cass thumped her chest and then signed, ‘I love you.’ “So does Kevin,” she spoke firmly.
Cass studied the small face that was still frowning at her.
‘I know Mommy,’ Annie signed. ‘Just once I want to look…’ Annie’s hands stalled she was looking for the correct sign to tell her Mom. “Pretty,” she barked out in frustration. Hot tears poured down her cheeks.
Now Cass’s heart-strings were being plucked. It wasn’t the gifts, it was the need to be pretty and normal. A half flat smile on her face, Cass scrutinized the room.
Annie didn’t see the bedroom door open slightly to see Kevin standing in the door.
“Hot damn!” Cass screamed in her head. Kevin had dressed up; she had never seen him up close and for real in this manner. He was wearing a charcoal gray tuxedo, a long coat with tails to match, and a top hat.
Kevin saw the look on Cass’s face. Exactly the reaction he was looking for. He looked hot and Cass had thought so too. Annie was quite the little shopping assistant yesterday. He picked up on her subtle, and not so subtle clues, to put this together. Annie was the one who picked out the top hat which had just arrived by Fed-Ex. “Mommy likes hats,” she repeatedly said to him. She refused to let go of the top hat, then she put it on his head in the store, it was too small. “Mommy likes!” she grinned at the mirror. By the look on Cass’s face, it was working, “Mommy liked.” He tugged on his tie, huffed out his chest, and flashed her a smirk. Then he pulled the door shut.
Cass was star struck when the door was abruptly closed. Her eyes swept over a very crest-fallen Annie. Cass tugged her face up to meet hers, “Okay party princess, we have work to do.”
Annie’s demeanor did a one-eighty and she gave Cass one of the biggest smiles Cass had ever seen. Together they sifted through the clothes. They settled on an outfit and then picked up the mess. Cass did her hair, as best she could, Annie was thrilled with the results. The bandages still showed and she was missing a few curls. Not much of it showed with the big floppy hat on her head that was adorned with a rather large fake cabbage rose and a complimenting ribbon. “I’ll be right back, I’m going to go get my lipstick.” Cass spoke directly to Annie.
Walking out of the room, she headed down the hall. Hearing Kevin singing ‘Tea For Two’ as she passed by a spare bedroom, she stopped. Pushing the door open, she giggled at the sight of grown man trying to tuck his long legs under a child-sized table.
“Hey!” Kevin jumped up, almost toppling the table over.
“Jesus Kevin!” Cass stepped into the room.
“Cass, this our big party, it’s for us.” Kevin took a mental inventory of the room before he began his defense. The furniture was solid cherry and all perfectly sized for a child, his child.
Cass went to the table; she picked up the dainty teacup. Turning it over, she read the stamp, “Wedgwood?”
Okay Kevin went into a dither. This was a tad overboard, but he just couldn’t seem to stop when he was on a roll. He was enjoying the first bit of private time that he and Annie were having together. When he was done, he had the furniture, the china, dresses, and party shoes, even the hats. He would lavish Annie with anything that made her eyes light up. Placing his hands behind his back, he dropped his head slightly. Raising his head, he looked around the room and saw the excess that Cass was so afraid of. He had done it again, even after promising her he wouldn’t. He dropped his head again; unsure of how this was going to go.
Cass knew the maneuver very well. Annie had a patent on it. She just now discovered that it had been inherited from the Richardson gene pool. “This is it,” Cass set the fragile cup down.
“Would it help if I said I’m sorry?” Kevin’s lips were tightly pressed together, moving from side to side. So far so good, he mumbled in his head.
Cass took in the room again. She didn’t know much about high priced antiques or high quality merchandise but his room had been transformed into a room befitting a Queen, Queen Annie that is. Cass shook her head as she placed her hands on her hips. Okay, there was no way to top this beyond winning the lottery. The sun was going to rise and fall with Annie for Kevin. Walking towards Kevin, she invaded his personal space. “You make damn sure you tell her she is the most beautiful creature you have ever seen bucko! No more, I can’t compete with you financially and I sure as hell don’t want to, but if you don’t stop then... Our trip to Kentucky is off. Understand?”
“Yeah,” Kevin shifted from foot to foot. “I didn’t mean to over do it. It just was like... I dunno.”
“Fun?” Cass questioned as she moved closer to him.
Kevin would have backed up but he had no where to go. “Yeah,” Kevin again shifted in his shoes. He tried not to smile, he wanted Cass to come as close as she could to him. Her hands came to his neck and she straightened his tie. Kevin felt a little tingle behind the zipper of his pants.
Cass looked up at him. “You have to look perfect for her.” Her hands patted his chest, her fingers lingered a little as she felt the hard muscles under the expensive shirt. Inhaling, he smells good too. That was a thought she kept to herself.
Kevin looked at her, her eyes were closed. “Cass?” Kevin was wearing his copyrighted, perfectly rehearsed, ‘damn I’m sexy’ smile.
“Oh yeah, sorry.” She patted his chest again and then left the room
Kevin’s bottom lip rolled in as he bit down on it. A little hip shimmy and he danced out the door, giving her a few seconds lead. He still had it and almost had her. As he stepped by her door, he stopped. The door was ajar slightly, so of course, he looked in. Cass was lying face down in the bed, screaming into her pillow and pounding her fists into the bed. Suppressing a ‘gotcha’ he went on his merry way.
Cass recovered from her run in with her hormones. She was so close to him, she could smell him. When he exhaled his hot breath washed over her face. His chest felt like it belonged under her hands. A few nights ago, her breasts were mashed against that chest.
Entering Annie’s room, she had to smile. She held her finger up and ran down the hall. Retrieving her disposable camera, she ran back into the room. She wanted a picture of Annie who indeed looked beautiful. Putting her lipstick on and having Annie dab, she was all set for her picture. As she was dabbing the phone rang.
Cass couldn’t figure out why the phone was in Annie’s room, but she answered it anyway. “Hello?” She began to fuss with the bow on the back of Annie’s dress.
“Could you take Annie downstairs and when I ring the bell, have her answer it?” A southern drawl whizzed in her ear.
“What?” Cass actually looked at the phone, then placed it back next to her ear.
“Go down stairs with her and answer the door.”
“For God’s sakes, did you ever hear of overkill!”
“Please....” Kevin whined into the phone. “Hurry up, it’s hot out here in this tux.”
“I should let your ass roast out there. It would serve you well.”
“Cassie,” Kevin’s tone was part whiney and hitting on bitchy.
“Don’t call me that,” as her and Annie now faced the front door. They had made their way downstairs while Kevin was on the phone.
Kevin rang the doorbell as Cass hung up the phone on him. She motioned Annie to open the door.
As Annie opened the door, she found her new best friend, ready for their party.
Kevin shot Cass a little frown; he was hot and a little sweaty. Bringing his hand from behind his back, he offered the child the biggest bouquet of flowers Cass had ever seen. It was almost as round as Annie was tall. “For the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.”
Kevin’s reward was a huge smile, a thank you, and a great big hug. Plucking a daisy from the center, he handed it to Cass. “For the other beautiful lady.”
Cass felt the heat creep slowly up her neck, to her cheeks, and then her entire face. Even her ears were burning hot. “Thank you,” she stared at the flower in her hand, a little dumbfounded and dazed.
A large finger on her chin lifted her face. “No, thank you, and that will never be enough either.”
“Um.. I need to go get ready for my date.” She had to get some space between them and do it right now. She flew up the stairs.
Annie watched when Mommy said date. Kevin’s forehead got all wrinkly and his nose crunched up. He didn’t like Mommy going on a date. That’s okay, she didn’t like Mommy going on a date either, even if it was just A.J. She liked it better when it was just her, Mommy, and Kevin.
“Are you ready to partay!!!” Kevin gave his yell that echoed in the house.
Cass needed a shower... a cold one...
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