L I V
I‘m quietly closing my son’s bedroom door when my phone vibrates in the back pocket of my shorts. I know before getting it out, that it’s my mom, and I smile when I see that I was right, knowing exactly what’s coming.
“We got married!” Mama shrieks.
“You’re shitting me?” I tease.
She laughs, “Smart ass.”
“I told you one day you’d give in.”
I can’t help but gloat. John is the best man I could ever wish for, for my mama. Hair, so brown it was nearly black, and generously sprinkled at the temples with silver, even I thought he was handsome. With his bronze skin, Mama’s flawless complexion and her dark blonde hair, they make a gorgeous couple, with neither of them showing their age.
“Congratulations,” I sing to her.
“Thank you for the shoes,” she gushes. “They’re gorgeous.”
When John told me his plans, a week ago, to whisk her away to Nashville this weekend and ask her, yet again, to marry him, I had a strong feeling she’d say yes. She was gun shy after having been humiliated by my father when I was a kid, but I had no doubt the love she had for John would triumph over her fear of a broken heart.
I slipped her favorite summer dress out of her closet and splurged on a new pair of heels to go with it. The simple lavender pumps were classy just like my mother and I couldn’t resist, knowing she’d love them. Giving the dress bag and shoe box to John, I sent him off with a kiss on the cheek and my blessing.
“Aren’t they the best!”
“They’re great, Sass. It was such a perfect day,” I hear the tears in her voice. “I love him more than I ever thought I could love anyone.”
“He loves you just as much, you know.”
She laughs through her tears, “I should have said yes the first time he asked me.”
“Amen.” She could have locked him down as soon as they met, he was that gone for her.
She describes the ceremony and tells me about John’s plans for their weeklong stay. What she thought was just a weekend trip, turned into a six-day honeymoon. Thankfully, she works for herself, so she has no trouble extending her stay in Tennessee.
“We’ll be back Saturday, then on Sunday we’re having lunch at the house. You’ll get to meet Ryan, and his daughter. I’m hoping they’ll be all settled by the weekend.”
I’ve never met John’s son, but mama thinks he’s terrific. What little I know about him has come from her.
After getting custody of his daughter, he wanted to live closer to his dad. They’re moving their stuff here this week and I heard that he’s going to open an auto body, which is great because Coyote Creek hasn’t had one in years.
Don’t get me wrong, in a town full of country boys, you don’t have to worry about having someone around to fix your car. But, it sure would be nice to have a place to take it without calling half of your graduating class to see who can help you out.
I catch the fatigue in her voice just before she starts to yawn. “Alright Sassy, I’ll see you Sunday. Give my little Tuck a kiss for me and tell him Grammie loves him.”
“I will. Tell Pop bye for me and you guys enjoy your trip. We love you.”
“Love you more.”
We disconnect, and I walk down the hall to the kitchen, where I plug my phone in the outlet just under the clock. It’s nearly nine thirty on a Sunday night and I’m going to try and do some work before heading to bed.
My son Tucker just turned twenty-two months old, and he is a handful. Because it’s just me raising him, my computer work tends to take a backseat to life, so I spend many a late night catching up on whatever work I’m currently contracted for.
After giving birth, I gave up a decent paying job at an insurance agency in Rosewood, the next town over, choosing instead to stay at home with my baby boy.
Being a single parent is damned hard. I do everything I can to be present for Tucker and still pay the bills. I freelance online, writing articles for local newspapers, and occasionally do some graphic design work. My skills are limited, so I don’t do much of the latter, leaving that to my best friend Emma, the professional graphic designer.
My main source of income is from assisting the elderly here in Coyote Creek. Grocery shopping, doctor appointments and errands, I’m essentially their personal assistant, and I love it. Nearly everyone I work for has been in my life, one way or another, since I was a baby.
Tomorrow morning, I’m taking Tucker to the market with me, to shop for Nana, who opted to stay home while I pick up her groceries this week.
“Nana” Green adores Tuck and will be excited to see him. She’s known me my entire life and babysat me when I was a kid. She was also at the hospital when Tucker was born, working in the volunteer office. They’ve spent a lot of time together over the last two years, and she is much loved by us both.
Her husband died before I was born, and she doesn’t have any other family in the area. They weren’t able to have their own children, but I remember her always having a yard full of kids. She was like everyone’s bonus grandma, letting us climb her trees, play on her porch and drink up her lemonade. As I grew older, even when mama and I moved out to the farm, I never stopped going over to see her. Now, at twenty-five, I help her out any way I can.
Not getting anywhere with the article I’m writing, I decide to call it quits for the night. I close my laptop, clean off my coffee table workspace, and promise myself I have plenty of time to finish before next week’s deadline.
Looking around my clean, quiet living room, I feel a sense of pride for the accomplishments I’ve made as a single mom. It hasn’t been an easy road the last three years, but I’ve built a good life for us and I’m so thankful I had Mama in my corner cheering me on when things got rough.
Double checking the locks on both the front and back doors, and turning out the lights, I walk barefoot down the hall to Tucker’s room. I’m not surprised to find Peanut, our one-year old Yorkie, laying in front of his crib. I kiss my fingers and softly brush his curly hair from his forehead and adjust the Cars blanket covering his legs. Quietly scooping up Peanut, I close the door behind us as we silently step out into the hallway.
Walking just down the hall and into my bedroom, cuddling Peanut to my chest as she nuzzles my chin, I turn on the baby monitor at my bedside and pull back my plush, white comforter.
Letting our cuddly pup sleep with me tonight, we snuggle down under the covers.
The streetlight just outside my window casts shadows on the far wall and occasionally, a lone vehicle will drive by, causing the shadows to play out in front of me, like a movie scene beaming from a projector. As I do every night, I lay and watch the shadows, getting lost in my head before falling asleep.
My mind drifts to Mama and John, or Pop, as he told me to call him when we first met.
Mama got a flat tire outside of town, about a year ago, on her way home from spending the day at my house. As she popped her trunk and started to heft her spare out, a large white diesel truck pulled up behind her. Pop stepped out and smiled, asking if she needed help. She let him change her tire, offering in exchange to feed him. He got her tire replaced and followed her the short distance to her house, where she made him her famous meatloaf. She found out he was an iron worker traveling back home after finishing a month-long job up north. He was in his early fifties and widowed, living about three hours away, across the river in Missouri. They talked for hours, getting to know one another and, when night came, they didn’t want to part. He stayed all night with her, not leaving for two days, only going back home because he had to start a new assignment for work.
Although I was skeptical, he won me over quickly. Seeing the love shining from his eyes, and watching him dote on Mama, it was impossible not to like him.
For the last year, he divided his time between Missouri and Illinois, and officially moved in with her earlier this month. He adores her just as much now as he did in the beginning. If not more.
I’ve only been with two men in my life and neither one turned out to be worth a damn. But, I’m filled with hope that one day I’ll be blessed like my mom was.
With, not quite a fairytale prince, but a rough around the edges, hardworking man with dirt under his fingernails. A man who will love me with every ounce of his soul, and who will treat my son as if he were his own. That’s what I’m waiting on, and I won’t settle for anything less.
∞ ∞ ∞
My alarm rings at six thirty a.m. and I waste no time rolling out of bed. Tucker is still sound asleep as I start the coffee pot and hop in the shower Rushing through my morning routine, I have to be ready before Tuck gets up. He thinks he has to “help” me get ready in the mornings, and we really don’t have time for his brand of help today.
After diffusing my hair with the blow dryer, I dress casually in denim shorts and a teal, boat-neck t-shirt that hangs off one shoulder and exposes the strap of the white tank top underneath.
Standing in the kitchen, wiggling my polished toes in my favorite white sandals and blowing on my hot coffee, I hear the first “Mommy.”
I take a minute to enjoy the creamy vanilla flavor before going to Tucker’s bedroom, where I find him wide awake and trying to get out of his crib. It won’t be long now, and he’ll be climbing out. I don’t look forward to converting his crib into a toddler bed. It was a bitch to put together in the first place.
He smiles a toothy grin, “Hi, Mama.”
“Hello Sweet-Face. Are you ready for breakfast?” I kiss his forehead.
He nods his head and reaches for me.
Giving me a hug and the sweetest smile, he says “befas” and yells for Peanut, who meets us in his doorway. He is especially happy this morning and I’m thankful, because I know it’ll make my day easier.
After changing his diaper, he follows me to the kitchen, so I can start breakfast.
Turning on the stereo as we walk through the living room, the first song we hear puts a smile on my face. Oh, Thomas Rhett, straight to my heart.
I buckle Tuck in his high chair and he watches me sing and dance while I make bacon and eggs, laughing along and wiggling his tush. My kid has good taste in music.
∞ ∞ ∞
With a heaping plate of food in one hand and Tuck’s tiny hand in the other, we step onto the front porch of Nana’s bungalow.
Hearing us pull up, she’s waiting at the open door.
As soon as he spots her, he starts squealing. “Hi, Nana!”
She’s as excited to see him as I thought she would be. “What a wonderful surprise. Come here and give me some sugar.”
I watch as she leans down, and my little man runs into her open arms. She cradles the back of his head as she kisses his chubby little cheeks.
“Tookies?” he asks sweetly, not wasting a minute to ask for treats.
I laugh as the two of them take off for the kitchen, leaving me standing alone on the porch.
Since the moment he was born, Tuck had both my mom and Nana wrapped around his little finger. All he has to do is shine those baby blues at them and they forget about the rest of the world.
I follow them into the recently renovated kitchen and uncover the plate I brought for her.
While she and Tucker dig for goodies, I freshen up her coffee. “Have you eaten yet? I brought you bacon and eggs.”
She looks to me and smiles. “Thank you. And no, I haven’t. I was going to make a little something after you left for the store.”
“Your plate is warm. Why don’t you two come sit. We’ve got a few minutes to visit before we have to get going,” I tell her.
She brings Tuck to the table with her and sits him in the chair beside to hers. He munches on an oatmeal cookie, while she fills me in on the ‘news around town.’
She’s a big gossip and we both know it.
“Tommy’s parents are in town,” she tells me with a grimace, lifting her coffee cup to her mouth.
Tommy was my best friend, Emma’s, high school sweetheart. She lost him in an accident four years ago and I’m not sure her broken heart will ever heal. He was a good guy, a great guy, and something inside her died when he was taken away.
Adding salt to the wound, his parents are supreme dicks who made her life miserable long before the car accident. He never knew it and Emma refused to tell him, not wanting to put him in the middle.
“You can’t tell Em,” I tell Nana firmly. “She’s been having a hard time lately and the last thing she needs is those two making it worse.”
“It’s a shame, everything that happened,” she sips her coffee, a pained expression on her face. “You know I won’t say anything. That poor girl doesn’t deserve how they treated her, and I don’t want to make her feel bad.”
Just thinking of those two leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and I refuse to waste my time thinking about them.
“How about you double check your shopping list and I’ll wash up your dishes for you?”
She takes the notepad from my outstretched hand and lowers the purple framed glasses from on top of her head, down to her nose, while studying my face.
“I’m done talking about Tommy’s useless, shithead parents.”
They didn’t deserve him and they damn sure didn’t deserve the sweet girl who loved him from the time we were kids.
∞ ∞ ∞
With a full cart, it’s getting close to lunchtime as we check out.
Paying the cashier, I say goodbye to Mr. Bell, who’s just finished bagging our groceries.
“I’ll see you later this week, Mr. B.”
“It was good seeing you Liv. Bye Tucker.” His glasses hitch up on his nose as he smiles at me.
Mr. Bell, a pudgy man in his late sixties, inherited his father’s market thirty years ago. The first Mr. Bell opened the store in fifty-three and it’s been a staple in our town ever since. Emma and I both worked at Bell’s throughout high school and we loved every minute of it. He was a great boss.
I push our cart outside and pause at the edge of the sidewalk to slip on my sunglasses, laughing at Tucker as we wait for a truck to pass.
It’s a beast. Shiny, with four doors, chrome rims and a bed cover, it rumbles loudly past us. I really like big trucks, and I don’t recognize it, positive I haven’t seen it in town before.
We follow the big black Chevy along the row to my Jeep as the driver parks several spaces down and across from us.
Pulling open the back hatch, I start loading the groceries, joining Tucker as he sings Moana.
The driver side door of the Chevy opens, and my oversized sunglasses camouflage my eyes as I watch the owner step down on to the pavement.
Not an inch under six foot five, he is big. Beefy and thick, wearing a black t-shirt, tight on tattooed arms. His jeans are faded, with a rip in the knee, and he has a baseball cap perched on top of his head, with chocolate colored hair peeking from beneath. His strong jaw is covered by a neatly trimmed beard.
He is magnificent.
Butterflies invade my stomach.
His stride is unhurried and confident, relaxed as he walks our way. I silently bite my lip as I watch him, taking in the tattoos that run to his wrists and large hands. His presence is commanding.
Slowly running my eyes from his work boots back up to his rugged face, I pause at his waist as my eyes zero in on the bulge in his jeans. My eyes widen at his size. He isn’t hard, but he’s big enough to be seen clearly through the faded denim.
I’ve stopped singing now.
Standing wide eyed, with plastic bags dangling from my fingers, I have to catch my jaw from dropping and I can’t help but wonder if he’s got the talent in bed to match the size of his bulge.
Trying to act normal as he gets closer, I pretend to focus on the cart in front of me, like I haven’t been ogling him since he stepped out onto the pavement.
Big man must feel my eyes move back to him because he looks straight at me. His stride slows, and his lips tilt up. He shoots me a grin, half smirking, as if he could hear my question out loud.
The knowing tilt of his lips gives me a jolt and my eyes inadvertently look down to break his gaze. I see a twitch in his pants and it causes me to gasp.
At least, it was supposed to be a gasp.
I snort. Loudly.
It catches me off guard and I burst into laughter.
Tucker squeals out a giggle of his own, thinking I’m funny.
The man stops in front of us, chuckles, and looks over at Tuck with a smile. His eyes move back to me, his gaze rolling lazily down then back up my body, as I just did to him.
We make eye contact again through the lenses of my glasses. I feel my smile grow as his grin widens, causing his eyes to crinkle in the corners.
His smiling face winks at me, and I’m completely done for.