Chapter 10- Barney, Beyonce and Stupid Cupid.
"Marney is a dina saaawwr with lotsa maginaaay shun!"
The small spritely singing voice made me jump. Talk about off tune, but totally adorable! Pulling away from the hall way mirror where I had been contemplating a second mascara layer I peaked over at the sofas. A little head of deep brown curls bounced up and down in time with the music as it chanted along. The little head turned and big, warm brown eyes met mine. The little girl smiled brightly at me.
"I want to look pretty too Sasha!" yelled Vivienne
I laughed; her little face was enough to make me do anything for her.
"You already do Viv, you're the prettiest thing in my whole apartment", I swept her up into my arms for a big hug.
Just a few moments ago the little angel had been rummaging head first into my over stuffed closet, helping me pick out something to wear. When she had pulled out the green summer dress that I had forgotten was even in there, I realized she definitely had inherited her mother's eye for fashion.
After a minute she pulled away and her big brown eyes glazed over, confused... "What's an apppa... apper...appa munt?" she asked. Her chubby little finger prodded her full cheeks as she thought.
I laughed- Viv loved learning new words. It was one of her adorable little quirks. A little human dictionary.
"It's where I live; see the living room, the kitchen, the office..." I trailed off pointing all around us.
But by now, she was smiling again and I guessed that she didn't care anymore. OH to be a kid and not have to worry about anything but the moment. She slapped a big kiss on my cheek and then I settled her back onto the sofa so she could watch TV.
Just recently Mel had found a whole lot of Barney memorabilia in the attic of her parents Hamptons home from when she was a kid.
The stuff included special addition Barney stuffed toys, 100's of balls, colouring books... anything barney that you could think of, she had! And she had been planning to give it all to a charity, I remembered her Christian, Jean Paul and I lugging the stuff around her apartment boxing it all up. Then Viv, who was about two back then, and was walking although unsteadily, had waddled into the living room. As soon as her eyes had latched on to the barney stuffed toy that was now in her arms , she'd become obsessed.
I stood and watched with her for a few seconds. I liked kids. Sure I wanted some, one day, but not now. Maybe with the right guy, preferably with a ring on my finger- id seen the emotional wreck Mel had been when she first found out she'd be a single mom. Even though Christian and I were both there for her round the clock, there were some fears I was sure our friendship had never dowsed out for her. But she was happy now... she had been ever since the first doctors check up when Viv was but black and white abstract blur on a computer screen.
"Want a snack Viv?" I asked.
"Yes yes, please please," she said as she hopped up and followed me to the breakfast bar in the kitchen.
Perching her on a breakfast bar chair I took out a cereal box of cocoa loops and let Viv munch away.
My gaze drifted to the French doors in the living room that opened up to a small balcony. The sky was darkening quickly. I sighed looking up at the clock.
"Where is your mommy?" I sighed, mumbling to myself.
It was 5-50. Mel was supposed to come pick her up at 5. It was cutting it close. Nick was supposed to pick me up soon.
"shes zine- ing a dress for wera vang" said Viv , crunching and munching away.
I laughed. What did I say? Adorable or what! I was guessing she meant designing and I was guessing the dress was for Vera Wang. She worked as one of her chief designers.
I was already. I was dressed in an olive green chiffon dress with brown wedges – and before you ask, YES, THE DRESS DID HAVE STRAPS.
But of course, that had barely even registered on my mind when Viv had helped me choose what to wear and it also totally had nothing to do with the reason why I chose to add two layers of mascara to my eyelashes this evening. Not to mention the fact that I had applied and reapplied my lipstick and lip gloss about 5 times in the last hour.
I had practically fallen over laughing at myself when I swept that second layer of eye makeup on. For some reason, it reminded me of my high school days. Back when it was cool to go around with too much badly drawn eye liner and mascara. Of course, I definitely learnt to perfect the art of make up by college- but the memory still made me laugh.
Looking down at my dress and shoes I cringed.
Ok, maybe I was kind of loosing it.
I mean... I was wearing a dress! To an old folks home!
Then again, I wore dresses everywhere, it meant nothing. Plus Nick was just coming cuz Mrs Bestler had practically begged him to.
Just then there was a knock at the door. It was just like Mel to show up at the last moment.
Leaving a content Viv munching on cereal I raced to the door. I rushed to unlock the door expecting to thrust Viv to Mel and shove her out the door before she could ask any questions. It'd be fine. I'd tell her I was meeting Sarah from photography at the newspaper to take my column photo. She'd definitely buy that.
But when the door opened my frantic "I'm in a rush, take your daughter and leave" look that I had been preparing all day for softened and another quite unexpected expression took hold of me. My lips parted lightly, and I drew a short breath.
Opening the door, I was surprised to find someone who I hadn't expected. Nick.
I glanced at the clock- 6pm.
Time really flies when your singing barney with a three year old.
He wore an olive green shirt today, tucked into black slacks with the normal dress shoes he wore to work. We matched. And the same feeling overcame just like always. Was it right for any person to have this much of an effect and control over another?
I thrust those stupid dangerous thoughts away into the back of my mind where things like the healthy eating programme I told myself I'd start last January and the cost of my new handbag lay hiding. However, those things were STILL trying and failing to be forgotten with time. So the chances of those dangerous thoughts resurfacing were high.
His eyes grazed up and down. They glowed- so he liked the dress? It made my skin burn. I noticed he had a beautiful orange assortment of flowers in his arms.
"Hi" I replied.
He must have noticed my confused expression over the flowers. He never usually was the flowers and type of chocolate type. He'd always said he'd like buying gifts that were more personal. Like that beautifully rare pare of Christian Laboutin shoes he'd bought me for our last Christmas together.
Damn, this was becoming more and more like a date- which it of course definitely was not.
He smiled, catching on. "Baby, if was gonna get you flowers- I'd get you lilies."
My heart skipped a beat.
I was willing to bet cupid was out there somewhere in a shooting range with his grenade launcher having just shot 10 mega atomic love arrows straight at me.
And when cupid had a grenade launcher there was nothing a girl could do, so, I just went with the flow.
"They're for Mrs Bestler" he said.
I gestured him to come inside, "That's nice, come on in..., I'm almost ready".
As I led him to the living room area the Barney theme tune blared out form the TV again and an angelic voice sang along again like usual.
Nick shot a glance at me and tilted his head to the side, questioning as if caught off guard for once.
"We may have to wait a while" I told him. "Something's come up".
I gave a small reassuring smile.
As we turned the corner his eyebrows shot up and a rare surprised expression flickered on his face.
"This is Viv, Mel's daughter"
There Viv sat, now cuddling her barney in one hand, perched on the kitchen chair intently gazing at the TV.
"Sasha! Sasha! It's Barney again!" she cried, stretching her hands up to me to carry her.
I laughed and told her that barney would probably have to wait for a second. Lifting her up and bringing her over to Nick , I observed as he stood silently with a small, smile on his face. He seemed to visibly relax. His wonderfully green eyes met mine and seemed to soften. I wasn't sure what he was thinking though.
"Who are you?"asked Viv.
"Viv, this is Nick- he's a friend of mine" I told her.
"Hi there" said nick giving her a warm smile as he looked down at her cute and slightly frustrate face. She wasn't too happy about Barney being put on hold.
Her brown eyes inspected him and were wide with intrigue. "I don't like him" she stated simply.
I laughed, so it seemed I wasn't the only one who had that same first impression of him.
"And why exactly don't you don't like me?" asked Nick amused.
He chuckled. It was a rare sound but none the less the world shook and I was pretty sure angels started singing. Her face was so nonchalant and straight that I couldn't help but laugh.
His eyes flickered to mine, as if to say...trust me , I got this- and honestly, I did trust him.
" How about I try change your mind about that then," he said , leaning against the counter top crossing his arms. "Do ya wanna tell me some more about that big purple dinosaur you've got there while Sasha goes and gets ready? What's its name any way?"
I hesitated knowing she'd be reluctant, she never liked strangers. Maybe it was Christian's fault. He'd drilled Schwarzenegars kindergarten cop quote 'stranger danger' into her way too many times!
This was it. Would he sink or float?
A silence hung in the air for just a second.
Viv smiled, now extending one arm to Nick to take her. A delighted giggle escaped her and a smile suddenly replaced the pout her lips were drawn in, " EVERY ONE KNOWS BARNEY SILLY!"
"Not me, I guess that means I'm a double silly," he rose and eyebrow smirking and she laughed even more.
"You're not that silly!" she exclaimed.
I eased her into his arms. He gave me a small smile as she began chattering away to him, "Do you like barney too, cuz Barney's my bestest friend , apart from mommy... and Sasha... and Christian ... and Jean Paul..."
He gave a rply but by then I was too stunned to speak. It looked like it was the most natural thing in the world for him of all people, to be holding a child in his arms, chatting about bears, bunnies and big purple dinosaurs. He did it with such ease. Without busy schedules back in New York I had never seen him around kids, only just recently with his niece and nephew. It was shocking every time. Yet, heart warming, that a giant usually serious and mysterious FBI agent like himself was so good with kids.
I left them to it. Those warm maternal thoughts were most probably slicken across my face by now, along my make up as a sure give away.
Rushing upstairs I grabbed my bag and took one last look in the mirror. My black hair was straight with the loose curls I added with the curler at the bottom. The curls hung over the olive green dress. The brown of my shoes and bag complimented my brown eyes.
Convinced I looked good, I headed down the stairs being very careful not to trip- let's just say my legs were feeling very weak at the sound of his animated voice.
In the kitchen, the scene before me shocked me even more. An angel was perched on the breakfast bar counter top looking adorable in her cute teddy bear pyjamas. Every few seconds she thrust her hand into the cereal box and flung a coco hoop in the air at Nick, who sat on the stool at the end of the breakfast bar.
He caught the loop in his mouth expertly one after another, earning claps and giggles of joy that brightened the room.
My heart melted and warmth spread from my heart all over my body, right down to my toes giving me a tingling feeling.
"Again , again again," cried Viv as Nick gave a soft chuckle and caught another cocoa loop.
He turned then, as though he felt my gaze on him. Those green eyes shone back at me twinkling with laughter as he caught another loop.
"Sasha I like Nick Nick now. I want him to come here every time" exclaimed Viv.
"I thought you didn't like Nick?" I asked.
"I do, I do. Nick Nick is my bestest friend!" she exclaimed clasping him in a tight hug, wrapping her delicate arms around his neck.
Wow! Viv must've really liked Nick if she'd given him a nick name of Nick Nick. Like I said , she liked repeating words.
He hugged her back, "didn't I tell you I'd change your mind about me sunshine" he laughed.
She pulled back from him, her big brown eyes wide with joy and brown curls bouncing as she set her eyes on me.
"And guess what Sasha! " exclaimed Viv further.
"What is it angel? Don't tell me you learnt a new word?"
"Yep yep! Nick nick taught me a new word! Its boooo tiiiii ful! It means very very pretty. Nick nick said you look vey very booootiiiiful Sasha!".
I looked away, down at my shoe then to the side. I didn't want to look up, into the depths of those deep pools of green. But, none the less I felt his gaze momentarily graze over me.
It was the knock at the door that saved me. I turned quickly, knees still too weak to race to the door. Opening it, I met blonde hair shoulder length hair and a too expensive cashmere caramel Coloured coat. In other words, Mel. Sunglasses perched on her head , she beamed back at me guiltily.
"Sorry I'm late" she squeaked. "Meeting. Deadline. Traffic. Busy day!"
"Thank god! Your here!" relief washed over me.
"I'm exhausted! I just want to collapse on the sofa and never get up!"
She rushed inside before I could stop her, straight to the living room and kitchen area. I tried to rush ahead of her as she traipsed to the kitchen but as I came up in front of her to stop and warn her, her eyes lit up for another reason instead.
"Well. Don't you look god damn hot as hell" she proclaimed observing me. "Any man would be falling to his feet for you tonight. Who's the lucky bastard in question?"
In any other situation I would've found this funny- just not today.
But I didn't have a chance to stop her. Utterly embarrassed, I waited for her eyes to settle on Nick by the counter with Viv.
His eyebrow shot up and I saw the hint of amusement.
"Hi Mel" said Nick , with a friendly smile.
Realization dawned over Mel , her eyes grew large and she turned slightly to grin at me mischievously.
I ignored it.
"I'm guessing this little angel is yours "said Nick.
Mel smiled, "It just so happens that she is."
Turning at her mother's voice, Viv's eyes filled with delight. "Mommy!"
Striding up to her Mel scooped her daughter into a big hug, lifting her up as she plastered kisses all over her cute little face. Viv's arms wrapped around her mom. It was heart warming- I wondered what kind of mother I'd be some day, what my son or daughter would look like.
"Mommy, this is my bestest friend Nick nick!" Viv exclaimed.
Mel laughed, "Are you sure his name is Nick nick honey, maybe it's just Nick ..."
"Nope, its Nick nick" proclaimed Viv as Nick chuckled and ruffled her bouncing shiny brown curls.
Mel grabbed Viv's bag in her free arm and waltzed to the door. "Thanks for watching her Sasha, Nick. It was nice to see you again by the way."
"Yeah- it was good seeing you again too."
I led Mel out the door while she mimed a string of outrageous descriptions and comments.
Viv, with her head resting on her moms shoulder gave a big yawn and a small smile. Her eyes now dropped with sleep.
"Bye, Nick nick. Bye, Sasha," she said in her small voice as her yes fluttered, exhaustion finally winning. Mel smiled and stepped out the front door. Once out of Nicks line of sight and near the stairs Mel turned and rose an eyebrow. Call me ASAP! She mimed.
Rolling my yes I waved and shut the door. It was now 6-10 pm.
He was leaning against a wall, effortlessly looking relaxed with his hands in his slack pockets,"ready to hit the road".
I smiled and grabbed my bag off the kitchen counter- was I really ready?
Night was beckoning people to come and enjoy her soft, warm breezes and enchanting star studded dark skies. We were speeding dangerously. The car was a speeding bullet amidst the dark streets of DC.
The car swerved, a sharp turn, again. I grabbed on to my seat for dear life.
"Talk about speeding! On more turn like that Nick and I swear I'll get out of this Car right now" I exclaimed, catching my breath.
"You could try... but I keep the child locks on when I drive, baby."
He smirked. his eyes flickering from the road to me to catch the scowl on my face. Stupid child locks!
Not every driver in the world had kids.
"What's the rush any way? I asked.
"I'm hungry, had a working lunch today."
" I thought we could pass by a take-out place, ever heard of The Bucket?"
Had I ever! Fried chicken, fries, burgers- it was heaven.
"On seconds thoughts, I'm hungry too"
He laughed, a warm, heart meltingly rich laugh.
"Let me guess- burger and fries?"
"Ofcourse! What else?" I grinned back at him.
He laughed even more.
So what if I had a penchant for burgers and fries! Ok, maybe I was a bit ridiculous- but in my opinion nothing in life could beat burgers, donuts and coffee.
"You have a truck drivers appetite, and you always seem to throw me of by the hilarious , cute things you say- what am I gonna do with you?"
Cute things I say! I almost feinted. Hell, I could think of a few things...
The neon Bucket sign shone like a homing beacon signalling to turn on the next right and I I could no longer tell if the fast pace of my heart beat was because of the extremely hot guy sitting just next to me or the because of the tender... crispy...fried chicken and burgers that were calling my name in that seductive way of theirs. Nick pulled into a parking spot and I jumped out.
He chuckled softly, "Slow down, the fried chicken isn't going anywhere".
I ignored him rushing on through the glass doors and into the buzz and chatter that was to be found in The Bucket on any night.
The queue wasn't very long and we got in line.
"So, any idea what's good here?" he asked.
"Well, I like the burgers, but the wraps and the hot dogs are pretty good... So are the fries, and the fried chicken... and the shakes ... and the pitta bread things..."
"Pretty much the whole menu then?", he raised an eyebrow grinning, and a couple of people around us turned listening in.
I shot him a small smile. The line moved up and we came to the counter.
"I'll have a burger, fries and a vanilla shake to go please, and Nick..."
I turned around to ask him what it was he wanted to order , when I suddenly was caught of guard by the unexpected distance between us. I hadn't expected him to be so close behind me. My breath felt drawn and my eyes lingered on his face for a moment-appreciating every inch of it.
"Sasha...? Is that you? Sasha Madden?" I familiar voice broke the spell in an instant.
Frazzled red hair in an un kept mane and a pink flushed face glared back at me from behind the counter, eyes wide in astonishment.
I definitely was going to need a lot more fried food now.
I hesitated... then plastered on a weak attempt at a decent smile, "Betty Garble ... Hi"
After that things happened very fast. The air gushed out of me all at once. The slick aroma of fried chicken clobbered at my senses, and all I could suddenly see was thick frazzled red curls everywhere. Betty lunged herself over the counter gripping me into a bone crushing hug. I closed my eyes counting to three. It was like that time when I was small, when a neighbour's dog came and knocked me to my feet slobbering me with its wet tongue- the same unfamiliar aroma and big shaggy hair.
For a moment I wanted to let out a cry- the beast had returned to finish me off!
Then she stepped back- and I could've sworn I saw Nick flex his hand as he etched it away from the loop of his belt (where he usually kept his gun on a case).
She was a plus sized woman with a very full figure. Her little red hat and red bucket uniform stretched tightly across her body- she might as well have wrapped herself in spandex!
"OH MY GOD!"
She was yelling now!
I cringed. An array of 'ohmygods' followed. Maybe even 4- but hell, who was counting. Betty Garbler had been a fellow pupil with me at Dreyton High. I hadn't ever been the closest of friends with her but I'd always smile and made small talk.
"It's nice to see you too" I gushed, no it wasn't- not now at least, I did not want to go down memory lane or the 'are you married yet?' road.
"How are you?"I asked
"I'm fine thanks" she lifted her hand to show a gold band on her thick middle finger. The ring looked like it'd been welded on. "Married Bill Glover I did. It'll be 5 years next spring, and 3 rugrats to show for it!"
"That's so great!" I told her, "Say hi to him for me would you"
He was her high school sweet heart and a good guy.
"Of course I will. He WILL NOT even believe I bumped into you today! He's with the kids at his moms on account of the fact that I had to work. But I'm sure we can meet up , how about next weeke..."
But her sentence was cut off by me swiftly.
"That'd be great, I'll call and let you know when I'm free."
She beamed back, and for a moment, I hesitated, wondering whether I should finally order now. " But for now can I have 2 burgers, 2 fries,2 vanilla shakes to go please". She beamed happily going off about her new diet and how she'd heard Pippa Middleton was on it too. I cringed- I was not a royal wedding or a diet fan!
The queue had gotten long behind us. At this point I was desperate to hurry her along. Preferably, before she got to the question of men in my life. All this time Nick was quietly waiting behind me patiently, as if another customer, almost... observing.
She checked the orders into her cash machine.
"Let me guess, million dollar career, killer wardrobe and killer car... but I'm betting no boyfriend? "
She said this as almost a question and a patronizing look washed over her face as she looked up.
So I'd never dated much in high school? Who cared? I didn't want to waste my time on any of those dumb jerks who drank beer like water and played soccer like a religion. I knew what I wanted and I wasn't gonna compromise. Just cuz a woman didn't have a husband and kids didn't make them any more inferior.
There was no way I was gonna be able lie my way outta this one, "oh yeah..." I felt my self flush. I hated to tell her, but had to... "I work at a newspaper but as for the man..."
I hated this part dreading the words escaping my lips and that sympathetic look I knew would wash over her.
"...Yup, getting married in April, aren't we honey".
The voice startled me. And a lean firm body came up behind me slipping a hand around me loosely.
Betty's eyes went as wide as flying saucers.
Her red weathered hands tucked her red mane behind her ears, she straightened her uniform- yeah, I guess he did tend to have that effect on people.
A voice that could melt butter spoke over me to Betty who had a huge grin on her face.
"It's good to meet you, I'm Nick, Sasha's fiancé. I thought I'd let you two ladies catch up but I couldn't help but jump in when you asked about a boyfriend."
"Hell I'd be announcing it left and right! Getting a ring on Sasha Madden's finger really is an accomplishment. S'like gettin a grizzly into a tutu!"
I gave her my best fake smile as she and nick laughed away. A grizzly bear? A tutu? This was just turning into exaggeration now.
Didn't anyone remember Danny Brenton? He was my prom date in senior year. So it wasn't exactly like I was completely un-catchable. And how about in college, I dated loads in college.
Betty was about to go off again but Nick jumped in quickly.
"So, it was nice to meet you and all but we've gotta go, haven't we honey? Date night and all." He placed a solid hand on my back and pushed me towards the pick-up counter.
"Great seeing you Sasha, and you've got yourself a great catch there hun!" she yelled as we turned walking briskly to pick up our food and then out the door without a second glance.
When we finally reached the car I sighed in relief, "Thank god for you jumping in like that, I was this close to throwing fried chicken or soda at her – and you know how much I'd have regretted wasting that food later".
He gave a short nod and mischievous small grin. "Grizzly bear?"
I think at that point we both began imaging a grizzly in a tutu, so both burst out in laughter.
"Very funny, you won't be laughing so hard when I go all grizzly bear on your ass".
"Oh, I don't know. This DC boy's wrestled a few grizzly's in his time you know? Besides, I always thought bears where kind cute".
He shot me a mischievous twinkling glance filled with humour.
"Not this grizzly bear".
I swung the car door open and slipped inside, Nick followed suit and we were soon stuffing ourselves with fries and burgers. The radio filled in as a background noise as we chatted and laughed in the car parked. The Bucket sign gave a faint glow illuminated the car and the dark night time sky. Funny thing is, it hadn't even bothered me that he'd said we were engaged. Betty was probably going to tell the entire city but for some reason I didn't care- and all that anger from the flower shop and the restaurant had defused.
"I can't take this music!" I yelled.
We were 5 minutes away from the old folks place and Nick had on some old style rock- Bryan Adams or the Eagles or something...
"Babe, it's either the eagles or nothing."
"Nothing" I remarked shoving the off button on the radio.
I looked to my left. Nicks gaze was firmly planted on the road ahead. From the side I noticed his strong jaw line that was etched with the slight hint of a stubble and was firmly set in that serious mode he rarely seemed to shed. His eyes suddenly flickered side ways to mine, catching me, and he gave a small rare smile.
The silence was really getting to me. I wish he hadn't smiled like that. It was making things way to complex ... and dare I say, like something else other than two old colleagues out watching a show to support a good friend. I could seen Nick glance at my agitated tapping foot and drumming fingers every few seconds.
The silence was just intensifying those stupid thoughts that kept straying in to my consciousness. They needed to stay back were id buried them. I needed to get my mind off them.
"Ok, fine, please just say something. This silence is totally awkward".
He didn't answer; he knew it was getting to me.
"Please, just say something. I want things to be the way they were. Cant we go back to normal, before." He knew what i was referring to. before we began dating but after I stopped hating him. In that brief few months when we went undercover as a happy married couple in a small town for my protection. When we actually regarded ourselves as friends – not enemies, or a couple, or lovers. Just friends.
He glanced at me quickly before looking forwards again.
"What did the math book say to Dr Phil?"
"'I've got lotsa problems"
A grin burst onto my face and I began laughing uncontrollably.
Nick turned to see me and grinned.
"What do you call a dear with no eyes?"
"I don't know, what?" I asked, all the while failing to suppress my laughter.
" No eye dear".
And the laughter began again. And this time Nicks smile grew bigger. He was smiling a lot these days. I like it.
"See, it's not awkward," he added as he glanced at me quickly whilst driving. There weren't many guys I knew who'd know how to have a good time and laugh whilst driving that responsibly with their eyes on the road- so I was kinda impressed.
When my laughing fit had finally died down I turned to question him.
"I never pegged you for a cheesy joke type of guy. Where did you get them all from?"
Nick remained silent.
I elbowed him lightly, "Come on; don't hold out on me now."
He cleared his throat and gave a small, tight, surrendering smile. "When I was I kid, I was kinda shy, Matt and Nate were the loud, confident ones in school and they were older. One day, I realized the best ice breaker was to make a person laugh. So I went down to the joke shop and spent all my pocket money on this huge joke book- memorized the whole thing."
My eyes widened in surprise, "I never would've seen you as a shy kid, you're always so ... Mysterious and confident."
"The shy phase ended when I was about 7, when I bought the joke book"
"I guess it worked pretty well then didn't it?"
So help me, there was a playful tone in my voice and the quick glances he been giving me which now became more lingering told me he'd picked up on it too.
"Yeah, I guess it did ", he shot me a small smile.
I gazed back for just a second, and then turned, uncomfortable. This was going too far. I was going too far. I just needed to take a step back, take a few breaths. We had always been good partners back in NY, we were good together- so that meant there'd always be that thing between us, that warm spark, the feeling like when you know someone so well- like we were in sync, like we fit. I just had to show a little self control and ignore it for the next two weeks. It would go against everything I knew to take that many steps backwards and give in.
When we finally arrived the crowds of crinkly old people swarmed the entrance and spewed out onto the lawn in front of the building.
"Holy cow, I don't think I've ever seen this many old people!" I exclaimed.
His eyebrows shot up, as if to agree.
As we approached the doors I let Nick manoeuvre us through the crowd and handed our tickets to the door guy.
We headed back stage to see Mrs B. We found her in a sort of make shift dressing room in front of a cluttered dress and vanity mirror with her friends.
It looked like makeup had been plentiful and in stock at this theatre, as well as spandex costumes, lycra and feathers- I wondered what this show was about exactly...
"SASHA! Hot stuff! I'm so glad you're here!" exclaimed Mrs B happy to see us. I guessed she was referring to Nick when she'd said hot stuff.
"This is it! My debut, after this they're gonna want me up there with Captain Jack on the Black Pearl and waving wands with that handsome Daniel Radcliff!"
I choked out a giggle.
Nick handed her the flowers and her weary little eyes, which were now masked in make up, went wide in delight.
"I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be dating a silver fox and getting flowers from young hot things too!"
He grinned "Hey, I thought I was the only man in your life?"
"Just sharing the hotness around!" she exclaimed in a flurry as she lashed on more pink lipstick and purple eye shadow."I thought I'd give Sasha a shot at you, besides there are so many handsome men out there in the audience and you'd never be able to keep up with me hun."
I laughed silently. Modest much?
About a half hour and an overdose of show tunes, creepy puppet shows and inappropriate comedy acts later – I thought I was going to go into a comatose state of mind.
Finally it was Mrs B's grand performance that would end the night.
The thrum and beat of Beyonce's 'single ladies' hummed in the air and I turned sideways to find a amused Nick grinning right back at me.
I'd like to say that the night went, smoothly. I'd like to say that Mrs B had a beautiful voice that mesmerized the crowds. And most importantly, I'd like to say that I was able to stop myself from getting involved in any stupid, sporadic moments of heroism.
But this was an old folk's theatre, where most of the crowed was most probably hyped up on a number of different medications. And Mrs B sang like a strangled cat. And of course, I had never really had any self control, and never really thought before jumping into stupid situations.
That old saying "think before you act" had always sound like a bunch of gibberish to me.
The moment those lyrics I so often belted out in the shower left her lips the crowd erupted into a state of frenzy.
And you'd think a person would call it a day after receiving such a terrible reception. But No.
She defiantly sang on thrusting her hips side to side in outrageous dance moves.
This only spurred the crowd more. Cotton beard over in the second row burst onto the stage waving his stick. "Stop her. The demon witch sings to deafen us!"
This only opened the gate wider as floods of snowy white beards and balding grey heads flocked on to the stage. All the while, it became almost impossible to move.
This room was only meant to hold about 50 on a good showing- yet some idiot thought it would be financial genius to try fit 100.
"If you like it then you shoudve put a ring on iiii" she sang.
The end of her song was dragged off as the crowds encircled her. I couldn't see her now but I sure as hell heard her.
" Get of me! I shall not, I shall not be moved! My voice is a gift from god- so shut up and listen!"
Defiantly she sang on still.
More angry shouts and yells rang through the packed room over the panic
And now, people began fighting with each other. One accidental shove lead to a full scale brawl. Walking sticks swung left and right, obscenities rang through the air, and thuds and crashes only heighted the frantic mess.
Leaping up form my seat suddenly I threw myself into the crowd, not taking even a second glance back at nick or caring. I had to help Mrs B.
But dear god had I made a mistake.
I'd always thought old people were pretty cool.
Like the magic little handbag that perches on the shoulder of every old lady, filled with a never ending supply of brightly coloured candy in pretty wrappers.
Or the great talent they have at giving birthday gifts- like the triple figured dollar note that arrived every year without fail from grandparents, even if they were on the other side of the world.
Or even the simple fact that they were the rare breed of the human population that would actually smile and ask you how you were if you'd bump into them in the street.
But today I had an epiphany. I realized that I was pretty much wrong about most things in my life- and this was no exception.
I was swimming in a crowd of old people, dodging canes, false teeth, and clouds of wispy white hair.
When I finally managed to get myself onto the stage, which was already filled with people, I could only just about make out a pink feather boa and Mrs B's hands flailing in the air as the masses crowded round her attempting to drag her of stage together to silence her.
And still she sang.
A new found anger filled me, I had to stop them. Did they really think they could lift her up and of the stage? They'd drop her and then there would seriously be some danger. Whatever happened to respect for old people!
"Hey! Stop that! Leave her alone!" I yelled.
An old man standing next to me turned and gave me a strange look, then he belted out,
"Look everyone! Witch! here! She's the singing devils accomplice! Take her too!"
I glared at him in outrage- a witch! The devil! What kind of medication were these people on! I had a feeling I'd be wanting some to... after tonight.
The others around me started turning to look at me as the old man continued to point and yell.
"I'm no witch, cut it out! I'm not afraid to hit old people!". But of course, I really was.
Then the swarms began descending on me. A cold leathery hand gripped mine, a shove here and there.
I was'nt going to let this happen. Panic started rising in me, "let us go, she just likes to sing- it isn't that bad!"
Another old lady who was now grabbing my leg to restrain me shot me a cynical look,
"Honey, you need to borrow my hearing aid".
I shot her my worst glare.
Before I knew it I was being hoisted up above the crowd- they really and truly were going to carry me out of here.
Kicking and yelling I flailed my arms and legs, but there were just too many of them.
And despite their pale skin and weak looking frames their hand gripped onto my arms and legs like a vice.
Though I never failed in my shouts and kicks, words and questions I did not want to hear thrummed din my mind. It was over. There was nothing I could do. Poor Mrs B was god knows where and these cult crazed devil freaks where going to do god knew what to us.
I never thought I'd be surfing the crowd, in an old folks theatre...
Just then, a pair of lean long arms wrapped themselves around my waist. A booming voice sounded, "This belongs to me thanks"
The wrinkled torturers jumped back in what seemed like shock. And for the second time that night I was hoisted above the crowds. But this time, it wasn't by a stranger.
Nick threw me over his shoulder with ease and stormed his way through the crowds. Like a human barricade he battled his way through to the doors. I held on for dear life as his height had me dangling in the air.
When he finally put me down outside a fire exit in an alley way, I saw relief flood his features. His eyes became stern and hardened again just as quickly.
He looked as If he was going to say something. Then he hesitated.
"Hold on sec, I gotta go get our singing diva".
Pinching the bridge of his nose he sighed and turned back through the doors. I had to suppress the urge to laugh. Here I was in a dingy fire exit door having just been surfing a crowd of old people. My life may as well have been a comedy sketch.
When he returned he had Mrs B perched on his shoulder. He placed her on the floor next to me.
By now her singing had settled down to a hum. She waltzed forward ahead of us.
As if nothing had happened.
We followed, and as I turned to look at Nick he shot me an amused smile .
"So, are these things always like this?"He asked.
"And do you usually were dresses to these things?"
I stopped. Hell no! But I couldn't exactly go and tell him that. I was still looking straight forward , slightly in shock. I turned slightly, only to find him gazing down at me full on. His warm gaze seemed never a faltering, never blinking.
We walked on in silence after that. Sometimes, and I mean very rarely and only ever with people who you just seem to click with, there are no need for words. Sometimes just being in a person's presence is enough, it's like your souls recognize their counterpart in another and do all the talking. It's warming and comforting and makes you feel as if you have finally come home.
Only the soft clipping of my heels against the asphalt and the crunching of his dress shoes could be heard.
Then I heard croaking scream up ahead. I snapped my gaze up to see where it had come from.
But Nick was already running up ahead of me.
Catching up to the neatly trimmed front lawn I was startled to find something unexpected. Amongst brightly coloured peony and begonia and stretched out on a ever green leafy floor was Mrs Bestler-her feet wrapped and tangled with another large pair sticking out of a bush.
A shoeless, sockless, bare foot.
My eye sight followed the large, shoeless, sockless foot protruding out of the bushes to find none other than Arthur Shneider.
I rushed to grab Mrs B's other arm as Nick and I helped her to her feet.
He seemed to be fast asleep. I suppressed a smile
"Well I'll be, it's Arthur- my toy boy! Hey, there Arthur!" exclaimed Mrs B.
Seeing how the evening turned out I was surprised to see she was back to her chipper mood. She turned to Nick, "He's my toy boy y'know."
"Is he ok ?" I asked. I prodded him with the tip of my shoe. He was definitely out for the night
"He's fine, it's the new medication they put him on. I told him it was the drowsy stuff but he didn't listen! Shame he missed my show too! Was one of my best I'd say."
One if the best?
Nick knelt to the ground to check his pulse.
"Are you sure this medication was all above board?" he asked.
I caught the twinkle in her eye.
I knew for a fact Mrs B had once tried to buy the unlicensed, unauthorized type of medication once from a dealer on Parkinson Street. She chased him up and down the street. But he refused, said something about not wanting to sell dope to a lady who reminded him of his own grandma.
So ... I wouldn't put it past her to be taking un-prescribed, illegal medication. But Arthur Schneider? No. He didn't even know what the stuff was.
Nick hoisted Arthur up. "Could you put his shoe on for me Sasha?" he asked.
I reluctantly did. The brown loafer I had in my hand looked like a 50's style leather reject made of tan brown. I shoved it on as fast as I could.
Gripping Arthur he hoisted him up by the arms dragging him to the car.
Nick and I sat in the front and poor Mrs B was stuck in the back with Arthur sprawled across the seats and her legs.
"You know, I think I like him better this way?" she remarked.
"I don't know about that, I hope he's not a snorer".
But I guess I spoke to soon.
He let out broken slur of a snore and his too white Hollywood fake dentures glinted in the dark catching the light of the street lights as him mouth gaped open. Those teeth were unnaturally white!
We pulled up in front of my apartment building a while later. Dragging Arthur up the stairs wasn't the best idea so we took the elevator to our floor.
Nick raised an eyebrow worriedly as we reached Mrs B's front door. "Are you sure your gonna be able to look after him. I can always take him down to the care centre till he gains consciousness?"
Mrs B looked down at Arthur mischievously," No. I'm fine. I like looking after him when he's like this, a lot less complaining about his false hip and more listening."
I smiled. Nick lay him down on Mrs B's sofa before letting himself out of her apartment. Then in the silence of the hallway he turned to me.
He shoved a hand in one pocket and looked from the floor to me.
The staccato of my heart beat might as well have been hooked up to an amp because I could swear I could hear it in my ear.
Nervously I played with my key. What was going to happen? Aas he going to say something? I hated the feeling of anxiety and not knowing what would happen. I couldn't take it any longer. What ever it was , I wish he'd just spit it out!
I turned swiftly to open the door behind me, shoving my key into the lock
Just one word.
Those soulful green eyes.
They poured through every part of me leaving no corner of my soul untouched.
He parted his lips...
He pushed himself away from me in an instant and in a mere second he was by the stair case looking down at the stairs- a haunted look on his face.
He turned to look at me and a carefree smile crept to his face as if nothing had even happened.
"How about I drop by tomorrow to fix that broken side cabinet and bed of yours?"
I reeled from shock. I'm guessing at that moment my expression resembled that of a deer caught in headlights- shocked by the sudden emergence of reality.
"How did you know?"
He shrugged his shoulders, "Noticed it when I brought up the rug."
"I'll c u then."
And he bound down the stairs.
This was not how I saw this night ending.
The shock rocked through me, now tainted with a bit of annoyance.
Why was I giving one word answers like some sort of idiot.? Why had I even let myself expect that something would happen?
But why the hell had he leapt away so quickly?
I guess steamy hot kisses only come to girls when they least expect it. And... what gives! As I'm already being honest, I might as well let it all out now. I definitely was expecting a lot more tonight.
I recalled the reasons why he was so easily able to piss me off sometimes, why my first reaction to him in New York and DC was a reflex of hate. He knew exactly how to push my buttons.
Damn that stupid cupid and his rotten grenade launcher!