So. This happens entirely in my head. Any resemblance to real-life characters is mere coincidence and completely not my fault.
Not that I think this is such a great deal to begin with and I'm not going to sue you or follow you to the end of the planet to punish you, but don't steal? Appreciate it.
Hope you enjoy my little non-tragic love story. Lord knows I wish this is how it had ever gone for me.
Up, up and away, then.
I've always loved summer in the city.
Truth be told, I love summer anywhere. Growing up the baby and only pampered girl in a family full of boys, I've always had it pretty easy. Therefore, as I was a happy-go-lucky kid, I am a happy-go-lucky chick.
There is something to be said about spending lazy, sweltering days on your back on the grass with nothing but swaying treetops and birds and blue, blue sky above you. And, of course, your trusty little iPod speaker thing.
And you can't forget your usual restless six year old.
I am pretty damn sure that my little girl is going to be the CEO of some enormous company when she grows up. The knack she has for selling stuff to complete strangers is frankly pretty uncanny, considering that neither I nor my five brothers have any inclination whatsoever towards such a thing. I really don't know where she picked it up, but the truth is that she has it and rocks it.
Case in point, she is sitting above me right now in front of our little lemonade-and-baked-goods stand, which we will run for the extent of the summer. This wacky enterprise was entirely her idea; well, her first grade teacher in fact. Part of our profits go to charity, cancer kids, specifically, and the other goes towards the purchase of her first bike – with training wheels. Meanwhile her trusty lady in waiting – me – bakes the goods and mixes the lemonade every single night.
Arianna gets to be our frontwoman – she even knows how to count and give change – while I lay back and rest. Those are her orders. Also, I'm in charge of the ambiance. Her words, too. Don't ask me where she picks this stuff up, I just bake the goods.
"Hello, sweetheart," I hear from above. It's a youthful voice, sort of jovial, pleasant and male. I don't get up, I never do, because Ari knows how to do her thing. I've heard some serious gems down here from her interaction with customers and this is only our second day. She already is everyone's favorite. She always is.
"Hello sir!" she chirps back and I know she's smiling her big, toothy grin where her freckly nose wrinkles. It kills people. Especially men.
"What do we have here?" he asks her. I can hear the plywood of the stand creak above me, signaling the fact that he probably leaned on it to speak to her.
She rattles off the list of items under the plastic covered plates that we brought today and promptly informs the gentleman that we have pink lemonade for girls and blue lemonade for boys. I can't hold back a silent giggle and, apparently, she didn't fail to amuse the man above me either, because I hear his laughter too.
"Okay well. What's your favorite out of all this awesome stuff? Because I really can't decide," he asks of her. I smile. He's good with kids, it seems. He probably has some of his own. Most of the people that come to this particular fair, I've found, are family people looking for some quick breakfast. Or a last minute present. Or, in some cases, to ogle the cutoff-wearing teenage girls who man the water game up the walk. I've seen it.
"Oooh," squeals Ari adorably in that way that signifies that she's about to talk about her favorite subject. "These are my favorites and my aunt Elle bakes them for me, but she won't eat them because she really hates cheese," she says, referring no doubt to our batch of Red Velvets.
"Is...your aunt Elle around here with you?" he asks carefully. Ah. A responsible parent, I see. He wants to know if she's been left all alone. I slide from underneath the booth and bound up in one lithe movement, so quick that he actually stumbles back a little in shock. I love it.
"Right here!" I smile as cheerfully as I'm able to. What! I want people to know I'm a responsible...caretaker.
Ari starts giggling madly at this – it isn't the first time I do it – and I join her happily. The guy is a good sport and laughs, too, even though his hand is clutching at his chest; he looks a few years older than me, although his voice easily belies that, as do his bright blue eyes. He has this sort of brown hair that is dark but glints somewhat golden-blondish in the sunlight, despite its actual darkness, and one of these trendy haircuts, you know the ones, side part, sort of short in back but longer and angular on the front. He's like a head or so taller than me, which isn't much because I'm one hair's breadth away from being a midget – or so say my brothers – and has this sort of...pointy facial structure thing going on: straight, pointy nose, pointy chin, pointy everything. No hard angles anywhere else. He is just...pretty. Like an elf or some other whimsical woodland creature. He looks happy, too; he has laugh lines and a smile that is very even and pretty and that crinkles his eyes in such a way that they actually slant. All in all, a very pleasant looking man. And he's looking at me right now with a mixture of 'good one' and 'you're a little bitch'.
"So what's it going to be, sir?" I ask him, still beaming. He's biting at the inside of his cheek like he's trying to decide what to make of me.
"Well," he strokes his chin mock-pensively, no doubt for Ari's benefit. And surely, she starts giggling again. "I think I'm going to just take this little Miss here up on her recommendation. She looks like a high authority on the matter," he smiles benevolently down at her and his eyes do that crinkly thing. He really is strangely attractive, I find myself thinking. I put the back of my hand to my mouth to cover my amusement. I've regressed to checking out the customers.
"And I need a drink too, Aunt Elle," he addresses me, eyes twinkling. Oh okay, little Mr. Handsome.
"A blue drink, Aunt Elle," Ari advises as I start to sink behind our little counter, which we spent a whole weekend decorating. It feels really good to plunge my hand into the cooler where we store the cute little bottles of variously colored lemonade, because the day really is hot, too hot even for the tank-top and denim shorts I'm wearing.
When I get back up, Ari is carefully picking his cupcake with these little tongs that look like they belong in a toy kitchen and slowly deposits it on his stretched hand. He's smiling so hard at her that it makes me laugh a little. There is absolutely nobody that I know who isn't totally taken with Arianna. She just has this thing about her.
"Thank you, little Miss," he bows his head at her and I take that chance to slide the bottle towards him. "Thank you, Aunt Elle," he throws a saucy little wink at me for my trouble. Oh my. I think this is flirtage right here.
He sips the lemonade first. "This is pretty great. Did you make it yourself, little Miss?" he asks Ari.
She's all giggling and shaking her head. Oh my God. He's totally charming her too. This guy is something else. "My aunt Elle did it. But she lets me put in the red and the blue and she lets me tunnel it," she informs him, still smiling cutely up at him.
"Funnel it," I correct her with a laugh, which has Mr. Handsome throwing me another of those twinkly looks. I kind of wish we had more customers like this.
"Yeah, that," Ari waves dismissively at me.
"Well, you ladies make a mean lemonade. Now let's test this," he points at the cupcake, flicking yet another look at me.
And I have to busy myself with the iPod because I can't watch him eat. I'm serious. It's disturbingly sinful and I feel bad about thinking this crap around my six year old niece. One flickering look at him reveals licking of fingers and I quick as lightning snap my eyes right back to the 'princess' playlist Ari and I made for today. My fingers are just skimming over a rather gaudy song from the 'Little Mermaid' soundtrack, one which encourages Prince Eric to kiss the girl, when he speaks.
"Apparently you girls make a crazy good cupcake too," he smiles at me. "It's a shame you don't like this, Aunt Elle. I could probably eat my weight in them...and yours too, come to that."
"Well, more for you," I smile. Stop talking about eating my weight in anything. Or get ugly in the next thirty seconds. Then you'll be creepy and I'll be able to tell you to fuck off.
"More for me," he nods in agreement and there's something a little bit wolfish in his smile this time. Yeah, he is flirting with me a little. And I like it. I'm a freaking cupcake slut. I start laughing at that term I just coined when he speaks again. "Actually. Little Miss, think I could take a couple of these home with me?" he requests.
Ari only loves this too much. She loves putting the cupcakes into the little boxes, mainly because she gets to close the box with these little cupcake stickers. He drains the rest of his lemonade and eats the rest of his cupcake as he waits for her to be done packing his thing, down to the quaint little sticker. When she passes it over to him, he grabs her hand and plants a kiss on the back of it which makes her giggle almost hysterically. Oh, my God.
But then he holds his hand out for me, too, and I have to laugh as I give it over for him to put a slightly lingering kiss there just as he rubs my fingers with his. Oh, you. He gives me a bright smile when he's done, letting go of my hand very very slowly. I know I'm blushing, even as I give him a mildly disparaging look. There's a six year old right next to me!
"It was lovely meeting you both, ladies," he bows his head slightly as he slides a bill towards us. I move towards the little cash box that we have, which Ari has meticulously organized, but he shakes his head as he walks backwards and away from us, signaling that he wants us to keep the change.
And with one last little wave of his fingers, he turns and disappears off into the treeline. I don't even notice that I'm staring after him until Ari says something.
"He's so pretty," she sighs.
I look at her with a laugh. Oh, Ari. I know.
I smile at the scene I find when I come back from my quick trip to the trunk of my car, where I've gone to retrieve more stickers. Mr. Handsome is leaning there on our little counter, chatting animatedly with Ari about something. I'd asked our neighbor booth lady, Mrs. Lancaster, who sells ice-pops, to mind her for a second, but apparently that was unnecessary.
He smiles up at me when he notices me walking up towards the booth. And like the sappy, slutty cupcake chick that I am, I smile right back. He's looking quite lovely today, with his hair all mussed and his rumpled black t-shirt. Like he came here straight from bed. God there's a thought. Also, he came back! I try not to skip the last few steps. The fuck is wrong with me?
"...and she threw them her shoe, but it went through a window and we got kicked out," I can hear Ari giggling as she finishes her story and my eyes widen. Oh my God. I can't believe she just shared that story with this guy, who by the way is totally shaking with laughter, leaning on our counter like he's completely out of air. Whenever he's done laughing he will probably think I'm a deranged maniac and will call Child Protective Services to get Arianna away from a family that leaves a kid in my care. He looks at me as I approach, still laughing really hard. He looks as if he's going to say something to me, but can't because he starts laughing all over again.
"I swear I'm not violent," I say helplessly, which only sets him off again. I throw a mock-glare at Ari, but she's laughing right along with him. Yeah, I remember that she found it distinctly funny when it happened.
"I have no doubt that those ducks were mean, Miss Elle," he answers, his voice still shaking a little from laughter.
"They really were. And they had it in for me. And you may not believe it, but they can beak you real hard," I frown, remembering all the welts on my bare legs.
"Poor thing," he commiserates. "Want a kiss for it?"
I'm pretty damn sure that I heard him wrong, but there's no way I'm going to ask him to repeat himself. There's also no way I can stop the widening of my eyes or the red that I know just slapped across my cheekbones. And he's eating it all up. So is Ari, come to that, because even though I'm still staring incredulously at Mr. Handsome there, I can hear her giggling right next to me. Wordlessly, he pulls out one of those Hershey's candy kisses things and sets it on the table in front of me. This little fucker. I take the candy and nod my head in acknowledgment of his well played joke and he tips an imaginary hat at me before repeating the motion for Ari, who unwraps hers instantly.
"Thank you, Mr. Pat!"
I turn towards her. Mr. Who? When I look back at him he's still looking right back and I'm still mildly embarrassed so I turn to the iPod dock thing for something to do, skimming through the playlist for today.
"Say, Miss Ari," he speaks to her while I'm still hunched over the little iPod classic. "What's your Aunt Elle's favorite? I think I'll try that today."
I squeeze my eyes shut for a second. The man doesn't give it a freaking rest. And worst of all, mortifying as it sort of is, I like it. I never like this shit from guys. I mean I'm not bitter, nor did I have a bad breakup with my only boyfriend, my high school sweetheart, who moved away to the other side of the country for college while I stayed here. I don't dislike men, in fact, I quite like them. And there's no shortage of them either, not for me, because I'm not hard on the eyes and I like to think that I'm pretty nice in general. But usually I don't welcome the attentions, mostly because I find them somewhat...trite, cheesy. But there's something about this particular guy that is really very appealing. Yesterday I thought it was his looks, because he's pretty easy on the eyes too, but that's not it. It's something more, something sweet and funny and just...nice about him that is what's doing me in right now.
I finally settle on one of those breezy country ballads that I found – today is 'roadtrip' day for Ari and I – and look up just in time to see Mr. Pat chewing on the first bite of his Carrot Cake cupcake. See, he's not only sexy when he eats, he's also cute. Like, I want to jump him and hug him all at the same time. I'm going to embarrass myself so thoroughly in front of him if he doesn't stop coming. I mean, two days in a row doesn't mean he'll be coming all summer, does it? A man like this surely has better things to do with his time than hang out with a really young girl and her six year old niece, right? I frown at the disappointment that the idea causes somewhere in my stomach. Leave it to me to get a crush on one of the customers.
"Well," he says once he's had his last bite and licked the last of the frosting off his pale fingers, which if I didn't know better I would think he did for my benefit. "As delicious as this was and as much as I commend your...healthier tastes, Miss Elle, I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with little Miss Ari here's favorite. But just because I'm not-so-secretly a chocolate man," he winks at me. I roll my eyes for good measure, but inside I swoon a little. Seriously. I need a grip like now.
Ari is in the middle of celebrating her small victory when she sees something a little further ahead and slides down from her little stool so quickly that she almost topples it and goes tumbling to the floor. I grab her before it can happen, but Mr. Pat also throws his arms at her across the counter to break her fall. It only makes me swoon more. Jesus tapdancing Christ above.
I can soon see what's grabbed her attention so thoroughly; there's a girl, a teenager really, walking three baby golden retrievers. Ari is about to take off running, but she remembers herself at the last second and turns to me.
"Can I go see them, Auntie Elle? Can I?" she beseeches, doing a rather impressive rendition of the pee-dance. I motion for her to go ahead with a roll of my eyes and she takes off like a rocket with a squeal that is only about two notches below a frequency that only those puppies would be able to hear. Leaving me alone with little Mr. Handsome here.
"Did you want anything else?" I ask him rather politely, pretty much because I don't know what the fuck to say.
"Yeah, but I'm gonna wait until she comes back. I kinda like how she puts the cupcakes in the box. It's cute," he laughs, wrinkling his nose in this seriously adorable way.
"The carrot was really great," he continues with a smile. "But you should have seriously seen the people in my house tearing each other apart for those I took yesterday. Like a pack of rabid dogs. Including the woman and the kid. Really embarrassing," he chuckles and I have to stifle a sigh. Of course there's a woman and a kid. What world would this be if a man like this was unattached? Sure he flirts with me, but it's obviously innocent. That's just my luck.
"You should try the triple chocolate one then. That one usually causes bloodshed," I smile before I remember that I didn't bring any. Holy fuck. I just invited a married man to come back to see me. And what's worse, I see him peruse the covered plates which are conspicuously devoid of the treat I mentioned. I want to die. Especially when he looks at me with a cheeky little smile, like he knows what I just did.
"I'll have to come back for it, then," he says. Fortunately right then the song switches to one of them Aerosmith ballads and it gets his attention. He points wordlessly at it, clearly wondering about the choice since it isn't exactly kid-friendly.
"Uh, it's the 'roadtrip' playlist," I tell him as if that explained anything. "Every afternoon while we bake, Ari and I make a playlist for the next day. A theme playlist. Yesterday was princess themed, today it's roadtrip. Sometimes we pack a picnic and go somewhere random and call it a roadtrip..." I trail off, feeling strangely dumb and young.
"She told me you were her best friend," he smiles fondly at me.
"And she's mine," I agree. "I grew up with men. Having a girl is like a godsend. And I'm the only girl she has around, too."
Because her mother is a social climbing whore who as good as dumped her on my brother Dylan about the second that Ari started to cramp her style; my brother was a bartender at the time, and a really good looking one if I can say so myself, so long story short, he met Clara, had a one night stand, Arianna happened. In her first eight months of life we barely saw her; I've never seen my usually laid back brother so down in all my twenty-one years. Then Clara got fed up and thrust her upon us with barely any notice and we've had her ever since.
"She's lucky," he muses, still looking at me even though his eyes are sort of unfocused, like he's thinking about something else.
"I'm lucky too. It was love at first sight for she and I," I laugh and his eyes focus again right on my face. He looks like he's about to say something else to me but then Ari comes scurrying right along.
"Do you think Daddy will let me have one?" she asks.
"No," I laugh, focusing on her again. Dylan notoriously dislikes most animals. And while not a hardcore animal-hater, I'm not exactly looking forward to babysitting a puppy. Task which will invariably fall to me and I really don't like dogs.
Ari pouts cutely, but starts to climb back on her stool. I help her and Mr. Pat watches her with a smile.
"I have a doggy," he says to her. "If you bag me a couple of these carrot thingies your pretty aunt likes so much, I'll bring him by tomorrow so you can play with him," he offers and Ari, always willing to hang out with any kind of animal, enthusiastically pulls out one of these twofer boxes and starts doing her tongs thing. Me, I'm like squeeee he called me pretty. Because I am the cupcake slut, crushing on the nice married man.
Once she's done and she hands them over to him, he pulls another bill which change he refuses to accept.
"I'll see you girls tomorrow. Remember my chocolate, Miss Elle," he winks at me as he backs away towards the trees again. I wonder if he parked somewhere there. I wonder if he just walked from wherever his home is. I wonder if all this charm is how he got his wife to want him.
Because, to my utter chagrin, I totally want him too.
Should I go on?