Author’s Note: So, I think this one will be the Three Word Wednesday story, at least for a bit, but I’m not a once-a-week updater. I like to post daily when possible.
This one is a bit trickier because not only did I get ahead of where I was writing and had to post several parts, the one I posted last week wasn’t the beginning. Last week was “A Visitor with Good and Bad Timing,” but the story starts with “The Loss of Eight Years.” There’s quite a few pieces in between them and this one, so I’d recommend starting at the beginning and going through them all, but I’m not sure it’s absolutely necessary, either.
The three words for today: edgy, iconic, and lithe.
“You should change if you’re going to do that.”
Darren made a funny picture, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, the bottom of his dress shirt soaked in dishwater, making progress in ridding the mess that Richard had left in the sink. He didn’t belong there, not in his suit, doing dishes, but for some reason he was, and she could only stare when she first returned to the downstairs and realized where he was, busy defying the iconic role of the man of the house.
Not that this was his house or that she’d ever been hung up on traditional roles, but still, he shouldn’t be doing her dishes.
“I’m not wearing any of Richard’s clothes, thank you, and my suitcase is full of stuff just like this, so I don’t have anything to change into. I’ll be fine. The suit’s not a favorite or anything.”
Fi nodded, unable to stop staring. She’d hit the Twilight Zone when Richard told her about the baby, but Darren just had to go pushing that limit further, didn’t he? “I wouldn’t suggest that you try and fit in anything of Richard’s. You’re more… lithe than he ever was.”
“Lithe? Isn’t that term generally applied to women and not men? Shouldn’t it be svelte? Or are you making judgments about my current activity and what that says about my masculinity?”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sure. Doing the dishes makes you gay. Come on, Darren. I’m not that ignorant, and I’m not stereotyping you. I think the words mean the same thing, so why are you getting all technical about it? Is this something to do with your fine print clauses?”
“One has to be very careful what one says when drafting legal documents, yes,” he said, rinsing off a plate and putting it in the strainer. “I can be overly precise at times. Sorry. Bad habit of mine.”
“And the dishes?”
“You need help. I’m helping. I don’t do diapers, but I can do dishes. Some of them were even mine, so that made the most sense.”
“I do the dishes at home. I do them at my sister’s house. At my parents’ place. This is not the end of the world. The sky is not falling, Chicken Little, and you are not in the Twilight Zone.”
“I hate you.”
He laughed. “I knew it. You did think you were in the Twilight Zone. You are tragically predictable, Fi. It’s way too easy.”
“I see. That’s the real reason you did the dishes, isn’t it?”
He grinned. “Always with the ulterior motives. You know me.”
She did, and she could only shake her head as he finished up, draining the sink. He wiped his hands on a towel and leaned against the counter, just waiting. She didn’t know what he expected this time, but she could see herself asking a few favors of him as long as he was in town. She didn’t know that she should, but they were almost family, so it wouldn’t be like asking some random stranger or putting a burden on one of her friends. She didn’t know what to do at this point.
“What is that look for?” Darren asked, and she started to explain, but his phone rang, interrupting them. He held up a hand as he dug it out of his pocket. “Hey, Greg. No, I’m not—wait, what? You have got to be kidding me. I worked on that deal for almost two years, and they went and threw it away? I don’t know I—Wait, what? It’s the location that’s the issue? Okay, okay, give me some time to look into alternatives. No, you know I can salvage it, but you have to give me a bit of time to find the right place. Just do me a favor and fire whoever let that one slip through our fingers.”
He hung up, swearing as he did, and Fi gave him a look. He put his phone away and sighed. “Sorry. I didn’t—it’s just a lot of work got ruined because some idiot screwed up the permits, and we lost a location, so I’m going to have to fix it. Can I borrow the internet here for a bit?”
She shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Okay, what do I have to do to get you to agree? I’ll pay for the food if we order in.”
She didn’t know that she wanted to settle for a meal. She didn’t know what to do. His phone call had shifted the whole room, and now even the baby was edgy, since she was reacting to Fi. The idea of him taking off again right away was not easy for her to accept, not when he was just about the only ally she had, and she couldn’t believe she was thinking this way. She’d never needed Darren in the past, and now was a bad time to start.
She forced herself to swallow, trying to find the right words for the thoughts swirling around her head and confusing the hell out of her. “What if I came up with something crazy like… demanding that your location be within commuting distance?”
He studied her. “Well, that might be possible, but I think I’d have to know what you’re really expecting of me. Why do you want me to stay?”
“I told you why before.”
He shook his head. “No. That is not a good enough reason to push for something here. I can’t convince them to change their mind about where they want to build just because you need me to help you move.”
She looked down at the baby and back up at him. He let out a breath. “Oh, Fi. I should have known you were protesting too much. You want to keep her, don’t you?”