Finally Finn (Los Rancheros #4) (3 page)

By the time we make it through the line it’s
two ‘til and they’re done eating. “Have a good day. Don’t fall on
the playground, don’t pee your pants, and don’t puke anywhere,
alright?”

“Where’s our lunchboxes?” Hannah asks. I
stare at her with blank eyes. Lunchbox? I reach for my wallet and
lick my lips nervously, shoving a twenty into each of their
hands.

“Get a school lunch, and a juice, or extra
milk, or whatever you want. That’s enough, right?” My nerves are
shot to hell and it’s what time again?

The door is opened by a teacher and she
recoils from reaching for Bridgette.

“What? What’s wrong?” Bridgette looks back at
me with hair stuck to her face and fuzz on her hands. “What the
hell?!”

The teacher cuts eyes to me. “It looks like
syrup.” My mouth drops open.

“Oh my God. They’ve had it for five minutes.
I swear they were clean when I put them in the car, but we were
late and I got them McDonald’s. I don’t know how it’s possible they
made that kind of mess so quickly,” I ramble, certain she’s going
to call Child Protective Services on me.

The teacher sighs and reaches for parts not
sticky to get the kids down. “I’ll get them cleaned up.”

“I’m really so sorry. Thank you.” When the
door is closed again, I put a hand to my hair to make sure it’s not
falling out.

I head to Wal-Mart, because I need some damn
clothes. Grabbing a cart, I hit the deli just as the popcorn
chicken is set in the window. Grabbing a honey mustard packet, I
take my cup of chicken through every aisle in the store. It takes a
couple of hours, but it’s so worth it. I get eyeliner and mascara,
a better detangling spray for the girls and conditioner,
remembering how hard it was to brush their hair the day before.
Flip flops, underwear and bras. Maxi dresses and shorts, a bathing
suit for the lakes.

My phone rings. “Yeah?”

“Good morning, Sadie.”

“Are you just waking up?”

“Well, I’m just getting to the hospital now.
They wouldn’t let me stay past visiting hours last night and he was
asleep, anyway. How is your morning?” I hear a dinging sound on his
end and wonder if he’ll get disconnected in the elevator.

“Oh, we’re good. Kids are at school.”

“And where are you?”

“Wal-Mart. I had to get clothes. I’m hitting
up Target after this.”

“Shit, that’s right. What did you sleep in?”
I smile.

“Your boxers and t-shirt.”

“Sexy. Don’t buy any pajamas and send me a
picture tonight.” I giggle then frown.

“I’m still mad at you.”

“I’ll send you a picture, too, how about
that?” I try to hold out, but cave.

“Fine. But I don’t want you in a shirt and
boxers.” Batty’s deep chuckle sounds over the line.

“Deal.”

“Great, something else to look forward to
after bedtime.”

“Is it so bad?”

“No. I just think there’s a learning curve. I
have to go. I just got to the cleaning section and need to
concentrate.” Batty sighs and I can hear people talking on his
end.

“That’s one of the things I love about your
place. No clutter. I bet you had a heart attack.”

“No, just hives.” I get another laugh. “Your
room is clean, though.”

“I try to keep it locked when I’m not there.
I work so much, and my dad isn’t very domestic.”

“Why not get a maid? It’s not like you can’t
afford it.”

Batty’s voice is surprisingly firm when he
says, “We’re very private people, Sadie.”

“No shit!” I snap back, getting several looks
from early shoppers.

“A maid isn’t an option. Dad had a girlfriend
for a while, and things got better. Just don’t worry about it. I’ll
deal with it when I get home.”

“Where’s your wife, Finnigan?” I ask
solemnly. He answers just as seriously.

“I don’t have one, Sadie. I will tell you
everything, I swear I will. Just let me deal with this first.” I
sigh quietly.

“Alright. I really do have to go, though. I
have disinfectants to get, oh and laundry detergent.”

“Just leave it—”

“Not happening, Batman.”

~

Hours later, I’m sitting in the living room
with all of the windows in the house open, airing it out. The
blinds are pulled up and the curtains in the washing machine. Jimmy
Fallon is playing last night’s episode on the DVR and I’m
surrounded by piles of folded clothes. My phone vibrates on the
coffee table.

Batty: I can’t wait until tonight. Send me a
picture of your face.

I shake my head and send a picture with
crossed eyes and fish lips.

Batty: Ah, I miss those lips. Has it really
only been two days?

Sadie: It seems like a lot longer to me,
too.

Batty: How was sleeping in my bed last
night?

Sadie: It was fab until the minions woke up
for school.

Batty: Did Bridgette do the whispering thing?
That still scares the shit out of me sometimes.

I wait for him to mention Hannah screaming,
but I suppose that’s something special just for me.

Sadie: Yes, she did, but they got off to
school on time. I’ll be better prepared tomorrow.

I have already set my alarm for an hour
earlier for the rest of the week.

Batty: I can’t wait to see you with them.
Will you have them call me when they get out of school?

Sadie: Yes. Do I need an address for after
school today?

Batty: Yes. Soccer at 3:30. 3857 Montez Ct.
Cleats are in the truck, I think. I’ll double check with Dad when
he wakes up.

Sadie: Don’t sweat it if he doesn’t. I know
where Wal-Mart is now.

Batty: I can’t imagine you wearing their
clothes, Miss $400 holey shirt.

Sadie: Yeah, well, this is eye opening for
both of us, I guess, Mr. Carhartt.

Batty: Touché.

I put the phone down and take the piles of
clothes to their designated spots. The men’s clothes I have to
guess at because I know what size body Batty has, but I don’t know
about his brother. His dad’s clothes are noticeably larger so they
go in the spare bedroom.

When the alarm goes off to get the kids from
school, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. The house is cleaned,
the laundry room empty, and I ordered Scentsy so that the place
won’t smell like dirty socks even when I’m gone.

When I was at the store, I Pinterested easy
dinner meals and it turns out almost all of them were in something
called a Crockpot, so it went in the cart. From the smells coming
from the thing, I’m thinking it’s a pot o’ genius.

I still hit the curb with the truck on the
way into the school, but I’m early and the girls are some of the
first kids to go home. Win!

“How was school?”

“You can’t go back home. We have soccer
today,” Hannah says instead. I silently hold up their cleats that
were in the passenger seat of the truck for her to see then put
them back down.

“School was fine,” Bridgette answers.

“What did you learn?”

“I don’t know. Stuff.” She shrugs.

“What did you eat?”

“I had an apple . . .” Bridgette starts.

“I had broccoli,” Hannah offers.

“And a apple juice . . .”

“I had orange juice.”

“I like apple better.”

“Why? Orange is better, and it’s orange.
That’s my favorite color.”

“I don’t like orange. I like purple.”

“Apple juice isn’t purple, dummy.”

“Hey! Don’t call me a dummy, dummy!” I can’t
help but wonder if I started this fight. Of course my question was
innocent enough, but children are turning out to be the Bermuda
Triangle of my life.

“I hate to interrupt, but why is your room
pink if your favorite colors are orange and purple?” I
interrupt.

“Because girl’s rooms are supposed to be
pink,” Bridgette answers innocently.

“Huh.” I turn into the recreational park.
“Says who?” I watch them swap looks and shrug.

“Grandpa, Daddy, my uncle. I dunno.
Everybody, I guess,” Hannah sums up.

“Do you like you pink room, or do you want an
orange and purple room? I’m almost positive there’s a football team
with those colors. Your grandpa and everybody couldn’t get mad.”
What the hell am I doing? I do not want to paint their room.

“Can we do it?”

“Do you think they’ll let us?”

“Can we ask them right now?”

“Can we call them right now?”

“Do we have to wait for them to come home?” I
hum under my breath to stop the anxiety from their questions being
shot from the backseat like bouncing bullets then hold the phone
out to them.

“It’s my turn.”

“I got it first.”

“You’re closer, that’s not fair.” I park then
twist in the seat.

“Hannah, give it to Bridgette, you got to
talk first yesterday.” Hannah hands over the phone with a pout and
I lay my head back on the rest and close my eyes, half listening to
the excited talk about Aunt Sadie and how she really wants to help
them paint because their football team is the best. It doesn’t make
any sense to me.

When it’s Hannah’s turn, she doesn’t tell
Batty about her screaming fit this morning, but does tell him they
got to eat hot lunch and McDonald’s for breakfast.

“Alright, here she is.” I blink open my eyes
and take the phone back.

“Hello,” I say hesitantly.

“Hey, babe. What’s this about paint?”

“I have no idea. I asked what they had for
lunch and it went from apple and orange juice to paint.” I shake my
head. Batty gets a good laugh out of that.

“Well, if you want to paint the room, I don’t
care. I thought they liked the pink. Don’t feel obligated, though.
We can do it when I get back sometime.” I can hear by the tone of
his voice he doesn’t have a lot of time for painting. There’s so
much I still don’t understand.

“Well, I’ll see how good they are. Maybe we
can do it this weekend if they don’t turn into the Exorcist.”

“Oh, come on,” Batty says through a laugh.
“They can’t be that bad.”

“No of course not!” I lie. “I was just
kidding.”

“What’s the Exorcist?” Bridgette asks. I
silently point to Hannah.

Hannah yells out an affronted, “Hey! You
can’t call me that!”

“I didn’t,” I say with a smile and narrowed
eyes, then turn my attention back to the phone. “We’re at the
soccer field. I have to get the minions ready.”

“Alright, send me pictures of the game if you
get a chance. I’ll try to call them before they go to bed tonight.”
I press end and get the kids into their uniforms and cleats,
braiding their hair again.

I sit in the top corner of the bleachers and
try to go through my emails, but the game keeps distracting me, and
the parents, yelling at their kids for everything they’re doing
wrong. The poor kids aren’t even paying attention to their coaches
or the game, they’re so focused on doing what mom and dad say. When
Hannah gets the ball and starts running for the goal, I jump up
without a thought.

“Go, Hannah, go! Yes! Yes!” Someone steals
the ball away from her and her shoulders sink, but I clap and keep
yelling. “Good job, Hannah. That was thirty yards! Awesome play!” I
keep clapping as I sit down, Hannah smiling despite herself as she
looks around absently. More than one set of parents are eyeing me.
I put my sunglasses back on and straighten my back to take pictures
for Batty.

It’s hot as hell since it’s almost April and
well into the eighties. I’m glad I changed into a maxi dress, but
wish I wasn’t sitting in the open with a black dress on. I am a
redhead and burn insanely easy. I make sure to put sunblock on my
list for the store tomorrow.

When the kids are done with the game, they
lost by one goal, and have rosy cheeks from the heat. “Hey, let’s
go swimming when we get home, how about that?” I offer.

Bridgette shrugs tiredly. “Where?” I
blink.

“Pick a lake, any lake,” I deadpan. It’s her
turn to blink and turn to her sister.

“We don’t swim in the lakes.”

“Huh? What do you do, then?”

“We fish.” I think about the multiple bodies
of water.

“But you know how to swim, right?” They both
shrug and shake their heads. I clench my teeth and feel my face
flush with anger. I think of how dangerous it is for the kids to be
near that much water and what could happen if they wandered off.
“Do you have a bathing suit?” I don’t remember seeing any in their
stuff.

“I don’t think so, Aunt Sadie. Can we get
one? Are you going to teach us?”

“Yeah. We’re going to Target.” I swing the
car in that direction and take a deep breath. If there is one thing
I can do for these girls while I’m with them, it’s making them safe
in the water.

Chapter 4

“What did you do today after soccer, baby?”
Batty rumbles in my ear. I snuggle into his sheets and get
comfortable. He called me immediately after I sent him the picture
of me in his clothes, fresh out of the shower, sans bra.

“We had fun, went to the store, had dinner,
did homework. Same old stuff. They do hate taking a shower every
day, though.” I smile when he laughs. I feel like I’m getting
better at it.

“They’re always in bed waiting for a story
when I get there. I didn’t realize they didn’t get one every
day.”

“Every other day. But they’re always a mess
by the end of the day, so it’s impossible not to, especially with
the weather getting so hot.”

“Tell me about it,” he mumbles. “It’s hot as
fuck here. Over a hundred for sure. You walk outside and it feels
like your skin shrinks over your bones immediately.” I wince.

“Sounds miserable. I’ll keep the weather at a
thousand lakes.”

“What is that?” he asks with a smile in his
voice.

“Oh, that’s what I call your house. It’s
better than Okefenokee or the swamp, isn’t it?”

“Sadie, there’s no alligators on my property,
and all the water is fresh. I’ve made sure there’s no marsh or
anything. Have the girls mentioned fishing?” I’m relieved to know I
can jump off of one of the docks without becoming dinner.

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