She was almost finished with the dinner dishes. It had only been three of them tonight. She hated it when he wasn't home for dinner. It was one of those frosty, pitch black nights in January. She wasn't a fan of January. It was a month full of bullshit resolutions, post holiday exhaustion and hideously cold weather. Everyone attempted to forget the massive debt they incurred by public Facebook announcements that boasted how they were going to lose 20 pounds "this year". She knew that they would be the same people that were soon to be best friends with their couches; parked there eating a pint of chocolate ice cream while watching The Biggest Loser.
The ring of her cell phone made her jump. She was edgy. She expected the call and looked at her phone in anticipation. It was that familiar number. She exhaled and answered it.
"I'm close. Meet me in 20 minutes in the shopping complex east of Mason," said the voice on the other line.
She glanced nervously at her children playing on the floor in front of her. She would need to bring them along. This was not ideal in any way. "Okay," she said. "What are you driving?"
"A white Mercedes. We'll be there. Don't forget to bring the money."
"Of course," she said, as she felt her heart rate quicken.
She hung up the phone, pulled her blonde hair into a sensible ponytail, and looked at the clock. He was out tonight, drinking some beer with buddies; most of whom she had never met. She knew he wasn't coming back anytime soon. She attempted to shake off her nervousness and started the arduous process of getting her children into their shoes and jackets. They would simply have to come with her. Certainly not ideal, but she was adaptable and knew that they would be safe, as long as they were with her.
Twenty minutes later she turned her old black pickup, which was grimy with gravel dust, into the parking lot. She quickly scanned the vehicles and spotted a white car with headlights ablaze parked in the northwest corner. There were two people in the front seat. She had only expected one. A tiny alarm went off in her head. She carefully pulled her truck into the spot next to the white car and rolled down her window. Again, she glanced around the parking lot, this time for witnesses. The whole situation looked fishy and she was concerned that they were being watched.
"Hey," she said to the girl in the Mercedes. "Did you bring them? Thirty of them?" She nodded in acknowledgement to the young guy in the passenger seat. The back windows were tinted, so there was no way to know if any others were in the car.
"Yep." said the girl. "Did you bring the money?"
"Sure." She turned away from the white car and winked at her kids, who sat perfectly quiet in the backseat, just as she had instructed. She grabbed her purse and handed the money through the window as the girl gave her two brown bags in exchange. Her heart was racing.
"I hope no one is watching. This looks suspicious," she said to the girl.
The girl laughed nervously and said, "I know."
She peeked into the bags and made a quick estimate. It looked like thirty. She was simultaneously relieved and terrified.
This time she spoke to both people in the white car, "You guys should drop in sometime."
"Yeah! Let's barbecue when it warms up, said the girl.
"Sounds like a plan! See you soon. Have a good time at the birthday party!" she said brightly.
They said goodbye and she pulled her truck out of the Target parking lot. She turned up the volume on her CD player so that she could hear when it was time to make animal noises with the sing-a-long song that played, and she sang enthusiastically all the way home with the hope of keeping the tiniest one awake. He fell asleep one mile from the house.
She hurried through the nightime routine so that she could finally get to the part where she read the bedtime story to the kids. They read stories every night and it was possibly everyone's favorite part of the day. Yet, that night's story was different. It was special. Not because of any holiday or new toy. It was special because not only were their names printed in the book, hers was printed on the cover, right behind the title "illustrator". It was a memorable night, indeed.
-This is a true story. And Brock was home at 8:20 because he has no idea how to properly partake in a guy's night out. I must teach him..... later.
The WINNER of the book that I illustrated, titled B. Thomas the Bear's Rocky Mountain Chocolate Adventure, is...... SARAH!!!! Congrats! You have pretty hair. I kind of want to sniff it.
Anyone who wants a copy for a mere $9.99 (you ALL had better buy a copy!), please contact the Estes Park Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at 970-586-6601.