Note to self: take it with you and throw it in the trash.
My dad’s been known to go through the garbage on occasion, making sure we’re not throwing too much away.
Yes, it’s real. He actually does do that sometimes.
“What is it?” Trent asks, and I almost tell him, but I don’t want to put him off by sounding any weirder than he probably already thinks I am.
“Nothing, I just forgot to take out some trash,” I tell him, suggesting maybe I should take a shower, and then we can go, suddenly not wanting to spend the day here when according to Trent himself, the whole world is waiting for us.
I like Brooke’s shower idea, but she shakes her head. Reminding me that apart from not much showering going on, there’s no way I’d fit in there even if she wasn’t in it with me.
“Can I at least scrub your back?” I ask, noting her frown. “Your front then?”
“I’ll be like ten minutes,” she promises me, so I leave her to it. I tell myself to let her have her own space to do what she wants.
I don’t want to be that guy who wants her living in his pocket all day every day.
Once I hear the water running and Brooke humming a few bars of something she likes, I have a little snoop around Mike Wheatley’s place.
Nothing too invasive. Just a look-see, as much as any other visitor might take up.
There are a lot of photos on the walls and shelves with him and Brooke.
At a glance I can easily tell they’re close and that Mike’s done a hell of a job raising her.
I don’t see photos of anyone else, not even one.
Not that I’m expecting a shrine to myself or anyone else, but most people who have photos out usually have some of their friends.
I spy his diploma on the wall too, engineering. Not sure how that worked out for him, but I spot some coveralls and an embroidered jacket, part of his work uniform I guess.
“Humph,” I remark quietly to myself. Trying to ignore the childhood pledge Mike and I made as it replays in my mind over and again for the first time in decades.
I eventually gravitate towards the kitchen, opening the refrigerator more out of habit now than being nosey.
If I was home I’d be looking for food too.
Not a hell of a lot going on in there.
Neat and tidy though, couldn’t accuse either of them of being slobs, but that’s pretty rich coming from the guy who has his own housekeeping staff he’s never even seen.
I flick open the microwave and announce “Jackpot” to the empty space in my belly.
It looks like day old mac n’ cheese.
Waste not want not.
I nuke it for a minute or two, and helping myself to some ketchup I finish it with only a mild burn to the roof of my mouth.
Once I hear Brooke’s finished in the shower I quickly rinse and dry the bowl, trying to look innocent when she reappears.
I kiss her, holding her close.
“You taste like mac n’ cheese,” she says accusingly, and I shrug, guilty as charged.
“Not what was in the microwave?” she asks, making a face and I nod greedily.
“Ew,” she tones, then smile, silently thanking me for some reason.
“Waste not want not,” she adds, freeing herself from my grip so she can go get ready.
“Should I pack a bag?” she asks and I tell her she can have a whole new everything if she wants, which is met with silence.
She comes back to the kitchen, looking thoughtful but excited.
“You really mean it, I can really buy some new things?” she asks.
“You definitely can,” I tell her, unable to help myself as I reach over to hug her again, lifting her off the ground.
“You can have whatever you want, Brooke. Today and every other day after that.”
With a squeal of excitement, Brooke rushes off to get dressed and I feel more like a man who’s found his calling.
A man who’s found a reason for everything he’s built up over the years.
My queen has finally come and we can enjoy it properly now.
It’s a mix of my own excitement plus relief.
To think, only a day ago I was considering not even going to my college reunion. I was becoming withdrawn, aloof. Almost resenting the life I have because I almost convinced myself I was destined to live it out alone, like a prison term.
What a difference a day can make though, and within the hour we’re both downtown, Brooke already wearing one of the new outfits she’s bought as we sit down to lunch.
I’ve let her pick the restaurant, having coached her some more already about quality being more important than the price tag.
It’s a place I’ve never been to, but the smells from the kitchen are good enough for me.