Ready to meet today? Let's get together.
She nibbled her lip as she considered meeting him in person. He'd sent his picture, but what if he wasn't anything like that. What if he smelled? What if he tried to kill her?
But, they'd really hit it off online. Maybe he was the one...
Quickly, she replied, Call me...
"Aw, Rach... I'm sorry. I know it's hard," Haley said reassuringly. "But he's been a great Dad!"
Rachel sighed. "I just really pictured us being a family. But now, he only talks to me if it has to do with Shayla. It's like we're not even friends!"
"Have you ever apologized to him?" Haley asked, scooting in to the table.
Maritza gasped. "Rachel!"
Rachel held her hands up. "What?! It's a good thing!" She leaned forward, "You know, he has a profile on the dating website!"
"No," Haley shook head head. It had been years since she'd thought about Gabe. He'd been transferred shortly after Johnny had gone to have a talk with him all those years ago. Could he be back? "How do you know?"
Rachel shrugged. "I browse through the profiles." She shrugged. "In fact," she added. "You'll never believe who I met! He's this really great guy! He funny, likes the outdoors and doesn't mind that I have kids!"
Haley and Maritza shared a glance.
"What? Why are you guys looking at each other like that?!" Rachel demanded angrily. "I'm just meeting him! It's not like I'm getting married!"
Maritza choked on her bite. "Plumbbob, I hope not!"
Rachel huffed angrily. "He's taking me to the Winter Festival."
Haley sighed, asking, "The same festival Rio's been begging you to go to with him?"
Rachel pushed back from the table. "I'll take Rio later! Like I said I would! I am not a bad Mom!" she nearly growled before turning on her heel and stomping up the stairs in an indignant huff.
Haley & Maritza shared another speaking glance. "Do you think she'll ever change?" Maritza asked.
Haley shrugged, shaking her head sadly, "I don't know..."
Rachel turned towards him and felt a huge relief that he looked exactly like he had in his picture. "Yeah! Hi!"
Rachel nodded, "Let's do it!"
Clifton took steady aim and threw another snow ball. Even though Rachel twisted to miss it, she wasn't fast enough. It left a spot of powdery snow on her jacket.
"I GOT YOU!" Clifton roared with triumph. "YES!"
Clifton jogged over to her side. "I'll show you 10 minutes," he said, playfully reaching out to tickle her.
Rachel swatted his hands, "I'm hungry. Wanna grab something to eat?"
He shook his head. "Nah, why don't you grab something. I'm going to go try out the snowboarding half-pipe. Meet me over there, okay?"
Rachel tucked her hair behind her ear. "Sure. Meet you there."
Rachel preened. "I'm actually with someone," she told him. "But, you're sweet!" She fluttered her lashes.
"Damn, all the good ones are taken!" he joked as he handed her the cookie. "On the house," he added with a wink.
"HEY! LOOK AT ME!" he called out again, making the shaka bra hand-sign.
Rachel popped the gingerbread man's head in her mouth. "Nuh uh. I like my feet firmly on the ground!" she told him.
"Maritza, this is Dr. Wyman. This might be a little awkward," he cleared his throat and paused, "I was hoping we might grab a coffee sometime and talk..."
Martiza's mouth dropped open in surprise.
"Are you still there?" he asked, uncomfortable with the hanging silence. "I'm sorry," he finally started to apologize. "I shouldn't have presumed..."
"No!" Martiza heard herself saying. "I would love to..."
Clifton reached out and clasped her hands. "You don't have to go yet, do you?" he asked.
"I have work in an hour," she explained.
"Can't you be a little late?" he asked. "I'm just having such an amazing time with you. I'm not ready for the night to end..."
Rachel fawned. "Me neither," she agreed. "I guess I can go in a little late," she said with a small smile.
But, now, they were twirling around in a circle, holding hands, gazing deep into each other's eyes.
Rachel felt her heart beating erratically. He loved her! "Me too! I knew the minute I saw your profile that there was something between us!"
"I did too!" Clifton said excitedly, stopping mid-circle and gazing deep into her eyes.
Clifton jerked in surprise. "Oh crap!" he called out just before he swept her feet out from under her.
Rio shook his head. "Nah, you go on. I have some homework to do."
Jason made a face, "Aw come on, you can do your homework later! It doesn't take that long to do!"
"Look, Jason. Once you're 5th grade, you'll see how much homework you get!" Rio grumbled.
"Yeah, well, I'm gonna go play!" Jason raced up the stairs.
"It's not fair," Rio grumbled, wishing he could go play, too.
He nodded. "Yeah, Rachel forgot to pack any warm clothes, so we went shopping. I wasn't sure if you guys had any. You know how fast kids grow!"
Shaye shrugged, "Yeah, well, tell Rachel I'd like to talk to her soon." He turned his attention to Shayla, giving her playful kisses goodbye. "Daddy'll see you soon, Shay-Shay! Love you!"
Rio shrugged, concentrating on the task in front of him.
She sighed, leaning back her head. "Well, Mommy had a wonderful date with a very nice man today!"
Rachel waved her hand. "I know! I know! I promised to quit jumping into relationships. But, Clifton and I have been friends since before Shayla was born. We're not really jumping into anything. We've been taking our time!"
"But, Mom..." Rio started to argue.
Rio shook his head, turning away from his little brother. "Nothing," he said in a clipped tone. "You wouldn't understand!"
Jason chucked his shirt on the floor. "I'm not so little! I understand a lot!" Jason protested.
Rio set his jaw stubbornly. "I don't want to talk about it." He wondered how long this new relationship would last. Well, he wasn't going to act like he liked the stupid guy, no matter how much his Mom wanted him to.
"Night," Jason mumbled softly, already close to sleep.
Rio glanced down at Mittens as he curled up on his dirty clothes. "Night, Mittens."