March 20, 2016

Haley: Week Twenty-Seven, Day Six

Living Green Tip #23 - Looking for a fun activity that the whole family can participate in? Look no further, bicycling is an exciting way to get the whole family moving and build some lasting memories.

Haley shot a glance to the activity table where the kids were busy playing.  "He said what?" she hissed in surprise.

"He can't be serious," Maritza argued.  "Everything was working so well. Why would he want to change it?"
Rachel sighed and turned back towards her friends.   "I think it's the new girlfriend.  She must be pushing him for full custody."  She half-heartedly began mixing the dry ingredients.  "Rose says that I don't have anything to worry about, but..." she trailed off, unable to voice her fears.  "I don't want to talk about it anymore," she said, now beating the dough vigorously.
Maritza glanced at Haley, looking to her for guidance.

Haley shook her head briefly. 

"Rio, come sit down and have breakfast with us," Rachel said, glancing up at her son as she arranged the pancakes on the serving platter. sprinkling the top with fruit and powdered sugar.
Rio hesitated a moment, avoiding his mom's gaze.  "Can't. Gotta get to school early," he mumbled, "I'll be home late."  He let the front door bang as he hurried down the steps. 
Rachel dropped the pancakes on the bar and sighed.  "He hates me!" she said, rubbing her neck.  "God!" She threw her hands up in the air with frustration.

Haley grabbed a plate, handing it to Maritza.  "He doesn't hate you," she argued. She grabbed two more plates and headed over to the breakfast table.  "Come on, Rach, come eat."
Rachel wiped a tear away as she dejectedly plopped into her seat.  "I've messed everything up! I don't know why you guys put up with me, anyways!"
Haley sat down across from Rachel and picked her fork up.  "You know Rachel, he hasn't filed anything yet. There's still time to show him what a great mom you can be."
Rachel's eyes lit up.  "Oh my God! Haley! I've got it!" she exclaimed, practically bouncing in her seat.  "I don't know why I didn't think of this before!"
Maritza pursed her lips.  "What exactly is your plan?" she asked, leery of Rachel's sudden mood swing.

"Exactly what Haley suggested!" Rachel cooed.  "I'm going to remind him exactly what he's been missing!"
Maritza glanced back at Haley. "Err.. I don't think that's what Haley was..."

Rachel jumped up and hurried to the stairs.  "I need to get ready! Oooo... this is going to be great! Thanks Haley!"

"Rach! That's not what I meant!" Haley said, twisting in her seat as Rachel raced up the stairs.

Rachel took time getting ready, freshening up her makeup and dabbing some perfume on a few special spots.  Shaye wasn't going to know what hit him!  
But first, she sent Clinton a quick break-up text. 

Haley frowned when she saw Rachel come down the stairs.  "Oh Rach, I don't think this is a good idea," she said haltingly.
Rachel laughed as she lifted Shayla up.  "It's the perfect idea! He won't want to file for custody if we're together!"

Haley watched her flounce from the house and groaned. "Rachel! That's not what I was suggesting!" she called out after her. She glanced at Maritza.  "This is going to be another disaster."

Maritza couldn't help but agree.

"Hi Shaye!" she said brightly when he answered the door. 

Shaye stopped and stared, caught off guard.  "Rachel. What are you doing here?"

She smiled softly.  "I just thought I'd drop Shayla off this time." She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

"Daddy! Daddy!" Shayla said eagerly, leaning away from Rachel and reaching for Shaye.
Shaye smiled at his daughter and reached out to pull her into his arms.  "Hey sweetcakes," he said, kissing Shayla on the head. He couldn't help but notice how dressed up Rachel was.  "So are you and Clinton going somewhere?" he asked.
"No, I'm just going to work," Rachel said, running her hands down her stomach to her hips, smoothing the dress down and coyly glancing back up at him.  "I just wanted to feel pretty today."
Shaye grunted, his gaze lingering on her curves.  "Well, you are," he told her.  He'd always thought Rachel was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever known. 
Rachel felt her pulse start beating with excitement when she saw the appreciative gleam in his eye. "Shaye, I was wondering if maybe we could talk sometime," she started. When it looked like Shaye was going to say no, she pushed on quickly.  "I was thinking about what you said, and I wanted to talk to you about it.  Please? Please?" she begged prettily, resting her hand on his forearm.

Shaye caved with a groan. "Alright. We can talk when I come by on Sunday to drop Shayla off."

"Yeah!" Rachel cheered, impulsively kissing his cheek, unperturbed when he belatedly pulled away.  "Wonderful! I'll see you Sunday! Bye sweetie!" she said, holding her daughter's hand.  She raised her gaze to Shaye's and smiled.  "Bye," she said huskily, before turning to leave.
She felt like she was floating as she turned and sailed down the porch steps.  Now all she had to do was convince Shaye that she could change for him!

It felt weird to have the day to herself.  The boys were at school, Shayla was with her dad for the week and Maritza was teaching Darryl.  She was free until it was time to pick up Jason from school.  She'd promised her brother that they'd come by for dinner one night this week & Maritza just so happened to have special plans for the night.

In the meantime, Haley drifted outside to paint. 

"Wanna come over to my place?" Austin asked as they left school. 

He glanced over with a scowl when a kid pushed past him, knocking him into Austin.

"Nah," Jason said, shaking his head.  "My mom's picking me up today. We're gonna go to my uncle's house."  Looking up, he saw his mom by the bike rack and waved at her.

"Maybe later, huh?" Austin said, taking off towards the bus.

"Later!" Jason called back, racing to the bike rack.

Haley waited patiently as Jason jumped on his bike.  "Are you ready to go?"

"I'll race you!" Jason called out.

Jason barrelled inside without knocking.  "Uncle Ian! I totally beat Mom here! I would've been here sooner, but she made me stop at all the stop signs."  Jason rolled his eyes.

Alan stopped mid-sentence in his conversation with Ian when the door blew open.  Ian glanced at his nephew in shock, then smothered a laugh.  "Alan, this is my nephew, Jason.  Jason, this is my friend, Alan."  He motioned to his right and said, "And this Aunt Cece's sister, Edith."

Jason glanced with interest at Edith.  "Does that make her my Aunt, too?"

They were saved from answering as Haley hurried inside after her son.  "Jason! I told you to wait for me!" she said, somewhat short of breath.  "Sorry," she said to Ian and Cecelie.  "He knows better than to just barge in." 

Cecelie smiled, "He's fine. Come in!"

Back at home, Maritza's party was just getting started, as well.  She smoothed her blouse and took a deep breath when the doorbell rang.  Just friends, Martiza.  We're just friends, she told herself as she hurried to the door.

"Charles!" Martiza smiled, opening the door.  "Come in!"
Charles stepped through the door.  "I brought these," he said with a small smile, presenting her with a lovely bouquet of flowers.  "I know you're partial to red."

Maritza's heart melted.  "Oh! They're lovely!" she said, leaning close and smelling them, pleasure written across her face.  "Let me go put them in water!" 

Cecelie and her sister went to check on dinner, leaving Haley with the boys.  Shyly, she stood behind Jason as he told his uncle a joke.  She wished conversation came easier to her like it did her son.  He was certainly not shy!

"Hey Haley! It's been a long time!" Alan said, pulling her close for a friendly hug.    "How is everything?"

Haley smiled shyly.  "We're doing good.  Rachel's working at the Little Corsican Bistro!" she said, feeling honor-bound to mention her friend.

"That's good. What about you, though? What are you doing?" he asked, summarily dismissing Rachel. 

"Oh. Well, I'm still painting," she said, trailing off.  What was she doing with her lifeThere had to be something more to it.  She frowned.
"I bet they're great. You were always really talented.  I remember when you were featured at the Art Museum.  Maybe I could come by and see them sometime?" Alan asked, his eyes warming as he checked her out. 

Haley's gaze skittered to somewhere in the vicinity of his shoulder.  Was Alan interested in her?  What would Rachel say?  Mentally, she scoffed at herself.  As if Rachel had any room to be upset if she did decide to see him.  But Johnny?  Mentally, she shook her head again.  Johnny had even less cause to be upset with her.  He'd kissed her senseless and then disappeared.  She hadn't heard from him for months now, not even on Snowflake Day!  Maybe it was about time she stopped playing it safe....

"Umm.. Haley?" Alan asked, bending down a smidgen to meet her gaze.  "Is that okay?" he gently pressed with a grin.

Haley smiled and nodded.  "I'd like that," she told him. 

Alan breathed out a sigh of relief.  "Great!"

"Everything is delicious," Charles said as he took another bite.

Maritza set her fork aside and sighed.  "There is truly nothing like eating home-grown salad!"

Charles chuckled.  "I try to buy organic at the grocery store, but it certainly costs an arm and a leg! I don't know how you manage to find the time to grow your own!"

"All of this has been Haley's labor of love! She's very eco-friendly.  The garden, the fresh eggs, the bikes..." she trailed off, feeling silly.  "And listen to me blathering on!"

"No, go on! I enjoy listening to you talk!" he told her.  "You really love it here, don't you?"
Maritza nodded.  "At first, we were just three eighteen year olds, moving in together to help Rachel take care of Rio when he was born.  But, now..." she paused, searching for the right wording, "...we're family."  Her gaze strayed to the most recent picture they'd taken this winter. 

He reached across the table and caressed her hand.  "It's nice to have family, no matter where you find it," he told her.  "You ladies are very lucky to have each other."

Maritza blushed.  She knew that Charles was interested in having a more serious relationship.  She thought she could handle casually dating, but she was scared that she was beginning to care. 

She'd already loved and lost... 

Standing, she skirted around him.  "Well, thank you for coming!" she said breathlessly.  "It's always lovely to see you!"
He stepped in front of her to stop her retreat.  "Maritza," he said softly, stopping her in her tracks.  "There's no need to run or hide from me.  I genuinely enjoy the time we spend together without any expectations."
"I know," Maritza sighed, feeling foolish.  "I'm a mess. I don't know what you see in me!"

Charles reached for her hands and squeezed.  "I see a brave, intelligent woman.  And you are definitely worth the wait."  He slowly began lowering his head towards hers, giving her plenty of time to back away.
Maritza found herself stepping into his arms and raising her mouth to meet his lips.  "We should probably stop seeing each other," she whispered, repeating the same thing she said every time she gave into temptation.

Charles nodded, his lips grazing against hers.  "Mmm... I know," he answered her.  "Next time," he assured her as their mouths opened in a hungry kiss.

She ran her hands through his hair.  "Next time," she agreed, closing her eyes and enjoying the moment.