After coming in from their jog, Gene and Skeet ate breakfast, said goodbye to Avery as she went off to her nursing job, and commenced to watching the children in between viewing an action movie on television.
It was always a breeze to look after Tweety and Skyler Jr. Tweety made it easy by behaving like a little mama to her younger brother. Right now she was playing with him on the thick center rug of the newly decorated living room. Because Skyler Jr. was in a pre-walking stage and thus was pulling up on everything he could, the wood-trimmed glass coffee table that usually sat upon the rug had been removed to avoid injury.
Gene and Skeet sat on opposite ends of the sofa with a snack tray between them. Before Avery left, she stocked the tray with more than enough treats for everyone. In between sharing gummi bears, cinnamon crackers, and ginger snaps with the children, the two men had a lively, yet discreet conversation about women.
Was Gene teaching Skeet a thing or two about the opposite sex? No. As an ex-player himself, Skeet already knew a lot about women. So much so that he could school Gene about a few things. In fact, he was leading up to a few words of wisdom now.
“Though a lot of us would like to see you retire from the game altogether, if you decide not to, at least start pacing yourself,” Skeet said, continuing to speak in covert terms on account of the children in their midst. “Like any other form of exercise, you don’t want to overdo it.”
Gene started to respond, but the doorbell rang at that exact moment.
“Hold that thought,” Skeet said, rising to answer the door.
As soon as the door opened, tension flew into the room like a vampire bat, aimed to bite anyone that didn’t share his same blood. It was Pete coming to pick up Tweety.
Gene instantly fought not to frown. He forced himself to give Pete a civil nod, though he knew he wouldn’t get one in return. Especially since Avery wasn’t around for Pete to try to impress or act as a go-between in order to keep tension down.
Gene was right. Pete completely ignored everybody in the room except Tweety. Shaking his head in disgust, Gene shared a knowing look with Skeet.
In response, Skeet made a brushing motion upon his right shoulder, sending Gene a silent message across the room.
Brush it off, man. Brush it off, Gene told himself, getting Skeet’s message loud and clear. He went to pick up his nephew as a way to do something constructive with his hands, lest he wrap them around Pete’s neck.
“Daddy!” Tweety shrieked with joy as soon as she saw Pete. She took off running towards him with her long ponytails flying, her chestnut eyes sparkling, and her smooth mocha skin aglow with joy.
How can a lousy man be such a great father? Gene mused, noting his niece’s undeniable joy. In Gene’s opinion, Pete’s only redeeming quality was how preciously he regarded fatherhood.
“Daddy!” Skyler Jr. echoed, exercising his limited vocabulary.
Gene and Skeet outright frowned now.
Pete smirked, though he pretended to still give Tweety his full attention.
“Oh, no, nephew. Your daddy is right there,” Gene said, pointing to Skeet. It was now his turn to do something to dispel the rising tension in the room.
Fortunately, Gene got a little help from his nephew. As soon as Skyler Jr. looked at Skeet, he grinned from ear to ear, showing off two rows of pearly white baby teeth. The smart toddler knew who his real father was. There had never really been any confusion. Skyler Jr. had simply been mimicking his sister.
Skeet smiled with relief. All was well with his world again…at least it would be once Pete left.
Then while Tweety took Pete to the kitchen to show off her latest drawings, Gene returned to the sofa with his nephew. “To respond to what you said earlier, I get plenty of rest despite my hectic social life,” he said, prompting Skeet to return to their previous conversation.
“I don’t see how,” Skeet replied, returning to the conversation and to his former seat on the couch. “Seems like you got a date every night of the week.”
Gene grinned. “Some weeks I do. But what you don’t understand is that I have a set of rules that I go by.”
“Rules? I can’t wait to hear this.” Skeet moved a bit closer and reached for his son. Skyler Jr. eagerly went into his arms, causing Skeet to smile wider with satisfaction. Yes, this little boy definitely knew who his real father was.
“Well, besides keeping everything literally wrapped up,” Gene continued in the same discreet manner. After all, the kitchen wasn’t that far away and Tweety might hear the wrong thing. “I also wrap things up in other ways. I don’t stay out or up past 2am and I never have sleepovers.”
Skeet chuckled. “You must be Speedy Gonzales or something.” As he spoke, he bounced Skyler Jr. gently on his knees. Loving the lively motion, the toddler clapped his hands with delight at each interval.
Gene laughed, too, at Skeet’s ribbing and at his nephew’s obvious joy. “No, I’m far from a minute man. I just start early, that’s all.”
“If you say so,” Skeet teased. “But what about those greedy ones? You know, the ones that want second, third, and sometimes fourth helpings? No man can get his proper rest around them. And you know I know.”
“I’m sure you do,” Gene replied with a wide grin. “Lance gave me the 411 on you. Told me how you turned in your player’s card when you met my sister,” he added, unaware that he’d just given a listening Pete ammunition for future battle.
Skeet suddenly grew serious. “I was happy to give that up and more for Avery. She’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.” He smiled down at his lively son. “This little man right here is another.”
Gene nodded. “I hear you, man,” he said, wishing he had the same setup…with Kylisha.
* * *
“How would you like it if Mommy and Daddy got back together?” Pete asked Tweety once they were all buckled up in the red Ford Mustang he owned. His right hand paused on the ignition as he waited for her answer.
Tweety’s eyes lit up. “I would love it!” She squirmed with excitement in the backseat. “You could even share my room.”
Actually I would like to share your mother’s room again, Pete mused, keeping that thought to himself. Aloud he said, “Daddy’s going to see what he can do to bring our family back together, all right?”
“All right.” Tweety nodded eagerly.
Then as they journeyed on their way, Pete neglected to do what he usually did during their weekend visits—pump Tweety for information about her mother and stepfather. There was no need to do that this weekend. The small pebbles he’d garnered from Gene today were enough to build a solid wall of contention between Skeet and Avery forever.
© 2006 by Suprina Frazier
Photo credit and links: