Houdini’s Box

Part 3


By: Girl Bard


Please see Part 1 for disclaimer.

Many thanks to everyone who mailed me feedback! Keep it coming!


June 23, 2000


I nervously run my hands through my newly styled hair. It looks so much better; it now gently falls into place and I don't look like a shaggy sheep dog anymore. I pick imaginary lint off of my pants and press the few wrinkles out of my shirt.

Jaden is standing at the door good-naturedly allowing me to primp before knocking. "Grace, you look wonderful." She tells me and I roll my eyes. "Fine." She adds, a smirk on her full lips. "You look devastatingly beautiful."

I smile at her, taking one last calming breath before nodding my head, indicating that she should knock. She does, and I hear a dog bark, a child shout, and numerous sets of feet running towards the door.

It swings open to reveal a multitude of children and animals. I step back, surprised at the greeting and Jaden chuckles before pushing her way through. I follow her lead and join her, making sure to close the door behind me.

"Jaden! Jaden!" An adorable, yet rather sticky, voice emerges from the crowd. Jaden smiles and picks the little girl up, holding her at arms length when she realizes how thoroughly disgusting she is.

"What do you have on you?" Jaden asks, and the crowd of children giggle.

"Ice cream." The girl responds, somehow managing to look dignified despite her chocolate-covered face. Jaden wrinkles her nose and sets her down.

"Kasey, this is my friend Grace." Jaden explains, and the little girl looks up at me. She's beautiful, probably around 3 or 4 with dark brown hair and an impish face full of freckles. Her sparkling brown eyes meet mine and she boldly smiles.

"Hi." She says matter-of-factly. "You look like a pixie."

"What?" I ask, laughing. Kasey just giggles and takes off running down the hall, the three other children following her.

Now the two dogs move in, greeting Jaden and I excitedly. "It's crazy here, isn't it?" Jaden asks while scratching the two golden retrievers. "I think she meant your hair, it does make you look rather pixie like."

I smile while the other dog receives my attention. "Is that a complement?" I ask Jaden, receiving a radiant smile in return.

"Yes it is." She looks at me with such intensity that I don't know what to say.

"Jaden, is that you?" A female voice asks from upstairs.

"Maybe." Jaden answers, laughing.

"Be right down!" The voice responds and Jaden shakes her head.

"It's always like this here, it's like a nuthouse. But it's fun."

"Is Kasey their daughter?" I ask, wondering if all the kids are theirs.

Jaden reads my mind. "Yes, I don't know the other three, but both dogs are theirs." I laugh in response and Jaden takes my hand in hers. "Don't be nervous, Gracie. I love you and so will they."

She's so sweet, and sometimes she just knows exactly what to say. "Thanks." I tell her, and stop when a man that can only be described as cute comes down the stairs.

"Hey Jaden!" He calls, wrapping her in a hug. "And you must be Grace!" He hugs me as well, and although I assume he's Diana's husband, I'm still on edge around men.

"Easy there." Jaden growls, and after releasing me, he grins.

"I'm Joe, Diana's husband." He informs me and extends his hand.

"I'm Grace, and it's nice to meet you." I shake his hand. "You have a lovely home, and your daughter's precious."

"Wow, you're polite!" Joe exclaims, chuckling. "We'll have to break you of that habit."

I laugh, immediately comfortable with his friendly nature. Jaden just shakes her head, punching him lightly on the arm.

"Hey, don't beat up on him too much, I hate when I'm not the one to bruise him." Diana responds, coming down the stairs gracefully. She bypasses Jaden and hugs me, her round body engulfing me. "Grace, it's wonderful to finally meet the only person besides myself who can make Jaden smile." Diana teases, moving on to hug Jaden.

"It's nice to meet you." I add politely, unbelieving to how beautiful she is. Diana's dark brown hair is of medium length and wavy. Her brown eyes are identical to Kasey's, as well are her light freckles. She is short, a little taller than myself, with a beautifully curvy body. Something about her makes her absolutely stunning, and Joe puts his arm around her with pride. They make a great couple; Joe is really endearing with light brown hair and an adorable face.

"I'll take Kasey and her entourage next door." Joe offers, calling the kids. They come running, trailed by the two dogs. "Say bye, Kasey." Joe prompts and Kasey obliges, hugging Jaden's knees.

"Bye Pixie-head." She informs me as she hugs my knees also. We all laugh, and Kasey beams, knowing she's the star of the show. She hugs and kisses her mother and Joe leads the group of children out the door.

"Pixie-head, huh?" Diana remarks, giggling. "She is something else, that kid. She keeps Joe and I in stitches."

"She's a riot!" I add. "How old is she?"

"Four, going on thirty." Diana answers, laughing at the old joke. "She starts school in the fall." She pauses, rolling her eyes. "We're going to have a class clown on our hands, I can tell!" Jaden and I both agree wholeheartedly.

"Your neighbor watching her tonight?" Jaden asks, and Diana shakes her head.

"Yep, the other three hooligans are hers, and Joe watched them all day so she's taking Kasey for the night." Diana looks at me, explaining. "Joe stays home with Kasey during the day so she doesn't have to go to daycare. He also watches neighborhood kids for extra money."

"That's so great." I agree. "Kasey must love having her dad around." I add, almost wistfully, remembering my father who was never around. Jaden moves closer to me as if she senses my sadness and rubs my back.

I wonder if she ever realizes how in tune to my emotions she usually is.

"Yeah, it's nice to have a househusband." Diana adds as Joe walks through the door.

"At your service, m'lady." He adds in a perfect English accent, bending to kiss Diana's hand. We all laugh and I'm so amazed at how comfortable I feel around Jaden's friends already. They are such wonderful people.

We head out the door, leaving the two woeful dogs behind and head for Jaden's Explorer.

"Where too gang?" Joe asks, as he and Diana get in the back.

"Chinese." Jaden blurts out immediately, and Joe readily agrees.

"You guys, we shouldn't do that to Grace, not on her first time." Diana argues, only to be outnumbered by Jaden and Joe.

"Do what?" I ask, wondering what my blue-eyed, scheming, girlfriend has in mind. She looks innocent, but I'm not fooled. Joe just looks at me and grins, while Diana takes my hand.

"I'll protect you, don't worry." She whispers, and Jaden and Joe crack up.

This can't be good.

June 23, 2000


The look on Grace's face was priceless.

It took us about an hour after leaving Joe and Diana's house to get up to New Hampshire. A few hours ago we pulled into The China restaurant's parking lot and went in for dinner. Joe and I managed to keep a straight face all the way through dinner, wondering why Grace didn't notice the karaoke stage.

Yo-Yo the karaoke deejay starts taking names for songs at 9:00. Joe immediately scrambled up and put our usual requests in as well as getting a song list for Grace. When Grace realized that this was not only the home of New Hampshire's finest Chinese food but a karaoke bar as well, I thought she was going to faint. She hasn't really said anything yet, and it's been four minutes already. That must be a record for my Gracie.

I hope she's not mad at me. This place is really fun. Once she sees the losers that sing, she'll think it's a blast.

"Okay Grace," Joe begins, trying to ease her tension, "That chain-smoking lady is Barbara Jo." Joe discreetly points her out and Grace nods her head. "She always sings at least four Pasty Cline songs, and that Lovely Bunch of Coconuts song." Grace breaks into a smile, and Joe looks at me and winks.

Oh yeah, this will work out just fine. We finish pointing out the rest of The China's regulars and break into applause when Yo-Yo announces the first singer.

Our table immediately breaks into laughter, including Grace. Big John is striding up to the stage and Yo-Yo announces that the song will be Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line." We told Grace that is what he would sing.

We order another round as Big John begins his song. Grace almost snorts her water out through her nose when she realizes that he sings exactly as Diana imitated, with completely no emotion and totally off-key.

Our drinks come, and Joe and I prepare our tequila shots. I never drink anymore unless I'm around Joe. He called me a pussy once because I wouldn't do shots with him, and ever since I make it my goal to drink him under the table. Tonight is no exception, because Diana never drinks. Gotta love our designated driver.

Grace is drinking steadily, but I can tell she's still a little green around the gills about that drinking episode that she had the last time we went out together. But I have to give her credit, she's keeping up with Joe and I pretty well.

Downing our shot, Joe and I clink the shot glasses together. He's such a fun guy. I wish that I came out with Diana and him more often, but I usually feel so emotionally exhausted after work that the last thing I want to do is socialize. Having Grace here makes it nice, and really fun. I've always been jealous of Joe because Diana is so great. Not that I would ever admit that because I don't want Diana to get egotistical.

"Whoa, I'm drunk." I tell the group and they all laugh. Joe is three sheets to the wind and Grace was a long time ago. We must be really annoying and I try to maintain a little of my professionality. Or whatever that professional word is. That's why I like to come this far north, not many people would recognize me. I wonder if Grace is going to hate me when I tell her the truth.

That thought makes me sad. I pout, sticking my lower lip out and Grace tugs on it.

"Why so sad?" She asks, her gorgeous face flushed from laughing.

My lip trembles and tears well in my eyes. "You're going to hate me."

"Oh Jesus H. Mother of Christ!" Joe exclaims, interrupting us. "Would you stop with that shit Jaden?" He looks back and forth between Grace and I. "Grace, it's the same shit every time. Whenever she gets loaded she goes on and on with this "You're going to hate me" bullshit." Joe laughs, bumping elbows with Diana.

She doesn't look amused. "Jaden and Joesph, that's enough." Diana informs us seriously. "Shut up and have fun."

"Yes mommy." Joe and I answer in unison and my head hits the table as I break into giggles again. What was I talking about before? Oh well, not important.

I lift my head from the table, still giggling and peer into Grace's moss-colored eyes. I think that's the color of moss, I can't really remember because I haven't gone trail riding in so long. Next time I go I'll get some moss to compare to her eyes. She'll like that.

"Next song, Joe and Jaden, "I can't get enough baby" Yo-Yo exclaims, and Joe and I whoop and head onto stage. The Smashmouth song begins and we are living it up, dancing around and twirling the microphones. I'm singing it to Grace because I can't get enough of her.

I look out at my Gracie and she looks like she's watching a rock star. I turn it on more, cause I know how hot I must look. Diana looks star-struck too and Joe and I add another notch until we're almost breathless with our effort.

We should be in a band and tour the world. We'd be famous and Grace could be my groupie.

"Dear God they're wasted." Diana comments, watching her husband and Jaden leap around the stage like monkeys. She shakes her head and grins at me. "They are so embarrassing, I just wish they would stop." She adds and I laugh.

"They aren't even singing anymore." I continue, now laughing hysterically as Joe tries to swing dance Jaden around. "Do they have any idea how ridiculous they look?"

"No." Diana informs me seriously. "They never do." She takes my hand and pats it. "Just be lucky that they didn't decide to sing "When I Think About You I Touch Myself" Like they usually do.

I crack up, feeling the effects of my drinking. I've had as many as Joe and Jaden but I've been drinking Midori sours and they aren't strong at all. I feel tipsy, but not as completely drunk as Jaden and Joe are. I can't believe how stupid they look. Jaden is the hottest woman alive, but she really shouldn't do "The Funky Chicken" dance.

I can't wait to tease her about this tomorrow.

Part 4: Coming soon! Stay tuned and please email me with feedback!!!

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