LOVE COMES IN ALL SIZES
Academy of Bards 2016 Valentine’s Invitational story
Read my Duck Butt Tales at Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/qco9tu2
It was shortly after mid-day when Pat Calvin pulled open her front door to be met by a pair of bright smiles.
“Hi, Aunt Pat,” a young curly-haired almost three year old said enthusiastically.
“Afternoon, Coach.” the woman holding the child’s hand greeted cheerfully.
“Uh… hey, I was just going to call you.”
“Why?” Diane Sunndee asked. “We’re right on time… aren’t we?”
“Uh, yeah… but—”
“This heavy,” the girl blurted indicating a bulging cloth shopping bag resting on the porch at her feet. “You carry it…okay?”
“Uh… hang on, Squirt,” Pat told the excited girl. “Listen, Pete,” she addressed the child’s mother using her nickname, “there’s a problem... Sherry’s flight got delayed and she won’t be home until tomorrow.”
“So… um… we need to postpone—”
“Coach, are you crazy? We can’t postpone.”
A blast from a car’s horn interrupted the women. “Come on… you don’t want to be late,” a man called out from the car idling in the driveway.
“Just a sec,” Pete called back to her husband. “I don’t get the problem,” she said after turning back to face Pat. “You’ve watched Nicole before.”
“But Sherry’s always been here and I… um… it’s just…”
“Am I missing something? I don’t get why you can’t watch Nicole if Sherry isn’t here.”
A tug on the hem of Pat’s baggy shorts drew her attention down to the child and she instantly noted her smile had disappeared.
“Aunt Pat,” Nicole said unhappily, “don’t you like to play with me?”
“Of course I do, Squirt,” Pat replied ruffling the child’s hair.
Another blast of the car’s horn sounded.
“I’ve got to go, Coach,” Pete said shoving a smaller paper bag into her friend’s unwilling hands. “Here are some snacks,” she explained then knelt down to kiss her daughter. “You be a good girl, sweetie.”
“I will, mommy.”
“Listen to Aunt Pat.”
Pete straightened. “Thanks again, Coach,” she said turning to leave.
“Wait a minute!” Pat cried out.
The panic in her friend’s voice caused Pete to spin back around. “What’s the matter?”
Not expecting to sound as terrified as she felt, Pat glanced down at Nicole. The girl’s wide-eye look of shock startled her. “Sorry, Squirt, that came out wrong,” she apologized softening her tone. “Listen, Pete, I… uh… I’ve got a problem…”
“Which is?” Pete asked anxiously more than a little confused by the look of distress on her normally confident friend’s face.
Pat leaned closer. “You know I have a problem changing diapers,” she whispered nervously. “It makes me gag. Sherry usually takes care of that.”
Pete chuckled. “Oh, heck, Coach… Nicole hasn’t worn diapers in a couple of months. Have you, sweetie?” she addressed her daughter.
Nicole shook her head. “Uh, uh. I go poo-poo all by myself, Aunt Pat,” she declared proudly.
Pat laughed nervously. “Ah, good to know.”
“But you got to wipe my butt,” Nicole added.
“What?” Pat snapped.
“I not good at that yet,” Nicole added completely unconcerned with the woman’s look of apprehension.
“Problem solved,” Pete said jumping off the porch. “Have fun, Coach,” she called out as she hurried toward the car. Pulling the passenger door open, she shouted back, “Maybe the next Valentine’s Day wedding we get invited to will be yours.”
Having spent the morning convincing herself she’d be able to talk her way out of her babysitting commitment, Pat was shocked when Pete drove away without Nicole. For several moments, she could do nothing but stand frozen in place as her mind tried to register what had just happened.
It wasn’t that she disliked children because she didn’t. And, from the moment the newborn had been placed in her arms mere hours after her birth, Pat had adored Nicole. But, being an only child, she simply had limited experience with children; and to be alone with one for several hours actually petrified her. Feeling a familiar tug on the bottom of her shorts she looked down.
“Can we go in there?” Nicole asked pointing inside the house. “It cold out here.”
“Uh… sure, Squirt,” Pat agreed mindlessly turning to re-enter the house.
“Wait, Aunt Pat,” Nicole screamed.
Pat almost tripped over her own feet as she spun back around. “What?” she exclaimed fully expecting to find the child in some danger. Instead, she saw Nicole standing patiently on the porch, smiling pleasantly, and pointing at the bag next to her.
“Please?” Nicole asked hopefully.
“Oh, jeez,” Pat groaned. “Don’t scream at me like that,” she said clutching her chest, “you about gave me a heart attack.”
“What’s a heart attack?”
Pat blew out a breath hoping to calm her rapidly thumping heart. “Never mind,” she said bending over. “Maybe you should have left some of these at home,” she grumbled lifting the bag overflowing with toys.
“But, Aunt Pat, I need all of them,” Nicole stated skipping into the house.
Walking on unsteady legs, Pat carried the bag inside and kicked the door shut before walking into the living room to set it down on the carpeted floor. Then she headed for the kitchen with the bag of snacks.
“Where you going, Aunt Pat?” the child asked following behind.
“To put your snacks in the fridge.”
Pat eyed the inquisitive girl. “Have you learned a new word?” she asked suspiciously and was answered by a nodding head. “Of course, you have,” she muttered. “Do me a favor and don’t use that word today.”
“Because I said so.”
Pat peered at the child. “Did your mommy tell you to do that?”
Grinning, Nicole nodded.
Pat sighed. “What a surprise,” she grumbled looking into the bag. “Let’s see what we have we got? Fruit juice,” she said pulling a pair of small boxes from the bag. “Better put those in here,” she decided opening the refrigerator’s door.
“So they are nice and cold when you want one. Apples,” Pat stated taking a pair of bright red fruit out of the bag. “Do you like your apples cold?” she asked the child.
“Well, I do so they can go with the juice.”
“Why what?” Pat asked pulling the remaining item from the bag.
“Why you like them cold?”
“Because they’re crunchier that way.”
“Oh.” After a moment of thought, Nicole said, “I like mine cold, too.” She emphasized her statement with a definitive bop of her head.
Pat smiled. “Of course, you do. Mommy made you a peanut butter sandwich,” she said holding up a baggie. “Hmmm, I don’t think we should put that in the fridge,” she decided closing the appliance’s door.
“Because the bread will get all mushy. Do you want mushy bread?”
Nicole shook her head from side to side. “Noooo.”
“Didn’t think so. We’ll just leave it in the bag for now.”
“Okay. Can we play now?”
“Yep,” Pat agreed then hesitantly followed Nicole out of the kitchen.
After dumping her toy bag upside down in the middle of the living room, Nicole picked a bright yellow horse and green polka-dotted dragon out of the jumbled pile and bounced across the room. “You play with this,” she told Pat after coming to a stop and tossing the dragon into her lap.
“I don’t think so,” Pat responded eyeing the stuffed toy. She had just gotten comfortable in the corner of the couch and was ready to spend the afternoon catching up on her reading as she normally did while Sherry entertained the child.
“Aunt Pat,” Nicole said sternly.
Thrusting a hip out to her side, Nicole jammed a fist against it. “This is a play date… you got to play with me,” she demanded.
“Yes,” Nicole responded emphatically.
Pat frowned. “Can’t you just play by yourself?”
Pat studied the determined child glaring at her. “Oh, all right,” she caved tossing her magazine onto the table. “What am I supposed to do?” she asked lifting the dragon up by a frayed ear.
Nicole pointed at the fireplace. “That’s where the dragon lives. You sit over there.”
Pat carried the purple dragon with her to the fireplace and took a seat on the hearth. Studying her designated toy, she noticed the dragon lacked one eye and displayed a lopsided grin on a head that was cocked awkwardly to the side. “Looks like he’s in need of a good chiropractor,” she stated dryly.
“Never mind. What does the dragon do?”
“He’s very mean and he won’t let the princess go home. This is the princess,” Nicole said picking a doll out of the pile of toys then setting it on the carpet in front of Pat’s feet.
Pat glanced down at the doll wearing a faux diamond studded tiara atop her head. Hearing movement, she turned to see the yellow pony bounding across the room toward her with Nicole, on her knees, scooting behind it. “What are you doing?” she asked as the child was getting dangerously close and displaying no intention at stopping.
“I coming to save the princess,” Nicole said. “You don’t like that.”
Seeing that Pat was making no effort to thwart her attack, Nicole abruptly halted, her pony hanging in mid-bound. “Aunt Pat, don’t you know how to be a dragon?”
Pat fidgeted with the stuffed toy. “Um… I guess not,” she nervously admitted to the child.
Nicole let out an exasperated sigh. Dropping her pony, she raised her hands up to head level with fingers curled into claws. “Ggggrrrrrooooowwwwlllllll,” she snarled loudly, her arms stretching toward Pat who instinctively pulled back out of reach. “I not going to hurt you, Aunt Pat,” she said giggling.
Pat relaxed. “I didn’t think you were,” she muttered.
“Yes, you did,” Nicole accused.
“No, I didn’t,” Pat protested.
“You did this.” Nicole recreated Pat’s startled reaction.
“Yes, you did,” Nicole insisted repeating the awkward movement.
Pat eyes narrowed into thin slots as she glowered at the child.
Nicole laughed. “That’s not scary,” she declared bravely.
Nicole shook her head.
“Well, what about this?” Pat asked as her arms shot out to wrap around the laughing child. Pulling Nicole into a bear hug, she tickled her sides.
Nicole tried to wriggle free, her efforts hampered by her contagious giggles.
Laughing, Pat released her grip on squirming girl.
Nicole lay draped across Pat’s lap. “That was fun,” she said after her giggles subsided.
“Yes, it was,” Pat agreed surprised that she had indeed enjoyed the interaction; and without any hint of anxiety.
Nicole rolled off Pat’s lap then scooted over to her pony. “Now, you be a dragon.”
“First, let’s put the princess over here,” Pat said moving the toy from the stone fireplace to the couch.
“Because it’s safer… we don’t want anyone to get hurt running into the fireplace, do we?”
“No,” Nicole stated studying the doll’s new position. “Okay, that’s good… she can sit there.”
“All right,” Pat said perching on the edge of the couch over the princess, “now, just you try to save your princess.” Raising her arms, she curled her fingers and growled loudly.
“Here I come,” Nicole warned as she and pony bounded across the room.
“I saved the princess,” Nicole cried triumphantly as she once again galloped around the living room.
Falling backward, Pat flopped onto the carpet with arms spread out from her body. She was exhausted having spent the past hour and half trying, but failing, to keep the princess from being rescued.
Nicole bounced her pony up to the prone woman and bent over her. “What wrong with you?” she asked.
Pat looked up at the child. “You cheat,” she stated.
“I do not.”
“Yes, you do. You keep changing the rules so the dragon loses.”
“But, Aunt Pat, I’m supposed to save the princess.”
“You want to ride my pony?” Nicole offered. “I can be the dragon.” She started to growl and stomp around.
Pat reached out a long arm, wrapping it around the girl and pulling her down on top of her. “No, I don’t want to ride your pony. I want to tickle you,” she declared then plastered a loud raspberry on Nicole’s neck causing an explosion of loud giggles.
“Aunt Pat, stop… stop!” Nicole screamed frantically.
“I got to pee,” Nicole cried out desperately.
“Well, go,” Pat ordered. “You know where the bathroom is.”
Nicole stood. “Uh, oh… you got to come with me, Aunt Pat,” she demanded as she ran across the room. “You got to come. Hurry!”
Jumping up, Pat ran after the frantic girl. When she reached the bathroom, Nicole had already pulled down her shorts and was standing with her back to the toilet, her arms held out from her sides. “You got to hold me… I can’t reach.”
Realizing the child had no chance of sitting on the toilet by herself, Pat instantly complied. “There you go,” she said setting Nicole down on the seat. She started to pull her hands back.
“No,” Nicole shouted, “don’t let go. I don’t want to fall in,” she shrieked hysterically.
“Okay, okay, okay,” Pat blurted while tightening her grip on the child.
Nicole shivered. “I don’t want to fall in, Aunt Pat,” she repeated. “It not good.”
“It’s okay. I won’t let you fall in… I promise.”
Nicole sighed in relief. “Thank you.”
Pat knelt down so she would be at eye level with the girl. “You haven’t really fallen in, have you?”
Nicole nodded. “Daddy let go of me and I falled in. I didn’t like it… my butt got wet.”
Pat grinned. “I bet it did. What happened?”
“I screamed. Then mommy came running in and she say to daddy, ‘what did you do?’ Daddy say, ‘I didn’t do it’ and mommy say, ‘get her out’. Then she smacked daddy like this,” Nicole said swinging her arm at Pat’s shoulder. “Daddy say, ‘I so sorry’ and he pulled me up.”
“Thank goodness,” Pat said smiling.
“I all done, Aunt Pat. You can put down now.”
After returning Nicole to her feet, Pat dropped down to sit on the floor. “Need any help,” she asked.
Pat gazed at the diminutive girl. “Bet that was scary when you fell in, uh?”
“It still scares you?”
“You know what?”
“What?” Nicole asked pulling up her shorts.
“I can make it so it’s not so scary.”
“You can,” Nicole asked in awe.
“I can show you what you must have looked like and I’ll bet it will make you laugh.”
Nicole frowned at the woman. “No, it won’t,” she insisted.
“Watch…” Lifting her legs off the floor, Pat raised her arms over her head then started waving them around wildly. “Help,” she cried in a little girl’s voice, “I’m stuck in the toilet.”
“Stop that,” Nicole protested even though her pursed lips were twitching into a grin.
Pat intensified her wild gyrations. “Help,” she cried louder.
“That not funny,” Nicole declared then burst into giggles. She dropped onto the floor and mimicked Pat’s awkward actions.
“I told you it was funny,” Pat said standing after a few minutes. She bent over and lifted a still giggling Nicole into her arms. “Now the next time you think about it, you’ll laugh and you won’t be scared.”
Shifting in Pat’s arms, Nicole wrapped her arms around her neck. “I love you, Aunt Pat,” she declared before kissing her on the cheek.
Grinning, Pat replied, “I love you, too, Squirt. You hungry?”
Nicole nodded. “Yes.”
“Let’s get your hands washed then we’ll go raid the fridge.”
Stretched out on the couch, Pat chuckled at the antics of the cartoon characters flashing across the TV screen.
“They funny,” Nicole said from her perch on top of Pat’s stomach. A plate balanced on her lap held some apple slices. “This good,” she said holding up half of her peanut butter sandwich for Pat’s inspection. “Want some?”
Pat shook her head.
“Okay,” Nicole said happily then took another bite. As she chewed, she picked up a slice of apple and offered it to the prone woman.
“Thanks,” Pat said with a grin accepting the offering. “These are good… I’ll have to ask your mommy what kind they are.”
“They apples, Aunt Pat,” Nicole responded. “You know that, don’t you?”
“I know they’re apples, Squirt. But what kind?”
“There’s different kinds?”
“Sure there’s red… there’s green… there’s golden… there’s delicious.”
Nicole picked up another slice and took a bite. After swallowing, she smiled. “These red and they are de-li-cious,” she declared.
Pat laughed. “Yes, they are,” she agreed as Nicole turned back to watch TV.
Finishing her sandwich and apple slices, Nicole slipped off Pat to stand next to the coffee table where she placed her now empty plate. “Now, we go swimming,” she said heading for the sliding door that led out to the deck at the back of the house.
Surprised by Nicole’s unexpected announcement, it took a moment for Pat to react. “Hold on there, Squirt,” she managed to squawk as the girl was reaching for the door lock.
Nicole stopped and turned around. “What’s wrong?” she asked, her face scrunched up into a puzzled look.
Sitting up, Pat peered over the back of the couch. “Just where do you plan to go swimming?”
“Out there,” Nicole pointed outside, “in your pool.”
“We don’t have a pool.”
“Yes, you do, Aunt Pat.” Nicole unlocked the door then slid it open. “It’s right there.”
Pat leaped to her feet. “Stop,” she called to Nicole who was already through the open door and walking across the deck. “Nicole, stop.”
With an exaggerated sigh, Nicole did as she was told. “What now?” she asked turning to face Pat who was rushing out of the house.
“Hey, Squirt,” Pat started as she glared down at the child glaring back up at her. “First off, I know your mommy would be very upset if she knew what you just did.”
“What I do?” Nicole asked.
Pat knelt down. “Nicole, you know what you did… don’t you?” she asked softening her tone.
Nicole’s eyes dropped as her lower lip poked out. “I sorry, Aunt Pat. I not supposed to come outside unless you say so,” she admitted.
“That’s right. Do you remember why?”
“’Cause I can get hurt?”
“Yes. And because if you just come outside when you want, I might not know where you are.”
“But you was watching me.”
Pat wrapped her arms around Nicole. “I know… but you still need to ask. Okay?”
Nicole nodded. “I sorry.”
Pat gently kissed Nicole on the temple. “Shall we start over?”
Nicole nodded again. “Aunt Pat, can I go swimming?” she asked hopefully.
“We don’t have a swimming pool, sweetie.”
“Yes, you do… right there,” Nicole pointed to the end of the deck.
Pat smiled. “That’s a hot tub, Squirt.”
“But it’s big and I is small… so I can fit.”
“I thought you said it was cold outside.”
“It is… but the water is warm,” Nicole countered with a smug smile.
Pat laughed. “You don’t have a swimming suit.”
“That’s okay… I can take my clothes off.”
Pat gasped in mock horror. “You want to go skinny dipping in my hot tub.”
Nicole grinned. “Yes, please.”
“Oh, what the heck,” Pat said chuckling. “Get undressed and I’ll get the cover off.”
“Yeah,” Nicole exclaimed jumping up and down.
It had taken the sun disappearing in the west to get Nicole to agree to get out of the hot tub. Rubbed dry with a fluffy towel warmed in the dryer specifically for that purpose, she had re-dressed, eaten the other half of her peanut butter sandwich, and was now stretched out on top of Pat on the couch.
“Tired?” Pat asked the yawning child.
“Yes. Can I go to sleep before mommy and daddy come back,” Nicole asked sleepily.
“Of course,” Pat said pulling an afghan off the back of the couch. “Are you warm enough?” she asked tugging the blanket around Nicole.
“Uh uh,” Nicole murmured snuggling into a more comfortable position. “Thank you, Aunt Pat.”
“Thank me for what?”
Nicole yawned. “This was my best play date ever.”
“Go to sleep,” Pat replied grinning.
Hearing a car door shut outside, Pat carefully shifted a sleeping Nicole off of her and onto the couch. Standing, she padded to the door and pulled it open just as Pete raised a hand to knock. “Shhh,” she greeted her friend quietly. “She’s asleep.”
“Sorry, we’re late. We were having too much fun at the reception.”
“No problem,” Pat assured her. She took a moment to wave to Pete’s husband sitting in their car before following Pete inside the house.
“Not a one.”
Pete looked surprised. “Really?”
“Really. Everything went fine.”
“No panic… no problems… nothing?”
“Okay… I admit I probably sounded kinda daffy when you dropped her off. But we had fun. Really.”
Pete grinned. “See, I told you there was nothing to worry about.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Pat grumbled good-naturedly.
“I better get her out to the car… she is not going to like having to be strapped into her car seat.”
“Why don’t you grab her bag and I’ll carry her.”
“Yeah. By the way, she decided to leave a few of her toys here.”
“Well, she’s got so many at home I doubt she’ll miss a few,” Pete said picking up the repacked bag. She turned to watch Pat carefully lift the afghan off Nicole then gently pick her up.
“I love you, Aunt Pat,” Nicole mumbled snuggling against her shoulder.
“I love you, too, Nicole,” Pat whispered placing a tender kiss on the child’s cheek.
Pete smiled. “Ah, that is so cute.”
“Don’t start,” Pat growled softly at her grinning friend.
Pat stood in the driveway until the car’s tail lights faded into the night’s darkness. Remembering Nicole’s final words to her, she smiled. “For a giant scaredy cat,” she told herself, “you did alright.”
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY