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This is a continuation of Neighborhood Dad. Please read the first chapter or this one won’t make much sense. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please cast a vote.
I eased into consciousness slowly the next morning, hearing the clatter of breakfast in the kitchen. Paige was fine with a bowl of cereal, but if friends slept over she would sometimes make pancakes.
Uggh, food didn’t sound so good after all that pizza the night before. Still, I was thirsty.
I slid on some jogging pants and a T-shirt and patted down a few wild hairs before venturing out.
Paige and Lori were at the stove and chattering away. I looked for Randi but didn’t see her.
“Hey, Dad,” said Lori.
“Want pancakes?” asked Paige.
“No. Did you bring home a stray cat?”
“Then why does it taste like one hopped up on my bed and crapped in my mouth?”
Lori laughed, and Paige said, “Eww, Dad. That’s gross.”
I went in the hall bathroom and brushed my teeth. As I came back out, I saw my Yamaha sitting on its stand. How long had it been before last night since I’d picked it up? Two weeks? Three? I used to pick it up every single day — even if it was just to play for two minutes during a commercial break.
I picked it up and sat in the chair. I flexed the morning stiffness out of my hands and plucked a couple of chords. Without thinking of what I’d do, I began to play the notes of a short instrumental.
As I finished I heard from the doorway, “That was nice. Do you write that?”
“No,” I said, smiling warmly at my guest. “Eddie Van Halen wrote that when his wife was pregnant with their son. He would lay the guitar against her belly and play softly so that baby Wolfgang could hear.”
“That’s really nice — except for that name. Wolfgang?”
“His brother Alex said that if it was a girl they should name it Denise, and if it was a boy they should name it Denephew.”
“Oh Lord, it’s way too early for jokes that bad.” With that Randi spun and headed up the hall to the kitchen, but she was smiling as she left.
My face felt a little warm and my pulse beat a little faster. It was so silly — me acting like a schoolboy trying to impress the girl he has a big crush on. I just met Randi, and she was half my age.
Over the next few weeks, Lori hung around like always, but Randi appeared only sporadically. She was busy going out with one of the many boys chasing her around no doubt. So it felt like a special treat when she did show up.
During my busiest time of the year, I got some unexpected news.
You see, I’m what some people might call an expert on furniture. Not exactly centuries-old pieces like you’d see on The Antiques Roadshow. No, I follow current trends because I work closely with manufacturers.
I get inside glimpses at the latest prototype bedroom suites or entertainment centers and write magazine articles about it.
It isn’t as glamorous as you might think. I spend a lot of time on the phone and prowling dusty, noisy factories.
Every October, furniture companies from around the world travel to this small city in North Carolina for a week of previews on the latest and greatest. The furniture market in High Point is the biggest event of the year.
And suddenly I’m everyone’s best friend. Hey, Henry! Gonna come see my showroom? Henry, how about dinner when I’m in North Carolina?
Just days before the event, I got a call from a newspaper publisher. His company handles more than 20 big newspapers and several small-town papers, and he wants my stories in his Sunday editions.
“He’s not asking me to quit my job, just supply him with a fresh story every week, and I get an extra paycheck,” I explained to my daughters.
“That’s so great, Dad!” said Paige.
“Congrats, Coach,” added Lori.
“Now can we get that swimming pool we’ve been talking about?”
“Honey, it’s October. What good is a swimming pool gonna do in the wintertime? And why would I spend all that money if you’re gonna take off halfway across the country for college next year?”
A gleam entered her eyes as she said, “If I had a pool, I might stick around closer to home.”
“Oh! I see, blackmail your old man.”
They both giggled and acıbadem escort then Lori said, “He’s right, the pool wouldn’t be of any use to you coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
“Thank you, dear.”
“What you need,” she continued, looking back and forth between Paige and me, “is a hot tub. One of those well-insulated ones you could use even when there’s two feet of snow on the ground.”
“Two feet of snow? In North Carolina?” I asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“A hot tub … hmm,” said Paige. “That’s good.”
“Forget it. It’s like beer — you can’t have one until you’re at least 21 and hopefully 31.”
“He’s probably right,” said Lori. “If he had a hot tub, then all the lonely middle-aged women would be flocking here like it’s the Playboy Mansion. Nobody needs to see that.”
“Now there’s a thought. I could wander around all day in my pajamas like Hugh Hefner.”
“You already do, Mr. Stay-At-Home Dad,” chuckled Paige. “So how about it, Pops? Wouldn’t soaking in a hot tub be better than rubbing that smelly ointment on yourself after exercising?”
I didn’t know a thing about hot tubs, but I have enjoyed them on vacations. Tempting. Then I had a vision of Randi easing her tantalizing legs into the water while wearing a skimpy bikini.
“Tell you what, you’ve got a big 18th birthday coming up in five weeks. Give me a chance to get through this market, and I’ll research the idea.”
Both girls jumped forward and hugged my neck.
“But I’m making no promises,” I threatened, but they knew better.
Truth be told, I was quietly terrified of Paige graduating and going off to college. She had talked about some of the schools in the UNC system, and I wondered to myself if I would up and sell my place and move, too.
I spent my days alone in front of a computer. I craved the noise and energy that Paige and her friends brought to the house in the evenings.
But I could never leave. There are still memories attached to these walls, especially of times long past — and a loved one long gone.
And I had built up a pretty good base of friends over the years: work contacts, parents of the kids I’ve coached, the grown players who are now starting families of their own.
The girls knew exactly what buttons to push with me. If having a hot tub around drew friends back here even after graduation, then I’d put one in. But first I’d have to spend some time on Google.
With Halloween closing in and the furniture market out of the way, I did my due diligence and found a model I liked. Rather than wait for Paige’s birthday in November, I went ahead with the purchase so they could install it while the fall weather was perfect.
Of course I couldn’t help but feel like a fool buying an oversized bathtub for roughly what a used car would cost.
After the tub was finished on the backside of the house, the lead installer wanted to go over all the ins and outs of operating and maintaining the “spa.”
First of all, a spa should include a masseuse and some sort of all-natural facial mask, not just a tub. Second, I had read up on everything related to Jacuzzis and other types of tubs before the guys ever showed up. So, I ran him off with a quick thank you.
I hadn’t told Paige about the purchase yet (just in case I did want it to be a birthday present) so when the clock rolled around to 3 p.m., I was in my trunks and trying out the new toy.
I’ll spare you the details of her arrival. Let’s just say I have a hearing test scheduled in a few days; hopefully the ringing will be gone by then.
After she squealed (and broke every wine glass in the house), Paige immediately jumped on the phone with all her friends.
“It seats six! … I know! Can you believe? … Yes, of course! … No, don’t be silly. Nobody expects you to be in bikini shape in October.”
Within the hour two cars pulled into my driveway as Lori and three others showed up to try it out.
I grudgingly dragged my pruny ass out of the water to let them be alone. I looked to see if Randi was among them, but was disappointed.
As I went inside to finish drying off and getting changed, it occurred to me that I’d just seen four young women in bathing suits and hadn’t akbatı escort even considered checking them out. Randi, it seemed, was a different matter.
After they tried it out, too, the girls poured into the house, babbling about having a hot tub party for Halloween. Yeah right, like I was going to permit a bunch of horny teen-aged boys in my house for a party.
A little voice spoke up in my head, Oh, but’s okay to have one horny old guy around?
Hey, it’s not like that, I told the voice.
Oh yeah? One word: Randi.
Shit, you win.
Still, I said no to a coed party. After seeing that I wouldn’t be convinced, the girls settled on hitting a haunted house that Friday evening, then coming here for a big sleepover.
A couple of days later, I was sitting at the computer after work, looking up a song I’d heard on a TV show the night before. I found the full lyrics and the guitar chords to go with it. I printed it all out and sat down with my Yamaha to try it.
Halfway through, I stopped and corrected one of the chords with an ink pen. Then I tried the line again.
“That sounds better,” came a voice.
I turned to see Randi leaning against the doorway. I had no idea how long she’d been there.
Of course, I was the one who told her not to bother knocking because none of the girls did. Still, it was a bit of a shock to see her there in a blue V-neck blouse and tight jeans.
“It wasn’t me,” I spat out reflexively. “I mean, I wasn’t the one who messed up. Well, it was me playing, so yeah I messed up, but I played somebody else’s mistake.”
She tried unsuccessfully to hold back a smile.
“You laugh now,” I said, “but in about 30 seconds, that will all make sense. You see I –” But she cut me off.
“Forget about it. Just let me hear it again.”
She flowed into the room and eased onto the love seat, pulling her feet up beside her.
Normally I’m nervous about playing in front of others, and seeing as how Randi had an effect on me, it should have been worse. I expected it to be worse.
Instead, I saw the warmth on her face, the expectance in her eyes, and I relaxed.
By the end of the song, she had placed her left elbow on the seat arm and was propping up her chin while wearing a dreamy expression.
“I could listen to you play all night.”
“I couldn’t play all night. In fact, I’m a little out of practice, so in 10 or 12 minutes my fingertips hurt too much to play.”
“So I’ll just have to settle for a little bit every time I come over.”
After a second that felt like a hundred, I broke eye contact and asked, “So where have you been? Everyone else has already tried out the hot tub. Been too busy with all your hot dates?”
“Riiight,” she dragged out. “No, I don’t really date. I have a job after school. You know, Mom says everybody in my family has to pull her own weight. Then with homework, there isn’t a lot of free time left.”
I felt a bit of shame rising up. Here she was talking about having to support herself, and I’m flaunting my new $7,000 bathtub.
She saw the smile dissolve from my lips and misread what I was thinking.
“Hey, don’t sweat it. Guys are such jerks anyway, I’m not missing anything. Present company excluded, of course.”
“Of course,” I said, with the smile returning. “But I beg to differ. Remember your Tennyson.”
“You mean that fat guy that screamed a lot?”
I chuckled. “Not Sam Kinison, but Lord Tennyson.”
She laughed, “I know. I just wanted to tease you a little.” Well, if your top was cut lower …
“‘I feel it when I sorrow most,'” she began. “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'” After a hesitation she added, “Do you still feel that way? You know, because of what happened with your wife?”
“Absolutely. I wouldn’t take anything for those years together.”
“What made her special?”
“Special? Where to begin?” Changing, the subject, I said, “But you don’t want to get into all that, you’ve got a hot tub to try out.”
“That’s okay, I didn’t bring any bathing suit.”
“Nonsense,” I cut in. “I’m sure that Paige has an extra one or two around. Heck, there’s probably a few others up aksaray escort there that girls have left for when they come back.”
“Okay then, I’ll go ask her.”
I watched her ease out of the room with feline grace, but my thoughts were jumbled.
It had been long enough since Beth passed that I didn’t feel weird talking about her anymore. And yet, I didn’t want to talk about her with Randi. And I couldn’t say why that was.
As Randi headed up the stairs, I began to argue with myself.
One side said I needed to make up some excuse to be outdoors. Does the yard need raking again? That would let me pretend to be busy so I could watch her get in and out of the tub.
God, you’re sick. She’s 18, and you are one sick bastard. Find a ball game or something on TV and settle in so that you can’t possibly catch sight of her.
As usual, I listened to that second voice and turned on the tube.
After several minutes, I heard sets of feet pound down the stairs and toward the back door.
“Hey,” I heard behind me.
I turned to look over my shoulder.
Randi was wearing a modest one-piece suit with a long beach towel draped around the back of her neck and down over her breasts.
“Aren’t you going to show me how the controls work?”
One of the benefits of being 38 and not 15 is that I didn’t lose the use of my vocal cords in front of a pretty woman like I used to. The downside is that sometimes silence is better than some of the dumb shit that flowed out of my mouth. Still, I did well this time.
“Nah, you don’t need me for that. Paige knows how it all works.”
“Okay,” she said, then turned and walked toward the back of the house. As she disappeared out of sight, I had a great look at the profile of her butt encased in the tight outfit.
I stifled a groan.
Then I thought, She must have known that Paige knew how to operate it. So why ask me? Did she want me to see her getting into the water? Maybe she felt a little disappointment when she left.
If that was the case, then why bother covering herself with a towel? She could have shown me right here.
I decided it was better to watch ESPN and settled down again. But my mind wandered back to Randi and her luscious derriere.
Maybe being covered up was the whole point. She kept her breasts hidden innocently in here. But if I followed her outside under some flimsy pretense, then she would know that I wanted to see more. Or am I just seriously overthinking things here?
I attempted to swallow, but my throat made a dry click.
I could go get a drink from the fridge. And so what if I can see the tub from the kitchen window, nobody said I had to look.
Walking through the house, I opened the fridge and pulled out the pitcher of tea. I took it to the counter and gave what I hoped looked like a casual glance outside. Paige and another girl already were in the water. From the reddish-brown hair, it must have been Autumn.
Sitting on the edge with only her lower legs in the water, Randi was profiled against the backdrop of trees and shrubs. She was leaning forward with her hands on her knees. Her arms were blocking my view, but I could see the underside of her bosom. Not to mention her lean thighs.
I turned away and pulled a glass from the cabinet. As I glanced back out, I caught her looking in at me. Then, as if she had been waiting for me, she eased down into the water. But not before I saw the length of her torso and the way the one-piece suit stretched over her mounds.
I’m gonna burn in that special Hell, reserved for perverts.
As I was walking back to the TV with my glass, I realized that my underwear was a little uncomfortable. I reached down to adjust myself and found that I was half-hard. One second of watching her slide into the water, and I’m halfway to wood? Or was it that she looked over at the window first?
Either way, I was embarrassed and couldn’t sit still and watch the game. I had this crazy urge to go in the upstairs bathroom and try to peep down on the tub. I could watch Randi and rub one out without anybody being the wiser. It was disturbingly tempting, but logic spoke up and said one of the girls could come in and wonder why I was upstairs instead of using the downstairs bath.
Instead, I left a note on the counter that I had some errands to run and that I would pick up some groceries on the way home. By the time I returned a couple of hours later, the girls were all out of the tub and back upstairs in Paige’s room. Most of me breathed a sigh of relief, but that other part was sorely disappointed.
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