Pine needles stick to the mud on my boots as I walk the short distance from the detached garage to our cabin. Moving up here into the mountains was the best decision we ever made. Abbey and I literally left the bullshit behind, made our own little slice of paradise, and set down roots without worrying who’d recognize us or turn up out of the blue to shake our world apart.
I lean a hand against the timber panels of our front door and shuck off my boots, leaving them in the messy yet perfect pile of footwear at the door. I don’t take overnighters as much anymore, and when I do, I find I miss the little things like haphazard footwear at the door more and more. The little things that make our house a home.
I step inside and breathe in the scent of a hot home-cooked meal as I shut the door behind me. “What’s for dinner, baby?”
My woman, my life, comes careening around the corner in a flurry of hastily put up pastel-blue hair, and loose “mom clothes” as I love to call them. She’s never been more stunning.
“I thought that was you I heard.” She waves a dismissive hand behind her, explaining “I couldn’t hear properly over the sound of the blender” as she presses up on her toes, waiting for a kiss.
I reward her with what she needs, and she reaches around me to snag the duffle out of my hand.
“What you got, today?”
“Not much. Pretty clean this time.” I smirk, reaching out to tap my index finger under her pretty chin. “Must be getting better in my old age, huh?”
“Old.” She snorts, giving me those bashful eyes that always lead to trouble. “You’re not old, pretty boy.”
“Feel it some days.”
She disappears into the laundry room off the entrance, all the while still talking. “I’ll dish you up some dinner, if you want to go wash up.”
Her chuckle follows me through the lounge as I cross over to the bedrooms on the far side. I catch myself staring out our floor-to-ceiling windows, amazed yet again by the breathtaking view. We lucked out buying this place, getting it on the cheap since the previous owners were in the middle of a messy divorce and wanted the last thing that kept them together, gone.
I pass the guest room, and frown at the job I’ve got to do renovating the space. It seems like the perfect weekend job Monday to Friday, but come Saturday it’s the last thing on my mind. Not when I’ve got the best reason to kick back and hang out right here in front of me, smiling like a lunatic.
“Hey, little man.” I brace myself and welcome a hug-attack. He’s almost five, and he’s greeted me with a cuddle every damn time I’ve been away since he was old enough to stand on his own two feet. It’s more than I deserve. “Were you good for Mom?”
He smirks, the devilish smile matching my own. “Of course.”
“What you been up to?”
Leyton hops on his bed and snatches up the controller for his Xbox. “Mom and I did some shopping for new shoes, and then she did baking for you, Daddy.”
I chuckle, watching him attempt to control the animated character on the screen as it bounces through an alphabet minefield. He shuffles to one side, giving me room to stretch out and lie down. I kick my feet up, hands behind my head, and enjoy the serenity for what it is.
Nothing cleanses the palate after a noisy weekend of gunfire and bloodshed, than the quiet muttering of a child determined to succeed at everything in life.
My gaze roams over his room, and I settle on a couple of new drawings atop his low table. I slip off the bed and cross to them, bent at the waist to check out the details. Two stick figures with crazy hair pointing straight up are placed beside what I’m assuming is our house going by the color and the shape. A bunch of scribbled circles float over the house in a rainbow of color. I pick the picture up and carry it back to Leyton, lying down once more.
“What’s going on in this one, buddy?”
He usually comes out with some elaborate story that entertains me no end. I can’t wait to hear the reasoning behind this drawing.
His eyes glance across before he goes back to the game and carefully pauses it. “That’s me,” he says, leaning over to point out the stick figure farthest from the house. “And that’s my friend.”
“What you doin’?”
“Making the sky pretty for Mommy, just like she likes.”
Most nights Abbey sits out on our balcony, overlooking the treetops as the sun sets. Every now and then, Leyton joins her, and the two of them cuddle under a blanket as the temperature drops, the stars coming out to shine.
“That’s nice of you two.” I smile at the picture. One for the fridge. “Who’s your friend? He from playgroup?”
Three days a week, Abbey takes him for a few hours at our local community center so Leyton has a chance to work on his social skills.
My boy shakes his head, shuffling closer until his legs rest against my side. “No.”
“Do I know him?”
His icy-blue eyes harden, and he frowns. “Maybe.”
“Where does he live?” If it’s one of the neighborhood kids, I’ll get Abbey to take him over for a play more often.
The picture crumples in my hands as my angel, the fucking light in my dark, lifts his pudgy hand and taps a finger square to his temple.
Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it . . .?
My devil hangs his coat on the hook, and dusts off his desk with a smile on his face.
And all I can do is cry.