In Name Only
He loved the early morning. It was his “magic” time.
On the road, early morning used to mean a 4 a.m. wake up call so he could get ready for some television show or interview. Sometimes it meant a mad rush to the airport where, once on the flight, he was allowed a little bit more rest before rounds of meetings or rehearsals. The easier mornings were the ones when all he had to do was roll out of the bed in the hotel room and then into the one on the tour bus. He still had to be charming for the fans that had waited all night for just one glimpse, one autograph, one hug, but at least they understood his bed head and didn’t comment on the bleary eyes.
And in appreciation, he’d always made sure he brushed his teeth. Rat’s nest hair is one thing; bad breathe another.
Now, early mornings were a time to contemplate. He’d get up, make a cup of coffee with that handy-dandy one-cup coffee brewer he’d bought (big enough to make a good cup of coffee; not big enough to fill the house with the smell and wake everyone else up) and step outside to the patio to watch the early morning fog slowly burn off. It was then that most of his best songs began to percolate in his brain. Just like his little cup of coffee, they’d bubble up from God knows where – an overheard line, something from conversation last week, a little insight gained from watching his children play. They’d be hazy at first; much like the beginning of the day he was witnessing, then slowly they’d get clearer and clearer. It was only a matter of writing them done and working out the kinks (usually the longest part of the process) to make them complete.
Sometimes the thoughts didn’t come. And that was good too. Some times he just stood, as the sleep fell from his eyes, and marveled at nature. At the occasional doe and fawn that would wander up the yard from the forest behind. At the slow drip of rain from one leaf to another. At the inquisitive nature of his little dogs as they explored their ever-changing territory.
Once the coffee was gone he went in and enjoyed the other part of a good early morning; watching his children as they slept. He did it at night, too, occasionally, but there was something magical about seeing Bryleigh’s little face at rest while the golden morning sun crept across her room. Even Tom looked adorable as he lay; drool trickling out of his mouth, his favorite bunny toy’s ears grasped firmly in his hands. Sometimes Tom was up and waiting for him. Just lying there, happily cooing at the floating dust motes as the sun lit them up. He’d change him quickly, then the two of them would sit there and chat quietly; just dad and son, until Tom’s eyes would droop again and he’d fall asleep for another hour or so until the whole house was awake.
Of course, sometimes, he didn’t even make it out of bed. Leigh would also be awake and they’d celebrate their continued love for one another in the oldest way, pretending for a time that they were just two young lovers with nothing other than each other to worry about.
He had to admit; he liked those times the most.
He loved the early morning. It was his “magic” time.
The best time to be out on the water. The waves were gentle and the fish seemed to be just waking up themselves. If he was diving they were more willing to accept his intrusion and carry on as if he weren’t there. He saw lots of sea creatures he wouldn’t normally see – even a huge eel once. The local dolphin population seemed willing to come over and say good morning, but not to play. It was as if they too felt that it was a sort of lazy time of day and not to sweat it much.
It was also a great time to sneak in and swim with the manatees in one of the local channels. They seemed to like the company as he followed their examples, and just sort of floated there, slowly munching on a breakfast of sorts; they on their water greens and he on a carrot or apple or something he’d grabbed from the refrigerator on the way through the house. They’d bump up against him and he’d give them a little scratch on the head (which they seemed to enjoy), then they’d go on their placid way.
He’d gotten Emma to come along on a few of those early morning adventures and she’d loved them. Of course, then she’d come up with a few adventures of her own that he’d enjoyed immensely. Now, they seemed to have found their own rhythm. Some days they’d stay in bed and she’d get up and join him on one of his early jaunts. Sometimes she would get up and have a quiet adventure of her own. She liked to slowly walk along the beach, watching the mist burn off the ocean, stopping to pick up shells and stones. The dogs liked that routine more than his; swimming was all fine and dandy but they preferred the pool thanks; they knew how to get out at the shallow end. So they’d follow along, sniffing here and there, hardly barking at all, respecting the stillness of the morning.
It was amazing how things had all seemed to click when he brought Emma to his home. It was as if they belong together, belong here together. Things just seemed more idyllic. The dogs adored her, the temperature suited her, and if it was possible he fell more and more in love with her everyday. He would chuckle about that; how his long ago crush on Howie’s wife and Kevin’s lover should be the thing that help him find his soul mate. Kat had teased him about it; said she was soooo sad that she will always be, for him, ‘the one before The One.’ He had reminded her that there had been several others before Emma, and when the heck had she ever been ‘one’ of his? They’d both laughed about it, each happy with his relationship with the tall, curly-haired woman whose eyes made him see the future and whose lips… Well, he knew that Kat wasn’t thinking along those lines; she was just happy that two people she adored had found each other.
He finally, really, got what Brian and Leighanne had. What AJ and Tina had (though they’d refuse to admit to suffering from anything as prosaic as happily-ever-after kind of love). What Kat and Kevin could have if they’d get off their stubborn asses. Even what Howie and Todd had – though he didn’t totally understand that gay thing. Oh well, whatever – he finally got it. IT. The whole wanting to spend the rest of your life with one person thing. He got it. Question was… did Emma?
“I guess the only way to find out is to ask,” he thought as he gazed out over the water and waited for her to wake.
He loved the early morning. It was his “magic” time.
On one of his explorations of the kitchen he had discovered someone’s secret stash, and when he woke up at the crack of dawn he’d creep downstairs to raid. He had gotten really good at carefully moving the chair over and climbing up onto the counter, then reaching way back to grab the box and inching it forward. At first he’d had to be on his tippy toes to do it, but the box seemed to be easier to get now. Maybe he really was growing up fast the way his dad said.
He finally managed to edge it out and almost let out a little squeal of delight. He thought he’d emptied the box last time… but here it was almost full. He glanced back up at the shelf. Maybe it was magic or something. He put down the box and peered up on the shelf. Nope, nothing there that looks like it was magical. Maybe it was the box. He squatted down on counter and shook the box again. Well, whatever it was, he wasn’t going to find out up here.
He carefully poured the milk into the bowl, making sure it didn’t slop over the sides. That had happened a while back and he’d had to clean it up quickly before Dad had found it. It that had seriously cut into his other secret activity. He checked the box one more time, just to make sure there wasn’t a special prize in there, then scurried into the den with his big bowl of sugary pops. After a moment or two of searching he found the remote and turned the television on. He jumped a little at the noise and then turned it down low… way low. So only he could hear. Then found his favorite cartoons and settled down for some clandestine watching.
It wasn’t that he wasn’t allowed to watch them. Dad just had this weird thing about only watching television so much in a day. Sheesh. What a grouch! And he didn’t like the sugary cereal too. Always getting that yucky good-for-you stuff. Okay, so Shreddies were good. So were Cheerios. But nothing beat a bowl of crunchy marshmallowy surprise! It was a good thing Dad didn’t know about this. Or Mom either. She’d been the same way; always going on about growing up healthy. At least she had let him have Mini Wheats from time to time. Not that they were anything like these things. What the heck were they called? He wished he could read. Maybe he should be paying more attention to Sesame Street. After all, he may know the entire alphabet, but he was still not good at reading.
Oh… I love this cartoon!
He was crunching his way through his second bowl when he heard some noises from upstairs. At first he thought it was Dad coming down so he ran into the kitchen and hid his dirty bowl and spoon in the dishwasher. He plonked back in front of the television and waited.
No Dad. Still with the strange noises.
He pursed his lips, thinking hard. What would a superhero do at a time like this? Investigate, of course!
But first he needed a costume; just to protect himself, and Dad, from whatever was causing the ruckus. He pulled a towel from the bathroom and tied it around his neck. He’d fly them both to safety if he needed to. He pulled a Frisbee from the pile of stuff by the back door. Always good to throw at the villains. Fully armed and ready he crept up the stairs.
At the top he checked the bathroom first. Nothing there. All clear. He tried Dad’s study. Boy, what a mess! All those papers all over the desk and that keyboard hanging off the table. He snorted. Dad sure wasn’t any better at keeping his stuff organized than he was. Maybe he needed a toybox too.
The room that Gramma Ann had stayed in was all clean and clear. He missed her. It was nice to see her again for a few days, and she made him feel better about missing his mom. Or course, she seemed to make Dad a little unhappy. But it was great when he said that the reason he was sad was because he missed Mommy too. About time he said so! Sheesh, Dads are so slow sometimes. Mom had said she loved Dad. It was good that Dad was finally saying it too.
He snuck up to Mom’s room and peered in. Oh my God! She was home! Look at all his stuff! He scrambled up on the bed and grabbed his favourite bear, hugging it tight. And there was his shirt. He’d left it at home so he knew she’d been there. Where was she? In the bathroom? Nope. Not there. Not under the bed either. Or in the closet. She was gone!
That was it! That was the noise! Monsters had stolen Mom! They’d refilled the cereal box and then taken his Mom.
He tore out of the room, shouting loudly, “Mom! Where’s Mom! She’s gone! They took her!”
“Chris!” Dad said as he opened the door to his room. “Chris, it’s okay. She’s in here. It’s okay. Come on in, son.”
Kat tried hard not to laugh. She and Kevin had spent most of the night reacquainting themselves, and then again once he’d picked her up and carried her into his room. After that round of connubial bliss, she’d gotten up and explored the room as he watched from the bed. He had changed it a bit. The bed was pointed in the opposite direction from where they had had it before; she rather liked it this way. And the walls were a deeper blue than before. But what had surprised her the most were the pictures.
Pictures. Everywhere. Pictures of her. Pictures of them. Pictures of Chris. There were little mementoes. Things she thought he’d lost. Gods, so much of their life together in here. Tucked away, where he said she wasn’t allowed to go.
He came up behind her, pulling her into his strong arms. “Most of this was downstairs in the storage room. Not the pictures of course. They’d been up since after you left. But when Mom was here… I just couldn’t stand the thought of them being down there out of the way. They were what gave me the strength to face you again. To finally open up.”
Kat turned to face him, tears streaming down her face. “Oh gods, Kevin,” she murmured as she kissed him deeply. They stood like that for an age, just kissing, exploring each other.
“I love you so much,” Kevin groaned as he finally lifted his mouth from hers.
“I noticed,” Kat replied, a twinkle in her eye as she brushed a fingertip along his erection.
He chuckled. “Not just that part of me. All of me.” He kissed her quickly, moving her hand away from him. “Come here, I want to show you the prize of my collection.”
“The ‘I want you back so much I can’t think straight’ collection,” he replied as he pulled her towards the window. He turned her so that she could see the rocking chair in the corner. It was the same one she had used to nurse Chris. And sitting proudly in the middle was Gary, her lost gargoyle toy.
“Nick’s detective is really good. He found Gary several months back. You’d left him behind on one of your trips so that Chris could see Mamma. Apparently missed you by only a short time,” he explained as he reached down and picked the toy up. “I slept with him for ages.” He laughed. “I only moved him off the bed last night when I was cleaning. Otherwise you would have found him in bed with us.”
Kat picked the toy out of his hand and kissed the comical face before putting it back on the chair. “I’d much rather it be just you and me in bed with us,” she whispered huskily.
Kevin had complied rather happily.
And waking up in his arms… to look up and see him watching her with one of those slow sultry smiles on his face…
Only to be interrupted by a shrieking child! She started to laugh as she watched Kevin swear and then leap out of bed, trying frantically to pull on his underwear. One minute she was ogling his pale, untanned butt, the next it was sheathed in cotton and he was waving Chris into the room.
She had to stifle her laugh at Chris’ costume. Obviously superhero cartoons this morning. I mean really, did the child not know that she, and clearly Kevin, knew all about the early morning cartoon and cereal binges? Had he never figured out who kept the cereal box stocked? Or why she only fixed him a small breakfast when she finally came downstairs?
Instead, she just held out her arms and let out a whuff of breath as Chris crashed into them. “Hey, Toffee! How are you? I missed you so much.”
Whatever he was saying was muffled by the covers she had pulled over her nakedness. “What, sweetheart? I couldn’t hear you.”
“I thought they took you and I was scared,” he finally said when he raised his head.
“Who took me?”
Chris frowned for a second, thinking furiously. If he told them about the cereal monsters when there weren’t any monsters then he might never get to eat more. Or watch cartoons. Probably better not to say. “I just thought you’d got taken away cos you weren’t in your room.” He snuggled himself down between both parents. “Why you in here?”
“Because this is going to be her room too from now on, Chris,” Kevin said seriously. “Your Mom and I talked a lot last night. And we are going to try and be a family. All three of us. Is that okay with you?”
“So I’ll have a Mom and a Dad and they’ll be together?”
“Yes,” Kat replied, as she tried to smooth down Chris’ wild hair.
“Will we live here? Or at home?”
Kevin glanced at Kat. “I think that we are going to make here be our home.”
Kat cut in. “I know you love it at home, but this is our home now. If we are here you get to be with your Dad and I know you want that.”
“Is that why you are gonna be together?”
Kevin looked at Kat, all the love in his heart shining in his eyes. “We are going to be together because I love your Mom more than anything in this world. She is the only woman for me and I never want to be without her again. Ever.”
Kat blinked back tears, and mouthed “I love you.”
“More than aliens?”
Both parents frowned down at Chris, then Kat’s face cleared and she laughed. “Well, you know I love your father more than all of the aliens in the entire universe. Except for you, cos you are my favorite alien,” she said, giving Chris a kiss on the forehead.
Kevin smiled, remembering what Kat had said the time that Chris had tricked her into admitting she still loved him. “The two of you are my favorite people out of all aliens and humans and everything. I love you both so much and I never want to let you go.”
Chris thought heavily. “Well, I’ll miss home. But seeing as you are my favorite peoples too I think we can live here. Okay,” he nodded, “we can stay. But we gotta be a family, okay?”
Kevin and Kat laughed. “Okay.”
Chris snuggled down further and soon fell asleep, with Kat curled up close to him. Kevin’s eyelids were starting to falter too – it had been a long and exhausting night – but as he drifted off to sleep all he could think was that he was going to love early mornings like this. They were going to be his “magic” times.