Home of the Bellingwood Series – Nammynools

Book 42 Vignette – Sitting in a Tree

Gillian could barely contain herself. Lexi smiled as they went down the steps to the kitchen. Nearly everyone else in the household was busy preparing dinner, but she and Gillian were heading out.
“Bye!” Gillian called out.
“See ya later, alligator,” Elijah called back.
“In a while, crocodile,” JaRon said.
Lexi gave them all a wave, but those in the kitchen were so involved with their tasks, they mostly just smiled in acknowledgment. Polly and Henry were upstairs with Delia. They knew where she was going.
Gillian danced in place, waiting for Lexi to open the door. Then she ran down the steps and raced toward Will Kellar’s car, jumping up and down beside him.
“Where are we going?” she asked. “Where? Where?”
He patted her shoulder and hovered as she climbed up and into the car seat he’d purchased and installed in his vehicle. Lexi couldn’t believe he’d done that. Gillian often went with them, but she’d have been glad to transfer the seat from her car to his.
Polly was the first person in Lexi’s life to freely offer help, no matter the need. Lexi wasn’t used to others taking care of her. It felt strange. She’d learned to be independent and strong all on her own, until she couldn’t because outside forces had taken everything away.
Once Polly took her in, Lexi had to re-learn how to live as an independent person, while also allowing others to do what they did. Sometimes that meant they took care of her when she least expected it.
Will did that every once in a while and it threw her for a loop each time. She’d gotten used to him having the extra car seat for Gillian, but … no, she wasn’t used to it. Here she was over-thinking the whole thing while she watched him buckle Gillian in place.
He turned and smiled at her. “I have the sandwiches. Thanks for placing the order for me. I always worry that I’ll miss something for our little miss in the back seat there.” Will put out his hand and Lexi took it as he walked around the car to the passenger side with her. These were the things that still surprised her.
He held the door, then shut it after Lexi was inside. She turned in her seat to look at Gillian. “Are you all set?”
“He’s your boyfriend,” Gillian said. “He holds your hand.”
“Be quiet.” Lexi chuckled as she pulled her seat belt on. Gillian was not safe around anyone these days. The little girl had no concept of keeping her thoughts to herself. Most of the time it didn’t matter, but …
“What are you laughing at?” Will asked as he settled in his seat.
“Mommy has a boyfriend. Mommy has a boyfriend,” Gillian’s sing-song-ey voice rang out from the back seat.
“She does, does she?” he said. “And who might that be?”
“You, silly man.” Lexi cringed when Gillian returned to her sing-song-ey voice. “You hold her hand. You hold her hand.”
“I hold your hand,” Will said. “Does that mean I’m your boyfriend?”
That stumped the little girl. She frowned at Lexi, then she brightened. “You’re too old for me.”
“You’ve been informed,” Lexi said.
“At least she doesn’t think I’m too old for you.”
Lexi smiled. He was so easy with this whole thing. It didn’t matter that they’d been seeing each other for nearly a year now. She still couldn’t believe he wanted to spend time with her. No, she could get on board with that, but Will made an effort to include her daughter. From the very first time they met, he hadn’t flinched when it came to Gillian.
When she expected to go out – just the two of them, he always encouraged her to make the decision as to whether or not to include Gillian. He genuinely enjoyed spending time with her daughter.
“We’re invited back to the house tonight,” Lexi said quietly. “Party food.” She shot a glance to the back.
“Summer party food?” Will asked with a grin.
They both knew that was code for ice cream. Delia was the worst when it came to those two words. She couldn’t get enough and would climb across hot coals and burning sands to get to it. Gillian loved dessert, but at least she wasn’t quite as rabid in her desire for more ice cream.
“We could make a stop at the convenience store instead,” he said. Again, he knew her daughter. Gillian had a great time choosing an ice cream treat from the freezer. You never knew what it would be. She always chose something different. As if she couldn’t wait to try everything.
“That would be fun.”
Will pulled into a space near the playground. “Sandwiches are in the cooler in the trunk. I’ll help Gillian out.” He pulled the trunk lever.
He had a cooler in the trunk. Lexi shook her head. She thought she was organized and always prepared. Will was a master. When he took them out, she didn’t have to think about a thing unless she offered in the first place. He made sure to have napkins, plates, drinks, sometimes even a table cloth.
She watched the two of them head for the playground. Lexi chuckled. Gillian was running full-out and left him in her dust. That girl loved the slides. The play set in their backyard had a small slide, but it was nothing like this one. She screamed with joy as she slid down the first time. Will stood nearby watching, while also glancing to keep an eye on Lexi.
“Need any help?” he asked.
“No, just paying attention to the two of you.” Lexi opened the cooler. Sure enough, the bag of sandwiches was nestled atop a towel he’d laid across ice packs. Cold bottles of water were on either side and on top of that he had a bag of potato chips and another bag of Gillian’s favorite cookies. She picked up the cooler as well as the blanket he’d draped across its top. Apparently, they were having a picnic on the grass today. When she stepped away, Will clicked a button on his remote and the lid came down and latched into place. Man, she wouldn’t hate being spoiled by this guy. Okay, she enjoyed being spoiled by this guy.
He stepped back from the slide, while still watching Gillian as she ran up the steps to glide down again. “Where would you like to eat? There’s a nice place under that tree there.” Will pointed, then took the blanket from her. “I’ll get it ready.”
“We’re in no hurry,” Lexi said. She set everything on a bench nearby, then sat down beside it all. “Let her play.”
He nodded. Then, unsure, he looked at Gillian, and back to Lexi.
“She’ll be fine,” Lexi said. “If she needs something, she’ll ask. And if she scrapes herself, she’ll live.”
“I have a first-aid kit in the car.”
“Of course you do.” Lexi laughed as she patted the bench beside her. “Sit. Let her play. She can work off all that energy. It makes putting her to bed so much easier.”
“You are good with her,” he said, sitting down. He slung his arm up on the back of the bench, not encroaching into her space, but letting her know he was close.
“I actually like her,” Lexi said with a smile. “She’s fun to be around. I want to be careful not to spoil her so she turns into a terror …”
“You? Spoil her? I don’t think so. You don’t let her get away with much.”
“Most of the time. There are times I’m so tired I just don’t want to deal with it. I hate to admit how often I turn on the television, leave her on the sofa, and go into my room just so I can work in peace.”
“Everyone does that.”
“Not Polly,” Lexi said. “She’s got those kids on lockdown when it comes to television and tablets. It took years for the older kids to even realize that they were missing out on what everyone else does.”
“But there’s a big television in the family room.”
“Uh huh. And they can watch movies or play video games. But they have to ask first. Otherwise, they’re reading or playing outside or Polly has them doing things with people all over town. Cassidy is at Agnes’s house most days during the summer unless she goes to the pool with her friends. I think she’d be the worst because she wants to be like everyone else, but even she doesn’t realize that she might be missing out.”
“That’s really cool, though.”
“I know. I should be better about it with Gillian, but I’m not.”
“What does she watch?”
“It’s always kid videos.”
“So, you’re in control of it.”
Lexi shrugged. “I guess.”
“And you don’t let her do it all the time.”
“Well, more than I should.”
“Stop beating yourself up.” He tapped her back. “Polly has a million people who help her. She has you, for pete’s sake. You have …”
“One little girl,” Lexi said. “Not six kids and a business and I don’t find dead bodies or deal with employees or …” She smiled. “I think I must be tired. I’m sorry. Gillian was at Marie’s today and I didn’t have to make supper either. What’s my problem?”
“You were excited to spend time with me.”
“That must be it.”
Gillian ran over to them. “Push me?”
“Push you into the ocean?” Lexi asked, sitting forward to stand up.
“No, silly. On the swing. And not you. Will.”
“Why Will?”
“Because he pushes me harder. I go higher.”
Lexi gave him a sideways glance. “Maybe I should ask him to push me, too.”
“I’d do that.” Will stood up and offered Lexi his hand. She took it and hauled herself to her feet.
“You’re holding hands. You’re holding hands,” Gillian sang out in her sing-song-ey voice again. “Will and Mommy. Sitting in a tree. K.I.S.S.I.N.G.”
“Do you even know what that means?” Lexi asked.
Gillian looked at her in surprise. “It means you two are sitting in a tree together like girlfriend and boyfriend.”
“Where did you hear it?”
Her daughter screwed up her face in concentration, then she smiled. “Cassidy and Missy were talking about Rebecca and Andrew.”
“I see,” Lexi said with a laugh. Gillian remembered everything she heard, and the words would come out when people least expected it.
“After we swing, maybe we’ll all sit under a tree and have a picnic,” Will said.
“Will you hold Mommy’s hand?” Gillian asked.
“I’ll hold your hand and her hand if it makes you both happy.”
“First, we swing,” Gillian announced.
“First, we swing,” he agreed.
“Then you can hold Mommy’s hand while I eat my dinner.”
Lexi chuckled. “And there you have it.”
“At least I have permission to hold your hand.” Will took her hand and gave it a small squeeze as they walked to the swing set.


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