ShoppingMature

I put my phone away, telling Karen that Alex said I was safe, finishing my pastry as she smiled in relief. Now that the focus was off me, I figured I might as well ask how her love life was. I guess maybe I felt like I was being selfish, whining about my non-existent love life when for all I knew, she’d vowed celibacy or something.

She shrugged. "Non-existent"

"Ever think about joining a dating site or anything?" I asked and she shook her head. "Maybe you should" I smiled.

"Maybe. I dunno. I think I'm a bit past it, don't you?"

"No"

She arched an eyebrow slightly, looking at me disbelievingly.

"What?" I asked.

"I don't believe you"

"Why not?" I laughed. "You're nice, and you've still got your looks"

"I do?" she asked and I nodded, watching as this small smile spread across her lips.

"I mean it" I said, smiling back.

"Well you know how to use flattery" she chuckled and I winked at her. She sighed. "I dunno, Hadley. I'm not sure I'd find anyone"

"It's worth looking, at least?"

"I guess" she said, although she didn’t sound convinced.

"I'd ask you out myself, if I didn't like guys" I winked again, making her laugh.

"I doubt you would, but thank you anyway. You're sweet"

"Don't mention it" I smiled, and she smiled back. "I'll even help you set up a profile, if you want"

"Go on then, I guess I don't have anything to lose do I?"

We headed back home, and she watched as I set up a profile for her. Remind me to tell Mom I love her for being able to use computers. I taught Karen what to do as best as I could as I went along, and she was doing her best to learn, bless her. I was in the middle of teaching her how to do something again, when this little alert came from the computer.

"What do I do?" she asked, all but panicking when we saw it was a message from someone on the dating site I’d signed her up to.

"See what they have to say" I laughed, showing her how to read a message. And since I was there, I read it too. Sue me.

"Hi, how are you? I'm kinda new to all this, so I don't really know what I'm doing, haha. We seem to share a lot of interests, and I'd like to get to know you better :)"

"What do I say?" Karen asked, and I advised her on what to say, even though I didn’t really have a clue. So in the end she settled for something along the lines of “I'm okay, thank you. I've never done anything like this before, so it's all new to me too. How do you want to get to know me?"

"Glad to hear it :) And we could meet up for coffee or something like that?"Mr Mystery responded.

"Coffee would be fine. When/where would you like to meet up?"

Mr. Mystery suggested a time and a place, saying he looked forward to meeting Karen when she agreed to it. I couldn’t have been happier for her. I’d spied on the guy’s profile on my phone, and he seemed nice enough, and they did have a lot in common. Karen, however, didn’t seem as pleased as I was.

"Oh my god, what do I say to him?" she asked me, panicking, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

"Relax"

"How?"

"Take deep breaths or something. I can try and make you some tea, if you want?" I offered. I’d learned from Maxxie that the first port of call when the English are anything but calm is tea.

Karen nodded, taking deep breaths while I made her a cup of tea, offering the old man one as well. She thanked me for the drink, and I waited til she’d calmed down to speak again.

"Just ask him about himself, y'know? If the two of you get along, you won't need to worry about what to say" I said, smiling when she nodded slightly.

"What should I wear?"

"Something nice"

In case you never picked up on it, I’m not particularly camp, nor do I fit the fashionable, artistic stereotype. Caleb, on the other hand, fits it perfectly.

"I don't know anyone that can help me choose something" Karen said, panicking all over again.

"You could always ask Caleb?" I offered and she nodded. "He did pick out half the prom dresses of the girls in our year" I chuckled, making her laugh. "He's totally not a stereotypical queer"

"As long as he won't dress me in something that will make me look like a slut"

"He won't" I said and she nodded to herself.

I told her it’d be fine, calling Caleb when she asked me to, making her another cup of tea while we waited for him to arrive. The second he was through the door, he had Karen take apart the contents of her wardrobe, laying everything out on the bed. Caleb picked through them all, shaking his head as he went.

"We're going shopping" he announced matter-of-factly.

"Why?"

"Because these are terrible"

"What's wrong with them?" Karen asked a little sensitively. I couldn’t see what was wrong with them, either. They just looked like the typical clothes someone her age would wear.

"They're nice, but not nice enough for meeting potential love interests" Caleb said, informing her they going shopping that very second.

He also informed me that I was coming too, because I could do with a new wardrobe. Once we were at the mall, Caleb picked out some nice clothes for Karen to try on. Let’s just say they were a little different to what I was used to seeing her in. He looked at her analytically when she tried each thing on, before going off and getting various other skirts and dresses. Things like that. Karen asked my opinion of what Caleb had picked out for her, and I told her they looked nice, because I was honestly clueless about the whole thing. Since Caleb had decided it was okay, Karen said that as long as it made her look good, she’d buy it. Caleb let her get changed back into her own clothes, before taking her off to pay for it, picking up some jewellery and stuff like that to match what he’d picked out for her.

And then it was my turn. Karen had thanked Caleb for his help, and he’d told her she could repay the favour by helping him pick out some nice clothes for me. Caleb’s idea of ‘nice’ on me is about two sizes too small. He actually picked stuff out that fitted me for the more casual stuff, trying to get me into various shirts but giving up when I threatened to hit him, but then he decided I needed some new clubbing wear as well. Which was where the two sizes too small rule came in. He forced me into shirts that felt like they were suffocating me, and skinny jeans so tight my legs went numb. And then he made me parade around outside the fitting room so I could get Karen’s opinion.

"Do I have to get these? I can hardly feel my balls" I complained as I walked.

I could tell from the look on her face that she didn’t like them much, but she said that it was up to me. Which was when Caleb grabbed my shoulders and spun me around so I had my back to Karen, and promptly gestured at my ass.

"And this, Mrs F, is why Bunny needs these jeans" he said. "Put it this way; if you were in a bar and you saw this" he said, patting my ass, "would you not instantly want to bang him?"

I felt my eyes widen at that, and Karen’s no doubt did as well. Caleb, that’s not something you ask someone’s mother in law. Ex-mother-in-law.

"Well?" Caleb said expectantly.

"Maybe? I don't tend to think about that sort of thing" Karen said.

"Why not?"

"Because I... just don't" she said, and I saw Caleb tilt his head questioningly. "I'm from a generation that isn't so open about sex" she said embarrassedly.

"Shame, I bet you'd have some wild stories to tell" Caleb winked, letting me turn back around in time to see Karen blush. "Even if Max's dad did look boring as hell"

"He did?" she asked and he nodded. “He wasn’t” she smiled faintly.

"Oh?" Caleb giggled.

"I'm not going to tell you" she said, obviously not wanting to talk about him. I can’t say I blamed her, divorces can’t be easy.

"Please?" he said sadly.

"Leave it, Caleb" I warned.

"I'm going to wait for you in the car, I don't think I'm any help here" she smiled faintly, shuffling off back to the car.

Caleb, apparently not understanding, asked what he’d done wrong, and I bluntly told him that he was an ass, before walking off to buy the clothes he’d picked out, even if I didn’t like them all that much. He caught up to me a little while later, once I’d been and gotten some stuff for Lottie’s birthday, and the two of us headed back to the car. I sat in the front with Karen, hearing Caleb apologise for upsetting her in the back. She assured him it was fine, and drove us back home. She flashed him a smile before going inside to put her new clothes away, and I waved goodbye to Caleb as he drove off back to his own home.

"Hey I smiled, sitting on the bed in Karen’s room, watching her putting stuff away.

"Hi" she said, glancing at me, still hanging stuff up.

"Sorry about Caleb"

"It's fine, he didn't know"

"Are you okay?" I asked and she nodded a little. "Sure?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine" she smiled. "It was just an unexpected reminder"

"I'm always here if you need to talk or anything"

"Thank you"

"No problem" I smiled.

"What did you buy in the end anyway?" she asked and I showed her, taking care to show her the stuff I’d gotten for Lottie first so I could ask her opinion of it.

She assured me what I’d picked was good and I moved on to what Caleb had made me get.

"Why did I let him get away with this?" I laughed. "Everything's too small"

"Take it back and get a bigger size?"

"He'd never forgive me" ‘I said, the both of us laughing. "But seriously, I think if I wear more than half of those for more than five minutes, I'd cut the circulation off to my crotch"

"How about I take them back? Then he won't be mad at you"

"I don't mind. Maybe they'll stretch"

"Suit yourself" she chuckled, returning the smile I flashed her.

"Me and the kids'll get out of your hair soon enough"

"Don't worry about it. The house will be quiet without you guys"

"What's Lewis like when we're not around?" I asked curiously.

"Pretty quiet, really. Keeps to himself. That's why I thought I'd give him the internet for his birthday, so he can keep in touch with his friends"

I nodded. "I'm sure he'll appreciate it"

She smiled faintly. "I wish he'd go out and interact with them in person more but I guess kids these days don't want that"

"It feels like Lily's always out doing something"

"Does Danny do much?"

"Not really, but he's always been like that" I said and she nodded. "He seems happier on his own, anyway"

"I dunno, he seems to be pretty happy around Lewis"

I nodded. "He is. I think it's about equal" I chuckled and she smiled.

"Lewis lights up around him. He's like a different kid"

I sighed a little. "It's just a shame him and Danny don't feel the same about each other. I don't want Lewis getting hurt"

She nodded. "I think Lewis is hitting puberty; he's been so moody lately. Until Danny gets here, he sulks off in his room or spends all his time on the Xbox" she said and I laughed. "I don't know what to do with him" she laughed. "Max was moody but nothing like this. Though I think he might have spent quite a lot of puberty away from home with Alex"

Needless to say, I could imagine just what they were up to during puberty. "Just be patient with him, I guess"

"I'm trying, I just wish he would go have fun with his friends more"

"Give him time" I smiled. "I never went out much when I was his age"

She nodded again. "I guess max was just trying to get away from his father"

I leant over and kissed her cheek. "You're a great mom, y'know? I wouldn't worry too much about Lewis" I smiled.

"Thanks" she said, smiling back.

I kissed her cheek again, hugging back when she gave me one of those big, motherly hugs.

"I hope I make a better mother this time around" she sighed. "No seven year long silences this time"

"You'll be fine"

"I hope so"

I smiled at her, but she didn’t really return the smile. I wasn’t exactly sure what to say, hugging her when she ended up in tears, crying over the fact that her baby was dead and her ex was an abusive asshole. She hugged back, still in tears, and apologised, though what she had to apologise for, I wasn’t sure. I kept hugging her til she stopped crying, telling her it was fine each time she apologised. She seemed all embarrassed, smiling a little when I kissed the top of her head. Remember how I used to be the emotional support for my family?

"Are you staying for dinner?" she asked.

"If you want us to"

"Up to you but I'm gonna start cooking soon so I'd like to know" she said, wiping the tears from her face.

"We will" I smiled. "Want a hand? I'm awful at cooking but I can slice carrots" I chuckled, making her laugh.

"Sure"

The End

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