Lottie’s birthday snuck up on me sooner than I thought, and before I knew it, me, the kids, Mom and Dad were all at Sarah’s. It was a pretty big occasion for Mom and Dad, since it was the first time they were getting to see their new grandchild, and I said a silent prayer that neither party did anything to piss Sarah off, and vice versa. Sarah seemed to appreciate the gifts, but for all I knew she was pretending. At the very least, it was enough to convince Mom and Dad. As for Lily and Danny, they just seemed bored. I’d spoken to them about it before, and they’d told me that they didn’t think of Lottie as their sister. Maybe it was to do with them never seeing her, or maybe it was to do with the fact that they weren’t biologically mine, whereas she was. Either way, they didn’t feel like older siblings to her.
A couple weeks after Karen had been on her date with Mr. Online, Caleb had invited himself over to hers for coffee. And to spy, of course. He’d picked a day that he knew I’d be round there, so he could at least pretend that he was there to see me, but we all knew he wasn’t interested in me in the slightest.
"So, how did it go?" he asked.
Karen smiled. "He was nice enough. A charmer"
"Charming men are so hard to find these days" Caleb said. I’d noticed he tended to be playfully mean about Alex, even when he wasn’t there to hear it. Karen laughed. "Anyway, I want details"
Karen filled him in on how they had a lovely time together and had agreed to meet up again that week.
"Did you manage to assess the most important aspect?" Caleb asked and I rolled my eyes. Karen just looked horrified. “What?”
"You seem to keep forgetting that I'm not from the same generation as you"
"So we're not as open about... sex" she said embarrassedly.
"You should be, there's nothing wrong with it" Caleb said, poking his tongue out cheekily.
"It's something that belongs in the bedroom - the actandthe talk of it"
Karen looked at me, silently pleading with me to make Caleb shut up. I punched Caleb in the arm, not knowing any other way to make him be quiet.
"Ow" he whined, rubbing his arm where I’d hit him.
Karen giggled a little. "You didn't have to hurt him, Hadley"
"Trust me, he deserves it" I said and Caleb pouted at me. "Anyway, I think what Caleb was trying to ask was do you like him?"
"You know that wasn't what I was asking" Caleb pouted but I ignored him.
Karen flashed us this thoughtful smile. "I think so. I agreed to meet him again, so there must be something about him" she said and I smiled.
"And next time I see you, I want to know how big hisassetsare" Caleb said, making Karen blush.
"I won't know, Caleb, so stop asking"
"Ask him and say your favourite little ginger wants to know?” he said, flashing her the puppy eyes and just making her blush even more.
"Maybe, if it'll shut you up" she said and Caleb grinned, although I wasn’t convinced.
"And I want a full status report when you two do finally get each other into bed" Caleb said. “And I mean all the gory details”
"Why?" she asked, looking like she wanted the ground to swallow her.
"Because I'm interested"
"... I repeat: why?"
"Because" he grinned, and Karen hid her head in her hands. “What?” he asked, grinning.
She shook her head, trying to change the topic, but Caleb didn’t let her. In the end she promised to tell him everything just to shut him up.
Caleb grinned. "Pinky promise" he said, holding out his little finger when Karen groaned. "Now you can't go back on it" he said once she’d pinky promised him. "Need me to co-ordinate your outfit again?"
"I think it's the least you can do for making me talk about...that"
"So when is this date?" he asked, informing us it was later that week. "And what have you got planned?"
"Poshness scale from one to ten?"
"He didn't say" she said and he thought about it for a while before skipping off to go and pick through her clothes again.
"Sorry about him" I said.
"It's not you that should be apologising"
"You'll never get it out of him" I said, laughing a little.
"I gathered" she said and I flashed her this half smile.
"I hope it goes well for you"
"Thanks" she smiled back. "I'm not sure what I'm expecting to come of it" she said and I tilted my head curiously. "I know I went on a dating site, but I don't know if it'll work. I can't expect the first person to message me to be my future husband"
"Y'never know" I smiled. "Reckon my next husband's out there?"
"Probably closer than you know. Whoever he is will be a very lucky man"
"I wouldn't say that" I laughed.
"Why ever not?"
"Well, look at me"
"I see an attractive young man"
"Yeah, complete with four kids, and emotional baggage"
"Someone out there will fall for you regardless. If I managed to get a date, then you certainly can" she said, but I didn’t exactly have much hope. She wrapped me in one of those motherly hugs again. "You'll find them"
"Where d'you reckon I'll find them?" I asked, still not exactly hopeful.
"Somewhere unexpected, maybe. If you look too hard for what you have in mind, you might miss someone better"
"Can't say I've got anything in mind" I laughed, but I had something in mind; Maxxie.
"Well just try to keep your mind open, then"
"Reckon there's someone else like Maxxie out there?" I asked and she shrugged.
I sighed a little at that. I missed him more than I dared to let on. I knew Karen missed him as well. She invited me to stay for dinner, since the kids were busy spending time with Mom, and Caleb ended up persuading her to let him stay for dinner as well, being more than inappropriate when he invited Alex over and carried on being his usual sexual self. If he wasn’t such a good friend, he would embarrass the shit out of me.