Some Sort of Love (Happy Crazy Love #3)(12)


by Melanie Harlow

“Come on, bud. Shower time.”

“I’m still playing.”

“You want that iPad time, you better come with me now.”

He thought about it for a moment and decided to come, taking my hand as we went down the hall to the bathroom we shared, the only one on the second floor.

The funny thing is, he never wants to get in the shower because he hates the feeling of soaping up, but once I get him in, he loves the water. He just doesn’t want to do the things he’s supposed to do—if I didn’t stay in the bathroom and force him to use soap, he’d just play around, using his hands as characters, reciting lines from movies or TV shows or commercials or even just scripts he makes up based on whatever he’s thinking about. Sometimes he sang them. Sometimes all I heard were sound effects.

After five minutes of growling and crashing noises I assumed were dinosaurs fighting, I opened the curtain a little. “Did you soap yet?”

“No.”

“Scotty, come on. You’ve had five minutes already. Do it now.”

He said nothing, just continued with the sound effects, his hands moving in front of his face. I sighed, reached in, and handed him the soap. “Do it. Now.”

It would get done faster and better if I did it myself, but I told myself not to. Part of me wondered if eight years from now I’d be checking up on my sixteen-year-old, making sure he used soap in the shower.

“Done,” he said a minute later.

“Good. Let’s get that hair washed.” I opened the curtain.

“Noooo,” he whimpered, pleading with me with those big eyes.

“Yes. It’s Sunday, you know the rule. And we’ve got to do it now if you want iPad time before church. Look at my hair, it’s all wet too, see?” I tipped my head toward him. “I washed it already. We can brush our hair together. And you can brush my beard too.”

He protested a little bit more but eventually gave in and let me wash it. (He counts while I do it, and I’ve mastered completing the chore in twenty seconds.) When he was clean and rinsed, he got out and dried off, then we went down to his room, where he got dressed on his own with only a couple prompts from me.

“Good job.” I raised my hand and he gave me a high five.

We went back to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror together combing our hair. I had to re-wet mine, which had dried flopping down onto my forehead. Scotty watched me, mimicking each step—put a little pomade in my hands, rub it through, comb it back. He got a big kick out of brushing my beard and using the dropper to put a few drops of beard oil into my palm and watching me work it in. I’d give him a drop or two as well, and he’d rub it into his chin and cheeks, a huge grin on his face. For his birthday last summer, I’d gotten him his own little bottle of Corktown oil from the Detroit Grooming Co. just like mine, and he treasured it.

When we were done, I leaned down as if to inspect his beard, and he threw his arms around my neck. Grinning, I wrapped my arms around his back and lifted him right off his feet. I never questioned these unexpected displays of affection—I just held his skinny little body close to mine, silently apologizing for everything I was doing wrong, everything I wanted him to have and couldn’t give him.

• • •

“Great job this morning,” I told him as we drove the short distance to St. Mary’s. “If everything goes well at church today, we’ll go to the park, OK?”

He looked happy about that, although I knew if we got to the park and it was crowded, he’d hang back a little, nervous about approaching groups of kids. His anxiety about crowds was a big reason we went to church. I wasn’t very religious, and I had a lot of issues with the Catholic Church, but Sundays were an opportunity for Scotty to be among people in a controlled environment, one that wasn’t likely to get too loud or chaotic or overwhelming for him. The church I chose had a program called the Buddy Ministry for special needs kids, which paired them with a trained teenager or college student who helped them participate in group activities related to the lesson for the day.

At the door, Scotty’s usual Buddy was there to greet us, a local high school senior named Elliot who was fantastic with him. “Hey. How’s it going, Scotty?”

“Hi, Elliot,” I said, saying his name on purpose so that Scotty could hear it and maybe use it in saying hello. Despite his insane memory for facts, he wasn’t good with names, even though he’d known Elliot for months. I also held out my hand for Elliot to shake so that Scotty would see how I greeted someone, but he didn’t imitate me today.

“Do you want to play Climb the Ladder?” Scotty said instead of hello. Most likely it was a question Elliot had posed to him last Sunday.

“Sure, we can play that game today. Ready to go in?”

Scotty nodded, and I knelt down in the effort to make eye contact, which he wasn’t always comfortable with, even with me. He once told me it was like a light that’s too bright for him when he looks directly at someone’s eyes. It just “feels wrong.” I never push it, and sometimes he will do it on his own, but every now and then I initiate it to see if he’ll respond. Today he met my eyes for a moment before looking off to the side.

“I’ll see you after Mass, OK?” I rubbed his earlobe, and he smiled.

“OK.”

Taking him by the arm, Elliot nodded at me and led Scotty down the hall toward the classrooms.

I headed into the sanctuary and chose a pew near the back that wasn’t too crowded. Pulling my phone from my jacket pocket, I made sure the sound was off, and couldn’t resist glancing at Jillian’s thread from last night. I looked over both shoulders before tapping her name, feeling heat in my face. Scrolling through it, I felt the heat in other places, and the crotch of my pants grew tight.

Jesus, put the phone away before a bolt of lightning strikes you. You’re probably going to hell as it is.

As the first notes of the opening hymn rang out, I dropped the phone back into my pocket and stood, trying to adjust my pants as stealthily as possible. But it was no use. I spent the entire service thinking about fucking Jillian Nixon in every possible position (and some impossible ones), and the only thing I prayed for was that no one would notice the massive erection I had.

Oh yeah. I was going to hell for sure.

But it might be worth it.

On Sunday, I slept until nine—a huge luxury for me—and went over to Natalie and Miles’s house for brunch. After that, I drove Skylar and Sebastian to the airport, where they’d catch a quick flight to Detroit, and then another to Cancun for a week. I admit, I felt a pang of envy seeing them off, but who wouldn’t? I blamed that on the fact that I hadn’t taken a vacation in forever, and I promised myself I’d take a trip somewhere in the next year, even if it was just a spa weekend with my sisters.