An excerpt from Jennifer's contemporary romance...
“Hi Miriam, it’s Josh. What’s wrong? Your voice sounds funny.”
Relief flooded through her. “Oh thank God, Josh. You have to help me. Samara and Nathaniel were supposed to go out tonight, but their babysitter cancelled and they brought Zoe here. And she’s here. With me. I don’t know anything about kids. And there’s clutter and sitting on the floor and...”
A deep chuckle on the other end of the phone made Miriam pause.
“Okay, Mir, breathe. I’ll be right over. Can you survive another twenty minutes?”
Miriam gulped. “I think so. But hurry.”
She hung up and walked into the dining room. Zoe set up the cards and was busy organizing her hand.
“Your cards are there, Miriam. Do you know how to play this game?”
She shook her head.
“Okay, first, you have to organize your cards by color. “
Miriam sat across from Zoe and did as instructed.
“Okay, I dealed the cards. You go first. You have to put down either the same card or a different card but the same color or a wild card. Or you have to pick a card.”
Miriam looked at the card facing up, examined her hand and put a card down.
“Good job,” Zoe cheered.
Zoe put down a ‘Reverse.’ “That means I go again.”
When Zoe’s hand was finished, Miriam went. They continued to play, with Zoe instructing Miriam on the finer points of the game, until the doorbell rang.
It was Josh.
“Hi Miriam, you okay?” he asked as he entered and removed his coat.
Miriam nodded, a fake smile plastered on her face. “Sure.”
“Do you want to play Uno with us? I just taught Miriam how to play.”
“Miriam didn’t know how to play Uno?”
“Sorry, it’s been a long time since I played card games.”
He hugged her. “It’s okay, we’ll be gentle with you. Yes, Zoe, I’d love to play Uno. Who’s the dealer?”
This time, Josh dealt. He groaned and moaned and cheered depending on the cards they played. By the end of the game, Zoe was giggling and even Miriam laughed a time or two.
“What do you say we go out for some dinner?” Josh suggested. “With two beautiful ladies, I’ll be the envy of every man around.”
Zoe giggled again, and Miriam blushed.
“It sounds lovely. Where should we go?” Her heart pounded. What did kids eat?
“What’s wrong, Mir?”
“Um, I just don’t know what restaurants around here are good for kids.”
“Oh, this is easy. Anything will be good. Zoe, what do you like to eat?”
“Wow, I like pizza too! Miriam, what about you? Do you like pizza?”
“Pizza it is. Everyone get your coats and let’s go.”
Zoe ran into the living room to find her coat, and Josh stayed Miriam with a hand on her arm.
“Relax, you’re doing great and everything is going to be fine. Zoe’s easy.”
“Yeah, now you’re here. I didn’t even think of feeding her.”
“But you would have, as soon as she said she was hungry, which I’m sure she would have done soon.”
He ushered Miriam into the hallway, helped her with her coat and led them both out of the apartment.
Later, when they’d finished their pizza, returned to the apartment and put Zoe to bed in Miriam’s bedroom, Miriam sank into her couch in exhaustion.
How could one tiny eight-year-old girl exhaust her like this? She leaned against the cushions and lifted her legs onto the table in front of her while she closed her eyes.
A deep chuckle next to her made her open one and turn. Josh stood next to the couch, arms folded in front of him.
“She wiped you out.”
She closed her eyes again. “Mmm hmm.” After a moment, she opened her eyes and sat up. “How are you not exhausted?”
Josh sat next to her and the couch cushions tipped under his weight. He smoothed his pants and crossed one ankle over his knee.
“She’s just a little girl.”
“An energetic one.”
“Come on, Miriam, you’ve got to admit, she’s much better than most.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
He turned to look at her.
“You’ve never been around kids before?”
Miriam face heated. She took a deep breath and tried to relax. “Not really.”
“Not even as a babysitter when you were a teenager?”
“Other than watching my sister, no.”
Josh frowned. “Huh.”
“Nothing, I would have thought you’d be perfect as a babysitter. You like order, you like having control of things...”
“...I hate getting messy, I don’t like sitting on the floor...”
He stared at her and Miriam squirmed. “I know, I’m a freak of nature. I’m a woman who can’t relate to kids. I’m not sure I want any of my own.”
Josh shook his head. “No, I wasn’t going to say that, and I don’t think it. Just because you have no experience with them, doesn’t mean anything. And I think if you decide to have children, you’d be a great mom.”
Miriam’s jaw dropped before she could prevent it. “Why?”
“Because, you’re fiercely loyal and protective. Look how you are about your sister. Someday, if the time is right, I think you’ll be amazing.”
Miriam’s spine tingled as a shiver run up it. No one ever said she’d be amazing as a mother. Of course, she didn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about the subject either.