Stephanie Plum characters: still not mine. I'm open to shared custody, though, if anyone asks. :D

We Miss You

"What are these for?" In my rearview, Mary Alice dangles handcuffs she must've pulled from the seat pocket. Meanwhile, "TastyKakes!" Angie exclaims while rummaging in my glovebox. I catch the pepper spray canister she dislodges.

How did Valerie talk me into after-school pickup today?

"Aunt Steph," Angie leans on the console between the front seats to wrest the cuffs from her younger sister. "We never see you anymore. We miss you!"

Oh yeah. That's how.

"It's true," Mary Alice affirms. "You should come to dinner," she adds, slapping at her sister's hands.

"Mom said you had a date." Angie glances my way as she finally captures the cuffs. "But it wasn't with Mr. Morelli." The cuffs clunk on the floor. "Was it with that really sexy guy who wears all black?"

"The one Great-Grandma Mazur calls a 'big hunk of man beefsteak'?" Mary Alice helpfully elaborates, having relinquished the handcuffs to her sister.

"Girls!" I roll my eyes.

"Well, was it?" Angie is undaunted.

"No. My date, well my afternoon coffee, was with a nice guy named Axel. Your Grandma Plum introduced us."

"Oooh, I bet Mr. Beefsteak is jealous," Mary Alice sing-songs.

"Yeah," Angie nods knowingly. "He really likes you." She punctuates her words by tapping me with the chicken-headed plastic spork from my recent Cluck-in-a-Bucket carry out.

"Seriously, girls." I snare the spork before turning left into traffic, a maneuver that really should be added to the New Jersey Rules of the Road. "His name is Ranger. Well, that's what he likes to be called. And he's never asked me out on a date. Unlike Axel."

Angie peeks back at Mary Alice. It's oddly quiet, then two heads nod in unison. Angie turns back to me. "Okay, Aunt Steph. If you don't want to date Mr. Beefsteak, or whatever his name is, that's cool."

"Weird, but cool," Mary Alice chimes in.

"And we'd have our doubts," Angie appends, squinting. "But if you do want to date him…."

"Which, duh," Mary Alice interrupts with a light kick to my seatback.

"... it's time for you to take charge and ask Mr. Beefsteak out on a date." Angie sits back and crosses her arms.

"Totally." Mary Alice pumps her fist. "Girl power. You got this!"