Nope I'm not dead. I still live. And I still have KP contributions to give. Took me awhile to get back into KP mode so time for some baby steps.
It's a trap!
A frown came to Kim's face as she took note of her reflection in the elongated mirror that hung over the dresser. Her mind wandered back to earlier that evening, when she and Ron had gone on what he called their un-retirement mission. This was incidentally their second un-retirement mission, which Kim found pretty amusing. For obvious reasons during their first two years as parents missions had fallen pretty low on Kim and Ron's priorities list. Some might argue the irresponsible nature of dodging laser beams when a little girl was waiting at home with Ron's sister, but it seemed Kim couldn't deny herself the occasional thrill of a good adventure. But with all that said, she couldn't shake the feeling that she had been moving at a much slower pace than she had the last time she was out on an adventure.
She cupped the sides of her stomach with both hands and sighed. OK the late night snacks were fine when you were pregnant but…you haven't been pregnant for a while now Kim.
She glanced up at the mirror just in time to see Ron wander into the bedroom.
"I can't believe villains are still using abandoned amusement parks as hideouts. Come on, what was Hank thinking? I mean were the robot guards running on MS-DOS? "
"Hey Ron," Kim said without turning to face him. "Tell me the truth; does this mission gear make me look fat?"
Ron briefly wondered if Kim recalled how she looked during her pregnancy. But having been known to, "Think out loud," at inappropriate moments he quickly suppressed the thought.
"KP, you know those fun house mirrors are supposed to make you look all wonky. Right?"
"I've been in front of a fun-house mirror before, but I don't remember one ever making me look that wonky. So be honest, do I look fat?"
Ron quickly cut the distance between them. Moving deftly he wrapped his arm around his wife's waist and drew her close.
"Hmmm… feels just as right as it did in high school. I've got no complaints." He leaned over and placed a light kiss on Kim's forehead.
She threw him a grin; "That's a good answer."
Ron shook his head. "That, KP, was not a good answer. It was a great answer! One that I have been working on since the day we got married."
Kim stared blankly at him. "Huh?"
"At first I thought to myself it's just an old joke; wives don't really ask that. But could I risk getting caught off guard? Nope, I promised myself if I got anything right as a husband, at the very least I would have to get that right."
"OK. Hold on, let me process this," Kim said placing her hand in the air. "This is something you've been worrying about since the day we got m-married?"
"This exact scenario is number six on my top ten list-of husbandly fears. It comes in right below balding but above figuring out how to file a joint income tax return. Speaking of which, I'm telling you KP, it's not a conspiracy theory, they don't want us to understand how it works…"
Kim placed her hands on both sides of Ron's face. "We agreed the taxation without representation speech would only come out in April. Right now I need to understand something. Are you telling me you've been prepping yourself for a single question since the day of our wedding? "
"I haven't prepped that hard since the S.A.T. Although this was more like a trick question than an actual test… but I still nailed it!"
"But that wasn't a trick question," Kim proclaimed.
With eyebrows furrowed Ron said. "So what would you call it?"
She took a moment to reflect. "In hindsight I can see where some people may interpret it as a loaded question—"
"By people, you mean men."
"-But it's still essentially just a wife asking for her husband's honest opinion. It's not really a trick question at all."
"So what you're saying is you admit that it was a test?"
Kim closed her eyes and quickly reopened them. "Even if it was a test, and I'm not saying it was. Telling me that you've prepared the answer beforehand doesn't really give me a lot of confidence in its sincerity."
Ron grinned broadly as he pulled his face from his wife's hands. "You've got it all wrong, KP. See if I hadn't prepared myself I would have been blindsided by your question and left with two options." He held up two fingers from his right hand for emphasis.
"Option A is try and guess what would make you feel good. Option B would have been to tell you the plain truth. Now option A would have been completely situational; in this case my mind would have worked like this: "Why does she think she's fat? -I don't think she's fat-but if she thinks she's fat and she's asking about it that must mean she has gained weight"
Making sure Kim was still with him; Ron continued his, "presentation," hoping he wasn't going to have to break out the flow charts.
"But, I can't tell-still she wouldn't have asked unless she already knows she's gained weight and wants me to confirm it-unless she's insane- but I don't think she's insane-so she must have gained weight and if she has and I say she hasn't she'll know I'm lying." So thinking of something to try to make you feel better I probably would have said "A little extra weight looks good on you."
Kim cringed, "Ooo that would have been a problem."
"Of course it would have been. That's why I prepared to avoid that," came his response with a slight smile.
Crossing her arms over her chest Kim said, "So what was wrong with option "B" the plain truth, which is exactly what I was asking for?"
"Option "B" would have been me, after a long pause to choose my words carefully, eventually saying, "No, of course not. You look fine," and then quickly leaving the room to avoid further questions. Option "B" is the standard answer a husband gives to avoid sleeping on the couch. And that is exactly why you would have never believed option B even if I were telling the truth. And I would be telling the truth but you would think I'm just trying to avoid trouble. Also, Option 'B' was the reason my Dad insisted we buy the seven-foot couch, not the six. He was guessing I would have gotten the answer wrong."
Ron drew in a deep breath. "And that's why through preparation and research, I discovered option C which is telling the truth confidently and with charm."
He wrapped both arms around Kim's waist and pulled her close.
"So if I do this and say something like 'I think you're as beautiful now as you've ever been.' I'm not just telling you the truth; I'm proving it. The proof is what reassures the insecure wife."
Kim smiled as a fresh blush spread on her face. "Alright, fine-you win."
"You believe me. Right?"
"So I nailed it—the reassuring the wife thing?"
"Yes you did."
"Two nails in less than five minutes, that's got to be a husbandly record."
"Alright tell me this smart guy. What did you think of Hank's busty evil secretary?"
Ron held Kim's gaze and said, "Who?" with a look of confusion.
"The records now at three" Kim chuckled pressing her lips against his. "Let's see if you can go for four"
Current time line: Nine years after the Junior Prom; Current Status: Married; Current mood/feelings/state of mind: K&R Amorous
Knowing is half the battle:
"Math? You're talking about math at a time like this?"
Kim and Ron stepped hard on their bike peddles as they made their way up what had to have been one of the steepest hills in Middleton.
"Yes I am," Kim huffed.
"Because we have a test tomorrow, did you forget about that? It's the final exam!" Kim shouted at him.
"Yeah, I think I have something more important to do; like completing my list."
"Fine," Kim sighed. "Can we at least take a break? We've been riding like forever."
Ron shook his head. "No time, KP, we're already behind schedule we need to hit this mall before sundown."
"And why are we going to the mall at the edge of town?"
"Because it's the only mall that has a gigantic floor piano like in that movie, 'Huge'. I ran into it last year when I was Christmas shopping with my dad but I never got a chance to use it. I've always wanted to play one of those."
"You know the mall is going be here on the weekend."
"There's no guarantee of that, Kim. Heck, there's no guarantee we'll be here this weekend."
"Ron, I think you're taking this list thing a little too seriously!"
"Too seriously?" Ron asked after a quick glance at his best friend. "It's a bucket list, KP, its things I gotta do before I die."
"Ron! You're twelve years old!"
"And I don't know if I'll live to be thirteen; got to do as much as I can before time runs out."
"Bucket lists are for people who are going to die!"
"You mean like everyone!"
"You know what I'm saying." Kim drifted to her left; bringing her bike right up beside Ron's.
"Listen, we can talk about this if you want."
"Talk-about what?" Ron kept his gaze on the road.
"Y'know... your grandmother."
"Why would we talk about my grandmother?" Ron muttered.
"I'm just saying-"
"The funeral was two weeks ago," Ron interjected.
"I know but—"
"What's there to talk about two weeks later?"
Before Kim could say anything more Ron peddled faster taking the lead.
"Hurry up we don't have much time!" He called out without turning around.
Silently they zipped down the other side of the hill. Riding hard they covered a number of blocks in a matter of moments, and then cut through the parking lot leading into the East County Mall. They skidded to a stop before the main entrance only to find the gates down over the glass doors.
"What...?" Ron sputtered as he unstrapped his helmet.
Kim shrugged. "There's a piece of paper taped to the gate."
She climbed off the bike and approached the notice.
"Due to a water main break all stores will be closed for the rest of the week," she read aloud.
"The rest of the week? I could get hit by a meteor on my way back home!"
Kim turned to him. "Ron, don't freak."
"I'm not freaking!" He said as he took the helmet off his head, raised it up, and slammed it down as hard as he possibly could.
Unfortunately instead of shattering on the ground into thousands of little pieces, the helmet decided to bounce straight up and strike him in the face. Ron felt a brief flash of pain before everything went dark.
He regained consciousness to the soft feel of Kim's fingertips as she massaged the base of his forehead.
"How are you feeling?" She asked.
"I freaked, didn't I?"
"What happened after-?"
"After the helmet hit you in the face, you fell off your bike and hit your head."
"Is the mall still closed?"
"I was hoping I'd get my list done before the week ended."
Kim rolled her eyes "Safe to say adulthood wasn't anywhere on your list right?"
Groaning softly Ron sat upright. "The list was mostly made up of stuff that I could get done quickly and without crossing a highway."
He looked sheepishly in Kim's direction. "I guess it is a pretty lame list."
"You don't need a bucket-list, Ron."
A long silence fell between them, filled only with the comings and goings of nearby traffic.
"You don't understand. I need to play that piano. I need to finish the list. My grandmother she had a list and she never really got a chance to finish…"
Ron stopped and looked over at Kim, to see that she was watching him quietly yet somehow staring at him expectedly.
He ran his right hand across his face. "At the funeral my mom pulls me to the side and gives me a, 'We're a part of the universe, everything happens for a reason,' speech. But all I could think of was just how completely unfair it is. I mean my grandmother died because she was old. She never asked to be old; it's not like you can go on a diet to be less old. You're getting old as soon as your born, how is that fair? And she never got to finish her list."
He paused, and for a moment looked as if he had forgotten exactly what he would say next.
Clearing his throat he started up once again. "I didn't think my mom was lying to me, at least a part of me believed her about the universe, about life being amazing and cool. But the other part of me thinks maybe its just constant unfairness that never stops. Which part of me do you think is right, KP?"
"Umm... maybe life is a bit of both?" Kim said shrugging her shoulders, unsure of her answer.
Ron offered her a weary look.
"I don't really know, Ron." Kim said quickly. "I don't think there's a real answer to that kind of question or maybe no one really knows for sure the answer to that kind of question."
Ron threw his hands up in the air. "How could no one know? We've been around for thousands of years; people have been to the moon, KP! It's the only question worth asking! What other answer is worth knowing! It has to be the first serious question that ever popped into a caveman's head! Who cares about a math test? How about the question to the life test? Someone needs to tell me… Why was my grandmother born to die, why was I born to feel bad about that? Why didn't she get a chance to finish her list?"
Kim said nothing as she took hold of his elbow and leaning her head onto his shoulder.
Ron eyed the mass of red hair brushing against his cheek for some time. He turned away briefly before eventually tilting his head slightly and placing his cheek against the top of Kim's head.
"This isn't an answer KP. This is more like a gesture."
"I don't really know what to say."
"That's fine. You're right though, we don't really know anything do we?"
"Well, we know that you loved your grandmother and she loved you."
There was a moment of silence before a trail of hot tears spilled onto Ron's cheeks. He started to speak but a soft sob escaped from his lips instead. He then brought his forearm up to his face shielding his eyes. His shoulders heaved, and his breath quickened but for most part, he kept his crying quiet. Eventually he regained control and drew in a series of deep breaths. Silently he pulled away from Kim and climbed up to his feet.
"I'm OK… Let's just go home."
"Are you feeling better?" Kim said standing up.
"I'm still pretty sad I think." A half smile formed on his face, "But we've got a math test to study for."
The two friends strolled over to their bikes, strapped on their helmets and prepared to peddle away from the mall.
"What's on the test anyway?" Ron asked.
"Exponents," Kim replied
Ron groaned loudly. "You plus me, KP. That's the only kind of math I'm ever gonna like."
Current time line: Four years before the Junior Prom; Current Status: Best Friends Forever; Current mood/feelings/state of mind: K&R Bittersweet
The choppy waves pitched the tiny lifeboat like a bucking bronco, as it skimmed across the ocean's surface. Unconcerned Kim stretched herself out while stifling a tired yawn. She glanced over at Ron who sat at the opposite end of the lifeboat with a sleeping Rufus on his lap.
"Wade's about an hour and a half late with that rescue plane. "
"It's been over an hour already?"
Kim nodded. "You know, I really don't remember the last time I was this bored."
Ron massaged the base of Rufus' neck and the naked-mole rat purred in his sleep. "Eh, besides the whole moving island thing we just escaped from; it's been a pretty slow week overall."
"Yeah," Kim replied listlessly.
She stared off into the ocean. "I'm thinking about getting new drapes for the windows in my room."
Ron's eyes immediately glazed over. "Does boyfriend etiquette require me to help pick out a color?"
"Boyfriend etiquette would require you asking that, without sighing so heavily," She shot back. "Anyway I've already picked out a color."
"I'm going to guess purple."
Kim shook her head. "Close but no cigar, its lavender."
"Lavender," Ron repeated. "How weird is it when a word is a color and a smell?"
Eyebrow already arched, Kim turned away from the ocean. "What?"
"Yeah, there's the shade of color lavender, right? And when someone says that something smells like lavender you know exactly what they're talking about. Not many words can say that… It kind of bugs me a little."
"It bugs you?"
"It's tres bizarre," Ron said matter-of-factly as he scratched behind Rufus' ear.
"What's so bizarre about it?"
He shrugged. "The word can be used to describe a color and a smell KP. Who decided that they needed to use lavender for two separate things when there are tons of other words available?"
Kim licked her dry lips. "It's all based on the flower, Ron."
He shrugged again, "I'm just saying."
"I'm going to assume there are other words that bother you in the same way."
"Orange, but that's not nowhere near as annoying as lavender," Ron replied quickly.
"Yeah," Kim nodded. "You're right orange…..color and smell…name another one?""
"I'll give you the smell, but the color doesn't count. Mint is just green."
"Actually there's mint green and the standalone color mint. I thought girls knew everything there is to know about colors."
"That's a stereotype."
Ron shrugged for a third time. "At least it's not a negative one."
Kim leaned back and propped her feet up on the sides of the boat. She chuckled softly as she stared up at the crystal blue sky.
"I think that was the strangest conversation we've ever had."
"Huh?" Ron said looking up from Rufus.
"This conversation was the weirdest one we've ever had since we've known each other."
Ron ran his hand across the back of his neck. "We've known each other since Pre-K."
"And that's what makes this so impressive," she smiled.
"I-I'm not sure we've had that many strange conversations."
"We've had plenty," Kim replied fairly swiftly.
"Really? You sure that's not an exaggeration."
"More than our fair share." Kim stated.
Ron reflected quietly for a long time. "I don't see what was so strange about that conversation."
"Well, the topic was odd and random enough. But it wasn't just that. It's a cloudless sky, the glare off the ocean is blinding, and the boat is moving beneath us like it's a living creature. This whole situation is kind of surreal."
Ron gave her a skeptical gaze. "We're stranded in the ocean after escaping a moving island filled with genetically engineered cyborg dinosaurs. Stuff like this happens to us all the time."
"I'm not going question it, Ron. I'm just going to appreciate the atmosphere."
Hearing this Ron quickly glanced over both soldiers, silently confirming that they were still indeed alone in the middle of the ocean.
"So you're saying there's like… a mood?"
"There's an atmosphere, yes."
"Maybe it could be like a… making out type of atmosphere?"
Kim shot him an amused look, "Flattered, but no this isn't a 'making out' kind of atmosphere."
"We could turn it into that."
She answered him with a sigh.
"What? I like kissing, excuse me for being a romantic," Ron pointed out.
"Ron some atmospheres are for making out; some of them are just enjoyable moments. But good atmospheres are the kind of stuff relationships are made out of."
Ron scooped the dozing Rufus out of his lap and placed him in his pocket. "A relationship, that's a pretty adult label. You're saying we're not just boyfriend and girlfriend, we're in a relationship?"
"Um, yeah, I would call it a relationship," Kim said with a slight hint of hesitation in her voice. "Wouldn't you?"
"If I didn't then, I definitely do now."
Kim smiled brightly at him. "A relationship, filled with moods, atmospheres, and conversations. Some of if it strange."
With his arms open wide Ron said, "So is this something we celebrate? Do we have anniversaries for the strange conversations?"
"Ron it's not a big deal. It was just an observation."
"How can we keep dating with you keeping tabs on strange conversations? It's going to put me on edge."
"Chillax, Ron, it's not a negative thing so there's nothing to worry about."
"Trust me, it's all positive."
Appeased Ron settled back into a more comfortable seating position. "Wait a minute. What's stranger, the conversation or the person who enjoys it?"
Current time line: Seven months after the Junior Prom; Current Status: Super Serious couple; Current mood/feelings/state of mind: K Content R Confused.
For a while the Stoppables just stared at the ceiling. Kim reached up as if to catch something in the air and then let her hand drop back down slowly. She began massaging her eyelids as Ron spent the next thirty seconds cracking his knuckles. Kim then drummed her fingers along her stomach while Ron stretched beside her. This was then followed by a simultaneous sigh between the two that stretched well past the normal range of a few seconds.
Ron turned to Kim, "That's a heavy sigh KP."
"It's the sigh of a very tired woman."
"Tired? Why would you be tired? Not getting enough sleep?" Ron remarked with the sarcasm noticeably heavy in his voice.
"Sleep? Such a thing can't exist when your child is waking up and crying every hour on the hour."
Ron slowly turned his head to the baby monitor on the nightstand beside his bed. "She's like the radio traffic report."
"What time is it now?" Kim asked.
"Five to three."
"So if we're following tonight's regular pattern she'll be up in five."
If Ron had to guess, neither of them had gotten more than three hours sleep at night in the past week. But he had always been a bad guesser. So he wasn't exactly sure how much sleep they had really gotten, he only knew that it wasn't nearly enough.
"KP, did you see the Leprechaun that just scrambled past the foot of our bed?"
"I'm pretty sure that you're hallucinating Ron."
Ron vigorously rubbed down both his eyes before lying back down beside his wife.
"I thought newborns were supposed to sleep a lot."
"Normally twelve to sixteen hours a day by the time they're a month old. But most babies don't stay asleep for more than two to four hours at a time, day or night, during the first few weeks of life."
"Our daughter doesn't seem to care much about statistics." He yawned, "I probably shouldn't have given her the never be normal talk."
"I would have waited until pre-k," Kim said.
"Well at least we know she's a trend setter not a trend follower. That's pretty cool."
Ron looked to see if he had gotten a smile out of his wife. Bur she stared back him with bloodshot eyes. "Ron, we're not going to get any sleep tonight are we?"
"Maybe not tonight," he said sadly.
"So I suppose we'll just stare at the ceiling in between her crying fits."
"Well maybe we could participate in intimate activities. We are married after all."
"You plan on involving me in these activities?"
"Seems like the polite thing to do."
Kim attempted to reach over to her husband but her arm landed listlessly in the space between them. Ron, who had started reaching over a second after Kim, had his arm land an inch beside hers. Gritting his teeth Ron made a concentrated effort to place his arm over Kim's. He then managed to intertwine their fingers.
"Well it's nice to know at least the passion hasn't gone out of the marriage," Kim commented a moment later.
"Was it good for you?" Came his reply.
"Better than the night of our honeymoon."
With a grunt Ron suddenly sat upright. "You know we both don't have to check on her this time. Maybe one of us gets her back to sleep and the other can try and get some shut-eye."
"So who goes?" Kim asked.
"Let's flip a coin." Ron searched the nightstand until he came up with a nickel.
"Heads or tails?"
"Heads," Kim called out.
Ron flipped it, although he did so with more force than his tired mind had expected. It spun through the air hit the wall behind them and slid past the bedpost.
"That seems about right," Ron sighed.
"It's heads," Kim stated.
"How do you know?"
Ron glared at Kim. "When did that start kicking in? It's barely been a month."
"It instantaneous, it starts kicking in the second a woman becomes a mother."
"Fine, then my fatherly intuition is telling me that it's tails."
"There's no such thing as fatherly intuition," Kim countered.
"Oh it exists, and it forged from the flames of stress. And when it comes to stress KP, right now I'm at Defcon one."
It was Kim's turn to sit up quickly. "Oh you think this is stressful? Try the equivalent of pushing a bowling ball through your nose for twelve hours and then come talk to me about stress!"
"Like that's my fault! Maybe I would have tried but nature didn't really give me much of a choice."
She pointed at him. "You don't respect my motherhood."
He pointed right back at her. "It's you who doesn't respect my fatherhood."
"Don't be stupid."
"Hey, don't call me stupid."
"I didn't say you are stupid Ron. I said 'don't be stupid.' I am suggesting you do not steer yourself into a situation that might be considered stupid!"
Ron glowered at her. "You snore."
Kim was taken aback. "I do not snore!"
"Either you snore or there's a lawnmower sneaking in here at night."
"You bite in your sleep," Kim said through narrow eyes.
"What? You're making that up. No one bites in their sleep!"
"Either you bite in your sleep or Dracula has been sneaking in here and spooning me for the last few years!"
Ron threw his pillow at his wife. "You can't go two months with changing the drapes…Enough with the drapes already! No one cares!"
Kim threw her pillow at her husband. "You watch too much television."
"You, don't watch enough!"
Abruptly Kim placed her hand on Ron's mouth. "Shhh! Shhh! Do you hear that?"
Ron pulled away, "What our marriage falling apart?"
"No, listen to that… Silence."
"How do you listen to silence… Silence?"
In unison the eyes of both husband and wife cut from the baby monitor on the nightstand to the alarm clock besides it. The clock read 3:05, they glanced back at the monitor but it remained silent, their eyes went back to the clock and it now read 3:06.
They bolted out of the bedroom.
"Did you put fresh batteries in the monitor?" Kim asked as they crossed the hallway in quick spurts.
"Yes, and they weren't the cheap kind, they were the really expensive long lasting kind."
The panicked parents entered their baby's bedroom and made a beeline for the crib. They gazed down at Joanna's sleeping form. The baby slept peacefully, looking soft and tiny, so content, so unaware of the palpable fear that had been pouring from her parents.
"She's sleeping" Kim said.
"Still?" Ron muttered.
"She looks like she's fine."
"Let's wake her up and check for sure," Ron reached into the crib.
"No, Ron." Kim said softly as she stopped his arms. "She's supposed to be asleep."
Ron blinked at her a few times before backing away from the crib. "Yeah, she's supposed to be asleep. This, this is good."
"This is very good," Kim declared.
Ron let out a sigh of relief. "When she was waking up and crying, I didn't know what was wrong-"
"—I was starting to freak out."
"Yeah, I was freaking too" Kim admitted.
"And then the silence…" Ron cut himself off as he glanced back at the crib. "But she's fine… and she's beautiful."
"She really is."
Teary eyed, husband and wife exchanged smiles.
"Listen, KP, I'm sorry about the stuff I said earlier."
"I shouldn't have ever called you stupid."
"Nah, you didn't call me stupid. You suggested I not steer myself into a situation that might be considered stupid."
Smiling brightly Kim took Ron by the hand. "Let's go to bed."
She headed for the door, and Ron followed briefly losing his footing on misplaced baby blocks. Exhausted the rookie parents walked back to their bedroom and eased into bed. They returned to their previous positions, laying side by side eyes again on the ceiling.
"We're good parents," Ron blurted out.
"KP, I know in my heart we're going to be just fine."
Kim scooted herself closer and Ron instinctively took her in his arms. She cuddled against him, sleep starting to slowly creep over her. Ron kissed her on the forehead and ran his fingers along her back.
She sighed as she nuzzled against his chest.
"That's a heavy sigh," Ron said.
"It's the sigh of a very tired-but very happy woman."
Current time line: Six years after the Junior Prom; Current Status: Married; Current mood/feelings/state of mind: K&R Restful
A/N I'm not entirely sure I've totally got my KP legs. But I'll get there. Thanks for dropping by after all this time, read and review.