It was a usual afternoon for her: Bill and Barb were at work and Nicki, well, God only knew were Nicki had run off to. Margene, who often felt as though she'd never truly left the role of "babysitter", was once again watching the kids. Still, she didn't complain. Part of what had endeared her to this family was the children. And she was well aware that the person who spent the most amount of time with them was often the person they drew the most comfort from. She knew that person would be her. And it was enough for her.
What she was getting frustrated about was the fact that her garbage disposal refused to cooperate with her. She was beginning to loathe the contraption: for breaking down so often and for making her look incompetent every time she went running to Nikki to fix it. This time she couldn't run to Nicki, seeing as Nicki was "out" and Margene had no idea when her sister-wife would be back. Instead of wasting hours fretting about it, she hitched Lester higher on her hip and slid open the sliding glass door that led to the shared backyard.
She left the door open behind her, so she could hear the other three children should anything go amiss, as she covered the distance between her house and Barb's. Her strides were long and purposeful and it took next to no time to reach the sliding glass door that was identical to her own. It opened easily (as it always did) and as she stepped over the threshold she glanced around and looked for the next handy person, well, at hand.
"Ben?" Margene called, "Benny?"
Ben thundered down the stairs and made his way into the kitchen. He'd heard his name being called and he'd thought, no, hoped, it had been Margene calling. He hadn't been sure, though. Lately, when a female called him, he heard Margene's voice and then was often disappointed to find it wasn't her. Upon finding her now, he let his face break into a smile and held out his arms to take Lester from her.
She handed the child over almost instantly, and nearly a little too gratefully. She'd been surrounded by children all day, and while that thrilled her to no end, she was in dire need of some adult company. Margene was well aware of the age difference between herself and Ben. It was close to nonexistent. So, for her, "adult company" did include Ben. Really, it would have included anyone she could have a normal conversation that included normal words with.
After explaining her problem, Ben escorted her back to her house, carrying Lester all the while. If he was truthful with himself, he would have admitted that he felt more than just friendship for Margene. He often dreamed that she was his wife and Aaron and Lester were his kids. He'd never felt that way before √ and it was a strange sensation. It was a strange situation, really. And Ben couldn't really figure out what Margene saw in his father. It wasn't that he didn't think his father was a great man with a good heart; he did. But Margene was so young and his father was so much older than her. What did they have in common?
The garbage disposal proved to be no trouble at all. Sometimes it had to be replaced and sometimes he and Nicki could fix it without much fuss. Margene had joined the children in the living room during the time Ben spent fixing her problem. Now that he was done, he entered the room and offered her a big smile.
The smile was definitely the first thing Margene noticed. On its heels was the fact that Ben had removed his shirt to do the work he needed to do. Not only was his chest on full display, but it was highlighted with beads of sweat that were sparkling in the sunlight that had filtered through her window. Her breath almost caught in her throat, but instead of letting herself appreciate him on a personal level, she simply wondered why it was that a boy as handsome as Ben didn't have girls crawling all over him. Then again, perhaps he did and he was just such a gentleman that he didn't allow it.
The thought brought a smile to Margene's face and she flashed it at Ben as she pat the spot on the couch next to her, "Join me?"
Ben didn't hesitate. Instead, he crossed the floor, stepping over Wayne and Aaron who were busy playing with matchbox cars, to plop himself down next to her. Her arm fell down over his shoulders and he leaned in, letting his head rest on her shoulder. His eyes closed and he wished that they could stay like this forever. Margene's voice didn't interrupt his thoughts, except to tell Raymond once to stop hitting, until it was dinner time. Without opening his eyes, he knew that his mother's car would be back and possibly Nicki's, too. He knew his sisters would be home. He knew that their time was over and done with today and they'd have to wait for another unspoiled afternoon. Yet, even as he thought it, that voice he'd been hearing started up in his head again. It was the voice that told him this was unhealthy and he needed to distance himself from Margene's eyes and smile and voice and laugh. And despite how much he hated it, he knew he had to. The voice was right. So that was what he was going to.
Maybe he'd start tomorrow. Or next week.