Cal pushed the end of his blood red tie through the knot, straightened it out, tugged on it and tightened it up, so it was snug against his throat. He adjusted the binding to make sure it was tidy and even. Then he folded down the collar of his shirt, running his fingers around the back of his neck to make sure he had got all of it. "Done!" He turned to his nearly three-year-old son who was sitting on top of his dresser drawers, inspecting his father's deodorant bottle, trying to figure out how to get the top off it again. Cal reached in to confiscate the item and put it back out of reach.
"Yay!" Owen clapped his hands excitedly, mouth wide open, showing off his tiny white teeth. His blue eyes flashed. His hair was just about bleach blonde like his big brother's had been at the same age, but minus the curls. His locks weren't exactly straight, but he had never managed the feat of ringlets like son number one. Owen kicked his heels against the wood he was sitting on and gave a delighted squeal.
"I want to see, I want to see!" Lewis jumped up and down at his father's side, reaching up with his arms as if he wanted to be picked up. Instead, he hooked his fingers over his father's arm and tugged downward.
Cal turned to show him, smoothing the front of his black shirt which was tucked into his black trousers. Shiny black belt, shiny black shoes. "What do you think?"
"Very nice Dad," Lewis told him. He signed a bigger 'beautiful' gesture to indicate he meant Cal was extra beautiful.
"Thanks," Cal gave him a grin.
"Yay!" Owen repeated from his perch, throwing up his arms up above his head like his brother had a moment ago.
"Gill?" Cal called out.
"Just a minute!" She yelled back through the closed bathroom door.
"All right," Cal turned to his seven year old. "Jacket?"
Lewis spun to get it from the end of the bed. He carried it over carefully by the collar. Cal reached for Owen on his dresser and lifted the wriggly toddler down to the ground. Cal took his suit jacket from his elder son and slipped it on. He checked his hair in the mirror. He looked all right, he thought anyway. Older of course, but not too bad considering. He smoothed down a section of his hair that grew a little funny around the scar on his head; it was always worse just after he'd had a haircut.
He turned back to his boys. "Now we have to wait for Mum." He brought his hands up, fingers up towards the ceiling and to the side of his body. He gave them a slight wiggle.
Lewis perched on the edge of the bed. Cal leaned down and picked Owen up under the arms, plopping him onto the mattress next to his brother. Then he took a seat at the end of the row.
"How long is Mum going to be?" Lewis asked innocently. He signed 'long' and 'how' as well as 'Mum'.
"You know, Lewis, that's a fantastic question." Cal made a question mark in the air. "Because what you should learn about women, now, while you're still young." He signed 'learn' and 'little' and 'female' by making a fist to the side of his chin with the thumb extended and moving it in a slight circle. "Is that they take foreva to get ready to go out. They say half an hour tops, but what they mean is at least an hour and a half." He twirled a finger in the air, pointing at the ceiling, and then changed it to a 'Y' hand shape as it moved away from his body. That meant 'eternity' and it was close enough to forever for Lewis to get the point he was trying to make.
"I can hear you," Gillian announced as she pulled open the bathroom door with a flourish. She stepped out in black strappy heels, a black dress that curved in and spread from her hips downward loosely. At her waist was a sash of colour the same as Cal's tie. That was Gillian's doing. So was the fact that they were going out this evening.
"Yay!" Cal burst into applause, Lewis and Owen following closely behind him.
"Yay!" Owen echoed loudly. He added an excited squeal.
"Mum looks pretty!" Lewis called out, signing beautiful again, but exaggerating it so much he just about took Owen out with a hand to the face.
Gillian laughed. "Such a reception!" Cal got to his feet clapping louder. He let rip an appreciative whistle. "Stop it!" She laughed again. Cal moved fast to cut her off from walking around the bed. He put his arms around her waist quickly, moving closer to her to press his nose in against her neck, breathing in the sweet scent of her perfume and the slightly waxy smell of make-up. She was warm. She was always warm. He murmured against her skin; nothing in particular. Behind him their boys cried out for him to leave Mum otherwise he would make her look unpretty. Again.
Gillian looked him in the eye. "Should I be offended they said 'again'?"
Cal chuckled. "You look amazin'. So beautiful," he whispered beneath her ear.
She pushed against him slightly, shooting him a smile as she stepped away. Save it, she seemed to say and he gave a grin. The best bit about going out? Was coming home.
Lewis bounded over to his mother to give her a hug and Owen slid down the mattress to also waddled over as the door bell rang. "Your turn," Cal told his wife and headed for the door. While he left he could hear Gillian reprimanding Owen lightly for wrinkling her dress.
Cal headed for the front door and pulled it open. "Ms Gale," Cal greeted her.
The younger woman looked up at him with a smile. "Hi Mr Lightman."
"You can call me Cal you know," he told her again stepping aside to let her in.
"And you can call me Cathy," she smiled shyly as she came in off the stoop.
Cal closed the door behind her. Routines and lines; they all played their roles. That's what his life was now. Routines and lines and playing a role. He had been at it for too long to even think about change. But then, why would he? They went to the neighbours for barbecue's and the teenager down the road sat for their kids while his wife dragged him out to charity events because even after all these years she still wanted the Lightman Group to have a good reputation in the city. Who was he to deny her that?
Cal followed Cathy down the hallway. Lewis came bounding down the stairs. "Hi!" He called out to her.
"Hi Lewis," she stooped to greet him. "What do you want to do tonight?"
"Movie!" Lewis jumped from the last step. "I already picked one out." He took Cathy by the hand and turned her towards the kitchen doors.
"And then bed straight afta!" Cal called after him, mostly for the babysitter's benefit. He looked up to see Gillian coming down the stairs, holding on to Owen's hand, sexy shoes coming first. Owen was in his pyjamas, all ready for bed. He would more than likely fall asleep on the couch when he came up against the point where he was unable to keep his eyes open any longer.
Cal reached out his arms and Owen leapt from the second to last stair. Cal caught him easily, pressing kisses against his cheek and ear and the side of his head. Owen let out a giggle. He was three, technically, barely, but was still missing those two months, so he was just a little wee man. Cal carried him into the living room. "Dad I watch TV?"
"Yeah buddy, you can watch the movie with Lewis and Cathy," Cal headed across the living room and dropped Owen on to the couch next to his brother. "Give Dad a kiss," he brought his hand up to his forehead with open 'five' fingers and then down to his mouth, the fingers closed and across to his cheek.
Owen reached up on his tiptoes, leaning against the back of the couch to wrap his arms around his father's neck. He smacked a wet kiss against Cal's cheek. On the seat next to him Lewis turned over and knelt next to his brother. Cal pried Owen loose and turned to his other son. The TV was already showing the movie Lewis had picked out; something from their library, something he had seen a million times before. Cathy was sitting on the very end of the couch, getting last minute instructions from Gillian, nodding along politely. And then Gillian gave Owen and Lewis hugs and kisses and encouraged Owen to turn and start watching the movie. He kept one eye on them for a few minutes, making sure they weren't about to leave, even though he knew that they were all dressed up and there was Cathy there to babysit and that more than likely meant his parents were going to go at some point and he would go to sleep without them there. But after a while he was more absorbed in the million and first viewing of the movie and Gillian and Cal snuck out.