Amanda made her way into the kitchen, listening in awe to the sounds of laughter and the occasional squeal or scream that was currently floating to her ears from her daughter's bedroom. So far, so good. This was going better than she had dared to hope it would.
"Thank you, Father!" she prayed aloud, turning on the faucet over the sink.
She had just buried her arms up to her elbows in sudsy dishwater when Olivia called from the kitchen doorway, "Mommy, look."
Amanda turned to look at her daughter, but what caught her eye was something that had to be a flashback, not that she'd ever had one, but this had to be what it was. David was standing at Olivia's side wearing a familiar red Valdosta state jacket that Amanda wasn't supposed to know that Olivia had. And for a split second, Amanda could have sworn that she was back on that college campus, admiring the fine physic of her then fellow student, dreaming about the day that he would… She squashed the thought right there. Those were thoughts that she had sworn to never ever revisit. They were way more trouble than they would ever be worth.
She cleared her throat. "What, Liv?"
"Do you like his jacket?" Olivia asked innocently.
Amanda's gaze skittered up to David before she forced it back down to their child. Their child. Her insides started clenching, and twisting, and turning to mush all at once. Oh, no, don't you dare think like that! That's an order. Olivia is yours. Are we clear? Good.
Amanda cleared her throat for a second time. "Yes, he looks very nice. I guess. If you like that sort of a thing."
And now she was rambling. Not good. Get a hold of yourself, Williams! For the love of sanity, this is David we are talking about here! You know how much good comes out of going down that road with him! Get a grip.
David smiled at her - Olivia did too, although Amanda didn't notice - and she could have sworn that he could read her thoughts. Of course not; that was scientifically impossible. No, nu-uh, nope.
Amanda swallowed and turned back to the few breakfast dishes that she had to deal with.
From behind her, David asked, "Do you want some help with those?"
She almost laughed with shock and turned her head to look at him. "What?"
He smiled and gestured towards the sink. "Do you want some help? Since Saturday is your only day off besides Sunday - which is when you're at church - I assume that Saturday is your day for cleaning." He shrugged. "At least that's what I know that I do."
Amanda just stared at him. The David Thomson that she had thought she knew – at least before this past week – would have never have offered to do the dishes, no matter how few there were. And a designated day for cleaning? Not a chance. But, hey, this new - and much improved - David Thomson was turning out to be a pretty nice fella.
"Um, no. You - you go on and play with Olivia. There's not that many to do."
David rolled up the sleeves of his jacket, looking down at Olivia. "Then it won't take us long at all, will it, Princess?"
"Princess?" Olivia whispered in hopeful surprise.
"Sure. You don't mind if I make you my little princess, do you?"
Amanda practically melted when Olivia shook her head, looking at David as if he'd just given her the best present in the world. She had never seen her daughter take to someone so quickly, and certainly not so thoroughly. It would appear that against the better judgment of both mother and daughter, they were both thoroughly enamored with David Thomson.
"Okay, fine," Amanda grabbed a hand towel and dried off her hands. "You two can take care of the last of these dishes and I will start in with the vacuum cleaner, how about that?"
"That's fine by me." David replied.
"I know how to dry dishes." Olivia informed her father, tugging a chair from the table towards the sink.
"I'm sure you can. Now we can get the job done in record time."
Amanda didn't have the heart to tell him that it would take at least twice as long. And she didn't figure it would really make a difference to him anyway. She smiled to herself, shaking her head as she retrieved the vacuum.
Fifteen minutes later, Amanda paused by the doorway to the kitchen, watching as she came by with the vacuum. She turned off the vacuum and stood in the doorway, just watching. Olivia's front was thoroughly drenched and David's jacket – something that he had at one time prized – had fared no better, if not worse. The icing on the cake was the bubbles that were piled on top of Olivia's pert little nose.
The dishes were done though.
"What is going on in here?" Amanda asked.
Both father and daughter turned guiltily towards her. David glanced towards the floor, but his gaze flew back up to hers when he noted the water that was in puddles near the sink.
Amanda sighed, smirking at the duo.
"The dishes are all done." Olivia volunteered.
Amanda nodded. "I noticed. Thank you."
"We were playing." Olivia added.
"Oh, I noticed that too. Why don't you go put on some dry clothes, okay?"
Olivia nodded and scrambled down off of her chair, heading down the hallway.
"I'm guessing that mopping up is next on my to-do list?" David asked, grinning sheepishly.
Amanda shook her head and grabbed the towel that Olivia had been using. She put it right back down when she noticed that it, too, was soaked through. "It's fine."
"I'm trained in search and rescue, so either you get me the mop or I'll turn your kitchen upside down looking for it."
Amanda arched her eyebrows at him, but, realizing that he was serious, she got the mop from the closet and handed it to him. "Have fun."
"I have been." David shot back. "She's an amazing kid."
What Amanda thought was, She has an amazing father. What she said was, "Thanks."
"You're welcome. Hey," David switched gears as he began to mop. "Do you have a job once school lets out for the year?"
"School was over Friday. I have another few day's work in the library, but I start another job for the summer on next Friday."
Amanda smiled. "It's a surprise."
"Well, how am I supposed to know what it is?" David objected.
"Oh, you'll figure it out. I have no doubt about that."
"I could always just ask Olivia."
Amanda wrung the hand towel out over the sink. "So you would use your child and ruin my surprise? That's low, Thomson."
David shook his head, his thoughts all his own.
"What has she been calling you?" Amanda asked, leaning against the counter.
David stopped mopping and leaned against the handle, giving the question his full attention. "Well, so far I've only gotten 'mister'. I don't think that she knows what to call me, really."
"What do you want her to call you?" Amanda asked, although she already knew the answer.
David got a pained look in his eyes and he looked off to the side. "I would love for her to call me 'Dad' or something, but if she won't, I get that. I don't deserve that."
Amanda bit the inside of her lip, but her eyes widened when she noticed Olivia standing uncertainly in the kitchen doorway.
David caught the direction of Amanda's gaze and followed it. Olivia was studying him with a thoughtful look on her face.
"Your hair is like mine." She pointed out.
"You think so, do you?" David asked.
Olivia nodded, pulling a lock of her hair into her line of sight to double check. "Uh-huh."
"I guess you're right about that."
Olivia blinked before revealing carefully, "I'd like to call you 'Daddy', if you'd like it."
"I would like it very much." David choked out.
Olivia smiled and ran across the kitchen towards him. She slipped on a puddle, but David caught her before she could go down.
"I've gotcha." He whispered.
"I know." Olivia answered, wrapping her arms around his neck. David carefully wrapped his arms around his precious little girl, closing his eyes and just taking in the moment as she murmured, "I love you, Daddy."
"I love you too, Princess."
This is the second installment of my "Star" series, and said installment is now complete. Keep a look out for the third in the series, "Have the Wish." Please R&R! Thanks so much!:)