28 Days Earlier
Those little green numbers taunt me. For the last hour, my alarm clock has been gradually creeping slowly towards five-thirty. I woke early, dry and thirsty, poured a glass of water from the pitcher on my nightstand, and have been unable to fall back to sleep since. Now, it is too late to consider going back to sleep, and my alarm clock refuses to move faster.
Of course, I could just get out of bed early, but my body is angered by the suggestion.
I wonder if this has ever been used as a form of torture in the past; just a person locked in a room with a clock and nothing else. Tiny red sparkles dance on the back of my eyelids as I close my eyes and try to get comfy. I try to relax, try to make time move faster by allowing my mind to wander.
Birthdays are coming up and plans need to be made. Both of the kids have their birthdays in April, just 2 days apart. Marcy has already done all of her shopping, having braved a March Madness sale to find some unbelievable deals. She bought Junior his game system and a bicycle for Mandy. The joy on their faces as I imagine them opening their gifts brings a smile to my face.
My shopping list is in my phone. I texted it to myself a few days ago. I plan on getting Junior a few games for his new system: I think he wants the Great Auto Theft thing? Marcy is going to get a whole new ecosystem for her beloved fish. I promised her if she kept them alive for 6 months I would buy her something more extravagant than what she has.
I pop open an eye and glance sideways at the clock.
Eh – fine.
Begrudgingly, I reach over and switch the alarm clock off and swing my feet off the side of the bed. My slippers are exactly where I left them, and my feet find them effortlessly and slip into their comforting warmth. I take the water from my nightstand and sip it as I stand and head for the bathroom. The shower takes a few minutes to warm but it’s well worth the wait. The first few minutes are spent waking up and enjoying the warmth washing over me before I go about scrubbing and cleaning, and I’m back out in under 10 minutes. I take my time shaving and grooming to ensure everything about me is as perfect as can be.
I dress in my black slacks and a light gray dress shirt. Today’s tie is a seasonal black featuring an array of colorful Easter eggs. The kids bought this for me three years ago and I’ve made an effort to ensure I wear it every April around the holiday. I peek at the clock as I head for the bedroom door.
6:00 AM, on the dot. I’m good.
The first door to the left is Mandy’s room, the youngest. At seven and eleven-twelfths, as she regularly reminds us, she is already expressing an impressive defiance of the stereotypes she has been forced into by being born a girl. She regularly pleads with her brother to use his skateboard r be allowed to play basketball with him and his friends. He rarely allows it; It’s not cool to hang out with your sister, he says. She wants to grow up and be the first female player in the NFL. I won’t allow either of my kids to play such a dangerous sport, but we bought her a skateboard and her own basketball and signed her up for the local youth basketball.
I check that her alarm clock is on, lean over and kiss her forehead. My little angel. There is no better way to start a day.
The next stop is James Junior’s room. At almost 13, Junior believes he knows everything, like what music is supposed to sound like. If Mandy is my Angel, then he would be my little Demon. He moved into a phase of black; even dyed his hair. His older friends did the same and I figure he’s just following suit. I can’t complain, though; at least his clothes match now. It’s a step up from the brown sweater/neon green pant combo he wore last year.
No matter his behavior, though, he still understands the importance of preparation for the future and is maintaining straight A’s. So long as he stays out of trouble with the law and keeps his room clean, I can let the rest slide.
Junior has asked me to stop sneaking into his room and giving him good-bye kisses. So, I give him a hello kiss on the forehead. I always sigh when I brush his hair aside; it hasn’t been as soft since he started dying it and straightening it. He used to have golden curls that bounced when he ran around, like a little Greek prince. It’s a sad change, but it seems to make him happy – I think.
The door closes silently as I exit, slipping out backward to prolong my exposure to my son. As I turn around to head back into my own room, I find Marcy, her arms outstretched and ready to pounce. She wraps herself around me, pressing her head into my chest.
“Good morning, my husband.” Twelve years of marriage and she has greeted me this way every single morning. If I was out of town, she would call me at exactly six twenty and her first words were always “good morning, my husband.”
I love it.
“Good mrrmrr, mff” I respond between our lips. It is still the cutest thing to see her pull herself onto her tiptoes and stretch up to kiss me. I’m almost a full foot taller than her.
“Good morning, my wife,” I repeat as she lowers herself back onto her heels. She smiles sweetly and turns, moving back into our bedroom. “I should be home no later than six today,” I inform her. “If traffic permits.”
“Dinner will be ready,” the sheets ruffle as she tucks herself back into bed. “I need to order out, I have an appointment at three for the Wellington place. Someone is actually interested.” She groans, a long, drawn out, satisfied groan as she settles comfortably back under the sheets.
“You’re the best, that’s why they gave it to you.” I blow her a kiss and tell her I love her. She returns the sentiment and I head back downstairs, through the kitchen, and into the garage, only stopping to grab my jacket from the coat closet.
Avoiding boxes and toys, I round the mini-van and climb into my SUV. Next to it is my ruby red Ferarri, a gift for myself the other year. I stare longingly.
This weekend – you and me. We’ll take Marcy someplace nice.
I start the engine, revving it up as the garage door opens. By six-thirty I am on the freeway, Northbound for the city; and by six-fifty, I am slowing to a stop behind a line of cars.