Lucy aimed her phone at Deon’s Patrick Dempsey hair. The young Patrick. 

“Throw your head back. Run your hand through your––”

“No way.” 

“Come on. Unbutton a few buttons.” He’d been working out more, she could tell by the swell in his arms and chest. The nerd was looking good. 

“Stop it.” He held his hand up blocking her view.

“You’re all gussied up for this eight-minute dating thing. I just wanted to mark the occasion.” She climbed up the ladder. No fun teasing Deon if he wouldn’t play. 

“You tried on this crap already?” He gestured to the bed where her dress, jeans, and tops lay splayed like scarecrows minus the stuffing.  

“Pardon?” She shot him her most stern teacher look. “Deon Goldbloom, it isn’t crap. You’re supposed to be my calming influence.”

“Relax, Ms. Bernard. I’m here, aren’t I?”

True. Irritatingly present, like a fungus. 

“What happened? Did Noelle cancel?” Noelle was their friend who taught at the high school. 

 Lucy took a few shots and climbed down to reposition the ladder. “Yeah. Phoebe needed help.” 

“You’re saying I’m your last resort?” He looked genuinely hurt. 

“Of course. You’re a guy.” Lucy smirked. “I didn’t even know you were coming.” 

“Not just any guy. A guy with sensitivity and extraordinary taste.”

 “Sensitivity, my ass.” 

“Are you bickering?” called a voice from the hall, and Lucy’s daughter, Lily, flew into the room to say goodbye. Lucy wobbled on the ladder, almost dropping her phone. Lily was on her way out for dinner with her grandparents, who lived one town over, in Hamden. “Play nice, you two.” She shot them an amused glare. 

“Hey, Lily, nice to see you.” Deon and Lily hugged. “When do you start the internship?” Lily, visiting for the weekend from grad school, had snagged a much-coveted internship at the NPR Boston station.

“I’m so excited I can’t stand myself,” she snorted and ran a hand through her wild mane. “Staying with my besties. It’ll be a blast.”

 Lily and Deon caught up for a few minutes while Lucy took more photos and rearranged the flat lay.

“So,” Lily said, eyeing her mother on the ladder, “ice cream dating is a thing now?”

“Crap, I hope not,” Deon laughed. 

Lucy was glad Lily barged in with her freshness and humor, and her white jeans shorts and tiny, blue, raggedy-cool top. Her daughter disappeared a moment later, and Lucy got off the ladder.

She should stop picking on Deon. A tad sick that getting under his skin had become a game. Forty-seven years old, and she’s playing games. Pitiful. 

What she’d like to do is punch him in the mouth. Since she kick-boxed Mondays and Wednesdays, this wasn’t an idle threat, even way inside her head.

Only a month ago, her legs had turned to marshmallows when he touched her. Now she’d happily crush his thumb in a vise. Or stomp on his big toe with her hiking boots and ask him, “How does that feel, dear?”

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