"I can do the twist!" shrieked Taylor as she twisted lower, holding on to Zippy's front paws.
"Now tell me, baby," I sang, "Do you like it like this?" I stirred the pot of spaghetti noodles, shaking it as best I could to the beat of the Contours' big sixties hit.
"Tell me, tell me..." the kids were singing and dancing their hearts out.
Then a voice from the kitchen door boomed, "We VanDeGelders don't dance. We're Presbyterian."
Smart ass. The dancers launched themselves at their father and I turned down the volume on the CD player on the kitchen counter. Jeff sat down at the kitchen island, holding a giggling child in each arm.
"What are Vandy Gelders, Daddy?" Jake asked.
I rolled my eyes. "Your father is poking fun at Broadway musicals," I answered.
"From Hello, Dolly," Taylor added. "Aunt Rob has the DVD - he'll let us watch it sometime, Jake."
"Is there dancing?" Jake asked. "I like dancing. I can do the twist!" He squirmed out of his father's grip and dashed off after the dogs, no doubt to convince one of them to dance with him.
"This is all your fault," Jeff said to Taylor. "Monkey see, monkey do."
Taylor gave Jeff a kiss on the cheek. "You love us, Daddy. Even if we do dance. I'll set the table, Mom."
Lord, every day I am thankful for that sweet and helpful child. "And how was your day, dear?" I asked my husband, taking a sip before setting a cold glass of sweet tea in front of him.
"Thoroughly exciting. Danny interviewed the whole list of suspects and other than sampling tea and cookies at practically every stop, he came up with absolutely nothing useful. I'm hoping we're a little more successful tonight at BJ's bar. Who's watching the kids?"
"Your dad. He got home a little while ago. I think he's out back resting up before dinner. You could go call him in - it's almost ready," I suggested.
"He's not missed dinner yet; he'll come in on his own," Jeff replied. "Oh, I brought you a present." He held up a shopping bag from Belk.
"You went shopping? In Mobile?" I flashed back on the morning's odd telephone conversation. "Ah, the shoe size inquiry." I picked up the pot of spaghetti and poured the contents into the colander in the island sink. "Show me - I have to finish fixing dinner."
He pulled a shoe box out of the bag and opened it. "Well?"
He was holding a pair of purple leather flats - with a gleaming, hard-to-miss Tory Burch logo on the toes. "Nice color, no heels, not crazy about the ostentatious logo, but I imagine that's the whole idea." I transferred the spaghetti to the large green pasta bowl and poured the sauce over it.
"The shoes are size eight and I hope this is the right size," Jeff said, now holding up an astonishingly small silver sweater with a v-neck cut down to the navel, or so it appeared.
I dropped a meatball right into the middle of the spaghetti, splashing sauce all over the front of my t-shirt. "I don't care what size it is, I'm not wearing that," I said, adding more meatballs to the evening meal. "Have you lost your mind?"
"I didn't pick it out. And besides, the whole point is to get noticed."
"Believe me, you aren't going to be happy with what gets noticed if I wear that thing."
I carried the spaghetti to the table and called the kids into the kitchen for dinner. "I smell something good for supper," said Grandpa Jack as he closed the kitchen door. "Garlic bread?"
"Yes," I answered. "Fresh from the grocer's freezer."
Jeff sat down at the head of the table. "Glad you could join us," he said to his father, as Jack took his seat.
I gave Jake a boost up to the kitchen sink so he could wash his hands and took the rare opportunity to give his face a quick swipe with a paper towel. Taylor picked up the basket of bread and delivered both it and Jake to the table. I followed them both with a pitcher of tea.
"I'll ask the blessing," Jack said and proceeded to give thanks for the food and our little family. I peeked at Jeff while his father was praying; his head was bowed and his eyes were closed. A good sign.
As soon as the amen sounded, Jack exclaimed, "I am so hungry I could eat a whole Italian!"
"A what?" his sister asked. "That doesn't make any sense. An Italian is a person from Italy."
I stopped to trying to make sense of the majority of Jake's bizarre statements a long time ago. But this time I was trying hard to imagine what sort of large animal my son could possibly mean.
"No, it's not," Jake said patiently. "It's a horse."
Jeff quickly set his glass of tea back on the table. "You mean, stallion," he said, trying not to laugh.
"That's what I said," replied Jake. He stabbed a meatball with his fork and began to eat it, as if it were some kind of meat popsicle.
I took the fork out of his hand and cut his meatball into manageable boy-size pieces. I handed his fork back to him and tucked his napkin into his shirt. "Mind your manners, please, " I said.
"So I understand you two are going for a night on the town," Pop said. "Such as the nightlife is, here in Piney Point."
I laughed. "It's a fact-finding mission, not a hot date."
"What is it you expect to find out?"
"Hopefully more solid information than interviewing Mr. Maguire's lady friends has gotten me so far," Jeff answered. "And if not, well, we'll at least know who the rest of the cheating husbands and wives in town are."
"What game do they cheat at, Mom?" Jake asked. "Daddy says it's not good to cheat when you're playing a game. Uncle Jimmy, too."
"Life," I said, hoping to change the subject.
"If I was going to cheat, I'd cheat at Monopoly," Jake said, chewing his meatball with his mouth half open. "Tay always beats me at that because she cheats."
"Please don't talk with your mouth full," I said. "And Tay beats you because you're six, not because she cheats."
"Life is too boring to cheat at," he said, always having to get the last word in. Infuriating - just like his father.
I looked at the clock - nearly seven. "Let's just finish eating so I can clean up from dinner. We don't want to miss the action at Me Oh My before they roll up the sidewalks in this one-stoplight town."
* * * * *
I was standing in the bedroom in my underwear, holding the tiny sweater in front of me. "And in just what universe did you think that this miniscule, yet outrageously expensive garment, would even begin to fit me?"
"It stretches," Jeff said, leaning back on his elbows as he lounged on the bed. "Just try it."
"Sure - if I ruin it, you can't return it. And it is just begging to be returned."
"Babe," he replied. "Humor me."
"It's not going to fit. And even if I do miraculously manage to get it on, I am going to look like a silver sausage." I held my breath as I pulled the sweater over my head and cautiously slipped my arms into the sleeves. I pulled it down carefully, amazed that there was that much give in the fragile fabric. It was stretched to the point of gaping holes, for all I knew. I was afraid to look at Jeff, much less in the mirror.
"Not bad. Not bad at all," he said, smiling that smile of his. Damn him.
I looked down. All I could see was cleavage. I slowly exhaled. No ripping sounds - that was a good sign. I turned to look in the mirror. It fit - barely. Pun intended. Was this some of new kind of space-age one-size-fits-all fabric? If it was, the fashion applications were endless.
"I am wearing this thing one time only, you understand." I looked at Jeff. "And only as a favor to you."
He laughed. "Oh, I'm sure I can get you to wear it again sometime. As a favor to me."
"That's what you think," I replied. I picked up the clean pair of jeans off the chair next to the bed and stepped into them. I glanced in the mirror as I zipped them up.
"Not tight enough," Jeff said. "Don't you have some tighter jeans?"
"Then you need to wear the tighter ones."
"Like this tight sweater isn't going to draw enough attention? I don't need people starting at the rest of me, too."
"Honey, just wear those tight faded jeans with the hole in the knee. Those are perfect," Jeff suggested.
"No. The ones I have on are fine." I sat down to put on the purple shoes. I held out my foot to admire them. "I have to admit, these flats are just lovely."
Jeff was standing next to me, holding out my faded jeans. "These jeans look great on you."
"You only think that because you are my husband and you are blind to my flaws."
"Yes," Jeff answered. "I am blind to your flaws, but your ass is definitely not one of them. Now put on the jeans and let's go. We have undercover detective work to do."
I love that man.