Connie was trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun in with the serious stuff of life. She has been married almost twenty years to a man who graciously encourages her writing obsession, and has two beautiful children who inspire her to become all she can be. Connie was a 2012 Genesis semi-finalist for Women’s Fiction and an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. Come visit her on one of her blogs: InfiniteCharacters.com or LivingtheBodyofChrist.Blogspot.com.
Daniel glared at Craig as the door to his brother’s ranch-style home opened. “Remind me why I’m doing this.”
Craig widened the door to let him in. “Because I have awesome taste in women, and I wouldn’t let you down.”
Daniel ran his hand through his shoulder-length brown hair. “Just ’cause Jenny had a bad moment when she married you doesn’t make you a babe magnet.” He shook his head. “Still can’t figure that one out.”
The sight of Craig’s ten-year-old daughter, Tanya, with a brush of hair growing back after chemo, warmed his heart. She’d endured worse things than many adults had to and she was still able to smile. He’d do just about anything for her.
A dark-skinned girl followed her from the bedroom.
“This is my best friend, Anisha.”
Daniel gave Anisha the “uncle” grin and mussed her hair. “Nice to meet ya, Anisha.”
Tanya bounced. “Can you stay?”
Daniel shot Craig a wary eye. “Wish I could, Tanya, but your dad’s sendin’ me to battle.”
“You’ll be lookin’ for battle when you meet this enemy.” Craig chuckled. He looked at his watch and frowned. “Jenny should be here by now. I’ve called her twice, but she’s not picking up. I’m gonna be late for the dinner meeting with my client.” He lifted his eyes to his brother. “Hey, Dan-boy.”
“What?” Daniel strung out the word.
“You got—what?—a half hour still, before you meet Kayla. Could you watch the girls ’til Jenny gets home? She should be here any minute.”
Daniel’s attention turned to the two girls on the couch, giggling at the teenage heartthrob lighting up the TV. “Okay.”
Craig’s keys scraped the counter as he grabbed them. “Good luck.” He winked as he exited.
Good luck? What’d that mean?
The front door closed with a thud and Tanya turned at the sound. “Where’d Dad go?”
Daniel stepped into the living room and sat on the edge of the Lay-Z-Boy. “He had to run to his meeting. He said your mom would be home soon.”
“Why isn’t she here now?”
Dan’s heart ached at the melancholy in her eyes. He’d never seen her like this before. She really depended on her parents for strength, and now neither was near.
“But Mom promised she’d be home by seven so we could do her hair and makeup.” She glanced at her friend.
Anisha giggled behind her hand.
“That’s the whole reason Anisha came over.”
Anisha’s nod swung her long, brown hair into her face.
“Your mom will be home soon.” He patted her shoulder as he stood.
Tanya peered up at him and her face brightened. She seemed to study the shape of his head. “Hey, ya know, you’ve got really great hair.”
He chuckled at the compliment, then suddenly felt uneasy.
“And it’s kinda long, too.”
He looked to the niece who ran her hand through the brush of hair again, then to her friend, with long, brown, wavy locks. “Why don’t you do Anisha’s hair?”
Tanya’s eyes glistened as her shoulders sagged. “We wanted to work together.” She glanced at her friend. “Besides, her mother won’t allow her to curl her hair. It’s against their religion.”
Daniel bunched his brows. “What religion is that?”
They both shrugged.
Tanya added, “She won’t let her wear makeup, either.”
His shoulders tensed. Makeup?
Daniel searched frantically through his pockets for his cell phone. “Let me call your mom and see where she is.” He patted the lining of his camel-colored blazer. Nothing. Where’d he put that phone? It had all his numbers in it. He was lost without it.
He tore out the door to his 4x4 parked at the curb and searched the glove compartment, the floors, the crevices of the seats. Not a single trace of his phone anywhere.
Tanya waited for him at the door, curling iron in one hand, a makeup bag in the other. “Please let us do your hair.”
“Honey, I can’t. I’ve got a big date with a friend of your mom’s. I can’t go to it with my hair curled and makeup on. I’d look silly.”
Tanya’s eyes lowered as; her shoulders slumped. “Okay.”
Daniel’s heart sank to his boots. If only he’d had more time tonight, he’d . . . what? Was he crazy? Those girls wanted to paint him like a princess.
They both flopped onto the leather sofa so hard, air rushed from the cushions. Just like the air supporting his resolve.
“He didn’t show.” Kayla adjusted the Bluetooth as she drove. “I waited for an hour and nothing.”
“You sure you didn’t miss each other?”
“Jenny, the restaurant has only five tables and three of them were empty. He wasn’t there.”
“Okay, I’ll ask Craig what he knows when I get home and see if he’s heard anything.”
“Where are you?”
“Got stuck behind an accident on the way home. Worst part is, my phone was in my briefcase in the backseat, so I couldn’t call Craig to let him know I’d be late. I finally got it when I stopped for gas after I cleared the accident. He must be ticked, because now he’s not answering.”
Kayla winced. “Oooo, I bet he is. This was the dinner with the big client, wasn’t it?”
“I’ll meet you at your house. Maybe my presence will soften the tension.”
“Hey, how’s Tanya doing?”
Jenny sighed. “I’m a little worried.”
Kayla tensed. “She’s not still sick is she?”
“No. Nothing like that. She just has this new habit of using her illness to manipulate people. And the worst part is it works.”
“I can’t imagine she’d do something like that. She’s always so caring with others.”
“Yeah,” Jenny breathed. “That’s what makes her appeal so powerful.”
Kayla parked in front of the house behind a 4x4. Jenny pulled into the driveway shortly after.
“Is that Craig’s new truck?” Kayla slammed the door to her Kia.
Jenny’s attention swung to the vehicle and her brow narrowed. “No. That’s Daniel’s. What’s he doing here?”
Kayla’s chest constricted. She didn’t know if she should flee the jerk who’d stood her up, or give him a piece of her mind. Jenny linked arms with her, giving her no choice.
She smiled. “I think I know what happened.”
Kayla’s ire released as it began to dawn on her, too. He’d stayed with Tanya so Craig could make his meeting. But why didn’t he call, or at least answer the phone when she called him?
They entered the side door. Selena Gomez’s voice belted a song from The Disney Channel. Tanya and another girl sang along from the couch.
“Where’s your dad?” Jenny called over the concert.
Tanya barely glanced back. “He went to his dinner meeting. Uncle Daniel stayed to watch us.”
Jenny dropped her keys on the counter. “Where’s your uncle?”
“Bathroom,” Tanya said between verses.
Kayla’s heart thudded in her chest. She was finally going to meet this guy. Jenny had told her so much about him. He’d sounded too good to be true. She’d pictured him as a man’s man, but one who was a good listener. Who had a sensitive side. That’s why she was so disappointed when he didn’t show. And didn’t call.
Down the hall, the bathroom door swung open, casting light into the darkened hall. A tall, masculine build filled the space with shadow. He was dressed just how she liked. Rugged, but kempt.
He stepped toward Jenny, not seeming to notice Kayla at all. “You’re here. Finally.” He breathed. “I lost my phone so I couldn’t—” His eyes met Kayla’s.
It was then she noticed why Jenny’s mouth had dropped open. His hair lay in perfect ringlets. Blue eye shadow adorned his lids, pink blush on his cheeks, and red gloss stained his lips. He grew pale beneath the paint.
“You must be Kayla.” He jutted his hand out as he managed a sheepish grin. “I’m . . . uh Daniel.”
Jenny burst into laughter, doubling over.
Kayla tentatively grasped his hand, then turned it to view his fingers. No, she hadn’t imagined it. Revlon. Pink Chiffon. “Nice nail polish.” Her eyes rose to meet his, brows twitching. “My favorite color.”