Twice The Charm Ch. 05bycassandraharper©
It was strange sleeping without her little girl, even though this was well past the hundreth time that Star had stayed over with Scott. Perhaps it was because she had the weekend off for once why the notion was suddenly hitting her, but Manni knew that this "sharing is caring" project she had going on with her "baby daddy," so to to speak, was really starting to get to her. She rushed to answer the doorbell, not hiding the huge smile riding her lips now that Star was home. "Hi," she squealed, throwing the door open wide in her excitement.
"Mommy!!!!!" Star squealed likewise as she bounced in Scott's arms.
"If I didn't know any better, I would think that its been thousands of years since you two have seen each other."
"Hi Scott," Manni finally greeted after kissing her daughter to death.
"May I come in or is this a 'drop off the baby and the bag then leave' situation?"
Manni gave him a cynical smile, nevertheless, allowing him entrance into her home. "I'm not going to lie and pretend that your statement didn't pique my interests."
"What do you want?" she asked, putting Star down to the ground to check on the supper she was preparing.
"Wow, the thing is I can't even be offended by that because its so you." He followed her into the kitchen, making an effort to keep his eyes off of her derriere. He wasn't like the typical white guy who loved pancake butts, so to speak. He loved a woman who had a lot that he could grab onto and Manni was not deficient in that department. And that 'hug my body,' pale pink summer dress she wore was making it even harder for him to focus on his task of sneaking food out the pot.
"You know what I mean," she told him, pulling him out of his thoughts. "You've always dropped her off then rushed back home to be with your mother. Why the sudden change?" She lifted the lid off the pot almost needing to wipe her mouth from the appealing scent of her swedish meatballs.
"Two reasons or maybe even three," Scott replied, finding his eyes back on her backside as she bent over to check on her baking macaroni and cheese. "Yeah, there's definitely three reasons."
"And?" she pulled the glass baking dish from the oven, resting it on a wooden cutting board to cool before turning off the oven itself.
"One, I, ah, went ahead and hired the stay at home nurse. My mom's doctor has been hounding me to do it for months now and I finally took his advise after the old lady went upside my back with my own baseball bat. I haven't even seen that thing since high school!"
"What?" Manni asked in disbelief. "How was she able to remember where that thing was hidden when she can't even remember your own name?" she teased, wanting to lighten his mood. Her efforts were apparently well appreciated since he was now smiling like a hyena.
"Funny" he sarcastically replied, turning off the stove under the meatballs while she whipped up a small vegetable salad.
"Your other two reasons?" Manni asked not taking her eyes off of the knife as she cut the cucumbers like an expert chef.
"Two, because I missed you and three, because I could never say no to your cooking."
Manni chuckled, shaking her head, "I don't remember ever asking you to stay for dinner."
"That's because I have invited myself. I just said that I missed you. Do you have selective hearing or something?"
She cleared her throat though she didn't speak as she added the cucumbers to the rest of the already chopped vegetables then poured in Italian dressing and stirred. "Aside from the occasional baseball bat to the back, what was your other reason for hiring the nurse?" Manni asked instead, giving Scott's turned profile a side glance. There was no doubt that he was stealing a meatball from the pot.
"Delicious as always," he told her, confirming her previous thought. He rubbed his prickly chin, as he finished off the meatball, in deep thought.
He grabbed a knife slicing the nearly cooled baked macaroni and cheese into squares. "The thing is, the nurse was a great idea because she has years of experience dealing with alzheimer and dementia patients so I feel guilty for not listening all along..."
"But?" Manni asked when he stopped speaking.
"But the main issue is that my mother hasn't been eating well and she has completely stopped taking her medication. I can't make her do it no matter how much I try to coax her to. Thus, the nurse is here to save the day, however, if things continue this way, I'll have to check her into the hospital." He put the knife down staring at the marble counter in front of him.
"Stark, I'm so sorry," Manni softly replied, wanting to console him, but his warning, from the other day, was ringing loudly in her ears.
"What's there to be sorry about?" he asked, feigning a smile. "My mother has lived a full life. I guess what is really getting to me in this entire ordeal is that when we found out about her condition, she made me promise that if things got this bad, I should just...just let her go. No hospitals, no doctors, no homes. Just let her die. How can I do that to my own mother?" He felt her soft hand on his back. The tension drained from his body leaving him weak.
"I can't say that I understand how you feel, but I know that what you're going through is difficult."
"Am I being selfish for trying to keep her with me even though she's ready to leave?" he asked, hanging his head and becoming enshrouded by his red hair.
"Hey...hey," Manni called, turning him to face her as she looked up into his sad, green eyes. "Human beings are selfish by nature," she told him, wiping at his tears. "You're only doing what any child would do. If I were in your shoes, I would fight until the very end as well. Don't give up."
"It hurts seeing her hooked up to all of those machines in our home. I can't sleep at night from constantly thinking about it."
"I didn't want to say this, but you were starting to look like crap," she agreed, nodding her head.
Scott smiled, showing her his pearly white teeth in the process. "I'm sorry, I didn't come over to cry like a maiden in distress. I came to eat you out of house and home."
"Give me a hug."
"I can't, not right now when..." he cleared his throat, looking at her bashfully. "Not when I'm feeling so...vul... open."
"I'm hungry," Star interrupted with a frown as she stared up at them.
"We're going to eat right now. Go and wash your hands then come back," Manni told her, kissing her on the forehead before she ran off. "You too," she said to Scott who pushed his hair back then leaned forward with his forehead exposed. "What?"
"Where's my kiss?" He gave her an innocent look that almost made her give him one.
She scuffed instead, turning away to set the table. "Over my dead body," she muttered, putting down the plates and utensils.
Scott washed his hands in the kitchen sink not wanting to leave Manni's side. With all that was going on concerning his mother, he knew that he needed to keep things in perspective, which included not losing sight of the fact that Manni was not interested in starting over with him in spite of his lingering feelings for her. But with his life becoming unstable with the possible demise of his mother, he found himself unable to control his reasoning to not depend so heavily upon her for emotional consolation. He needed to give her more space and give himself some time to get his fantasies of them reuniting out of his daydreams.
"What? Why are you yelling?" he asked a bit startled.
"I've been speaking to you for the past five minutes while you were dazed off in lala-land. You're not even touching your plate anymore. What's wrong?"
"Nothing, I'm sorry. What were you saying?"
Manni wiped Stars mouth. Her daughter had insisted upon feeding herself entirely without the guidance of her mother. Even with a gigantic napkin covering her clothing, she had still managed to rain more macaroni and sauce on the table and the floor around her instead of getting it into her mouth. "I was telling you that my parents would like to see you next weekend if you weren't busy. They figured they'd kill two birds with one stone being that it's also Star's birthday weekend (remember, her birthday's on Tuesday)."
Scott nearly choked on a meatball from Manni's news of her father wanting to see him. "What?"
"Don't give me that wide-eyed look. I told you my dad wanted to talk to you a long time ago. He has grown impatient. What should I tell him?"
"That I would like to be cremated," Scott replied still pounding on his chest in an effort to stop coughing.
"I'm ok, baby," he assured Star, gently caressing her soft cheek.
"Does that mean I should tell him that we'll be seeing them next weekend?"
Manni looked at him incredulously, "did you think I was just going to feed you to the wolves? Of course, I'll be there to help you, in a sorts, and to eat the cake Mom will make for Star. You have to remember that my parents were in love with you. I at least have to...I don't know...make them see you in a good light for Star's sake."
"I don't want you making up excuses for me," Scott told her, shaking his head.
"Who said that it would be excuses? I only want them to realize that to err is human. We all make mistakes, but eventually we have to learn to forgive and let go, even if we haven't forgotten."
Scott slowly set his utensils down on his plate, giving her a fixed regard before speaking. "Have you learned to forgive and let go of what I have done?"
Manni shifted uncomfortably in her seat as she searched for a response. "I'm still learning. It's about time to let go, don't you think? It's almost four years since everything has transpired. I mean, it is four years since Star is turning four. I need to move on with my life. I realized that hate, anger, and unforgiveness can leave you frozen in time while the world continues to turn about you. I don't want to be stuck in the same place for another four years."
"Should I bring a gift for them?" Scott asked, unsure of what to say after her answer to his question.
"That would be a great idea."
He nodded his head, finishing his salad and macaroni. "And when you say next weekend, do you mean this weekend coming up or the next one because it's Sunday which means it's a new week."
"This weekend since today is Sunday which marks the commencement of a new week," Manni told him with a smirk. She was enjoying his discomfort. "Where are you going? You haven't finished your meatballs. You love Swedish meatballs," she said genuinely worried.
"To write out my will. I'll see you next weekend."