We arrived at Patrick's place after I dropped my sister off and gathered the proper swimming attire. It was just past one o'clock when I pulled the car into the driveway, as I had promised. Jeremy wore his consistently present frown as he climbed out from the passenger's seat.
"Buck up, little camper. You'll give yourself wrinkles." I pinched at his face before leaning in to the car to unfasten my daughter from her car seat. I placed her on the ground and grabbed our beach bag full of towels and sun block. She seemed positively delighted as she toddled around in her oversized flip-flops. She absolutely had to have them due to the large daisy that accented the thong of each sandal.
We headed up the driveway to the front door. I reached to press my finger to the doorbell, but was interrupted.
"I wanna ring it!" Jocelyn demanded, pushing her chubby little digit into the button. The entrance swung open to reveal a tall man with a slight beer belly hanging over the waist of his bathing suit. His dark, unruly hair was damp and hung over his unshaven face.
"You must be Charlie." He greeted me with a huge bear hug, leaving some moisture behind on my fair, freckled skin.
"Yep. And you are?"
"Dirty." He said simply. I arched an eyebrow at the male.
"Excuse me?" I asked, quite confused. A gruff laugh escaped his lips, causing his belly to pulsate.
"Nah, it's a nickname." I prayed it was one of those ironic pseudonyms, but something about him led me to believe he was aptly named. Perhaps it was his overall greasiness.
"Oh. Well. Nice to meet you, Dirty." He grinned and stepped aside, allowing us to enter the luxurious beach house.
"Everyone's in the back by the pool."
He led us through the living room and to the sliding glass door. The bright sun shone down on the scene, lighting up the light blue water and everyone around it. My eyes immediately settled on Patrick, who was chatting with a dark skinned male about his age and a stunning blonde. He smiled upon seeing us and excused himself from the conversation.
"Hey." He leaned in a placed a small kiss on my cheek. "Hi guys." He ruffled Jocelyn's mane of curls and waved slightly at my son. The gesture was not returned.
"Ah, the famous Charlie." The man Patrick had been talking to approached us with the fair-haired woman on his arm. He was clad in a low hanging, dark pair of swim trunks while the female wore a bright pink tankini and jean shorts.
"That would be me. And you are?" He gave Patrick an almost undetected look and smiled widely, showcasing two rows of unnaturally bright teeth.
"Pete Wentz. I'm in the band with Patrick here." He patted the singer on the back. I remembered him. He offered to baby sit once. Silly boy. "And this is Katy." He finally acknowledged the female, who flashed me a grin.
"Ello there." She said sweetly, shaking my hand.
"God, I love her accent." Pete swooned. "She's Australian." The woman frowned.
"British." She corrected with a slight tone of irritation.
"See? Beautiful voice." His gaze left the blonde and fell onto my daughter. "And who is this pretty little girl?" Jocelyn smiled widely.
"Hello Jocelyn. Ya know, you're just a pretty as your mommy." She blushed and latched onto my leg to hide her face.
"I don't think she's your type." I quipped as I attempted to disarm her kung fu grip. "Besides, she's a married woman." He laughed and knelt down to her level.
"Leave him. I'll ditch the Canadian and we'll run away together."
"I'm not Canadian, Peter." He looked up at the agitated import, grinned, and stood up straight.
"Right. So are you guys hungry? You look hungry, big guy." The man gestured to my son. This man obviously didn't value his life.
"My name's Jeremy. Not big guy." He muttered between clenched teeth. Pete looked slightly unnerved, but never faltered.
"OK. Jeremy. You want something to eat?"
"Sure." The new acquaintance focused on my daughter.
"How about you, sweetheart? Hungry?" I already knew the answer. It may take her awhile to work the cutlery, but she can pack it away.
"Mmmhmm." He reached for her hand. Her unsure eyes looked up at me for permission. I simply nodded and watched as he led my children away.
"Well, I guess I can introduce you to everyone. You've already met Katy. Over on the lounge chairs are Andy and Barbara. He's in the band too. She's our next door neighbor that Pete likes to hit on when she's getting the mail." The male was reminiscent of a tattooed and spectacled Jesus. It didn't surprise me that he was in a band. The woman was older, probably around my age or so with brown hair that shined red in the sun. They both waved and smiled before going back to their conversation.
"In the pool is Joe, Lydia, and Kerri. Joe is a bando, Lydia is his girlfriend, and Kerri is our friend Dirty's fiancÃ©. You'll meet him later." I grinned at the scruffy brown haired man and his similar looking mate. Kerri was a decent looking red head with a rounded stomach that hinted at pregnancy. They were throwing a small basketball around and attempting to toss it in the little net assembled at the end of the pool.
"I already have. He answered the door. Does the nickname suit him?" Patrick shuddered.
"In more ways than one." I nodded and smiled as I observed Pete assemble a burger for my daughter.
"So you guys having a party or something?" I asked, crossing my arms over my tank top covered chest.
"Trust me. This is no party. Just a little barbeque." Once everyone had eaten, they dispersed, going off to do their own thing. Barbara and I situated ourselves at the edge of the pool with the water reaching up to mid calf. We were watching in amusement as Patrick, Jeremy, Jocelyn, Pete, and Joe played basketball in the pool. Joe and Pete faced off against my son and Patrick with Jocelyn on his shoulders.
"He's really taking a shine to that little one." Barbara pointed discreetly as Patrick passed the ball up to my daughter, who slam dunked in it the net.
"You gotta cover her!" Joe whined, giving Pete a shove.
"I think the feelings mutual. Jeremy is a different story though." She chuckled.
"I don't know about that." A grin spread across my face as Patrick high-fived my son upon scoring another point. They seemed to be having...dare I say, fun together?
Did I really just witness a hostility free moment?
"So what happened with their father?" Then she added quickly. "If you don't mind me asking."
"He passed away almost two years ago. Cancer." She nodded and tucked a chunk of brown hair behind her ears.
"I'm sorry to hear that. It must have been hard for you guys." I sighed.
"It still is sometimes. But we're survivors. It's what we do." She patted my shoulder.
"Mommy! Did you see me? Did you see me?" Jocelyn cheered as Patrick drifted over to us with the petite girl still on his shoulders. Her damp spiral pigtails hung limply and dripped with water.
"I did! You smoked those boys." She stuck her tongue out at the men who were too busy bickering to notice.
"She's still got some growing to do," Patrick lifted her off his shoulders and dunked her in the pool. "But she might give Shaq a run for his money one day, huh?" He cooed at the child, making her giggle and splash.
The sky slowly made its ritualistic transition from bright blue to deep pink as the sun set over the horizon. Andy left to walk Barbara home while Joe, Pete and Katy wrangled my children into the house for some popcorn and a movie, leaving just Patrick and myself sitting by the pool.
"So. Are you having fun?" He asked as he shifted slightly, the blond hairs on his thigh to tickle the sensitive skin of my leg. I smiled at the small interaction.
"Of course. Was there any doubt?" He shrugged.
"Maybe. But I was more worried about Jeremy. I didn't want him to be miserable." I titled my head to place it on his freckled shoulder.
"He had a blast. He won't admit it though." I watched as our feet swirled in the warm water. My toes wriggled, making the liquid whoosh through them.
"I'm wearing him down." He puffed out his chest proudly.
"Oh yes. With that incredible wit and charm." His smug expression quickly dissolved into a frown.
"I'm not witty and charming?" He stuck out his bottom lip. I laughed and pushed off the concrete edge and into the pool. The tepid water felt nice against my body. "Don't avoid the question, Charlotte Connelly." The male followed my lead and slid off the ledge. He wasted no time in capturing me, pinning me between his body and the wall of the pool.
"You're quite witty and charming." I whispered as his forehead met gently with mine.
"I think you're just saying that because you're in a very compromising position." His fingers pinched at my sides, sending me into a fit of painful belly laughs. Tickling was not a favorite pastime of mine. I hastily grabbed at his wrists in hopes to prevent further inhuman forms of torture.
"You are twisted, Patrick." I managed to murmur before his lips settled on mine. He was gentle, meticulous-as if every move, shift, and touch were calculated precisely. My hands immediately found their way to the damp stands of his wispy hair as my legs wrapped around his waist.
"Well, well. What do we have here?" Patrick quickly turned away from me to focus on the interloper. The light from the house outlined his slim body, leaving his features drowned out by darkness.
"What do you want, Pete?" My counterpart asked, clearly irritated by the interruption.
"I left a CD out here." He held up the round disk. "Sorry, proceed." And with that, he disappeared into the house.
"Oh my God." I placed my clammy hand over my eyes as Patrick buried his face into my neck and laughed.
"If you haven't noticed, Pete's really good at ruining the moment." He whispered against my skin.
"Oh, I've taken notice."
"Maybe we should head inside." I shook my head in disagreement. After being caught pawing at my date like a hormone crazed teenager, the last thing I wanted was to face the inevitable scrutiny.
He simply grabbed my hand and led me out of the pool. The night air met harshly with my saturated skin, causing my teeth to chatter slightly. Patrick grinned and tossed me a towel before grabbing one for himself. I smiled at his pink skin.
"That's gonna hurt in the morning." I poked at his charred flesh. A white spot in the shape of my fingertip formed, but quickly returned to its rosy complexion. He just shrugged and rubbed at his hair with a towel. I wrapped mine around my waist.
Still dripping, we entered the house to find Pete and Jocelyn on opposite ends of the couch watching Spongebob. My daughter's little legs barely reached the edge of the cushions.
"Where'd Katy go?" Patrick asked, confusion on his rounded face.
"She smacked Pete and said some bad words. Then she went home." A heavy eyed Jocelyn giggled, clearly finding the situation amusing.
"What did you do to her?" I asked as I scooped my baby up, sat down in her place, and set her in my lap. The dark male just shrugged.
"I don't know. Those Swedes have quite a temper." I shook my head and glanced at Patrick.
"You do know she was British, not Swedish." The light bulb went on at Patrick's comment
"Ooooh. She could have just said so. She didn't have to hit me in front of the child. Or call me names." I opened my mouth to remind him that she had mentioned it. A few times. But I decided against it.
"Mommy, what's a wanker?" My eyes grew wide at my child's inquiry into British insults. The men covered their mouths, stifling their laughter.
"Nothing, sweetness." I patted her dark curls and returned my attention to Pete. "Where'd Jeremy wander off to?"
"He's down in the rec room shooting pool with Joe and Dirty." I nodded as my daughter nestled into the curve of my neck before her mouth emitted an enormous yawn.
"We should probably get going soon. It's way past this one's bed time."
"I'm not-" Another yawn. "Sleepy." She protested weakly. I stood, child glued to my hip, and began collecting my things-including my son. He and the band mates emerged from the basement.
"I'll walk you out." Patrick whispered as he grabbed the beach bag that I brought over.
"Nice meeting you guys. Sorry about Katy, Pete." The man shrugged.
"Easy come, easy go. I guess I'll have to wait for Joce to start dating." I smiled and waved as I ushered my way out the front door. Down the driveway, I could just make out the silhouette of a female. She was bent over a trashcan, rifling through the garbage.
"Not again," Patrick sighed before he waved his arms around in an attempt to scare her off. "Get out of there!" Her head popped up, causing her lion's mane of curls to sway. She stuffed a few things in her pockets before running off into the night. I arched an eyebrow at the perplexed man. He simply shrugged.
Jeremy headed for the passenger's seat of the car while I buckled his sister into her car seat. Once she was settled, I closed the door and leaned against the cold metal.
"Thanks for inviting us over." He nodded as he stood with a little distance between us. His hands were stuffed in his shorts pockets.
"Thanks for coming." He leaned in and placed a small kiss on my lips. "But I'm slightly disappointed." I grinned and tilted my head toward the ground .
"Well, I was promised a grown up date. And I don't really think this qualifies as one." I laughed.
"You name the time and place."
"Well, I'm pretty swamped until Thursday. But I'll definitely call you when I can, OK?" Our foreheads touched softly as he gave me another kiss.
"Alright. I'll talk to you later." I reluctantly pulled away from him and headed for my side of the car.
"See ya." And with that, I started up the car and we were on our way.
"I caught you." I said with a smug grin as I pulled out of the driveway.
"Caught who? Me?" My son asked nervously.
"Yeah you. I caught you having a good time with Patrick. I saw you high-five him." He shrugged.
"Big deal. I was throwing the retard a bone." Without hesitation, I swatted at his shoulder.
"That is not a nice word and you know better than to use it. I will tolerate Carpet Face, but that word is not an option. Understand?" He nodded and muttered apologies.
"What's retard mean?" Came a small voice from the back seat, causing the teen to snicker.
"It's a very mean and ignorant word." My eyes narrowed at my son briefly before returning to the darkened road.
"Jocelyn." I said sternly.