“Oh, yesssss. Yes, Henn-rrrryyy! Bite me! Ooh-wn me-ee-ee!”
Bridget was at full volume as I chewed my way across her ribs.
She’s an alto. Her voice, at full volume, could peel the paint off the ceiling of the Metropolitan Opera.
I long ago found a tender area—just under her breasts, just above her belly—and I was working it, intent on giving her a deep, memorable bite for each orgasm she had given up so far. Trouble was, I kind of lost count. Who can keep track of so much shouting?
So instead, I decided to approximate by chewing one row across in an odd number—I estimated seven—and then a second row back in an even number—estimating six—all in a nice symmetrical pattern.
But that symmetry would be lost if she kept shouting as I bit her. I would have to add more bites, which might in turn add more orgasms. A never-ending spiral.
Not that it was such a big deal. I just happen to like symmetry. It was my own fault for losing count, really, as I was a little distracted. In the back of my mind, I was fantasizing about something new I wanted to try with Bridget.
As my teeth sank slowly deeper into her flesh, as her screams and shouts filled my ears, I allowed my mind to wander to my new fantasy. I lifted my mouth on lucky number thirteen, and surveyed my traces. Bridget panted. I smiled. These would be nice souvenirs.
“Please,” she panted, desperate. “More . . .”
“Yes, of course.” I gave up on biting and symmetry, moving on to other activities until my ears could take no more blistering. We fell apart, panting, She was soon asleep, snoring and sprawled on my bed. I lay awake, pondering my fantasy.
The next time she asked me out, I sprang it on her. “You want to get some dinner, and boink?” she asked. “Boink, boink, boink!”
“Dinner sounds good,” I replied, gulping. “But can we forgo the boinking? I want . . .”
“May I bring the kids?”
I’m sure she hit the floor. Bridget knows I have a very firm rule. I keep my life as a parent far removed from my dating life. I do not want my kids to meet my lovers. I do not want them confused about who is and who isn’t “Dad’s girlfriend” and, in their minds, potentially a new Mom.
So far as the kids are concerned, Dad is just . . . Dad. Dad presumably goes back into a box when they are gone, waiting to reactivate upon their return. But Bridget has me thinking.
She asks me about the kids pretty much every day. She remembers details about them that even I can’t recall. She tells me about her godchild’s every landmark. Through her updates, I have come to feel that I know this child I’ve never met. She respects my rule, and she cares about my children.
I’ve also been pondering the future of my life after divorce.
I’m not at all interested in finding the Next Big Thing in a relationship. I don’t want a wife, or a new mother for my children, or anything like that. I’m a great parent, I tell myself. I can do this without muddying the waters with another adult in the mix.
Even so, it is hard work. I am grateful for every bit of help I get from friends, wishing my family lived closer. I regret that the kids have to grow up that much faster to compensate for the absent parent.
I’m smart enough to know that this is a unique time in my life, and in the lives of my children. And that makes me wonder: who, among the people I have met since my marriage ended, would I want in my life ten years from now? Who among those people would I want to integrate into my life with the children? Once I thought it over, I decided that Bridget made the cut.
I have no idea what our relationship will be in ten years. I have no way of knowing. But I do think we’ll remain constants, in some way or other.
It helps that we have a fake past.
We realized early on that during our college years, by chance, we had danced in the same club in the same town. We might have met back then. We might have been friends ever since.
We decided to adopt that false history as our cover story. If anyone asks, we met all those years ago. We’ve been friends forever. It’s a better fit than the real story: we actually picked up one another on Craig’s List. We met at a bar that same day. We went Dutch. She came over to get laid. I gave her two hours and then kicked her out. Who knew it would stick?
My fantasy took root one afternoon when she stopped by to drop off some things from a Costco shopping spree. “Just a few things,” she said, “to get you through the weekend with the kids.”
That afternoon, the kids were zoned out to Cartoon Network. Bridget called from the lobby. “Hey guys, I’m going downstairs to get a package,” I said.
“I’m coming!” Collie replied, jumping up.
“Me too!” Lillie said.
“No, please,” I stammered. “It’s just a few things . . .”
“I’ll get my shoes,” Collie replied.
“Me too,” Lillie said.
“Okay, fine,” I said, resigned to the inevitable. “A friend of mine is dropping off some stuff.”
“What friend?” Lillie asked, pulling on her socks. “You have a lot of friends, Dad. You need to use a name.”
“It’s Bridget,” I said, gathering her shoes. “She has some groceries and stuff.”
“Is she a weenie?” Lillie asked. “Weenie” is her term for anyone who might be considered Dad’s girlfriend.
“Be nice. Don’t say ‘weenie.’”
“Okay,” she giggled as I tied her shoes.
“Lillie . . .”
Bridget was surprised to see me as I arrived with a cart and two children. “Well, hello! Let me guess, you are Collie, and you are Lillie?”
Collie grinned. “Yes.”
“Yes,” Lillie echoed, “And you are a weenie!”
“Yes, I am a weenie,” Bridget smiled. “And you are a poopy head.”
“No!” Lillie laughed. “You are a weenie and a poopy head!”
“No, I’m a weenie and you are a poopy head. I’m Buttercup, and you are Blossom. See, I have black hair, and you have red hair. Weenie and poopy head, Buttercup and Blossom.”
Lillie was struck silent. Lillie! Silent!
“Here, help me unpack,” Bridget said to Collie. “Take this.” She handed over a tub of Cheese Balls. It was nearly the boy’s size.
“Whoa, this is huge!” he exclaimed. “Look, I’m holding it over my head!”
“Well, it weighs about two pounds, dear. It’s all air.”
“It’s huge!” He looked at the tub of Cheese Balls as though it were his first Emmy.
“It is huge, but if you don’t put it down, you can’t help me with the Fruit Loops.”
Lillie looked at Collie. “Fruit Loops?” they shouted.
“Hope their mom doesn’t mind,” she said to me, pulling out an enormous box.
“Ooh, she’ll hate that,” I smiled.
“Gee, you think?”
Lillie held the box aloft. “Wow!” she managed.
The kids helped me to bring up a cart full of stuff, but there was more to come. Bridget waited downstairs.
“Jason! Jason!” Collie shouted. “Look at these Cheese Balls!”
“And the Fruit Loops!” Lillie followed.
“Whoa, where did this come from?” Jason asked.
“Dad’s friend!” Lillie said.
“Bridget!” Collie added. “You want to meet her?”
“Uh, sure, where is she?”
“Downstairs!” Collie called, running to the door. “Get your shoes!”
“Oh, okay,” Jason replied. “Wait up!”
Collie helped me to push the cart we had just emptied. Jason stuffed his hands in his pockets as he approached Bridget’s car.
“Oh hi, you must be Jason.”
“Yeah . . .”
“I’m Bridget. How are you?”
“Were you playing Madden?”
He smiled. “Yes . . .”
“Are you playing the team or the owner?” she asked, handing him a carton of Ramen noodles.
“Team.” Jason looked at me. How did she know this stuff?
“That’s a good game. You know ‘X-Men Legends?”
“No . . .”
“It’s awesome. You saw the movie?”
“No . . .”
Bridget punched me. “What kind of father are you?” Lillie laughed.
“I just . . . hey, I try,” I protested. I looked at Jason. “You see, the X-Men are a group of mutants who try to be good, though everyone thinks they are bad . . .”
Jason shook his head. “Dad, come on.”
“Don’t worry,” Bridget said to Jason. “You’ll see it.”
Jason shrugged. “Cool.”
I realized something that day. Raising kids can take a village. When I find good villagers, I need to let them help. Three children are a lot for one man. And so it was that Bridget crossed over my boundary, at my bidding.
Bridget came into my innermost circle. The kids.
I kept a close eye on things.
We took the kids to see Corpse Bride; for dinner, she suggested the kids compare Subway to Blimpies. Lillie preferred Subway, Jason preferred Blimpies, and Collie pretended that Corpse Bride was too babyish.
We took the kids bowling. We all scored high. It helped that we used bumpers on the lane.
We had a birthday dinner at a local sushi restaurant. Bridget’s birthday is the day before Jason’s. We combined the party and kept the waiter busy.
For her birthday, I gave Bridget a photograph of myself in college. “Here’s the evidence,” I said. “We’ve known each other a long time.”
At Christmas, I allowed gifts from Bridget under Bucky’s tree. Lillie opened a bag full of Hello Kitties from Bridget. “Wow,” she laughed, opening the fifth wrapped Kitty, with many more to go. “Bridget must really love me!”
“Who’s Bridget?” Richard asked me.
“A friend of ours,” I said. “Mine and the kids.” My ex wife noted that Bridget gave nice presents.
The other night, Bridget came over for dinner. Afterward, we played Clue with the kids. Game after game. Lillie stuck to Miss Scarlet, as always. Jason was indelibly Colonel Mustard. Collie switched Professor Plum for Mister Green, then switched to Mrs White. He tried every trick to work the angles.
Bridget watched the children’s faces and made careful notes in her detective’s handbook. She knew the murderer first, but held her deductions close to avoid guessing the children’s secrets.
After the kids were in bed, I discovered a split of champagne in the refrigerator. “You brought this?” I asked.
I opened the split and poured two flutes. We clinked glasses.
“Happy anniversary,” I said.
“Happy anniversary,” she smiled.
Two years ago that night, we met for the first time. Legend has it we danced to New Order long before.