I wake up to Peter catapulting himself onto the sofa. Uff.
“You’re still here!” He shouts joyfully, all cuddles and pajamas.
“Yep, I’m still here.”
A sleepy Jamie emerges from his bedroom and picks up Peter.
“Come on, buddy, let’s let her have her coffee before jumping on her.”
“It’s Sunday, do we get to go have chocolate chip pancakes?!?!”
“Of, course, Pete.”
“Does Dorothy get to come have chocolate chip pancakes with us?!?!”
“If she wants to, buddy.”
Peter looks at me oh so hopefully.
“Of course. I wouldn’t miss it.”
I am still in my clothes from the day before, but that doesn’t bother me. Jamie bundles Peter up in his jacket and throws on a black peacoat. Peter holds on tightly to both of our hands as we walk out the door.
Every third step we swing him up off the ground.
“One, two, three, SWIIING! One, two, three, SWIIIING!” Pete cries out merrily as we head to the diner.
We are seated at a big green booth in the corner. Peter tries to sit on my lap, but settles instead for sitting next to me.
The waitress is young, blonde and has a strong Minnesotan accent.
“Well, how are ya folks dooin’ this mornin’?”
Jamie starts speaking but is interrupted by Peter.
“Orange juice and chocolate chip pancakes, please!”
“Oh, sure, you betcha,” says blondie.
“Same for me but with coffee,” says Jamie.
“Yup, pancakes and coffee sounds good,” I add.
She takes our menus and scurries off to the kitchen to put in our order. I don’t know if I’m being paranoid, but it looks like she’s talking to the other waitress about our table.
“That’s Danielle. She’s been flirting with me forever. It’s probably quite the coup that I’m bringing a woman into the diner.”
“Daddy, what’s flirting?”
Jamie is caught off guard.
“Um, well, buddy, flirting is when two people, um, I mean, well, when one person–”
I jump in as reinforcement.
“Peter, flirting is when one person wants to be more than just friends with another person and tries to let them know without saying it out loud.”
Peter looks confused, but nods.
“I see,” he says sagely. He is too proud to let on that he’s not really following. The this heartbreaker of an apple won’t fall far from the handsome daddy tree, I suspect.
The pancakes are delicious. The Midwest is really the only place that knows how to do breakfast right. No substitutes. Real eggs, butter, cream. Anyone who is vegan or gluten-free is totally out of luck at this diner. We gorge ourselves until our bellies are full and our lips are smeared with chocolate.
Jamie grabs the check before I have time to reach for it.
“I owe you.” He winks.
“Well, this has been fun, but I’m sure you two boys have your matinee and I wouldn’t want to make you late for that.”
“She’s right, Dad. We wouldn’t want to be late for call. The one time we did that the stage manager got really angry. I mean, really mad. I thought she was going to explode!”
We get up out of the booth and Peter runs over and jumps into my arms.
“Your bedtime story is way better than any of Dads. Promise you’ll come back?” His voice warmly whispers into my ear.
“Of couse, buddy.” I whisper back.
Jamie comes over like he’s going to give me a hug as well, but instead stops himself and merely says, “I’ll call you.”
“Sure thing. I look forward to it.”
We go our separate ways, and I can feel the Danielle, the waitress, shooting daggers into the back of my skull. I grin and go out into the cold to find my car.
This has been almost too much for one weekend. When you’re in college, you think of adventure in terms of bungee jumping, rock climbing, international travel. After you graduate, it’s true that you may, in fact, do many of those exciting, adventurous things.
But the real adventure lies within places you have never been. And for me, many of those places involve trust, love, and being emotionally vulnerable.
Agreeing to stay for hot chocolate and making up a bedtime story was akin to bungee jumping for me. I thought that maybe I was taking step backwards, returning to Decorah and the school that I had just left a few years before. But life as a college student is a suspension of reality. Coming back as an adult has turned out to be the best challenge I could have given myself.
Driving back on Highway 52, my mind traveled in gentle curves like the road. I felt content, in the way you only do when you are in exactly the right place at the right time.
When I got to my apartment, I booted up my laptop and checked my email.
There were several messages from Linda. Most of them asked where Anders was, as she knew that he hadn’t yet returned from Minneapolis and, as the head of the library (and nothing at all to do with her being his possible lover/academic Mrs. Robinson), she was of course, concerned for his well-being.
I didn’t want her to have my home number or my cell phone (although both were available to her at the library in the staff files.) Instead, I checked to see if she was on Skype, which we sometimes used for conference calls with other libraries. Linda.Birch.Decorah was indeed online. Not wanting to call her, I hoped giving her the information about Anders via chat would be acceptable.
Dorothy.Watson.85: Professor Elstad decided to stay in Minneapolis with a colleague this weekend. Sorry I didn’t have my laptop with me or I would have answered sooner.
Linda.Birch.Decorah: Which colleague?
Jealous much, Linda?
Dorothy.Watson.85: Professor Rosholt.
Linda.Birch.Decorah: Is that a man or a woman?
Ok, now she’s not even trying to pretend.
Dorothy.Watson.85: An older woman. He said that she was going to drive them both back tomorrow morning and she was going to join him for his Monday morning appointment in the Norwegian Artifact room.
Linda.Birch.Decorah: Thank you, Dorothy. See you tomorrow.
With that, she signed off abruptly.
Honestly, I started to feel bad for her. I would have felt awful if someone I was seeing changed plans suddenly and didn’t keep me in the loop. It made me wonder if there was some Norwegian dating etiquette (or lack thereof) that made this behavior acceptable or even encouraged.
Unless Anders didn’t know he was in a relationship.
What if Linda asked him out to dinner a couple of times and Anders was too polite to refuse? What if it’s all in her head? But she’s too smart for that, surely? Then again, I’ve done similar things myself, manufactured a relationship when there wasn’t really one.
I would have to observe them more closely.
It didn’t really effect me either way, whether they were having a relationship or not. But there was a morbid sense of curiosity that made me persevere.
My phone lit up. It’s from Jamie:
“Thank you so much for last night/this morning. Pete can’t wait for you to visit again, and neither can I.”
My fingers fly across my phone as I type:
“Me, too. Both of you boys are pretty darn cute. :-)”
“Tomorrow is one of my days off. I found a sitter for Pete. Can I come down and pick you up after work for a surprise date?”
“After last night, I think it would be hard to surprise me. But, yes, I’d love to, and I’ll be waiting. Good night, Jamie.”
“Good night, Dorothy. Sweet dreams.”
This weekend has made me blissfully happy. I sink into my sheets with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for what has already happened and a unique anticipation and excitement for what’s to come.