Randall Poston swirled his glass, watching shards of ice melt in a whirlpool of scotch. He snapped off the radio. The living room hushed to the humming level of car tires on wet pavement twelve stories below. Somewhere between "Hey, Jude" and "Piano Man", the little girl fell asleep, a tiny bundle under the covers of his king size bed. The Lucite clock from Fortunoff's glowed a red 11:37.
Should he call the child's mother? The thought made his fingers grope for the receiver and lift it to his ear. Moments later, it slid, unused, gently back on the cradle. Kimberly Addison slept peacefully. The griping of her overindulged stomach had subsided, even in his incapable bands. Randall glanced at the bottle of thick pink liquid squatting on the coffee table, recalling the pains that gave her such grief and caused his stumbling rush to the drugstore. A few short hours ago, both Pepto Bismol and a blue-eyed five year old had joined his household.
His fingers curled around the medicine much the way they had curled around the handle of a battered suitcase, shoved at him that morning, along with a frantic medley of words from Nancy Addison.
"... and it will only be a day or two. She's really no trouble. If her grandfather weren't so sick, I'd bring her along ... but, with my mother and her arthritis. And Kimberly ... well, she wouldn't understand her grandfather laid up in bed, and all. Now I know you're quite the bachelor, Randy. Not used to having children underfoot. But, on such short notice, I can't leave her with anyone else, and seeing that you're home all day anyway. As for school, she has to be there by eight forty-five. She absolutely won't eat carrots. Spaghetti though ... "
Randall remembered the instructions. They seemed interminable. Her words buzzed and flitted about the apartment, until, with a kiss atop her daughter's head, the sleek and somewhat befuddled Nancy Addison descended into a cab and he ascended the throne of reluctant parenthood.
Sunday afternoon consisted of one Disney movie, a large buttered popcorn, two ice cream cones, a street vendor's fat pretzel, a question-filled walk down the ramp at the Guggenheim, topped off by a greasy pizza on West 71st Street. The day blurred and disappeared into an evening rain shower. Kimberly's stomach began rumbling in unison with thunderclaps over the Hudson. Her aches began twelve seconds before his panic.
Calmer now, he sipped at his slightly warm drink, wondering how well he would cope with a five year old woman in Care Bear pajamas. He allowed his thoughts to drift to Nancy Addison, whom he’d first met in the laundry room nearly a year ago. She admired his oddball collection of tee shirts. He admired her ice-blue eyes and finely sculptured features. From that point, they quickly became friends, meeting almost daily in lobby, laundry room and hallway. Each time, Kimberly hid shyly behind her mother, studying Randall...