“Claire,” Lillian shouted the second she walked in the door. “You and Max are saints for watching Kayleigh.”
“Bad day?” Claire laughed. She could tell by the way her sister was holding Kayleigh, struggling to control the limp toddler that was half-folded over her shoulders—a fireman’s lift. Kayleigh was holding a stuffed animal nearly twice her size, a panda bear her father had won at the town’s annual carnival the week prior. In Claire’s other arm was her daughter’s bag, a miniature suitcase that couldn’t have been over a foot and a half tall. It was too small for the mother to roll on the ground, so she resorted to carrying the suitcase through the door.
“I love you, Chicken Nuggets,” Kayleigh’s small voice came from behind her mother’s shoulder.
“You don’t even know the half of it,” Lillian said, pausing to listen to her daughter’s rambling. She rolled her eyes, dropping the bag where she stood. She walked into the living room and plopped Kayleigh onto the couch, thankful that Claire had the foresight to turn on the television before they had arrived.
“That can’t be. She looks so peaceful,” Claire joked, earning a fuck you from the mother. She knew how the spoiled child would act when she wouldn’t get her way. Carrying the insufferable child and the overnight bag Lillian had packed for her was a testament to the mother’s strength, but it was a hilarious sight for Claire to see.
“I know she’s a little menace sometimes, but this means a lot to us,” Lillian said, relief weighing heavy on her voice. “It’s been way too long since Vernon and I have had a few nights to ourselves.”
“It’s really no problem. You know we love—”
“I love you, Chicken Nuggets,” Kayleigh said from the coach. Her voice was barely audible over the television in the background, but the strange phrasing of the sentence is what caught Claire’s attention. She looked over to see Kayleigh with the stuffed panda in a death grip.
“It’s a habit she picked up in the last week,” Lillian said. “She doesn’t understand that talking to herself isn’t the same as thinking in her head, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.”
“Yeah, when she’s hooked onto something, it’s impossible to get her to stop talking about it. She’s been talking about chicken nuggets for—shit, I forgot her tablet at the house. I’ll be back in twenty. Don’t cause too much trouble,” Lillian yelled to her daughter while shutting the door.
Claire quickly checked on Kayleigh—still talking to Chicken Nuggets—then walked into the kitchen, pulling out her phone, commencing what she liked to call Operation-Get-Vernon-and-Lillian-Married. The name could use some work, she thought to herself.
“Is everything okay?” Vernon said, accepting the call within seconds. Claire assumed she was probably staring at his phone, waiting for her call to flash across the screen.
“Yes, she forgot Kayleigh’s tablet, but other than that, the weekend is all planned out and perfect,” Claire said, looking over to see the girl immersed in her show. Claire pulled her phone away from her ear, opening Postmates to look for the closest restaurant that sold chicken nuggets. Max’s nervous breathing was soft, but it was loud enough to come through the speakers.
“I’m just so nervous,” Vernon said after a few seconds. “What if she—“
“Vernon, don’t even finish that sentence,” Claire said. She can visualize him pacing back and forth. The two couples have been friends since high school, and his nervous habits haven’t changed since. He was the same way when Lillian went into labor with Kayleigh almost three years ago. “Max and I are watching Kayleigh. I’ll take her to to the petting zoo tomorrow, and I’ll get her some fucking chicken nuggets. Your plan will work.”
“I just—I can’t believe I’m gonna do it,” He paused, seemingly out of disbelief, but it was mostly to take a long breath, like he had recently made this big realization and hadn’t planned this moment for months. “I’m gonna propose to her.”
“And, nothing’s going to go wrong,” Claire followed close behind.
“Who’s Mary? I wanna know,” Kayleigh said, slightly butchering the pronunciation. Claire’s eyes bugged as she looked down to see the girl standing a few feet behind her. “Does Mommy know Daddy is getting Mary.”
TO BE CONTINUED...