by TA (Terry)
The morning sun was just beginning to stream through the gauzy drapes covering the windows of our hotel room as I cracked open my right eye to see where the movement was coming from. Alex was lying between David and I using his hands as little airplanes swooping and diving. His mouth was forming the sounds that the planes would make, but no sound was coming out of his mouth; I'm sure because he didn't want to wake us. Ever since we landed in England, Alex had come into our room and slept with us and I was beginning to wonder why. So far, the only answer I was able to come up with was that maybe he thought we might want to leave him in Europe. Now that doesn't make sense to an adult, but to a four year old… maybe.
I reached over and lightly laid my hand on his stomach. "Morning, kiddo."
Alex rolled over towards me, his light blue pajamas twisting around his body. "Morning, Dad," he whispered.
Is there anything more perfect than the clear blue eyes of a little boy?
"Did they bring the coffee?" The hotel put coffee in the sitting room of our suite first thing each morning.
Alex nodded 'yes', then reached out and touched my face. "You got a beard, Dad. You gonna shave?"
"Yep! But I'm thinking that maybe I'd better get some coffee first. Is there anybody out there?" I sleep naked and didn't want to run into a chambermaid when I went to get the coffee.
"Nope." Alex giggled. "You don't want 'em to see your butt?"
I mimicked Alex. "Nope! You wouldn't want em to see your little butt either, would ya?"
"You can't see my butt cause I wear PJs."
"I hate pajamas!" Then I added quickly. "But PJs are good for little boys like you." I knew that I'd screwed up as soon as the words left my mouth.
"I hate 'em too, Dad! How come I gotta wear 'em?"
"Ahhh… " I reached over and shook David, which resulted in a "Huh?"
"David, Alex has a question for you." I quickly rolled outta bed, walked into the sitting room of the suite and retrieved the tray of coffee as slowly as possible.
When I walked back into the bedroom carrying the tray, David was rolled over onto his stomach with the pillow pulled down over his head while Alex was telling him all the reasons that it wasn't necessary for him to wear pajamas.
David's deeply muffled voice came from underneath the pillow. "You GOTTA wear pajamas, Alex!"
I set my coffee down on the nightstand and scooped Alex up in my arms. "You know when you don't have to wear pajamas?"
Alex was twisting and trying to wrap his arms around my neck so that I wouldn't drop him. "When, Dad?"
"When you take a shower, which is what you're gonna do right now." Alex was screaming and laughing as I pulled off his pajamas and walked into the shower carrying him.
After we showered, I wrapped Alex up in a towel and put him on a little stool while I stood wrapped in a big white towel shaving.
"Does that hurt, Dad?"
"It looks like it might hurt."
"It pulls a little, but it doesn't hurt." I looked down at him. "Wanna see what it feels like?"
His eyes got wide. "Yeah! Can I, Dad?"
I reached down, picked Alex up and sat him on the counter next to where I was shaving. I took a little shaving cream and wiped in gently across his face.
"How does that feel?"
"Kinda slippery." Alex was touching the shaving lather on his face.
"Okay, now I'm not, I repeat, not using the sharp side of the razor and I don't want you to do it either, cause you might cut your throat and then you head would fall off." I used the back of the razor and stripped the lather from his face.
When I was done, Alex turned his head slowly and looked at himself in the mirror. He lifted his hand and touched the spot where the lather had been. "Oh… Dad, that is soooo cool. Can I do it?"
"No, Alex, you're not old enough. Little boys don't have the hand-eye coordination that you do when you're older." I pointed my finger at him for emphasis. "I want you to promise me that you won't try to do this by yourself. Promise?"
"Yeah, Dad, I promise. Can I go show David?"
"Ahhhh… why don't we wait and tell David at breakfast."
"Tell me what?" David was walking into the bathroom. "Oh, my God, he's gonna cut his head off!"
David was dressed in a light gray double-breasted suit with a white shirt and a striped blue tie. He looked like a million bucks. Alex and I looked like substantially less, but we were going site seeing and David was going to a meeting with his partners. I was taking Alex to the V&A for however long he held up, which I was kinda figuring to be like two hours. Then I was thinking maybe a little lunch and a trip to the London Eye, a huge ferris wheel, then a drive by of Buckingham Palace. Jamie, in typical Jamie style, had provided us with tickets to every conceivable venue that might be of interest to a little boy.
David's security people had provided us with a car and driver and, unless I missed my guess, a backup car with a couple of guys in it. As we crawled through the insane London traffic, Alex was scampering from one side of the back seat to the other while I was trying to get his seat belt back on him. He pretty much seemed to regard me as something that he could climb on to get a better view. I loved it, it is after all what a dad is supposed to do; hold onto him so that he doesn't hurt himself, answer the same question phrased seventy-five different ways, point out the stuff that you don't want him to miss seeing, and carry him sleeping back to the car. I loved being a dad.
We got back to the hotel around four o'clock and found David sprawled in a chair in the sitting room, his suit coat thrown across the back of the sofa. He looked exhausted.
Alex, who had been sleeping for the time it took to make it back to the hotel, ran over to David, climbed onto his lap and for the next five minutes talked constantly while David nodded his head and smiled.
When Alex finally paused for breath, David said. "So ya had a good time?"
Alex while straddling David's lap, laid his head down on his shoulder and said. "It was great, Dad!"
I walked over, sat on the arm of the chair and David put his arm on my hip. I reached down and stroked Alex's blonde hair. "Think maybe you're ready for a little nap?"
Alex's eyes were almost closed, but he still said, "Noooo."
I looked at David and he slowly got up, bringing Alex with him. We walked into Alex's room, laid him gently on the bed and carefully removed his shoes, but didn't even try to take off his clothes - just pulled the blanket up over him and moved quietly out of the room.
In the hallway, I put my hands on David's shoulders and pushed him gently against the wall as I lowered my head and met him in a kiss that seemed to build and build.
When we broke, I asked him. "Everything go okay?"
"Yeah, we got a lot done… just tiring is all. We gotta meet 'em for dinner tonight. Can you stand that?"
I kissed him again, feeling the softness of his lips and the David smell of his hair. "Sure. Alex too, or are we getting a babysitter?"
"It's gonna be like a big formal affair with wifes and clients. Alex would go nuts." He got a weird look on his face, then said. "I didn't tell you that Frank was coming, did I?"
"No, but that's great… when did he call?"
"While you guys were doing the town, he's brought Marcy too. Seems they were gonna make the trip anyway, cause Marcy's sister has a house near Avignon and she's been after them to come over."
I laughed. "Well, that may be part of it, but I'd be willing to bet that Frank engineered the invitation so he'd have a reason to be in Europe when you'd be talking to Zander."
David smiled. "I didn't totally buy it either, but he actually might be a help if he stays out of it until the right moment. Oh well, it's in the hands of the gods."
David looked at me a little sheepishly. "I ordered you a tux." I groaned and rolled my eyes, then took David by the hand and pulled him into our bedroom
Frank was impeccably turned out and looked amazingly at home in a tuxedo, and Marcy looked amazing in a blue dress that perfectly matched the sapphires in her sapphire and diamond necklace. This was a side of Marcy that was seldom seen at home; the confident, attractive woman of wealth, who felt as at home in a Givenchy gown as she did working in her garden in old clothes. Actually, Frank looked more at ease than I'd seen him in months. He and Marcy made their way around the room with Frank speaking French to the French and German to the Germans.
David disengaged himself from Frank and made his way back to where I was standing talking to Emi.
David moved in next to me and said. "Frank looks great, doesn't he? What'd he lose, twenty pounds?"
"His German is excellent." Emi said. "That will help. And his wife's jewels… also perfect. The rest of the women are envious, but not to the point of disaster." On the other side of the room, Jamie and his wife had joined up with Frank and Marcy and were working the room together.
David looked perfectly serene. I would have been a nervous wreck. "This turning out like you hoped, David?"
"Yeah, Mark, it is. This is more of a 'thanks for the business' dinner than a 'would you like to buy something' dinner." He flashed a smile at Emi. "That right, Emi?"
"Yes," Emi flipped his hand back and forth and spoke in German accented English with a hint of something else, "but then we're always trying to sell them something. Fortunately, we've made good money for them in a world where that hasn't happened much, so it's a happy crowd." Then as Frank, Marcy, Jamie and his wife started to head our way. "Mein Gott, that necklace must have cost a half million marks. I'll never hear the end of it. You think a half million, David?"
David smiled. "More."
I reached forward and took Marcy's hand, then lightly kissed her on the side of her face. "You look gorgeous, Marcy!" Then I did the same to Jamie's wife Claire. Jamie was beaming at his wife.
I turned to Frank and smiled. "You're being quite the Internationalist tonight, Frank."
Frank smiled. "I'm in my element tonight, Marky. I like Europeans, there's a lot we could learn from them. Besides, Marcy and I have spent a lot of time all over Europe.
"Actually, I think that my nature tends to be a bit more European." Frank didn't see it, but Marcy gave him a withering look.
A waiter came over to me while I was standing talking to Jamie and told me I had a telephone call. I walked with him to a small alcove where a phone was laid on its side waiting.
"Mr. Chauvet, this is Michael with your security detail." My chest tightened.
"Yeah, Michael, is there a problem?"
"Sir, it's Alex. He woke up and was crying in his room, so of course we tried to comfort him, but he's pretty stirred up about something, although he's not very clear about what. He's not really crying now, but he's still upset. The thing is… well, I'm a father and if it was my kid… I'd wanna know. Something is really upsetting him and we're not really making it much better."
"Thanks, Michael, I'll be right there."
I got a waiters attention and when he came over I asked him to tell David that I had to run up to the suite for a moment. The thing is that I didn't want to ruin what was a really important night for David, and I knew that if he knew everything he'd be with me in our room instead of with his guests.
When I got to the suite, Alex was sitting on the sofa with Michael watching soccer on the television, while Kevin stayed at his post near the door. I walked over to Alex and hunkered down in front of him. He kept looking at the television, but his face was flushed from crying. Although he seemed to not want me to know he'd been crying, from time to time he would inhale deeply and shudder.
I reached out and rubbed his pajama-clad knee. "How's it goin, buddy?"
Alex barely took his eyes off of the television. "I had a bad dream, Dad." I didn't know what the best way to handle the situation was, so I just did what I felt I should - I didn't say anything, I just held out my arms to Alex. Then it was like he really saw me for the first time and scampered over to me, put his arms around my neck and laid his head against my shoulder… he was still shuddering occasionally.
He wasn't crying, but he was holding onto my neck for dear life. "I was really scared, Dad." I picked him up, wrapped my arms around him tightly and walked into our bedroom.
"You look like you were cryin. Were you crying, Alex?" I climbed with him in my arms onto the bed and lay back against the headboard.
"Maybe just a little bit, Dad."
Alex was straddling my waist with my hands holding his arms.
"I maybe was crying a little bit, Dad, cause I was scared. I dreamed that these bad men captured me and took me away. Then when it was time to go home, you and David couldn't find me and you had to go home without me. It made me sad, cause I wouldn't get to see Joe anymore… or Mrs. Meurer… or my friends at preschool." Alex had been twisting his fingers together, so I reached out gently and closed my hand over his so he'd stop the twisting. I've been hit with bullets that were less painful.
I pulled Alex down so that he was lying on my chest, and my right hand was lightly rubbing his back. I looked up and saw David in the doorway; he walked over quietly and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Alex, David and I would never leave you here or anywhere else. Nothing would ever stop us from bringing you home where you belong, home to Joe and Mrs. Meurer. Do you understand, sweetheart?" David was smoothing Alex's hair.
"But what if the bad men didn't tell you where I was and you couldn't find me?"
"David and I aren't gonna let any bad men get a hold of you, Alex. Ya know what, Alex, maybe you should sleep in our bed with David and me. That way you'll be extra safe. That be okay?"
"The whole night? Like I can fall asleep here too."
I stood up with Alex in my arms while David turned down the covers on the bed. I laid Alex down and pulled the blanket up to his chin. I glanced at David, took my jacket off and tossed it on the chair. "David has to go back to the dinner because they're his guests, but I think that maybe I'll lie down with you, you kinda wore me out earlier with all that running around." David looked totally torn between what he wanted to do and what he had a responsibility to do. I air kissed him and waved him away as I took off my shirt and pants and lay down with Alex.
"Wanna see what's on T.V.?"
Alex slept in our room for only that one night, after that he went back to his own room without any indication that it was a problem. But I did notice for the rest of our trip that whenever we were out walking around and exploring, Alex's little fingers were always wrapped tightly around mine.