It was a warm spring Saturday afternoon when Stephanie heard a car pull into the drive way. The young woman was surprised that her bosses were home early. They were suppose to be gone until nine. “Hey kids, pick up all your stuff. Mom and Dad are home early.” She bent over and started picking up the toys at her feet. All three of her charges came running in and helped her finish putting them up.
“Done, Steffy.” Three year old Carol called out. She smiled at her baby sitter with a big, chubby cheeked smile. Then she and the other two kids got on the couch and seven year old Peggy started to read a story to them.
The door bell rang. Stephanie looked at the door with curiosity. She opened the door with the chain still on it. “Yes?”
“Are Stacie and Doug home?”
“No. Can I ask who is calling?”
Eli could see the blue suit around the door. “Uncle Grant!” The kids jumped off the couch and hurried to the door. “Open the doow, Steffy!” Carol cried out. “It’s Uncal Gwant!”
The teenager closed the door and then took the chain off. Opening it again, she held it open. It was at that moment that she got a good look at the man in the blue suit. The kids ran out and threw themselves into his arms. “Hi, Uncle Grant.”
“Hey, kiddos.” He picked up Carol and gave her a hug. Then he ruffled Eli’s hair and kissed Peggy on the cheek. Then he looked at the young woman with strawberry hair who was standing in the edge of the door way. “Hi. I am Grant Williams. I’m Stacie’s brother.”
“I remember you.” She held out her hand and she watched the look of confusion on his face. “I’m Stephanie Lawrence. You used to pick on me on the school bus.”
His eyes got really wide and then it started to dawn on him who she was. “Little Stephanie with the braces, glasses and freckles?”
“Yes.” She looked a little embarrassed.
“Well, you have grown up.” He looked her up and down for a moment. At that moment, Steph felt naked. The seventeen year old was only wearing a pair of cut off shorts, a teal shirt that was just to the top of her shorts and flip flops. “Can I come in?”
“Sure.” She backed out of the way. It was then that she realized his suit was an Air Force uniform. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembered hearing he had joined up. She looked at the insignias to try and make out his rank, but she couldn’t figure it out. They moved across the living room. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“Sure. Whatever will be fine.”
She walked into the kitchen and got a pitcher of lemonade and some glasses. Returning she heard the group talking. “How long are you home, Uncle Grant?”
“Well I have been stationed nearby for some special training at Vanderbilt in Engineering. I should be here for about nine months.”
The kids began cheering and running around. Stephanie, who had just poured the glasses, stood up straight. “Guys, stop it. You know better than to run around like that.”
“Sorry, Steffy.” They all called out in unison. Then they sat down and drank some of their lemonade. Then suddenly Eli asked, “Come fly us, Uncle Grant?”
“I would love to, but I am not in charge. I think that Stephanie has some say in what you do.”
“I just don’t want them to break anything.” She smiled carefully. “If you guys and your uncle want to play outside it would be okay. I have some laundry to do for your mom.”
“Thanks, Steffy.” Carol threw her arms around the woman’s legs and then ran outside, followed by her siblings. Their uncle got up, took off his jacket and laid it on the couch. He winked at her. “Yeah, thanks, Steffy.”
She got red in the face, but continued on her way to the kitchen. She folded the load that was finishing in the dryer and started another load. When she was done, she looked at the clock and realized that it was getting late. She went into the kitchen and started cooking the chicken that Stacie had left her. When it was almost done, she went to the back door. They were all running around and the man was chasing them. He looked like a big kid himself and she couldn’t help but laugh.
“You think we’re funny?” He stopped running and looked her direction. “I think we need to get Steffy, guys.” The kids all turned to come towards her.
Wagging her finger, she laughed. “Oh no. I am still cooking dinner. I was just coming to tell you all to clean up. So don’t you even think about it.” Stephanie turned and went in. Then she moved back to the stove. She heard them all come in and the kids run off to the bathroom. She figured Grant had followed them. So when she turned, she ran right into him. “Sorry.”
“Sorry. I was just trying to see what you were fixing.” He looked over her shoulder at the food. “Looks good.”
“Will you be joining us for dinner?”
“If that is alright?” She nodded. “The kids said that my sister won’t be home until later?”
“Nine or so.”
“They must have a lot of trust in you.”
“I have been baby sitting for them on the weekends for the past 2 years.” She turned back to the stove and finished fixing the dish. “Could you set the table? The plates are in the cabinet.”
He did not say a word and started to set the table. Grant moved around the kitchen with some proficiency. Stephanie just watched him out of the corner of her eye the entire time. The kids all came in and took their seats at the table. Then Grant went and washed his hands. Then he took a seat at the round table as well. Stephanie brought the dish to the table and then took a seat as well.
“Carol, will you say the blessing?”
“Uncal Gwant always says the blessing when he is hewe.”
He smiled at her and then they all bowed their head. “Dear Lord, please bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies and bless the person who prepared it for us. Amen.”
“Amen.” The other four echoed. Stephanie dished out some for the kids and then passed it to him. “Go ahead and get your’s first.”
“Thanks.” He took the bowl and got some of the dish out. “If it tastes as good as it smells, we are in for a treat,” He passed it back to her with a smile. “So what grade are you in?”
Peggy looked up at her uncle and smiled. “Stephanie is going to graduate in two months.”
“She got into Berkley.” Peggy beamed as though she was the one that was going to Berkley.
“Well who knew that the little nerdy girl on the back of the bus as so smart?” He was teasing her and she knew it. They continued eating with the kids filling in their uncle on everything that had happened since he had seen them at Christmas. He hung on to every word they said too. When they were done, the kids all jumped up and ran outside to play. Stephanie stopped eating and started to clean up the dishes. “What are you doing?”
“I need to clean up.”
“Sit down and finish eating. I can clean up.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to. Besides you need to put meat on your bones.”
She made a face. “I’m getting fat.”
She saw him roll his eyes. “Why is it all women think they are fat?” He didn’t really expect her to answer that and went about cleaning up the plates and the stove. About the time that he was done, she brought her plate to the sink.
“My thing is that I have a prom dress to fit into in two weeks. That is why I am worried about getting fat. I bought the dress last summer.”
“What are you, a size four?”
“Try a ten.”
“Well you don’t look it.”
“How do you know so much about women’s sizes? Is it because the Air Force lives by that no don’t ask don’t tell?”
He turned and looked at her. She looked into his crystal blue eyes and saw surprise. Then he ran his hand through his blond hair. “Do you think you are cute?”
Stephanie felt a smile come across her face and then answered him. “I know that I am.”
Then he looked at her and turned back to the sink. “I grew up with two sisters that made me play dress up with them, if you must know.”
She cracked up laughing. Grant took the dish water and splashed it up at her. She took her plate and dropped it hard in the water. Unfortunately it splashed both of them. “Oh.”
Before Stephanie could comment, Peggy came in. “Steffy, can we watch a movie?”
“Don’t you want to visit with your Uncle a little more?”
Grant looked at Stephanie and then Peggy. “We have plenty of time to be with each other. I think a movie would make it easier on your sitter.”
“I get to pick the movie!” Eli had come in and heard the last of the conversation.
“You’ll make us watch the Twansformews again. I want to watch Cawe Beaws!” Carol cried as she followed Eli in.
“Not another Care Bear movie.” Peggy said to her little sister.
The young woman decided to walk over and stop this argument before it started. She kneeled down and gently asked, “Okay guys. If we can not agree on a movie, we won’t watch one.” She whispered very quietly. “Now how can we resolve this?”
“How about Uncal Gwant pick the movie?”
“That’s a great idea, Carol.” Stephanie looked up at Grant. “Uncle Grant, would you go pick a movie? I will finish the dishes.”
“Sure. I could use to dry out anyways.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Come on kids.”
Later that evening, Stephanie had just gotten Peggy to bed. It was eight-thirty and she decided to go down stairs and read some more. She came down the stairs and Grant was sitting on the couch reading her novel. He seemed intent on it. She crept over to the couch and started to scare him, but he grabbed her wrist before she could touch him. “Why would you want to scare me?”
Her mouth was wide open. “How did you know that I was there?”
“Combat training teaches you to use all of your senses.”
“So you could kill me with this one hand?”
“If I wanted to, I could. But then who would watch Stacie’s kids?”
“Oh. You don’t want to get stuck with baby sitting duty? I see how it is.” She was laughing with her eyes as she said this.
Grant released her wrist. “Come sit down.” He patted the seat next to him. “They are wonderful kids. I wouldn’t mind watching them.”
“That they are.”
“But they seem to think you hung the moon.”
Stephanie blushed. “No. You hung the moon. I just put a few stars up there.”
“This is an interesting book.” He handed her back the book. “Could you imagine meeting your future husband when you were six?”
“It would scare me.” She took the book back. “Would you like to borrow it when I am done?”
“Maybe. I will be busy studying, but I think I could make some time to read it.”
“Are you staying here the entire time?”
“I haven’t asked Stacie and Doug yet. But it would be great to spend time with the kids. I have missed them.”
“They miss you. Right after Christmas, Carol could not stop talking about her trip to Colowado to see Uncal Gwant.”
“You have her voice down pat.”
“Well I spend every moment with them.”
She looked at him. He looked like he was much older than 22 years old. But most of the people she knew in the military came home looking older and more mature than they had when they left.
“What are you thinking?”
“Just thinking about the last time I got picked on while riding the bus.”
He looked embarrassed at this comment. “I am really sorry about that.”
“It’s okay. I was really thinking about how grown up you seem now. So you completed the Air Force Academy?”
“What did you study?”
“Aeronomical engineering.” He laughed as her eyes bugged out a little. “Something wrong?”
“That sounds like it is really…intense.”
“It was. But I enjoyed it. So what do you plan to study at Berkley?”
“I could see that.”
The front door came open and in stepped two people. The woman, a female version of Grant, came running over to him. “Grant!”
“What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to surprise you.”
“Well it worked.” She hugged him again and then turned to Stephanie. “Stephanie, do you remember my brother Grant?”
“Of course.” Stacie realized he must have been there for some time. “How long are you here?” The two started talking and forgot that other people were there. Doug nodded to Stephanie and drove her down the street to her house.