I wondered how many kids we could handle but then had to stop myself. This was crazy. Here I was, imagining having kids with a man I paid to be my date.
Nothing could be more foolish.
My ears were still ringing, but Jim and Vicky seemed to be immune to James’ antics. I guess that’s what happens when you become a parent. You just get used to your kid doing crazy things.
James cried for seemingly no reason for several minutes and then just suddenly stopped. Within minutes, his face went from being red to back to normal. Vicky gave him some French fries and he proceeded to smash them on his plate with his hands.
“Hey, I just had an idea,” said Jim, getting my attention. “Let’s you and I go out for drinks tonight. Then the girls could watch James and catch up.”
“That sounds great,” said Vicky. “Will you watch James the next night so Carina and I can go out for drinks like adults too?”
“If Leo is amendable to that,” said Jim. “The Rams are playing. We could watch the game.”
“And teach James the important lesson of enjoying football,” I added. “Okay, sure. Count me in.”
This was perfect. I really didn’t get a chance to properly talk to Jim about career opportunities at his firm. The reunion had so much noise and it was a more casual atmosphere. But, just the two of us? It would be perfect. If there was a job to be had at Howell and Howell that I would be right for, Jim would definitely hook me up, right?
I had to make this work. Carina’s gig would carry me another week, but I really didn’t want to keep doing escort work. The longer I did it, it seemed, the more remote a possibility that I would be able land a good job.
I looked over to the beautiful woman by my side. Carina’s hand was in mine. There was something about that which just felt right. It was a crazy feeling and one that was giving me butterflies in my stomach.
But it was also stupid. By Monday, Carina would be back to work and maybe out of my life forever. I needed a good job if I was going to keep a woman like that.
The power suddenly went out in Place. Rolling blackouts had hit L.A. ever since the fires got out of control. The news had said they were under control, but that apparently didn’t stop the electric company from making some adjustments.
We had already gotten our food, so it wasn’t an issue for us. We heard the waitress making excuses to some of the other patrons.
“What the Hell is happening to this city?” muttered to Jim. “It never used to be this way. Not ten years ago and not when I was a kid.”
“Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth?” Vicky joked.
“How old do you think I am?” said Jim, incredulous. “She’s always joking about how I sound like an old grumpy man so I just like to point out to everyone that I’m not.”
“Has it gotten as bad as they say?” asked Carina, as if trying to change the subject away from the brewing argument. She was sweet like that. “I mean, the schools here used to be pretty good.”
“I don’t know,” sighed Jim. “The kids today; their helicopter parents have messed them up good. They can’t handle anything. Not like James! He’s gonna be a tough guy, right James?”
“Tough guy,” repeated the toddler.
“With that scream, I think he’s going to be an opera singer,” I joked. “Or a singer on the Voice. Either one.”
“He says that, but he has a big heart,” Vicki told us. “He’s a great dad, and not too tough on James.”
“But not a helicopter parent, either!” Jim insisted.
The waitress brought the check and Jim handed her his credit card.
“I got this,” he offered.
“Oh, c’mon,” I said. “Let me at least give you the tip.”
“It’s fine, really,” he assured. “You had to listen to my rants and my wife’s bad jokes.”
“Very funny,” Vicki said, but she was laughing.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the waitress said uncomfortably. “The restaurant’s power is still off. I don’t think we can process your credit card.”
“Ask the owner if he has a cellphone and can do it through that,” urged Jim.
“Okay, sir,” said the waitress, rushing in the back to ask.
“Anyone up for a dine and dash,” joked Jim. “Because I don’t have any cash on me.”
“Seriously? You brought no cash?” asked Vicky.
“I was going to go to the bank on the way home,” Jim confessed.
“You know you should have cash at all times,” Vicky insisted.
“Vicky thinks the world is going to end. She watched too many episodes of the Doom Preppers show.”
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” insisted Vicky. “And I’m not a believer, I just think you should be prepared in case the world ends.”