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"God, I'm late," I whispered as I rushed up the three steps to my boyfriend Alex McKay's house. It was Friday, and we were supposed take his four-year-old nephew, Josh, to get some pizza on the way to the South Central High football game. But there was no way we'd make it now.
I knocked a few times on the front door, then opened it. "Hey, it's me," I called, stepping into the foyer.
"In here, Jess," Alex yelled from the kitchen.
I found him at the sink, washing a pot. He looked so cute standing there in his khakis and denim shirt. His short, wavy brown hair had a few soapsuds in it. "Sorry I'm late," I said.
"No problem," Alex replied. "I called Erin and Maya and told them to save seats for us." Erin Yamada and Maya Greer were two of my best friends. "How did your research go?" he asked.
I leaned on the counter and sighed. 'So, I spent all afternoon at the university library, trying to do research for that Emily Dickinson paper, light? And I found, like, one book. That college library is just too huge. I wish I could just do myresearch at South Central. It would make my life a lot easier."
Alex Placed the pot in the sink, and gave me a tiny kiss on my nose.He took my hands. "Yeah, but you were never about making your life easy. That's why You're taking college classes in the first place, right?.
He pulled me into a warm hug, and I rested my head on his chest. "I guess so."
I was the only senior at our high school taking courses at the University of Wisconsin. I had tested into a special Program that allowed me to combine my senior year of high school with my freshman year of college. A bighonor. But I never realized that college would be so hard. I mean, school had always come easy for me, but now, in college, I actually had to work for my grades.
"And I guess Emily Dickinson's poetry is cool," I added, still holding Alex. "But she sounds a little psycho." I glanced up at his handsome face. "Did you know she never left her house? How weird is that?"
"Aunt Jessie, you're here!" Josh cried as he bounded into the room.
I smiled to myself. Josh had just started calling me Aunt Jessie. I thought it was really cute.
"I'm here!" I answered, breaking from Alex, and swinging Josh around. "Are you starving?"
"Yeah, but Uncle Alex said we can get pizza at the confession stand 'cause there's no time to stop now."
"Concession stand," Alex corrected with a grin.
"Well, then let's get your coat on," I told Josh.
"I can do it," Josh insisted. He ran to the coat rack near the back door and grabbed his jacket. He struggled to put it on by himself, so I walked over to help.
"Are you finished washing that pot?" I asked Alex. "Just about. My folks were late for their bowling league, and Mom left it to soak. I figured I'd do it while I was waiting for you."
He's amazing, I thought. Most guys would just leave it in the sink, but not Alex. Busy as he was with school stuff, he tried to help out around the house, and with Josh.
Both of Alex's parents worked full-time. His older brother David was Josh's father. David and his wife, Betsy, shared a bedroom with Josh in the small house. They both worked part-time and went to college. And I thought they were pretty lucky to have Alex around to help them with their son.
We headed out the door with Josh between us holding our hands and swinging our arms.
"Daddy!" Josh yelled, as an old blue Chevy pulled up to the curb.
David got out, wearing his black-and-white waiter's uniform. He looked beat. "Hey, Bub," be said to Josh. He always called him that, and every time he did, Josh got this big grin on his face.
"Daddy, we're going to a football game."
"Wow, that's great," David said. He glanced at Alex and me. "Thanks for taking him."
"No problem," Alex replied.
I felt sorry for David as the three of us headed to Alex's mom's car. I mean, there be was watching his son go off holding hands with somebody else. But what else could he do? He got Betsy pregnant when they were both sixteen. Between work and school, they didn't have much free time to spend with their son. I glanced at Josh. I guess I kind of felt sorry for him too.
When Alex and I have a family, it'll be so different, I thought. We'll be older, settled in our careers, and we'll have a place of our own. We'll be really happy together, just like we are now.
"Can I have pepperoni on my pizza?" Josh asked as I strapped him into his car seat.
"Definitely. Extra cheese too." I gave him a big fat kiss on the cheek. Josh squirmed and giggled.
"That's what I love about you, Jess," Alex said when I got into the front seat.
My heart skipped a beat. "What do you love about me?" I asked, trying to sound casual, but dying to know.
"You're so kind to people--especially to Josh. You go out of your way to be nice to everyone. You would never hurt anyone."
"Not if I could help it," I told Alex. "But you wouldn't, either. That's what I love about you."