SHORT STORY || “LITTLE RED POMPOM HAT”

The first thing Wren notices is that he’s as tall as Mira’s father. Then she scolds herself. She should stop comparing and thinking of August. She’s allowed to look and judge independently from her past experiences. More so, she should be encouraged to do so. And when she looks and judges, all she can say, in the words of George Takei, is ‘Oh my…’

And then she quickly remembers that she promised Thea the DVD with the TOS.

And then she thinks that she likes his beard, though she never fancied facial hair. So thick, and dark… What does it feel like to touch a beard? Or more precisely a beard like that. Or more precisely, this specific beard. His beard.

And all these thoughts flash through her noggin in a nanosecond, while he’s walking towards her. Then she think that that is a very expensive pram he’s pushing. Mira’s already four, Wren won’t get a chance to buy one like that for her, even though Wren can afford it now. And then she thinks it’s a relief and remembers those judgemental glances she kept getting from the lady in a grocery shop. And then Wren huffs. It’s been two years since then, she should should have gotten over it.

He’s almost passing her now, and Wren looks at the wee one in his pram. The boy is probably around two and has the most gorgeous dark eyes. Like black cherries. Wren looks up and meets the bloke’s blue eyes.

Then there’s this second when people sort of focus on each other in a situation like this… and then he smiles.

Wren always smiles back at people; but even if she didn’t, she’d answer to this sunny grin. It has everything that one could wish for: understanding, good humour, and a healthy amount of flirting. As much as a father with a pram can give to a mother with a pram. Wren gets it. She does look good today. She made effort. It’s just one of those days. And then Wren drops her eyes and blushes. She gave up on trying to control her colouring many years ago. Who cares. She’ll never see him again. They pass, and she’s fighting the urge to look back and check out his backside. She suspects it might be just majestic. She doesn’t turn, acutely feeling the blush and biting her bottom lip.

“That baby had the same hat as me.”

Mira’s voice rings from the pram, and Wren shakes off her daze.

“Really?”

She hasn’t noticed. She starts laughing, loudly and openly, for the first time in months, to think of it. She really didn’t notice. How come?

“Yes, the same hat. With the red stripe here.” She points at her forehead. “And the red pom-pom.”

“A red bobble?“

“Yes, a red bobble.“

Wren truly can’t remember. It’s so silly and so surprising, that even after she’s done chuckling, she can’t stop smiling. It’s an unusual hat. She’s gotten it for Mira in Berlin. And she hasn’t noticed!

***

“Mum, look! That’s the baby in my hat!”

Mira is pulling at her hand, and a second later Wren sees him on the bench. And then Wren obediently turns and looks at the boy whom Mira is pointing at. Mira rushes to him. Two red pom-poms meet on the top of a slide, and Wren wonders whether she should sit on another bench. She wouldn’t, if it weren’t him. But she remember his dark beard and his blue eyes, although it’s been five days. She tells herself not to look that way – and she immediately does. He smiles at her widely. She lingers, sort of rocking towards the bench, and then away – and then, to her shock, he pats the seat next to him. Today Wren is far from put together. This jacket was a gift from her mother-in-law. Wren looks frumpy. And she’s allergic to most mascaras. Who cares. She drops her bottom on the bench and smiles unnaturally.

“Good afternoon.”

Oh dear.

His voice is like caife Gaelach. Depending on the content of his speech, one could probably reach a crisis listening to it, within a time interval between 4.6 and to 8.3 seconds. Depending on one’s libido. She hasn’t gotten any shag in the last seven months. She might do it in 3.9.

“Hiya.”

Wren sees Mira hugging his sprog. She does that a lot. Wren chews her bottom lip. He chuckles.

“She’s rather affectionate, isn’t she?” he comments warmly.

“Yeah…”

Mira is starved for affection. So is Wren, obviously.

“She can’t help it, your son is adorable.”

“He is my grandnephew. Peter.” He smiles again. “Are you her babysitter?”

Wren shortly considers lying. And immediately she feels surprised by this thought. Never had that before.

“No, she’s mine. I mean, my daughter. I’m her Mum, that is.”

She wonders, if she climbs onto the slide and plummets down out of embarrassment, whether her death would be swift and merciful.

“Really?” His black eyebrows jump up. “You look way too young.”

“It’s because I’m so skinny.”

Bugger. The slide option is looking more and more attractive. Wren fancies his eyes. And his mouth. She wonders what he smells like. To avoid staring, she shifts her gaze onto her daughter. Mira’s mad orange curls are sticking out from under her hat. Right, the hat.

Wren feels his eyes on the side of her face. There are crow’s feet near the corners of his eyes. And Wren hasn’t had any in seven months. If she had a chance, she’d lock him in her bedroom for three days.

Wren imagines yelling ‘I’m recently divorced!’ And then she thinks that maybe they should invent ‘a relationship status button’ for people. Red for ‘not interested.’ Yellow for ‘Well… maybe.’ And green for the desperate ones like Wren. Hers might have to blink too.

Wren just wants to shag. Honestly. She’s not imagining a dark-haired, blue-eyed half-brother for Mira.

“I’m John.”

She’s feeling properly sad now.

“I’m Wren.”

She shakes his hand and sarcastically congratulates herself. Now she’s got a new fantasy for when she’s alone with her ‘vibrating friend.’ His fingers are long; his hands are warm; and she wants them all over her buttocks. She shoos the thought away. At least for now.

“Mummy, can I take my new friend to the swings please?” Mira asks, bouncing up to Wren.

Wren looks at John, he nods. The pom-pom pair are trodding towards the swings, chatting amicably. At least Mira is chatting, Peter is nodding enthusiastically. Wren decides that she’ll ask one question. One polite, innocent question. She’s not a stalker.

“Are you watching after your grandnephew often?”

He chuckles again, this time there’s a new tone to it. Mischievous. If Wren didn’t care about consent, she would’ve jumped him now.

“His parents are trying for the second one. So, we all take turns and take him for walks. I like it. I’m looking forwards to taking my own to a park.”

He can’t be any more perfect! Wren wants to lick him. She hums nonchalantly and consider pulling out her mobile to hide in it. She can pretend to be checking emails.

“Do you have any more kids?” he asks.

“No, just Mira. And no more in the nearest future, obviously.” Wren answers her own thoughts, more than his question. And then she realise how that came out. She rushes to fix the situation. Never good idea for you, Wrennie. “Not that I don’t like children. I mean, having children. I love having children. A child. I only have one. I’ve got one. And I love it. It’s not that— I want to! Have more, that is. Someday. Maybe more than one more. I work with children, and they are wonderful! But I’m not with Mira’s father anymore, and you see—”

There we go. Wren has dug up herself a verbal grave and readily jumped in it. Head first.

Through her mumbling, he’s attentively watching her. She’s never kissed a man with a beard. She considers pretending it’s tea time and they need to go. She quickly thinks what time it is. It’s not time for tea yet. But maybe she needs to cook. She’s a great cook. Even she knows it. She’d cook him dinners and lick dessert off his neck. Strictly consensually. If it’s his cup of tea. He’d make her tea, they’d have dinner, and then she’d offer him… pudding.

She wants to put a paper bag on her head. Her blush can be seen from Asian parts of the former Soviet Union. He’s studying her face. She can bet twenty quid there must be dirt on her nose. She’s just that lucky with men.

“After this park, would you like to go for chips with Peter and myself?” His tone is even and friendly. How do people do it? Stay calm when asking someone out. Is he asking you out? “Wren?”

“Are you asking us out?”

Wren needs verbal Loperamide. He guffaws. She wants him. And to keep him.

“Yes, please,” he answers. “If you’re interested. And then, you could find a babysitter and I’ll take you out for dinner, in a restaurant, with cloth napkins. If you are interested, of course.”

His eyes are smiling.

“I am!” That was way too fast. “I am. Interested. In chips. And the cloth napkins. With you.”

Loperamide indeed.

“Ace. Let’s take the children off the swings. I know a great chippie place.”

Wren decides they will name their first son Chippie. No, they won’t. She’s always liked the name Thomas, though.

The story continues in Cloth Napkins

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