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The Park. Such a beautiful, peaceful place. A reminder of childhood… not her childhood, just a reminder of what it should have been like. Exuberant kids playing, birds chirping all around them, the chatter of parents as they sat watching their children, and of course, the gossip of the men and women on their lunch break.

Lydia was chagrined to be partaking in that office gossip, even if it was passively. Broots would get along so well with Ramona and Claude, she thought.

The two ladies were talking her ears off about the boss on the 15th floor, whose son had inadvertently slept with his dad's new girlfriend.

An image of Brigitte and Lyle assaulted her inner eye causing her sure strides to falter.

When Claude and Ramona realized she was no longer in between them and they were just talking to themselves, they stopped and turned back. Lydia looked sick, as if she was going to throw up.

Concerned, Claude asked, "Are you ok, Lydia?"

Lydia nodded that she was fine. Ramona and Claude resumed their pace and continued with their story.

Resuming the fašade, and clearing her mind of the past, she quickened her pace and caught up with them at the benches.

"So, Lydia, tell us about him?" Ramona asked excitedly.

Lydia had been expecting this, so was not caught completely off guard. However, she already knew she did not want to go down that road with them. They were genuinely nice people and if she ends up telling them about Jarod, they may learn to coerce other information, that she would rather kept hidden, out of her.

"Tell you about who?" She asked innocently, and began twirling a strand of hair between her fingers.

Playing dumb with Daddy always seemed to work. She would give it a go here too.

"Unh-uh, girl. You're gonna spill it. Tell us everything." Ramona urged, intent on breaking Lydia's insistent denial.

The joyous hollering of a little boy cut off her continued attempt to deny Ramona's allegations "I really have no clue what --". She had to turn her body around to see where Claude and Ramona's gazes were fixed to spot him.

"Mommy, Mommy!" He screamed happily.

Ramona and Claude looked on in curious wonder as he launched himself into their co-workers arms.

Pleasantly surprised by his appearance, Lydia stood and hugged him tightly to her. The presence of her two colleagues was quickly forgotten as she began to concentrate on the warm, squirming body that she now held.

"Mommy, put me down." He demanded, wiggling out of her grasp, unwilling to be held any longer.

She kneeled down to his eye level and brushed the hair out of his face, deciding that she would take him with her to get his hair cut when she visited her stylist this weekend.

"You're not here alone, I hope?"

The boy shook his head in answer.

"Alright, then, where's your babysitter?" She just might have to get upset with the young woman for leaving her son unattended… although; he does have a tendency to run off. She threw a cursory glance around them looking for the babysitter.

"Daddy sent her home, he took me and Katie to McDonalds for lunch, and then we got to eat our ice cream here."

She frowned at this, because she distinctly remembered Jarod promising he wouldn't feed them ice cream anymore today, if she would just let them have some for breakfast that morning. As an early dessert, he said.

Kyle shifted from one foot to the other. Placing her hand in his, Parker stood, "Come on, let's get you to the bathroom… and then we'll find Daddy." She added with a gleam in her eye.

Ramona and Claude continued to sit there bewildered, trying to place this woman with the one they knew as Lydia Weston.

"It's like she's a different person." Claude remarked amazed, eliciting a nod of agreement from Ramona.

If they only knew.



* * * *


Sticky fingers were attacking him. It was his fault though. 16 month olds tended to make a mess with their food. Glancing at the men's room to see if Kyle had finished yet, Jarod produced a wipe from the diaper bag. He made a valiant attempt to clean Katie's face of the ice cream residue. Deftly avoiding the wipe, Katie swayed in her father's arms.

"Come on, Katie. You're all sticky, Mommy will kill me if I bring you home like this."

Sitting her down on the three-foot high stone wall, he gave her a stern look as if to say, 'Daddy means business.'

A delighted giggle erupted from the child at her father's funny face… it was certainly one she had never seen before. She clapped her hands delightedly. A frown pulled at the baby's face, as she felt the sticky sensation of the ice cream. She dropped her hand to her pants to wipe them off. Jarod was too late to stop her.

There were now chocolate smudges streaked down the pants that Parker had deemed "perfect" for her little girl. 'I should have had them change into play clothes first' Jarod mused.

While Katie busied herself with her hands, Jarod quickly stilled her head movements, by placing his hand under her chin and swiped the wet wipe across her mouth and surrounding areas covered by chocolate ice cream. He then quickly grabbed her hands while she was distracted with getting him away from her face and scrubbed them off as well.

Jarod grinned at his success, "Done!" He beamed.

A tap on his shoulder prompted him to turn around, but not before picking Katie up. He didn't want her to fall.

"How can I help y-" He faltered at the sight before him. There was his son holding onto Miss Parker's hand. A very annoyed Miss Parker. He only had to make one guess as to why she was glaring at him now.

"You can tell start by telling me why my children are eating ice cream, for the second day in a row, with breakfast and lunch." Parker seethed in a remarkably soft voice. She didn't want to upset her kids by yelling at their father any more than was necessary and she would definitely prefer to do that in the privacy of their own home.

Jarod shifted uncomfortably under her cold stare, and shifted Katie to his other side. Then his stuttering began as he tried to explain away the early and often desserts he had been feeding their children. His eyes had somehow found a line of ants marching between him and Parker on the ground and he concentrated on them while he spoke.

Parker was having trouble staying mad at him as he so cutely lost his train of thought whilst studying the ants, and with a sigh, relented to forgive him for his blunder. His face remained transfixed in a downward position while the ant's movements increasingly mesmerized him, and he eventually stopped speaking. Kyle was the one to finally get his attention.

"Daddy! Mommy's talking to you, pay attention." The child scolded his father.

Jarod looked up sheepishly and shared a look with Parker over their son's insight. He obviously knew better than to ignore his mother.

"Sorry, Parker. Let's discuss this when you get home tonight? Over dessert perhaps?" He questioned hopefully, raising his eyebrows suggestively. His dessert and the kids dessert were entirely different.

"I don't think so. As long as you feed Katie and Kyle dessert at any other time than after dinner…" She paused for dramatic effect. "Then you are risking the privileges of your own dessert." She suggestively implied that this was about their dessert, not the children's.

"But Park… you wouldn't… I mean." He was beside himself. He could not allow this to happen. Was she serious?

"I'm dead serious Jarod. When I get home tonight, I want to see remnants of a nice, balanced meal that you prepared and no empty ice cream containers in the sink. Got it?" He nodded solemnly. "Good."

Taking a step closer she nudged her baby girl, who had fallen asleep in her fathers arms and gave her a kiss on her cheek. Then raising her head, she gave Jarod a kiss too as his face still registered shocked disbelief at her demands.

"Mommy, are you going back to work now?" Kyle asked quietly.

"Yes baby, but I'll be home early tonight, so I can tuck you in, and maybe read you a story. How does that sound?"

"Ok Mommy."

"See ya later alligator." Parker said.

Kyle gave her a hug and quickly dropped a kiss on her cheek before running back to the playground.

Parker stood up said goodbye to Jarod, and prepared herself for the questions that were bound to come from Claude and Ramona. They had followed her and hid behind a tree to see what she was doing, but she had spotted them easily. This time they had seen just about everything. There were going to be questions about Katie and Kyle and of course Jarod. And definitely, why Kyle was calling her Mommy. She breathed deeply and took a path through the trees so she could sneak up behind them.

She leaned over their shoulder as they tried to relocate her, "Find anything interesting?" She said startling them.

TBC…









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