I clutched my plate of homemade brownies tightly between my hands and followed half a step behind Eric as we crossed the street. I slipped a hand through my wavy, tosseled hair as we mounted the steps of the farmers porch and licked my lips nervously as he rapped loudly on the door. He didn’t wait for an answer.
“Que paso?!” He shouted while pushing open the door.
I heard them before I saw them. A stampede of tiny little feet charging towards the front door. “ET!”
Three little girls, all under the age of twelve, surrounded Eric within seconds. Pigtails bounced against their slender shoulders as they jumped up and down begging for his utmost attention. He extended his arms over his head and challenged them to give him high fives. They jumped and strained relentlessly to see who could reach his hands first, giggling hysterically.
My brownies and I were pushed towards the staircase as his little cousins stole his complete attention. He herded them into the living room while I waited by the stairs with tinfoil covered brownies looking on in bewilderment.
He reluctantly bent down and gave them the high fives they were longing for, and in moments they were eagerly showing him their new Hannah Montana lip gloss key chains. He shared in their excitement and gushed over their new treasures. Then he turned to face me–still standing precariously by the front entrance. His smiling almond brown eyes melted my heart and sent butterflies soaring through my abdomen. He unfolded his frame and stood tall, still holding my gaze.
“Girls,” he said glancing down at them while walking in my direction, “this is my girlfriend, Samantha.” Girlfriend.
“Hi,” I said meekly, still astounded by Eric’s ease and playfulness with the children. I searched his face and smiled.
“Hi!” The three said in unison. Eric rattled off their names and I quickly placed the eldest as the loudest, and the one with the sea green eyes, to be the shyest. They took turns re-introducing themselves to me while I tried to get their names correctly situated in my head.
Eric’s sister came up beside me and offered to take the brownies to the table. I didn’t now what to do with my empty hands so I followed Eric and the girls through the living room. The sun that streamed through the windows lit up the room and bounced off the butter cream walls. I was introduced to various people situated throughout the room and not too long after polite conversation, the girls challenged Eric and I to a game of basketball downstairs. We gladly accepted.
“You and Eric first!,” one of the youngsters shouted.
I looked at Eric and narrowed my eyes, “You’re on,” I said teasingly.
“Yeah. You’re going down,” I smirked coyly. “Ready? Go!”
We started tossing balls in the direction of the nets, with the girls screaming and cheering us on. Best of five. Eric clutched a drink in his right hand and was shooting with his left, while I took my competitiveness to the next level and used both hands efficiently. Eric was laughing and goofing off and I was in a hysterical panic as I tried so hard to aim precisely. I was intent on winning. And I had three little girls on my side who were rooting for me. It was three to four. One more basket and I would win. Aim. Shoot. Hits the rim. Swoosh.
“I win!” I beamed, throwing my hands in the air and high-fiving the girls. I turned to Eric and he clasped my hand in his, his eyes sparkling in an honest admiration that I had never beheld.
Mackenzie caught a glance of our fingers intertwined by our sides and she immediately brought attention to the public display of affection. “Aw! Look!” she squealed, “they’re holding hands! That’s so cute!” I blushed and peeked a look at Eric. He winked and I tossed my head back laughing.
Eric returned his attention to his adoring fans and spurred them on to another round of basketball. I sat on the back of the couch watching his earnest attempt to let Nikki win the game.
“You’re great with those girls,” I whispered to him.
“Yeah.” I paused and glanced at the girls. “They adore you, Eric.” I squeezed his hand, allowing my heart to fall more deeply in love with him than I ever imagined possible.
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