in loco parentis


She doesn’t even make it down the first step before he stops her.

“Wait!” he says. “You’re going to answer the door like that?”

She stops and lowers her eyes — from the white straps tied off loosely on her shoulders to her bare, polished toes.

“Because I have no shoes?” she asks, confused.

He glides down two steps and blocks her, hand on the banister.

“I can see your nipples,” he says softly, in a very “I didn’t want to be the one to have to tell you this” kind of way.

He looks at her breasts and gives a slight nod of his head. “Through your dress,” he explains.

Which is adorable? Maybe?

She’s not sure.

The buzzer rings again, audible all through the common area from the door they’ve left open behind them.

She plants her forehead on his.

“Whatever shall we do?” she whispers. Teasingly. Conspiratorially.

He pulls his head away from hers.

“Does everything always have to be a joke with you?”

Without knowing why, this is, lately, his recurring question.

Her answer is a moving target.

“He can see us perfectly through the entry, you know,” she says, suddenly impatient. “Look.”

He turns and shoots his opposition as much of a warning as he can from a distance of one landing.

She takes the opportunity to try to bolt left down the stairs.

Quickly raising his other arm, he stops her again. Fastens his fingers around the opposite railing now. They both hear the rattling of the locked doors below.

“Don’t you find it strange? His showing up now? When you’re pregnant?”

She struggles not to roll her eyes and to look right at him, instead.

But she can’t do it. Somehow, his blue-grey eyes always manage to take possession of more than she intends to give.

And in him she sees sadness. Seeping over.

“I can’t understand you,” she evades. “Why are you doing this? You were invited to dinner with us, you know. It was you said you didn’t want to go.”

“Of course I said I didn’t want to go! Because I thought you’d have enough sense to know that meant that you shouldn’t, either!”

She feels an odd longing to push him in the chest.

He feels an odd longing to touch her long, wavy hair.

But they both keep their hands to themselves.

This time.

“Fine. I’ll change my dress,” she compromises.

But only so that the next thing can happen.

*          *          *

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