There are phrases that are sweet on the ears.  The purring of a contented kitten.  Things you don’t get tired of hearing, like, “I love you.” Things like, “I put an extra dollop in your hot cocoa,” which isn’t necessarily a euphemism, or, “I saved the last piece of baklava for you,” which is just another way of expressing your adoration for someone.

Then there are words you are never prepared to hear, like, “Well, we could only hold one extra cone each, so we decided you were a man, and could just cowboy-up.”

I blinked. “What does being a man have to do with not getting some ice cream?” I demanded.  “Let alone being a cowboy?  Which, I am most certainly not.”

The girls, with the exception of Doloise, (who, as noted, might not count in that particular subgroup anyway) giggled.

“It’s okay, pardner,” Maggie drawled.  “I can buy you a double scoop,” she put a hand on my shoulder.  “Ya like vanilla-r?  Or maybe some rocky road?”

I shrugged her hand off.  I was not pouting.  Sylvia gave Doloise her portion.  The Realm looked at it with curiosity.

“It’s for eating,” I informed her.  If I sounded sarcastic, I had every right.  “Like the shake from earlier, only not with a straw.”

She tried her tongue on it, and found it good.  Of course.

I sighed.  I could go get some ice cream.  I could even send Maggie to go get some ice cream for me.  Or I could just sit here and watch the girls enjoy their ice cream.

I smiled.  Oh, woe is me.

“I think we should skip the movie,” Maggie said.

Sylvia and Matana shared a glance that you didn’t have to be a woman to read.

“How about you three go to the movie, and Doloise and I will head back?” I said, getting back up from the bench where I had found myself again.  Honestly, I hadn’t been thrilled about the idea in the first place.  Given how upset Doloise got about the goings-on of a bunch of meerkats, the intensity of a two-hour horror flick might give her the wrong idea.  I kept getting little daydreams of an attack being launched by a character and her responding from the stadium seating.  Whatever you called a daydream crossed with a nightmare, besides, “a spell.”

“If you don’t think we’re trying to ditch you,” Maggie said in a hurry.  That earned her a look from Matana.

I bit my tongue anyway, in a figurative sense.  Because, you know, ice cream would have gone far to soothe it had I done it literally, and there I was, pining away for a frozen confection.


“No, I have some work to do,” I hedged.  “Go on, and have fun.  Thanks for inviting us to dinner; it’s been real.  Doloise, you have a hot date with National Geographic.”  I ushered her close.

“Let us purchase the tickets,” Matana said to Maggie.  “I do not believe these vampires sparkle.”  I waved in their general direction.

“Hey, E?” Sylvia asked.

I turned back around, my eyebrows asking the question.

She pulled a card from out of her purse.  “Here’s my number.  Give me a call sometime?”

I took the card, and realized I was probably looking at her strangely.  “Um,” I finally managed.

“You’re cute.  Besides, I’ve already kissed you once.”  She smiled.  “I won’t tell Doloise I had dibs.”  She giggled and then ran to catch up with the other two.

I held the card in my hand for a moment, feeling very strange, before sliding it back into my jeans.

“I like this ice cream,” Doloise said to me.

“I sure hope you do,” I muttered.  “Come on, let us go back to the car.”

“I think you should consider removing the witch from your sphere of influence.  I would be glad to do so as I was insufficient guardian to prevent her from striking you.  We had consulted her likely behaviour and did not see it as a potential in time to protect you.”

I stopped.  “I used to date that witch,” I said.  “It makes me feel illogically benevolent towards her, still.  Just eat your ice cream, Doloise.  We need to figure out how to give you what you want.”

“As well as how to approach the Dragon.”

“You know, I’ve changed my mind.  I think I need some ice cream.  Everything’s better after ice cream, right?  Even dragons.”