An instant before he knocked, barking exploded inside the house. One thing you could say for Moe, nobody snuck up on you when he was around. He could hear the boy's shouts, his laughter, then the door swung open.
"You should ask who it is first," Brad told him.
Simon rolled his eyes even as Moe leaped up to greet Brad. "I looked out the window and saw your car. I know all that stuff. I'm playing baseball, bottom of the seventh." He grabbed Brad's hand and pulled him toward the living room. "You can take over the other team. You're only two runs down."
"Sure, bring me in when I'm two down. Listen, I need to talk to your mom."
"She's up in her room, sewing something. Come on, I've only got a few minutes before she calls the game and sends me to the showers."
The kid was a gem, Brad reflected, with eyes that made you want to give him the world. "I really have to talk to your mother, so why don't we schedule a game for later in the week? Head to head, pal, and I will rock your world."
"As if." He might have thought about arguing, but gauged his ground. If Brad kept his mother talking, she might forget when his hour was up. "A whole nine innings? You promise?"
His smile went sly. "Can we play at your house, on the big TV?"
"I'll see what I can do."
With the crowd in the video bleachers cheering again, Brad started toward Zoe's room. He heard the music before he reached the doorway. She had it on low, and he could just catch her voice as she murmured more than sang along with Sarah McLachlan. Then the voices were drowned out by the hammering hum he recognized as a sewing machine.
She was working with a portable set up on a table in front of the side window. The framed photographs and painted chest he remembered she kept on it were moved to her dresser now to make room for the machine and what looked like miles of fabric.
It was an essentially female room—very Zoe-esque. Not fussy, not fancy, but very feminine in its little touches. Bowls filled with potpourri, pillows edged with lace, the old iron bed given a luster with pewter paint and a colorful quilt.
She'd framed old magazine ads for face powder, perfume, hair products, and fashion and had them grouped on the wall in a kind of quirky, nostalgic gallery.
She sewed, he noted, like someone who knew what she was doing, in a steady, competent rhythm while her foot— clad in a thick gray sock, tapped to the music that jingled out of the clock radio by the bed.
He waited until she'd stopped the machine and begun to rearrange the material.
"Hmm?" She shifted in the chair and gave him the blank look of a woman whose mind was considerably occupied. "Oh. Bradley, I didn't know you were here. I didn't hear you…" She glanced at the clock. "I was trying to get these slipcovers finished before it's time to get Simon ready for bed.
I guess I'm not going to make it."
"Slipcovers?" His train of thought took a detour. "You're making slipcovers?"
"People do." Irritation sizzled under the tone as she tugged the material. "I'm covering a sofa for the salon. I wanted something friendly and fun, and I think these big hydrangeas do the trick. Color works, too. And there's nothing wrong with homemade."
"That's not what I meant. I'm just amazed that I know somebody who would have a clue how to sew something like this."
Her back went up. She knew it was stupid, but it went up anyway. "I imagine most of the women you know have seamstresses, so they don't have to know one side of a sewing machine from another."
He walked over to lift a length of the fabric, and studied her speculatively. "If you're going to be determined to misinterpret everything I say, we're going to fight about something entirely different from what I came over to fight about."
"I don't have time to fight with you about anything. I need to get this done while I have the chance."
"You'll have to make time. I've got—" He broke off, scowled over at the clock radio as the alarm went off.
"I can't make what I don't have," she shot back and rose to turn off the alarm. "That's set so I know when it's time to get Simon up here for his bath. That process takes the best part of half an hour, if he cooperates. And it's Monday, and we read together for half an hour before bed on Mondays. After that, I've got at least another hour of sewing, then—"
"I get the picture." Just, he thought as he put his hands in his pockets, as he knew when a woman was determined to brush him off. "I'll handle Simon's bath and the reading."
"I can't sew, but I know how to bathe and how to read."