JOE paused outside Ruby’s bedroom door to take
a deep breath and consciously relax his
shoulders. Ruby didn’t deserve his anger.
He lifted his hands and rapped on the door.
“Rubes, it’s me,” he called.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you like that”. He la!d his
hand on her shoulder. “I didn’t mean to frighten
Ruby lifted her head and he could see she’d been
“No, Daddy, you’ve got it all wrong. Hannah
didn’t take me for a ride and now you yelled at
her and she’ll never let me near her agian.
JOe frowned, “Ruby, I saw you on the bike.”
“She didn’t take me for a ride! I asked her to but
she said no. Then she said I could sit on the bike
if I wanted to and she was really nice and lifted
me up and help me when i thought i was going
to fall.” Ruby said in an urgent rush.
“Hannah’s going to hate me now” Ruby said
Not half as much as she hates me ….thought
I’m sure she doesn’t hate you, Rubes. You didn’t
do anything wrong. I was the one who made the
“we should go next door right now and apologize
to Hannah,” Ruby said. She was already
wriggling toward the edge of the bed and she
looked at Joe expectantly.
He nodded. “That’s a good idea,” Even though it
was going to make him squirm.
“I tell you What. Why don’t you make a pizza for
Hannah, and I’ll take it over to her on my own
and apologize? he said.
Ruby smiled and shrugged.
They went to the kitchen to create a pizza
especially for Hannah.
Finally Joe had a pizza in his hand and a speech
roughed out in his mind. He felt like a kid going
to the principals office as he walked up the front
steps to Hannah’s house. Gritting his teeth, he
rang the door bell.There was a rattle of a door
chain bein removed, then Mrs. Napier opened
“Oh. Hello, Joe. How are you?” Robyn said.
“I’m good, thanks”. Um, I was actually
wondering if I could have a quick word with
Robyn’s smile widened. “Of course you can.
don’t you come in and I ‘ll go grab her? ”
Joe stepped into the foyer as Robyn disappeared
up the hallway. He glanced around as he waited.
A door closed somewhere in the house and Joe
turned just as Hannah entered the foyer wearing
a pale green satin bathrobe. Her hair was
wrapped in a towel and she had her arms
crossed defensively over her chest as she
stopped in front of him. She glanced at the Pizza
and arched an eyebrow.
“It’s for you. Ruby made it” he said awkwardly.
“To say thank you for the motor bike ride I didn’t
take her on, I assume?” Hannah asked coolly.
He squired his shoulders, “Yeah, about that. I
owe you an apology. I jumped to conclusions. I
should have let you explain before I barged in.”
“Yep, you should have.”
He winced. “I’m sorry”.
She eyed him for a moment, then her gaze
dropped to the pizza. “Ruby made this for me, is
that what you said?”
She held out her hand and he passed teh pizza
over. Now that her arms weren’t crossed over her
chest, he could see the outline of her b0s0ms
against her robe. The soft shape of her Tips was
clearly visible beneath the silk, and he realized
that she must be Unclad beneath it.
It was the first time they’d been alone since the
kiss, and Joe was acutely aware of it. He’d
initiated it, after all. He’d been the one who
pushed her against the wall. But she’d hardly
been a reluctant participant. The memory made
his blood hot.
“Listen, about the kiss ……..” he said
Hannah’s gaze flew to his face, “I know, it was a
mistake. It was silly ——”
“It wasn’t a mistake,” he said, “come out with
She looked as surprised as he felt.
“You mean on a date? she said
“Yeah. YOu, me, no kids. The usual kind of thing”
“Because I like you”
“Oh”. Her gaze dropped to her feet, but he could
see the corners of her mouth curling into a smile.
“Whats so funny?
“Um, I think i like you, too,” she said, “But…….”
He took a step closer, “But What?
She lifted her head and looked straight into his
eyes. In an instant all the heat from yesterday
was there between them. He could feel himself
growing hard, just from a look.
“Okay. Yes” she sounded a little breathless.
licked her lips. “I’ll go out with you”
Joe got home from Hannah ‘s and Ruby was
anxious to know what transpired between them
but he waved it off.
His son Ben, a 12 years old teenager was
already up in his room to finish his homework.
Joe ran Ruby a bath, as usual he had to go
roust her out after half an hour.
She was splashing happily when he entered the
bathroom. She ‘d molded her hair into a bubbly
bouffant on top of her head and was singing to
herself as she made shapes in the strawberry
scented bath foam.
“How you doing in here? ”
“Good. You should try some of this strawberry
bubble bath, daddy. It smells good enough to
“Hmm. I ‘m not sure strawberry is really me,
“Daddy, do you think Hannah ‘s pretty? ” she
watched him from beneath her eyelashes,
trying to appear disinterested in his answer.
“I don’t know, I haven ‘t really thought about it,
” he lied.
“Do you think she would like to dress up and
have fun? ”
“I ‘m sure Hannah has a lots of people she likes
to have fun with, ” he said. Its time for you to
get out now. You want to wash your hair and
get into pj ‘s?
“Its just that there ‘s this thing happening at
school. The mother – daughter fashion parade.
And I was thinking that maybe Hannah wouldn
‘t mind being my partner in it. But I wasn ‘t
sure is she would want to or not, ” Ruby said in
a rush. Her hands were twisted together and
she was watching him uncertainly.
He moved into the bathroom and sat at the
edge of the tub. He was speechless.
“So do you think I should ask Hannah? ” Ruby
“I ‘ll have a word with her tomorrow,” he said.
“Leave it to me.”
Ruby slapped both hands down into the water.
“Really? Really? Truly? ”
“First thing, ” he promised.
Ruby surged out of the water and flung herself,
bubbles and all, against his chest.
“You ‘re the best, Daddy.”
He knew he wasn ‘t. Not even close. But he was
doing what he could.
The next day Hannah head off to work with
thought of last night on her mind. She couldn ‘t
believe she ‘d said yes. What had she been
thinking? Even if she hadn’t still been grappling
with the aftermath of her failed wedding, there
was a small matter of her imminent trip around
Australia which she is considering to clear off
her mind and the fact that Joe had two children
to consider. Not exactly your ideal dating
When she got to the workshop they had a busy
day scheduled and she threw herself into work
the moment she arrived at the garage. She ‘d
just finished flushing the fuel injector on a
Rhonda Civic when something made her look
up and she saw Joe walking toward her, his
long stride eating up the ground. She quelled
the impulse to slip into her office and let
another deal with his enquiry, whatever it was.
She ‘d never backed down from a challenge,
even one as confusing as Joe.
“Hey, ” he said as he stopped in front of her.
“You got a minute? ”
She crossed to the Honda. Joe followed.
“Its it about the date? ” she asked
“No. It ‘s about Ruby. Her school is holding a
mother daughter fashion parade ”
“Right.” She had no idea where he was going
with this and she propped an elbow on the
rocker cover, waiting for him to get to the
His gaze flicked up to hold hers, then quickly
flicked away again.
“Ruby and I were talking last night and she
suggested that maybe you wouldn ‘t mind
doing it, ” he said, his tone absolutely neutral.
Hannah straightened so quickly she knocked
her shoulder on the hood of the car. She
rubbed it absently, staring at him.
“You want me to go in a fashion parade? ” she
“Not me. Ruby. And I absolutely understand if
you ‘re not up for it. It ‘s a hassle.
“My God, you ‘re really serious, aren’t you? ” she
couldn ‘t quite believe it.
“Well, yeah. Ruby ‘s not something I usually
joke about. ”
She laughed and slid the spanner she was
holding into the pocket of her overall. “Sorry. I
‘m not laughing at you. It ‘s just the idea of me
in a fashion parade. .. It ‘s pretty funny.” She
gestured towards her attire. “I couldn ‘t tell you
the last time I wore anything except jeans. ”
“Does that mean you ‘re not interested? ”
“It means I ‘m probably not a great choice.
Surely there must be someone else? A family
His face was utterly impassive as he nodded
“Sure. I ‘m sure we ‘ll think of someone. ” He
glanced at his watch. “Thanks for your time,
anyway. I appreciate.”
He headed to his car.
She watched him, feeling as though she ‘d let
him down. Worse, she felt as though she’d let
Ruby down. But the idea of her in a fashion
parade… it was absurd, it really was. Surely Joe
could see that? She barely knew how to put on
mascara and lipstick, and she ‘d practiced for
weeks before the wedding so she ‘d be able to
walk down the aisle in her stiletto heels. She
was so not what Ruby needed.
And yet Ruby had thought of her and sent her
father to ask her.
She took off after Joe, catching him just as he
was sliding into the front seat of his SUV.
“Wait a minute ”
He looked at her, his hand on the door, waiting.
She shook her head, still unable to quite get her
head around it. “It ‘s not that I don’t want to do
it. It’s just. ….. Are you sure? I mean, does Ruby
have any idea how much of a handicap I’ll be? ”
“Ruby thinks you’re the bee’s knees. ”
“Which shows how much she knows, ” Hannah
said, but she could feel heat rising into her face.
She was so tragic. It wasn’t as if he’d said she
was beautiful or anything —- he compared her
to insect appendages, for Pete’s sake. What was
there to feel self – conscious about in that?
“When is it? ” she asked to cover her
“A week from Friday. ”
She took a deep breath. “Okay. If Ruby wants
me, i’m all hers. God help her.”
The tight look left his face but his eyes were still
wary. “If it’s too big a deal, its fine. Like I said, I
‘m sure there ‘s someone else. ”
She gave him a look. “Didn’t anyone ever tell
you to quit while you ‘re ahead, Lawson? You
just got me to agree to wearing high heels and
makeup. My advice is to drive away like a bat
out of here before I come to my senses.”
She was smiling, suddenly feeling
unaccountably goofy. Slowly his mouth curved
into a smile.
“Okay. Thank you. I’ll tell Ruby after school.
She’d be dancing on the ceiling, no doubt. ”
“That ‘s because she hasn’t seen me in a dress
yet, ” Hannah said darkly.
“I was going to take her shopping on the
weekend. I guess maybe we should all go
together, make sure your outfits coordinate.
That’s the way it probably works, right? ”
She held up both hands helplessly.
“You’re asking a mechanic. But you’re probably
right. What time do you want me to meet you
at the mall? ”
“Seems silly to take two cars. Why don’t we
plan to leave at around ten or so and meet out
the front of your place? Does that suit? ”
“Sure. Wait till Mom hears about this. She ‘ll be
in heaven. ”
They finessed the details for their outing then
Joe drove away. Hannah remained where she
was for a good minute or two.
A cocktail of thoughts and emotions swirled
inside her. Warmth that Ruby wanted her to be
her partner in fashion crime. Surprise at herself
for saying yes to such a ridiculous proposal. And
something else. A sort of strange, foreign
excitement that she wasn’t quite sure she even
wanted to name.
Brow furrowed, she strode to the workshop .
Hopefully Ruby wouldn’t have cause to regret
JOE paused outside Ruby’s bedroom door to take