Early Friday afternoon in Moscow, Steve boarded a military flight to Washington after a two-week summit on space exploration. He’d been chosen by the US government to consult on the next mission to space, which will involve Russian astronauts.
He sat on the plane, a blissful expression chiseled on his face as he lost himself in the tales his wife Peggy had related to him about his two mischievous four-year-old twin boys. While in Russia, he kept in constant touch with his family, setting the alarm in the early morning hours so not to skip on the traditional bedtime stories. The boys’ giggles never failed to set his heart aflutter but conversely, their pleas to have their daddy back home would shatter his heart. A few comforting words from his wife would put a temporary patch over the wound but he knew that only his return home would mend I completely.
He arrived at Dulles airport where Oscar waited to drive him to his house.
Meanwhile, Peggy had her boys helping her bake chocolate chip cookies for their father’s homecoming. James and Troy were seated on stools behind the counter, happily stirring their cake mixture. After placing the chunks on the cookie tin, James took one and shoved it in his mouth.
“No, don’t do that! They have to be baked first, sweetie.”
Thinking he was being upbraided, the boy pursed his lips in chagrin. “I’m sorry, mommy.”
“It’s okay,” Peggy consoled with a smile.
“Mommy, mine are all done,” Troy announced proudly.
“Okay.” Peggy opened the oven door and slid both cookie tins on the grill. “Now we wait a few minutes and we’ll have delicious cookies for when your daddy gets here.”
“He’s going to like mine,” Troy said defiantly.
“He’s going to like mine!” James argued, slapping his dirty hands against the counter, which splattered bits of cookie mixture all around.
“Boys! Your daddy is going to like both your cookies. Now you come here and wash your hands.”
James and Troy hopped down the stools and bounced to their mother standing by the kitchen sink. Peggy lifted James up in her arms and held his hands under the running water. When cleaned, she gave the boy a towel and resumed the process with Troy.
“Anybody home” Steve shouted from the living room.
“Daddy!” the boys chorused with delight. They ran to the living room, arms outstretched to their father squatting down to receive their ebullient welcome.
He hugged them both tight and kissed their foreheads. “How are my boys? Been taking good care of your mommy while I was away?”
“We made you cookies,” Troy informed excitedly.
“Cookies? Chocolate chips?”
“Hum, my favorite.” Steve lifted his sons in his arms with a loud grunt. “Boys I swear you’re getting heavier by the day.”
Both giggled at their father’s grimace. Peggy walked out of the kitchen towards Steve. “Hi sweetheart.” She squeezed herself between the two boys to give him a kiss on the lips. The boys broke into a laugh.
“Oh, you find that funny, do you?” Steve let them slide back onto the floor.
“Daddy, come see the cookies,” Troy urged, pulling his father by the hand while James pulled at the other.
With one arm around their tiny waists, Steve hunched down in front of the over door and all three watched the cookies bake.
In the living room, Oscar and Callahan gazed at the pretty picture of a father and sons. “These two must be a handful.”
“More than you know, Oscar,” she replied smilingly. “They missed their father terribly.”
“I can imagine. Steve couldn’t stop talking about them on our way to the house. But they’ll get to see him more often in the next few weeks. I’ve managed to wangle him a month off before the next lunar mission.
“God bless you, Oscar.”
The twins steered Steve into the living room to the coffee table where sat their drawing pads to show their dad their masterpieces. Oscar felt a prick in his heart at Steve’s good fortune, a family life he’s often which upon himself. When the ache intensified, he decided to leave.
“Oscar, I was hoping you’d stay for supper,” Peggy said, a tad disappointed by her former boss’s reticence.
“I’ll take a rain check. I have to be in San Diego in the morning, and I’d like to get to bed early tonight. Bye boys!”
“Bye Uncle Oscar.”
“I’ll walk you out.” Steve gave a quick kiss to Peggy before heading out the door.
The silence that feel between them as they walk to the car told Steve that not was all well with his boss.
“Oscar, what’s bothering you?”
“Nothing. Why do you asked?”
“Come on, I’ve been your friend for over eight years. I recognize the signs.”
“I hate to say it, but I believe I’m feeling a bit jealous.”
“Of you and what you have with Callahan and the kids. I see you with them and get envious.”
“Oscar, be patient. You’ll have that soon.”
“Time is running out, pal.”
“Look at me. I was worried I’d never find the right woman with whom I’d want to settle down and raise a family. I had resigned to the fact that I was condemned to be a bachelor for the rest of my life. I traveled around the world, searched everywhere, and there she was right under my nose.”
Oscar placed his hand on Steve’s shoulder. “You’re lucky, my friend. I hope to God I find my Peggy Callahan.”
Oscar smiled and put on his sunglasses. “Call you tomorrow.”
“All right.” Steve watched Oscar stepped into his car and drive away. He returned inside where Peggy clenched him into a warm embrace and gave him a deep kiss. He reluctantly pried his lips apart from her hers. “Peg. . . the kids, remember?”
“I sent them upstairs to play in their room. I’ve missed you, Steve.” She placed another hungry kiss on his lips that he was all too pleased to return with the same ardor. It lingered for a good minute before they slowly parted.
“Save some for tonight,” Steve purred teasingly with a come-hither wink.
“I’ve got plenty to spare, Cowboy.”
“I love it when you call me that.”
They resumed kissing until Steve smelled something burning. She rushed back into the kitchen to get the cookies out of the oven.