Pad Thai & Coconut Curry
Locke was staring at the clock. It was Wednesday afternoon, but time wasn’t moving nearly fast enough! While it had become quite routine for Mari and Locke to spend afternoons hanging out together after they left work, Locke still felt a certain degree of excitement when Wednesday afternoons rolled around. He loved his nephew, but there was something about seeing his girl (yes, they were indeed an item and she was his girl) in her element, that Locke really enjoyed seeing. Locke was going through emails when something popped up that he had completely forgotten about. He read the email,
“Subject: Spring-tel Resorts and Hotels Care!
Dear Spring-tel Employees,
Don’t forget we here at Spring-tel encourage our employees to show support for our community! One way we do that here at Spring-tel is to take advantage of your Comm-care hours! We offer you up to 2 hours a week to take to give back to your community in the name of Spring-tel. Our year is going by fast and we want to make sure that we are giving back to our local communities! Please download the volunteer forms and turn them into your supervisor in order to take advantage of your Comm-care hours today!
Ariella Villegas — Spring-tel Comm-care Coordinator”
Hmm… Locke had never really considered taking part in this whole “Spring-tel Cares!” business, because he never really had a cause that he was big into. He did some things with ABR here and there, but he did that on his own time, and while he enjoyed doing that, it wasn’t something that he could see helping with on a regularly scheduled basis. He did, however, remember that Finn’s school required parents to have a certain amount of volunteer hours and thus far, he wasn’t sure that Finn’s parents had any and it was getting close to the end of October. He began to formulate a plan that began with downloading and printing that Comm-care form before he headed off to pick up Finn today.
At 2:30 pm, Locke popped into Ms. Mari’s classroom to pick up Finn.
“Well, hello there, long time no see.” teased Mari as she gave him a hug, but no kiss because there were other students, present still.
As Locke was mid-hug, he whispered to her, “Do you have a minute after all these kids are gone?”
She whispered back “For you? Always.” He let out a soft chuckle as they separated. “Finn, go get your stuff and then we’ll play on the playground for a few minutes, how’s that sound?” “Great!” shouted Finn excitedly
Locke played with Finn on the playground until about 2:45 when he was certain all the other kids were gone and that he’d have Marisol to himself for a bit. “Finn, let’s go in buddy!” Locke shouted to Finn as he gathered Finn’s things off the weathered brown picnic table where he sat while passing the time by outside. Finn and Locke walked back to Mari’s room where this time, he gave Mari a short peck on the lips. Mari smiled.
“So, Mr. Locke, what’s up?”
“Not much, well, actually, I have a proposal for you. My company encourages us to take up to 2 hours a week to volunteer to a good cause in the community in their name. I was wondering if you would like it if I came in for an hour or so a week to volunteer to play outdoor games, or read to the students here. I could also help in other ways if the office needs me to, but I was thinking primarily of teaching the kids how to play outdoor games.”
Mari paused to think about it for a moment. “Locke, that would be wonderful! The kiddos only have one day a week of PE because our PE teacher is also the 2-year-old teacher, so she is only able to carve out one day a week for each of the other classes, so that would be fantastic! Also, I’m not going to lie, any excuse to see more of you,” she leaned in for a hug and kissed him on the cheek, “is a win-win for me.”
“Great, would you mind running this by your director and having her sign off on this form for me so that I’ll be able to get the time off?”
“Of course!” said Mari. “I’m sure she’ll be happy that we can offer our kids a bit more in their routines, I’m so excited!”
“Me too.” said Locke, and with that he turned to Finn, “Come on Finn, it is time to go!”
“See you later tonight?” he whispered in Mari’s ear.
“Oh, yes sir.” she whispered back.
Mari met Locke at his place after Finn had been picked up by his parents.
“Shall we go out for dinner tonight, or do you want to order in? I’m feeling kind of lazy tonight.”
“I’m easy going, whatever you feel like doing, but honestly, I think I’m ready to just hang out here this evening.” She took off her shoes and wiggled her toes as she continued, “What are you in the mood for?”
Locke pulled the menus off his fridge and started flipping through them. “Do you want to do Thai? We could order a couple of things and share them.”
“Yes, that sounds great.”
“Okay, what are you in the mood for Mari?”
“I’ll have the green coconut curry with Tofu and also can you add an extra order of jasmine rice, I love that rice!”
“Sounds good, I think I’ll have the Pad Thai.”
Locke called in their order and as they sat, they began to chat.
“Hey Locke, I’m just curious, are you a shoes all the time person, or a barefoot person? Because me, I’m a barefoot girl!” She put her feet on his lap and giggled.
“Well, I’ve always been one that prefers bare feet, but I guess I’ve made some modifications to that in recent years.” He smiled at Mari wistfully.“I guess I still prefer being barefoot, but I don’t always immediately pull off my shoes once I step in the door, I kinda got out of habit with that for a while.”
Mari, shyly asked, “Is it because…”
Locke looked down,“Yeah.”
“Oh.”Mari said a bit sadly.
Locke flashed a grin and said, “It is because the bears hated me sticking my feet in them,” he said with a chuckle, he playfully shoved her feet off his lap “now, if you don’t mind moving your feet for a moment so I can pop off my shoes!”
Mari moved her feet and looked at him oddly for a second.“Both shoes, one shoe or one shoe and one foot?”
Locke smiled, “Oh, you and your questions! I’m a bit of a rebel, so it is both shoes, even if it does wear out the foot shell a little quicker. Sometimes, it is one shoe and one foot, but that doesn’t usually happen until later in the evening.”
“So, you never did alter your barefoot preference, did you?”she said with an accusing glance.
“Nope, I was just messing with you.” He said with a wink.
“Well, well, Mr. Glasgow, you are a cheeky monkey, messing with my sympathy, making me think I’d asked something that got to your soft, chewy center.”
“Wellll, you know, every once and awhile I like to have a little fun.”
“Hmm. Okay, Mister Fun. We’ll see what happens when the leg comes off and I hide your crutches and put your leg in the window like a lamp.”
“Try me!” Mari giggled. “Okay, fine. Maybe not, I’m not that mean,” she shook her fist in the air,“Darn this heart of gold I have!”
“Hey, I have a heart of gold too.”
“Oh, sure, I forgot, you are now Mr. Volunteer.”
“Besides your heart of gold, and the altruism that runs in your veins. I’m just curious what made you decide to start volunteering on a regular basis today?”
Locke grinned cheekily, “I already told you, I have a heart of gold!”
Mari threw a pillow at him.
He laughed as he explained, “Okay, okay, it wasn’t just my heart of gold. There is a program at work that offers us a couple of hours a week to volunteer on behalf of the company, it is a good way for the company to have a good face in the community, and it helps all parties involved. I also realized that Finn’s parents haven’t had the chance to do any volunteering yet, so I figured I’d help them out and also, most importantly, I’d get the chance to see you a bit more during the week. I absolutely love watching you in your element, I only hope that I’m one tenth as good as you are with the kids when I start volunteering!”
“Oh Locke, you’re a natural, I wouldn’t worry about that. Plus, I’ll be with you when you are with my class, so you have nothing to worry about. I’m sure Finn has already said enough great things about you that the kids will be excited to hear that you are going to come play with them.”
Locke’s stomach began rumbling. “Hmm, according to the Locke clock,” he pointed to his belly, “It is officially dinner time, now let’s see how many minutes we have according to the email that confirmed our order. Let’s see…” Locke checked his phone to see just how many minutes were estimated to be left when he was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. “Ah, that would be zero minutes left!” Locke answered the door paid the delivery person and brought the food to the table. “Dinner is served!”
“Well, that is the one thing that always shuts me up!” said Mari, between bites. “A good meal. How’s your Pad Thai?”
“Delicious as always, would you like a bite?” Locke held out a bite for Mari, she leaned over and took the bite.
“Oh my gosh, that is fantastic, I usually get my green coconut curry, but that is going to make it a tough decision next time! Would you like a bit of mine?
“Sure, I’ll give it a try. I haven’t really tried the green coconut curry, for some reason, the idea of green curry has always sounded weird to me. Even though I eat plenty of green things, I mean pesto is green, right?”
Mari held out a bite, with a bit of basil and tofu in there for good measure.
“Mari, that is freakin’ delicious! I love the basil with the coconut! Maybe next time we’ll just have to order both and split it between us, that way we don’t have to decide!”
“OhMyGosh!” Mari exclaimed, “You just read my mind, I hate having to choose between two things that I really like and that is totally the perfect solution!”
“Wow, we really chowed down! Locke, I’ll clean up the mess if you want to change into comfy clothes.”
“Mari, you know you don’t have to clean up after me.”
“I know, I just feel like it, so take advantage, because next time, I may be lazy and make you do it!” she said laughing as she began tossing the to-go boxes and put away the leftover rice.
Locke went to change into some shorts and a t-shirt while Mari was cleaning up. As he entered the room, he looked at Mari and had a little thought. “Mari, did you want to borrow some PJ pants or shorts so you can be comfy too?”
Mari thought for a moment, Do I want to be comfy, heck yeah! Do I want to wear the boyfriend’s shorts, umm, yeah, yeah I do.
“Sure, that would be awesome Locke! I actually have a spare old t-shirt in my car that I can throw on with it, that would totally be perfect!”
As she ran out to the car, Locke went to his room, pulled out a pair of shorts that looked like something she could wear comfortably, and set that out for her. He then pulled out a bottle of wine and two glasses and set them up on the coffee table. He figured they could hang out on the couch and watch something on Netflix and just hang out there for a bit. He also contemplated whether they would end up hanging out there long enough for him to pop his leg off for a bit, so he brought his crutches out and set them unobtrusively out next to the couch in case he did decide to take off his leg for a bit.
Mari went into his bedroom where he had laid out his shorts for her. She took a moment to survey the room. Fairly neutral colors about, the walls were a warm oatmeal color, with a cobalt blue accent wall behind the bed. The bedspread had a geometric design, lots of squares of varying shades of blue with hints of the cobalt blue here and there and a fair amount of navy blue. Nice, maybe before the night is over, I can curl up under those blankets with him. She pushed the thought away for the moment and proceeded to change clothes. As she changed, she was curious to see if she could spot anything that would reveal his amputee status, but she saw nothing, so she figured he must have those sort of things put away in a closet and while she was curious, she was also polite and was not about to go nosing through closets to satisfy her curiosity!
Mari came bouncing out from Locke’s bedroom and immediately gave Locke a hug. “Thank you, sweet-pea! Much comfier now!”
“You’re welcome hun, do you mind if I go ahead and change into comfy clothes real quick, you can put something on Netflix, Hulu, or queue something up from the On Demand channel while you are waiting, I’ll be right back”
Mari plopped on the couch and pulled the throw blanket on. She wasn’t cold natured, but there is just something nice about a cozy throw blanket! She then pulled up Wayne’s World, a fun little movie and waited for Locke to return.
Locke sat for a moment in his room and looked around. He heaved a sigh of relief. Everything seemed to be going well, and he had remembered to put everything away. All his moisturizing creams and extra socks for his leg had been put away. He knew that she wouldn’t be bothered, but he just felt like it was another reminder to him, at least, that he wasn’t a typical guy and he was just hoping to get through the evening without worry. The funny thing, he realized, is that he was considering taking off his leg to get fully comfortable and that was not “normal”. He sighed as he realized that even though he was a few years into this process of accepting himself in his new “normal” there still was a long ways to go. In this moment, he took a moment to give a bit of thanks that that girl in the living room, wearing his shorts, seemed to be helping him to make changes in how he perceived himself. Maybe taking off a leg was not everybody’s normal, but it was his normal, and he was just going to have to be okay with that.