Sophie had a friend over for a play date yesterday. Lola is a sweet girl with whom she has a lot in common—and not just in terms of their interests—though they both enjoy playing pretend, coloring, and dancing. It’s something more ineffable than that. There is something secret, almost conspiratorial between them. They’re always whispering. Scheming. Hiding in corners and tittering. Their relationship reminds me of one of my first friendships. Thirty-six years after meeting Emily, I can’t say what initially drew us to each other, but I imagine it is the same glue that has kept us together all these years.
I picture Sophie and Lola being friends for a very long time.
They had been playing together for several hours—Sophie as the mother, Lola as the baby, when Lola’s father showed up to take her home. There are a couple of dads at Sophie’s school who I’ve become friendly with. Ones that I see each morning at pick up and drop off, who I’ve coordinated play dates with, and on a couple of occasions, have pulled our whole families together for a cross-generational play date.
Dave and I got caught up talking, as we often do about this and that. The unrelenting snow. His recent trip to Florida. The looming Broad Street Run, for which we’ve both registered to run. The girls, realizing that we might be a while, snuck away and stationed themselves behind the large leather chair in the living room. About 15 minutes into the conversation, we both noticed that it had gotten awfully quiet.
“I’ll go upstairs to find them,” I told Dave. As I did, the leather chair snorted.
“I think I found them,” Dave said. Peering down from the landing, I saw them too, crouched behind the chair, teetering on their balls of their feet as they giggled.
“Come on out Lolalee,” Dave said, “it’s time to go.” But there was no conviction in his voice. Lola knew it. And, sure enough, Dave and I drifted back into conversation. The girls saw their opportunity and seized it. Neither one of us noticed that they had slipped back upstairs.
Fifteen minutes later, Dave remarked that he should probably get going. This time I found the girls hidden behind Sophie’s door, their hands covering their mouths to stifle their glee.
“Okay, come on you two. Outta there,” and I waved my hand towards the stairs. After many protests, dawdling, ardent goodbyes which involved lifting each other off the ground in great bear hugs, and making an appointment to see each other two days later that neither would be able to keep, Lola left.
That night, Sophie and I were eating dinner. Kevin, who was ill, had his head on the table and was looking like he was trying not to barf.
“Yeah?” Why is it that she always needs confirmation that I am listening before she says anything to me?
“Did you kiss Dave?” I nearly spit my grapefruit essence Perrier out all over the table.
“What makes you think I was kissing Dave?”
“We thought we heard you ask him for a kiss.”
“Me and Lola.”
“No, Sophia. Dave I and were talking. There was no kissing involved.” This, my friends, is how rumors begin.
Kevin, in spite of his nausea, was snickering.
“I think if I was going to be kissing anyone other that Daddy, I’d be a little more stealthy about it.”
“What does that mean?” Sophie asked.
“Mommy’s just being silly,” Kevin told her.
“Oh you think?” I asked slyly.
“Do you love Dave?” Sophie asked suddenly. Must she do this every time I take a mouthful of something?
“Well, honey, he’s a friend. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love him. I love you and daddy.”
“So you didn’t tell him you love him?”
“I though I heard you say that you did.”
“I think you need to get your ears checked. Again.”
Neither of us said anything more about the subject. But I was left wondering: Where was this imagined intimacy coming from? A strange fantasy of hers that we could merge families, and that she would become Lola’s sister? Concern that I was throwing over her father for another guy? Or just an unclear understanding of the constraints of monogamy? A innocent inquiry born out of a more fluid conception of love.