Next course of action was to check out the fun toys just waiting to be discovered. Even though it wasn’t the very first day of the grand opening, there were a lot of customers in the store right then.
Frank smiled as Joshua stopped, looked around and then gazed wonderingly up at his father. He reached out and gave a quick, gentle tug on Frank’s hand; he had spotted the display of bikes and was heading for that.
“This is so cool!” Joe’s grin was as big as his kids’ grins. On either side of him were his small daughter, six year old Chaya, and his oldest son, quiet Lev, who was eight. Joe ruffled his son’s dark hair affectionately while he winked and smiled at his daughter. “Isn’t it?”
“Yes!” Chaya beamed a smile back up at her dad.
Lev nodded, serious big blue eyes taking in the sights. “Sure is.”
Joe exchanged a grin with his brother. Then he felt a hearty pat on his head from two small hands. His youngest, five year old not-quiet-by-a-long-shot, Jonathan, had something to say.
“Yeah! I can see everything from up here!” He was seated atop his father’s broad shoulders, and Joe had a hold of his ankles and feet with one hand to make sure he was secure.
“Good,” Joe said. “You’ll be in charge of making sure we see all the cool toys, ‘kay?”
“‘kay,” Jonathan agreed happily, eyes sparkling.
“Look at this one!” Joshua exclaimed, admiring a particularly cool bike.
“Sleek and speedy looking,” Frank agreed.
All of the Hardy cousins were gathered around the bikes, except for Jonathan, who liked his tall status. Plus, he didn’t need to because Joe bent down so Jonathan could see the bike better.
After a little time of looking at the bikes on display, the Hardys were about to leave although Joshua was reluctant to do so. He was busy imagining how cool it would be racing the bike around Bayport.
“Great, just what Bayport needs. More Hardys on bikes,” a disgruntled voice was heard saying. The Hardys, each one of them, didn’t have to look to see who was talking. They knew it was Oscar Smuff aka Mr. Personality. Or whatever name of the day Joe or one of the younger kids chose.
“He’s a very good bike rider!” stated Chaya indignantly. Frank stepped over and picked his niece up. It appeared Frank was trying to calm her down for being upset. The real reason, however, was that Frank wanted Smuff to see clearly the serious reprimanding look beaming from the little one, to get the full force of it, eye to eye.
“That’s right,” Frank agreed quietly with his niece.
Smuff snorted and glanced over at his four kids looking at a display of sleds, far enough to be out of hearing distance. Two of the Hardys’ kids, he couldn’t tell which ones belonged with which names, were also looking at the sleds closer by. He didn’t really want his kids to be influenced by the smart mouth Hardys. His opinion was that it was bad enough they went to the same school. “Your kids act like they own everything.”
“Hey, Smuff, I just realized we haven’t seen you since I was having ice cream with my kids and we figured out you’d had too much ice cream and had had a brain freeze. A constant one.” Joe smiled.
Frank raised his eyebrows and looked over at Joe, trying hard to keep from laughing, especially after seeing the expression on Smuff’s face.
“Your kids have the same problem as you,” Smuff muttered. “Smart mouths.” He turned to Frank. “Yours, too.”
Joe felt another hearty pat on his head. “DADDY!” Jonathan had spotted something exciting.
Frank chuckled seeing his youngest nephew bouncing his hands off the top of Joe’s head. “Echo getting to you yet?”
Joe made a face at his brother then grinned. “What, son?”
Pointing up ahead, Jonathan declared, “TREASURE!!”
Everyone was immediately curious at what he was referring to, and they followed his excited verbal map.
Then they all saw “it”. There in the middle of one of the main aisles, with a number of people crowded around oohing and aahing over it, was a treasure chest on display in a clear case. Made of actual wood with brass fittings, it was an impressive sight for both little kids and big kids. The sturdy lid was open and the tray that was made to fit into the chest was turned sideways so that toys underneath were spilling out. Glittering gold and silver coins, actually dark and milk chocolates covered with embossed wrappings, filled the inch and a half tray.
Frank’s oldest son, Joshua, gazed at the display for a long minute then began reading the sign above the case out loud. “‘Whose Treasure Chest Is That?’ Contest. Win the drawing and the answer will be: yours! Just enter to win by filling out the entry blank. Anyone can enter‘.” He turned to his dad. “Can we, Dad? Please?”
After finishing reading the small print that his son wasn’t interested in, Frank nodded with a smile. “Sure, you each can.” He looked over at Joe. “Except you.”
Joe stuck out his tongue. “Can, too.” He set Jonathan down, who immediately went over right next to the case.
Frank chuckled at Joe’s response then they helped the youngest ones fill out their entry blanks. He could hear from the kids’ chatter that the chocolate coins, or as the Hardys called them, “edible gelt”, held the most interest.
Joshua was done writing his in seconds and had quickly dropped it into the box. “It’s going to be so long before we find out who won!”
“Only two weeks,” said his brother, Micah, as he pushed his dark hair off his forehead after carefully filling out his card.
“You make it sound like it’s not that long, but it will feel like forever to me!” returned Joshua.
Micah smiled at his impatient older brother. Everyone got their entry blanks filled out and dropped into a large box. After looking at the fascinating treasure chest a little longer, they decided to go see more of the store. Oscar Smuff and his kids had gone a different direction before the Hardys had finished filling out their entry blanks.
The Hardys were soon checking out the selection of board games and video games the store offered. Some of the Hardys preferred the board games while others liked the video games better even when it was the same game. A friendly and lively debate ensued with them eventually agreeing that they were all fun. Just some more fun than others.
All of them enjoyed seeing the various musical instruments on display. And the music players. Hearing a favorite song playing over one of the radios, a smile appeared instantly on Joe’s handsome face. He thought of earlier, between breakfast and everyone heading out. With kids calling to each other, dishes in the sink, and music streaming from the kitchen radio, he and his wife had swayed to the music, their souls one as always. Her head had rested comfortably against his strong chest while his arms were wrapped tenderly around her.
The words to the slow love song playing on the radio were nice but nowhere as beautiful and heartfelt as the words they had for each other.
“Whenever I say your name, I’m telling you our love is: ‘Incalculable, optimal love always’,” he had whispered to her lovingly. “Always.” And he knew that she loved him every bit as much as he loved her. “Or ‘Incurable, obstinate love always,” he teased, his warm breath tickling her ear as he bent his head to whisper to her.
“Hmmm, and here I always thought you were saying ‘shut up and kiss me’,” she whispered back, her eyes twinkling.
“Yes, but-” He didn’t get to finish his sentence, but he didn’t mind. Their kiss said things very well.
He was brought out of his reverie when someone found the drums there at the store and began playing them loudly….and not very well. Quickly looking over, he was thankful to see it wasn’t any of his kids or Frank’s kids.
While Frank and Joe were at the toy store, their parents were getting ready to go into New York City.
“Just about ready, Honey,” Laura said. She smiled as she looked over at her husband, looking very handsome in his tux, sitting on the edge of their bed and watching TV. His legs were stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankles.
“‘kay,” he said. He flipped through a few more channels but his mind and his warm dark eyes weren’t on that picture. It was on another. Namely, his lovely wife. He watched as she moved about, slipping a bracelet he’d given her for her birthday one year onto her wrist.
Before this last case they had bought tickets in advance to dinner and a show in New York City and he knew she’d been looking forward to it. He noticed just how nice the new blue silk dress she was wearing for the first time looked on her. Of course, she could be wearing sloppy clothes and he would think she looked great because what attracted him was always her.
As Laura finished getting ready, even when she wasn’t looking at him, her mind was on her husband. She knew he was looking forward to dinner with it being one of his favorite restaurants. Knowing he’d be really hungry by the time they got there, she decided to fix a quick snack before they headed out. They had to leave early enough so they wouldn’t get caught up in the traffic.
Her blue eyes looked over at her husband’s profile. There was something so special about that man that made her heart always feel a thrill. She was interested in going out to eat and seeing the show yet the thought of staying home was sounding very good to her.
She blinked and looked at her husband. “What?”
“What are you thinking?” He stood up and walked over to her, his detective and husband mind trying to decipher the look on his wife’s face. He was pretty good at reading her, but what he thought he was presently reading he wanted to make sure weren’t just his own thoughts and desires. He needed to ask some non-leading questions.
“Um, I thought I would make you a snack so you won’t be starving by the time we get to the restaurant and get our food,” she said, looking up at him with love.
“Oh,” he said, his warm eyes on hers. “Is that all?”
“What else?” he asked, his voice sounding very husky. He tenderly slipped his hands around her waist and gazed down at her in love. The look in her eyes had given him his answer of what she was feeling.
“Um, I was kinda wishing we could stay home,” she whispered, her eyes on his lips, which curved into a very nice smile.
“Me, too,” he whispered back.
“Peanut butter sandwiches are fine with me,” he grinned. “But what about the show you wanted to see?”
“Not as interesting as you,” she stated.
“I love you,” he murmured. Her responding kiss to his lips on hers repeated the sentiment.
As Clarice and Chaya caught sight of a particular aisle, they both exclaimed in delight, “Ohhhh!” Each one reached up and snagged their respective dad’s hands and tugged them toward – the doll aisle. The huge, long, stuffed with dolls, clothes, and numerous accessories aisle. With six males and two little females, the minority won.
“Can we please go check out a different aisle while you guys are here?” asked, or actually pleaded, Joshua.
Frank shook his head. “Sorry, pal. Your sister and cousin really want to look at this aisle. It won’t be forever. It’ll just feel like it.” Frank nodded his head toward Clarice, who had an excited expression. “See how happy she is?”
Joshua nodded. “I want her to be happy – I just don’t want to be here! She likes cool stuff, too, like sports, and games-“
Frank held up his hand. “The longer you balk, the longer we’re here.” Glancing over as a sound became louder, Frank chuckled, “Look at Jonathan. He’s making the best of it.” Joshua turned and saw his five year old cousin laughing so hard he was almost falling on the floor. The little boy was pointing at something on the shelf that had him giggling wildly.
Joe looked at his son then exchanged grins with Frank and Joshua.
“Look! Scary!” called Jonathan, between giggles, still pointing to one doll who already had enough paint on for several dolls, but what really had him laughing was her crazy clothes, hat, and hairstyle. She had a huge hat with all kinds of stuff on it and the dress had a lot of gaudy accents attached to it also.
Clarice and Chaya, along with all of the boys, had to agree with Jonathan. He was, without a doubt, correct.
“Aren’t you glad Mama doesn’t get her fashion ideas here?” grinned Joe.
“Yeah!” Jonathan stated. “Mama is pretty!”
Clarice tugged on her dad’s hand. She pointed up to a taller shelf. “Can you get that one down for me to see, please?”
“Sure, honey,” said Frank and reached up, got the box and handed it to his daughter.
“Thank you,” she said and began to look at the two-doll wedding set. “He’s not as handsome as you, Daddy, and she’s not as pretty as Mommy.”
“Thank you,” smiled Frank. They walked along, continuing to look at the myriad of dolls. Frank could see Joe and his little daughter ahead of them. His younger brother was patiently listening to Chaya chatter away as she gave a running commentary on all of the sights. Then she saw a doll she wanted to see better. Joe picked her up and pretended like he misunderstood and stopped in front of a different doll.
“No, not this one, Daddy!” she giggled. He tried another on a different shelf. Another giggle.
“Are you sure not this one?” Joe asked with a grin.
“No!” she giggled.
“No, you’re not sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure!” More giggling. “No, not that one!”
Then Joe held her up in front of the right doll.
“Look at this one, Clarice!” called Chaya holding up a box with a pretty doll wearing a long, fancy party dress. Joe gave her a kiss on the cheek and set her back down with her still clutching the box.
“Oh!” exclaimed Clarice, seeing the doll. She hurried to look at it, almost running. Frank easily kept up with long strides while his daughter pulled his hand.
As the two girls exclaimed over the doll, Frank and Joe glanced over to make sure their sons were okay. Jonathan had found a car and was pushing it around. The other three were watching him and making sure no one stepped on the youngest one.
After a little bit longer, the Hardys left the doll aisle. Joshua realized his dad was right, as usual. It hadn’t been forever; it had just felt like it.