“Where are you taking me?” Chance asked, trying to tug up the blindfold so he could see more than the dirty toes of his shoes.
“No peeking,” Bob said. He laughed rather than scolded. “You really don’t know?”
“No, I don’t. Past the obvious.”
“What is obvious? Here, look out.” Bob’s hands steered Chance’s shoulders until he was walking a new way.
“We’re outside. There are leaves. They crunch. A lot.”
“They distract you.”
“Everything distracts me. Chance 101.”
Bob didn’t laugh at that. Did that mean he was really one of the adults who couldn’t hack it when kids didn’t pay attention? That he’d been fooling the family for a year? Chance didn’t think so. It was hard to tell when all he could see was navy blue. He yanked at the blindfold.
“I said no peeking. You wouldn’t want to lose dessert.”
That was a joke. No matter how stern Bob sounded. They’d already had dessert. Cake for Mom’s birthday. “I’m so scared,” Chance said. He rolled his eyes before remembering that wouldn’t’ do any good.
“What else do you know about where we are?” Bob pressed.
Chance thought. He felt the ground beneath his almost worn through sneakers. “We’re going downhill. We’re not near houses. There’s no yard noise. There’s water somewhere.”
“You know a lot then. Guess I should’ve spun you around more at the start.” Bob gave Chance a hard push, sending him spinning down to the ground.
“Hey! Mom’s not going to like it if you bring me back missing pieces!” He was laughing too hard to get up right away. This resulted in some degree of falling over. That made him laugh all the more.
Bob took pity on him and helped him up onto his feet. Chance followed Bob’s coaxing with slow steps. He didn’t want to run into a tree. That would be impossible to live down. Then his foot kicked into something solid. Wood. Like boards of wood and not a tree. Chance stepped up onto the boards, felt the give beneath his feet, the slight bounciness as he kept walking. He reached his hands out to the sides and found the rails.
“The bridge?” He didn’t know why he asked. He knew what it had to be. “What are we doing here?”
“Why do you think we’re here?”
Man. He really just wanted to get the blindfold off. “Um. So you can throw me off the bridge and drown me?”
“Too much fuss.”
Right. It had been a long shot. What else? “You’re holding me ransom.”
“What do you spend your nights watching?” Bob asked. “I know you can figure this out, but could you try and hurry?”
Impatience from Bob? This was new. And curious. Chance wanted to test its limits. Maybe that would be a bad idea. “You brought me to the bridge.”
Chance grinned at the hiss in the word. He couldn’t help it. Then it struck him. What the bridge meant. “It’s a family thing.”
“Yes. Your mother said this bridge was important to your family.”
He pulled off the blindfold. Bob didn’t object. “She’s got tons of stories about this place. It was the first place she took me after I was born. Well, once the hospital made her leave. She and dad—“ Chance stopped. He stared at the water running beneath the bridge. He stared at Bob’s shoes.
He blinked. It was like waking up or running through the end of a fog bank. He liked doing that. Running through fog. Oh, right. Bob was waiting for him. “Dad proposed to her here. Are you going to do the same thing?”
Bob leaned against the railing, bringing himself down to look Chance in the eyes. “Yes. Tonight even. I wanted to talk to you about it first.”
Chance coughed. His throat felt funny. “So? Talk.”
“Winchester, may I ask your mother to become my lawfully wedded wife?”
“Ugh. Don’t call me that. Please. Rewind and start over.”
“Chance, may I ask your mom to marry me?”
He didn’t know what to say. He liked Bob. Bob made Mom happy. But there was Dad. Well, there was the absence of Dad. That spot that had been there since he died. Would saying yes make him a traitor? He’d thought of this when Mom first started dating, but he’d ignored it. Easier not to think on it.
“I’ll take care of her, Chance. And you. As best I can. I won’t—“
“Please,” Chance said. “Don’t say you won’t leave us. Nobody can promise that and know for sure.”
“I wasn’t going to say that at all,” Bob said, quiet.
Chance thought of his Mom’s smile that night when Bob had arrived to make the birthday meal. When he’d fired up the grill and she hadn’t known Chance was watching. “Yes, yes you can ask her. Promise me one thing though.”
“What’s that?” Bob was still smiling, but he was looking Chance over. Chance smirked, remembering a few of the unexpected twists he’d pulled on promises from Bob before. Like the Halloween costume incident.
“You have to ask here. And blindfold her on the way. Use something fancier than a dust rag though.”
Bob clapped him on the back. “You’re on.”