Excerpt "Polly Pockets!" Jill was capable of squealing loudly enough to pierce eardrums, and Tyler winced, but still managed to paste a grin onto his face when his niece looked at him. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" She flung herself at him, her glee overcoming her usual decorum. Tyler patted her back and grinned at his sister, Theresa, who was rocking the baby in an attempt to calm his fussing.
"You want some help with that package?" Mason offered. Jill pulled herself away and nodded eagerly.
Brian, Theresa's husband, said, "She's wired. She's never going to sleep tonight."
"It's her birthday," Theresa said. "She's allowed to be excited."
Leaning back on the couch, Tyler watched as Mason opened up the box the Polly Pocket monstrosity had come in and laid the pieces out on the table so Jill could inspect them one at a time. She was wide-eyed with delight, wisps of brown hair escaping from her loose ponytail as she paired up tiny, plastic shoes and slightly freaky rubber dresses.
"It's like fetish wear for dolls," Mason said to Tyler, sotto voce. Tyler reached out and gave his boyfriend a smack.
"Not in front of the children," he intoned.
Theresa snorted. "Since when? Besides, they can take it. It's not like they don't hear worse at home."
"Not worse," Brian said.
"Okay, the same?" Theresa was still swinging slowly back and forth even though Colin seemed to have drifted off to sleep.
"Maybe the same," Brian conceded.
"We have cake, too," Tyler said, realizing that he'd forgotten to mention it. A five-year-old's excitement at turning five being what it was, Jill had asked about presents as soon as she'd come in the door, and there hadn't been any real reason to make her wait.
"Chocolate?" Jill asked. She was forcing one of the little doll's feet into a shoe Tyler could barely see.
Tyler nodded. "Of course, chocolate. What other flavor is there?"
"Carrot," Mason said. "Lemon, strawberry, banana walnut, apple pecan." Listed in his smooth and -- to Tyler, at least -- incredibly sexy Irish accent, anything sounded good.
"Yuck," Jill said. "I like chocolate."
"We know," Mason told her. "That's why we made it."