Mark was absolutely ecstatic as he paced anxiously in the arrivals terminal of the Stamford Airport. After some convincing -- with much reluctance on his part -- Lauren had taken Alyssa on a two week long trip to Thailand, where she had family. The two weeks had been more than long enough -- Mark missed his little girl like crazy, and oddly enough, found himself missing Lauren too.
The two of them had settled into a very unorthodox way of life. They lived together in a three bedroom house -- a room for each of them -- and raised Alyssa together, although there was absolutely no romance between the two of them. Lauren bickered at him like she'd always had and went to school, and Mark went to work and got dinner started every night. According to his buddies, it was as though he was married but without the sex. Mark had never looked at it like that -- it was what worked for them. Besides, it was Lauren. There was no chance he'd be into her.
But then she left, and he was alone. And he missed her. The bathroom didn't smell like her perfume, the house wasn't filled with the mother-daughter giggling and no one rolled eyes at Mark when he offered the wrong answer on Jeopardy. He bragged to his buddies about how nice it was going to be to be alone for two whole weeks, but really... it hadn't been as fun as he expected. He didn't want to start having feelings for Lauren -- it seemed as though it would be more trouble than it would be worth -- and vowed he wouldn't let himself get attached to her, which would be easier said than done, since Mark had the tendency to not realize something was happening until it was too late to go back.
He stopped pacing and stood attentively as the weary passengers started to make their way into the airport. He kept his eyes peeled for Alyssa, but with her being only four years old, he didn't spot her until he heard the familiar, adorable voice pipe out, "Daddy!"
He crouched down and held his arms out as Alyssa barreled into them, nearly knocking him over. He squeezed her tight and lifted her as he stood, burying his face into her lovely Loreal Kids scented hair -- Mark would be lying if he said he'd never tried the strawberry smoothie scented shampoo. And it was true -- no tears.
"Hi, Droopy," Mark greeted, holding tight onto her and using the affectionate-but-embarrassing nickname he'd come up with her when she was just learning to walk and he didn't want to change her smelly diaper. "I missed you!"
He glanced over her shoulder at Lauren and grinned at her, stepping closer to her and awkwardly placing a arm around her waist, hugging her in a friendly greeting -- because, sometimes they were friends. And she still smelled good. Better than the Loreal Kids shampoo. "Hey, kid," he told her as he pulled away. "Good to see you didn't get hit by all that lava," he added, knowing she'd be pleased that he watched the news even while she was away.