Saturday, July 2, 2011

Brian Ottomas Ch. 5 Neighborhood Block Party Pt 1

Meadow had read in the paper there was going to be a neighborhood block party and the date was this weekend. Now she mentioned it again to Brian who shook his head doubtfully.

"I don't see how we can go, it's a Friday night and you know I work weekends.

"Um, well, to tell the truth I already checked with Dylan. He says you can have the night off and in fact he and Elaine are going to come, too. He says Wayne has a friend who can cover for you and Josh Burb is assistant manager, so it will be fine."

Brian looked at her for a long moment that almost made her squirm. Finally he asked,

"You know it's possible Lonnie and his wife will show up, right?”

"Yes, I know, but...I'm not worried about him seeing me, remember? Only that he might see Heath and Mama said she and your dad would come over and stay with the kids while we party. Heath will be in the house."

"You know on Friday and Saturday we always let him stay out until dark. He'll wonder why he can't catch fireflies."

"Mama and Daddy will be here--he won't mind at all, just this once."

"I don't know," Brian was still doubtful, "Now that there's Willow, it's just a handful for my folks to take care of a toddler and a newborn—don’t tell them I said that, though."

"So you don't want to go, period?"

"It's not that I don't want to go--"

"I talked to the Neighborhood Association; it turns out that the party will be right in front of our house anyway. Also they want you to play your guitar along with some other people who will be coming to play drums and piano," she cut in.

"What? I don't even know these other guys--"

"Well, one of them is Dylan, so that should ease your mind. He told me he’s looking forward to it, in fact, and he'll be playing bass. Anyway, you won’t have to entertain the whole time; they’ll have CD’s playing first--although no disc jockey, unfortunately."

Brian sighed,

"You're too fast for me, beautiful," he looked defeated, "You’ve thought of everything. I guess I have no choice."

Meadow said stiffly,

"I don’t want to force you.”

“The heck you don’t.”

“Are you sure the reason you don't want to go isn't because Lori Ferguson might be there with Harvey?" Meadow teased.

"Yeah, that's it," Brian said sarcastically, "I'll totally freak if I even see her. Probably attack her right in front of the neighbors. Gee, maybe we should move to another town or something."

Meadow only laughed,

"I love it when you get tough, babe. Well, maybe she won't even come and if she does maybe it's time to put out that ‘old flame’ stuff anyway; seeing her happily ensconced on her husband's arm and her seeing you with me may just douse the fire and exorcise that ghost."

Brian swore under his breath; something he rarely did, then barked,

"Would you let it alone, Meadow? You hardly ever irritate me but when you start on that ‘she haunts you stuff’ it really chaps my butt."

Meadow shrugged and went off to survey the clothes in her closet.

She thought the block party had all the earmarks of a night to remember. She hoped she wasn't being foolhardy insisting that they go. But she hadn't been anywhere fun in a long time. She wanted to have a “date” with Brian so to speak. They wouldn’t be alone, but at least they’d be with other adults and no kids around. Just once. In her mind, she began running over what to wear. It was deep summer and she need to wear something that would keep her cool, but look very hot. Very.


The night before the street dance, Heath learned that his beloved grandparents were going to be taking care of him and his baby sisters that evening—that was always good news to him. Also Brian told him if they wanted a swim they should do it early in the morning before things got hectic; Meadow had volunteered to help out with refreshments and was going to busy in the kitchen roasting a turkey and Brian had to make sure his drums were in working order and get them moved downstairs with Dylan’s help. Brook and Willow had to be taken care of; fed, dressed and bathed. Nana and Papa would not be there until about 5 pm. It would be a busy day. 

When Heath heard his parents stirring around just before dawn he hopped out of bed, fairly humming with anticipation.


Brian kept his word and they had that morning swim. It looked like it would be a beautiful day and so far there was no hint of rain according to the weather channel.

People began to gather before dark, and Brian and Meadow went out to join them. Most of these party-goers they already knew; they were neighbors and friends. Brian was naturally gregarious, while Meadow was a little shy. It was a trait she’d developed while a child trying to cope with two alcoholic parents, which mostly meant covering up that fact to the world. The more people she got close to the more she’d had to fear they would find out her family’s secret. By high school she’d managed to become a little more outgoing by becoming a cheerleader, but she still was hesitant to this day to talk much to someone she’d just met. 

Tonight though, Meadow was determined to let go of her inhibitions and get out there and mingle—while still paying attention to her husband.

Most of the people who were already here were married couples but there were a few single people and one lone unaccompanied wife. It was Grace Lassiter Brecht, Lori's older sister. Brian knew her well from high school days when they’d gone steady for a week or two but he had probably only seen her a couple of times in the years since. Maybe her author husband, Devon, was on tour with a new book or something.

Meadow saw that Mr. and Mrs. Lonnie Hammond were there. She knew by now that Lonnie’s wife was the former swinger, Jenny Lomax, and was surprised to realize she'd met her years ago and even had lunch with her once, back when she was married to someone else. That's why Meadow had recognized her easily when she went to Goth’s the last time. It had been a weird experience—they hadn’t talked but here she was looking at the wife of her son's father. Of course she knew now that daughter Loni Faye Hammond was unmistakable as Heath’s half sister, at least in Meadow's eyes. They both looked so much like Lonnie.

It would have been earth-shaking if Meadow hadn’t told herself for two weeks that it was likely the Hammonds would come. This party was to foster neighborhood good will, but was mainly expected to attract adults in their twenties, thirties and possibly forties and the Hammonds were in that age bracket.

A glimpse of Pleasantview life could be gleaned from various snippets of conversation going around:

“Oh, my gosh,” Lori Ferguson said to her husband, “Would you look at my brother? He seems to be thunderstruck by that fabulous brunette. She looks like Louise Brooks! She’s certainly dressed provocatively enough.”

Harvey refrained from saying “Look who’s talking.”

She went on enthusiastically,

“Naturally David made a beeline over to be bartender to fix drinks so he could meet any unattached woman. And naturally the most attractive woman hurried over to meet him. He’s such a player. I thought he was still seeing Belinda Candeloro, but who knows?”

“Louise WHO?” Harvey, as usual, had to unravel her rambling conversation by asking questions one by one.

“Oh, Louise Brooks was this mysterious looking actress in the 1920’s.”

“Okay, Brat. First; I know you think everything is a movie and that everyone looks like some movie star or another, but could you at least stick to celebrities I might know? Like from the last two decades?”

Lori laughed, “I know, I know; I get it from my mother, Daddy says the same thing about her: ‘Everything’s a movie with you, Melora!’ So I just can’t help it. And Mom encouraged us to watch tons of old movies, especially me because I was the only one who really liked them anyway. She had all those old movie star coffee table books and I knew them by heart.”

“Next, as for your brother, I assume you mean David and not Trey,” Harvey commented, “Because Chelsea is so crazy about Trey she might put up with a lot of things, but I doubt flirting with a gorgeous stranger is one of them.”
“No! Of course I mean David. Trey isn’t even here yet.”

“Well they look so much alike I can hardly tell them apart sometimes. They might as well be twins, Trey looks more like David than he does you.”

“I know but—and I say this with relief—it’s definitely David. I can tell them apart. Wonder who she is?”

“I have no clue; she must be new here. But then again we’ve only been back from University for two years. Maybe she moved in before that during the four years we were gone. Maybe Elle would know, she knows everything that goes on in this town.”

“Yes, but she and Corky aren’t here and neither are Trey and Chelsea. Odd. They told me they were coming for sure. And what’s Grace doing here without Devon? It’s not like he has a job or anything,” Lori scoffed.

“Lori, he writes novels. So yes, he doesn’t have a nine to five job, but he works and makes money.”

“I know. I just don’t get why she ever married him in the first place. It’s not like she wants kids or anything and she already has a house of her own which is more than I could say for him.”

Harvey just nodded, he wasn’t about to get into a discussion with Lori about his new sister-in-law’s marriage. He hardly knew Grace, anyway, she was the same age as his sisters, Gillian and Margo.  Jody Broke and Grace were the Co-Chiefs of Staff at Pleasantview Medical Center. She was a workaholic and didn’t always attend the family get-togethers at John and Melora’s place.

“Well, there’s Brian and his wife,” Harvey pointed out, “and they’re sitting with Grace, of all people.”

Lori glanced over and saw that the wife was, indeed, a gorgeous blond, just as Harvey said. Of course she was. Why would Brian marry a hag?

Harvey took her hand,

“Honey, I told you this would happen especially since the party is located here in front of their house.”

“I know,” but she looked apprehensive, “I just haven’t seen or talked to him in a couple years, if he came up I wouldn’t know what to say. I was such an idiot when I chased him around years ago.”

“You’ll survive it. I’m sure he remembers you were just a kid—and, that, frankly, he did nothing to discourage you in the beginning. In fact,” Harvey grinned, “If I hadn’t found out he was a fairly nice guy with a wife and kids, I might have had to go over and punch his lights out.”

“Oooh, Harvey!” Lori exclaimed with a giggle, “You’re so masterful!”

Melanie and Gareth had arrived as well as her sister, Lalique, who came dateless. A man not many people recognized sat down at their table and introduced himself as Jacob Black. He said he lived in a cabin-like house almost at the edge of town near the foothills. Vague about his occupation he told them he didn’t know many people in Pleasantview. He spent a lot of time outdoors and often camped up in the mountains near Three Lakes. It was rare when he socialized in town except when he was dating Renesmee Cullen who lived even farther out of town than they he did. He and Renesmee had decided to cool their relationship for a while, but were still good friends. He’d known her parents for years…and years.

Gareth’s hair might be short now, but he was wearing the leather and denim that he was most comfortable in to this day. He was watching Brian and then watching Lori and longed to make some comments about this to Melanie, but of course, he could not do that with other people at the table.

Since Brian knew Grace, and Meadow remembered her as a popular upper classman, they invited her to sit at their table. They were quickly joined by Bob Blackford, another single man about town who had dated Lalique for quite a while at one time. With Lori here and her brother David, too, it seemed to Brian that there were Lassiters everywhere.

Brian's brother, Dylan, and his wife, Elaine, plopped down at Lonnie and Jenny’s table and introduced themselves. Running a business that included socializing with just about anyone who came to the club; they were both adept at starting a conversation and making fast friends.

So far, the Hammonds didn’t know many people at the party—although more and more neighbors were walking down the sidewalk to join the festivities—so they were happy to have Dylan and Elaine sit down and start conversing. The men got talking about running a restaurant--which Lonnie hoped to do soon--and running a club and compared the ups and downs.

There was salsa music playing and David Lassiter led the exotic woman in question over near the music to dance. Once it was dark, it was easier to be brave and get out there to dance so Lalique and Jacob joined David and this woman who seemed to be keeping the long-time playboy mesmerized. By now most people were aware that her name was Barbara Bel Geddes (pronounced Bell-Geddies) and she’d lived here for five years. This news was stunning as hardly anyone here had seen her before.

“No one knows who I am,” Barbara laughed, “I guess it’s because my job is out of town and I don’t socialize much. Mostly I shop in Bluewater rather than Pleasantview and my home and job keep me pretty busy the rest of the time. Guess that’s part of it, anyway.”

“Barbara, they are fascinated because you are probably the most beautiful woman we’ve had in Pleasantview in years and years. You’d have to go back a generation to Olivia Flynn or Heather Simmons-Ferguson to find a woman as attractive. My mother was kind of a knock-out when she was young, too, but Olivia and Heather were amazing. Just like you,” David assured her.

“Wow, what a line! I take it you’ve been getting results with this?” she teased. 

Barbara might be beautiful and a little offbeat, but her sense of self was grounded in reality and she accepted her good looks as a fortunate gift from her parents and grandparents, but nothing for which she could take credit. David laughed easily,

“Okay, you got me; I flirt a lot and always have. But in this case, I’m absolutely speaking the truth.” 

The party was starting to get in full swing so Lori, never the most patient of people, finally phoned Elle and Corky and then Chelsea and Trey,

“Where are you? You’re going to miss everything!”

The two couples assured her they were on the way. Lori glanced up as she ended the call and saw that Brian Ottomas was coming directly toward their table. Her whole being snapped to attention and her heart lurched in a most disconcerting way so she decided she needed to get some distance by walking over and studying Brian's family pool for a moment. 

Meanwhile, Brian had come up to Harvey and was saying,

“Man, that was some great casserole you brought over! Meadow really appreciated it. I was going to thank your wife in person, but where is she?”

“Yeah, she left for a moment; she’s a little…well, I’ll just cut to the chase; my wife is Lori Lassiter—she knew you when she was in high school,” Harvey grinned then, “I don’t know if you remember her, but not many people who meet her can forget her. She’s a little embarrassed at her behavior back then.”

Brian nodded with a rueful smile, his eyes scanning the crowd,

“I remember her, of course, but she shouldn’t worry about it, it's all good. She told me she was engaged when I ran into her in town a couple years ago, but I didn’t realize she was actually married until you came over that day and introduced yourself,” he paused, “She was a great kid, really, as I recall. Say, you've met my wife, but when Lori gets back I’d really like to introduce her to Meadow.”

I’ll buy tickets to that, Harvey thought dryly. But he said,

“I’ll do my best, I’m sure she would really like to meet her.”

Meanwhile Gareth Caswell was keeping an eye on Brian and overhearing the conversation between him and Harvey. He was sure that Harvey just didn’t realize the gravity of the whole situation. Gareth continued to think of Brian Ottomas as a lecher who was still after Lori. In point of fact, to this day Gareth thought of his childhood friend as remaining a tender young teenager. His wife, Melanie, had grown up, as had Elle, Chelsea and Holly, but somehow, even though she was married now, Lori remained a sweet innocent girl in his eyes and Gareth was still protective of her. Even though she was married.

He didn’t like Harvey making friends with the guy. Was he blind? Gareth had seen the look on Lori’s face before she headed across the yard.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brian Ottomas Ch. 4 Life at the New House Pt. 3

Life went on in their new home, Heath excelled in his studies, Brook liked to have Brian read to her, Willow was a very contented, happy and easy-going baby and Meadow reflected that her last child seemed to have a personality like her father, if not his looks. Life was calm and quiet (almost dull) as they settled into a family pattern, but some surprises were soon to be in store for them. 

Since Heath knew his parents welcomed his friends to the house and often to dinner, he had no qualms one day about asking his new friend to come over. She was actually a grade ahead of him, but they’d been playing on the swings at recess and she started talking to him. When he mentioned that he like to play the piano, she was excited and told him that she did that too, the same as her father. Their musical conversation was not yet finished when the bell rang so they promised to meet at the bus and she would come home with him.

Meadow had been cleaning the upstairs bathrooms when she heard their voices in the playroom and came in to say hello. What a pretty little girl was her first thought, then, she has big brown eyes just like Heath, in fact…

“Heath won’t you introduce me to your little friend?”

“Yeah, this is Loni Faye,” Heath supplied, “Oops, Loni Faye this is my Mom.”

“Loni Faye Hammond,” the little girl told Meadow with a sweet smile. Meadow was struck dumb; she slowly backed up to the panda chair and plopped down. She couldn’t help looking in fascination at both children, recognizing their so similar facial features. 

Hearing Brian coming up the stairs heading for the music room, Meadow called to him,

“Brian! Come meet Heath’s new friend.”

He stopped once inside the door and was preparing to say something when Meadow added,

“Loni Faye, this is Heath’s daddy; Brian this is Loni Faye Hammond.”

Loni Faye looked up briefly, “Hi.”

“Nice to meet you, Loni Faye,” Brian bounced back from his shock. He’d always had great equilibrium.

“Would you like to stay for supper, honey?” Meadow asked.


“I think you should call your mother first, though, and get her permission.”

“All right, I’ll be right back.”

She didn’t have a cell phone yet (her mother said she was not quite old enough), so Loni Faye went to the phone in the hall downstairs. Her mother said “fine” and she would pick her up at 8:30. Once permission was secured, Meadow changed what she had planned to make from blackened catfish to kid-friendly spaghetti. Heath loved fish but other children frequently did not. She had no cake or pie ready for dessert so she planned to serve fresh blueberries with sugar and cool whip.

During the meal, Brian and Meadow learned from the talkative, but courteous little girl that her father was a chef on TV, however he soon was going to quit and open his own restaurant. Frequently Meadow met Brian’s eyes significantly during the meal.

Afterward the kids played games and told secrets in the living room while Meadow cleared the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher. 

Brian stayed in the kitchen leaning his back against the counter with his arms crossed and watched her.

“You okay?”

“Of course.”

“Then why did you put the sugar bowl in the refrigerator?”

“Oh!” she retrieved it and her hands were shaking.

“She may want to  ask him over to her house, you know,” Brian said very quietly.


“Relax, we’ll talk about it later,” Brian said in a soothing voice, “If you want, I’ll walk her to the car when her mother comes so you don’t have to meet her.”

“Would you?”

But when the car pulled up suddenly Loni Faye said, “Oh that's my mom! I didn’t realize the time—bye!” and ran out of the house before her mother could even get out of the car. Brian waved from the front door and Mrs. Hammond waved back before driving off.

In the morning as Meadow made Heath’s bed, he was doing jumping jacks to the radio.

“Goodness, when did you decide to exercise so hard, Heath?”

He stopped huffing and puffing long enough to say,

“Loni Faye told me she’s on a fitness program, she says she’ll be strong and really run fast in field sports. So I want to be strong and fast too.”

“I see. You like Loni Faye, I take it?”

“She’s fun. She knows card tricks and she likes to play the piano too. I told her when we get a little older Daddy would give her free guitar lessons,” he paused, 

“Do you think he would?”

“We’ll have to see,” Meadow murmured.

The night before, while Heath slept soundly in his bead, she and Brian had discussed the situation in the privacy of their bedroom.

“You know Loni Faye might know that good manners dictate she should reciprocate as soon as possible and invite him to her house,” Meadow was in a panic.

“I doubt very much that she’s reading a book on etiquette yet,” Brian said mildly.

“Well maybe not, but her mother might think of it. Brian I’m scared—one look at Heath and he will know or even his wife might figure it out.”

He thought about it a moment, and said quietly.

“Maybe it’s finally time to tell Heath--and to tell Lonnie.”

“Heath's not old enough; when he’s a little older I will tell him—or WE will tell him. Brian, if I told him now it would break his little heart. You know how he adores you. And I think it would confuse him.”

“Okay, you may be right, I’ll give you that. But if you don’t tell him now you’ll have to live with the anxiety. You can always tell him never to another child home on the bus without checking with us. Or should Loni Faye or her mother invite him we can just say no.”

“And explain to him why he can’t go to her house? What reason could we give?”

“I don’t know what to tell you, but if you stay this upset, you’ll drive yourself—and me--crazy.”  

“I know. I guess I’m just shook up because it just happened. I’ll try to figure out a way to relax,” she smiled and snuggled up to him, “Got any ideas on good ways to relieve tension?"

“One or two, sweetheart, one or two.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Harvey and Lori Ferguson Ch. 4 First Pool Party

The day of the pool party Harvey was outside, eager to greet his guests.They’d scheduled it to start around 1 pm. This would be the first real party they’d had at their home. Lori was inside putting the finishing touches on the devilled eggs. Last night she’d made Striped Delight, a chocolate lover’s dream, but still light enough for a hot summer day. She’d had a tough time keeping Harvey out of it.

Striped Delight
1-1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
1 package 8 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. 2% or whole Milk
1-8 oz container cool whip thawed, can be Lite
2 pkgs. 4 serving size Jell-O chocolate instant pudding
3-1/2 cups cold 2% or whole milk

Combine graham cracker crumbs, ¼ cup sugar, and melted butter, press firmly into bottom of 13” x 9” pan. This is the hardest part. Put it into the pan a small like maybe tablespoon at a time and smash it down a section a time and work with a spatula to get it uniform thickness and to make sure you have enough to cover.

Beat cream cheese with sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk until smooth. Fold in half of the Cool Whip. Then spread this mixture over the crust. Using 3-1/2 cups of Cold Milk prepare pudding as directed on package. Pour over cream cheese layer. Chill several hours or overnight. Spread remaining cool whip over pudding. Garnish with grated chocolate or chopped nuts. Substitute lemon or butterscotch or pistachio for chocolate. 

It wasn’t long before their friends and family were having fun around the pool. Andy Lomax headed straight for Harvey’s huge and amazing pinball machine. Nicky was enjoying the pool slide and Trey was showing off his form at the diving board.

Holly had showed up in a great mood and was sampling the nectar available poolside.

They had a party-crasher. Bella Cullen had happened by when the guests were arriving and managed to just blend in. Harvey was all for booting her out, but Lori knew Renesmee Cullen slightly and insisted that they make Renesmee’s mother welcome.

“At least she didn’t bring her husband. I’ve seen him only once and he’s kind of handsome, but creepy somehow,” Lori whispered to Harvey.

“How is he creepy?” he whispered back.

“I don’t know, he’s really pale for one thing, I mean way paler than Chelsea or Elle. Well, so is Bella; she’s going to get a heck of a sunburn here today. But I think it’s his eyes. When he looked at me I got chills and not the good kind.”

“Well, I'll say this; she doesn’t look like a woman who has a daughter the same age as Gillian. She looks like she’s in her twenties.”

Bella switched into a bright blue swimsuit (did she carry it around with her?) and plunged into the pool. She was the best swimmer Harvey had ever seen. She must have trained for the Olympics at one time, he concluded.

After a while Lori could not resist the music and clambered out of the pool to dance with abandon all by herself. Once Holly saw that she climbed out of the pool to join her.

Nicky took time to catch his breath on one of the lounges.

“So Mom says you’re married now,” Harvey plopped down in a chair next to Nicky, “When do we get to meet her?”

“I would have brought her today of course, but she had to work,” Nicky said.

“Well, I have to say I was sure surprised to hear you were somebody's husband,” Harvey grinned.

“Yeah, I know, but Allyn is special, believe me. You’ll like her. And, frankly, I want children while I’m young enough to run after them. You know, kid, I’m kicking 40 in the pants.”

“Well, let us know what’s a good day for you and Lori and I will have you over for dinner.”

“Great idea. I can cook all right, but Allyn, well, she mainly nukes prepared stuff. At least, so far. I’m going to send her to a cooking school, probably. And you’ve been bragging about Lori’s food for a long time. I’d like to taste for myself.”

“Well, as I said, just check with Allyn and let us know when,” Harvey said, wondering if Nicky was kidding about the cooking lessons.  He could just see himself demanding that Lori go learn how to do anything. Of course, she didn’t need cooking lessons at all, and Harvey couldn’t think right now what she would need to learn except maybe patience or balancing a budget. Hmm, a basic night school course in bookkeeping? Harvey could usually convince or encourage Lori to do things, but he could never "send" her to do something, much less demand it. He wasn't suicidal, after all.

Naturally, around 3 in the afternoon the skies darkened and the wind blew. A thunderstorm struck hard and everyone vacated the pool in record time because of the lightning. Fortunately, Lori had heeded Harvey’s warning and they’d borrowed utility tables and folding chairs from her mother and set them up in the dining room/living room. She still made the cheeseburgers on the grille, it was right outside the kitchen door and had a roof over it.

Harvey sat down at one table with Andy and Holly and Bella Cullen joined them while Lori served up the burgers. He wanted to be a good host so he immediately engaged Bella in conversation since she was the newcomer. She seemed pleasant and intelligent.

Wow, thought Harvey, first time I’ve seen someone with such light brown eyes. They’re almost gold.

Lori played hostess over at the other table with Chelsea, Trey and Nicky. When she was near her brother-in-law Lori always tried to forget the image of him big-time flirting with her mother while her father fumed. It had been at the pool party Lori gave the summer after graduation a few years ago. She'd said at the time to Harvey,

"Oh, well, I guess he's harmless," 

They'd been alone in her parent's library while the party was still going on and had just agreed to go back together again.

"Don't you believe it--he's not harmless at all," Harvey had grinned rakishly, adding, "And neither am I, Brat."

Lori almost giggled suddenly remembering how many times she and Harvey had made out on that black leather loveseat as teenagers.

Lori's twin brother, Trey, had for some time wanted to try Lori’s plastic surgery machine. He thought he needed work done on his eyes and mouth; he claimed he had just never been that crazy about them. Today they gave it a try. Lori had been worried that he’d look all stretched and weird, but it turned out quite well although it took two tries to get it right. Chelsea loved his face the way it was, so Lori worked hard to keep him looking like his old self, only better. 

After the meal Harvey, Andy and Nicky headed back to his man-cave. He was proud of it and planned to add a couple of armchairs or another loveseat and a big wall-mounted flat screen TV.

“Yeah, then I’ll probably never see you,” Lori had said when he'd told her his plans a few weeks back.

“You’ll see me, honey. You'll see me when you bring in the nachos and cheese and those sausage balls you make. I love them."

“Oh, thanks so very much, Master.”

When she thought Harvey was getting a little too domineering, even if in jest, Lori always called him Master or Sir.

"You won't forget the chips and guacamole, will you?" he'd asked and ducked as she'd thrown a sofa pillow at him.

Holly, Chelsea and Lori were talking babies in the living room. As young married women and especially now that Melanie was expecting they were consumed with the subject. Bella wandered into the room and sat down near them. Melanie and Gareth had not come because they had gone on a weekend trip to Three Lakes. The vacation had been planned for a while.

Holly giggled, “I think it's funny that they went there. Melanie told me long ago that she hated all the moose and deer stuff at Horrible House. I thought it came from Three Lakes.”

“Oh, it did. As for the deer décor; I hated that, too.”

“I love deer,” Bella supplied.

“Who doesn’t love deer?” Lori agreed and added, “You know; Bambi, Rudolph, Comet and Cupid—what’s not to like about deer, really? They're supposed to be gentle creatures. I think they're beautiful, too. That’s why I hated to see that stuff and think of the poor dead moose and deer it came from.”

“Yes, deer are no good dead, unless they’re very, very fresh,” Bella nodded.

All conversation ceased for a moment as the other women stopped to looked at her curiously,

“I mean,” she faltered, “That is…well, um, did you know that deer meat is really low in fat?”

“You eat venison?” Chelsea was interested, “Is it good? I’ve heard it’s an acquired taste. Trey doesn’t hunt much, but I know some guys that do and their wives have to deal with cooking it and I hear you have to cook it a special way for it to taste good and not too gamy.”

“Um,” Bella struggled, “Well, yes, I’d have to say it’s an acquired taste—I actually became sort of addicted to it after Renesmee was born. My husband turned me on to it, you might say. Funny, right now I can't think of one recipe for venison, though.”

Lori nodded, thinking of the mysterious Edward and Bella Cullen and trying to picture Renesmee as an infant. Edward was rather good-looking—in a dangerous way. Still, there was something sinister about him—and, to be honest, about Bella, too. It was hard to imagine the man dandling a toddler on his knee like her brother-in-laws, Jeremy and Kevin, did. And somehow she just knew Bella was not the type to breast-feed.

“Well, anyway,” Holly got back to her subject, “Melanie is up there in the mountains right now, with every chance of being stalked by a mountain lion or bear or something and having to learn how to throw an axe and sleep in a pup tent. Can you see her dressed like a lumber jack? Andy says it gets cold up there in the mountains, even on a summer night. I just can’t figure out why she agreed to go there of all places.”

"They're staying at a beautiful lodge, Holly, not sleeping in a tent!" Chelsea laughed.

Lori shrugged her shoulders,

“She agreed because she loves him,” Lori said, “What else can you do when you love a man so much? You just want to make him happy so you have to give in on some things. Anyway, I know she feels he has gone her way on living with her folks, so she probably wants to do something his way with this trip.”

Chelsea nodded,

“Makes sense to me.”

“Oh, Chelsea,” Holly laughed, “It would make sense to you. You’re so crazy about Trey if he said he had a job at the bottom of the ocean shoveling whale poop, you’d get your scuba gear and go right with him. You'd think it was marvelous.”

This made Lori and Holly almost double up with laughter, while Chelsea blushed and smiled. Bella didn't laugh, but she nodded her approval of Chelsea,

"That's the way it should be. Good for you. A woman should be ready to give up everything for the man she loves."

Holly chuckled,

"Holy cow, how politically incorrect can you get; don't let the women's rights movement hear that. I'd give up a lot for Andy--I'm sure I'll have to in the sixty-odd years I hope we'll have together--but I don't think I could give up 'everything'; like my family, for instance. Or air conditioning."

"I could," Lori said with shining eyes. When Chelsea and Holly looked at her incredulously she hastily added, "Okay, maybe I haven't done that so far, but I think I would give up everything for Harvey if he asked me to. And I know that, for Trey, Chelsea would make a stab at it, too."

Chelsea nodded yes.

"We aren't very liberated, I guess," Lori laughed, "Anyway, I can't wait until Melanie gets back to find out how the trip went."

The rain had ceased and Trey decided to try out that fabulous pinball machine Andy had been playing earlier. He would have given anything to get one like this, he'd have to ask Harvey where his brother got it.

Around dark, Holly and Lori talked their respective husbands into take a turn in the hot tub upstairs where Harvey enjoyed splashing his sister the way he had as a kid.

There were still people downstairs and Trey left the pinball machine and joined his wife, Chelsea and Bella and Nicky.

When Andy and Holly came back downstairs there was a sudden uncomfortable moment for the others as Andy became angry and scolded Holly about drinking too much nectar. He went on for a while, but Holly just laughed it off. Harvey finally tapped him on the shoulder,

“C’mon, Andy, can’t this wait for another time?”

Andy looked around at the other people in the room, who had lapsed into silence when his ranting became loud.

At least he had the grace to be embarrassed and shut up. Holly still looked amused as though Andy were a small boy throwing a tearful tantrum. The tensions eased and people went back to their conversations punctuated by laughter. 

When the final guests had departed Harvey turned to Lori,

“That went well, honey.”

“I think everyone had a good time. But Andy and Holly—that was awful,” Lori said.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about it.”

“But Harvey, aren’t you afraid that…well, you know, she’s your sister and it was terrible the way he talked to her for a minute there. Do you think she might be…well, in danger?”

Harvey shook his head no,

“She didn’t look afraid of him to me and she actually was hitting the nectar a little hard today. That’s their business, though; he just should have waited until they got home to discuss it."
“Ha! That wasn’t a discussion, we have discussions and they’re not like that. That was him losing his temper and lecturing her in front of their friends at a party.”

“Totally inappropriate, I agree, but we can’t referee other people’s marriages, honey. Holly says they want to start a family right away and that worries me a little, I have to say. She can be flighty and Andy is a good kid but kind of immature at times. Then again, he just turned 22. Are they ready for parenthood?" Harvey shrugged, "Who knows? And it's none of my business, actually."

He was saying it was none of hers either, Lori knew. She guessed he was right and she thought about the other things he'd said. She knew Andy was younger than the rest of them by almost 2 years, having skipped a grade in middle school and the same in high school. He was extremely intelligent and had always taken advanced classes. But emotionally he seemed to be a little backward. Maybe that was all it was tonight, immaturity and not an anger control problem.

Harvey returned to his original statement,

“You were a great hostess today, honey—you made sure everyone was happy,  and well-fed. I’m proud of you.”

Lori simply glowed under his praise. Harvey took her in his arms and kissed her, then announced,

“I'm thinking it’s time for that trip to Takemizu Village. How about it?”