When Heath and Willow were eating some leftovers as a snack the next day he said,
"Jamie was asking about you the last time I was over there."
He was referring to his girlfriend Maddie's twin brother.
Willow ignored his remark and asked,
"Want to jam after we eat?"
"Willow. He's a nice guy and I think he really likes you. He's just kind of quiet and a little shy."
"Why are you telling me this? He's a junior, I'm only a freshman. He's too old for me and Momma said I shouldn't think about dating until I'm 15. Besides, I don't want a shy boy."
"Oh, really? You prefer to hang out with your friend Angelo? You really need someone who's laid back and mature, not a kid who likes to sneak out at night and take you with him. Besides, once Jamie gets to know you he talks all the time," then he added in parental tones, "I worry about ya, kid, and he'd be a steadying influence. You'd be safe with Jamie."
"Oh, poo!," Willow huffed, "Angelo is a friend and that's all. You're just trying to sound like you're an adult or something and, anyway, I don't want to be 'steadied'. And I don't want to be 'safe'; I want to have fun. Things are never dull when I'm with Angelo"
"We could double-date," Heath coaxed, "Maddie and I would be there to kind of break the ice and if we did that I know Momma would let you go."
"Wow," Willow smirked, "Maddie must really be on you about this."
Heath frowned since that really was part of the reason he was urging Willow so hard.
"We-ell," she dragged out the word, looking off as if pondering hard. Then she said as though making a magnanimous gesture, "I'll...think about it."
"Oh, just let me know when you're done thinking," Heath said dryly.
"Okay," she said in a perky voice, pretending not to hear his intended sarcasm, "I'll get back to you on that."
Raine was the youngest in the family and Brian always said she was well-rounded she was not only a daddy's girl, but also a mommy's girl. She always came over to hug her daddy before he left to go to Club Dante which he still owned and operated and which had recently become a restaurant that featured karaoke instead of a country-rock bar.
The change to a full service restaurant was with the idea of expanding out, but it had been hard for Brian to make the decision to drop the idea of a live band and feature the karaoke instead. He was a long-time musician and even though he rarely played at his club any more, he sympathized with his house band. But they'd started with just a karaoke night and soon it was their busiest night. Karaoke was popular and practically no expense compared to a band. Commercially and financially it was the best idea.
He'd found a good chef and they came up with a fairly large menu that emphasized casual dining for the smallish groups of people who usually showed up to do karaoke. Sandwiches and wraps, both hot and cold, enormous old-fashioned burgers, salads, both large and small and various side items like cheese fries, baked mac and cheese casserole, sweet potato fries, homemade barbeque beans, Old Bay fries and hand-battered onion rings were available. A couple of Brian's mothers best recipes were included; Mo Jo Chicken Sandwiches, Muffuletta To Die For and Pastrami Heaven on a Roll proved very popular.
The fare was not sophisticated but all the food was fresh and homemade; nothing frozen, nothing canned. Even though the bar served any kind of mixed drink, beer and wine, Brian had delicious non-alcoholic fresh fruit coolers available year round along with the usual soft drinks and tea. Peanut Butter cake and Peach Cobbler were the most popular desserts.
MoJo Chicken Sandwich:
Marinated pulled chicken, pineapple, honey mustard, mayo, hot peppers, shredded lettuce and melted Swiss on grilled flatbread
Pastrami Heaven on a Roll:
Black peppercorn pastrami, turkey breast, cheddar cheese, tomato, sliced yellow onion, deli mustard and herb mayo on a toasted kaiser roll.
Muffuletta To Die For:
Served on a crusty top roll with layers of baked ham, provolone cheese, Genoa-style salami and Swiss cheese, topped with a zesty olive salad. Served with kettle chips.
Meadow now began to work with Brian as the restaurant hostess. Brian hired another woman to hostess on the weekends, though. He'd begun to take Saturdays off, leaving the restaurant in the hands of his assistant manager. Meadow had been begging him to take a little more time,
"The kids are growing up, Brian; Heath goes off to University this fall and Brook and Willow are right behind him, Rocky will be having his birthday. You don't want to miss these last moments of their childhood; we don't want to miss them. And the twins will be glad for any extra time you can give them."
"You're right, sweetheart," he had agreed.
"Besides," Meadow grinned, "it gets really crazy around here on the weekends with every kid in Pleasantview plus our own six monsters. I really need your support."
So Brian had moved in an assistant manager who'd been recommended by his older brother, Dylan, and who soon proved he was more than up to the job. In fact, after a while Brian thought it might be possible to take a day off during the week from time to time.
The three oldest babysat with the three youngest the evenings their parents worked. They actually liked each others company most of the time, besides when their parents were absent things were more relaxed than ever. Rocky thought it was cool that his older sisters and brother didn't really care if he jumped on the furniture, but they DID insist on choosing what would be on TV and on the kids finishing their homework first.
Saturday morning Brook and Willow came outside to where their father was trimming the bushes--the job was never done--and asked if they could throw a party that afternoon.
"You mean all the kids who drop by and congregate here every weekend don't constitute a party?"
"Daddy. We're serious," Willow chided him, "We mean a real party where they all come at once because we invited them."
Brook looked at Willow and Willow nudged her.
"It's just people who have been over here other times...um...Maddie, of course, and her brother Jamie, Angelo, Karen and Kirstie Burb and Christopher Cooke. Only six. Plus Heath and us," Brook said.
Brian sighed and wiped the sweat starting to appear on his brow,
"Well, it's okay with me; but you'll have to convince your mother."
They rushed off to confront Meadow fully prepared to beg and grovel, but Meadow easily agreed saying,
"I'll grill the burgers, but you girls will have to set up cold drinks and snacks and clean up after the party."
"We will! We will!"
"There's another big bag of chips in the cupboard by the stove, Daddy just bought Coke and Sprite, I think it's still on the counter, and you know where the plastic cups and paper plates are."
Ecstatic, the girls rushed off to follow her orders and call their friends.
The three younger kids were fishing at the little pond out front so they wouldn't be a problem. As soon as their guests arrived Brook took Jamie Candeloro with her to the pool. Kirstie jumped in a moment later. Heath had asked Brook to try to get Jamie and Willow together but Willow stayed out on the front porch playing "Don't Wake the Llama" with Karen and Angelo. Heath and his girl, Maddie, played Mah Jong on the other end of the front porch.
It was getting really hot and, rather than fighting for room in the pool, Raine, Rocky and North turned on the water wiggler.
As evening fell Meadow served up cheeseburgers for everyone including Brian and "the littles" as Brook and Willow referred to Rocky, North and Raine.
In the background L to R: Angelo, Heath, Karen Burb and Maddie
In the foreground L. to R.: Brook, Jamie, Christopher Cooke and Kirstie Burb
L. to R.: Rocky, North and Raine
Background: Brian and "The Littles"
Table on the right L to R: Kirstie, Jamie, Christopher and Brook
Table on the left L. to R: Karen, Maddie, Angelo and Heath
Meadow, Brian and Willow
The party was a success and the girls gladly cleared the tables after saying goodbye to their guests. Heath took a garbage bag and policed up the yard where paper napkins and empty plastic cups had blown off the tables.
"We should have parties more often," Brook told Willow, "But we need to ask Momma way ahead next time."
"Yeah, maybe we could have some theme parties."
"But what kind of theme?"
"I dunno. Hmm, like maybe a 4th of July party and we could have sparklers and Daddy could get fireworks--" Brook contemplated.
"We're going to Grandma's for 4th of July, remember?" Brook sounded letdown.
Willow was not deterred in the least,
"Don't worry; I'll think of something. Maybe we'll have a labor day picnic or...fall is coming, maybe a harvest theme or there's always Halloween. The point is; we're good at this; we can be our own party planners."
Brook nodded, she knew Willow--and she WOULD think of something. Hopefully nothing that would get them in trouble....