Carrie Ryan & K. Darblyne
"...Love's more than a four letter word, it's everything that they say is real. And never think that it can't hurt even when you've got a heart of steel..."
Installment Four – And Baby Makes Three
"Hey Brooke. Over here…I haven’t talked to you since the night before you got married."
Brooke surveyed the guests that were mingling about her home as she made her way over to her brother-in-law. She waited until she got closer to the man before answering him. "That wasn’t talking, Brian. That was nothing but an excuse to get me drunk."
"Lighten up. You still made it to the wedding on time." Brian flashed a big smile, "So how is it? Married life, I mean."
"It’s great," Brooke beamed. "It’s wonderful. It’s…"
"Yeah, you don’t have to tell me. I married your sister, remember?" Brian looked over and waved to his wife. "I think that all you Gordon girls are meant for marriage."
"Excuse me?" Brooke’s eyebrow went flying halfway up her forehead.
"No, wait…" Brian held up his hands in an attempt to stave off the imagined storm that was quickly forming in the mind of his sister-in-law. "Sorry, I didn’t mean that to be chauvinistic sounding. I just meant that you all seem very comfortable with being a couple…family…that sort of thing."
Brooke relaxed a little now and agreed with his perspective on her family. "We do have a certain need to be involved with our loved ones if that’s what you mean."
"Well, yeah, that too." Brian shrugged, "You all seem to bring people together around you."
She looked out at the people that were gathered in her home. "These are all my family and I wouldn’t have it any other way." She looked over to Peter and Eddie standing by the fireplace. "Even if you weren’t born into it, we still consider you family. Even you," she looked at Brian. "We all belong to one another." Brooke started to turn around to get the whole effect of what she was saying.
Brian stood there, never letting his eyes drift from the form of his wife as she headed out of the room. With nothing more to hold his attention, he turned back to Brooke. "So when are you and Sam going to start working on that family of your own?
"What did you just say?" Brooke gazed at her bother-in-law slightly shocked.
"Come on, Brooke. Every couple has a plan, even Randi and I did…"
"You did?" She looked at him skeptically.
The questioning tone of Brooke’s voice brought a tinge of color to the man’s face. "Well," Brian paused in thought, "we sort of did."
"Uh huh…" Brooke folded her arms over her chest. "You can stop with your explanations, Brian. I’m still thrilled to have you as a brother-in-law."
"Hey, so maybe we just got ahead of ourselves and started a little sooner than we thought possible."
"I said you could stop."
"Yeah, you did, that’s what I like about you. You just keep on moving forward and living life. You don’t let anything get you down." He studied her for a moment and added, "Well, almost anything. You bounce back with a vengeance and that’s what matters. I don’t know if I could be like that. I’m sure that I would have just about given up if that wedding fiasco of yours happened to Randi and I." Brian’s face softened with a warm smile. "With that kind of strength, Brooke, I’m sure that you and Sam both would make a great set of parents." He waited for a moment as he perused the room and its inhabitants. "Anyway…I’m just wondering what your plan is." He shrugged casually, "Two…three…how many?"
"Ding Dong Ding!"
The sound of the doorbell halted Brooke’s train of thought as she stared blankly into the face of her brother-in-law. She smiled self-consciously as she excused herself. "Sorry, Brian. I just lost my train of thought." She looked around the gathered family members and guests as she did a quick head count. "I’d better go let Mom and Dad in before they start pounding the door down. It looks like they’re the last ones to get here."
"Oh!" Brian sounded surprised. "You’re calling your in-laws Mom and Dad already? It took me almost a year to do that. I’m proud of you, Brooke."
"Please…" Brooke rolled her eyes. "I meant my parents." She looked around quickly to see if Sam was nearby. "I’m not sure I’ll call Mrs. Moleson anything but Mrs. Moleson for a long time."
Brian laughed. "Trust me, Brooke. All that Sam has to do is ask you and you’ll call them anything she wants." He winked and raised his drink toward her in toast fashion. "Anything," he reiterated, "to keep the wife happy. In fact, if I think back correctly, that’s the night Julie was conceived." He nodded eagerly. "Yeah, and the words that Randi wanted to hear me use was Mummy Wummy."
Brooke throttled back a laugh as she gave that concept some thought. "Hmm…I see your point."
"Trust me, you’ll know what to do when the time comes."
"Ding Dong Ding!"
The sound of the doorbell ringing again caused Brooke to turn her attention to the door. "I’ve really got to answer that, Brian." She moved away from the man, her long legs catapulting her to the door. "I’m coming…I’m coming." She looked out through the curtains and cringed at the sight of her mother-in-law. "Damn, wrong words to use." Brooke muttered under her breath. "She’ll probably hold that against me too." Brooke shook her head, sucked in a deep breath and opened the door.
"Mom, Dad…" blue eyes looked first to Mable, then Henry and over to Samuel. Brooke’s gaze settled finally on the woman next to Sam’s father and her demeanor became just a tad more formal. "I’m glad to see that you all could make it. Sam will be happy to know that you’re here."
There was a moment of uneasiness as the two women locked gazes. It didn’t last more than a few seconds but the chill in the air was evident to Mable. "Brooke," she let her tone of voice try to lighten the mood. "You are going to invite us in, aren’t you?"
The statement startled Brooke. "Ah…yeah…sorry," she mumbled, stepping back from the doorway. "Come on in out of the cold." Brooke ushered the small group into her home and quickly closed the door. "Here, let me have your coats and I’ll run them upstairs to our bedroom." It was right at that moment that Brooke made eye contact with her mother-in-law. The coldness in Elaine’s eyes contrasted sharply with the intense heat coming to Brooke’s face in the earliest blush of embarrassment. Quickly, she closed her eyes and turned away, chastising herself for the words she’d just spoken. Great! Now Sam’s mother is going to think that’s all I do is try to get everything within my reach into our bedroom. Okay, Brooke, take a deep breath. Don’t let it get to you.
Taking her own advice, Brooke fixed a smile on her face and turned back to her new arrivals, pouring on the charm. "Here, let me help you with that." She took their coats and threw them over her arm. "Go on," she motioned toward the living room where the other guests were assembled. "Make yourselves right at home. I’ll be back in a…"
"Brooke…can you give me a hand in the kitchen, please." Sam’s voice came floating down the hall seconds before she appeared in the doorway of the kitchen. "Hi, Daddy," Sam called out with a little wave when her father leaned into the hallway.
"Hiya, Babycakes," he winked back at her. "Your mother’s here too, you know." He watched the expression on Sam’s face turn slightly somber.
"I’m glad that you could make it, Mother." Sam blew a puff of air from her mouth to get the hair out of her eyes. "Brooke, I really could use your two hands in here for a few minutes. I’m being vertically challenged again."
"All right, Darlin’, just as soon as I…" The weight of the coats draped over her arm lessened as her father shifted them to his arm. "What’s up…" Brooke turned her gaze to her father as he lightened her load, "Pop?"
"Me," he answered. "That’s what’s up. I’ll take these upstairs and you go help that darling woman in your kitchen." He winked at his daughter then motioned with his head in Sam’s direction.
Brooke looked quickly to her mother. Seeing the smile on her face was all that she needed to make her mind up. "Thanks, Pop." She relinquished her hold on the winter apparel. Her gaze caught the Moleson’s as she turned to leave. "Ah…" Brooke looked nervously to her mother again. "I…ah…Mom, could you make sure that Sam’s parents get introduced to everyone for me?"
"Go on, I’ve got things covered." Mable conveyed her certainty with the knowing look she gave her daughter.
"Brooke, I really need you in here," Sam’s plea brought a slight blush to her wife’s face.
"I…I’d better go. I’ll catch up with you later." Brooke nodded to the Moleson’s. "Thanks, Mom." She reached out and touched the woman’s hand before heading toward the kitchen. "I’m coming, Darlin’." Brooke stutter-stepped as she realized she’d said that phrase again. She gave a little shake to her head and continued on, seeing the look on Brian’s face as she passed by him.
Brian commented out of the side of his mouth, "Sweet, Brooke." He turned his attention back toward the newcomers. "Come on, we don’t bite." He winked at Sam’s mother then nodded toward his in-laws as he intercepted a running three-year-old headed for the group. "Hey, Princess." He hoisted the child up into his arms. "What do you say we let Grammie get Sam’s mommy and daddy settled in before you go distracting her?" He winked at his daughter, "Besides, I heard that Aunt Terri was looking for you. Let’s go find her." He watched as the child eagerly nodded her head.
"Thanks, Brian." Mable waved to her granddaughter. "You come see Grammie later, okay, Julie." She watched the child wave back then glanced over to Elaine and Samuel. "That’s Randi’s husband and their youngest child. But you already met them at the breakfast, right?"
"She’s a delightful child," Samuel watched as the father and daughter interacted on the way to their destination. "Is she that enjoyable all the time?" He looked quickly to Mable, then back to Julie and Brian.
"All the time. Every get together we’ve had since her birth has been nothing but enjoyable." The Gordon matriarch smiled proudly. "It’s even nicer having Brooke’s larger home to hold everyone." She shook her head in disbelief. "You can’t imagine how crowded ours is when we all get together there."
Elaine let her eyes roam over the people that were milling about. The majority of the other guests were definitely younger and more energetic as they played with the children while joking with each other.
"Do you all get together like this often, Mable?" She looked worried. "Wouldn’t a hall be better than someone’s house? There’s so many of you."
"Don’t worry, Brooke has plenty of room." Mable held out her hands as if to show off the house.
"I see that," Elaine looked at the room that she was in, then let her eye drift out toward the next one. "It’s a…beautiful place that she has."
"As a group, we don’t have the chance to get together too often. It seems that something is always in the works with our family being so diversified. Not everyone has a nine to five job with weekends off any more." She shrugged good-naturedly noticing for the first time that Elaine was looking somewhere else. "We have our own little dinners at least once a month without the girls’ husbands. We use those to keep the family bond going." Mable’s attention was focused on the woman standing two feet away from her. "That might be something you could try."
A distracted look settled on Elaine’s face as she followed something around the room. Without any warning, she lifted her foot and grabbed for her husband’s arm as a remote controlled PT Cruiser came hurtling her way. The look of astonishment stayed on her face as she gazed at those around her. She watched silently for a moment as her husband bent down and plucked the car from the floor. "Samuel," Elaine cleared her throat. "Maybe you and I should…"
"Elaine," Samuel’s stern voice addressed her. "It will be fine." He reached out and took her hand while still clutching onto the car with his other hand. "These people are close. They won’t mind a few more thrown into the mix." His attention was distracted with a tug on his sleeve. He looked down to see Kevin staring up at him.
"I’m sorry, Mr. Moleson. I’m not very good with the cars." The lad stole a look at Elaine and grimaced slightly. "May I have my car back, please?"
"Sure thing, son." Samuel offered the car with an out-stretched arm. "Maybe later I can show you some tricks to get them where you want them to go."
"Really?" The boy’s voice squeaked with delight. "I’d like that. Did you teach Sam, too?"
The man coughed as he choked back a laugh. "No," he glanced over to his wife. "I wasn’t allowed."
"Too bad ‘cause she’d really be awesome then." He looked down to the ground as he admitted his next thought. "Sam would really whip my butt more than she does now, I bet. You should see her when she plays Road Race on the Game Cube."
"You don’t say." Samuel sighed. "Maybe you both could show me someday." He ruffled the boy’s hair and glared at his wife for another experience that she’d taken from him.
"Kevin, are we racing or what?" David stood at the doorway into the hall. "Come on, it’s the best two out of three." He waved his arm to hurry his sibling.
"I got to go." Kevin turned to Samuel and beamed. "My brother’s waiting for me." With that said, the lad ran off.
Raising his eyes from the small boy, Samuel could see Elaine shifting her stance and fingering the neckline of her dress. "Relax, Elaine." Samuel squeezed his wife’s hand and patted it. "See…" he motioned to the people around them with his eyes. "They’re used to it."
"Yes, Elaine." Mable hesitated for only a second before reaching out to touch the woman’s shoulder. "We’re all very happy that you could join us."
"Well, if you say so," Elaine said tentatively as she eyed two men standing in the doorway of the dining room. "I’m sorry. I guess I’m just not used to having little boys around." She looked up to see two young adult males standing in the doorway. "Are they related to you too?" She gave a sidelong glance over to Mable. "I thought that your youngest daughter was the only one…ah…" she cleared her throat trying to get the words out, "…not married."
"Those two?" Elaine pointed in Peter and Eddie’s direction and returned their acknowledgement with a cute wave. "That’s Peter on the left, he’s Brooke’s best friend. I mean, besides C.C. of course." She let go with a little chuckle and continued on. "The other one is Peter’s friend, Eddie." She turned to look directly at Elaine. "You know that Peter is actually seeing your niece Crystal, right?"
"Crystal?" Elaine’s eyes took on an intensity all their own as she looked over to Samuel. "I guess you knew all about that, too."
Letting go of a sigh, the man shook his head. "Well, I knew that they were dating." Samuel glanced over to Peter then back to his wife. "I wasn’t too sure about anything serious." He shrugged.
"Humpf," Elaine let go with a snort. "Eddie looks a little young to be in Peter and Brooke’s circle of friends."
"It’s not a bad thing to be friends with someone older. Look at you and I. I’d like to think that we’re friends." Samuel winked at his wife. "Look at how nice Brooke is. For that matter, even Peter seems pretty nice, too. Why shouldn’t he be their friend?" Samuel looked to Elaine for confirmation of his statement.
"They’re all nice people once you get to know them. I believe that Eddie’s just a few years older than Sam," Mable added.
Elaine studied the young man. "What does he do?" She turned to look at Mable. "How did he come to meet Peter and Brooke?"
Laughter erupted from Samuel’s mouth. "What are you doing, Elaine?" He looked at his wife in utter amazement. "If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were becoming a groupie in your old age."
Mable watched as the woman glared at Samuel for a few seconds, then turned her attention back toward Eddie. "Is he talented…I mean…is he a musician?"
"He is…a musician," she added to alleviate any confusion. "He plays the drums just like my Brooke." Mable beamed with pride. "I think she’s taken him under her wing…or drumstick." She smiled at her own joke.
"Hmm…" Elaine gave the idea some thought. "I see."
"That’s how Brooke met him. Eddie was the drummer in Peter’s group before he took the job at Brownstone."
"What does Brooke do, give all her friends a free ride?" Elaine turned skeptical.
"I wouldn’t call it a free ride," Mable chuckled. "My daughter is a workaholic." Mable reached out and touched the woman’s arm in a comforting fashion. "No, she just likes to take care of the people she loves. Brooke’s always been that way and I don’t ever see her changing."
"I like that in a person," Samuel commented. "It makes me happy to know our Sammi has made a wise choice."
Feeling the muscles in Elaine’s shoulder tense with her husband’s statement, Mable withdrew her hand while at the same time extending some hospitality on her absent daughter’s behalf. "Could I get you some tea or coffee?" The matriarch studied the woman’s face for any indication of her emotional state. "Maybe a glass of wine?"
Letting go of a sigh, Elaine turned to look at Mable. "Wine, I think." Elaine smiled politely, then looked out at the gathering of people. "It might help the evening go down a little smoother," she mumbled.
"Then, you’re in luck. Brooke has quite a wine collection in her basement." Mable looked to Sam’s parents. "Would you care to join me in picking out a bottle?"
Samuel thought for a moment then shook his head. "Why don’t you go on, Elaine. I’ll wait for Henry to come back."
The woman looked around the room self-consciously. "I think I’d like that." She fidgeted from one foot to the other waiting for Mable to take the lead, then followed her out of the room.
Brooke slowed her steps as she approached the kitchen. Undetected yet by Sam, she stood silently in the doorway for a long moment, drinking in the view of her wife’s blonde hair shining brightly under the fluorescent lighting.
Hmm…I could just reach out and… A sparkle came to Brooke’s eye as she stopped thinking and put her idea into action. Moving closer to Sam, Brooke waited until she was an arm’s length away before acting. Slowly her arm edged toward its goal, Sam’s buttocks.
"Hon, could you get me…" Sam started calling out.
Stunned at the idea of being caught in the act, Brooke’s fingers jumped at the task to finish their mission.
"OUCH," Sam yelped, then turned and leveled a rather irritated pair of green eyes at the culprit. "Not now, Brooke." Her voice was stern as she marked the end of her thought with a sound slap of the wooden spoon against the edge of the pot. "We have company or did you forget that little fact."
The image of Sam’s mother drifted through Brooke’s head and she mentally cringed. "Sorry," she grumbled out before kissing her wife on the cheek. "Whatcha doing, Sweetheart?" Brooke looked into the pot with interest.
"I’m trying to finish the meal." Sam turned back to the stove. "You remember the meal…the company…your folks…my folks…our family and friends?" Sam looked back at Brooke and patted her wife’s cheek with an open hand. "Now be a good girl and hand me that serving bowl on the top shelf." Sam eyes gazed over to the open door of the cabinet.
"Yeah, I remember." The chastised woman poked out her bottom lip and retrieved the sought after article.
Sam watched silently as Brooke put the bowl down on the counter and moved over to work on finishing the salad. The sight of the tall woman’s pouting lower lip almost broke Sam’s heart. The blonde sighed and shook her head. Just like a big kid, Sam mused, then sidled up to Brooke. "I’ll give you all the attention you need later, Love." Sam reached out and hugged her wife. "Okay?"
Still showing her disappointment, Brooke kept her sight on the salad bowl in front of her. "Okay," she mumbled.
Guiding the woman’s chin with her fingers, Sam stood up on her toes to place a kiss on Brooke’s cheek. She pulled back and looked deep into crystal blue eyes. "I love you."
The reply was instantaneous and without thinking. "I love you too, Sam." Brooke’s smile broadened until she felt self-conscious and looked away. "I’m sorry for that pinch before, Baby." Brooke shrugged. "You just seem to have been so preoccupied this weekend and…" she turned to look at Sam. "I guess I’m kind of nervous about tomorrow, too."
"We both are, but we’ll get through it…" green eyes looked deadly serious, "…together. Remember, we’re both in this all the way."
"Yeah, I know." Brooke went back to putting the finishing touches on the salad. "I don’t like the thought of having to take anything. If I had my way, they could manufacture a bottle of aspirin and that would do me for the rest of my life. Vitamins might be okay, but I’m not real keen on the rest of those pills and hormone things." She looked over her shoulder at Sam. "You know that."
The blonde nodded. "I know." She rubbed Brooke’s back with her hand. "If there is any way…" Sam started then reconsidered her thought. "Let’s just see what the doctor will have to say before we go worrying needlessly. Okay?"
Blue eyes glanced over to Sam. "Okay. I love you, Sam."
"Mmm…" small arms wrapped around Brooke’s waist and Sam gave her wife a quick kiss. "I love you, too." Sam teasingly closed the distance between them again. At the last possible second before their lips touched, Sam gave her wife a pat on cheek instead and looked Brooke in the eye. "Now…get back to work." Sam turned and headed back toward the stove.
"Sam…" Brooke waited until green eyes flashed playfully in her direction before she crooked her finger in a come hither motion.
"Something that you want, my wife?" Sam watched as the dark head of hair nodded in affirmation and soulful blue eyes cast their spell over her. She could feel the tugging at her soul as if they were both formed from the opposite ends of magnets. Slowly she ambled toward her wife, her smile becoming more radiant the closer they came.
Mable turned the corner and stepped into the doorway of the kitchen. She came to an abrupt halt when she saw the unfolding scene before her. Putting her arm out to the side, she reached back to slow Elaine’s forward motion and pointed toward their daughters. She glanced out of the corner of her eye to see the stunned look on Elaine’s face. Mable cautioned the woman next to her. "Shh…" she brought a finger up to her mouth and held it there until Elaine closed her gaping mouth and watched silently.
With their attention focused on one another, they never noticed the older women standing in the doorway. Brooke was the first to speak as she whispered her thought out loud, "My beautiful wife." She drank in the view and locked it away for future reference. "I love you," Brooke spoke the words as reverently as a prayer.
Taking the last step toward Sam, she braced her body and picked her wife up, giving Sam a hug until they pulled back to gaze into one another’s eye. Ever so sweetly, they touched their noses together and sighed, basking in the glow of the love they held for each other. "Can I keep you?"
"I think you better or my Father might have something to say about that," Sam teased.
Mable caught the changing hue of Elaine’s skin as she became flustered at her daughter’s statement and nearly choked. Immediately she reached for and held onto the other woman’s hand in a sign of silent support, then turned back toward the couple.
"I love you," Sam whispered as they melded into a kiss. Slowly parting their lips, Sam opened her eyes to the blurred figures in the doorway. It took a few seconds for her to focus but soon the image of both of their mothers filled her eyes. Sam nuzzled into Brooke’s neck and whispered, "Don’t look now but we’re being watched."
"That’s okay," Brooke smirked as she laid another kiss on her wife’s head. "We’re married."
Sam drew back and motioned with her eyes to the doorway leading into the hall. Slowly Brooke turned until she caught a glimpse of her mother. "Hi Mom." Brooke started to lower Sam to the floor as she turned to get the whole view of the women in the doorway.
"I hope you’re going to keep her," Elaine stared directly at Brooke. "You’d make me much too happy if you didn’t. Besides, how else am I going to get used to this idea?"
The sound of her mother-in-law’s voice threw Brooke’s mind into complete chaos. "Well…uhm…I…" Her face was turning redder with every stuttering attempt at speech. "Yes, Ma’am. I…I was just…ah…" She straightened up stiffly as Sam’s feet touched the floor.
Elaine turned to Mable and winked. "And I was just beginning to like your daughter. I can see why she uses the drums to do her talking." The woman checked her growing need to smile but couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped her lips. She quickly cleared her throat in an attempt to hide the frivolous sound. "Where did that come from?" She muttered under her breath, looking surprised.
Catching the muted sound of her mother’s laughter, Sam eyed her cautiously. She let the events of the last few seconds run through her mind and shook them off as a fluke. Wrapping an arm around Brooke’s waist, Sam leaned in to the taller woman’s shoulder to whisper. "Enjoy it now before she changes her tune."
Blue eyes looked poignantly at green. "I…uh…" Brooke glanced around the kitchen for something to help get her out of the limelight. The scraping sound of nails on ceramic flooring gave her an idea. "Come on, Mario. Let’s go," she beckoned the dog as he came eagerly toward her. She leaned down and welcomed the pet that had come to her aid. "What do you say we go for your walk a little earlier than usual tonight, okay boy?"
The energetic tail wagging and enthusiastic barks were all that Brooke needed. She leaned in to the dog’s ear and whispered, "You’re a life saver, Mario." Getting up, she made her way toward the door. "You’ll have to excuse me." The dog pranced in and out of her long legs, tripping her more than once. "I’ll…" Brooke smiled self-consciously, first at her wife then at the women in the doorway. "I’ll be right back."
Sam folded one arm over her chest and tried to hide her smile behind the hand of the other. It made her laugh to see the self-confident C.E.O. turn tail and run from her mother-in-law. Then the thought struck her. Was my Mother serious? Is she really trying to get used to me…us? Sam turned toward her mother and studied her for a long moment until Elaine met her gaze.
The older woman took in a breath and smiled weakly as if to break the ice. "I’m trying Samantha. I really am trying." She watched as green eyes blinked in recognition of what she’d said.
"Sam, honey…" Mable sensed the tenseness of the moment and tried to lessen its effect. "I was just going to take your Mother to help me pick out a nice bottle of wine for dinner. Do you have any suggestions as to what would go best with the dinner you’re preparing?"
"Well," Sam turned to look at the stove as she thought about the meal they were soon to share. "I’ve got both fowl and red meat. I guess you could do just about anything…red or white…or any of the other wines that we have."
"Why don’t we try something…" Elaine smiled as she drew out her sentence, "…different. We’re all into different, aren’t we?" She looked over to Mable seeking confirmation of her idea.
The tone of her mother’s voice almost startled Sam. She looked over to see if it really was her mother doing the talking or some well-made replica. "Yeah…we are…" She nodded. "You know where the wine is, Mom." She watched as Mable touched Elaine’s shoulder and motioned for her to follow. When they were out of sight down the basement stairs, Sam shook her head and mumbled, "Well, I’ll be damned."
The bottle of wine in her hand didn’t hold her attention as Elaine’s mind raced with thoughts of her own. The background noise of Mable’s voice did nothing to get her mind off of her child. She was seeing a very different side to her eldest daughter and it was playing havoc with her convictions. Finally, out of nowhere, Elaine turned to her ‘stand in’ hostess and asked what was on her mind. "Mable, tell me I’m doing the right thing here." She stared directly into the woman’s eyes. "You’ve never had any regrets about Brooke, have you?"
There, the first chips of the rigid ice sculpture that was Elaine Moleson was falling to the floor and shattering. She was letting her mind at least think about her daughter’s situation without simply denouncing it. The Gordon matriarch silently looked to the heavens in thanksgiving. Her words were finally hitting something besides a closed mind. Mable took in a cleansing breath and replied solemnly, "Not one."
"None at all?"
"The only regret I have is that Brooke and Sam didn’t meet sooner. You know, I was a little concerned about her traveling around and touring with the band. Life can get awfully lonely on the road with no one around to share things with. It made me wonder what would happen to her after Henry and I were no longer around." Mable smiled as she reached out to touch Elaine’s shoulder. "I don’t have to worry now because of Sam. I can see that they’re made for each other. Brooke absolutely worships your daughter." She chuckled thinking about how the rest of her clan viewed the newest member. "So does everyone in the Gordon Family." Mable smiled trying to ease the other woman’s obvious inner struggle.
Looking off in the direction of the stairs leading back to the kitchen, Elaine thought for a few moments, then slowly nodded without saying a word. She turned to look into Mable’s eyes and made a promise. "Okay, then I’ll keep trying."
Joy filled Mable’s heart and the words jumped from her mouth. "This…" she smiled at Elaine as she held up the bottle in the woman’s hand, "calls for a drink."
With strains of soft laughter between them, the two women made their way back into the living room with their glasses of wine in hand. Mable continued with the story she had started to tell, "And to see Brooke’s face…you would have thought I’d asked her to be Mother Theresa, feeding the masses of India. I only wanted her to share with her sisters. It looked good enough to eat. She said that she made it for me. How was I supposed to know it was a candle?"
Elaine let out a laugh. "A candle?"
Mable nodded. "Yes, a candle." Tears were coming to the woman’s face as she remembered the incident. "I still have it in my…" Mable lurched forward with the impact of one body meeting another. The drink she was holding accidentally spilled onto the rug. "Oops!"
"Oops!" C.C. duplicated the statement. "Sorry, Mom. I didn’t see you there, I was trying to get the kids into the shot." She held up the camera in her hand and shrugged. Sensing that she was not the major concern, she looked to the empty glass in her mother’s hand, then down to the dark stain on the carpeting. "Yikes, was that wine?"
"Yes, it was, Cjersti."
"I’m sorry." She cringed hearing the tone of her mother’s voice as her given name was uttered aloud. "I’ll clean it up. Here, " she handed her mother Brooke’s digital camera. "Hold this for me while I get some rags." She headed for the kitchen. "Oh, Brooke is going to kill me." She rubbed the top of her head as she disappeared into the hallway.
"That looks fancy," Elaine motioned to the camera in Mable’s hand. "Is that a photograph there on the back of it?" The woman sipped at her wine, then lowered her glass and scrutinized the object.
Mable turned the item over several times in her hands as she pointed out the features. "This is Brooke’s camera. See, you take the picture through here and then it shows up on this little screen on the back." She turned the camera for Elaine to get a better view.
"Hmph!" Elaine snorted. "What they won’t come up with next." She shook her head in awe of the technology. "Hey, that’s Sarah…" she concentrated her gaze to the images displayed on the screen. "…and Sam…and that’s…" Her eyes drifted to the third image. "But who…?" She stopped abruptly as she mumbled out the rest of her thought. "They look so alike."
Mable looked down at the images displayed and answered the question. "Why, that’s Eddie." She squinted a little, cocking her head from one side to the other as she studied the three people in the small space who all had varying degrees of blonde hair. "Why yes, I guess they do."
"Nah…" C.C.’s voice startled them as she looked quickly over her mother’s shoulder at the digital display. "I think it’s just Eddie’s long, blonde hair." The young woman shrugged then gave her mother a nudge. "Excuse me but I’ve got a spot to clean." She waited on her mother to step aside as she commented on the images they were admiring. "I snapped that one last night before we started the second movie."
"I thought you had a date last night?" Mable looked directly at her youngest daughter.
"I did. We ate. I got bored. I came here." C.C. smiled sweetly as she knelt down on the rug next to the stain. "Hey, at least I didn’t leave in the middle of dinner." She looked up to her mother and then quickly started dabbing at the stain. "He was a nerd and I figured that if I was going to have any fun last night during a movie it would be here."
"And I suppose I should be thankful for that," Mable rolled her eyes.
"Hey, I could have stayed and who knows what kind of trouble a young girl could get into at the movies with a Massage Therapist major. Besides, that’s about the only way he’s going to be touching any naked bodies." C.C. stopped dabbing at the stain for a second or two as she examined her work. Satisfied with her progress, she slowly moved back and surveyed it a second time. "Maybe she won’t notice," C.C. mumbled as she gave the spot one last dab, then slowly stood up.
"Cjersti, there are some things that a mother doesn’t need to know."
"Hey, I know that. I just didn’t want you to think that I do it with just anyone. I do have my standards." She looked over to Sam’s mother and winked. Seeing Elaine’s self-absorption to the image displayed on the camera, C.C. commented on it. "That was a real Kodak moment if I do have to admit it myself." She raised the camera to view it better. "Hmm, I’m betting that they could pass for a family of their very own if they wanted to."
The tremor that started in Elaine’s hand was barely noticeable when she opted to put her wine glass down on the end table before it spilled. "I…" she let go of a breath and tugged nervously at the collar of her dress. "That is some strong wine, Mable." She fanned herself, hoping that she’d covered her unsettled feelings. Her eyes shifted quickly as the noise level in the room suddenly rose. Soon she was watching a steady stream of blondes, bouncing and bobbing as they came toward her.
"Come on, Sam. Don’t be a brat." Eddie swiped his hand randomly, hoping to snag a piece of the material. "Give me my hat." He watched as Sam tossed it to Sarah, then turned to face her, tugging at his now short hair in an effort to make it longer. "Come on, I didn’t know he’d cut it this short." The young man lunged at Sarah as she faked a pass to Sam, then twirled around and tossed it around her mother.
"Sorry, Mother." Sarah giggled out her instructions to her sister. "Hey, Sis, don’t let him have it."
Sam caught the hat one-handed, taking several steps to the left, then faking to the right. "Serves you right for thinking that Petey wouldn’t collect on his bet. You should have listened to me when I said that the…" She dodged the man’s quick attempt to grab at the hat. "Oh no you don’t." She gave Eddie an evil grin and underhanded the hat back to her sister.
Sarah tucked the hat under her arm and stood there looking at the shorn man. "Did you bet him?"
"Well, yeah." Eddie slowly sauntered toward her.
"Did you lose?" Sarah rested her unoccupied hand on her hip as she waited for his answer.
Eddie took in a deep breath and let it out disgustedly. "Well, yeah…but I never expected to lose my hair," he came back with his comment quickly as he lunged again for the hat, watching as yet one more time the hat sailed over his head and into the hands of Sam. "Come on, this isn’t funny," he insisted. "I need my hat." Determined this time to get it, Eddie took off running in Sam’s direction.
"Nyah, nyah," Sam squealed as she sprinted in front of her mother, moving across the room with Eddie and Sarah chasing after her.
"Don’t let him get it," Sarah squeaked out, trailing along behind them. "He may be older but we’ve got him out numbered two to one." She pushed through the small space between her mother and Mrs. Gordon. "Excuse me. Coming through."
The sight of the three passing so quickly around her caused Elaine to step back out of the way. Without looking where she was going, the woman didn’t see the ottoman and lost her balance. Seconds later, she was plopped neatly into the recliner with her feet up and her head slowly sinking to the backrest’s lowest position.
"Elaine!" Mable rushed to assist the woman before anyone else knew what was happening. She helped to right the woman and worked to calm her nerves. "Are you alright?"
The startled woman nodded as she patted her chest. She was trying to speak but the words wouldn’t come to her as her eyes settled on the newest figure in the room.
Standing calmly in the doorway of the living room, Brooke had been watching the whole scenario as it came into being. "Sam…" she called out in a foreboding voice. "I thought we didn’t have any children in this house…" she let the corners of her mouth just barely turn upward when she met Sam’s gaze, "…yet."
Stopping short Sam tossed the hat to Eddie and winked at her wife. "Only you, Hun." She looked around to her sister, then back to the young man as he pulled the hat down over his lockless head. "We’re all grown up."
"Yeah, right." Brooke scolded them with her menacing stance and raised eyebrow. She watched as all three of the blonde hooligans turned to look at her with almost the exact same expression on their faces. The coincidence was uncanny and Brooke found herself trying to stifle a laugh. "What…" she cleared her throat then started over, only this time on a more somber note. "What do you three have to say for yourselves?"
Simultaneously three meek voices offered up
the same word. "Sorry."
Unsettled by the similarity of their actions, Elaine grabbed for her wine glass and downed the remaining liquid in a single gulp. Without any hesitation on her part, she held up the empty glass up to Mable. "I think I’m going to need another one of these, please."
"Brooke…" Sam fidgeted nervously at the doorway of the kitchen as she looked at the quickly planned out seating chart in her hand. "Are you sure you want to sit across from my mother?"
"Darlin’, it’s the best way for her to get to see us together." Brooke ambled over to her wife and leaned down to kiss Sam’s cheek. "I promise, I’ll be nice. I won’t stick my tongue out at her, start a food fight, or set the tablecloth on fire."
"You wouldn’t?" Sam raised her gaze to stare into her lover’s eyes for a moment. "Nice try, Hon but innocent you’re not." Sam thought for a moment. "I think that seating arrangement may look like we’re trying to rub my mother’s nose in it."
"Hmm…then break it up." Brooke gave her wife another peck then engulfed her in a hug as she looked at the scribbling on the paper in Sam’s hand. "You got that boy-girl thing going…well, except for us," she grinned. "Why not use Eddie to our advantage since he’s here. Sit him between you and Sarah. My family already knows their usual seating arrangements. They’ll just fill in around yours."
"And I can put Peter and Crystal next to you with Aunt Sandy next to Dad." Sam reached up and kissed Brooke on the lips. "Mmm…I love you."
"I like this…" Brooke kissed her wife again, "…tell me why I didn’t get married sooner?"
"Because…" Sam smiled coyly as she pulled her wife closer, "You hadn’t met me yet."
"Then I’m glad that I waited." She gave Sam a chaste kiss then leaned in to whisper in her ear, "You’ll get more later, Darlin’. Right now, I think we’ve got our first dinner to serve to our guests."
Rick looked over toward Brooke and Sam as he tapped on the edge of his wineglass. "So, nothing to toast about from the newlyweds yet?" He smiled as he glanced to his wife. "Terri and I thought that maybe because you had the whole family here…"
"Hey, it was your idea, not mine." Terri looked the other way.
Brooke looked suspiciously at her wife then feigned ignorance. "What would we have to be toasting?"
Sam shook her head in agreement. "Nope, not a thing."
"Come on, Brooke." C.C. sat up
straight with the children around her making her look like a giant. "I’m
twenty-one now and suddenly there’s no toasting going on? What’s up with
Bleary-eyed, Elaine reached for her glass and drew it near to her. "Well, I’m…I’m…" she focused on the glass. "I’ll second a toast."
Mable saw the unsteadiness of the woman’s hand as she tried to bring the glass to her mouth. The matriarch brought her hands together and rubbed them eagerly, "So, is everyone ready for dessert? I know that I am. That was a great dinner, Sam." She looked around the table until she settled her gaze on Brooke. "Brooke, you do have some coffee," she put emphasis on the word as she rolled her eyes across the table from her daughter toward Elaine, "to go with dessert, don’t you?"
"Ah, yeah." Brooke wiped her mouth and started to get up. "Mrs. Moleson…" she waited but there was no recognition from her mother-in-law.
"Mother," Sam’s voice caught the woman’s attention. "Would you like another drink?"
"Sure," Elaine held up her wineglass toward her daughter. "Thank you."
"Coffee, Ma’am." Brooke stood poised next to her chair. "I was offering you some coffee. How would you like it?"
With a twinkle in her eye Elaine brought her hand to rest on her husband’s thigh. "Straight, please." She giggled slightly around the words.
"Black," Samuel spoke up, not wanting the situation to get out of hand. "She’ll have it black."
Amused by her mother’s weak attempt at humor, Sam focused more on the woman seated across from her. "You seem to have enjoyed this dinner."
"Oh, I have." Elaine sipped the last drop from her wineglass. "I’ve found some very interesting things out about everyone here." She gazed with unfocused eyes around the table until she looked at the man seated across from her and to her left. "Except for you…" she shook an index finger at him. "You don’t talk much about yourself."
Eddie became very self-conscious, "Uh…ah…no ma’am, I try not to."
"He’s shy, Mrs. Moleson." Peter wrapped his arm around Crystal’s shoulders. "I keep telling him to talk more."
"Is it because you have nothing to say or that you don’t want us to know anything about you?" Elaine drew the attention back to Eddie. "Surely you have a wonderful family that raised you."
"I do…" Eddie let a hint of a smile come to his lips. "I have…er…had a wonderful family," he looked at the questioning faces around him. "My father passed away a few years ago," he said with a slight catch coming to his throat.
Samuel spoke up after sensing the emotion in the young man’s voice. "I’m sorry to hear that, Son." He didn’t notice the strange look on his wife’s face as he continued talking. "I’m sure you had some great memories of him."
"Gee, I always wanted to have a younger brother," C.C. perked up and addressed her parents. "Mom, Dad, what do you say?"
"Quit while you’re ahead, C.C.," Terri sighed. "He’s older than you are."
"Rats!" C.C. snapped her fingers loudly. "I’m never going to get out of the kid’s section of the dinner table, am I?"
"You could have a few of your own, that might help?" Aunt Sandy offered thoughtfully.
"Yeah, and I’ll be the one hauling the deadbeat’s butt into court for child support," was Randi’s wisecrack. "Don’t go giving her any ideas. I’m busy enough as it is."
Mable put her hands together in prayer and looked to the heavens. "Please Cjersti, don’t do that to your poor mother and father." The roomful of people quieted as they thought about the complications.
The silence was shattered by Elaine, "Your father, Eddie, what did he do for a living?"
Eddie sat stunned that the conversation would turn back to him. He sat there for a moment then slowly his memory came around, letting a smile come to his face. "My dad was older than most when I came along. He built motorcycles." His smile beamed brightly. "He worked at the Harley Plant in Pennsylvania until I came along and then he moved us to Clifton, New Jersey."
"Phssst!" Peter leaned on the table to get Eddie’s attention. "I knew you couldn’t have been born in Jersey. You don’t stink." The man jerked suddenly and turned to the woman next to him, "Ouch! What was that for?"
"You know what it was for," Crystal glared at him.
"You trying to say something there, Petey?" Brooke cleared her throat as she rounded the table with the coffee pot in her hand. "You were born in Jersey." Brooke grinned as the people seated around Peter all started making faces and holding their noses.
Peter rested his elbow on the table and leaned his head into his hand. "Okay, okay, I get the point."
"Ah…actually," Eddie’s quiet voice got everyone’s attention. "I…I was born in Pennsylvania."
"Small world, isn’t that where you went to school Mother?" Sarah nudged Eddie hard enough to make him lean in toward Sam’s chair. "Tell us some more. Let’s see if we can make this within the six degrees of separation thing."
Brooke made her way around the table, stopping next to the young man. "So Eddie," she held up the coffee pot in offering, "what else can you tell us about your family? You mentioned that your father was older..."
Eddie pushed his cup toward Brooke and nodded. "Yes, he was actually."
"Was he as old as my dad?" Kevin piped up from out of nowhere.
"Kevin!" Brian turned quickly to face his son, "I’m not that old."
David took over for his brother, "Then, was he as old as Grampa?"
"Oh David, you make me sound like I’m ancient," Henry chuckled as he glanced over to his wife. "You must have been a child bride my love," he said, reaching out to touch Mable’s hand and then gave her a wink.
"So how old was he…" Elaine leveled her gaze at the young man seated between her two daughters. "Your father, I mean."
"He was in his early fifties when I was born," he said rather shyly. "My mother was forty-nine."
"Hmm…I bet that was a real surprise," Henry raised an eyebrow as he gazed at his wife. Together they both turned to look down the table at their youngest daughter, C.C.
"Ye-e-e-ssss?" C.C. cocked her head to the side, looking back at her parents. "Are you saying that I wasn’t planned or that our mother was barely out of childhood?"
"Well da…" Brooke stopped in mid word and glanced down the table to the children, "dang, C.C." Brooke moved to stand next to her wife. "She’s only fifty-two now. Mom was young when she had Randi. You do the math." She poured Sam’s cup then her own and proceeded to sit down.
"C.C.," Randi sat back in her chair, "None of us were ever planned. Things just happened."
Brooke fought back the smile that wanted to take over her face. "I dunno, Randi. I think that some babies are planned." She reached under the table and took Sam’s hand in her own, giving it a squeeze.
"Plan all you want, ladies, but some babies can catch you off guard," Randi smirked. "That is if you get them the old fashioned way." She shot a glance at Brain.
Sam bit at her lip, fearing that her wife would say something more. She looked over to Brooke and mentally willed her thoughts into the woman’s head. Don’t say it until we know for sure. Sam glanced over to her parents and new thoughts rushed through her head. I know Daddy would be overjoyed at the idea but my mother… Studying the woman for a second longer, she found herself shaking her head slightly. I’m still not sure she’s really all right with just us as of yet.
The subtle shake of Sam’s head was enough for Brooke to know what she was thinking. Instead of continuing on with her train of thought, she stopped her mouth from opening more and leaned in to place a gentle kiss on Sam’s cheek.
"Ours was sure a surprise," Terri laid a gentle hand on her stomach. "We never thought it would happen, not with our hectic schedules."
"You’ve got that right," Rick nodded.
"Well, all of mine are going to be planned," C.C. promptly announced. "I’m planning on not having any."
"Yeah, right!" three voices shot back almost in unison to their youngest sister’s statement.
"What?" C.C. looked at their smug faces. "I don’t have to have kids. I have all of yours to play with." She sat up straight and pushed the last few morsels of food around on her plate. "Besides, you only think that just because I’m the baby…" she snarled at the term, "…that I can’t be a grown-up." She looked up to see all of their eyes directed toward her. C.C. picked up the last bit of her roll and tossed it at Brooke, "What are you looking at?"
Not surprised by C.C.’s action in the least, Randi looked over to Terri and burst into laughter. "Does anyone know if they make steel-clad," she mouthed the next word using her hand to hide her comment from the children’s sight as well, "condoms?"
Terri shrugged, "Yeah, she can be so abrasive sometimes, I don’t think it would matter."
"Girls!" Mable clamped the lid on the discussion, "You can be so rude sometimes. We have guests." She turned her gaze from her daughters and let it settle on Eddie. "Please Eddie, you were telling us about your family," Mable shot a warning look at each of her daughters. "We’d like it if you’d continue."
Samuel cleared his throat. "Yes Eddie, I’m sure we’d all like to know more about you."
Slipping down from her chair, Julie made her way over to stand between Eddie and Sam. Tugging at Eddie’s sleeve, the tyke made her request for all to hear, "What did your mommy do while she waited for you?"
The man was caught off guard by the question. "I…ah…I mean…" Eddie drew in a breath and softened his voice as he directed the answer to the child. "My mother was a professor at York College of Pennsylvania until I came along."
Julie’s face took on a puzzled look. "What took you so wong to be borned?"
"Julie…" Randi’s half-embarrassed, half-cautioning voice could be heard. "I’m sorry for all her questions. You never know what will come out of a three-year-old’s mouth." She pushed out her chair. "Come here, Julie. Sit on mommy’s lap."
"I’d take her up on that before you’re too big to fit there," Sam leaned down and whispered in the child’s ear. Her words were met with a twinkling set of eyes and the sound of glee as the child took off running toward her mother.
"I’m sorry," Randi gathered the child up into her lap, kissing the top of her head. "Eddie, please go on with your story."
The table grew quiet as they all waited to hear the young man’s story. Feeling all of their eyes on him, Eddie blushed slightly as he prepared to speak. "Mom and Dad couldn’t have any kids of their own, so they waited for the right baby to come along." He gave a wan smile and gulped before delivering the rest of his story. "I…I was actually adopted." He looked around the table to see how the news was being accepted. Seeing no repulsion on their faces, he moved on, "Apparently my birth parents were too young to keep me. From what my mom told me recently, I believe that my real mother was one of her freshman class students that year."
The sound of an empty wineglass striking the
padded tablecloth was followed by a quick but mildly slurred apology, "I’m
slorry." Elaine’s hazy looking eyes rose from the glass to the three
blondes across from her. "I didn’t mean to do zat." Her clumsy
attempts to right the glass were stilled by her husband as he laid his larger
hand over hers.
Eddie acknowledged the apology and continued on, "I’m not sorry, Ma’am. Both of my mothers only wanted the best for me. My mom knew what a struggle it would be for someone so young to raise me. That’s why she offered to help the girl out."
Samuel turned to his wife. "I wonder if Eddie’s mother was one of your professors, Elaine. You always seemed to talk so highly about a few of them."
"There were an awful lot of professors on campus, Samuel. I only knew a few in the short time that I was there at York."
"So you did go to York, Mrs. Moleson?" C.C. sat up in her chair and looked interested as she looked directly at Sam’s mother. "Then maybe you knew Eddie’s mother and just didn’t realize it. You know, like through another person or something."
Elaine became flustered, her face reddening, "I…I transferred out when I declared my major at the end of the school term."
"Well, either way Eddie, it sounds like all the women in your life loved you," Samuel smiled reassuringly over at Eddie as he continued the original conversation.
Eddie waited patiently to speak, "Yes Sir, they did. My mom was so grateful to actually receive custody of me that she told my birth mother she wouldn’t change my name."
"I think Eddie is a nice name," Sarah’s voice rose softly like the blush coming to her cheeks.
Eddie glanced over to the girl next to him, "Thanks, but actually Eddie is my middle name."
"And your first name…" Elaine stared across the table at the man, "…that would be…"
"Well, I have two names," his green eyes twinkled with mischief. "Do you want my birth name or my adopted name?"
"Come on," Sam pleaded as she
moved to the edge of her seat. "Don’t keep us in suspense."
Looking from side to side, the man let the suspense build for a few seconds before verbalizing his identity, "My name is Mason Edward Hardy but my birth name was…"
"Hey Dad, isn’t Mason one of your family’s names?" Sam looked over to her father, never hearing the rest of Eddie’s revelation.
The man’s face went ghostly pale as he looked from Sam to Sarah and then slowly towards his wife. "My grandfather’s name was Mason Moleson. It was too much of a mouthful for most people. I don’t tell too many what the M stands for in M. Samuel Moleson. I chose early on to go by just Samuel." He watched the glazed look in his wife’s eyes become even more vague, then as if to bring her back from the fog, he reached out and stroked her arm.
Randi leaned back in her chair and tapped Terri on the shoulder. "What’s up with this?" She whispered, "She’s grilling Eddie worse than I expected to hear her grill Brooke."
A shrug of her shoulders was all that Terri did before she glanced over to her mother. In a habit much like Mable, Terri motioned with her eyes toward Elaine and then gazed back to see if there was an answer for her. A puzzled look and a half-hearted smile was all that Mable could do to respond.
"I don’t know what all of you are so…so…whatever," C.C. held her hands out and wiggled her fingers, "about the Mason name?" She shifted in her chair, "I’d hide it too."
"What…like you do with Cjersti?" Randi snickered.
"Or Chase…" Brooke gloated at her sister.
"Hey!" The young woman straightened up with a serious face. "I give equal time to both names, thus the initials C.C." She turned to Eddie, "So M.E. Oh, I like that," C.C. looked surprised by her own words.
"Out with it C.C.," Brooke let an audible sigh cross her lips, "before we all grow old and die around this table. What does that ever inquiring mind of yours want to know now?"
"Nothing much…" the young woman planted a smile on her face. "I just didn’t hear what Eddie’s other last name was?"
"Yeah, Eddie," Crystal chimed in. "What is it?"
Looking first to his end of the table and then to the other, he came back to a neutral position and stared straight ahead before quietly saying, "Addams…that’s my birth name."
"Addams?" Sam whispered the name, her eyes roaming slightly before she turned to look over to the man next to her, "That’s pretty funny. That’s my middle name."
Sarah watched as the shades of life seemed to slowly drain from her mother’s face. The woman’s eyes grew listless and distant as she brought a frail hand to her mouth. "Mother, are you okay." She looked anxiously over to her sister, "Sam…what’s happening?"
"Mother?" Sam’s attention centered on the wavering body, watching as the woman slumped over onto her husband. "MOTHER!"
"Elaine…" Samuel caught his wife’s limp body and held it as he ran his eyes over it looking for some sign of life. "Elaine…Good God woman, don’t leave me now." Samuel looked up and, for the briefest of moments, locked gazes with Mable. His eyes pleaded not only for himself, but for his wife and children, too.
"Terri…Rick…" Mable motioned with her head and the task was set. "Everyone stay calm. Randi," she turned to her eldest daughter, "why don’t you take the children and find something for them to do in the living room."
"Come my little ones," Randi got up from the table carrying Julie in her arms. "Let’s go see what we can find to entertain you." She herded her children round her and headed for the doorway. "Sarah, perhaps you’d like to…"
"No," the young girl shook her head. "I’m staying."
"Brian…" Randi looked to her husband.
"I’ll let you know," he spoke softly and then reached out to touch his wife’s hand as she passed by. Looking back down the length of the table, Brian watched as his brother and sister-in-law attended to the unconscious woman.
"Here, let me examine her," Rick knelt down at the woman’s side.
"She’s breathing," Terri felt the woman’s cheek and made a face. "Her skin is cool and clammy."
"It’s the wine," Mable offered. "She’s just had a little too much to drink. Don’t you think?"
"Her pulse is a little weak but it’s starting to come around," Rick looked up into his wife’s face.
"How about a cold cloth for her head," Sandy offered. "That’s how we used to revive just about everyone." She paused for a second and reconsidered, "We still do at work."
"Mom," Crystal pushed past her to see things for herself. "Maybe you do up on your geriatric floor but we don’t consider that a treatment in modern medicine."
"Well…" Sandy looked at her daughter, "it let’s them know they’re not dead."
"Now that’s just great, Brooke." The sarcasm was evident as C.C. slumped back into her chair, "Nice way to end the mother-in-law problem. Didn’t you think you’d grow on her over the next century or so?" C.C. pushed her plate away from her. "You could have at least waited until I had my dessert."
"It’s not the time to be joking around, C.C." Brooke threw a cold gaze in her sister’s direction as she wrapped an arm around Sam’s shoulder. "It’s going to be alright, isn’t it Terri? Do we need to get…" Brooke swallowed hard, "…an ambulance?"
"She’s a little bigger patient than I’m used to, but I think she’ll live," Terri glanced over to her husband. "Wouldn’t you say so, dear?"
Rick studied Elaine’s pulse for a few more seconds then concurred. "I think she’ll live to be a hundred or so," he looked over to Brooke and winked, "that’s my guess."
Brooke scowled at her brother-in-law, then spoke to her wife. "She’s going to be fine, Sam. She’s just…"
"Brooke, I think maybe we should take Elaine upstairs and let her rest in your bedroom for a little while…let the wine wear itself off." Mable looked over to her daughter, "What’s that face for? You’ve got that nice big comfortable bed up there and I won’t have to worry about her rolling out of it like that day bed in your guest room."
"Great! Four bedrooms upstairs and she has to use mine…er…ours," Brooke grumbled under her breath. "She’s going to freak when she wakes up in that bed. I know it." Seeing the puzzled look on Sam’s face, Brooke shook her head and sighed. "I’ll tell you later, Sam."
"Elaine…" Mable came around the table and stopped next to Samuel and his wife. "Dear, what is it?" She placed her hand over top of Elaine’s and patted it gently. Mable glanced up to see the concerned look on both Sarah and Sam’s faces. "She’ll feel better once she rests."
"Where…where am I?" The questioning words came out slowly and slightly mumbled from Elaine’s mouth. "I was…was feeling…" she started to sit up and stopped, reaching for her head. "Oh my, I’m feeling lightheaded again."
"Let’s get you upstairs." Mable’s eyes were filled with worry. "Elaine, you look like you could use some rest."
"I’ll help you, Mable." Henry moved from his chair.
"Maybe…maybe I should join her, if that’s alright." Samuel lifted his gaze to meet Mable’s.
"Yes, I think that’s a good idea," Sandy called out. "You need to be with her."
"Sandy," Samuel shot a glance over his shoulder, "Take care of my kids while I tend to Elaine." Out of the corner of his eye he caught the nod of his sister’s head as she went to stand behind her nieces.
"I’ve got them, Samuel," She put a hand on each one’s shoulder.
Mable grasped one of Elaine’s arms and draped it over her shoulder. She waited for Henry to assist her in getting the woman to an upright position as Samuel slid his chair back, rising to stand next to his bolstered wife.
"Here, let me take her," Samuel spoke to Henry. Together they worked to make the transition smooth. With most of his wife’s weight resting on his shoulder, he gave a little nod. "You lead the way, Mable."
"Daddy?" Sam called out to her father as the trio took their first steps away from the table. She waited until her father looked in her direction, then softly conveyed what was in her heart, "I’m here if either of you need me."
It wasn’t the way that Brooke would have liked to see the dinner end but she wasn’t in a position to change what had happened. Instead, she just did what she could to make the best of it. Taking her wife in her arms, she hugged her tightly and whispered words of comfort into her ear, "She’s in good hands, Darlin’. My mother hasn’t let a single one of us slip through the cracks."
Sarah’s eyes shot wide open. "She’s not dying…is she Sam?"
"No!" Sam elbowed Brooke in the side. "She’s needs some time to recoup. That’s all."
Sensing her fear, Eddie put an arm around Sarah and gave her a hug. "She’s just a little…under the weather right now. I’m sure that Brooke’s sister and brother-in-law would know if it was anything serious."
"He’s right, Sarah." Aunt Sandy patted the girl’s arm. "You’ll see."
Brooke turned away from Sam and was met by a blinding flash. "What the Hades?" Her arms flailed to protect herself as she squinted.
"Gotcha!" C.C. jerked back the camera in her hands. "No way, Sis. I’ve got first dibs on it." She watched semi-patiently as the digital image appeared on the screen. "Come on, come on. Yeah, that’s a winner for the old photo album. Sam and Brooke’s first dinner party," she announced, offering the camera for others to see the image. "Hmm…maybe I should have gone into photojournalism instead."
"Let me see," Sam moved over to C.C.’s side. "It’s…it’s really not that bad Brooke. You should take a look."
"Yeah, right…maybe in the next century when I can see." Brooke rubbed at her eyes and blinked.
"So are you seeing the little blue men from Jersey?" Peter teasingly asked her.
"No," Brooke grabbed the camera from C.C.’s hands and turned it to see the image. "Egads!" She cringed. "Sam, remind me never to let her do publicity shots for me. You can’t even see me with my arms in front of my face." Brooke let her eyes drift from her own image to take in the others who were standing around her. "Everyone else looks good. Sam, Eddie, Sarah, even Crystal looks good."
C.C. buffed her fingernails against her sweater. "I’m good and you know it. If a picture can be worth a thousand words, then mine are worth two…no, make that three."
The numbers ran through Brooke’s mind like the hint to some long forgotten puzzle. She found herself concentrating more and more on the images that her sister had frozen in time. Something about them intrigued her, but what it was she couldn’t quite put her finger on.
"Sam, do you really think that Mother will be alright?" The wide-eyed innocence of the child was evident in Sarah’s expression. "Is she really…" she had a hard time getting the words out, "under the weather or is she…drunk?"
"I’ve never known mother to have more than a glass or two of wine in an entire evening." Sam looked over to the empty wineglass laying on its side at her mother’s place setting. "I’d like to think that she wasn’t, but…" Sam looked over to Brooke and became rather somber. "Maybe this business of our whole family getting together for the first time was a little too much for her to handle."
Hearing Sam’s words put the last piece of the puzzle together in Brooke’s head. Blue eyes stared at the digital image and a tear slowly spilled over Brooke’s long dark lashes. She closed her eyes to the feeling of pain that grasped her heart.
"Hey," Sam came over to where Brooke was standing with the camera, "are you alright? You’re not still seeing the little blue guys, are you?"
Not wanting her wife to see the tear, Brooke rubbed at her eyes. There would be more tears to come, only she knew that they would not be hers. "I’m fine, Sam. I…" she thought about what to say to her wife. Giving it the best shot that she could, Brooke smirked out, "I guess I’m seeing little guys in a rainbow of colors."
Now that the frail-looking woman’s body was occupying only a small portion of the king-sized bed, Mable looked over to Samuel. "Is there anything else that I can do? I mean…I’m really sorry now for even offering her the wine. I didn’t know it would effect her like this."
The man shook his head, "No thank you, Mable." He looked helplessly at his wife. "I think it’s a combination of things, really. The alcohol hasn’t helped either. I think…" he pondered his words for a moment. "I think the shock was what really did her in."
"Shock?" The Gordon matriarch furrowed her brow, "I don’t understand. Shock from what…seeing her daughter as a part of a lesbian couple? I thought she was just starting to get used to them. She even made a teasing remark about Brooke tonight."
Samuel slowly shook his head and got up from consoling his wife. Somberly, he reached out to draw his finger along his wife’s cheek. Closing his eyes to the pain, he made his decision. "It’s Eddie, Mable."
"Eddie? But what would Eddie have to do with…"
"Mable," Samuel turned to look the woman in the eye. "I believe that Eddie is our son." He watched as the woman became slack-jawed, then turned back to his wife, stroking her hair in a loving manner. "Our son has come back to us," he whispered.
Song Lyrics from this week's installment by Steve Brown.
See You Soon!!!!