Aside from their clothes, the guest house was all set. The little second bedroom was empty, but it would be filled in time for the baby. Mexican food was set up in the kitchen, ready for everyone to eat. I ended up inviting my brother and dad over as well. As much as it probably aggravated Dad, I couldn’t invite Mom. The last thing Josh or Madi needed was to be exposed to her toxic attitude. I could already imagine the shit Eric would say if he overheard some of the crap my mother liked to say from time to time.
What I wasn’t expecting, was for the doorbell to ring just as everyone was settling down with food. It had been a long day, just as I predicted. I was proud of my son for doing the smart thing and exchanging the TV for one that was 32”. It was plenty big and looked just fine on the wall in the living room where Eric hung it up for him. I went to the door so everyone else could get into the dinner.
“Gracie,” I said with a big smile when I saw Madi’s copy standing on the front porch. “I’m glad you could make it. We were just having dinner. Come in.”
“Thanks. Dad said I could drive the Buick,” she said as her reasoning for coming over. It was obvious she wanted to see her sister just as bad as Madi wanted to see her.
“Well, I can’t blame you for wanting to drive that beast.” I stepped back to let her inside. “Are you hungry? There’s plenty of food here if you are.”
“I’m hungry,” she nodded. “It smells good in here. Felipe’s?”
“Yes, ma’am. Best Mexican food in the great state of Texas.” I closed the door behind her when she stepped inside. “We even whipped up some virgin strawberry daiquiris for you guys.”
Temperatures were topping out at 105, and it was only June.
“Sounds good, thanks,” she smiled.
“Good. Well, come on in, make yourself at home. Shoot, did your dad tell you to bring a swimsuit? I’m sure everyone will end up in the pool at some point. Well, then again I guess you can borrow one of your sister’s huh? Doesn’t matter. Follow me.” I was all over the place. It was either the heat or the beer or both. Hadley would probably say it was Eric’s abs messing with me. Of course Hadley was a secret drunk, at least that’s what I was going with.
I led Gracie into the kitchen, and got her a plate so she could serve herself. I spotted Madi sitting on the patio with her back to the house so she didn’t see Gracie approaching. Eric noticed her, however, and he was happy to see his other offspring had arrived. I knew Madi was going to be happy as all get out to see her sister. The day had gone alright, but I knew having Gracie show up, at least for a little while, would make it that much better for Madi.
“Can I get you something to drink? I’ve got water, lemonade, sweet tea, a cooler full of sodas outside, and of course…” I pointed to the daiquiris blended up on the counter.
“Lemonade would be good, thank you,” she said politely.
I went to the fridge to get the pitcher of lemonade out. I got a glass down from one of the cabinets and put some ice in it before adding the lemonade. Gracie made herself a plate, and I grabbed mine from the counter so I could follow her outside.
“Look what I found,” I said as we stepped outside.
Heads turned and Madi jumped up when she saw her sister. Gracie gave a little wave before Madi grasped her sister tightly.
I went around the corner of the house to the outdoor living room. There was no need for a fire, but Dad had one going anyway. We couldn’t feel the heat coming off it since it was already so damn hot outside. Dad, Jason and Hadley were sitting together chowing down on the food they’d brought with them.
“So, where’s Hunter?” I asked Hadley. I hadn’t seen the little goober in months.
“Oh, uh, he went to Louisiana with Remy to visit Remy’s parents,” she said.
Remy was from a tiny town called Red Ditch just outside of Alexandria. I hadn’t seen Remy’s parents in a coon’s age, but they weren’t exactly world travelers. Getting them to go to New Orleans for Hadley’s wedding was about as far as they were willing to go.
“That’s good. It’s been a while since he’s seen them.” I scooped up some guacamole with a tortilla chip.
“Yeah, plus a little father/son bonding time is good for them,” she said.
“Y’all think about havin’ another one?” Jason asked. After all Hadley went through to have Hunter, I was guessing she probably wasn’t going to push her luck.
“No. I had too much trouble keepin’ a baby in the first place. I think we’re just going to be thankful for Hunter,” she replied.
“One’s enough,” I chuckled. Jason didn’t have any kids, which shocked the hell out of everyone considering all the tomcatting he used to do.
“There’s that too,” she snickered.
“If you start with two you don’t know the difference,” Eric said as he took a seat next to Had.
“There you go, Had. Maybe Remy’s just got bad swimmers,” Jason suggested.
“His swimmers are just fine, Jase. I’m the faulty one here,” she said, shaking her head.
“That’s not true,” I assured her. She had been to specialists and no one could tell her why she wasn’t carrying the babies to term. All the tests they’d run indicated that everything was normal.
“It just wasn’t your time, honey,” Dad told her. It was the same thing Gran had said. She had lived long enough to meet Hunter. She passed when he was just three weeks old.
“Thanks, Uncle Corbett. I’ve come to terms with it. We’re fine with just Hunter.”
“You should have another kid, Sook,” Jason said, and I nearly choked.
Was he insane?
“Hell’s bells, Jason, that would be awkward as sin,” Dad said. “Can you imagine your kid and your grandkid trotting off to preschool together? Good God Almighty…”
“I think Jason’s been gettin’ into the devil’s lettuce when no one’s around the evidence locker down at the station,” I snickered.
“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ ‘bout,” Jason said, making everyone laugh.
“He has to be high on somethin’ if he thinks Sookie having another baby would be a good idea. She’d have to find a man first.” Hadley gave me an exaggerated wink. She must have been high too. “Eric, you’re single, right?”
Eric choked on his beer when she asked that.
“There you go, Sook,” Hadley grinned.
“I sincerely doubt I’m Eric’s type,” I snickered.
“I’m sure she wouldn’t be into me anyway.”
“And our kids are having a kid together. That would just be really weird.” I took a really, really long drink of the beer Jason had brought over.
“Very weird,” Eric agreed. “I’m perfectly fine with the whole co-grandparenting thing.”
That was enough change for me at one time.
“Plus, we all know I’m not good at relationships so let’s just leave it at that,” I added.
Hadley grinned and said, “Who said anything about a relations–”
“Shut. Up. Hadley.” I reached over and pinched her thigh.
“That’s enough outta you two,” Dad scolded.
I finished off my beer and set my plate on the table.
“Anyone else want another beer?” I offered when I stood up.
“I’ll take one,” Hadley and Jason said at the same time.
“Need any help?” Eric offered.
“If you want,” I shrugged.
Eric got up from his seat so he could follow me into the house. It was weird not to be bitching and sniping at each other. The kids seemed content where they were at the table. Madi looked much happier to have her twin close by. I really hoped that they were able to sort out whatever their issues were. Things were hard enough already, but throwing that twin bond into the works wasn’t going to make things any easier.
“I am going to sleep like a rock,” I said when we got inside. The air conditioning was heaven.
“Yeah, I know the feeling. I think when we head back out I’m going to jump in the pool.” He reached into the fridge to grab four beers, handing me two of them.
“That’s a good idea.” I had a bikini on under the dress I’d been wearing all day. “Thank you for all of your help today, by the way. I probably could have helped Josh get that TV mounted, but I’m sure it was easier for you to help him.”
“No problem. I had a man to man talk with him in the garage, I hope you don’t mind.” Since when was Eric that nice?
“Uh, no, no, that’s probably a good thing. I can tell him what to do but sometimes he needs to hear it from someone with a penis before it sinks in,” I admitted. Dad could say the exact same thing as me and Josh suddenly “got it”. Why my words fell on deaf ears I had no idea.
“He’s a good kid,” Eric said. “I don’t mind giving him any dad advice he might need.”
“Thanks, but I don’t want to put that on you. Dad and Jason are pretty good at that kind of stuff. Well, Dad is. Jason knows fuck all about raising kids,” I laughed.
Eric chuckled and said, “How about if he comes to me? I don’t mind having those talks with him. As for your brother… was he dropped?”
“Dropkicked is more like it,” I laughed. “He may have been kicked in the head by a mule as a kid, I’m not sure.”
“He’s fun to watch, I’ll say that much,” Eric said.
“That’s true. It just makes me wonder what kind of world we’re livin’ in that Jason gets to carry a gun for a livin’.”
“It doesn’t take common sense to point and shoot,” he shrugged. Eric popped the cap off his beer and took a long pull. “Come on, let’s go cool off,” he said after he swallowed.
“Go ahead. I’ll get these out to Jason and Hadley.” I picked up the three other beers to take them out to my brother and cousin. Dad had a bottle opener on his keychain. He was physically incapable of turning down a beer if one was offered to him.
“Thanks, Sook,” Jason said when I handed him his beer.
“Good gravy,” Hadley muttered as she absently reached for her beer. I looked in the direction she was looking and saw Eric standing up in the shallow end of the pool with water dripping off of his body.
Okay, I wasn’t going to admit it out loud, but the man looked damn good shirtless. I didn’t know if he worked out regularly, but obviously working on cars all those years had helped him keep in shape.
“You got a husband, Hadley,” Jason reminded our cousin.
“I still have eyes,” she said.
“You shouldn’t have ‘em all over another man,” he said.
I took a seat so I could finish eating my dinner before it got completely cold. I had a taco and some rice left. Dad looked like he was stuffed, but then again he’d managed to put away four steak tacos and who knows how much guacamole. The man had an addiction to avocados.
“I can have ‘em wherever I want ‘em,” she said. “You don’t have any room to talk, Mister.”
“Sure I do. I ain’t married,” Jason rebutted.
“Can it, Jase,” she said before turning back to her own food.
I wasn’t about to get into it with the family around, but I had to wonder if there was something going on with Hadley and Remy and she wasn’t telling me. It wasn’t like her to openly flirt or show interest in someone else the way she was carrying on with Eric. If things weren’t going so well in her marriage I wanted to help her, but it was up to her to let me know what I could do. I wasn’t going to push it.
When I finished eating, I took my plate and Eric’s inside to get them washed off. The kids started bringing dishes inside as well. Well, Madi and Gracie did. Josh and Colt headed for the pool.
“You girls get enough to eat?” I asked them.
“Yeah,” they answered in unison. “Thanks–”
“Thanks, Sookie,” Madi finished.
“You’re welcome. If y’all wanna jump in the pool, feel free. There’s ice cream bars in the freezer too, so help yourselves.”
“I don’t feel like swimming right now,” Madi said.
“I’m scared Colt might try something under the water that would get him a bloody nose,” Gracie added.
“He pulls any funny business we have a police officer on the premises. My brother’s a deputy with the sheriff’s department,” I informed them. “He’ll behave himself or Jason’ll haul his ass downtown.”
“Daddy wouldn’t give him the chance to haul Colt anywhere,” Gracie snickered.
That was probably a true story. Eric definitely struck me as a very protective father.
“Well, if y’all change your minds, you obviously know where the pool is. Did Josh ever show you the theater room upstairs?” I wasn’t sure if he had or not.
“He did. We’ll probably just sit out by the pool,” Madi told me.
“Alright. Well, let me know if you need anything.” I turned the water on so I could start washing dishes.
The girls went back outside to the patio. Hadley came into the kitchen from the other direction, probably having come in from the set of doors on the other side of the house. I had a lot of french doors on the first floor of the house.
“Are you doing okay?” I asked Hadley while she scrapped leftover food off of plates into the trash.
“I’m fine, why?”
“I’m just askin’. Usually you’re not the type who checks out other men,” I said.
“There isn’t usually a man as good lookin’ as him around,” she shrugged. She was hiding something.
“If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine with me, but I’m here whenever you’re ready.” I know her better than she wanted me to sometimes. I wasn’t going to push her, though. If she didn’t want to talk about what was bothering her, that was on Hadley.
“I know you are,” she said. “I’m not ready to talk about it until there’s something to talk about.”
“Then I’ll leave it be. So… what do you think of Madi?”
“She’s a sweet girl. A little timid, but I think that’s just her getting to know people. She’s got a lot going on right now.”
“She does. Josh said she opens up once she gets comfortable around people. Gracie’s the more boisterous one upfront and quieter around people she knows really well, apparently. I have to say, I’m beyond thankful they’re not having twins. I don’t think Josh could handle that.” Just having one was hard enough.
“Probably not. If they stick it out and have more, I’m sure he’d do fine the second time around. I think they’re cool,” Hadley said as she looked out the window toward the back.
“You think the twins are cool or Josh and Madi are cool?”
“I don’t want to start planning for Josh having a bunch of kids. I want him to have this one, finish high school, and hopefully still go to culinary school like he planned,” I told her.
“I’m sure he will. He has a good head on his shoulders. He needs to stop hanging out with that Colt kid. He gives me the creeps.”
“I think Josh is hoping he’ll eventually be a good influence on Colt,” I explained.
“Hopefully. The way he’s been checking out Gracie makes me uncomfortable. I’m sure Eric’s noticed too. He’s watching that boy like a hawk,” she chuckled.
“I can’t say I blame him there.” I didn’t think Colt was really going to hurt anyone, but he had that serial rapist look to him.
“He seems to be a good dad. Sorry about all that out there. I was just teasing,” she apologized.
“It’s alright. He’s actually been nice to me the last couple of times I’ve run into him. You’d be proud of me. I actually gave him a lead on a car,” I told her.
“No shit?” She looked shocked.
“No shit. The day I found that Porsche there was a Super Bee out there. I know they do a lot of work on Dodges, so I thought I would be nice,” I said.
“Wow. I’m kinda proud of you right now,” she chuckled. “That’s a pretty big deal.”
“I’m trying. There hasn’t been any fighting lately. We’ll see how long that lasts.”
“I have faith that you can do it,” she said confidently.
“It’s a work in progress. I’m just glad Madi’s mostly settled in. That takes a lot of weight off of everyone’s shoulders.”
“How do you think she’s going to do apart from Gracie? I notice how much she calmed down when her sister showed up.”
“I don’t know. I think it depends on how their relationship works out. Apparently Grace hasn’t been very supportive of all this change. She was a little mean to Madi. Told her she thinks Madi’s an idiot for getting pregnant.”
I opened the dishwasher to start stacking the dishes inside.
“That’s not entirely false,” Hadley shrugged. “It obviously hasn’t affected them now.”
“Josh told me they’re really close but not used to being separated, so this is a big change for both of them. I’m sure it won’t be easy, and I have no doubt that Grace will be here pretty often. I just hope that doesn’t cause a problem for Josh. He’s not a very jealous person, but I can see him getting annoyed if Grace is around too much.”
“I’m sure they’ll work it out.”
“I hope so. Having her sister’s support will make all this much easier. If Madi feels better, Josh will be less stressed out. If he’s less stressed out then so am I. Everyone wins.”
I had to admit, I was curious about what was going on with Hadley and Remy. As far as I knew, they were happy. After all they had been through with the miscarriages and the infertility specialists, on top of just being married for so long, I was surprised something had finally gotten to them. They seemed pretty indestructible to me. Maybe everything in the past had finally taken its toll. Until Hadley told me what was going on, all I could do was speculate and be patient.
The rest of the dishes were brought in by my dad. Hadley helped me get the leftovers packed up. Of course I made takeout packages for Jason and my dad. I was even nice enough to put some of the food off to the side for Eric to take home. I knew Gracie cooked, but she shouldn’t have to be in charge of making all his meals.
When I was done cleaning up the kitchen I headed outside. The sun was starting to set, but I had gone out for a swim at midnight before. I pulled off my dress and Colt whistled at me, earning him a pop upside the head from Dad.
“You wouldn’t know what to do with her if you got her, boy,” he said.
Wasn’t that the truth.
“That’s what you think,” Colt snickered, earning another pop.
“Watch your mouth, kid,” Dad warned. “See, this is why schools should still be able to whoop a kid.”
I shook my head and rolled my eyes.
Instead of getting involved their silly little argument, I headed for the pool. Eric was floating on his back at the shallow end. I headed for the deep end and dove in.