First off, sorry for the delays!!!
It's has been hard falling back into the groove of things and with Xmas looming close... well, there was lots of decoration to get done! But the chapter is here and I promise to post the following chapters quicker! I think we are pretty near the end of the story, actually.
Anyway, here I leave you Chapter Twenty!!!
Sometimes It Hits Like a Car Crash
As it turned out, the Mother-Daughter breakfast was just the beginning. After that time, Kylie insisted Jess came to all her school functions and made me tape them whenever she couldn’t attend – apparently; taking a thousand photographs was no longer enough. Luckily, Jessie had been happy to go along and she truly tried to go to every single one of the events in my little sister’s social calendar.
And that’s how, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, we found ourselves at Amy Walsh’s birthday party, discussing Karen Rhodes, the head of the PTA.
“I’m telling you she hates me.” Jessie said as we stood in the backyard watching Kylie and Amy hold court among the young guests.
“I’m sure she doesn’t.” I said, “She’s like that with everyone when they first join the PTA.”
“But technically, I’m not in the PTA.” Jessie said. “That’s what she always says when I show up at the meetings instead of you.”
“That’s-“I began but was cut short when Kylie raced toward us.
“Jess! Come do the jumping sacks race with me!” She demanded, already pulling Jess along. Lately, I noticed more and more that Kylie came for Jess instead of me, and realized how much she actually craved a female presence in her life.
Jess went willingly and I was left staring after my two girls as they got into old sacks and lined up in the starting line.
“Karen does hate her, you know.” Amy’s dad Mark said. We had become friends after Kylie and Amy became friends, mostly because we lived almost next to each other, carpooled all the time and because he and his wife Amelia were two of the nicest people I had ever met.
“Why would Karen hate Jess?”
“Because she has had the hots for you, since you signed Kylie up for pre-school, and Jess just snatched you away.” Mark said in a non-nonsense tone.
“I told you, you’re the catch of the PTA’s single/divorced parent pool. And I know you went on a date with her that one time.”
“It wasn’t a date.” I said immediately and he just looked at me mockingly. “All right, she thought it was a date, but I thought it was just a celebratory dinner because of that settlement I got for her when I handled her divorce.”
“And then you started dating another woman. It ought to have stung her pride.” Mark commented offhandedly.
“Mark! Bring the cake!” His wife Amelia called out to them suddenly. “Tristan go with him and make sure he doesn’t drop it!”
“When have I ever dropped the cake?” Mark asked indignantly, but I still followed him back into the house to help him. Amelia’s sister owned a bakery and she always went overboard with the birthday cakes, delivering these massive cakes more suited for Sweet Sixteen parties than a six year old’s birthday party, but they tasted good.
“Cake time!” Amelia yelled and Amy ran toward the table, holding Kylie’s hand and making sure she was right by her side for pictures and cake cutting.
It made me smile seeing Kylie with her best friend, thinking that they were probably going to know each other for the rest of their lives and shop together for prom dresses. I suddenly realized how glad I was that Kylie had a best friend. And how glad I was that Jessie was back in my life. Even though we began to date pretty quickly after we meet during sophomore year, she was more than just my girlfriend, she was my best friend, and when we broke up it was her friendship one of the things I missed the most.
Two weeks later, I packed the girls up in the car and drove out to Tess and Dean’s, Gramps had wanted to meet with some of his cronies from the old neighborhood, so he had left even earlier to have breakfast with them, and agreed we would meet at Dean and Tess’ afterward.
The drive took a bit longer than usual, but nothing too bad, Kylie slept most of the time and Jess and I chattered about our Christmas plans. And I suggested we had Tess, Dean and his Nana over for Christmas at my house.
She said it was a wonderful idea, but even if Tess and Dean couldn’t come, that she wanted to spend the day with Kylie and me – and Gramps too – which earned her a sound kiss while we waited at a stop light a few streets away from our destination.
Dean came out to greet us and told me to park out back in their garage, rather than in the driveway, since they were expecting quite a few people to drop by for dinner.
After we parked, I lifted Kylie from the backseat, as she was still sleepy and clung to me, I carried her inside and we followed Dean to the kitchen where Tess and Dean’s Nana was whirling about, making preparations.
“That smells wonderful, chipmunk.” I said as she came to give me a quick peek on the cheek rather than indulging in our usual noisy greeting.
“It’s Nana’s pies! She made three different kinds.” Tess said, smiling at Kylie who perked up at the world “pies”.
“What kinds?” She asked.
“Pecan, pumpkin and old fashioned apple with a lattice top.” Tess said.
“I like apple.” Kylie said.
“Then we shall give you the biggest slice,” Nana said. “But now, lets get to work.”
“You’re in charge of mashed potatoes.” Tess told me, pointing toward a small mountain of potatoes, and whirled to Jessie and Kylie, “Why don’t two go watch some TV.”
“They don’t have to help?” Dean asked as he washed his hands at the sink before returning to the center island of the kitchen where he was chopping vegetables.
“Kylie is still too small to handle knives, and Jess is… Jess.” She said as an explanation and it said something about Jess’s hopelessness in the kitchen that no one needed further explanation. “They can help set the table, later.”
Jessie stuck her tongue out to Tess but did take Kylie to the entertainment room to take advantage of the massive screen there.
Tess and Nana ran a well-oiled machine in the kitchen, and I enjoyed that sort of camaraderie, the four of us working together to produce dinner.
A couple of hours after we arrived – while I was in the entertainment room delivering some snacks, the doorbell rang and Tess called from the kitchen: “It’s probably just Keith and Robyn. Could you get it?”
“Yeah!” I called back and went to the front of the house, opening the door quickly.
There, huddled in the front step were three people.
And he found himself face to face with Joseph and Patricia Mercer… and standing just behind them… Jessie’s snooty old grandmother.
End of chapter 20