Chapter 15: The Announcement
Juliet rushed around the house, fluffing pillows and straightening pictures on the walls, while Shawn was stacking red, white, and blue paper plates and cups next to the smorgasbord they had spent all Saturday morning preparing. It was almost noon and their Fourth of July guests would be arriving any moment.
Juliet was both nervous and excited. Aside from their house-warming party a few months earlier, this was the first time that she would be co-hosting a holiday barbecue at her own home with her own fiancé. She felt so grown-up and domesticated. Shawn, on the other hand, was little-boy excited for grilled steaks, fireworks, and lawn darts.
But party-throwing excitement aside, there was something else that Juliet and Shawn had to be nervous about. Even though the usual crowd, which included Gus, Lassiter, Shawn’s dad Henry, and a few other work friends were expected, Juliet had specifically invited her whole family for the sole purpose of sharing hers and Shawn’s exciting news.
“Jules, relax. The house looks perfect,” said Shawn as Juliet fidgeted with a vase of flowers on the foyer table. “What are you nervous about anyway? It’s your family. I’m the one who should be nervous.”
“You don’t have to worry, Shawn. My parents love you. And…I don’t know…it’s not every day you get to share life-changing news with your loved ones, and we’re sharing two big pieces of news at once. I just want it to go well.”
“Don’t worry, it will,” Shawn reassured her with a peck on her forehead.
The doorbell rang.
“Oh! They’re here! They’re here!” exclaimed Juliet. Even Shawn felt a lump forming in his throat when he realized his future in-laws were standing right on the other side of their front door. Shawn followed Juliet to the door and placed a gentle hand on her back as she opened it.
Juliet’s expression changed from excitement to hesitation followed by disappointment when she saw it wasn’t her family.
“Oh. It’s you,” said Shawn to Gus, who was standing on the doorstep holding a potato salad. Rachael and Max stood by his side.
“It’s nice to see you too,” said Gus. “May I come in?”
“Oh, Gus, Rachael, Max. Of course you can come in! We are glad you are here!” said Juliet, flashing a glare at Shawn.
“Sorry buddy,” said Shawn, “We thought you were Jules’s parents. Maxiiiimmusss!” he bellowed in a sports announcer’s voice, and gave the boy a high five.
Just then, Lassiter’s Red Ford Focus pulled up in front of the house, followed by Henry’s beat up pick-up truck. Lassiter, Marlowe, and Henry with his new girlfriend Dr. Joan Diamond crossed the front lawn carrying covered dishes and Shawn and Juliet welcomed them inside.
“Please, take your food items to the kitchen and then make yourselves at home,” said Juliet.
Officer McNab and his wife Francie arrived shortly after, followed by Chief Vick with her husband and daughter, and finally Woody the coroner, who handed Juliet, what looked like a tub of beef jerky. “Homemade. My own recipe,” said Woody proudly, flashing a wink at Juliet.
“Everyone, thanks for coming,” said Shawn. “Please help yourself to drinks and when the rest of the guests arrive we will start up the grill and a game of lawn darts.”
“Shawn! I said no lawn darts! Those things are dangerous,” scolded Juliet. Shawn sulked while Juliet shoved the jerky into his arms. “You better put this where no one can find it.”
Shawn wholeheartedly agreed and promised to bury it at the cemetery after the party, stating that’s where is probably belonged anyway. Juliet gagged and gave him a horrified look. Even though Shawn’s statement was obviously in jest, the SBPD coroner was creepy enough that she wasn’t going to take the chance that there was some truth to Shawn’s joke.
Everyone settled onto the deck with drinks in hand. “Remember,” Shawn said to his friends and colleagues, “Jules’s family still doesn’t know about our news so don’t say anything about it until we make the announcement.”
Shawn picked up a roll of duct tape and ripped off a piece of tape. “Woody, this is for you.” Juliet grimaced, but Woody obediently grabbed the tape and used it to cover his mouth. He and Shawn exchanged thumbs up.
The doorbell rang again. This time there was no denying who it was.
“Mom! Lloyd!” said Juliet excitedly, when she opened the front door. “Julie, dear!” exclaimed her mother, giving her a hug. “I missed you!” Lloyd gave his stepdaughter a bear hug and then reached out to shake Shawn’s hand.
“Lloyd, Maryanne! It’s good to see you again,” said Shawn, shaking Lloyd’s hand. He received an unexpected hug from his future mother-in-law.
Juliet’s parents were followed by a crowd of Juliet’s brothers, sisters-in-law, and nephews. She introduced them to Shawn, who still hadn’t met any of Juliet’s siblings aside from her brother Ewan. None of the family had heard from Ewan since he disappeared a few years earlier, and they seemed to prefer pretending he didn’t exist.
“Shawn, this is my brother Ian, his wife Charlotte and their boys Noah and Kirk,” said Juliet indicating a tall pale man with red curls holding a similar-looking 5-year old, and short brown-haired woman carrying a fussy toddler.
“And this is my brother Dylan,” Juliet continued, “and his wife Eileen and their boys Isaac, Finn, and Drake. These nephews were older than the others and one of them was almost as tall as his flaxen-haired father and already taller than Juliet.
“Hi Auntie Julie!” they all said happily.
“I am so excited that you are all here!” squealed Juliet. “Everyone, I’d like you to meet Shawn!” The family politely greeted Shawn, who sensed that Juliet’s brothers were still uncertain about him.
“It’s…it’s nice to finally meet you,” Shawn said nervously. “Jules talks about you so much, it’s like I already know you!...but, I mean, I don’t really knowyou…I never even met you…I’ve just heard so much…I mean, not somuch”
Juliet elbowed Shawn. He silenced himself and shook everyone’s hands. He gave the boys high fives as he repeated their names. Ian seemed impressed by this, but Dylan’s expression didn’t budge. Dylan was the oldest and most protective of Juliet’s brothers. It was clear that Shawn’s natural charisma wasn’t going to be enough to win his affections.
“Everyone, please make your way out to the deck. There are drinks in the cooler, appetizers in the kitchen…lawn games in the yard for the kids…and kids-at-heart…but don’t worry, no darts! I’ll get the grill started. God bless America!”
Juliet took Shawn’s hand as they followed her family to the deck. “Don’t worry!” she whispered to him. Just be yourself.”
“Really?” he whispered back. “I was going to be John Malkovich…but yeah, myself…that’s probably better.”
Shawn felt like he was trapped in an early 90’s family movie. The scene in his back yard was almost picture perfect. A bunch of happy looking party-goers were mingling and munching on potato chips. Juliet’s sisters-in-law were sharing stories about their kids with Rachael and Chief Vick, who at the moment had dropped all semblance of a tough chief of police and was more believable as a soccer mom.
“Iris, be nice and share the ball with the boys!” she yelled across the lawn to her 7-year-old.
It looked like Henry and Lloyd were being their usual chummy selves and were entertaining Ian and McNab with stories about their fishing adventures. Juliet’s nephews, along with Iris and Maximus had started up a game of freeze tag in the yard. The only things that seemed out of place were Lassiter, who was sitting by himself polishing one of his firearms and Woody who was mumbling something indecipherable through his duct-taped mouth to an uncomfortable-looking Marlowe and Francie.
Shawn was standing at the grill doing his best not to burn any of the burgers. Henry refused to help, stating that it was now Shawn’s turn to step up and be the man, as if flipping meat patties was something that could only be accomplished with an appropriate amount of testosterone.
He was pretending the burgers were ships on a Battleship board, announcing coordinates while moving them around the grill, when he heard a voice beside him yell “Miss!” He turned his head to discover that the speaker was Dylan.
“Could you use some help with that?” asked Dylan, in a way that suggested he was stepping in the make sure the job was done correctly rather than to be helpful.
“Thanks, Dyl,” said Shawn nervously, “but I’ve got this.”
Just then a flame erupted from inside the grill that made Shawn jump. He panicked, looking around him for something, anything, to put it out. Dylan nonchalantly grabbed a glass of water and splashed it on the flame. The fire went out immediately, revealing a bunch of charred, wet burgers.
“Hit!” said Shawn in Battleship spirit, trying to lighten the mood. Dylan showed no hint of being amused, but immediately starting fixing up the grill and putting on some fresh meat.
“So, Juliet says you’re a psychic detective,” said Dylan while Shawn began to help him on the grill.
“Uh..yeah…” said Shawn. “That’s actually how I met her. I work…uh, worked…for the SBPD a lot.”
“Worked?” asked Dylan, enunciating the “ed.”
“Yeah, well, there’s been a staff-change down at the station. The new chief won’t hire me for cases anymore.” Realizing that what he just said didn’t make him sound very good he added, “He’s a non-believer. His loss, I say. I could make his job a whole lot easier, if he was open to it.”
“Uh-huh,” said Dylan. Shawn wasn’t sure if his terse response portrayed disinterest or disbelief.
After about 30 awkward and silent seconds, Dylan spoke up again. “Exactly, how does that work?”
“How does what work?” asked Shawn.
“Psychic detective. I mean…if you’re psychic, then why do you need to be a detective? If you already know everything, then there’s nothing to investigate, am I right?”
“…Dylan, the spirits don’t always tell me everything.”
“Yeah…” Shawn needed this conversation to end. Dylan was clearly unconvinced. He was saved, though, when Juliet approached and pulled him aside.
“Are you ready to do this?” she asked.
“Am I ready? Am I ready?! Was Bad Company Ready for Love? Were Rise Against Ready to Fall? Was Michael Buffer Ready to Rumble? Was…”
“Shawn, relax. We can do this.” Juliet took him to a spot in front of the patio door where everyone could see them. She took her engagement ring from her pocket and slipped it onto her ring finger, then joined her hand with Shawn’s.
“Everyone! If I could have your attention please!” shouted Juliet, but she was unheard over all of the chatter.
“Attention, everyone!” Shawn shouted louder. The chatter started to diminish and heads started to turn towards Shawn and Juliet.
“May we have your attention, please,” Shawn continued. “Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?”
Looks ranging from bewilderment to annoyance spread over the crowd. Shawn coughed and continued, suddenly even more nervous than he already was.
“We have an announcement to make.” All became silent and all eyes were on Shawn.
Juliet continued, nervously. “Hi everyone…friends…family. First, we want to thank all of you for coming. Secondly, I know that some of you are already in the loop, but Shawn and I have some exciting news to share with everyone who hasn’t heard.” She squeezed Shawn’s hand to let him know he could continue.
“Ahem Hem! ...Uh, Lloyd, Maryanne, O’Haras…everyone…Juliet and I are getting married!” he announced while lifting up her hand to show the diamond ring on her finger.”
The reaction was immediate.
“Oh! Julie!” shouted Maryanne with joy, as she ran to give her daughter a hug and gape at the ring on her finger.
Lloyd was obviously pleased, as he had been expecting this announcement sooner or later. He patted Shawn on the back and hugged Juliet.
Charlotte and Eileen looked excited, and the boys cheered.
Ian, though initially taken by surprise, was starting to form a smile on his face after seeing the excitement in his mother and stepfather.
Dylan did not look happy though.
Before all of the hugs could be completed, Juliet signaled to Shawn to get everyone’s attention again.
“Wait!” he said. “There’s more!” Everyone got still and quiet again. “We have something else to share with you.” Shawn put his arm around Juliet’s waist while everyone waited in anticipation.
“We’re…” started Juliet. She stopped and then took a deep breath and squeezed Shawn’s hand for reassurance. “Shawn and I …are going to have a baby.”
At first there was an uncomfortable silence.
No one seemed to be sure how to react. Maryanne’s expression was of utter surprise and it seemed to take her a few moments to process what she had just heard.
Finally, she cried, “Oh! My baby! You’re having a baby!” There were tears in her eyes, but they were joyful tears as she embraced her daughter and future son-in-law at the same time.
As if Maryanne’s reaction governed everyone else’s, the rest of the family began to cheer and congratulate the happy couple. Even Ian seemed elated. The friends and co-workers, who already knew about the engagement and the pregnancy simply smiled at the joyous reaction.
The only one who didn’t seem pleased was Dylan. In fact, his face was so red, Shawn was certain he would see steam coming from his ears at any moment.
Woody finally ripped the duct tape from his mouth with a blood-curdling scream that brought everyone to silence. “Whew!” he said. “I’m glad that’s over. Now can I eat?”
After all of the excitement had subsided, Shawn went into the yard to entertain all of the kids with some yard games and some Juliet-approved fireworks, while Juliet went to the kitchen to clean up a bit and prepare dessert. Maryanne followed her daughter to the kitchen to help out.
“Julie, let me take a look at you,” said Maryanne as soon as they were alone, taking her daughter by the arms and holding her in front of her. “You look beautiful, sweetie! I should have noticed that glow about you. So, tell me, how far along are you? How have you been feeling? ...and when did this happen?! I thought you two were splitting up?”
“Eight weeks so far. I’ve been struggling with morning sickness a bit, but otherwise I’m feeling great and everything is progressing smoothly….Mom, it’s no secret that Shawn and I had a rough patch a while back, but….it was something we just needed to get through…and I think we are even stronger now because of it. I’ll admit…the baby…was a complete surprise. It actually happened while we were separated…a moment of weakness.”
Maryanne frowned and tilted her head in confusion, a suspicious look on her face.
“Don’t worry! It’s definitely Shawn’s!” Juliet said in response, and somewhat offended, added. “Who do you think I am?!”
“Sorry, honey. Go on,” said her mother.
“Anyway, I didn’t find out I was pregnant until we were already back together. Then, Shawn proposed, and it just felt right.” She smiled.
“Julie, are you sure…?” began Maryanne, but she was interrupted by Juliet.
“Mom, I know what you are going to say. No, we are not getting married because of the baby. In fact, we haven’t even talked about when this is all happening yet…probably not until after the baby is born. We have been hinting at the idea of marriage for a long time. Actually, I didn’t even know it until the day he proposed, but Shawn had been holding onto an engagement ring for at least a year…not this one,” Juliet added, while fiddling with the one on her finger. “That’s a story for another time. In any case, it was going to happen sooner or later, but I’d be lying if I said the baby didn’t speed it up a little.” Juliet paused and noticed the still-not-fully-satisfied look on her mother’s face.
“Mom, I love him,” she said with sincerity. “I’ve been in love with him since long before we were even together, and he feels the same about me. I know he is a bit…eccentric. But that is what I love about him, and he is really good to me. And…I know what you are worried about, but I can assure you he’s not Dad. I have no doubts about this. This is what I want…what we both want, more than anything in the world. He makes me very happy,” she finished, while looking out the window to admire her fiancé playing in the yard with all of the kids. They were all giggling and wore toothy grins. She knew he was going to make a loving father.
Maryanne smiled at the sight of her future son-in-law rough-housing with her grandsons and embraced her daughter. “As long as this is want you want, I am very happy for you! I love you, sweetheart”
“I love you too, mom!”
Both of them got back to arranging dessert. All the while, Juliet watched Shawn entertaining the kids. He definitely had grown up a lot lately. There was a time when she didn’t even think he liked kids, but he was practically a kid himself then. He was actually very good with them from what she could tell so far. His own youthful spirit made him fun in their eyes. Only time would tell how he was as a father.
Everything seemed to be falling into place. Well, almost everything. The situation down at the police station…Shawn’s financial status without being hired for cases by the department…they were still iffy. Juliet was praying that all of it would work itself within the next few months. She sighed.
“What’s wrong, Jule?” asked Lloyd. Juliet hadn’t noticed that her mother had stepped out of the kitchen and was now replaced by her stepfather. Lloyd raised Juliet and her brothers, and knew them well. He could tell that something was troubling Juliet.
“Lloyd!” Juliet said, surprised. “I didn’t see you there.”
“Your mother asked me to help carry out the desserts. What are you sighing about in here? You weren’t lying to your mother just now about…?”
“No. Of course not! Hey! Were you listening to our conversation?”
“Guilty as charged! Sorry Jule, you know it’s only because I care.”
“If you must know, I am just a little worried about a situation at work…that’s all.”
“Oh yes,” said Lloyd. “Henry told me about the new interim chief, and that he’s not hiring Shawn for cases anymore.” Shawn’s dad and Juliet’s step-dad had become buddies since they met at the house-warming party.
“Yeah, and he’s not letting me work with Lassiter anymore. It’s just a sticky situation…and poor timing, but it should be temporary. Don’t worry, everything will work out, Lloyd, but…don’t tell mom. I don’t want her to worry.”
“Ok, honey, but don’t be stubborn! If you need anything, remember that your mom and I are not far away.”
“I know,” she said. “Thanks”
“You know, Jule,” said Lloyd. “I like Shawn, and I am very excited for you.”
“Thanks Lloyd! Now, could you talk to Dylan for me. I don’t want him giving Shawn a hard time.”
“Sure thing.” Lloyd picked up a pie and a red, white, and blue Jell-O dish and left the kitchen.
A few hours later, Shawn and Juliet thanked and hugged all of their guests as the filed out the front door. Dylan and Lloyd were the last to exit. Shawn swallowed nervously as Dylan stopped and faced him with an unreadable expression on his face.
“Dyl-an!” started Shawn. He invited Dylan to fist bump, but the offer was not taken. “Um…ok…” he coughed, and Juliet sighed quietly. Dylan lifted his hand, and instinctively Shawn flinched. He was surprised, though, when the hand firmly patted him on the shoulder.
“You’re not so bad,” said Dylan. “Be good to her.” He turned and left. Lloyd followed and aimed a wink at Juliet.
“Thank you!” she mouthed to him, and closed the door behind him.
“So that’s it! We did it!” said Shawn. “First adult house party. Check. Impressed the future in-laws. Check. Now all that’s left is to make sweet love to my beautiful fiancé.”
“Shawn,” said Juliet with a flirty smile. She put her arms around him and pulled him close. “I am soproud of you.” She kissed him on the lips, then took his hand and led him towards the bedroom.