"Are you missing your girlfriend like how I miss Aqueela?" Lucy asks me -- clearly someone, Bell, has filled her on all the details of my life.
I gotta say, it's nice to see the kid again. She reminds me so much of Aqueela and AJ. She's really grown up a whole lot since I last saw her. I can hardly believe that she's nine now. Time truly does fly when you're not paying attention.
I nod. "Very much so. She should be back tomorrow so I'm looking forward to that," I tell her with a real smile intact. "How's school going?"
"It's great!" She beams from ear to ear. "I don't get why Laiken always complained about school."
I shrug. "Neither do I. From what I've heard, he was a king in high school, along with Mason, or something like that." I don't know the details nor do I care enough to know them.
"Yeah," she sighs, moving her blonde hair to one side of her face, "I know he was a jerk in high school, and primary school, and preschool, and basically since he was born, but despite being on top of the food chain, he didn't enjoy school."
I send her a sympathetic look. "What are you not telling anyone?"
She smiles sadly at me before acknowledging it. "Laiken took it really hard when his parents got divorced. He doesn't have such a great relationship with our dad or his mom but he tries to keep the lines of communication open."
"Sorry," I say and squeeze her shoulder in support. "I didn't mean to badmouth him."This kid is smarter than we give her credit for. "What's he up to these days?" I didn't know that Laiken was her half-brother, same dads but different moms.
"He's trying his luck on the football fields, nothing new," she explains before hesitating. "But the other day I overheard him talking to his mom on his phone about leaving for New York or something like that. I'm not too sure."
"And that dumb kid? Is he still bugging you?" I ask, just teasing her.
"Blubber and I are sort of friends. I've matured; can't say the same for him," she answers me.
As I'm about to reply, Max walks into the room. His eyes immediately fall on Lucy. He bursts out into anger at just seeing her. "I thought you said you had a surprise waiting for me, Bell! Not a gift from Lucifer!"
"I told you to wait for me before going into the room!" I hear Bell scream before she marches in after Max. "It's time you mend this pathetic feud with this harmless child. I'm tired of it. How are you going to be if we ever have daughters? Are you going to treat them the way you treat Lucy?"
I see where this is going. Bell is trying to prepare Max for a child. Somebody clearly has baby fever or something...
"No! Because my daughters will not be seeds of evil!" Max argues, extremely angry. "Not seeing Susie for two years has been the best two years of my entire life! Why would you ruin my life like this, Bell?! You're supposed to love me!"
I roll my eyes. He's so dramatic.
"Missed you too, idiot," Lucy replies, giving him a taste of his own medicine.
"Let's talk this out over dinner like adults and like a...nine-year-old," Bell suggests calmly, biting her tongue. "I'll put the meat in the oven to cook and then--"
"Just put me in the oven instead!" Max cuts her off in a rage. He never loses it like this, only when in the presence of this innocent, little girl.
"I'm this close," Bell starts talking quietly, gesturing to the tiny space between her fingers, "to doing exactly that, Max!"
I don't know if Max and Bell are ever going to work through their issues. I also don't know why I was invited to this stupid dinner. I feel like I'm being used as a buffer in case a physical fight breaks out -- no doubt, one probably will.
Max crosses his arms over his chest. "I hate having dinner with people." No, he doesn't. "Get out of my seat, Susie. I'm not eating until you move."
Max doesn't even have a special seat. He's just being difficult. I've never seen a grown man hate a child so much. I'm just glad Troy's out for the day because I would not be able to put up with the both of them when Max is acting like this.
"Then enjoy starving," Lucy responds with a cheery smile, the exact smile that Aqueela would use in a situation like this.
"Get out of my seat, bratty kid!" He roars at her, refusing to quit.
Lucy shakes her head. "No, dumb adult."
Max resorts to petty remarks after that. "You look stupid today."
The nine-year-old is dressed fairly normal. In fact, her striped shirt, beanie and sneakers remind me of someone special. She is literally the embodiment of Aqueela Lawson and I, personally, enjoy the girl's presence. She's pleasant. Max is just being stupid.
"Finally, we have something in common," Lucy replies, just as witty as her beloved role model.
Max makes a move to get to Lucy but his strong girlfriend overpowers him and shoves him back before he can attack a freaken child.
I shake my head and glance over at the one responsible for all of this. "Bell, this was a terrible idea."
"I know that now!" She hisses at me, taking her frustrations out on me. She turns back to face her boyfriend. "Look, Max, I think I might be pregnant, hence Susie being here. You have to learn to tolerate her. What if we're having a baby girl?" She casually drops the bombshell on him.
"Oh no, please tell me that he didn't reproduce, humanity won't be able to handle it," Lucy says in all seriousness, meaning every word that she just uttered to us. She truly is concerned about this ordeal.
Max's eyes widen. "What?!" He splutters in panic, not even taking note of his enemy's words -- that's when you know that he's in shock.
But then I fall into shock too when I see my lady standing at the entrance to the room.
"And here's why I invited you over to this chaos, Ben," Bell says with a sigh, confirming what I'm seeing. "She wanted to surprise you a day early."
"Consider me surprised," I reply and get up to hug AJ. She hasn't been away for that long but I've missed her. Having her here in my arms is something I've been taking for granted. "I would have never survived this apparent dinner without you," I whisper and smile when she giggles in amusement.
Max ruins the moment between us. "How are you pregnant?" He blurts out, his eyes quickly flickering past us and onto Bell. "I'm too young to be pregnant! I mean, you're too young to be pregnant!"
Lucy laughs aloud from her stomach, entertained by his reaction. "This is hilarious! Max is bringing another form of species into our world. How gross!"
AJ gapes at me, stunned and confused. "Jeez, just how much did I miss?"
"As always, AJ, a lot."