“Noah, can you grab the salt?” I asked as I shut the pantry door, spinning around to face my island bench currently filled with ingredients for the monthly barbecue.
Noah stood up from the dining room table and went to the cupboard, pulling out the salt and placing it on the table.
“Hey, mom, how are babies made?” Noah asked curiously, sitting on a breakfast stool and staring at me curiously.
My cheeks flamed at his random question, and I cleared my throat, scratching the back of my head awkwardly. No way was I telling my six-year-old son how he had been born, not to mention the reason why I now sported a large baby-bump.
“Well, we called the Stork company and asked if we could have another baby,” I lied, patting my growing stomach.
“And what?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow as he tried to process it. “You ate it so that it went in your stomach?”
I burst out laughing. “Something like that.”
“Why?” he queried, looking at me like I was a madwoman. “Why did you have to eat it?”
“I…” I trailed off, trying to think of some reason. “To help it grow.”
“Don’t you eat things to make you grow?” he countered.
Damn my son’s smartness.
Just then the doorbell rang, and I let out a sigh of relief. Literally saved by the bell.
I hurried to the door and flung it open, to reveal Marley and Jake standing there, flagged by Cole and Annie, who were hand-in-hand and laughing. Her baby-bump was the exact same size, since we had fallen pregnant around about the same time.
“AUNT ANNIE!” Noah cried, his cherubic face lighting up. “UNCLE COLE!”
“Hi, Noah,” they chorused as they stepped into the entrance.
“HI JAKE!” Noah greeted the small boy one year younger than him.
“Hey, Noah,” Jake said, smiling at his playmate.
“Marley,” Noah said slowly, nervousness growing on his face.
I traded a look with Annie, and Cole scoffed at our traded look. Cole and Matt were betting against Annie and I that Marley and Noah would fall in love.
We all went into the kitchen, where Matt walked in, a white plastic platter perched precariously in his hands, filled with spatulas and tongs and ingredients for food.
“Coffee?” I asked the assembled group, turning to the kettle with a mischievous smile.
“Sure,” Cole said, and Annie nodded her assent as well.
“I’ll bring it out to you guys. Enjoy the sun. Check out the new patio lounges,” I suggested with an innocent smile.
Annie’s eyes briefly flickered to mine, before she led everyone out the patio with a rueful smile on her face.
I quickly made the coffees, before taking them to the patio and taking a seat on the spare lounge, handing them out to Cole and Annie. Annie took a sip and sat it on the table.
We made small-talk for a little while, and I kept an eye on Cole, who was using the warm mug to warm his hands, since we were under the shade and it was cool down here.
The smell of steaks and cooking onions filled the small space, and eventually Aly and Justin came. Within five minutes Emilie and Hayden were there as well, and the merry group was gathered. Sure, we had some new additions, but it was even better now, with the group of kids running around while we all talked and caught up. I was so lucky to keep these people near me.
Cole brought the mug to his lips and took a sip, before spitting it all out and narrowly missing Emilie’s sandal-clad feet. She turned to him with an incredulous look, while a giggle escaped Annie and Aly’s lips, who were well-aware what had happened.
“What did you put in this?” Cole asked, narrowing his eyes suspiciously at me.
I shrugged a dainty shoulder. “Just some chili powder and Tabasco sauce. You don’t like it?”
He rolled his eyes and set the mug down, and I laughed along with everyone else.
Sure, years had passed and our lives had changed. We’d settled down, married and had children, and the world around us had moved on from our adolescent days of Alderidge High, but I had kept one thing from the past—well, besides my amazing friends, of course.
Even to this day, I was still Pranking the Bad Boy.