Knowing that we were going to move down here ate at me all day. I wanted so badly to call and tell Blaine the great news. I decided against it though. I made up my mind to tell him tonight on our way to Moose Head Island on our camping trip. Mom and I decided to head into town and get pedicures while Tammy and Dad finished getting everything ready for my birthday party tonight. I asked them to not make a big deal out of all of it but they didn’t really seem to listen to me when I spoke. Mom and I headed back to the house after getting our toes done and shopping for a bit. She seemed to still be pretty tired as we walked around the boardwalk. She had to sit a few times to catch her breath. She kept assuring me she was alright when I asked her what was wrong. She said that the air was a great deal warmer here than Maine and it was affecting her asthma pretty badly. When we got back, she excused herself for a quick shower while I went to see if Dad needed any help. I changed first though into a light blue sun dress. The pattern had small flowers on the skirt that made it flow beautifully to my knees.
He was setting the big picnic table on the deck when I found him. Him and Tammy had done a great job decorating. It wasn’t too much; just a few balloons and some streamers hanging from the railings. They were red, white and blue which made me think they were left over from the fourth of July party but I didn’t mind. He looked up from what he was doing when he heard the door close behind me. “There’s the birthday girl! How was spending time with your Mom?”
“Great.” I said as he walked over to hug me. He gave me a quick peck on the top of the head before walking over to the grill. Opening it, he hit the ignite button to start the flame. “Does Mom have asthma?” I asked, stepping towards him.
“Hmm?” He looked at me, raising his eyebrow.
“Mom had some trouble walking today. She said it had to do with her asthma. Does she have it that bad?” He thoughts for a moment, scrapping the paper from the package of sausage patties that laid on the counter next to the grill.
“I kinda remember that. Yeah she had a pretty bad asthma attack in college. Scared me pretty bad. Could be the heat messing with it. The air is different here than Maine, kid. Is she okay now?” Nodding, I looked out towards the water. There were a lot of boats out today, enjoying the warm August day. It was perfect, a nice breeze blowing in the air. “Everything okay?” He asked, causing me to turn and look back at him.
“Yeah. Just thinking about things. So Mom told me about you co signing a house for us. That’s great, Dad!”
“It’s not a big deal. It’s the least I could do for you guys after everything that happened when you were a kid. You are probably going to stay here though until you guys find a place and finalize everything. Pretty sure your Mom is having your Aunt Maggy bring everything down from your place once you find something. Course, she’ll have to stay somewhere else cause she hates me.”
“Oh yeah she does.” My Aunt Maggy is quite the character. Mom says all the time that I am the perfect mix of my dad and Maggy. When my dad left, she moved in with Mom and me to help with bills and get mom caught up on everything. She stayed with me while my mom worked double shifts. Even though she’s my aunt, she has always felt like an older sister. She’s definitely rocking that cool aunt vibe and has no problem telling whoever will listen how much my father deserves to burn in Hell for what he did. I wondered if she knew about their secret plans as much as I did. Probably not.
“Is this where the jiggy party people hang out?” Greg’s voice called as he rounded around the left side of the deck. He was wearing another one of his famous Hawaiian shirts and tan shorts, carrying a case of beer in his left hand and a vegetable platter in his right. Jenna followed behind him, rolling her eyes at him. She was dressed in a simple light pink summer dress and flip flops. Since working with her, I’ve really gotten to know her better. She’s not as evil as I thought she was even though I do think she doesn’t see Blaine’s potential as much as I do. But it’s probably a parent thing I guess. Blaine followed behind them, smiling at me as soon as he saw me. He was dressed in a pair of relaxed blue jeans and a black t-shirt.
“No one says jiggy, Greg.” Jenna said, taking the veggie tray from him. She walked up the steps to the deck and winked at me as she disappeared in the house. From inside, I could hear Tammy talking to my Mom about something. Walking over, I stood next to the table to give Greg room to get to the cooler near Dad. Blaine jogged up the steps and stopped next to me, placing a light kiss on my lips as he did.
“Hey, beautiful.” He whispered, placing a stray piece of my hair behind my ear. I smiled, looking up at him.
“You might be biased.”
“Only a little. Happy birthday.”
“Thank you. I have someone I want you to meet!” I exclaimed, looking over my shoulder. “Hey, mom! Can you come here please?” I called. She appeared in the doorway, smiling. She had changed into a pair of jean shorts and an old t-shirt that she usually wears when she’s cleaning. She pushed open the door and walked towards us. Blaine let go of me and took a step back.
“Hi!” My mom said, smiling at Blaine. “You must be Blaine!” Holding out her hand, Blaine shook it politely as he smiled nervously at her. Sweat appeared on his brow and I hid the smirk that came to my lips.
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Oliver.”
“Pshhh. You can call me Lynn. No one calls me that.”
“Okay. Are you here to get Kerri already?” Blaine asked, looking at me quickly then back at her. Mom wrapped an arm around my shoulders.
“Nope. I came to surprise her for her birthday actually. Blaine, could you help me inside for a second? I need help carrying something and Chris is busy.”
“Sure.” The two of them disappeared into the house as Jenna and Tammy emerged from the back door. Jenna smiled widely, holding her hands out for a hug.
“Happy birthday, my favorite employee!” She said as she squeezed me tightly.
“I’m you’re only employee.” I stated as she let go of me.
“Exactly! No competition!” Tammy walked over, holding two glasses of wine. She handed one to Jenna and kept one herself.
“Just think, Kerri. Couple more years and you will be old enough to drink with us! That’s when the fun really begins.” Tammy held up her glass before taking a sip. Jenna shook her head as she took a sip as well.
“Yeah. You’re step mother has a bit more fun than the rest of us though.” Tammy slapped her with the back of her hand.
“Thanks for making me sound like I have a drinking problem.”
“No problem!” Jenna smiled a fake smile at her before turning towards Greg. Tammy chuckled, turning back to face me.
“Did you have a good day, honey?” I nodded.
“Yeah. Mom and I did a lot together today.”
“Good! I’m glad to hear you had fun. I sent Hannah to my sister’s house tonight so she couldn’t ruin your party. That’s a fate worse than death if you ask me.” Blaine came out of the back door just then, carrying a box wrapped in bright red wrapping paper and a white bow on top of it. He set it on the picnic table, winking at me as he did. Mom followed him, carrying a couple smaller gifts wrapped in similar paper. She set them next to the other presents and walked over to Tammy and Jenna to mingle. Tammy and my mom had really gotten off to a great start. They were more alike than I thought when I first met Tammy but just hearing them two talk, I can understand why they get along so well. And why my father liked Tammy as much as he did after breaking up with Mom.
“Grubs on!” Greg bellowed out as he walked towards the table carrying a plate of sausage patties and hot dogs. He set them in the middle of the table and Tammy brought over a pan of roasted peppers and onions to set next to them. We all sat, filling our plates with delicious food and talking about different things. Blaine sat next to me, talking to my mom who sat across from us about things we had done this summer. He told her about Coop’s boat and the humpback whale we had seen. As he spoke, I watched them interact. It made me smile seeing that they were comfortable to be around each other. Mom must have felt the same way as I did when I first met him. He was an easy person to talk to and he made you feel at ease when you’re around him.
“Excuse me. Excuse me.” Dad said, clanging his fork against his beer bottle as he stood. Everyone fell silent, turning their attention to him. “Thank you. I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for coming tonight to celebrate my little girl’s eighteenth birthday. Well my not so little girl I guess. I remember when you were born, Kerri. Your momma had just gone through ten hours of labor and there you were. I held you and those bright green eyes looked up at me and I just knew that you were going to break hearts. I just never knew mine would be one of them. I want to thank you, Ker-Bear, for giving me a chance this summer. I know we had some bumpy moments and we are still trying to figure each other out but when I look at you, I know that you are a part of who I am. I wish I could have been there for all your birthdays but I promise to be there for every birthday from here on out as long as you let me.” He turned from me to look at Mom.
“I also want to thank you, Lynn, for raising such a beautiful young woman. Without you, I don’t know if she would be as well rounded as she is. I don’t think I could have found a better person to raise a child with than I did when I met you. Thank you for being here with us. And lastly, I want to thank Tammy for being open and so okay with all of this craziness. I know it’s not easy but you are handling this so well. To the rest of you, thanks again for being here. Oh and Blaine, if you break my daughter’s heart, I will break your neck. Cheers!”
After eating, Tammy and Jenna cleared the table and I was forced to sit at the head of the table. The presents were shoved towards me and Mom handed me one of the smaller packages. It was about the size of my hand and rectangular in shape. I ripped the paper off of it and was revealed a jewelry store box. I pulled the lid off and found a metal bracelet. There was a charm of a camera on it. Looking up, I saw Tammy and Jenna practically beaming at me. “We picked it out!” Tammy chirped, holding her hand up.
“Well thank you. I love it!” Pulling it out of the box, I slid it onto my right wrist. Reaching forward, I grabbed the other smaller gift. It was bigger than the first one, about the size of a loaf of bread. Opening the gift wrap, I saw that it was a lens for a camera. A lens that I had wanted for a while now. “No way!” I exclaimed, practically tossing the paper to the floor.
“That’s from me.” Dad said, winking at me. I looked at the box, reading it.
“Thanks, Dad. It’s for the wrong camera though. It won’t fit the one I have now.” I said, smiling softly at him.
“Oh! We’ll have to see about exchanging it tomorrow then.” I nodded, setting it on the table.
“This one is from me.” Mom said, handing me the last box. I stood up as it was bigger than all of them. Ripping the paper, I felt my heart skip a beat. Quickly, I tore the rest of the paper off. The picture of a new DSLR camera looked up at me. It was the newest model on the market right now and the one sitting in front of me came with three lenses itself. The lens I had opened before fit this one as well. I looked at my mom in shock.
“Mom, how could we afford this?” I asked. She shrugged.
“I told you I’ve been working a lot this summer.”
“I can’t accept this though. That’s like $2,000! We can use that for other things.” She smiled at me, grabbing my hands.
“Kerri, you only live once. It’s fine. I promise. It’s okay. It’s an investment into your future.”