31. Not A Good Good
“I want to have just a small party,” Violet said, her lips quivering. She was trying to keep the corners of them from turning down. Or turning up. It was a toss-up. Mathilde was wanting a first birthday party that would probably have rivaled Royalty’s. Of course.
“What about inviting the Bensons? You know the Bensons!” Mathilde told her. “You went to school with their daughter.”
“I had one class with Carla in my freshman year,” Violet said, eye twitching. “And we didn’t even get along.”
“You hung out all the time at the New Year’s party that year!” her mother reminded her.
“Because she was the only person my age, and she thought I could score her booze,” Violet said.
“Mattie, maybe we could just have a small gathering.” Harry had kept his mouth shut up to that point. “Just family and friends. Mason won’t know the difference if we have one person or a hundred here. He’s only one.”
“But you only have a first birthday once in your life,” Mattie protested, sensing she was losing a hard fought battle.
“Well, that’s the point,” Carl said, his nose twitching. “Growing up usually means growing older, year by year. Under your way of thinking, I should have a big birthday blow-out every year. I certainly don’t want to celebrate my aging every year like it’s the last birthday I’m ever gonna have.”
“Harry’s right,” Aiden said, his daughter on his lap as he bounced her up and down on his knee. She had gotten fussy with grown-up talk and had wanted to play, but both mother and father were still eating their meal. “To Mason, it’s just another day. Another day he gets presents. And Lord knows Carl picks him something new up whenever he gets the whim to.”
“My child will be well-versed in every type of entertainment from a teddy bear to... to... to-” Carl began.
“Tiddlywinks?” Violet asked.
Carl’s face scrunched up as he looked at her.
“Tinker toys!” Constance offered up.
“What the... are you all insane? Is this 1950?” Carl looked aghast.
“Transformers!” Harry spat out, apparently feeling accomplished for suggesting an actual toy one could find in a store nowadays.
“They still make those telephone toys, right?” Ramon asked, earning a scowl from Carl.
“I’m going to check on the little man,” Carl said, getting up. “You can continue your weird little alphabet game if you want.”
There was a short pause as people thought of more toys that began with a ‘t’.
“Can I at least invite the Morans?” Mathilde asked, getting back into ‘party planner’ mode. “They invited Mason when Carter turned one.”
Violet choked back a laugh.
“Sure, Mom,” she told her mother. “Invite the Carters. But if that little monster tries to gnaw a hole into one of your lace runners, I’m going to say ‘I told you so’.”
After Carl changed Mason’s diaper, Violet walked into the room. She found Carl talking to Mason like he was more of a business associate than an 11 and a half-month-old.
“...and that’s when Daddy said that Aiden needed to get a grip and let Gary-”
“What are you talking to Mason about?” Violet asked, cocking her head.
“Last work meeting,” Carl answered. “Aiden started getting all ‘Type A personality’ and Gary was practically having heart palpitations.”
“Because Gary knows more about tec-”
“No.” Violet shook her head, amused. “Why are you discussing business meetings with a near-1-year-old?”
“Probably has better ideas than Aiden, anyway,” Carl told her. “His head’s so far up Constance’s as... derriere that you’d think he was giving birth this time around.”
“Well, she is due in a couple of months,” Violet said. “You wouldn’t even let me pick up a gallon of milk after I was 5 months pregnant.”
“That’s different,” Carl objected. “It was my first time around. Hey, I might even let you get to 7 months next time before I decide gallon jugs are too heavy for you to carry.”
They stood there in silence for a moment, both of them staring at the apple of their eye as he attempted to stick his thumb into his mouth. The poor little guy was so tired he kept missing.
“Babe, how tall is your brother?” Carl asked, his face looking befuddled.
It was an odd question and it surprised Violet.
“Why?” she asked. “You planning on trying to swap clothing with him? He has narrower hips than you but maybe you could exchange shirts or something.”
“I’m not planning on swapping clothes. Or makeup tips with him either,” he said, rolling his eyes. “I’m... just curious.”
“I think he’s 6 ft 3 inches. Maybe,” Violet said. “At least he was when he went off to college, and I don’t think he’s grown much since then. What’s with the question?”
“Nothing. Just... something he said at work the other day.”
“Care to elaborate?”
“It’s... Nah, it’s nothing, I’m sure.”
“How about... How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days?” Jared asked, looking through the collection of DVD’s and BluRay Leila had amassed in a pile on her coffee table.
“Are you trying to get tips for your next relationship or just reliving your last one?” Leila asked, her eyes twinkling at him.
“Funny,” Jared commented with a wry smile. “Actually, I was just wanting to watch it for historical value. You know, since it was based on your love life throughout college and young adulthood.”
“Was that supposed to burn? Because I didn’t feel even a little sting,” Leila questioned, raising a brow. A brow that said oh, are we really going there? Bring it, bitch.
“Pookie, I’m just getting started,” he told her with a devilish smirk.
“I think we should watch To Wong Fu so you can get a glimpse into your future as a washed-up drag queen,” Leila remarked, twisting the case of the movie in her hand.
“Oooooh, and you can play Stockard Channing’s part of the dowdy housewife of the redneck mechanic in a wifebeater!”
“Do you remember how that story ends?” Leila asked, cocking a brow. “The dowdy wife ends up fabulous in red and grows a fucking spine.” She shrugs her shoulders. “And the drag queens still end up looking like colorblind freaks at Preakness.”
“I say we watch Sybil so I can get a read on your mood swings.” Jared cut her with a glare.
“And I say we watch Boogie Nights,” Leila bit back, enjoying their reparte. “I’d like to see how you modeled yourself after Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character of Scotty J.”
“Oh... and you can be Julianne Moore with her cavernous vagina and all coked up and out of control,” Jared said lightly.
Leila only rolled her eyes. The only thing she had in common with Julianne Moore was the red hair.
“And dearheart, I have more in common with Mark Wahlberg’s character, if you must know,” he told her.
“Horrible fashion sense? Just-fucked hair? Or less brains than a Pekingese?”
“A huge cock, baby,” Jared told her. “No one cared about anything but that last scene where he whipped out his dick when they went to see the movie.”
“I’ll let you believe the lie, but only because I love you,” she told him.
They ended up watching- or rather listening- to Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Elizabeth Taylor at her sexiest and using the phrase Big Daddy every few minutes apparently really amused Jared.
“Hmm... I need me a Big Daddy,” Jared said after Maggie the Cat had used the term the 100th time. “Speaking of Big Daddies... how’s your Big Daddy?”
“Would you stop saying Big Daddy already? You’re creeping me out.”
“But I’m Maggie the Cat!” Jared drawled the words in the most horrible southern accent in the history of the world.
“Seriously, how are things with Nate?” Jared asked, scooping up a handful of unsalted cashews. Ever since the Mickey break-up, he had drowned himself in ice cream and sappy movies. Now he was moving onto healthy snacks so he could take off the ten pounds he swore he gained with the passing of the Mickey-Jared torch. Leila thought his nose was going to start twitching he was eating so much damned rabbit food.
“Good,” Leila said, thinking about last week’s news about Lorelei and the strange man named Conley who had accosted Nate.
“Oh God,” Jared said, pretending to clutch his pearls. “That’s not a good good. That’s one of those goods that comes with a but at the end of it. Do tell! I need gossip, information. Something to take me out of myself so I can remember that I am fabulous and sexy gain!”
“You want me to tell you bad shit about my love life so you can feel better about yourself?” Leila asked.
“Yes, please,” he said with a nod.
“You suck as my best gay,” Leila told him.
“And swallow,” Jared added. “So just in case you have any other hot, gay, single men you know, you can share that information. I’m not shy about it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind the next time I run across a hot gay man asking about your cocksucking technique.”
“As long as it’s out there in the world, I’ll proudly own it.”
Leila settled in for a chat. She crossed her legs on the couch and faced Jared who mirrored her motions, leaning forward toward her.
“Nate’s ex-girlfriend is pregnant,” she said, point blank.
“And it’s Nate’s!” Jared spat back, eyes going wide as if this was bigger news than the Queen of England going skinny dipping at Kensington Palace.
“No... well, he says it isn’t,” Leila explained. “He said he always wrapped it up and that at the time she conceived that they weren’t exactly fucking on the regular.”
“That hoe!” Jared exclaimed as if the woman had personally offended him. “She was sleeping around on his fine ass? Must’ve been some serious man meat to get her to step out on such a dish. Wonder what that dude looked like...”
“He was okay,” Leila said. “Not Nate-hot, but he was alright. Huge. Like... Paul Bunyan huge.”
“Wait- what? You met him?” Jared asked, scandalized. “You’ve been keeping secrets! Tell. Me. Everything!”
Leila explained from beginning to end. There were few secrets between the two and the only reason she hadn’t mentioned the run-in as of yet was the fact that until the previous day, Jared was still in his post-breakup funk. It was best to keep her best bud on the down low and not amped up on gossip and bad news. Everything was all about the breakup and he had little enthusiasm for much else.
“So... what is going to happen?” Jared asked. He had put away the unsalted nuts and had reached into the box of Raisinets. Apparently, this news was worthy of the calories.
“Well, he says the ball is in her court.” She shrugged. “But he plans on a DNA test as soon as that little guy or gal pops out. He’s certain it’s not his.”
“But... I mean, I hate to say this, but- what if it is?”
“Well, he’s certain, but even so, he said that he’d be there for the little one,” Leila said. “Not in England or anything, but he’d visit, or have the baby visit him.”
“That’s...” He had no words.
“I know,” Leila said. “But what can you do?”
They both sat there thinking about any number of things that could occur.
“Leila,” Jared said slowly. “What if... well, what if the baby is his and he changes his mind? Wants to be more a part of the little one’s life? I mean, it happens, right?”
That ball of anxiety that had been slowly creeping in over the week settled into her stomach again. It wasn’t anything she hadn’t thought of herself, but for some reason, someone else speaking it out loud made it all the more a possibility.
“I... I don’t know,” Leila said softly. “He was so firm on wanting to stay here, stay with me, but...” She shrugged her shoulders.
“You need to protect your heart, honey.” A look of knowing dread crept over Jared’s face. “We don’t need your first relationship in forever to end up with him being a baby daddy and living thousands of miles away eating fish and chips and drinking High Tea and shit.”
Her stomach gurgled. Just the thought was making her want to upchuck the contents of her stomach. Not that there was much in there. It was mostly filled with nerves, anxiety, dread, and so many chewed up emotions that she couldn’t have tried to name what she was really feeling.
And that scared her most of all.