When they arrived at the house late in the afternoon, they were taken aback by how much they had bought. When the bags didn't fit in the trunk, they had resorted to shoving the rest onto the backseat. Washing and folding all of those clothes was going to require days.
"Mom, mom, mommy." Andrew and Daniel squeezed their mother.
"Where have you been?" Asked Daniel.
"Didn't your grandma tell you. I went to work," Allie embrassed them.
"And she went shopping, too." Andrew approached the van in the driveway.
"Yay, did you bring me chocolate?" Jumped Daniel.
"I brought you something, but it's not edible."
"I bet it's something expensive. If you bought me chocolate, you would have only spent one dollar."
"No," she rubbed her nose against his."If I bought chocolate I would have spent a million dollars because you have no end for snacks."
They all laughed.
"Now, I'm gonna need everyone's help with these bags."
"Okay!" Daniel grabbed a big bag out of CJ's hand. "Here Mister, I can get that for you."
"Thanks, man, I appreciate it," CJ smiled and continued taking bags out of the van.
Andrew simply sat on the porch with his elbows on his knees.
"Andrew, I said 'everyone.' Come on," said Allie.
"Ugh," the boy stood up and walked back to the house.
"Hey, I'm not about to repeat myself."
"Why do I have to bring the bags inside? I didn't buy them."
"Because I asked for your help."
The boy rolled his eyes and opened the door.
"Andrew, back here now!" Allie pointed at the floor in front of her and stomped her foot.
"You're rich. Pay someone else to do it!" Andrew slammed the front door.
Allie grunted and picked up more bags.
Kathy walked out of the house, wiping her hands on an apron.
"What's going on with that boy?" She asked.
"He's a sweet boy, but he can be so disrespectful at times," Allie replied.
Kathy was going to state her opinion about the problem when she noticed CJ's makeover. She put one hand on her chest and rested the other on her hip.
"That haircut makes you look so dapper."
"Thanks ma'am," CJ grinned.
Kathy grabbed the smallest bag she could find and followed Allie into the house.
"Allie, we need to talk about you know what." She glanced back at the door, making sure CJ wasn't behind her.
Allie spun around, opened her wallet, and pulled a plastic bag out of it. Kathy snatched it out of her hand and examined it. There were strands of honey-colored hair inside it.
"One of the hairstylists saw me when I picked up some of his shavings from the floor. I almost fell on my face when we made eye contact but she didn't say anything, so I think dodged that one."
"I know a lab. They won't ask questions but it's quite a bit of cash." Kathy put the bag inside her bra and tapped her boob.
"I'll wire you the money." Allie held her hands and showed a full cage of teeth.
"Mom, CJ says he can teach me how to fight," Daniel dropped four bags on the the kitchen floor.
"To fight?" Allie frowned. "I thought you hated sports."
"It's not a sport. It's fighting." Daniel closed his fists and punched into the air.
Kathy and Allie looked surprised at each other.
Allie bit her fingernails while waiting for the phone to stop ringing. She eyed the guest bedroom multiple times, making sure CJ was still inside.
"Turkey's in the oven," said Kathy from the other line. "Are you coming?"
"Hi, yes," said Allie. "I need to know if there are guests at your house. And by guests, I mean, family members that would recognize Dean."
"There's no one here. Dinner's at seven. Just come over."
"How are we going to make sure they don't say anything in front of him?"
"Allie, just. come. over," Kathy spoke through her teeth.
"Inviting him to your Christmas Eve dinner was a terrible idea," Allie scream-whispered. "You know Jan won't shut her mouth. As soon as she sees him, she'll be like, 'dead man walking.' Oh Cadwell; Cadwell's like a three year old. He has no filter in that mouth of his."
"It doesn't matter."
The girl's frustration increased. Her mother-in-law was clearly not thinking about the consequences of bringing CJ to a place where everyone would recognize him. These were people who grew up with him, so they would be quick to raise questions.
"How can you say that?"
She heard Kathy sigh after a pause.
"Because we're going to open the results as soon as you get here. I wanted it to be a surprise but now you ruined it."
"What?" Allie shouted then put her fist on her lips.
"What? Was I taking too long?" CJ hurried out of his bedroom.
Allie made a fake sounding giggle and pointed at her phone.
"What? I can't believe you forgot to add green beans to the green bean casserole. That's silly," she shook her head and ended the call. "Bye bye."
"Wow, the green beans are like the main ingredient," CJ chuckled.
He noticed her cleavage and inspected her body with his gaze. The simple black dress conformed to her figure, allowing the spectator to admire her natural beauty. No extra fabric that lifted her buttocks or breasts. No distracting details that covered her belly.
"By the way, you'll have to forgive me if I forget your parents' names tonight. Your dress will make it hard for me to concentrate."
"Thank you." She wanted to reciprocate the action by complementing his red shirt. The rolled up sleeves gave him a working-man feel —the one who doesn't mind getting under the hood when the engine needs some oil. But she was blushing too much to say anything else.
"Oh, um, you won't meet my parents tonight," she changed the topic.
"Of course, why would I think that?" He cleared his throat and shoved his hands into his pockets. "Maybe it would be weird to meet your family. I figured, since it's a Christmas Eve dinner...well, you know."
"No, I don't have a problem with that. I was saying that because like I've said before, I grew up in an orphanage and my parents...they died."
"Oh, I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. I never met them." She walked toward the front door and brushed her hair casually, trying to ease the awkwardness.
As they got in the car, Allie thought about what Kathy had told her. Her mind was shocked at the speed of the results. She had expected the wait time to be at least two or three months.
The steering wheel wasn't enough to contain her nerves, so she resorted to small conversation to take her mind off of it.
"Mom, grandma made no-green-beans, green bean casserole." Andrew jumped off his grandmother's couch at his mother's arrival.
"I'm okay with it," said Daniel. "Gween beans are the worst part about gween bean casewole."
Allie's eyebrows touched.
Kathy walked out of the kitchen, wearing a green ruffled skirt and hoop earings.
"CJ, welcome, welcome. This is your home." She dragged CJ's shoulders into her dining room. "Are you hungry? Here, try these appetizers."
The grandmother usually made very elaborate dishes during the holidays, but this year, the food items looked out of place in her Victorian style dining room. From her famous foie gras and petit gateaus there was a 180 degrees turn to loaded nachos and curly fries.
"Queso dip or salsa?" She asked before CJ brought a curly fry to his mouth.
"This is new," Allie frowned at the woman.
"Man, I haven't had fries in such a long time," CJ spoke with a mouth full. "Your fries are to die for, Ms. Kathy."
"I didn't make them," smiled Kathy. "I got them at Whataburger."
"Oh, I don't think I've ever been there. It's so good."
"Wonderful. You, enjoy," Kathy pulled her daughter-in-law by the arm. "Allie, dear, I might need some help with the green bean casserole."
Allie followed her into the kitchen after giving CJ a really wide grin.
"Curly fries, queso dip...all of Dean's favorite snacks," said Allie.
Kathy dashed toward the cabinets, and grabbed a white packet from a drawer. Allie didn't know if the noise coming from her stomach was caused by the smell of roasted turkey or by the sight of the envelope.
"How do you wanna do this?" Panted Kathy.
The question loaded the girl with responsibilities. It was too big a task as if opening the envelope the wrong way would change the results somehow.
"This is Schrodinger's cat all over again." She rubbed her knuckles.
"Open it." The grandmother flapped the paper at her.
"I thought you were going to do it."
"I was going to, but then you started talking about a cat and now I feel weird."
Allie snatched the envelope and bent a corner of it when Kathy touched her hands.
"When I invited CJ here, I was so sure that he...that he was...my son. If this test is negative and I'm not that man's mother, you know what that means, right?"
That Dean is truly gone. That her children don't have a father. That she is delusional.
Allie nodded and began ripping the side of the white rectangle in slow motion. Then, they heard a propelling coming from the living room.
"Hey, Wayne," said Daniel. "It's okay. You can go back to your house, now. Mom has a new boyfwend."
"Who are you talking about?" Andrew's voice screeched with anger. "Is it CJ? It's CJ, isn't it?"
The propelling became louder and Wayne was suddenly in Kathy's kitchen.