Huan had been observing Lynne interact with her family throughout the duration of the party. All he saw were more reasons to be content with the fact that they were having a child together. Her family was a force to be reckoned with yes, but they were fiercely loyal, protective, and loving. Even now, his best friend was all smiles and giggles as she picked up Hannah, Elisa’s eight-year old daughter and the only hearing member of their family, and rocked her from side to side to the music that was playing overhead. The smile that had been covering his face slowly faded when he noticed something was wrong. Lynne swung Hannah in a circle and quickly put the girl back down, stumbling slightly on her feet. She then steadied herself with a hand firmly gripping the back of a nearby chair. Excusing himself from the conversation he was having with Yolanda, Vinny, and Mrs. Prentice, Huan was at her side in a heartbeat. “Are you ok?” He asked her, concern written all over his face.
“Just a little dizzy. I guess I’m not as young as I used to be. Sorry Hannah-banana, auntie is gonna have to make this dance up to you later, kay?” She retrieved a bill from her pocket and held it out. “Here, take this twenty dollars over to the arcade with your siblings and cousins.”
The little girl squealed in delight as she kissed her aunt on the cheek and grabbed the bill before running over to where her siblings and cousins were sitting.
“Come on. Let’s sit down. You haven’t eaten yet have you?” Huan asked her, escorting her over to a table where Kris and Natalia were sitting.
“No, I did. I ate the food we ordered….nope. No, I didn’t. I gave it to the kids after I nibbled on a couple fries.” He raised an eyebrow at her in question. “The food for the party hadn’t been set out yet and they came at me with their little ‘auntie if we don’t eat something now we’re going to die of starvation’ faces and you know I can’t resist them. Then I kinda got swept up in playing with the nieces and nephews since I haven’t seen them all in so long.”
“You have to eat Lynne. Your blood sugar is probably low.” He grabbed her hand and pinched the flesh on top of it. Shaking his head from side to side he told her, “and it seems you’re a little dehydrated. Have you had any water?”
“Nope, she’s been sipping beer all afternoon and now night. Too busy socializing,” Kris interjected from his seat a few feet away, not taking his eyes off of the television in the corner. Of course he had been paying attention to her intake.
But it’s not beer, it’s tea Kris. Calm down. She mentally chided her brother.
“Exactly. All of those factors, plus your work schedule having you burn the candle at both ends, equals dizzy spells and a multitude of other things that can go wrong for your health.” He lectured her, his eyes boring into hers.
“Listen to your doctor-friend Lynne. He actually knows what he is talking about for once.” Kris told her, his eyes landing on her.
“Sit and drink some water. I’ll go get you a plate.” Huan instructed as he placed his glass of water in front of her before he walked over to where the food was set up.
Once Huan was out of earshot Natalia leaned over to her, “girl, you need to snatch him up before he gets another girlfriend.”
Lynne rolled her eyes at her overeager sister-in-law. “Whomever wants Huan, can have him. He’s my best friend, pretty much my fourth brother now.”
“Pretty much, but not your blood. I mean he’s sweet, caring, got a take-charge attitude, not hard on the eyes, plus a DOCTOR! You really can’t do any better Lynne. Present company excluded of course.” She said, placing a kiss on Kris’s cheek.
“Thanks for the advice. I’m going to change this conversation now. How’s work been Nat? Anyone interesting drop by your hotel lately?”
“Don’t believe for one second I will be deterred Lynne. You’ve been single for what like three years now? Since that Orlando guy dumped you. Your cooch is probably covered in cobwebs.”
“And this is the point in the conversation where I go get a new drink from the bar.” Kris stated as he eased himself out of his seat. “You ladies need anything?”
“Nothing for me babe.”
“Another water please to replace Huan’s that I just chugged would be nice.” Lynne mentioned to her brother as she stole a mozzarella stick off his plate. He gave her a curt nod before walking off.
“I’m serious Lynne. Make him yours before it’s too late. Who knows if you’ll ever get an opportunity to find someone as devoted to you as he is. You’re not getting any younger you know.”
“Everyone likes to tell me that.” She grumbled as she played with the straw in her cup. “Why y’all are so concerned with my lack of male companionship continues to evade me.”
“It’s because we know how wonderful you are, little sister-in-law, even though the borderline OCD attention to detail and planning every move thing are a bit much sometimes. We don’t want to see you alone. There is so much you have to offer someone and we want you to have someone who is worthy of you. That’s all.”
Lynne was poised to respond when Huan returned to the table with a plate neatly filled with a slice of roast beef, a couple buffalo chicken wings, steamed broccoli and carrots, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, and a few mini-quiche. “I didn’t know exactly what you’d want to eat, so I got you a sampling of almost everything. If you don’t like any of this, I can try a different combination or order you something from the bar.”
Natalia shot her a look that said, ‘see, he’s perfect for you,’ which Lynne chose to ignore. Looking at the spread on the plate before her, Lynne’s mouth began to water. “Thanks.” The aroma of the roast beef and mashed potatoes drew her in and she began to devour them in earnest.
“I guess someone is a little hungry.” Natalie mused as she watched from her seat.
Huan sat down next to Lynne and nudged her leg with his thigh. “Slow down Lynne, the food isn’t going to run away from your plate. You’ll give yourself some major heartburn.”
Making a point to exaggerate her swallow, she replied “thanks mom.” She slowed her ravenous pace down as she worked her way through the plate. Kris returned, placing the two glasses of water in front of Huan and Lynne before reclaiming his spot beside his wife. Raising his eyebrow at Lynne’s eating, he sipped his beer in silence, turning his gaze toward the nearest screen to watch the Giants’ game.
Natalia broke the comfortable silence they had settled into. “So Huan, are you seeing anyone at the moment?” Lynne shot her a death glare over the top of her glass; she promptly ignored her.
“Umm. I’m sort of not doing the relationship thing at the moment. I’m coming out of a two-year one that ended up not going the way I thought it would. Plus, I’ve got a lot going on right now in both my personal and work lives at the moment.”
“Pity. A fine young specimen like yourself should be beating them off with both hands.”
Huan’s ears turned red as he smiled warmly at Natalia. “Thank you for that compliment, but it seems that even with the MD title, I’ve seemed to have struck out at love.”
“Maybe. Or maybe you need to start looking in a different direction. It’s a shame to let all those good genetics of yours go to waste.”
Lynne cringed inwardly, really Nat. He’s letting his good genetics go to waste? Slick. Real slick.
“I don’t think they are going to waste. Just waiting on the right person.”
“Well don’t wait too long. You never know how quick life can pass you by.”
“I don’t plan on letting it pass me by.”
Ife, Vinny’s wife walked up to their table at that time, interrupting their conversation. “Sorry, y’all. Can someone watch Paulo for me? I need to use the restroom and my husband is currently MIA.” She asked, the chubby, eight-month old on her hip, currently wrapping his hand around one of her waist-length yarn-locs.
Huan held out his hands and Ife deposited the happily gurgling baby in his arms.
“Me and my bladder thank you, Huan.” She told him, over her shoulder, as she power-walked to the restroom.
“No problem. Paulo and I are friends.” Settling the baby on his lap, Huan looked down at him with a smile. “Right buddy?” Paulo gave him a reassuring coo. “See.” Huan proceeded to bounce Paulo up and down, causing the tyke to emit bubbly, infectious laughter. Huan’s face lit up with joy as he continued to play with Paulo.
“Enjoying yourself?” Lynne whispered to him, after finishing with her plate and wiping her mouth.
“Just getting some practice in for the future.” He whispered back, not taking his eye off of Paulo as he airplaned him above his head.
Rolling her eyes, Lynne felt her cell phone buzz in her pocket. Pulling it out she opened her notifications and saw she had a message from Natalia. Looking across the table, the other woman had a sweet, innocent look on her face.
Natalia: See and he’s amazing with babies. Lock it down. Marry him, now!
Lynne: You are such a yenta! Please stop.
Natalia: Prince Charming is practically in your lap and you won’t put on the damn glass slipper.
Lynne: It’s not like that between us.
Natalia: Your loss, Spinsterella. But that sparkly unicorn of yours won’t be on the market for long. Mark my words.
Lynne: DROP IT!
“So Kris, how goes the work you’ve been doing on that bike you’ve been restoring?” Lynne asked as she placed her phone back in her pocket. “Have a date when you’re gonna be ready to ride yet?”
Not taking his eyes off the game, Kris responded, “not really. Just taking it one day at a time. Some of the parts are difficult to find. But I am expecting that it should be up and running by the Mother’s Day Blessing & Ride that my club takes part in.”
“Righteous. Are you gonna let me drive this one at least?” Lynne asked him, seriously.
“Did you pass the motorcycle safety course yet?”
“We both know the answer to that. You coached me through the whole thing. And then welched out on our deal because you didn’t want me to scratch your precious baby.”
With a blasé look on his face, Kris stared at his sister. “Everyone present has driven in a car with you. We know how volatile you are behind the wheel. I love you and all, but I would not trust you to drive anything that is precious to me. My goal with you taking the Motorcycle certification was to maybe get you to calm down a bit, but no go. It’s just your personality. So I did not welch out on our deal, but prioritized my investment. Either you or it would end up tore up.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about, I am a fantastic driver. Right, Huan?”
“What was that Paulo?” Huan held the baby up to his ear, pretending to listen to him speak before turning him back around to face him. “You are absolutely right, we shouldn’t get between siblings when they have conflicting opinions. You are so smart for an eight-month old.”
“Coward.” Lynne shot at him before turning back to her brother. “Fine. Can I at least ride on the back of the new one when you take it out for a drive?”
“I don’t see why that can’t be arranged.”
“Thank you big brother!” She said with a cheesy grin on her face.
Harley approached their table with Elisa’s daughters Hannah and Josefina in tow. “Aunties and uncles, Big Momma sent us to get everyone together, it’s time to give Pop-pop his gifts.” Harley informed them, as the ringleader of the little group.
“Cool. Nat, you’ve got the super-special-secret-decoy-gift right?” Lynne asked in a stage whisper.
“Yup. And I’m assuming Elisa’s got the real gift from all of us.” Nat replied, pulling a medium-sized red box with a bow out of her large purse.
“Alright, let’s do this.”
Their table joined the other members of the family as they assembled around Mr. and Mrs. Prentice at the table in the center of the room. An elegant triple layered, hazelnut chocolate cake with mocha frosting delicately piped by Elisa adorned with a lit 60th candle was placed in front of Mr. Prentice and they all sang a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” while the game was at half-time.
Afterwards, the gifts were given to the man of the hour. His grandchildren had crafted handmade gifts and a joint card signed by all of them from youngest to eldest. From his friends, Mr. Prentice received several special-made cigars and a bottle of pricey cognac. His sister and her husband gave him a cheeky card with money in it. Huan’s gift was a hardcover copy of the “History of Black Cowboys in the American West” signed by the author Brett Holly. Mr. Prentice was a lover of cowboy movies or “Shoot Em’ Uppers” as he referred to them. It earned him a respectful grunted “thank you” and tilt of the head. When it came time for the siblings and spouses to present their gift, Vinny as the eldest sibling went on at length about how they racked their brains together and after several meetings they decided on the perfect gift for a man as sophisticated as he was. He then pointed at Nat who handed over the medium sized box to Mr. Prentice.
When Mr. Prentice lifted the lid off of the box, he looked puzzled. Within the box was a black Kangol Flat Ivy cap. It was similar to the navy blue one that he wore that day to the party. “Thank...you.”
“Pick it up and put it on Pop-pop,” Hannah urged him in her squeaky voice.
Not one to disappoint his grandchildren, but still confused about the correlation between his son’s speech and the gift, he picked up the hat and saw a sheet of paper underneath it. He read the large loopy handwriting that said, Dad, did you really think that was all we could do? To get your real gift sign the following words: I want my real gift please.
Looking up he signed ‘I want my real gift please,’ in Elisa’s direction.
From behind her, Elisa pulled out a black box with a silver ribbon and handed it over to him. ‘Happy Birthday, Daddy. From all of us!’
Mr. Prentice regarded the smaller box before removing the ribbon and opening it. Inside was the Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea watch in Oystersteel with a black ceramic bezel and D-blue dial face. The watch was classy and befitting a hardworking man Vice President of a large firm in the city. It fit him to a T.
“Momma told us how you had been talking about it for a while now and we banded together and got it for you. Happy Birthday Pops!” David told him from where he was standing with his arms around Amara.
With a reserved smile on his face, but pride shining in his eyes he looked at all those assembled and voiced his appreciation. “Thank you all for sharing my day. I’m not a big talker, so I’m going to leave it at that. Have some of my daughter’s wonderful cake and desserts and enjoy the rest of the game.”
A few hours later as they drove away from McKenzie’s back to Lynne’s house, both Huan and Lynne counted the event as a moderate success. Other than the dizzy spell, none of Lynne’s pregnancy symptoms made themselves known throughout the night and through their tag-team effort they were able to subtly avoid any liquor-related moments. Huan would be spending the night at her place before heading back to the city in the morning. Dr. Foster had sent him back her recommendations and they would be picking an obstetrician. Lynne was almost a full two months along and, the way their lives went, time was going to go by quicker than they knew it.
A/N: Lynne and Huan have successfully evaded any speculation at the first family function on their list...but will they all be this simple? Stay tuned to find out. Please do your favorite neighborhood Xenia a favor and leave a constructive comment. See you in chapter 13.