#65 A toast to Dad
I throw myself into my mother’s open arms, going right back to bawling my eyes out. Her hair is dark purple this time around, making her look younger than she is, and I bury my face in her shirt, inhaling her typical mom scent. Perfume, cigarettes and wine. Yeah, that’s mom.
“What are you doing here?” I ask, sniffling. “I thought you couldn’t make it!”
“Your boyfriend wasn’t going to let that stop him,” she says softly, pulling back so she can look at me. “Neither were your friends. They all contacted me to see if they could get me here, Fran. Aston, Annabel, Shaughna, Dshawn, Thomas, Yord, Marcia, Destiny… You’ve got some great people caring about you, Franny.”
“You…” I shake my head and shift so I’ve got my arm around my mother’s waist while I look at my friends. “You did this for me?”
“Joshua did,” Shaughna says, smiling fondly at my boyfriend, then back at me. “We all wanted to do something for you, but he’s the one who actually managed to get her to come.”
“H-how?” I stammer, looking at Joshua with wide eyes.
He shrugs like it’s no big deal, running a hand through his unruly curls. “Frequent flyer miles and my parents’ credit card. Easy peasy.”
“Dude, give yourself some credit,” Aston says, clapping him on the shoulder. “If you want to get lucky, you should always make sure your girl knows the lengths you’d go to, just for her.”
“She knows,” Joshua says, smiling shyly. “Right, Fran?”
I step out of my mom’s embrace and pull him against me, crushing my lips to his. I know. I really do. He’s amazing. I can’t believe he did this for me.
“I love you,” I whisper into his ear, too low for anyone else to hear. Maybe it’s not the best timing, and it’s definitely way too soon, but I just have to put it out there. I love him. So much.
“I love you too,” he says just as quietly, kissing me tenderly.
He loves me too. I’m the luckiest girl in the world.
When we break apart, half of me wants to drag him off so I can have my wicked way with him, but the sane part of my brain knows that my mother flew all the way out here to be with me, so I should give her some attention. She’s beaming at me, and she pulls Joshua in for a hug when I finally disentangled myself from him.
“So nice to finally meet you,” Mom says, holding him at arm’s length to study his face. “You look even cuter than you did on my phone screen.” She turns around to let her eyes sweep over the others. “Wow,” she says when she looks Aston up and down. “You must be Aston. Fucking hell, Fran, I get it now. When you fuck a guy this hot, of course you’re going to fall in love with him. He’s the one with the massive cock and the commitment issues, right?”
Oh. My. God.
Is she kidding me?
Is she crazy?
Of course she is. It’s my mother, after all.
“Yes, that would be me,” Aston affirms, laughing while he drapes his arm around Annabel. “This is Anna, my fiancé.”
“Oh wow, you’re the bitch he knocked up,” Mom realizes.
“Mom!” I exclaim, blushing fiercely. I may have called Annabel a bitch a few times back when I was still madly in love with Aston, but I don’t think of her like that anymore. She’s nice. Fuck my mother for making this so goddamn awkward.
“It’s okay,” Annabel says, surprising me by giggling. “I thought you were a bitch when we first met as well. You were after my man, after all.”
Shaughna and my mother hug – they’ve met a few times in the past – and she introduces her to Dshawn, who seems surprised that my mother pulls him in for an embrace as well.
“How did you get here?” I ask my mother when she’s done greeting everyone. I figured she must have been here all along, but since she’s greeting everyone right now, I guess she just arrived.
“I drove her,” a deep voice says from the hallway.
I turn to see Thomas standing there with the General in his arms, smiling at me. I rush over to give him a kiss on the cheek and pet the General, who looks a whole lot better than he did a week ago, although he’s still wearing the bandage around his front paw. Thomas has been taking care of him the past week, but I visit them every single day.
“Can I let in the others?” Thomas asks Joshua, sharing a knowing look with him.
“Yeah,” my boyfriend says with a smile. “Let them in.”
Five seconds later, the last of my friends walk in: Yord, Marcia and Destiny with her husband Ted. She’s sporting a tiny little baby bump that pales next to Anna’s, but it’s obvious she’s very much pregnant. I’ve only met Ted two times before, so I move over to greet him first, before hugging the others.
“What’s all of this?” I ask Thomas and Joshua, who look like they were the instigators of this whole thing.
“It’s a birthday party,” Joshua explains, taking my hand in his. “For your dad. I know it’s two days early, but we wanted to surprise you.”
“Dude, this was all you,” Thomas says, clapping him on the back with a grin. “I just picked her mom up from the airport.”
“We’re missing one more person,” Destiny says, smiling secretively.
“Who?” Joshua asks, looking surprised. Oh, so this isn’t something he planned. Who could it be?
Destiny grabs her phone and sends a text. A few moments later, the doorbell rings. Yord opens it since he’s closest, and he reveals a tall blonde man with an easy smile.
“You invited her boss?” Aston asks as the same time that Annabel says: “Hey, Chris!”
“I just came over to tell Franny that she’s got the week off.” He gives me a stern look. “I expect you back at work in no less than seven days, and you’ve got to be at the top of your game. That being said…” His expression softens. “I wish you’d told me you needed time off, Fran. I know I’m new in town, and I’ve only been your boss for a little while, but I thought you knew me well enough by now to realize that I would have given you the week off to be with your mother for your father’s birthday.”
Fuck me, I’m crying now. Full-on ugly crying. They’re all so sweet, trying to help me through what is always the hardest day of the year for me. My mom and I struggle with his birthday every single year. The day he died isn’t as bad, for some reason. On his death day, we’re just sad. On his birthday… we’re sad as well, obviously, but we feel this pressure to be happy as well, celebrate the years we knew him, but it’s difficult to do that when we just want to curl up into a little ball of misery.
My mother is the one to pull me against her and rub my back. She sniffles a little as well.
“Hey,” she whispers. “Did you ever sleep with the new hottie?”
“No, Mom, that’s Christopher,” I reply, laughing through my tears. “My boss.”
“So you won’t mind if I try to get into his pants later tonight?” she asks, creeping me out to the max.
“Of course I’ll mind,” I say, shuddering. “That’s never stopped you before, though.”
“Right.” She grins and cuts a look at Chris, taking him in from head to toe. “Damn, Fran, that is one fine man. How old is he?”
“7 years younger than you.”
She licks her lips. “Hmm. I do like them young.”
“Gross!” I push her away and a shiver runs up and down my spine at the thought of those two together. Then again, who am I to stop her? It took her years to let another man close enough to so much as kiss her after my dad died, but once she got into the dating game, she realized many guys her age like her fun, outgoing personality, her crazy hair, tats and piercings. She’s age-appropriate for them, yet she still acts like she’s in her twenties, which – I guess, hell if I know – is half of her appeal.
“I guess I’ll get going,” Christopher says, unaware of what Mom was whispering to me, although he does seem to grow uncomfortable under her intense gaze. “I just came here to tell you to take the week off.”
“Oh no, you’re not going anywhere,” Mom says, rushing over and pulling him into the living room, her arm around his waist. “Hi, I’m Amelia. Nice to meet you, Christopher.”
“Erm… hi.” He looks at me with raised eyebrows.
I shrug, not knowing how to explain my mother to him.
“Beers?” Dshawn breaks the silence, holding up the bottles he just got from the fridge.
“Hell yeah!” Yord exclaims, grabbing one for Marcia as well. He holds it up into the air while everyone else gets a drink as well. Aston goes to the kitchen to grab him and Anna a glass of water.
“To Francesca’s dad,” Aston says when he returns, holding up his glass.
“To Dad!” I agree, clinking my beer to Joshua’s.