Tony rang the bell to his own house, which apparently set off a stampede. The running feet stalled by the locked front door where Dariela Velasquez scolded them and unlocked the door.
“Dum dum!” The pack of three kids jumped Leah, ignoring their own father, who teased them for it as they walked into the house.
“Aunty Dum Dum, if you get out any candy right now,” Dariela spoke as she closed the front door after them, “you’re not getting any lasagna!”
Dariela’s threat proved to hold as Leah immediately threw up her hands.
“You got me there, mama V! My plate’s gonna be clean first!”
The kids challenged her as they dragged her into the dining room.
“So, how was everyone’s school today?” Leah asked as she sat next to whichever kid had won the bid to sit next to her.
“My English teacher said I wrote the best poem in the whole class! So I earned a class cash for it!” Told the 9 year old girl sitting across from her.
“That’s awesome Mari! You gotta read it to me after dinner. Who knows, you might even earn an extra candy!”
Mari got super excited by that apparent promise, as did her brothers, who impatiently waited to tell her what they had done at school.
Jonas, the 3 year old, learned the letter B and had a butterfly print by squishing paint on a paper.
“I made a frog’s lifecycle chart in science! But, I got a C in my math quiz.” Mason, the 7 year old honestly told.
“Then less video games for you, my man.” Tony warned his son.
“Aww, that’s ok. Maths isn’t my best subject either.” Leah said and followed her statement with her next bite.
The table fell silent, watching as the bank manager ate her dinner. Leah began to laugh with food in her mouth, and everyone else followed suit. The rest of the table conversation consisted of fun interactions during Det. Tony’s work day, and teasing Leah about still not having friends around town. Leah’s plate cleaned first and she leaned in her chair like an overstuffed grandpa.
“So, what’s for dessert?” Leah asked and her response was a chorus of whines and scrapes on plates as the kids raced to finish their food.
Each kid ran to Aunty Dum Dum as soon as their plates were clean, but got stalled by their mother as she made them put away their dishes first. They returned from the kitchen equally fast and circled around Leah again like starving baby birds.
“Okay okay! Let me get my purse! She put her purse in her lap and dug around for some candy, but instead saw the little box. Something black.
“You okay Aunty D?? Tony called out to her, snapping her back to reality.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she realized her stance and quickly passed out some candy to the eagerly waiting children. They could each eat one of the many that Leah had given them as Dariela strictly forbade them from having more. She played with the little monsters for a while till their mom took them up for bed time.
“Now, want some grown up juice?” Tony joked as he was already on his way to the drinks cart.
“Sure,” Leah said tiredly as she followed him to the living room.
“Anything you feeling for?”
“I’ll just have a glass of white, not really in the mood for much.”
“Suit yourself. I’m pouring a brandy mix. Very original, call it, the ATV!”
“Wow, a policeman and a bartender huh? Didn’t know the police pay was that bad!”
“You wanna try?” Tony asked again as he readied the shaker, but Leah denied again.
“Nah, just that Pinot Grigio over there on the top.”
“I thought you’d never see it.” Dariela said as she joined them after leaving the kids upstairs.
“Haha, I’ve had my eye on it since I saw it coming in.”
“Pour me one too, babe.” Dariela asked her husband and went to sit in her spot on the couch.
Tony rolled his eyes. “Chicas.”
Tony brought the girls their wine and went back and made his own drink.
“Now, tell me again what happened last night, really.”
“What? Didn’t I tell you everything in the morning, detective.”
“Well now I’m not asking as detective, I’m asking as your friend.” Tony asked again as he sat on his recliner.
“Yeah spill, woman! Who was the good Sam? Did you know him? Was he good looking?”
“Do you always wear your shirt wrong?” Tony teased.
His wife almost choked. “Ooh Lee!”
“What?! No, I did no such thing! He’s a bank client.?
“So you did know him!” Tony jumped in his seat, wagging an accusing finger at his friend. “You lied to a cop!”
“I didn’t want him to get in trouble!” Leah said sheepishly, defending her choice.
“Why, he do something wrong? Like beat up a couple of thugs?”
“Ooh girl, he fought for you?! Tie him down. What’s his name? What does he do? Is he hot?”
“A and B, there’s this thing called client confidentiality. But C, he’s very good looking.”
The rest of the night went similarly with a mix of light hearted and serious conversation. It was late night when Tony finally took her home.
He parked the car in front of her house, but didn’t unlock it instantly. Leah knew there was something on his mind.
“Real talk though, this customer. You know him well? He beats up guys for just anyone?”
“Well, I’m not just anyone!” She joked, but continued. “He’s a regular bank client, I’ve professionally been seeing him for months now. And, maybe once or twice after work. If you’re asking as a friend, I can’t tell you more. Hey, even if you’re a cop, you need some papers or something to know more! I may be young, but I’m still a credible bank manager.”
“Hey, hey! No need to get defensive. I’m only being protective! But if he’s trouble.”
“I’ll let you know, hermano.” Leah joked as she finally took off her belt.
“You do that, hermanita!”
Leah stepped out and Tony reversed his car to go back the other way, but again stalled his departure as he rolled down his window to talk more.
“Beware! I’m bringing my ATV to that chili competition next Saturday! Good night!”
The comment was meant to be taken lightly, but Leah’s mind itched. It wasn’t the ATV bothering her.
The chili competition was next Saturday, which meant she had to make it on Friday. Oh no!
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