“So how’s your brother?” Clare’s Aunt Gina asked me passing the mashed potatoes down the line.
“Which one?” I asked with a laugh accepting a plate from Clare’s father over Anya’s head. I served Zoë and Anya and finally myself.
“How was his wedding?” Gina went on unhearing my question. I reached for the turkey she was handing me across the table.
“Daddy I don’t like peas!” Zoë spoke up from under my outstretched arm. I looked down at her and made a face.
“Neither do I,” I realized when I noticed what I had actually served us the moment before. I put turkey on her and Anya’s plates and then my own. I passed the turkey along. “I guess we’ll eat them anyway.” I shrugged.
“Yuck,” Zoë exclaimed quietly. She started singing a song about hating peas to herself until I shot her a glance that warned her to be quiet. She listened.
“Oh, Zac!” I said to Gina. “That one! Oh, I haven’t heard from him since he and Nicole left for their honeymoon a week ago.”
“Where did they go?” Gina’s sister Emily asked.
“They went to the British Virgin Islands.”
“Yeah,” I confirmed. “He showed me brochures over the summer. It looks like a beautiful place.” I looked down at my plate and then around the table. “Do I have everything?” I nodded. “Yes I do, all right.” I moved my chair in closer to the table. I looked up and caught Clare grinning at me from the other side of the table. I raised my eye brows. “Yes O-Beautiful one?”
“I was just thinking,” she replied. Her fingers lingered on her belly. “This time next year there is going to be six members of the Hanson family sitting around this table.”
I grinned back and raised my eyebrows up and down. “Hey, it could be seven... or even eight.”
Clare jokingly dropped her jaw. She arched her back and then sat up straight, holding her hand to the small of her back. “I don’t think so, Jord,” she informed me. “After these two are born you are going to the drug store.”
I turned red and tried to ignore the roaring laughter from the rest of the guests at the table and the “I don’t get it! What do you mean?” comments from my daughter.
“Clare,” my wife’s brother spoke up through his laughter, “do you remember eleven years ago when the only thing we talked about at the table was Hanson?” It was Clare’s turn to blush.
“John, stop,” she pleaded, instantly transforming into the teenager she was back then, back before we became a couple.
“It was ‘Taylor this’ and ‘Taylor that’ all the time!” John accused. “Hmmm Thanksgiving eleven years ago... what was the topic,” he snapped his fingers, “how you missed Hanson the last time they were in NY and how you hadn’t seen them in a year! How could I ever forget that one! You went on for weeks. No, sorry, months-”
“John that’s enough,” Clare’s mother stated, trying to save Clare from the embarrassment her kid brother had already caused her.
I smiled weakly at Clare to show her it was all right. Clare swallowed hard and addressed the issue head on. “See,” she started. “There’s a difference between my past and now. There’s a difference between his past and now. We’re very different people now.” She eyed me.
I cleared my throat. “I don’t care about anything that happened before the day I looked into her eyes and saw myself.”
Clare smiled, the sides of her mouth growing wider. A tear streamed down her cheek. “Taylor that was beautiful.”
I kept my smile although I knew what was going to happen next. I had to chose my words carefully and not refer to her own beauty because she’d get upset. “It’s true,” I told her. “You know me, I don’t lie.” I grinned, going on speaking in order to stabilize my wife’s mood, and avoid any unnecessary downfall. “The only memories I want are the ones that started the night I ran my hand down your arm and kissed you. One of my favorite memories has to be the day we were sitting in the van on the way to a press conference. You on my lap because there wasn’t enough room in the van since there was a camera man that had to come along with a contest winner and her mother. The fan told you that she was happy for us and no one in the car minded that you were sitting in my lap. The camera man was taping the van ride for a talk show, and he put the camera on us although he wasn’t supposed to and I hugged your neck tightly and announced to the world ‘I’m going to marry this woman.’”
Clare was beaming. I sighed quietly in relief, I was almost in the clear, her mood was passing.
“You guys make me sick,” John grumbled.
Clare’s face fell and she pushed back her chair. Tears started streaming down her face. She barely muttered ‘Excuse me’ before she rushed from the room as fast as she could.
I let out a deep breath and glared at her brother. I banged my head to the table and kept my forehead pressed up against the spot between the edge of the table and my plate. I dropped my fork onto my plate, knowing that I would not pick it up again.
“Daddy?” Zoë asked. Her head appeared next to mine. She tapped me gently. I jerked my head up, startling everyone.
“I was so close,” I said pushing back my chair a little, showing that I was irritated. “You have to be careful around her,” I warned her brother. “Her hormones are going crazy right now. She takes the littlest thing to heart when she’s acting this way. That’s why I was telling a story that would make her proud.” I pushed my chair back the rest of the way. “Zoë, help Anya for me, please?” I asked. “I’ve got to go calm down your mother.”
“Yes, Daddy,” Zoë said moving towards her baby sister. I patted her arm for reassurance and dashed up the stairs to my bedroom. I rapped lightly on the door. “Clare?” I called. “It’s me, your husband.”
“It’s not locked.” Her voice was soft though the door. I turned the door knob and slipped into the dark room. My wife was laying on our bed on her back, our comforter pulled up to her neck like it was a child’s security blanket. I sat down on my spot in the bed, picked up my legs and laid down next to her, situating myself under the comforter with her. We lay there next to each other for a few minutes in silence until I turned my head in her direction and said “the turkey was really moist today.”
Clare chuckled quietly. I reached my arm around her and pulled her closer. Clare rested her neck on top of my arm, leaning her head into my arm pit. I smoothed her hair out of her eyes with my free hand and let my hand linger gently across her midsection.
“I’m tired.” My wife yawned and moved closer to me.
“Sleep baby,” I urged. “Shhhh. Just sleep.”
“What about the kids?”
“That’s why we own people called ‘relatives’.”
Clare laughed softly. “Aren’t we being rude? We are the hosts and all.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I assured her. I kissed her temple gently. “Just rest.”
I allowed her to lay on my shoulder for a few minutes, her eyes closed and her breaths coming deep and long. She was asleep, so peaceful and undisturbed. I smiled and started stroking her cheek lightly with my fingers. “I scored the best prize ever,” I thought out loud softly. I kissed the edge of her lips delicately and settled back down on the bed. The offer I had been given from that morning would have to wait once again to be discussed. I only had until February to decide if I would take the part or not. I knew I would have to wait until the babies were born to discuss it with my wife.
I looked down at the woman who knew me better than I knew myself and kissed her temple one last time before having to shake her awake to go back downstairs to the zoo that our house had turned into.