Authors: Shelly Hickman
“You let me know if there are any appointments you want me to tag along on,” I tell Carly over the phone. “Okay? And if there’s any kind of information you need me to track down, just tell me.”
“Thanks, Mom,” she says glumly.
Standing in the closet in my bra and panties, I pull a shirt off the hanger. Kiran leaves a soft kiss on my shoulder before walking into the bedroom.
“Carly,” I say firmly. “We’re gonna figure this out, okay? You have an entire family who is here for you guys.
She needs to know I understand this situation with Claire is putting stress on her marriage, and the last thing I intend to do is take sides, making her feel she can’t vent without making Jason into the bad guy. Granted, it won’t be easy if he continues to blind himself to Claire’s issues. I’ll have to make a concerted effort to remember they’re both doing the best they can.
“Mmm hmm.” Though her voice is controlled, there’s no hiding her pain. “Mom, what’s wrong with her? What if she needs psychiatric help?”
I enter the bedroom and lay my t-shirt and jeans on the bed. “Then that’s what she’ll get. There’s no shame in that.”
Kiran listens with a thoughtful expression and exhales.
“Whatever she needs,” I continue. “All right? We’re going to get her through this. You’ll see.”
“I love you, sweetie.”
“I love you, too.”
Tossing the phone on the bed after disconnecting, I bring a hand to my forehead. “God!” I mutter.
Without a word, Kiran walks over and wraps his arms around my shoulders from behind, squeezing me tightly for a few moments. Turning around, I lower my head and lean into his chest. “I can’t stop thinking about that day.”
“I know,” he says, running his hands up and down my arms. “What can I do?”
Still bending forward with my forehead resting on him, I let my arms dangle below me. “Ughh… I wish I knew.”
“Come here.” He takes my hands and makes me sit on the edge of the bed beside him, but doesn’t immediately say anything.
“…Maybe we should postpone the wedding—”
“No.” I shake my head.
“Hear me out.” He pauses to rub his jaw. “You’re overwhelmed right now.”
“No, I’m not. I know it seems that way because I haven’t done much planning yet, and I’m sorry, but it’s only because I’m indecisive. Not overwhelmed.”
Oh, Lord. The tears are about to break again. I can feel it. Please don’t be a whiny cry baby.
Fuckin’ hormones, I hate you!
“Stop apologizing!” His eyes bore into mine. “Let’s just talk about this for a minute.”
talking about it, and we’re getting married in December, just like we planned.” I squint and press his nose with my index finger, and he gives me a reluctant chuckle. “Please. Don’t take this from me.”
His eyebrows draw together, and I immediately regret my words. “Why would you say it like that?”
“Never mind. I didn’t mean for it to come out that way.”
The look on his face tells me he’s not convinced.
“Let’s start making some decisions right now,” I say, moving the conversation away from my thoughtless comment. Standing up, I grab my jeans and start pulling them on. Seth has invited another one of his “friends” over tonight and the four of us are going to have dinner, which he has offered to prepare. “I think it would be gorgeous if we had the ceremony right here in Desert Shores. In fact, there’s a place that organizes lakeside weddings here.”
“Sounds perfect,” Kiran says softly, still sitting on the bed.
“Hey.” I stand between his knees and take his face in my hands. “I didn’t mean you would try to take this from me. I just meant, this is one thing I’m really looking forward to, and I don’t want to put it off, no matter how much of this other shit is going on. That’s all.”
Nodding once, there’s a bit of relief in his smile.
Playfully brushing his whiskers with my knuckles, I say, “You need to shave.”
“Is that so?” He pulls me in by the waist and scratches my stomach with his stubble, which elicits an extremely non-sexy laugh from me.
His bristling soon turns into kissing, and within moments, he’s slowly pulling down my unbuttoned jeans.
“And what do you think you’re doing?”
Looking up at me with those gorgeous green eyes, he says, “What does it look like I’m doing?”
I scowl and tap a finger to my lips, considering his question, which is when he flips me onto the bed beneath him.
“But Seth and his friend will be here soon.”
“Oh, well.” Nuzzling me, he kisses my neck. “He’ll understand.”
I’m pleased to report I’ve no inclination to dodge this bullet.
“Seeing as we got a little sidetracked—not that I’m complaining or anything…” As I pull on my t-shirt, I can smell whatever Seth has started for dinner downstairs. “We didn’t get to finish discussing wedding plans.”
“Okay. What else did you want to discuss?” he asks, pulling on his Levi’s. “Food? Song for first dance? Or do you even want dancing?”
“Actually, I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet, but was wondering about your choice for best man. You already know Carly’s going to be my maid of honor, but you haven’t shared your pick.”
Sitting on the bed, he strums his fingers on his knees, hesitating.
“A-a-a-nd your body language tells me you want to ask Seth.” I laugh.
“Will that bother you?”
“Why would it bother me? It’s your wedding, too—pick who you want.” Although, I was secretly expecting he would choose his father.
“And what are your thoughts on the bachelor party?” Buttoning his shirt, he adds, “This
we’re talking about.”
“Look, I realize some brides like to make stipulations on the bachelor party, but I’m not one of them. You only get one. So have your strippers, your wild party, if that’s what you want.” Then I sit in his lap and wrap my arms around him. “I take that back. I do have one condition: look but don’t touch.”
It’s an hour after we’ve finished the delicious dinner of Butter Chicken that Seth prepared for us, and the four of us share our third bottle of wine as we remain seated at the kitchen table. The dishes have been cleared away, and I’m having a lovely time talking to Seth’s date, Gretchen, who at least appears to be closer to Seth’s age. If I had my guess, I’d say she’s two or three years younger than me, with naturally blonde hair and freckles faintly sprinkled across her nose.
After telling her about my children and grandchild while Kiran and Seth carry on their conversation, I ask her if she has any children of her own.
“I do. I have two sons, one twenty-four and the other twenty.” Earlier, we had learned that she is recently divorced and met Seth when she hired him as her realtor.
As we finish our dessert, it’s becoming apparent that all four of us are sloshed. I know I am, and the conversation has gotten pretty loose, with raunchy jokes aplenty and embarrassing stories from our youth. Kiran is especially jovial, finding everything Seth says highly entertaining. When I take our plates to the kitchen sink, Gretchen joins me.
“It was so nice of you and Kiran to have me,” she says. “Thank you.”
“It’s our pleasure! So what do you think of Seth?” Normally, I wouldn’t be this nosy and familiar, but I tend to get that way when I’ve had a few.
She grins with a glint her eye. “I like him. A lot.”
you?” I smile back. “He can be quite the charmer, can’t he?”
Listen to me playing the little matchmaker when I have absolutely no idea how Seth feels about her. However,
“What are you girls talking about over there?” Seth calls.
“Beg your pardon,” I say. “Who are you calling girls?” We return to the table and I pick up the bottle of wine to freshen each of our glasses.
“I don’t know,” Gretchen says, affectionately bumping her shoulder to Seth’s. “I kind of like being called a girl.”
“You like that, eh?” Seth pulls her in for a kiss, then she looks at Kiran and me and blushes.
“Maybe you’re right, Gretchen.” I wrinkle my nose and take a sip of wine. “It’s better than being called an old hag, which is what I’ve been feeling like lately.” I accidentally snort.
“You may feel like an old hag, but you look like a girl.” Kiran touches my hair. “
“Aww!” I beam at him. “That’s so sweet. Isn’t that sweet?”
“Hey, I have a great idea,” Seth says.
The mischief in his eyes makes me uneasy, and I hope he isn’t going to suggest getting stoned.
“How about we play some strip poker?”
“Wh-a-a-a-t?” I sound like the guy on the Cox Cable commercials.
“Are you being serious?” Gretchen asks.
“Why not? It’ll be fun! What d’ya say, cuz?”
A look of intrigue is on Kiran’s face and his eyes glow. “Anna?”
My mouth falls open. This willingness must be part of whatever thing he’s going through. “Uh, I don’t think I’m anywhere near drunk enough to consider strip poker as a foursome.” I look down my shirt to recall which bra I’m wearing and Gretchen giggles. “Plus, strip poker is unfairly designed in the men’s favor because it takes longer for us to see anything of yours before you see anything of ours, given that you don’t have boobs.”
“Yes, but we also don’t have the added clothing item of a bra,” Seth argues.
I give them all a half smile. “Look, I know this seems like a
idea at the moment because we’re all lit, but when morning comes, I really don’t care to remember seeing your cousin’s junk. No offense, Seth.”
“None taken. And you’re making the assumption I’ll lose.”
The craziness of this idea must be sinking in because Kiran makes a face at my comment. “She has a point.”
“Of course I have a point!”
Determined to move forward with this, Seth tries another approach. “Okay, how about this. We’ll do a clean version. When a lady is down to the bra and panties, she’s out—if she chooses. When a man is down to his boxers…” He stops to address Kiran with concern. “You’re wearing boxers, right? Please tell me you don’t do tighty whities.” He busts out laughing at his own remark.
Kiran just shakes his head before taking a sip from his glass.
“No, he does not.” I place my hand on Kiran’s leg. “That would require an intervention.”
Seth turns to his date. “What do you think, Gretch?”
Looking at each of us, she sighs. “I think if we’re going to do this, I’m gonna need another drink.” She polishes off the last of her wine and slides her glass to the center of the table for a refill.
“You guys are something else.” Seth rolls his eyes and rises from his seat. “The clean version is pretty uneventful. Maybe you’ll get a little more adventurous once we start playing. I’m gonna go get a deck of cards.”
The three of us sit in silence while we wait for Seth to return. Picking up my glass and swirling it in small circles, I say, “If I’d known this was on the agenda for tonight, I would have worn some prettier underwear.”
“I wore my pretty underwear!” Gretchen says brightly.
She and I chuckle. Kiran quietly walks to the refrigerator and opens it, standing there a few moments.
“What are you looking for, sweetie?”
“Another bottle of wine,” he says without turning around. “We’ve almost finished that one off already.”
“Oh, I don’t think we have any more chilled.” I head to the pantry and locate another bottle. Then offering him a flirty smile, I hand it to him. “Stick it in the freezer.”
There’s something a little off about him when he takes the bottle from me—almost a forced enthusiasm. He rubs a hand against the front of his shirt before grinning and gives me a peck on the lips.
“Got some cards,” Seth announces upon returning.
“It’s been forever since I played poker,” Gretchen says. “You all will have to refresh my memory on which hand beats what.”
“How about you write it down for us, Seth?” I ask.
Twenty minutes later, Gretchen and Kiran have both lost their shoes and shirts, while Seth and I have managed to remain clothed with bare feet. I am praying to keep my shirt on, because Gretchen turns out to be surprisingly busty, with her pushup bra accentuating her girls in a most dramatic way. And though trying to be discreet, her sidelong glances reveal she has a definite appreciation for Kiran’s physique. I mean, who can blame her? He has an amazing chest, amazing arms…
Kiran, on the other hand, appears to be doing everything within his power
to look at Gretchen’s chest. It’s difficult—I get it. Even
can't stop looking at them. But then again, she’s sitting straight across from me.