Anna and I sat down at the table. This had become our new semi-weekly thing. The two of us had lunch together and whatever restaurant seemed good at the time. She and the kids still came over to the house sometimes, so I got to see them, too.
I smiled over at my step-mother. “So, how did Blake’s project go?”
“Oh, the science project?” She smiled with motherly pride. “It was wonderful. You won’t believe what he came up with. He wanted to study sleep deprivation. Guess who his test subject was.”
I laughed. “Oh, poor Anna. How long did you have to go without sleep?”
“Two days,” she said with a chuckle. “But it was worth it. He got first prize!”
“Of course he did. My little brother is brilliant.”
Our conversation got derailed with the appearance of the waitress. After we made our order we talked about my school and Tommy and how Anna had taken up painting. While we waited for our check, Anna smiled wistfully at me. “I really miss our dinners, you know.” She sighed softly. “I know Huy ruined things, but it was so nice having you over and the kids loved it too.”
I paused and thought about it. I had liked seeing Anna and the kids so much. It was just Huy I didn’t want to see anymore. “He isn’t home for dinner during the week, is he?”
She shook her head. “He gets in later these days, not until after eight at least.”
I smiled. “So why don’t I come over for dinner on Thursday? I’ll be gone before he gets home. We can have our dinners again.”
The older woman beamed. “Really?”
Her happiness was infectious. She may be more of a friend than a mother to me, but it still felt good to make her happy. “Yeah, sure. Hey, why don’t I bring Tommy? You can meet him.”
“That’s a great idea! I can’t wait to see you two.”
“I’m looking forward to it, too, Anna.”
“Loralee!” Anna said excitedly as she ushered us into the house. “And you must be Tommy.”
He smiled and nodded at her. “Hello, Mrs. Casillas.”
“Please, call me Anna.” She went into the living room. “Tommy, this is my oldest son Bradley, and this is Blake.” Brianna came running in from the other end of the house and jumped onto the couch. Anna laughed softly. “And that would be baby Brianna.” The little girl smiled shyly at Tommy.
“It’s, um, really nice to meet you all.”
I smirked over at Tommy as we sat down at the table. “A little much for you?”
“Just a bit. I don’t think I’ve been around so many kids since I was one.”
I snorted. “Don’t be so dramatic. Besides, Bradley’s ten! You’re not a kid now are you?” I teased.
He huffed and sat down in a chair. “No, I’m not.”
Anna came over and set a serving plate down in the middle of the dining table. “Everybody help yourselves.” She sat down and took a plate for herself. Bradley grabbed a plate then went to the sofa to sit with Brianna.
Blake grabbed the remaining seat at the table.
Tommy cleared his throat and looked over at him. “So, Blake. I hear you got first prize at the science fair.”
“Yeah. It’s no big deal though.”
“It is a big deal. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” I said, leaning over the table. “I mean it, Blake. If anybody tells you differently, send them to me.” I knew exactly who would say that it was no big deal. I’d be happy to yell at him again.
He smiled a little, flushing under the praise. “Thanks, Loralee.”
“Tommy, you work with your dad doing construction, right?” Anna asked.
He nodded. “Yeah, they’re working on the new library. It’s supposed to be finished next year.”
“What do you think they’ll do after that?”
“I’m not really sure. Dad kind of just has to go where the money is. We might end up moving.” He looked over in my direction. “But I’m hoping that we don’t.”
That was something of a surprise to me. The last I’d heard, Tommy couldn’t wait to get out of Newcrest. Was it because of me? Did he want to stay here for me? The idea made me smile, though I kept it to myself.
“Well, I hope you stay there, too.” Now it was Anna sliding a look my way. “You two make a very cute couple.”
I huffed softly. “Anna.”
She just grinned.
After dinner, I drove us back to Newcrest. It had taken a lot of arguing, but I’d finally convinced Tommy to let me drive instead of us taking a cab. It was just silly for him to pay cab fare whenever he couldn’t get his dad’s truck now that I had a car. I dropped him off at his house and then headed home.
As I walked inside, I noticed Luc and Alison sitting on the couch together. I smiled over at the two of them. “Hey guys. Have a nice evening?” They’d been hanging out a lot lately, come to think of it.
“Hey, Loralee. How was dinner with Anna? Did you have any run-ins with Huy?” Luc asked, turning to look at me.
I shook my head. “Nope. It all went great, actually. Bradley wasn’t too keen on Tommy, but he was a hit with everyone else.”
Luc rolled his eyes. “Imagine that.” He still thought I was kind of crazy for dating Tommy.
He grinned and Alison snorted softly. She looked over at me. “You want to hang?”
I shook my head. “I’m going to go have a shower and then do my homework. We’ll hang out later, though.”
I went upstairs and stepped in the shower. I thought about Tommy and the way he looked at me as he said he hoped his family didn’t move out of Newcrest. Warmth settled in my stomach, and I grinned into the water.