I sat down across the table from my step-mother and studied her. Though I was the one with a ten-month-old at home, Anna looked ten times more tired than I felt. I opened my mouth to ask how she was, but she spoke first.
“So how is my darling grandson?” She asked through a bright smile.
“Wonderful, as always.” I couldn’t help the fond smile that crossed my face. Talking about my son tended to have that effect on me. “He’s such a chubby little thing, but Mom promises he’s a perfectly normal weight.”
Anna nodded. “Babies are supposed to be chubby to fuel all that growing they’ve got to do.”
“You’re so right.” It was amazing how quickly Logan was growing. At this rate, it seemed like he would be fully grown before I could blink. “How are you, Anna?” I asked, very unsubtly changing the subject.
She waved my question aside. “Oh, I’m fine. You know me.”
“Uh huh,” I said dubiously. “Come on, Anna. I do know you. How are things at home?”
Anna sighed and took a sip of her water. “I think I told you a while ago how there’s been some downsizing and consolidating at Huy’s office. He’s in charge of a lot more now. He’s not handling the stress very well.”
I frowned, leaning on the table towards her. “How not well?”
“Not violently, if that’s what you’re worried about. Just…yelling. Quite a lot of yelling. He’s coming down so hard on Blake for playing video games. He wanted him to go out for the football team or baseball, but Blake wouldn’t do it.” Anna shook her head sadly. “It’s not just Blake, of course. It’s Brianna, too. She brought home a C in math at the end of the year, and he about tore her head off.”
My frown deepened. God, why does she stay with him? She needs to take those kids and run. It was probably too late for Bradley, who had never been very nice, but Blake and Brianna were both such good kids. There was hope for them. “Anna, I know you don’t like me to mention this – “
“Stop, Loralee,” Anna said, sharpness in her voice. “Please, I know what you’re going to say and just…don’t.”
I sighed and picked up my menu. Maybe one day Anna would be ready and able to get away from him. Until then, I needed to worry about my brother and sister.
“You know, Loralee, I can tell you’re being weird.”
I turned away from the chicken I was preparing and looked at Blake. “How am I being weird?”
“Well, for starters, you’re randomly having me over for dinner on a Tuesday.” He gave me a look. “And you didn’t ask Mom over.”
“I asked your sister, but she was busy. I wanted to spend some time with my siblings.” I didn’t mention Bradley, and Blake didn’t seem surprised. My oldest half-sibling just…put me off. Even as a kid, he’d had a mean streak, and it’d only gotten worse over time. I didn’t want to give up on him, but, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure there was anything to give up on, as horrible as that sounded.
I went back to getting the chicken ready to go in the oven. “How’s school going? Who is that awful teacher Josh used to complain about…Mrs. Nackery? Is she still there?”
Blake snorted softly. “Oh yeah, that old hag is still causing terror in the science wing. I don’t think she’ll ever retire, even though she’s ancient.”
I chuckled and put the dish into the oven then washed my hands. I went over to sit next to Blake at the bar. “Is there anyone special?” I smiled and nudged him with my elbow. “You know, I met Tommy when I was about your age.”
Blake went quiet. He looked down at the granite countertop and picked at his hands. “Loralee,” he hesitated. “Can I tell you something?”
I suspected what he had to tell me – I had for a few years now. I reached over and squeezed his arm. “Of course, Blake. You can tell me anything.”
He exhaled a pent-up breath. “I’m gay.”
I stood up, tugged him off of his stool, and into my arms. I squeezed him tightly. “I love you, kiddo.”
He held onto me tightly, relief pouring off of him. “I love you too, Loralee,” he croaked. I knew he couldn’t really have thought I’d ever reject him – hello, lesbian moms – but I knew without a doubt that I was the first person he’d ever told.
When we finally parted, we went into the living room. I turned a smile onto him after we sat down on the couch. “So, is there someone special?”
Blake smiled slowly. “Yeah. Danny Forrester. He’s on the football team. We’ve been dating for a few months now.”
I smiled while he told me all about Danny – and he really did tell me all about him. Even how good he was at kissing, which I probably could’ve lived without knowing, but I didn’t mind. I was happy Blake finally had someone to talk to. I remembered being a teenager and in love – really, not very long ago -; I’d talked the ears off of anyone who would listen.
After a while, I finally asked, “Blake, why haven’t you told anybody else? Your mom or Brianna.” I couldn’t see Anna or Bri having a problem with his sexuality.
He shrugged. “They might not want to tell, but they might say something by accident. If they don’t know, there’s nothing for them to say. Besides,” he said, a frown crossing his face. “I’m not sure Mom wouldn’t go running to Dad with it.”
I sighed softly. “I think your mom is doing the best she can, Blake. She’d never do anything to hurt you.” He just shrugged again.
“Hey, what’s that smell?”
I turned and smiled broadly, finding Tommy just stepping into the house. “I made chicken.” I got up and went over to him, leaning up on my toes to kiss him. “Blake is here for dinner.”
My husband smiled and waved at Blake. “Hey, Blake. I’m glad to have you over.” He turned his attention back to me. “How’s the ankle biter?”
“I was just about to go in and check on him. Why don’t you do that while I see if dinner is ready?”
He grinned. “Sounds like a plan.”
I went into the kitchen and Blake wandered in after me. “Is it always like this?” he asked.
“Like what? Like you might as well throw me in a set of pearls and a cardigan?” I laughed softly. “No, only on nights when the restaurant is closed. Tommy’s usually got to fend for himself for dinner.” I did enjoy playing the happy homemaker on my nights off, though. But it was probably because it wasn’t an every-night kind of thing.
I took the chicken out of the oven and made three plates. I’d just finished making the last one when Tommy emerged from the nursery. “You’ve always got the best timing,” he said with a grin. He came over to claim a plate for himself.
I smiled and went to the dining table with him. “I try.”
Blake sat down with his own plate. “If you guys start sucking face, I’m going to need a puke bag.”
I rolled my eyes at him and threw a pea at him, hitting him right in the forehead. The look he gave me was priceless.