“Hey hey, eyes on the prize there, bobo!” KC told Jacob, pointing to the item on his workbench.
“I was just …”
“I saw what you were just. That is my girl over there and you need not be looking at her rear end!” KC pointed at Evey through the large window between the workshop and the sales floor, suppressing a grin.
“I wasn’t I swear I was just … oh, you are fucking with me again.” Jacob realized KC was laughing.
“Maybe, but I am dead serious when I tell you NO MORE CURSING! There often are children in this shop. And take it from someone who learned the hard way, once you are used to cursing, it is very hard not to when your kids reach a certain age, when they do, they are like sponges for everything you do not want them to remember. And I have been through a lot, but sitting through a school meeting because my innocent little angel girl used some really awful words in class, while all of the other mothers looked at me like they wanted to crucify me is not something I want to repeat. Evey knew full well why she made me go to it.” he grinned, shaking his head.
“She is really strict, your wife.”
“Evey? Nah, only if she has to be. I needed that sometimes. Probably still do. I was 50 shades of messed up. I’d probably be with my cousin Lillian if it weren’t for her.”
“Six feet under, kid. You think you have had problems with your daddy issues.”
“Yeah, I heard about yours, that shooting at my mom’s wedding. Yikes. Makes what mine did look like a picnic.”
“Nah, it doesn’t. I think you father is a waste of skin too. At least you came around. You’ll see, you’ll be glad one day. You will miss a lot of fun other kids your age have, but knowing Heath and Sam, they’ll let you go party or whatever if you ask them. They’ll watch your kid. How’s it going living over there anyway?”
Jacob had moved in with Heath, Sam, Abby and their half-siblings a few weeks ago.
“Weird. Pretty okay, but weird. I am staying with Abby in her room. Still feel like I need to sneak in there, even though everybody knows, you know…”
“Oh, I do know. I used to live there, well, the house that was there before the one you are living in now, when it was still Evey’s grandparents’ home. She had a room too, at the end of the hallway. Even after we officially were a couple it was seriously weird not having to sneak into one room together. Funny thing is, her grandparents knew all along, they later told me, after we were already engaged and living together, laughing their butts off at my face. I was so embarrassed, had always thought we were so dang sneaky.”
“Sounds like real good people.”
“The best. Pity you never got to meet them. Heath lived there too. Made him the man he is now, too. He really is a good guy. Annoying as heck, but I’d trust him with my life.”
“Yeah, I know. I am embarrassed about it, and don’t know how to tell him, but I feel like I should apologize to him. I don’t even know why I hated him so much. He is pretty all right.”
“I know how you feel. Better than you’d think. Definitely an acquired taste that guy. But once you have acquired it, you realize you are better off for it.”
“I wished you were my dad, Mr. McCoy. Hopefully I’ll figure out that dad-thing and get it right. If it’s a boy, I think I want to suggest naming him ‘Kieran’, after you.”
“Agh- don’t do that. First of all, call me KC. Not Mr. McCoy and definitely not Kieran. And the only thing I’d ever want named after me is a beer. Or a sandwich. Not a child. Name it something solid like Liam or smart sounding, like … I don’t know…. Everett.”
“Sounds like a mountain.”
“That’s Everest, you dimwit. Now get back to work. I don’t pay you to stand around talking. And if you want me to listen to your problems, you better lay down on that couch in the office and pay me.”
“I’ll be right back. Can you handle not cutting off body parts while I am gone?”
“I’ll do my best.” Jacob shook his head as KC patted him on the back on his way out.
KC grinned as he passed through the door connecting the shop with the office. He enjoyed training Jacob a lot more than he cared to admit. It had a deja vu aftertaste and it took him back many years to a time when he was a young man in desperate need of a real chance – and had somebody there who gave it to him. That man had shaped his entire life.
“Hey baby…” KC said, Evey who had returned to the office in the meantime, looking hurried and tense as she was typing away on the computer.
“Hey…” she greeted without even looking up, a sign she was in the middle of something important.
“I figured it out.” KC told her.
“Figured what out?” she now jumped up and ran to the filing cabinet, whirled through a binder, then looked relieved. KC had caught up with her.
“Why you just had to drag that kid here for me to deal with, when Josh has been begging for people to help make copies and filing at his office, something Jacob could do just as well and would pay a lot better than we can. You turned me into your grandpa. I am Liam now. Ha!”
“What will it take for you to never say that really disturbing sentence out aloud ever again? I loved my grandpa, but really don’t want to be married to him.” she looked at him, amusement glistening in her eyes.
“Oh, it’ll cost ya. I’ll collect when your parents are back, cos I will need those kids of ours gone for a full weekend.”
“Now you are scaring me.”
“You’ve never complained before.”
He was about to kiss her when the bell over the door alerted them to a customer entering the store.
“Dammit, not now.” Evey complained.
“Let them browse, if they steal something, it would be little and I’ll have Jacob work on remaking it for practice. If they are strong enough to run away with bigger solid wood things, I don’t want to be the one to have to tell them they can’t. I like to choose my brawls.”
“EVERLEIGH! OPEN UP!” pounding on the office door and Joshua’s voice.
Evey opened and Joshua burst inside.
“Great timing, I just about had your sister agree to do naughty things with me for an entire weekend.”
“Thanks KC, which brother wouldn’t like to hear THAT. But while we are on topic of naughty things, do you know why I am here and not at work, Evey?”
“Not a clue, Josh.”
“Emmi and I were taking our dog Cosmo in to get spayed this morning, so I took half a day off. Well, we didn’t get her spayed, you know why?”
“Because Cosmo is pregnant! I assume by YOUR dog, so it is YOUR fault!”
“Why Alpine? Maybe it was Rex? You guys are watching him while mom and dad are gone.”
“Rex is too old for that! No, I have seen the way your dog looks at mine!”
KC burst into loud laughter while Evey tried to calm down her brother, who was at best comical in his state of anger. Josh was too nice a guy to really be scary.
“Come on, Josh, how is that so bad? KC and I will take the puppies. Maybe mom and dad would want one. Rex is getting older ….” Evey tried.
“Like hell we will. Stick more and more into this shop till we can barely get the door shut. Especially some puppies shittin’ all over the place! Nah, it’s your hussy of a dog, Josh, so it’s your problem. Maybe Heath would want one of the puppies, I don’t think he is fully at capacity with his insanity yet! And just like humans, male dogs are NEVER too old to make puppies, you boss, you!” KC said firmly.
“Well, anyway, I just wanted you to know. You need to get your dog neutered, you two!”
“Maybe you should have the bird and bees talk with your dog, Josh!” Evey could barely keep a straight face.
Josh stormed out, KC was still laughing as he returned to the shop. Before the door fell shut behind him, Evey heard him say
“Hey kid, get a load of this …”
“Oh KC. Bull in the china store.”
Soon after school was out, KC and Evey’s twins came in, after the usual routine of talking about their day while Evey fed them, supervised homework Ethan suddenly asked.
“Mom, when is grandpa finally back?”
“Not for a few more weeks, honey. Why?”
“I really wanna go fishing again. Was so much fun last time, just the men of the family.”
“Daddy can take you and Cole. No need to wait for grandpa.”
“Yeah … I’ll just wait.”
“Hang on. You used to love doing stuff with your daddy.”
“Still do … it’s just … I don’t want you to divorce daddy.”
“Ha ha ha, what? Where is that coming from honey.” Evey couldn’t help but laugh at the randomness of his outlandish idea.
“When we are gone, you will marry uncle Heath. And I will come back and not have a mommy.” Ethan was dead-serious and Evey’s smile long gone.
“Ethan! Why would you say that?!” Everleigh felt like her heart stopped.
“Just cause I … know things …”
“No, no, young man. That is pretty bad stuff, you will need to back it up. Where did that come from? You can tell me, you won’t get into trouble.”
KC entered and Ethan looked down at his feet.
“Mom, can I go play instead?”
“No, Ethan, you may not. Daddy should hear this too.”
“Hear what? Don’t tell me now he is the one cursing! Please don’t make me sit through another meeting with all the mean moms, Evey!” KC told her, frowning.
“No, he thinks I am going to leave you for Heath if you take him fishing.”
“Ha ha ha, son, your mommy likes to torture me way too much. She ain’t going nowhere.”
“KC, he is being serious.”
“OK, son, why would you think that?”
“Ashton said so. In recess today.”
“And where does Ashton get all that profound knowledge?”
“From his mom. He heard her and his daddy fight. And his mommy said that his daddy loves my mommy and wants to marry her instead. You won’t let him, will you daddy?”
“Ethan, those are just mean rumors. Somebody is angry at someone and they lied to get back at them. Like a certain little boy has done before, when they lied about eating an entire bag of candy, blaming their twin sister.” KC snuggled his son.
“I didn’t do it!” Ethan giggled.
“You were the one throwing up chocolate all night.”
“So mommy will not leave us?”
“If she tries I will get her back. But your mommy loves you, your sister and me very very very much and would never leave us. Ok? I promise you that, kiddo.”
KC felt Ethan relax, who then smiled up at his father
“Thanks daddy. Can I go play now?”
“Of course … hello … have you met mom?”
“Good point kid, go torture your sister then. I’ll go torture your mother.”
He was released, leaving two shocked parents behind.
“Well, Barbie, here we are. I knew sooner or later this would come up. So, trouble on the Grainger homefront, huh? Surprised Heath hasn’t been here yet, to cry at your shoulder.”
“He never said a word. Should I…”
“No baby. You need to let him figure things out by himself. If he comes to you for help, by all means, help. But let him ask you for it. And just to make sure, do I need to check the closets for packed bags?”
“You are NOT funny.”
“For a man who just learned from his 12 year old son that he is the talk of the local elementary school playground, I think my sense of humor is fine.”
“I wish my parents were back. I’d stick them with the shop and we’d go away for the weekend. Just us and the kids.”
“If you want to do this guy a solid, you get Josh and Emmi to take the kids this Sunday and we go rent a cabin for the day. I think I need some serious Barbie TLC to work out that shock.”
“Fine, you got it!”
Evey simmered for days in her worry, until Heath came to the shop to return a borrowed book.
She had to reluctantly leave him to assist customers, so she parked him in the store’s kitchenette, where KC found him when he came to refill his coffee.
“Want a refill too, buddy?” he offered.
“No, thanks, I should get going.” Heath said, but didn’t move when KC sat down across the table from him.
“Done packing yet?”
“I beg your pardon?” Heath looked somewhat amused.
“Found out from my son that your son thinks you are about to make off with my Evey.”
“Something about a fight between you and Sam your son Ashton must have overheard.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
“KC, I have no designs on anything with Evey. Sam was just …. she was … uh …”
“If I didn’t know that, you wouldn’t be sitting upright right now sipping my coffee, bud. So was she tired of being your second choice?”
“KC…” Heath did not like the direction of that conversation.
“I know how she feels. I’ve been through it myself. I got over it, so there is hope. Although, you two really need to keep that shit buttoned up, so you don’t screw up your kids. Or mine.”
“Duly noted. And you have nothing to worry about. If it comes to Evey, I cannot hold a candle to you. Nor would I ever want to interfere. You two belong.”
“Look, Heath, I know about everything. Remember, I have been there since the very beginning. I have always known that you love her, and that more than once you kicked yourself for not taking your chance when you had it. Honestly, if I didn’t like you so much, I’d have one jealous fit after the next and probably have beaten you to a pulp. But I also know Evey. And that very fact is the reason I am not worried in the least. Used to be, but not anymore. Evey has a lot of edges, like we all do, but if she wanted you and not me, she is not the kind that goes behind the back. She would say so straight out. And I can see she loves me, look at this shop. She gave up owning a place like EC Architects for going home each night to shower sawdust out of crevices she didn’t even know she had, hoping we make enough each month to break even again let alone true profit. All for me. So, I am the least of your worries. You should make sure you figure out your home situation and either make Sam happy or make a clean cut, so your kids at least are not torn between you in the middle of a war. And above all, I never want to have my own children dragged into your limping love life again.”
“I truly am sorry about that. The last thing I ever wanted is to hurt my children – or yours – in any way.” Heath looked pitiful.
“I know that. By the way, your step-child is doing really well here. Pretty good with his hands and learns fast. So what’s up with their situation? Any wedding bells or no?”
“Funny you should ask. Incidentally, that was the reason for the fight. Sam got so carried away and was overwhelming Abby with her wedding suggestions. I tried to help and think I said something about Evey having said this or that, thinking another woman’s opinion would be more credible in decoration matters for a wedding than my own. That set Sam off something fierce. She threw every single time at me where she ever felt I looked more to Evey for an opinion and as the cherry on top she accused me of purposely excluding her from the discussion about Abby’s pregnancy and Jacob’s future. I tried to explain to her that Abby went to Evey and that was why Evey was there, but it wasn’t good enough. She feels backstabbed and excluded.”
“Yikes. I honestly can see both sides. Rough seas, huh man? If you ever need a couch, you can always crash with us.”
“I am sure that would only feed into your son’s worry.”
“Ethan is a smart boy. We never made it a habit to lie to our kids, so I am sure we can handle that.”
“OK, you want to hear the truth, KC? I think the thing that upset Sam the most is that I chose to get un-turned, for Abby and for my own sake, without even consulting with her first. I do not know if it is the fact that I am no longer something ‘mysterious’, a vampire, but just a regular man now, not even that much to write home about, or if it was that I didn’t ask her first, but that was the time after which it all changed between her and me. We have not exchanged any romantic gestures to speak of since and if I try she looks at me more disgusted than you would were I to French kiss you right now.”
“So, you won’t fight for her? Try to change her mind?”
“For a battle already lost? No, KC, I won’t. I am well past that and wondering about the house. It was given to me by Evey’s father, I cherish it greatly and also hesitate to just give it away to her, but I can hardly kick out the mother of my children. I wouldn’t even know whom the kids would stay with.”
“Good times, huh?”
“Well, you will always find an open door with us, man. Does Evey know?”
Heath shook his head.
“Do you want her to know?”
“Do you want me to tell her so she doesn’t try to fix you?”
He left while Evey was still with a customer, just waved goodbye to her.
When she returned to the office, KC gave her a quick rundown of the situation, then kept her from going over to the Grainger’s home.
“I cannot believe you just let him walk out like that! This will kill him! We need to fix this, get them back together!”
“Evey, no. What do you want to do? Talk them into a coma and then shackle them together? You need to leave them be. Heath will come to you if he needs help. He is a grown man, he wants to be treated like a grown man, and you need to let him be one. I know him, too, don’t forget that. I know he had zero social skills once upon a time and back then he depended on you to pre-chew life for him like a momma bird, but he has since flown the nest, Evey. He is a pretty solid human being now. He can handle himself, and he can handle issues himself. And Sam can too. This is THEIR thing. They may well end up working it all out. Or maybe they won’t. Evey, not all relationships last. And from what Heath told me, theirs may well have run its course. It may be better for the kids if their parents go separate ways, as long as they don’t use the kids as tokens, which, I know Heath a lot better than Sam, but am pretty sure neither would.”
“Do you think this is my fault, KC?”
“No. You may be part of the reason for the final exodus, but it’s not your fault, Evey.”
“Maybe if I explained to Sam…”
“But you shouldn’t. Sam knows you and about your special relationship with her husband. You will leave her be. If she wants to talk to you, she will. I have faith in the girl, she knows how to operate a cell phone, I have seen her do it many times. Leave them be.”
“I don’t want them to break up.”
“Neither do I. But if they do, we will roll with it. If they don’t, we will roll with that too. Copy, babe?”
“That’s my girl! Oh – and just for the record: never ever leave me, Evey. It would kill me if you did.”
“Then learn to pick up your damn socks or I will leave you for a Roomba!”
“That’s some stiff competition. But I can lift heavy things and kill insects on demand.”
“Well, looks like I have no choice but to keep you after all.”
“Especially since we have some big celebrations coming up.” KC said with excitement in his voice.
“Didn’t realize you were looking forward so much to Abby’s wedding.” Evey grinned at him, obviously teasing.
“You are lucky you are purdy, you cheeky girl. No, I am talking about some big birthdays.”
“Don’t remind me. The twins turning 13 and my hubby turning into an old man. Maybe I should look into getting together with Heath after all. I am not ready for elder care.” Everleigh teased.
“40 is not old. And remember: you are only 3 years behind me, and whatever jokes you crack now at my expense will come back to bite you then, wifey!”