“You sure you’re doing the right thing?”
“I’m doing something I should have done a long time ago.”
“Well, duh! I agree with you there. But come on – this is a lot of info all in one fell swoop. I mean she won’t even have time to assimilate all of it and suddenly she’ll be face to face with it!” He sighed. “I still think you should break it to her gently. Give her a day or two… then plop out the rest.”
“I’ve wasted five years, Bri... More! I can’t wait any longer.”
Brian shook his head incredulously. “Man, I still can’t
believe you never told your mom you had a son. Hell, Kev… I mean, not even at
some point in the past couple of years? I mean you talk to her all the time…
And what about when you fell apart after Kat first left? What the hell did you
tell her then?”
Kevin turned away from his cousin, focusing on the two children who were trying hard to get Baby Tom to walk further. “I didn’t ‘fall apart.’ I was ill from exhaustion. All that touring. It was work-related.”
Brian snorted. “That’s bullshit and you know it, cuz. No matter how many times you try and rewrite history you’re not going to convince yourself of it and you know it.” He was going to say more but he could see Kevin’s body language start to bristle. Kevin was a stubborn jerk when he got his back up… and this was obviously not a good time to push the issue. But, by God, he was going to… and soon.
“Fine, so you never told Aunt Ann. How do you do that now? You know she’s going to tar your behind for not coming clean sooner.”
Kevin smirked. Whenever Brian got upset, but was trying not to show it, he’d revert to his Southern roots… “She won’t ‘tar my behind.’ That’s why I’m presenting her with Chris immediately after I tell her. She won’t have time. It’ll be a good thing.”
Brian laughed. “Wuss. Still afraid of your Mama.”
“Hell yeah,” Kevin agreed then sighed. “I know it’s going to be rough. And she’s going to be very angry. She has a right to be. But if I can get her on side… well, letting the rest of the family know will be heck of a lot easier.”
“What?!” Brian looked at him incredulously. “You haven’t told your brothers either?! Holy shit, Kevin!”
“Yeah, like you’ve told your folks about their other cousin. Don’t scowl at me, Rok. We’re all to blame for this one. Okay, so maybe I’ve been the worse – at least Howie told his family. Hell, he told the world! But you’re my cuz and you’ve been just as quiet about it all too.”
Brian shifted nervously. “It wasn’t my place to….”
Kevin snorted. He looked back at the children in the back yard, and sighed. “Brian, let’s not keep passing the blame back and forth. I just have to figure out what to say to my mother. And I really need your help and support with it.”
A cheer erupted from children, and both men turned quickly. Tom was on his feet, shakily, one chubby hand grasping his adoring sister’s and the other in his older cousin’s. He had managed to kick the basketball that had been lying on the grass, and was trying to chase it on its path. He managed a few more steps before his little legs gave out from beneath him and the three children collapsed into laughter on the ground. Kevin grinned widely and turned to Brian, who had a glistening in his eyes as he beamed proudly at his son.
“What do you know? The kid can walk. Of course, he does it as well as you. Always tripping over his feet.” Kevin smirked. “Bet he’ll be forgetting dance steps sooner than you know it.”
Brian swatted him without heat. “Shut up Train. I remember a certain Kentucky hick who almost spent his entire year’s salary on videotape for his camcorder. Then proceeded to make us all watch the footage over and over again – even though we’d been there when he’d shot the whole thing the first time.”
Kevin blushed. “I wasn’t that bad,” he mumbled.
“Were too. Kev.”
“No, you shut up.”
“Told you first.”
They continued this way, in good nature, for a little while until a flying child interrupted them.
“Off! Geez Chris! I swear, no more of Aunt Leigh’s cooking for you. You are getting so big and heavy.”
Chris laughed joyfully. “But Dad, I like grits!”
Brian ruffled his hair, much to Chris’s chagrin. “Good Southern boy, you got there, Kev.”
Chris got comfortable in Kevin’s lap. “So what were you talking about?” He asked.
“About how fast you all grow up. Look at Tom – soon he’ll be walking around here,” Kevin replied with a wistful sigh.
“Aunt Leigh says we mustn’t teach him to walk.”
Brian frowned. “You mustn’t? Why not?”
“Cos when Bryleigh learnt to walk she was a terror and that it’s better that Tom stay a baby and not turn into the little monster that his sister is.”
Kevin chuckled. “Sounds like Leighanne.”
“Well, she’d got it wrong. Bryleigh was only ever taking after her cousin Chris. Now he was the real monster,” Brian said.
“I am sure he wasn’t, cuz,” Kevin replied. “Why Chris is a veritable angel. Never does a thing wrong. Nope, I think it is Bryleigh who is the bad influence around here.”
“I am sure that is not the case, CUZ.” Brian said, making a funny face at Chris, who giggled. “I distinctly remember that you once said that Chris was a menace.”
“Nope, wasn’t me. Must have been Kat.”
“No way, not my Mommy,” Chris interrupted.
“Oh yeah, why not?” Kevin asked.
“My mommy would never say anything mean about me,” Chris told them solemnly, fixing both men with an expressionless face. Then breaking off in peals of laughter at their stunned looks.
He took a deep breath, then exhaled happily. “That’s what I needed. Good old Orlando air.” He took another breath. “Good for what ails you.”
“Even if what ails you is mental deficiency?” Tina asked with a wry grin.
“Come here woman,” AJ growled and swept her into his arms. “If I’m insane, it’s cos of you. So can it.”
She laughed huskily. “I thought we did “can it” earlier,” she said as she nipped her earlobe.
“We sure did, baby,” he grinned then kissed her. “Welcome back to the Mile High Club.”
“Who said I ever let my membership lapse?” she replied, then laughingly jumped away from his grasping hands.
“You better be joking, woman,” he rumbled once he caught her.
“Oh, look who it is – Ms. ’I’m so over him’ and Mr. ‘I’ve moved on.’ And how are you today?” a voice said behind them.
AJ wrapped his arms around Tina and turned her around so they could see who was talking. “Oh hey, Kev. Great to see you. Sorry you came all the way down here to pick us up, but we’ve already got a car waiting.”
“Dumbass,” Kevin laughed. “My world does not revolve around you. I’m here to pick up my mom.”
Tina’s eyes went wide. “I am shocked. Shocked! Aren’t you, Alex?” she asked guilelessly. “He doesn’t love us. Nope, no way. We just don’t rate.”
“I know, hun. He’s just as callous as ever.” AJ kissed her cheek. “He doesn’t even ask if our flight was okay.” He sighed. “No love, no love at all.”
Kevin groaned. “Oh damn!. They are back in that lovebird phase again. You two are going to drive us crazy with that….”
AJ lowered his sunglasses a tad and gazed at him over the rim. “Yeah… ain’t it cool?”
“Mom, what I was trying to say in the car was this… I have a bit of a surprise for you. And I am not sure how you will take it.”
Ann gestured for him to put down her bags and took a breath, looking around the hallway. “I always did love this hallway. So fresh and sun-filled,” she sighed. Then turned back to him. “Now, son, you know that there is nothing that you can tell me. You just go ahead and get it out.”
“I’m just…” he replied hesitantly. “It’s very hard to explain. I am not sure…”
“Oh, sweetheart,” she sighed and patted his cheek. “Why don’t we go sit down and you can tell me all about it? I am parched after that trip and I’d love to have a glass of lemonade and kick off my shoes.” She walked into the kitchen, with Kevin trailing behind bashfully. “Whatever it is, it’ll be easier to say once we are settled.”
Kevin smiled, and helped her put a tray of lemonade and cookies together. He’d tried to shoo her away so he could do it himself, but she’d cut him off with a sharp “I’m not that old, son” and he’d just let her take over, using his help when she needed it. They finally settled at the table in the dining room.
“Well, what’s all this that you had to say that made me trek halfway across the country?” she asked with a smile. “You know how I hate to miss my days at the store.”
He chuckled. “What you miss is the gossip. And I am sure we can load you up with that while you’re here. AJ is back in town, and with Tina, so you just know he’s bursting to tell you all about their reconciliation.”
“Ah, good. So he finally saw the light,” she beamed, taking a sip of her lemonade. “I’m sure he’ll tell me all the naughty details.”
“Oh hush! Alex can tell me all about it because I’m not his mother. Don’t you go telling me all that stuff. I changed your diapers. What you do with all that now is your business.”
Kevin flushed. “But you see Mom… that is sort of what I have to talk to you about…”
“Going gay like Howie?” Ann asked briskly.
“Well, it works for him. Makes him happy. I want you to be happy too, so if you are that’s okay.”
“That’s not what it is…”
“Well, spit it out then. My feet are aching and I want to go lie down for a while. Just tell me what you want and let me go rest.”
Kevin sighed. He still hadn’t figured out how to break it gently and he didn’t want to upset her. Despite the vigorous front she was putting on, he knew this would hurt her.
“Mom, I have to tell you…”
The front door opened and Brian called, “Kev? I see you’re back. Is Aunt Ann here?”
“We’re back here, Brian,” Kevin called reflexively, then, as feet stomped down the hallway he realized – Brian had Chris with him.
He had no time to react as the child scurried round the corner then came to a stop, looking at the tall thin woman who had stood as soon as Brian’s voice has sounded. The two gazed back and forth for a moment, before Chris ran forward, launching himself at her, crying joyfully, “Gramma Ann, Gramma Ann, Gramma Ann.”
“Chris! Honey, look at you! Oh, how you’ve grown!” Ann replied as she sweep the boy into her arms, hugging him and covering his little face with kisses.
The two of them chattered away while Kevin and Brian stood there, stunned.
Kevin finally cleared his throat, letting out a croak.