The Second Season
Parental Advisory Rating: L, AC
Break out those V-Chips, everyone!
Created, Produced, Directed and Written:
Fanatic and TNovan
Episode Seventeen: I'll Take Manhattan
As I slip the key into the lock, I know what I want. I have one goal in mind and shes somewhere in the apartment. If Im lucky, shes in bed and shes naked. Thatll save a lot of time. Screw foreplay. I hate it when I have to work so late.
I drop my briefcase in the entryway, toss my keys on the table, and begin removing my clothes. There are far too many of them in my way. I hang up my jacket and take off my boots. "Kels?" Come here, baby, I have plans for us tonight. "Oh Kelsey Diane " I pull my T-shirt up over my head and toss it somewhere in the direction of the laundry room.
Where is she?
Ah, there she is. A mad dash and shes in my arms. She must want this too.
"Har " she starts even as I scoop her up.
Nope, no time for talk. Sex now, talk later. I kiss her quite thoroughly to make my point crystal clear. Her moan only makes me more determined. God, I love that sound. I want to hear it again. To hell with the bedroom, we may start here in the foyer.
"Oh, woman, the things I intend to do to you tonight," I inform her as she catches her breath. I head for the kitchen with her wrapped around me to grab a bottle of water from the fridge. Wherever we end up, were gonna need it.
I kiss her again. Shell figure out the game plan eventually. Im having a hard time holding on to her, getting the water and unbuttoning her blouse. I need a spare pair of hands right now. I may have to start biting buttons myself. I secretly love it when Kels does that.
I press her back against the refrigerator to gain some leverage while I fumble about for the water bottle. She squirms against me. The metal door must be cold on her skin. Thats why shes being so difficult about this. "Kels," I whisper in her ear. "Darlin, Im going to do things to you tonight that would make a pro blush."
"Oh God " she groans, her head slumping forward to my shoulder. Thats more like it. Just give in to temptation, baby.
Water in one hand, Kels firmly in my arms, her legs locked around my waist, and were off once more. I plant a warm kiss to the rise of her breast. Why is she trying to button up? I just got it open to something interesting.
"You know, we could go for the kitchen table again," I tease, stepping into the hallway "I didnt like the way it wobbled last time though."
"Harper, we cant "
I give her another incendiary kiss. Shes not getting the message. Cant is not in my vocabulary tonight. Lots of other words are, however, and I proceed to tell her a few of them while we head toward the bedroom. Ill bet the neighbors two floors down are jealous now, if they werent before. "And then, my dear, Im gonna plant myself firmly between your legs and "
She puts her hand over my mouth and pulls back from me. Looking me directly in the eye, she growls, "Mama is in the family room!"
I frown. "Oh yeah, Kels. Thats funny. Sure." I reach up and begin unbuttoning her blouse yet again. "Are you trying to kill the mood?"
She slaps my hand away. "Harper, Im not joking," she whispers. "I swear to God, Mama is in the family room."
Is this some new kinky game Kels has thought up? "You are gonna be in a hell of a lot of trouble when I find out shes not, Stanton. Ill tie you to the bed and torture you for hours for this." I carry her to the archway and glance around the corner.
Oh my God!
Mama is in the family room.
I glance down at my half naked self. My only cover is my smirking wife. I hold her close and I run for the bedroom.
"And to think," I hear Mama call out from her perch on the couch, "you kiss your Mama with that mouth.
* * *
"Why didnt you say something sooner?" she groans from the bed, pulling the comforter around her body like a tight cocoon. She covers her head with a pillow.
"I tried, you horndog. You wouldnt let me get a word in edgewise with your little triple X tirade."
She peeks out at me. "You could have resisted a little harder."
"Oh yeah, like that would have gotten me anywhere. I was trying to figure out how to tell you without yelling to get you to stop."
"Yelling was such a bad option?"
"Apparently not. You were doing enough of it anyway," I cant help but tease her. I cant let this opportunity pass me by. "Now Mama knows what you had planned and Ill bet half of Manhattan does too. We had all the French doors open, it being such a nice night and all."
She groans and replaces the pillow over her head. I tug it away and toss it to the foot of the bed.
"Now, get your butt up and go see Mama."
"No." She sounds exactly like Christian.
"No? What do you mean no? Do you really want me to send her in here?" And I sound exactly like a mother. The hormones are kicking in.
"God, no! You go see her." Now she sounds like that old "lets get Mikey" commercial.
"See, sweetheart, youre missing the point. Ive been with her all evening. She wants to see us."
"Well, she just saw a hell of a lot of us. What more could she want? Lord, take me now."
"That's a buck, babe. I'll be nice and not charge you for all the words you said out in the hallway." I listen with vast amusement as Harper lets out another long groan. "Anyway, I managed to keep most of my clothes on. No thanks to you, Fingers. But shes here to make plans for the wedding next week." I lean over and whisper, "Shes staying all weekend and into next week, just to make sure everything is set."
She groans again, pulling the blanket over her head. "I always knew she hated me. Im gonna lay here and die of embarrassment, okay?"
"No, its not okay." Pulling away the blanket, I give her a slap on her exposed stomach. "And she does not hate you. You thought it was funny when Robie and Rene showed up and I was doing the dying. Why is it not so funny now, Tabloid?"
She uncovers her head. "Its my Mama. The other was only Robie."
"Hmm, sad excuse, sweetheart." I tug on the blanket. "Now get up, get on some clothes, and go see Mama."
"Can I shower first?"
Its a delay tactic, I realize, but if it gets her moving, Ill go along. "If you really think you need one."
"Oh, I need one all right. A cold shower, lots of soap, two tubes of toothpaste and a gallon of mouthwash should just about do it."
I leave my poor spouse on the bed and return to the family room. Mama is laughing so hard she literally has tears rolling down her cheeks. "Shell be right out. Shes going to shower first."
"Did you tell her to wash her mouth out?"
I grin, glancing back to the bedroom. "She figured that one out for herself."
* * *
Perhaps this wasnt the best idea.
Mama is standing, arms crossed, staring at an exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art. She gives me an arch look, as if its my fault its up on the wall. "Why is this here?"
Kels snickers beside me. I give her a look, but it is completely ineffectual.
We all take in the exhibit. Its a toilet seat with a rubber penis attached to it.
"What is this supposed to be?"
I shrug. "I dunno, Mama."
"This what you New Yorkers consider art?"
Kels laughs harder at my discomfort.
"First off, I am not a New Yorker. We happen to live in New York because of our jobs. Second, I hardly consider that art. My rule has always been if I can do it, it aint art."
"I thought you didnt work with that particular substance?" Mama teases, gesturing to the penis.
I am going to die now.
"I think it would be better if the attachment were bright orange," Kels suggests. She is evil.
"Ma petit, youre obviously unfamiliar with their natural color."
Kels is now as red as I am.
Mama, feeling rather self-satisfied, smiles pleasantly. "I think were done here. Where are we having lunch?"
Thank God. I dont think the MOMA is quite ready for Mama.
* * *
We walk the few blocks to the Plaza Hotel. Its my favorite hotel in Manhattan. Located at the base of Central Park, its long been the standard by which elegant hotels in New York are measured. When first constructed at the turn of the century, it was a residential hotel. The Vanderbilts, the first to sign the guest register, had a suite of rooms which are now rented to presidents and royalty.
We have reservations in The Palm Court for lunch. The room is exquisite, designed to remind the visitor of the winter garden in Londons Hotel Carlton. Mama lets out a sound of approval. "At last, we can relax."
The maître d comes over and welcomes us. Mama replies in French. The two of them strike up a conversation while he guides us to our table.
I turn to Kels as we follow them. "If we move, would we have to tell the family?"
"Yes, sweetheart. Now, be good," she whispers back soothingly.
Once seated, we all sit back and relax. Mama straightens the silverware at her place setting and smoothes out the tablecloth. "I have been very patient."
I start to object but Kels kicks me under the table. I shut up. Its for the best.
"I have waited patiently for years for Harper to find you." Mama turns on the charm and smiles brilliantly at Kelsey. "My heart is so full."
Kels reaches out and takes hold of Mamas hand. "Thank you."
I am getting set up for something. I can feel it. Coming in three-two-one
"So, you can only imagine how perplexed I have been at my baby girls reluctance to plan her own wedding."
Houston, we have lift-off. "I am not reluctant, Mama," I protest. "I just dont want it to get out of hand. We talked about this."
"Exactement! Talk, talk, talk but no planning. That is what we must do now. Mon Dieu! It is only a week away!"
A week away. How wonderful. But Ive already been married to my girl for two weeks. Wouldnt that get Mamas panties in a wad? "Mama," I say in my most patient tone of voice, "what is left to be done? I know you have already taken care of the flowers, the musicians and the caterer. What is there left to do?"
"What is there left to do?"
I smirk. "Is there an echo?" Based on the scowl I receive in return that was not the best reply. Kels confirms it with another swift kick in the shin. She covers it up with a quick squeeze of my hand. Yeah, keep up the sweet act in front of my mother, babe. Ill get you later.
"Mama," Kels begins, "what would you like to get settled now?"
"We need to discuss many things, the ceremony, for instance."
"Simple would be good."
Mama gives me the evil eye.
"What did you have in mind?" Kels asks. Suck up.
"Well, of course, it should be traditional. Our priest has offered to officiate, so that is taken care of, at least."
"Mama, we are hardly having a traditional wedding." I need to quickly explain, lest there be a terrible scene here in the Plaza. "We are, after all, two women."
"And what is that supposed to mean? That you cannot stand before God and your family and declare your love for one another?"
"That you are unwilling to allow your mother the privilege of hosting a celebration for you?"
I feel like Im five years old again. Screwing up my courage, I take a deep breath and try to reason with my ragin Cajun mother. "What I mean is I dont think of myself as a bride or a groom. And, its hard to picture a traditional wedding without those roles."
Kels intercedes, "Sweetheart, we could walk in together. So neither of us are being given away or waiting at the altar."
I smile at her. "I like walking in with you." I could have her on my arm, like I wanted to at the Peabodys the other day.
Mama interrupts my pleasant thoughts. "And who is in the wedding party?"
Narrowed eyes peer at me across the table.
"Actually, Harper and I thought wed asked Robie and Rene to fill in as our wedding party. Robie can stand with Harper and Rene can stand with me."
"And what about your other brothers?"
I glance at Kels, looking for guidance. I receive a meaningful look. If only I could discern the meaning. I hazard a guess, "Id love to have them too."
Kels adds, "And, of course, Id want Katherine, Elaine and Rachel with me as well."
Does my wife have any shame?
"Good. I am glad that is settled. What will you be wearing?"
"Clothing," I say.
"Something that compliments whatever Harper is wearing." Kels rests her chin on her hand and smiles at me. She is clearly having far too good a time here.
You are not being very helpful here, chér. Well, lets try and put it back on Mama. "What did you have in mind?"
"I am not wearing a tux, Mama." I sigh and try to make this woman understand. "I dont see myself as a man."
"So you will wear a dress?"
"I definitely dont see that happening either."
"Were out of choices here then."
Kels, God bless her, jumps in. "Harper has a beautiful Armani pantsuit that would be perfect, I think. Very elegant, feminine and appropriate for a wedding."
"And you, ma petit?"
Okay, I guess my outfit is decided on then.
Ha! Kels doesnt know. This is wonderful! Now she can squirm. I lean back in my chair. "Yes, chér, what do you have planned?"
That doesn't work well because Kels gives me a glare that matches Mamas. "Doesnt matter, Tabloid. Youre not allowed to see it until the wedding anyhow." She turns and smiles at Mama. "And Harper will be spending the night before the wedding at Robies, right?"
Oh, yeah, I pissed off the wife.
"But, of course!" Mama wags her finger at me. "Dont complain, either."
"I wouldnt dream of it. Anything else left for us to decide?" This is said with a touch of sarcasm since I havent actually helped decide anything. I have merely sat here and acquiesced.
"What were having for lunch, mon Coeur."
* * *
I leave Harper sleeping and slide out of bed to get ready for my day out with Mama. Were going shopping for my wedding outfit. Since Harper flatly refused to wear a dress, I offered to do it. This seemed to please Mama to no end. I know who to keep happy in the family.
As I shower, I think about the wedding. I know Harper and I cant seem to picture ourselves in a traditional wedding. Mama certainly has a pretty clear picture in her head, though, and we both want Mama to be happy. Harper is, after all, the last of her children to get married. And her only daughter. That role comes with a lot of expectations.
Returning to the bedroom, I find Harper waking, rubbing her eyes and moving around in the bed. Shes not awake enough yet to know Im gone, but the way shes searching my side, shes about to figure it out. I take a seat on the edge next to her and comb my fingers through her hair. "Why dont you go back to sleep?" I whisper.
She opens her eyes and gives me a sleepy little smile. God, I love that. "Why are you up?"
"Im shopping with Mama today, remember?"
"Im sorry." She lets her eyes flutter closed again.
"Im not. Stop being a brat or Ill make you come with us."
Harper does a zipping motion across her mouth. "My lips are sealed. Not another word out of me."
She flings back the covers. "Care to check the body for feathers?"
Kels get off the bed or you wont make it shopping. "Nope."
She snickers and clucks.
I go over to our closet to find something to wear. I hope Mama doesnt mind causal because thats how shes getting me. "You arent going to trap me with that. I promised Id go shopping with Mama and Im going."
She pulls the comforter off the bed and wraps it around her body, following me into the closet. Oh, Kels, dont even go there. Too many bad jokes to be made.
"You are such a suck up by the way."
"Oh, please, dont play innocent with me, Kelsey Diane Stanton. Ever since she walked through the door youve been Yes, Mama. No, Mama. You," Harper leans in, her nose touching mine, "are a suck up."
I ignore her and pull an outfit off a hanger. Placing a finger in her chest, I back Tabloid out of the closet. I gather my things to get dressed. Suck up, huh? Ill show you sucking up. Im going out with her all day, Tabloid. While you stay here. You dont stand a chance.
As I remove my robe to get dressed, she drops to her knees in front of me. Oh, its time for her morning chat. I cant help but smile. She hasnt missed one morning since we found out I was pregnant. Even when she travels, she calls every day and makes me put the phone on my stomach. I do so, even though I am always tempted to listen in. We need to get a speakerphone.
"Good morning, sweeties." She gives my belly a kiss. "How are my babies this morning? So youre gonna go shopping with Mommy and your Grandmere today?"
"Not like they have a choice."
She looks up at me, scowling. "Hush!"
I nod as she continues.
"I expect a full report. If you take good notes, theres a reward in it for you."
That earns her a playful slap to the arm. "Tabloid, you will not start bribing our children in the womb. Get up." I tug her to her feet, giving her a soft kiss on the way. "Now let me get dressed or youre going too."
I laugh as she scampers back to the bed, tosses herself into it, and pulls the covers over her head.
* * *
Okay, with Harper in the black Armani suit, this dress should work nicely. It even fits well too. I smooth out the bottom of the dress and turn to Mama. "Well, what do you think?"
She moves forward, adjusting the bodice a bit and fussing with the sleeves. The way the top is cut, my cameo will be perfectly displayed.
"Its beautiful, Kelsey. This is going to be a lovely ceremony. Even if my daughter is being less than helpful."
I sigh, taking her hands in my own. "Mama, Harper isnt trying to be difficult. Shes not, really. She simply cant see herself standing at the end of an aisle waiting for me to walk down it."
"And would that really be such a bad thing, Kelsey? I mean, whats wrong with that type of wedding? Even for members of the same sex? Just because you want to create your own traditions, does that mean you have to give up some of the most beautiful ones? I remember looking at Jonathan as I walked down the aisle, thinking that I was walking away from my childhood and into a new life with the person I loved most in the world. He was so handsome. It was all I could do to keep from swooning before I got there."
I know that feeling. "No, Mama, of course not."
"Well, we solved that problem anyhow since youll be walking down the aisle with her." Theres a bit of reproach in her voice. Shes not happy with the plan but shes willing to go along with it. I wish there were some way to make her happy. I hate the thought of this not being what she wants it to be. I feel bad in a way for even suggesting the compromise, because I know Harper would have eventually given in and agreed to all her requests.
Except the dress thing. She wasnt budging on that one.
* * *
I hold the wedding band in my hand and feel a tremor run through my body. This makes our upcoming wedding as real to me as our New Mexico wedding was for Harper. Not that it wasnt real for me too, but I had never considered getting married in any fashion. I hadnt even given the New Orleans wedding serious thought until the light caught the diamonds in this ring.
"Kelsey, are you all right?" Mamas voice brings me back.
"Hmm? Oh yeah, Im fine. Should I buy it? I mean, I dont even know if Harper wants to wear a wedding band." Although, if she were to wear one, this would be it. It's a platinum band with four square diamonds in a channel setting. It's very understated but elegant. Like my Harper.
"Ma petit, she loves you. Never doubt that."
"Oh, I dont doubt it. I only know some people prefer not to wear one and Harpers not big on jewelry."
"What does your heart tell you?"
I smile at my mother-in-law, then turn to the clerk. I remove my engagement ring and hand it to her. "I want the same inscription as on the inside of this one."
She jots down the phrase and hands back my ring. "Beautiful choice, Ms. Stanton."
"The perfect one," I agree. The ring and the girl.
* * *
I step out on the balcony to find her relaxed, feet up, contentedly reading a book. She has a tall glass of iced tea beside her and looks very happy. I hope Im not about to ruin that for her. I wander over and slide my arms around her neck, giving her ear a little nuzzle.
"Hi, lover." I cant help myself. The fact that Mama is here has her all kinds of stressed and teasing her is just so damn much fun.
"Kels, behave!" she growls, not unexpectedly. So predictable.
"Aww now, what kind of greeting is that?" I mock pout and come around to place myself firmly in her lap.
Her hands go around my waist automatically. "You are a tease, as well as a suck up. Wheres Mama?" She glances back toward the French doors. Once burned, twice shy.
"Napping." I move in for another nuzzle and a little nip to her neck and ear.
I hear her breathing hitch. "Thank God for that."
"Oh yeah." I continue to explore the slightly salty skin under my lips. Shes starting to sweat a little despite the breeze. Oh yeah, the question. I better find out the answer before we get otherwise involved. Because I intend to get very otherwise involved very shortly. "Harper?"
"Yeah?" She lets her book drop to the tiles. I can tell shes a bit miffed I changed horses in midstream. After the other night, my girl isnt up for a lot of teasing. Id better hurry up.
"I was wondering." I give her neck another kiss and tug on the first button of her shirt, freeing it. "Do you," I begin, as I undo the next button and scratch the top of her chest with my nails. "Do you want a wedding ring? I mean, do you want to wear a wedding band?"
Her head drops back, her eyes close, and she licks her lips. "What did you say, baby?" As my nails graze further down, she tries unsuccessfully to capture my hands.
"Do you want to wear a wedding band?"
She opens her eyes and looks at me as though Ive lost my mind. "God, yes. If it were fashionable, Id wear one through my nose. I want everyone to know." She finally captures my hand and give it a little kiss. "Im taken." Another kiss to the back of my hand. "Off the market. Completely and happily settled." She suddenly pulls back, her eyes puzzled. "Why? You dont want to get me one?"
"Oh please, I want to find you the nicest one I can. I only wanted to make sure you wanted one. Some people dont like the idea of wearing them, you know."
"Are you kidding?" She straightens in her chair and pulls me close, her voice taking a serious tone. "When I was in Columbus, the night you came and told me about our Baby Roos, I was at a restaurant. The waitress there kept hitting on me and I kept telling her to back off. The whole time I kept wishing I was wearing a wedding band. I want everyone to know, Im yours."
"Well, I could have my name tattooed across your forehead." I trace the skin there, smoothing away the worry lines. "And remind me to go to Columbus after the babies are born and have a word with that waitress." I undo a third button on her shirt and allow my hand to travel under it once again.
"Nah, dont bother. I already threw out the trash." She releases another long groan as my hand continues of its own accord. "Besides, I think Langston might pass out if I got a tattoo."
I head back to that wonderful column of neck. "Could be. You know Mama is napping way upstairs, on the second floor. Im sure if we tread lightly we could make it to our room without waking her." Im hoping shell agree with this plan. Her nipples certainly seem ready to come with me.
"You think so? You think you can be quiet?"
"Me? Im not the one who groans so loudly the dog growls, Harper Lee."
"Hes afraid youre hurting me. Not that Im complaining, of course."
"Yeah, right." I get up and offer her my hand. "Lets go. If I have to, Ill give you something to bite down on."
"Oh, chér, I can think of a couple things Id like to bite down on, thats for sure." She gives my chest a most lascivious look.
"Prove it." I proceed to take off my outer shirt and toss it in her lap. I know the tank top Im wearing underneath isnt much. The way my breasts have swollen Im finding bras are too restricting for weekend wear. Im generally going without them when were home. Much to Harpers delight.
I look down at her. I know that look. It wont be much longer now. The only remaining question is will we make it to the bedroom?
"Shall I take this off too?" I tug the tank top out from my pants, lifting it up enough to reveal an inch or two of skin. I lean over and whisper in her ear, "Right here and now?"
Another long groan.
I make the decision for her, considering its broad daylight and we have neighbors in taller buildings. "You have one second to get your backside out of that chair, Tabloid. Or Im gonna go start without you." I head for the bedroom.
Before I know it, shes out of her chair and Im in her arms. "I think not!"
Sometimes its just too easy.
* * *
Monday comes far too early. With the stress of my mother in town and the absence of a No Clothes Day, I do not feel relaxed. On top of it all, Mama wants to visit the studio today.
"Why cant I call in sick?"
Kels laughs at me and rubs my back gently. "Because Im not taking her alone."
"You went out with her alone yesterday."
My wonderful comforter gets removed and cold air hits my bare skin. "Up. Now."
"Thats what Langston says too. Get showered and meet Mama and me for breakfast."
* * *
The moment we step off the elevator, Brian is waiting for us. His arms are full of balloons and stuffed animals. "Oh my God!" he shrieks, seeing Kels.
"Why didnt you tell me?" He stamps his foot and thrusts out a hip.
"Tell you what?"
"Youre pregnant! It's all over the office after your little tete-a-tete with Langston. Oh my God! Im going to be an uncle!" He shoves the presents at Kels. Then he focuses his attention on me. "Howd you do it, stud? You certainly are a great producer if you could pull that off."
God, if my mother wasnt here, Id certainly have a reply to that. "This is Mama," I say, quickly, before I forget.
Brian turns his attention to Mama. "Nice suit. Donna Karan? Spring collection?"
"You must be Brian," she replies, offering her hand.
He kisses it. My God! Does everyone have to suck up to her? "Harper has mentioned me, eh?"
Brian swoons at the mention of my brothers name. "Do you have any more like him at home, Mrs. Kingsley? I am looking for one about six two, two hundred pounds, dark hair and light eyes."
"Im sorry, all of mine are taken. Surely a gentleman as handsome and charming as yourself must have many callers."
"Ah, go on!" he protests.
She links her arm through his and they begin walking down the hallway. "Tell me whats going wrong, let Mama fix it for you."
Kels leans against me and gently closes my jaw which is hanging open. "I guess well be inviting Brian to the wedding."
"Well make him the flower girl."
* * *
I dont know why Im so nervous. Its not like anything bad can happen. He cant refuse to let me marry Harper. He cant send me away to another school, like was done throughout my childhood. Even if he and Mama hate each other, there is nothing anyone can do.
God, I hope thats true.
Harper comes into the bedroom, no doubt to find me. "Whats wrong?"
"Nothing," I lie.
"You can tell me," she counters, not buying it.
"Im a little stressed."
"Ah, baby," she wraps me up in her arms. "Why? You and your dad are getting along great. And its only Mama theyre meeting."
"Our parents are meeting for the first time, Tabloid. Doesnt that bug you even a little?"
"No. Why should it? Its not like it can change anything. They can hate each other until hell freezes over and it wont matter." She smirks knowing I cant technically charge her a dollar for that one. "Kels, honey, please dont stress." She lays her hands over my tummy. "Its not good for you or the Baby Roos."
I take a deep breath and nod. "Youre right, Tabloid. Lets enjoy the evening and let the chips fall where they may."
"Exactly. Besides, I think Mama will like your dad. Its your mother shed detest."
"She has to get in line."
* * *
Im sipping my juice when the doorbell rings, nearly startling me out of my skin. No matter how much Harper tried to reassure me, I have a feeling tonight is going to be a huge disaster.
I hear Dad and Amanda enter. I smile when I hear Harper relieve Dad of Claire right away. Taking a deep breath, I steel myself for the inevitable. Mama, standing next to me, must sense my hesitation. She takes my hand and gives it a squeeze.
When they enter the family room a huge smile breaks across my fathers face. "Cecile Kingsley! My God, woman, how long has it been?"
Mama moves across the room to meet him and they embrace like long lost friends. "Matt Stanton! I dont believe it! Youre Kelseys father?"
I look to Tabloid and I know the shock is as evident on my face as it is on hers.
"You two know each other?" I manage to stammer without sounding like a total idiot.
"Know her?" My father laughs. "My God, Jonathan, Cecile, and I have known each other since before you were born. I dont get to see nearly enough of them." He turns around and grins at Harper. "I must have sent them a gift when you were born. God, I didnt put two and two together. I must be getting old!"
"Nonsense, Matt, you look wonderful."
"Its Amanda and Claire, theyre keeping me young. Let me introduce you to my wife and Kelseys little sister." He guides her over to the people in question.
Oh, this is too weird. I need to sit down. I take a couple of steps back and find the couch. Harper, having been relieved of Claire by Mama, crosses and sits next to me, kissing me on the forehead. "And you were worried."
* * *
I take a deep breath and refill my glass. I glance up to find my dad standing in the doorway of the kitchen. From the family room, I can hear the others laughing and talking like long lost friends. Its been a good evening, despite my predictions.
"So, my little girl is getting married, huh?"
I nod. "Yeah. Would you like to come? Or is that a little too weird for you yet? Because, if it is, I do understand." Weve come a long way in a short time as it is. I cant expect miracles.
"I wouldnt miss it for all the world. Ill be there." He opens his arms to me and I step into his hug. "Can your father make a totally selfish request?" I feel his lips brush across the top of my hair.
I burrow deeper into his arms knowing for the first time in a long time what I missed as a child. "Sure."
"Can I give my little girl away?"
I look at him, shocked this is even coming up. "Do you want to?" I manage to find my voice.
He nods, looking down at me. "There are some things a father dreams about, you know. Thats one of them. The day you were born, I told you some day Id be giving you to a very lucky young man, but, until then, Id take good care of you." Tears form in his eyes but he blinks them away before they fall. "I really blew the first part of that promise. Id like to hold up the second part of it and give you to that very lucky young woman."
I feel tears forming in my own eyes as he continues.
"Youre my first born daughter and Ive always loved you, Kelsey Diane, no matter what you were led to believe. Id be honored if youd let me do it." He sobers for a moment, seemingly fearful of my rejection. "I understand if you dont want me to. Itll be a long time before Claire gets married and Im not a stupid man. I know Ill probably be long gone before that time and I wont get to do it for her."
I pull back from him and shake my head vehemently. "One, dont even think like that. Claire and I need you to be around for a very long time. She needs her daddy and I need my dad. And two, Id be honored if youd give me away."
We exchange a long, warm hug.
Now, I get to tell Tabloid she got bumped to playing the groom.
* * *
Everyone has finally left. Mama is upstairs asleep. The city is quiet beneath us. I am in Harpers arms as we dance to very soft music on our balcony. Its more like embracing to music, but its perfect for right now.
"Are you warm enough?" Harper breaths into my ear, sending shivers skittering down my spine.
I hug her closer, sliding my hands under her shirt, coming into contact with warm skin. "Im perfect."
"Yes, you are." She holds me closer, as if that were possible.
"Are you okay with the changes to the wedding? I know you didnt want to have stereotypical roles, but " She silences me with a kiss.
"Chér, dont worry about it. Ill be fine. Its more important to me that your father is there and that he has a role in the wedding."
"Besides, I already married you the way I wanted to. Im a happy camper."
"I love you, Harper."
"And, truth be told, I cant wait to see you walk down that aisle." She then chuckles and leans closer. "Besides, I wasnt sure Id be able to make it without fainting myself."
* * *
I wander into the kitchen. I expect to find Mama and I am not disappointed. "Coffee is fresh," she says, glancing up from her novel.
"If I didnt see you in the daytime, Id worry you were a vampire."
She laughs softly. "I do have pale enough skin, I suppose."
I fill my mug and stir the cream in. "Youre beautiful, Mama. Inside and out."
"Come sit with me, baby girl. Tell me why youre awake in the middle of the night."
"I wanted to talk to you, actually, about the wedding." She looks a bit apprehensive. I hasten to reassure her. We finally ironed out the details of the wedding last night with Matt. Well, all except one. "I know we said wed have the wedding at Robies place, but I dont want to have it there."
"All right," she says, warily.
"I want to have it at the house I bought for us in New Orleans."
"Tell me that again, baby."
I allow a full smile to spread across my face. "The house next door to Robies was put up for bank auction a few weeks ago. Robie let me know about it and submitted a bid on my behalf. It was accepted and we closed on Monday."
"Are you coming home?"
"Not for awhile, Mama. But I wanted us to have a place when we do. Kels has never had a real family. Her mother saw to that, doing a number on Matt and Kels. I want to give her one: a home, a family, a place to run to for safety when things get hard. Plus, I want the twins to have a house with a yard and cousins next door."
Mama blinks back tears. "Youre growing up just fine, Harper."
"I have great role models."
"Do I recall correctly that your new house has a gazebo in the backyard?"
Mama is certainly focused. "What did you do? Peer over the fence?" I tease.
"Mais non!" She pushes back from the table, giving me an indignant look before it transforms to an impish smile. "I looked from an upstairs window in Robies house."
"Now remember," I warn, "this is a surprise for Kels. So, everyone has to pretend that its Robies home until after the wedding. Its my wedding gift to her."
"No, youre the gift to her. The house is just a thing."
* * *
"Nope. Tabloid, put it on, or were not moving from this spot," Kels orders, dangling a blindfold off her index finger.
"Dare I ask why you have a blindfold so handy?" Mama asks. Shes standing on the other side of the limo Matt sent this morning to take us to the airport.
Oh God! Now my Mama thinks we play kinky sex games. Wait, we do. Aww hell. Wheres my blankie when I need it?
"I have the handcuffs in my carryon if I need them," Kels shoots back, then smirks at me. "You know, the ones with the fur lining youre so fond of?"
"Kels!" I growl taking the blindfold from her. "Stop it. Mama is going to think terrible things about us."
"No, Im not." Mama chuckles before getting in the car.
I glare at my wife. "She thinks youre a very strange person, you know."
"She knows Im a strange person. I agreed to marry you, didnt I?"
"Watch it or Ill turn you over my knee."
"Promises, promises. Now put the blindfold on and get in the car."
I slide it into place and Kels helps me into the car, giving me a kiss as she does. "Itll be worth it, I promise."
"It had better be," I growl. This is humiliating, riding to the airport, blindfolded, in the back of a limo with my wife, and I cant even attack her because my Mama is here too. I could loose my horndog license for this if the union ever finds out.
I hear them snickering during the drive. At least, Kam loves me. He has got his head in my lap, letting me scratch him behind his ears.
"Hes only hoping for some French fries," Kels whispers. God, how does she read my thoughts like that? Its creepy.
* * *
The limo finally stops and I can tell were at the airport. Big, hairy deal. For the airport I had to put on a blindfold? Whats the matter, Kels, is there a Playboy Bunny convention you want to get me through? Ive been pretty damn good about not looking anyway. I know Im living with a pregnant woman with raging hormones. Im not stupid.
I sit tight until I feel Kels hand slip into mine, tugging and helping me out of the car. Without a word I allow myself to be led and, after a short walk, I feel Kels reach up and remove the blindfold.
I leave my eyes closed. Out of protest, you understand.
"Damn it, Harper, open your eyes!" my wife commands with a poke to the ribs.
I flinch. Keeping my eyes closed, I hold out my hand. "Give me a buck."
I feel her slap it. "Im gonna give you a swift kick in the seat of your pants if you dont open your eyes."
Finally, I do so and stand breathless when Kels whispers, "Its all yours, baby."
I glance at Mama who is holding Kams leash and she smiles. I swing my head back and refocus on the airplane. Im speechless. I stare at the private jet with the name Harpers Baby painted on the side.
"Its my wedding gift to you, Harper. I have to give it to you now. Its not like I could hide it in my luggage."
"Kels, I dont know what say. Its too much."
"No." She places her fingers over my lips. "Its not. Between us there can never be too much. I wanted to do this for you, Harper. Im afraid a little of my father has rubbed off on me," she adds with a little laugh. "Besides, the babies and I really like the sleeping on the couch part. Plus, it will let us get home to New Orleans as often as we want now that we no longer fly commercial."
I put my lips beside her ear. "If Mama werent here, you wouldnt be sleeping on the couch, darlin. Thank you. You take my breath away."
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