Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chapter Four

“Spaghetti!” Austin grinned when he spotted the heaping bowl of spaghetti noodles in the center of the main table. “I love spaghetti.”

“Obviously,” Claudia commented before pushing past him to walk into the room.

“Spaghetti, yum,” Liam said as he and Dawn arrived from the outside with Scott and Kristy right behind.

“A man after my own heart,” Dawn elbowed her fiancé in the ribs playfully. “Hold on,” she grinned mischievously, “I think I see garlic bread too.”

“Have a seat everybody,” Adem announced as he pushed through the swinging doors from the kitchen. In his arms, he carried another huge bowl heaped with pasta. Jessi followed on his heels with the parmesan and Romano cheese.

Everyone scattered to find places at the three tables that had been set with the mismatched dishes and cutlery that the girls had found in the kitchen the night before. Both the new cook, Timone, and Kevin joined them. Adem said grace and everyone dove into the still steaming food.

“So Kevin,” Austin managed before stuffing a large meatball into his mouth, “Do you own the business? Or is the name a coincidence?”

Kevin smiled as he wound his noodles around his fork. “My brothers own and run the company. I am just helping out for the two months I am going to be around.” Finally satisfied that the collection at the end of his fork was controlled enough he delivered them to his mouth.

“Please pass the cheese,” Dawn called from one end of the table. She had been skipped when the cheese grater had circled the first time.

Reaching across three serving dishes, Scott managed to barely snatch the cheese before he spilled something. At the same time, Austin asked Kevin what he did when he was not helping with his brother's business.

After finishing his bite, Kevin answered, “I am currently on leave. I have been a Major in the U. S. Air Force for about three years now.” Liam dropped his fork with a clink and everybody glanced over at him in time to see him dive beneath the table for it.

“That sounds like a neat job,” Jesse wiped some sauce off her chin. “How many brothers do you have?”

“Two,” Kevin began working on another bite. Adem and Liam watched in fascination as he began twirling more pasta around his fork. “Brandon is the eldest one of all of us. He runs the administrative end of the business. Andrew runs the actual hands on part. I usually am helping him whenever I am home for any length of time.” He began lifting the fork, but most of the noodles fell off the end. “I would much rather be in the air. Flying a fighter is the best thing I have ever done.”

Dawn jabbed Liam in the ribs. “Don't you get any ideas.”

Liam shot her a look that said the thought had not even entered his mind. Not one at the table believed him.

“Claudia, are you alright?” Austin asked as he looked at her plate in concern. “You have hardly touched your dinner.”

“Aren't you the master of the obvious,” after shooting a glare at her husband, Claudia shoved her chair back from the table hurried out of the room.

“Excuse us,” Austin shot an apologetic look around the table. “I will be back soon.” He quickly followed in his wife's wake, concern written all over his face.

Two floors up, the sound of a slamming door shook the windows. Timone rose and gathering the two plates headed to the kitchen. “They will be awhile; I will just put these in the fridge.” He then disappeared through the swinging doors.

“I would guess she has not told him yet,” Kristy commented to Jessi, who was looking concerned. All the men looked curiously in her direction.

“Told him what?” Scott finally voiced the question in their minds.

“Claudia is pregnant,” Jessi explained. “But don't let on that you know.”

“Well if she does not tell Austin tonight,” Adem turned back to sopping up the sauce on his plate with the garlic bread, “I will tell him first thing tomorrow.”

“You can't do that!” Jessi pushed back from the table to look at her husband in horror. “That would devastate the poor girl. She is feeling awful already, why make it worse.”

“Jessi,” Dawn broke in before Adem could retort. “Adem’s right. If she does not tell him tonight, we need to do something.”

“Just look at the poor guy,” Kevin added. “He is obviously worried sick and beside himself about what to do.” Everyone stared at him in surprise. He looked around nervously before explaining. “How many guys would tell a perfect stranger he was worried sick about his wife?” Waving a piece of bread in the direction of the front hall, he said, “I could barely keep his attention three minutes in a row because he is so preoccupied.”

“See Jessi,” Adem jumped in. “If it does not end soon, who knows what will happen when she does tell him.”

“He will explode,” Scott predicted solemnly. “And I don't mean in a good way.” Liam and Dawn both nodded their agreement with faraway looks in their eyes.

“Come on Jessi,” Kristy begged from the opposite side of the table. “You have got to admit this situation is not helping the marriage.”

With great reluctance, Jessi finally agreed that something must be done.

“I hate to be the barer of bad news,” Kevin said, “but who is going to tell him and how?”

Silence descended fast and thick over the group. For several minutes, everyone became intensely interested in studying their place setting. Finally, when many had given up hope, Scott spoke. “I will do it if Liam helps.”

Relieved that he was not the first to speak, Liam agreed and everyone returned to the now cold food before them.

Kevin left right after dinner. He promised to be back very early the next morning so he, his brother and the rest of the guys could start working on the many projects they needed to finish.

Everyone was pretty tired, so everyone decided to turn in for the night and get an early start the next morning.


The next morning everyone was up with the dawn, except Austin and Claudia. Their bedroom door remained closed and no sounds could be heard through the door.

“I hope everything is all right between them,” Dawn commented to Kristy as they lugged primer cans up to the second floor hallway. Dawn was planning on doing a floor to ceiling mural that would cover all the walls from the front door to the stairs leading to the second floor. Kristy had been tagged as the one to help with the primer and the first coat of the base color, a pale, almost white, blue.

“Maybe they are just sleeping in,” Kristy suggested as they shook out the tarp that would be covering the floor. “Claudia has been looking very tired and worn. I wonder if Jessi knows of a good doctor that she could visit while we are here.”

Dawn started working on the lids of the primer cans. “That would be wise. Just to check out the basics and make sure she is doing everything she should be.” A moment later the key shaped opener flew out of Dawn's hand and across the floor. “Stink! I hate trying to open these stupid things.” She reached for the tool only to knock it off the landing and out of sight. “Oh no.”

“Ouch,” the errant piece had hit someone below them.

“Sorry,” Dawn called.

“You should be,” the voice from below was definitely male, but the closest Dawn could guess was that it was not Liam. “Here I am minding my own business and this can opener comes flying out of nowhere and lands on my unsuspecting head.” Just then a strange man looking slightly like Kevin came into view below them and looked up at them through the rungs of the banister. “The least you hooligans could do is tell me where I might find my brother. He is about...” Raising his hand so it was parallel to the floor and about even with his head. “... So high with brown hair... .”

“Kevin?” Kristy interrupted to ask.

“Yeah, he answers to that name sometimes.” The stranger flashed them a smile that definitely identified him as Kevin's relative. “Do you know where he is at?”

Kristy smiled back and shook her head. “I have not seen him yet this morning. You could try the air field though. That was where Liam and Scott headed after breakfast.”

“I'll do that.” The stranger turned to go back the way he had come when Dawn spoke up.

“Could we please have our opener back now?” She smiled when the man looked up with a puzzled gaze. “The likely hood is small that I am going to manage to open this can of paint, but if you leave with my opener, I will truly be at a loss.”

“Sure,” The stranger turned toward the stairs and started to climb. “I will even open the cans for you if you will tell me your names.”

“I am Kristy,” Kristy said as she rose to her feet. “And this is Dawn.”

“Pleased to meet you both.” Crouching down to open the cans nearest the landing, he started to slide the tool along the edge. With a deft twist of wrist and can, he opened the two cans of primer. “The name's Brandon.” He handed the key tool to Dawn and then rose. “Let me know when you need more assistance.” Both girls nodded in reply. Then turning, Brandon headed back down the staircase and exited through the dining room.

As soon as he was out of sight, Kristy sank to the floor in a heap. “Wow,” she exclaimed, “what a hunk.”

Dawn's response was to throw the nearest clean brush at her. “Hey, I thought you were engaged to Scott.”

“It was just an observation,” Kristy replied, “that's all.”

“Observation my toe,” Dawn shot back with a smug smile.

Kristy opened her mouth to shoot back, but whatever she had been planning to say was drowned out by hammers hitting the front face of the building. The guys had started on the exterior of the house.


An hour passed. Kristy and Dawn were just finishing up the first primer coat when Claudia appeared at the head of the stairs.

“Hey, sleepyhead,” Dawn flashed her a spattered smile before dropping her brush into the nearest roller pan. “Have you eaten breakfast yet?”

“This morning sickness stuff is awful,” Claudia grimaced expressively. “Although I am starving, every time I think about food I have an urge to heave.” She looked up at their work. “You guys have been busy.”

A noise came from the hall below. “Hey guys,” Jessi called up before finally appearing from under the balcony. “How is it coming?”

Dawn called back, “Just finished the first coat.”

Spotting Claudia, Jessi smiled up. “Want some breakfast?”

Claudia immediately shook her head no. “Austin said I should ask you about finding a doctor that could give me some advice for the time before we go home?”

“Sure,” Jessi replied sending a loaded glance in Dawn and Kristy's direction. “Come down, I think there is a phone directory in the office. If not we can call my doctor and get a recommendation.”

Claudia carefully transversed the stairs and then followed Jessi toward the study. As soon as they were out of sight, Dawn spoke up. “I have an idea.”

“Okay?” Kristy said as she climbed down the ladder from finishing the top edge.

“Why don't you and Scott get married here in this house?”

Kristy dropped her paintbrush into the full bucket. Watching the handle sink out of sight below the surface of the primer, Kristy muttered, “Nuts.”

Dawn laughed and reached in to fish it out. “Come on, you don't have any plans made yet, I remember Scott mentioning you were having a hard time getting started. This way we can all help.” She held up her hand and the brush dripping in wet white goop and grinned mischievously. “It will be fun.”

Kristy raised her eyebrows. “I don't know.”


“That is a great idea,” Jessi exclaimed when Dawn mentioned the possibility of Kristy having her wedding in the house after it was finished. “If everything goes according to plan, we will be finished by the end of summer.” Turning to Kristy, whom Dawn had dragged along, Jessi asked, “How many are on your guest list?”

“Don't know,” and grimaced slightly when Jessi's mouth dropped.

Carefully recovering herself, Jessi asked, “Well, then what is the date?”

“Don't have one.”


Kristy shook her head.


Another shake.

Jessi set down her brush and faced Kristy with her hands on her hips. The dark paint on her hands quickly adhered to the heavy canvas of her overalls. “Have you done anything, girl?”

“I have bridesmaids.” Kristy pointed out as she studied the deep maroon paint that her sister-in-law had been applying to the great parlor's walls. Jessi was still looking at her expectantly, when her eyes wandered back in her direction. Jessi raised an eyebrow. “You, Dawn, and Claudia,” Kristy finally clarified.

“Thanks for the honor,” Dawn said as she backed up and spread her arms. “I am most honored indeed.” Executing an exaggerated bow, she declared, “I accept.” Kristy rolled her eyes.

“You picked them, but did not ask them, you mean,” Jessi stated. Kristy nodded.

“We are going to be very busy,” Jessi stated simply as she turned back to the wall. “And here I was wondering what I was going to do with Claudia over the next few months.”

“What are you talking about?” Dawn asked.

“Her pregnancy makes it so she is going to be allowed to do almost nothing in the renovation.” Jessi took up her brush again. “No prolonged exposure to wet paints, new rugs, and construction dust for the new mom-to-be. Cheer up.” She flashed them a bright smile and said, “More work for the rest of us.”


“What are your colors?” Claudia asked the moment Kristy walked into the kitchen.

“Green and white,” was the muffled response from behind the three boxes Kristy was carrying. “Where should I put these?”

“I don't know.” Claudia frowned. “You are going to need another color.”

Kristy wrestled the boxes onto the nearest counter, pushing the remains a peanut butter sandwich off the other side and onto the floor. She discovered the sandwich by stepping in it. “Ew,” she raised her foot to get a better view. “Was this sandwich yours?”

Glancing over at the squashed remains Kristy was picking off the bottom of her shoe, Claudia said, “Nope,” and went back to her work.

“Coming through,” Dawn announced as she backed into the kitchen with her arms full of boxes. Swinging around so she could walk forward again, she asked, “Where is a good spot? These are heavy.”

“Next to my pile is probably best,” Kristy offered as she hopped on one foot to the sink. “Is Jessi coming?”

Maneuvering her load onto the counter, Dawn watched with interest as Kristy struggled to stick her foot in the sink. “Wouldn't be easier if you took off your shoe?”

“Dawn?” Claudia called from the table. “What do you think about this dress?” Holding up a thick magazine, Claudia displayed a long-lined evening dress with no straps.

“No straps; no dress,” she declared as Jessi entered the room. Then wiping her hands on her jeans she turned to the boxes.

“Where is Timone?” Jessi asked.

Dawn and Claudia shrugged and Kristy said, “I think he was going shopping for groceries when we left.” She tugged at her shoe and hopped in one place.

“I was hoping to have his help in organizing this room,” she gestured to the boxes. “All the cooks I have ever known have been very particular about where their kitchen stuff went.”

Claudia looked up eagerly. “How about we go dress shopping?”

“Sounds good to me,” Jessi agreed. “I am getting tired and a drive and some shopping sounds like a nice change.”

Kristy finally managed to free her foot. Before turning to the sink she declared, “I hate shopping.” Then, she turned on the water full force, drowning her shoe. Claudia covered her ears against the noise.

“I am going to go get my purse and tell Adem our plans.” Jessi's voice could barely be heard above the roar of the water in the sink. “Dawn, you stay and watch her,” she yelled. “Scott talked her into a dress, but I don't trust her to not avoid this. Meet you out front in a minute.” She left through the door into the dining room with Claudia close at her heels.

Dawn turned and regarded her friend from across the kitchen. “The noise won't drive me away you know.” She pointed out above the ruckus.

Kristy cut the water with a jerk and lifted her sopping shoe the basin. “I hear one more word about colors and I am going to scream!”

Dawn raised her eyebrows and regarded her solemnly. “Chartreuse?”

“Huh?” Kristy shook the shoe and droplets of water showered the floor. Looking at the trail if tiny puddles on the dirty linoleum, she asked, “What is that?”

“A bright, obnoxious green,” Dawn answered, “Or perhaps burnt umber.” Kristy shot a glare that should have terrified her. Instead, Dawn declared in a decisive tone, “Definitely plaid. It must be plaid. Nothing else would work.”

Forgetting the shoe, Kristy stalked across the floor. “What in the world are you talking about?”

With an angelic innocence, Dawn answered, “Your wedding dress must be plaid.”

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