Dances, Birthdays and Engagements, Oh My!
Chapter 1 – The Dance
Bree sat tucked in between her father and Ryan in the back seat of John’s SUV. Brian and John were in the front and Joe was in the back row by himself listening to his music. Bree shifted uncomfortably as the silence continued during the ride back to Edna’s Treasures. She wished someone would talk, but she did not want to be the one to start the conversation.
“The dance should be fun,” Ryan said awkwardly after they had ravelled out of the city. He seemed to be feeling as ill at ease as Bree.
“Yeah, I hope so,” Bree agreed.
“I’m sure you two will have a good time,” Justin contributed. “The whole idea of the school dances is for young people to enjoy themselves.”
“You sound like Grandpa Zeke,” Brian noted without turning his head to look at them.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Justin asked, feeling the implied criticism in Brian’s words.
“It means that these fu--- fabulous school dances are really a pain in the ass for the kids and the chaperones. They’re full of raging hormones and gangly arms and legs and people who can’t dance,” Brian stated.
“Speak for yourself, O great dancer,” Justin reminded him.
Brian snorted. “I’ve improved over the years,” he said in defence of his questionable dancing skills.
“True, thanks to some excellent coaching from the master,” Justin stated, eliciting a small chuckle from Brian.
“What are they doing?” Ryan whispered to Bree.
Bree shrugged. “That’s just the way they are. If you’re going to be at Edna’s Treasures, you better get used to it.”
“Am I going to be at Edna’s Treasures?” Ryan asked.
“At least until the weekend.”
“Good to know.”
Bree smiled at Ryan. Somehow things seemed easier now.
Once the boys were established in Gus’ old room, they came out to the kitchen which was a hub of activity. Lovely smells were coming from the oven and everyone seemed to have a job. Justin and John were supervising the meal in the kitchen. Brian and Bobby were looking after drinks. The boys could see Bree and Patrick setting the big table in the sun porch.
“Should we be doing something?” Ryan whispered to his brother.
Joe shrugged. “Looks like everything’s under control.”
“Maybe we should offer anyway.”
“Whatever,” Joe replied.
“Um, Mr. Justin, could we help?” Ryan asked.
“Just call me Justin, and yes, you could take the salad to the table and give it a good toss. We’re almost ready to eat.”
“Sure,” Ryan said as he picked up the big wooden bowl. Joe grabbed the salad fork and spoon and followed his brother out to the sun porch.
“Hey,” Patrick said as he saw the brothers approach the table. “Thanks for pitching in.”
“I remember that everyone has their jobs at meal time,” Ryan said. “We thought we should help.”
“Yeah,” Joe agreed.
“So, you’re taking Bree to the dance,” Patrick stated. Ryan nodded. Patrick looked him up and down. “You better treat her right.”
“What? Of course, I will.”
“Just saying,” Patrick said with a knowing nod.
Ryan watched Patrick as he walked away. He didn’t like being threatened and that was certainly implied in Patrick’s words. Those words had come out of the blue … or had they?
“Come and get it,” Justin called as he brought the roast to the table. Bobby followed with a big bowl of potatoes and John had the rolls and butter.
“This looks wonderful,” Ryan said to everyone. “Thanks so much for inviting us.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Joe added.
They all dug into the meal enjoying the food immensely. There was casual chatter and a few laughs as the main course came to an end.
“Everybody had enough of this?” Justin asked as he started gathering up the empty bowls. All the young people had done his meal proud.
“It was great,” Ryan said with a smile.
“Let me help you carry this out to the kitchen,” Joe volunteered. Ryan gave him a strange look. Joe had hardly said anything since they arrived.
“See what everyone wants to drink,” Justin ordered as he headed to the kitchen with the remnants of his roast. Joe followed with a pile of empty bowls.
Bree and Patrick started to gather up the dinner plates. Ryan decided to help. They carried their load to the kitchen where Justin and Joe were dishing up ice cream.
“Thanks for helping, Joe,” Bree said cheerily.
“Hey, how about me?” Ryan asked.
“You’ve been very helpful too,” Bree said with a sunny smile.
Patrick scowled at them both.
Once Patrick, Bree and Ryan had carried the ice cream into the sun porch, Justin and Joe cleaned up the kitchen and loaded all the plates into the dishwasher.
“Thanks for your help,” Justin said.
“You should go eat your ice cream before it melts,” Justin suggested.
Justin looked at the young lad. “Is there something you wanted to discuss with me?”
“Kind of…” Joe admitted.
“Well then, spit it out.”
Joe stared at the floor trying to decide how to ask. Justin waited. “I…um, I thought Peter might be here tonight.”
“Peter eats at Deb and Carl’s. Why, did you want to see him?”
“I was kind of hoping…”
“Hoping what?” Justin asked although he was pretty sure he knew what was bothering Joe.
“I wondered if Peter might like to go to the dance with me, I mean if that’s allowed at his school and if he wants to and if I get up enough nerve to ask him. Do you think he might?”
“I think there’s only one way to find out and that’s to ask. You can do that tomorrow, and the two of you at the dance would be quite all right.”
“Really?” Joe asked.
“Really, now let’s go get some ice cream.”
Justin followed Joe out to the sun porch.
Shortly after dinner, Brian’s cell rang.
“Kinney,” Brian curtly snapped into his phone as he slipped into his bedroom for privacy.
“What’s got your knickers in a bunch, kiddo?” Debbie asked. When she heard Brian sigh, Debbie gently tried again. “What is it, sweetheart?”
“You know that Justin’s been spending extra time at the gallery working with some of Hunter’s kids, right?”
“Hunter mentioned something about some of his kids showing artistic inclinations and that our Sunshine volunteered to nurture them,” Debbie replied, choosing her words carefully.
“You could put it that way,” Brian snarked. “One of those kids, whose name is Ethan, by the way, rubs me the wrong way. And not in a life affirming, positive way. He reminds me of me, the old me. If I was still the old me and single AND not a parent, I’d know just how to deal with him. But he’s a kid, a very annoying kid, who hits on anything passable in pants.”
“He does sound a lot like you … the old you,” Debbie quickly qualified her statement. “Honey, do you see him often?”
“Often enough. We’ve been spending a lot of time in the Pitts lately. Justin more than me.”
“Why don’t you talk to Hunter? Let him know what’s going on. He probably knows already but tell him how it makes you feel,” Debbie said sagely.
“When did you get to be so smart?” Brian said with no malice in his voice.
“This red wig of mine keeps my brain warm for just this sort of occasion,” Debbie quipped making Brian laugh.
“Okay, I’ll talk to the master of Social Work tomorrow. So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your call or did you just have a premonition that I was going nuts?”
“Peter wanted to know if the kids could come over and help blow up things on his computer.”
“Considering it’s not a school night, I have no objections. Hold on while I get the general consensus,” Brian said as he walked out of his bedroom toward the sun porch where the everyone was still hanging out.
“Attention, all you young’uns,” Brian called out. “Debbie is inviting you to her cottage so you can destroy computer bad guys with Peter. All in favour, say aye,” Brian commanded.
“Aye!” was the response from said young’uns.
“The ayes have it,” Brian said into the phone. “They’ll be there in a few.”
“Okay, kiddo. And honey, talk to Hunter.”
“Yes, Maw,” Brian said as the kids were hunting for jackets. “Have fun, behave yourselves and come home when she kicks you out!”
“We will, Dada!” Bree said with a smile.
“Head ‘em up and move ‘em out,” Brian called.
“Go with them Beau,” John directed the big dog. Beau barked out his acknowledgement. He ran to the front door and stood until all his charges were ready to follow him down the lane. Beau barked one more time as the door opened, the kids shouted their goodbyes and the door closed.
Suddenly the conjoined cottages became very quiet.
Brian looked around the porch at the guys. “Who’s for brandy?” Three hands went up. “The ayes have it,” Brian said as he went to pour the brandy.
Later that night when the kids had returned from successfully saving the world from another alien invasion, Brian was still uneasy. He did follow Debbie’s advice and gave Hunter a call to discuss his feelings about Ethan. Hunter carefully listened then assured Brian he would talk to Ethan and strongly urge him to rein it in if Ethan wanted to continue in the artist mentoring scheme. Brian was somewhat placated but not enough to settle down for the night.
“Can’t sleep?” Bobby asked as he quietly padded into the sun porch. He was reviewing a brief when he heard someone moving about in the porch.
“Something like that,” Brian replied. “What’s your excuse?”
“Reviewing a case, we go to court soon. Just wanted to make sure my ducks are all in a row,” Bobby answered. Brian nodded in acknowledgement. “What’s got your knickers in a twist? Anything going on at Kinnetik that’s concerning you?”
“Not really, it’s all good; Gus and Bree wowed Liberty Air. We have our stupid moments like any company does, but for the most part, all branches are thriving. Even Rose is doing well. I think we gave their ad execs a new perspective.”
“Even Gui?” Bobby asked making Brian smirk.
“Yes, even Gui. He especially enjoyed his time at North. Got the shock of his life when he found out who was the brains behind the Waldon account.” Brian snickered.
“So why the long face?” Brian shrugged his shoulders. “Can I venture a guess?” Brian nodded. “This past two years has taken a toll on you and Justin. The near break up of Michael and Ben, all the work launching Justin’s Paris show and the new Kinnetik Rose, Justin’s illness, Kinney Bros., not to mention that your son and heir has done it. He’s moved into the legendary loft and is on his way to doing just what you hoped he would do.”
“Taking over Kinnetik. Am I close?”
“Yes,” Brian begrudgingly conceded. “But you’re leaving out something very important.”
“Oh, I know this one,” Bobby snickered as he raised his hand. Brian arched a brow. “Your daughter is going to yet another school dance with a boy that’s not her Patrick, and she’s going to be fifteen.”
Brian nodded solemnly then a smug look suddenly appeared on his face.
“You don’t have to say it. Both John and I are well aware that our Patrick will be turning eighteen this year, going off to college, and registering with selective service,” Bobby said with a sigh. “Believe me, John is going through his own sleepless nights about that. Plus, Patrick wants his own Fur-Harry!” Bobby said using the expression Bree coined when Gus went through his begging for a car phase. Bobby sat on the closest chair with a huff.
Brian cracked up.
“Not funny Kinney. Just think back to all the shit you went through with Gus. It wasn’t pretty.”
“No, it wasn’t, and I was lucky to have you guys in my corner. Justin and I will be there for you if and when you get to the point of pulling your hair out. But I have no doubt that your sensible Patrick will be an excellent driver and earn his own Fur-Harry when the time comes.”
“Thanks, I think.” Then after a while, “Brian, kids grow up. You have plenty of other projects to keep your mind and talents occupied. You have the garden center, all your charitable work, and now your partnership with John. That’s a lot pieces to a very large pie. Most of us can only handle one job at a time. You have the talent and the business savvy to handle at least six and all at the same time. I don’t see where you have the time for a pity party,” Bobby said giving Brian a poignant look.
Brian rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I get it. I’m being a whiny pain in the ass. I’ll get over it, eventually.”
“Of that I have no doubt. Just take this one day at a time,” Bobby wisely said.
“You mean one event at a time. We have the dance and Bree’s birthday dinner. Then we have JR’s house warming which I think may turn into an engagement party.”
“Are you sure?” Bobby asked. Brian gave him an all knowing look.
“I have spies everywhere.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of. I’d stay out of JR and Jacqueline’s business if I were you. If they do get engaged, Michael will go ballistic,” Bobby warned.
“I agree. I have no intention of getting involved.”
“Unless, of course, you get sucked into it by all parties concerned,” Bobby reminded Brian. Brian had a knack of getting himself involved even when he didn’t want to.
“My only business with Jacqueline is with her bikes. As for JR, she can handle her father.”
“What about Melanie?” Bobby asked.
“Not sure. She really hasn’t said much. JR is over the age of consent. I think Mel is waiting to see where it all leads.”
Bobby agreed on that point. “Go on, Big Guy, it’s time for all ad men to go to bed.”
“Time for lawyers too.”
They said goodnight then returned to their own sides of the conjoined cottages.
The next day, Brian found himself alone with four teenagers. Justin and John headed for Pittsburgh while Bobby went to Harrisburg. Brian was just finishing up feeding the hungry horde when Debbie called.
“Good morning, Maw,” Brian answered cheerfully.
“Now that’s what I like to hear, a pleasant Brian Kinney,” Debbie teased.
“I can be pleasant.”
“Sure, you can.”
“So, was it your intention to knock the pleasant out of me this morning?” Brian inquired.
“Not really but I’d like to know what the kids have planned today.”
“Other than eating me out of house and home, nothing special. Why?”
“If you can spare them, I have a few jobs around here that use some younger and stronger hands. I’ll feed them lunch and later if it fits into your plans, we can have dinner together.”
“Sounds good to me. It’ll give me time to shop and clean off a grill. Looks like it’s going to be a nice day.”
“Yes, it does.”
“Uh, what jobs do you have in mind?” Brian cautiously asked.
“The B&B could use a good airing out and dusting. We haven’t had guests stay over for a while. And Emmett’s greenhouse looks a little neglected.”
“Deb, I can hire someone…”
“I know you can, but that’s not the point. You built the big cottage for our friends and family to have a lovely comfortable place to stay while visiting. And as your friend and family, I’ve decided that we all should pitch in to help you maintain it,” Debbie stated, effectively putting her foot down.
“Okay, Deb, I hear you loud and clear. I’ll send them down in a few minutes. But you have to give me a list of groceries that you need. Understood?”
“Understood, sweetheart,” Deb said before she cut the connection.
“Attention everyone under the age of twenty,” Brian called out. The kids were still shoveling breakfast into their mouths. “Now hear this, you’ll be earning your keep today by helping Debbie with some odd jobs around the lane. She will happily feed you lunch then you can all defend the lane from any other alien baddies. So, eat up, then put on your grungiest clothes then head down to Debbie’s.
“Bree, Patrick, I thought I might grill tonight so I’m going to shopping,” Brian informed his kids.
“Okay, Dada,” Bree said with a bright smile.
“Okay, Uncle Brian. And I’ll keep an eye on everyone,” Patrick said with a serious tone in his voice.
“I’m sure you will,” Brian replied.
When breakfast was over and the kids were appropriately dressed for hard work, they went down the lane to the thatched cottage to await their orders. Brian invited Rachel to go shopping with him. With Debbie’s list in his hand, he and Rachel left Debbie and Carl in charge of the lane.
Later that afternoon and after a hearty lunch, Brian had one more job for the kids to do.
“More work,” Ryan whined.
“Not really, I just wanted the company while I check out the last cottage on the property,” Brian replied.
“There’s another cottage,” Joe asked.
Brian smiled. “It’s hiding in the meadow. We can walk but it’s easier to drive there. Plus, driving there helps to keep the road clear. Come on, let’s go,” Brian said as he urged the kids into Justin’s Jeep.
“Where are we going,” Ryan asked as he looked around. It looked like they were driving into a tunnel of dead stalks. The meadow was just coming back to life after winter. The sunflowers and other meadow wildflowers were just beginning to push through the winter debris.
“This is the sunflower meadow,” Bree explained. “It’ll be beautiful in the summer,” she assured the boys.
“The cottage was an experiment for John,” Brian explained further. “It’s green.”
“That doesn’t look green to me,” Ryan said when the cottage finally came into view.
“No, silly, not the color, Dada means that the cottage is environmentally friendly,” Bree further explained.
“Oohh,” both Ryan and Joe said. Patrick and Peter smirked.
“Come on, you lot. I’ll show you around,” Brian said as he slowly drove around the whole cottage on the circular driveway to inspect the outside then he pulled up in front where Beau’s family was present to greet them. After all the introductions were made, Brian showed the kids around.
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