On The Move
“Mikey! Professor! So glad you could make it,” Brian greeted the newcomers as he gave John the high sign to get JR, Jacqueline, and Jennifer out of the loft before Michael had a chance to complain.
“So how’s it hanging? Still in honeymoon phase?” Brian babbled on as he took coats and ushered them over to the food. “And I’m sure there’s something you can eat,” Brian said, giving Ben a poignant look.
“There’s enough to feed the whole building,” Ben exclaimed, eyeing the abundance and variety of dishes. “Smells great. Michael?” Ben asked innocently as he handed his spouse a plate.
“I thought I saw JR’s car outside,” Michael mumbled around a slice of pepperoni pizza.
“Oh, I’m sure she’s around here someplace,” Brian commented as he pretended to look around. He was hoping they were halfway to the Village. Brian hated lying to Michael but he could see the thunderclouds beginning to form.
“What’s wrong, Mikey?” Brian asked as he drew them into a quiet area where they could sit and chat.
“I found them a house on our street, but they waited too long and it’s already sold,” Michael huffed. Brian looked at Ben who just shrugged his massive shoulders, giving Brian a wan smile.
“Aww, Mikey. It’s time to cut the cord. The girls have to do this on their own.”
“What if they can’t afford it?”
“Honestly, I don’t think money is the issue. They have to find something that they both can call home just like you two did,” Brian said sensibly. Ben nodded.
“But I wanted to help,” Michael whined.
“You are, Mikey, by not getting in their way and helping at the Comic Book store,” Brian said.
“That’s right,” Ben added. “Giving JR time to house hunt is the best thing you can do for them.”
“Well, if you think so,” Michael conceded.
“Yes, we do,” Brian stated. “Now this is a party. Get some more pizza and say hi to everyone,” Brian encouraged. With Michael at least temporarily placated, the party continued.
Jacqueline studied the image on John’s phone. She had asked to see the rendering as they drove toward the Village. “How far is this place?” she asked as she and JR sat in the back of John’s big SUV.
“It’s not far,” John replied as he drove.
“I think it will be quite convenient for both of you going to work,” Jennifer offered.
“You know this area?” Jacqueline asked.
“Yes, and it has really improved over the last few years. I think you two will like it too, when you have a chance to look around,” Jennifer offered.
“This all seems so sudden,” Jacqueline said uncertainly.
“Sudden?” JR asked with a frown.
“Well, we had almost given up on getting a house until we came to the party,” Jacqueline reminded her.
“I hadn’t given up,” JR said. “Had you?”
“I thought we were heading in that direction.”
“We … we barely got started looking.”
“Well, yeah,” Jacqueline sighed, “but it seemed kind of futile.”
“I didn’t think so,” JR replied.
“Why don’t you, um, wait till you see the Village before you make any hasty decisions?” Jennifer said carefully.
The girls looked at each other and both said softly, “Okay.”
They rode along in silence until John said they had just entered the area that was called the Village. He pointed out some stores and places he had a hand in constructing.
“It’s very casual and homey,” Jennifer threw in.
“Seems okay,” Jacqueline admitted.
JR studied her partner. She had not really felt this reluctance from Jacqueline before. She had thought it was just hesitation about making a big change in their lives. Now, it seemed like Jacqueline maybe didn’t want to do this at all. JR felt a big hole open up in the pit of her stomach, a big pit of uncertainty and worry. She stared out the window of the SUV as they continued through the Village. She glanced at Danny’s bookstore, thinking that a nice talk with her grandfather might make her feel better. At the moment she had no idea what to say to Jacqueline.
“This is the lot where the new house will be built,” John said as he drew the SUV to a halt at the curb.
“Oh, I love the trees at the back of the lot,” Jenn said as they got out of the vehicle.
“Me too,” JR said. “I loved having that swing at Uncle Brian’s. Maybe we could put one in that big tree,” she suggested pointing at one of the trees.
“We haven’t decided that we’re doing this,” Jacqueline pointedly reminded her. She handed John back his phone.
“Are you having second thoughts about this whole process?” JR asked. She thought it was better to get this out in the open than let it fester below the surface.
“I’m just being … cautious,” Jacqueline replied.
“Since when are you the cautious one?”
“I’m not jumping into this without considering all the factors,” Jacqueline retorted.
“Is that so?”
“Yes, that’s so.”
JR turned away, fighting back tears that threatened to fall. She walked through the skiff of snow to the middle of the lot where she took several deep breaths, trying to get herself under control. Maybe this whole house thing was a horrible mistake - she and Jacqueline had never been so far apart before. It had seemed like a good idea when they started looking for a house, but it had gone steadily downhill ever since.
“You okay?” Jacqueline said from behind JR. “You seem upset.”
“I am upset,” JR stated. “You seem so negative about this place, but you were okay with it back at the loft.”
“I’m not negative. I’m just reserving judgment until I have the full picture.”
“Are you sure? I feel like you no longer want to do this,” JR said softly.
“I do want to find a house, but we don’t have to jump at this place until we’re sure.”
“How will you know when you’re sure?”
“I’d like to look around some more.”
“Then you haven’t decided that this place is no good?” JR asked hopefully.
“I haven’t decided anything,” Jacqueline said softly. She held out her hand to JR who after a short hesitation placed her hand in Jacqueline’s. “Let’s walk the lot and then go to the corner each way to see what’s there.”
“Okay,” JR agreed, suddenly feeling a little more hopeful.
John and Jennifer were leaning against John’s vehicle watching the girls while they walked around.
“Why don’t we get back inside?” John asked. “It’s bloody cold standing out here.”
“Great idea,” Jennifer said as she made her way around to the passenger side of the SUV.
“Want me to turn the heater on?” John asked when they had climbed in.
“No, I think it’s fine now that we’re out of the elements,” Jennifer said as she got comfortable inside the vehicle.
“What do you think about those two?” John asked.
“How do you mean?”
“Do you think they’re really serious about moving into a house?”
“Ah, you sensed the hesitation and uncertainty, especially on Jacqueline’s part.”
“I did, and I take it that you did too,” John observed.
“I think the girls would really like to have a house, but I don’t think they really thought through the whole process. Every time I tell them something that I would have expected them to have discussed, they seem to be all flustered by it.”
“They are young,” John noted.
“I know, but they should have spent a little more time planning what they want to do.”
“They seemed to really like my design.”
“Who doesn’t like your designs?” Jennifer laughed.
“There are some,” John replied with a soft smile. “I don’t want to push the girls into something they aren’t ready for,” he said seriously. “Do you think they should be taking this step?”
“That’s really for them to decide. I don’t intend to pressure them one way or the other,” Jennifer explained. “I intend to help them with whatever decision they make.”
John nodded in agreement. He watched the girls finish walking around the lot and head down the street toward the corner at that end. “I’m glad to see that they’re checking out the neighborhood before they decide.”
“That’s a good sign,” Jennifer said.
“I wonder how John is making out,” Bobby said as he sat down beside Brian on the steps leading to the bedroom in the loft.
“John can handle himself,” Brian said cryptically.
Bobby snorted. “I know he can. That’s not what I was asking.”
“What were you asking?”
“If you thought the girls would decide to go ahead with John’s building.”
“There’s no way of knowing that,” Brian observed, “until they decide.”
“Are you trying to be annoying?” Bobby asked with a glower.
“Not really, but being annoying is a hard habit to break,” Brian said looking at Bobby with a straight face.
Bobby stared at Brian for a few seconds before breaking out into a laugh. “Old habits do die hard.”
“Are you calling me old?” Brian asked seriously before he cracked a smile.
“I’d never do that. You know that,” Bobby conceded.
“Did you and Ben manage to calm Michael down?”
Brian nodded toward Michael and Ben who were chatting with Alex and Glen. “He seems to be in relative good humor … at least until he finds out that the girls are moving to the Village and not onto his street.”
“So you think they’re going to choose John’s design and move to the Village?”
“I believe that is what I just said.”
“Why couldn’t you say that before when I asked?”
“Because I’m annoying,” Brian said sucking in his lips.
The two men really cracked up then.
“What are you laughing at, Dada?” Bree asked munching on a piece of pizza as she approached them.
Bree frowned. “You’re laughing at yourself?” she asked with a puzzled look.
“Yep,” Brian replied.
“Soooo, what’s so funny about you?”
“How annoying I am.”
“You’re not annoying, Dada,” Bree declared.
“Yes, I am, especially when people don’t want me to be.”
Bree studied her father for a moment. “Like right now?”
“Exactly like right now.”
Bree thought about that. “Am I annoying?” she asked bluntly.
“Um, like when?” she asked frowning.
“Like when you want to get your own way and you bat those violet eyes at me, or when you rope Patrick and Peter into backing you on whatever idea or scheme that you’re cooking up, or…”
“Okay, okay,” Bree said looking horrified. “I’m sorry I asked.”
“Squirt, this is where you’re supposed to laugh at yourself,” Brian said. “Right, Bobby?”
“Right, O Knowledgeable One!” Bobby joked.
“I didn’t find that very funny,” Bree stated.
“That’s why you have to learn to laugh at yourself. You know there is some truth in what I said, don’t you?” Reluctantly Bree nodded. “So try to see the humor in it.”
Bree looked thoughtful for a moment. Then she batted those violet eyes at her father. “I’m not really so bad, am I?” she asked coyly.
“You’re not bad at all, Squirt. You’re very clever and I’m glad to see that you found the humor in what we were talking about,” Brian said. They all cracked up as the three of them laughed at what Bree had just done with her violet eyes.
“Do you think they’re ever coming back?” Jennifer asked as she hugged herself for warmth.
John automatically turned on the SUV so that the heater would kick in. “They should be coming back soon,” he said.
“There they are,” Jennifer said with a sigh. “Finally.”
The girls approached the SUV and John put his window down. “Are you ready to go?” he asked.
“Um … We’ve been talking and we’d like to spend some more time walking through the Village,” JR explained. “I’d like to stop into Grandpa Danny’s bookstore and talk to him.”
“Sure,” John said. “Do you want us to wait for you? Jennifer and I could grab a coffee or something.”
“We can find our way home,” Jacqueline said bluntly. “You should go back to the party.”
“I see,” John said. “Okay then.” He pushed the button to bring his window all the way up. He put the vehicle in gear and got ready to drive away.
“I guess we’ve been dismissed,” Jennifer said with a huff.
Just as John was about to pull away from the curb he heard a knocking on the back window of the vehicle and put his foot back on the brake. He lowered the window again.
JR leaned in. “Thanks for bringing us here. We just need some time.”
“No problem,” John said. He finally did draw away from the curb and head back towards the loft.
JR and Jacqueline watched the vehicle disappear around the corner.
“You were kind of rude,” JR admonished.
“I like to make things clear.”
“You could have thanked them for driving us over here and waiting around.”
“Oh, yeah, I could have, but you did.” JR raised an eyebrow. “That’s why we’re a good pair. You take care of things like that.”
“Man, you know the right thing to say to get out of a sticky situation,” JR teased.
“I do my best.”
JR chuckled. “You’re almost as incorrigible as someone else I know.”
“And who might that be?”
“Never mind,” JR laughed giving her partner an elbow to the ribs. “Let’s go to the bookstore. We can get a coffee and get warmed up.”
“That sounds good.”
The girls started off in the direction of Danny’s bookstore. After they had walked a little way, JR decided she needed to tell Jacqueline some things.
“I really like this neighborhood,” JR began. “It’s quiet and peaceful. My grandfather would be nearby if we lived here.” When Jacqueline said nothing in response, JR asked, “What do you think about living here?”
“I haven’t made a decision about it yet. It’s way more quiet than what I’ve been used to.”
“Living downtown has its perks,” JR admitted.
“I guess peace and quiet does too.”
JR smiled to herself and took Jacqueline’s hand. They walked along in silence.
“This is the bookstore,” JR said as she pushed open the door to the shop.
“JR!” Danny almost yelled. “How’s my girl?” He rushed out from behind the counter and gave his granddaughter a warm hug. “And Jacqueline,” he added, “so good to see you both.”
“It’s been too long,” JR admitted. “I should come around more often, and maybe I will in the future.”
“From your lips to the ears of the gods,” Danny whispered. “Can you stay for a while?”
“We were hoping we could maybe have a coffee or something hot to drink,” JR said. “And a little chat.”
“That sounds interesting,” Danny said with a smile. “How about some hot chocolate?”
“Sounds great,” JR said looking at Jacqueline.
“Fine,” Jacqueline replied.
“Have a seat over there and I’ll get it ready,” Danny instructed.
“Want any help, granddad?” JR asked.
“Nope, got it all under control.”
The girls sat down and Danny soon returned with three mugs of hot chocolate.
“To what do I owe this unexpected visit?” Danny asked after they had sipped their drinks.
“Jacqueline and I were looking at a lot in the Village,” JR stated.
“A lot? As in a building lot?” Danny asked.
“Yeah,” Jacqueline contributed.
“Why? Are you thinking of building here?”
“We’re considering it,” JR said choosing her words carefully.
“Uncle John has a design for a house on one of the remaining lots.”
“John has built quite a few of the new houses here. They always look great and fit well into the community.”
“How do you like the Village?” Jacqueline asked.
Danny smiled. “Since my business is here, I better like it,” he joked. “And I really do. The people are friendly and will lend a helping hand when it’s needed.”
“That’s a good recommendation,” JR said as she finished off her hot chocolate.
“I can’t think of a better place to live in Pittsburgh,” Danny said. “Unless it isn’t high class enough for somebody.”
Jacqueline felt her back go up at that remark. “Was that directed at me?” she demanded.
“Not unless it applies to you,” Danny smugly answered.
“I don’t consider myself high class. I’ve worked hard for everything I have.”
“Then you should fit right in around here.”
The girls looked at each other and smiled.
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