Two weeks before the beginning of the new school year, Lindsay decided it was time to take the girls back to Pittsburgh. Their vacation on the lane was almost picture perfect, Lindsay thought. Almost, except for Michael’s illness. A couple of good things did come out of it - JR and her father loved spending time together and Michael appeared to be stronger, thriving surrounded by his family.
Emmett and his boys were closing down their cottage as well. The holiday season party planning was about to begin and it was already time for pre-season football. Molly and her men were spending a few more summer days before they closed up their cottage. Gus and Ray were spending their last few days together frolicking in the stream and everywhere else they could think of to frolic.
Brian had his hands full of shit...manure. Now that he was finally free of his walking boot, Brian was attacking the gardens on the lane with gusto. Much to Gerry’s displeasure. It amused Brian to see their resident physical therapist sigh with frustration as Brian hauled bags of mulch around the garden. Gerry decided he was much better off sticking with the one patient on the lane who would at least obey him.
“Bee!” Taylor toddled over to Bree as she was planting mums in the small window boxes of her Wendy house. Brian had taken the boxes out of the windows and discarded the older summer flowers that were beginning to fade. He was fully prepared to plant the mums when Bree begged to do it all by herself. “I’m eight, Dada, and I’ve been doing this my whole life!” she explained with her little arms opened wide for effect. Brian pretended to consider her request then magnanimously acquiesced.
“Taylor, where’s your mommy?” Bree asked her cousin. She knew Auntie Molly would never let Taylor wander around alone.
“Mommy!” Taylor pointed toward the main garden. Bree stood up to see her Aunt Molly and her daddy sitting at the edge of the garden talking and keeping an eye on the little boy.
“Oh,” Bree said then went back to her plants.
“Bee...tonezzz. See!” Taylor tugged on the sleeve of Bree’s t-shirt as he held out his hand showing Bree his pebbles.
“Stones,” Bree corrected.
“Stonessss,” Taylor repeated.
“Good,” Bree praised her young cousin. “Taylor, what are you going to do with your stones?” Bree asked cautiously. She did not want Taylor to throw his stones at her.
“Watch me, Bee!” Taylor said as he bounced excitedly up and down. Bree watched as Taylor ran toward the nearest tree. He stood a couple of feet away from the tree then threw his stones. One pebble hit its mark making Taylor jump for joy.
“Yay!” Taylor exclaimed then laughed and clapped his little hands, very proud of his accomplishment.
“Yay!” Bree repeated, happy that the stones hit the tree and not her or anyone else. She pondered the little boy for the moment then made the ultimate decision. “Taylor?” Bree began as Taylor was arming himself for his next assault on the tree.
Taylor looked up as he squatted on the ground.
“Would you like to gar-gar with me?” Bree asked pensively.
“Gar-gar?” the little boy asked as he lost all interest in the stones then toddled over to his cousin.
“Yes. Gar-gar. It’s very important,” Bree said succinctly and with authority.
“Im-por-tant,” Bree schooled her young pupil.
“Im-po-tan,” Taylor repeated to the best of his ability.
Bree sighed. “Close enough,” she said with all the wisdom of an eight year old. “So do you wanna help me?”
“Yay! Gar-gar!” Taylor exclaimed as he bounced up and down with excitement. “Wha do?”
Bree handed Taylor one of her hand shovels and began to show the little boy how to dig a hole in the window box for the root ball of a mum plant. The toddler could barely hold the shovel let alone dig, his frustration became apparent. Taylor threw down the shovel then picked up a pebble.
“No!” Bree shouted. “Wait,” Bree begged. “Stay here,” she pointed at the ground. “Okay? Stay right here.”
“‘K,” Taylor replied but he was already getting upset. He watched as Bree took off in her fastest sprint toward the large shed. Within minutes she was back with a small plastic pail.
“For you,” Bree said as she presented the pail and its contents to her cousin.
“Me?” Taylor asked as he dumped out the pail onto the ground. He picked up each item to examine. As he did Bree named each item and explained its use. This was her first set of gardening tools that her Dada had given her, small but made of a durable plastic, strong enough to withstand the most stubborn two year old. Taylor was in awe of his smart and knowledgeable older cousin.
Carefully watching how Bree handled each tool, Taylor and Bree began to plant the fall mums in the Wendy House window boxes.
“I don’t believe it,” Molly said to her brother in a whisper as she did a double take.
“I don’t think they can hear you,” Justin said with amusement.
“And I can’t believe how nicely Taylor is playing,” Molly said ignoring her brother’s remark.
“I don’t think they’re playing. Gar-gar is very important business to Bree. What I can’t believe is the patience she’s exhibiting,” Justin said making the realization that instead of becoming angry at her cousin, Bree was taking the time to show him how to plant. “Our kids are growing up.”
“Amazing!” brother and sister said in unison then giggled softly to each other.
“I wish I had my camera with me,” Molly said.
“I have something better,” Justin said as he jumped up to scurry inside the sun porch. He was back in a flash with his sketch pad. Molly watched with awe as her brother’s nimble fingers flew across the page capturing the tableau before them. She smiled to herself as she noted that her brother was again holding the pad in his once injured left arm and sketching with his right. Things were certainly looking up for Molly’s cwazy wittle family.
“I can’t believe the summer’s almost over and we’re both going back to school,” Gus said as he and Ray were sprawled across Gus’ bed.
“I know. Bobby and his firm threw a lunch for the interns on Friday. I’m going to miss you,” Ray said sadly as he reached out to link his fingers with Gus’. “When are we leaving?” Ray asked. Gus was going to drive Ray to Pittsburgh where they were going to stay at the loft for a few days. Then Ray would fly home and Gus would drive back to Penn.
“I guess we can all caravan back with everyone else,” Gus suggested. Ray nodded.
“Then maybe we should pack,” Ray said sensibly.
“Yeah,” Gus agreed, rolling over onto Ray. Gus’ body had other ideas.
“Hi, you guys ready to head back to the Pitts yet?” Justin asked as he came into the B&B. Lindsay had her suitcases airing out in the large communal living room.
“Soon. We all decided to go back together,” she said.
Justin nodded. “So have you decided to sit for me?”
“I’m not so sure,” Lindsay said looking down at herself. She had been cleaning, doing laundry and organizing the girls’ stuff all morning. She wasn’t feeling exceptionally sexy at the moment.
“Lindsay, you’re a beautiful woman. Please, I really want you to sit for me.” Lindsay was still hesitant. “I got Debbie to do it,” Justin sing-songed with a grin.
“You’re shitting me?”
“Is she completely naked?” Lindsay whispered even though they were all alone in the room.
“No. Wanna see?” Justin asked with a coy smile. He not so innocently batted his eyes at the tall blond.
Lindsay laughed. “Justin Taylor, does your husband know how much you flirt?”
“Yup!” Justin said proudly as he took out his sketch pad from his ever present messenger bag. He flipped it open, revealing Debbie’s sketch.
“Oh my god!” Lindsay exclaimed. “She’s gorgeous!”
Justin had Debbie wrap herself in a sheet and with a few strategically placed safety pins, it gave Debbie the look of a zaftig Greek goddess. Justin had her reclining on a chaise surrounded by Brian’s plants and orchids. The sheet was just low enough to reveal the swell of Debbie’s ample breasts without actually seeing anything and one curvaceous thigh was just visible. Justin limited the colors to just Debbie’s hair, the green foliage and the pastel colors of the orchids.
“This is unbelievable. Not that Debbie isn’t attractive, I mean she’s an older...oh fuck!” Lindsay turned crimson as Justin laughed. “I’m glad Debbie isn’t here to hear me. She’d box my ears,” Lindsay stumbled over her words. “Justin, you do know what I mean? This is really beautiful.”
“I know and even Debbie was thrilled with it. She wants me to paint a full portrait to give to Carl. I think he’ll appreciate it.”
“If not, Debbie will wallop him good,” Lindsay said. She couldn’t take her eyes off the sketch.
“Now will you sit for me?”
“If you promise to make me as beautiful as Debbie, I will.”
“Go take a shower and meet me in the greenhouse,” Justin said as he headed out the front door. “And no make up!” he threw over his shoulder. He laughed when he heard Lindsay curse.
“Are you sure the doors are locked?” Lindsay asked half hidden behind a potted palm.
“Yes,” Justin said for what seemed like the millionth time. “The only other person who has the key is Brian and he’s busy in his office. Besides, he has seen you naked.”
“But not in a long time,” Lindsay murmured. She wasn’t totally naked. Justin had her draped in a sheet as well. Sort of. One small piece of cloth was draped diagonally over Lindsay’s shoulder revealing one creamy white breast. She was leaning into the palm as if she was contemplating climbing it. Her hair flowing back and the curve of one buttock visible, the other hidden under cloth. Her leg was bent, resting on a small stool and her arms were uplifted, giving the impression of an Amazon woman ready to take to the trees.
“Are you sure?”
A loud wolf whistle interrupted Justin’s assurance.
“Hello, mama!” Brian announced his presence in his usual and subtle way.
“Lindsay, I’ll kill you if you move!” Justin quickly growled. Lindsay muttered soft curses but didn’t move. She knew just how important maintaining the pose was. Brian made himself comfortable on a nearby bench.
“You know for a gay man, you get awfully horny looking at a naked woman,” Lindsay deadpanned.
“Not all naked women, just you. I seem to recall you knew which buttons of mine to push. Are you sure you’re a lesbian?” Brian teased knowing that Lindsay occasionally enjoyed a bit of dick.
“Brian, if you make her move, I’ll kill you too.”
“Yes, dear.” Brian sat back quietly, looking smug and admiring the view. Lindsay was about to protest until she realized that the view Brian was admiring was that of Justin engrossed in his art. Lindsay relaxed, unable to hide her grin.
“Oooo, stay just like that,” the artist commanded. The model did what she was bid.
“Babe, can I get you anything?” Ben asked Michael as he came out of the house to the patio.
“No, I’m fine. Where’s JR?”
“She, Candy and Richie decided to picnic by the stream.” Ben sat next to Michael.
“Will they be okay?”
“I’m sure they will. The water is very calm and barely up to their knees this time of year. They’ll be fine.”
“Do we have to go back?”
“To Pittsburgh. Everyone is packing.”
“No, we’re staying and I’m sure somebody will be back for the holidays. It won’t be just us and the guys for the whole winter.”
“It’s okay; I think I’m looking forward to a quiet winter. Ben, what if we get snowed in?”
“We have it covered, Babe. Don’t worry about it. Your job is to rest and get better.”
“Okay. Ben, thank you.”
“For everything. Taking care of me and putting up with all my shit.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I know what I did to you.”
“What did you do besides marry me and make me the happiest man on the planet.”
“Made you think that you couldn’t live up to Brian. I’ll never stop loving him but it’s different. I was never in love with him. And I was jealous that you got to do the one thing I didn’t.”
“Me and thousands of others.” Ben snorted.
“Yeah.” Michael chuckled. “You and me have something good, don’t we?”
“Yes, we do and we’ll have it for a very long time.” Ben reached out to hold Michael’s hand. They sat quietly enjoying the last of the summer’s days, warming themselves in the sun.
“Glass houses,” Michael mumbled.
“There’s a saying that people living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I promise not to throw any more stones.”
“I love you Michael,” was all that Ben could say.
“I love you too.”
“I’m all packed. Here are my travel arrangements just in case you want to contact me.”
“Very good. I’ll call if I have any questions. Am I driving you to the airport?”
“No, I’ve called a cab.”
“Good. Then enjoy yourself.”
“Enjoy myself? I’m going back to spend time with my kids before school starts. I’m not off on a cruise.”
“Are you saying that you won’t enjoy spending time with your kids?” The comeback sounded accusatory.
“Of course I’ll enjoy spending time with them.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that you’re not coming with me. The problem is that you sound almost happy that I’m going to be away for a couple of weeks. Are you planning to move while I’m gone?”
“Are you planning to come back?”
Melanie and Lorna were at a standstill, neither woman willing to back down or compromise. Before either of them could say something they’d regret, a loud honk signaled the arrival of Mel’s taxi.
“I’ll let you know when I get to the hotel,” Mel said blandly.
“Have a nice trip,” Lorna replied in a cool tone.
As Melanie shouldered one bag and rolled her suitcase to the curb, Lorna’s cell phone rang. Just before Lorna shut the door Mel heard Lorna greet her caller.
“Bethany! How long has it been? You’re in town? We must get together...”
‘Fuck!’ Mel cursed to herself as she got into the taxi and headed for the airport.
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