The sun was just setting in the west and because the living room windows faced westward, it was suffused in a warm rosy glow. Elijah settled back in his seat scanning the newspaper for anything of interest. The politics bored him and the social news passed him by. It was the human interest stories that drew him and those were not many. He was reading about a young boy who shot another boy because his girlfriend was allegedly receiving messages from him on something called snapchat when Tony walked in, Benjy in his arms. Elijah glanced up at him and then back to the paper.
“Can you believe this story? Some boy killing some other boy over some messages sent to a girl?”
“What were the messages?” Tony asked as he tried to contain an overactive Benjy from slipping out of his arms and falling to the floor.
Elijah glanced up at him with narrowed eyes. “That is so not the point,” he said.
Tony was too preoccupied for a minute to answer, trying to find a surface to deposit Benjy on since he’d managed to turn completely upside down in Tony’s arms. He was talking happily to himself in the unintelligible language of babies as he kicked out with what appeared to Tony to be eight legs all in different directions. Tony finally collapsed on the sofa and held Benjy tight to him turning him cautiously around so he faced the right way up.
“And he can’t even walk yet,” was Elijah’s smug sounding comment. Tony glared at him.
“He has more energy and more limbs than other people,” he complained.
Elijah laughed, “Naw, he just knows that whatever he does, you will catch him before he hurts himself.”
Benjy looked at his great grandfather with gray piercing eyes and laughed as well.
“Who’s a pretty boy now? Huh? Huh?” Elijah said coming to lift him from his father’s arms. Benjy just laughed.
Relieved of his burden temporarily, Tony snaked the paper to read the story his grandfather-in-law had been telling him about. His blue eyes scanned the page sifting through the story and other stories in a quick left to right motion, his tall lean body held still and tense. He didn’t know why but reading papers always made him nervous or anxious.
‘Too many bad things have happened’ he guessed, knowing it was ridiculous to blame the newspapers but unable to stop the feelings.
“Who’s a good boy now?” Elijah was asking a curiously pliant Benjy. “I was reading that,” he continued in the same playful tone, smiling at Benjy even as his eyes cut to Tony.
“Yeah I know, just catching up on that story you were telling me. Looks like the boy just grabbed any excuse to kill the guy. Or he’s psychotic. Or very jealous. Who knows?” Tony commented.
“Or he’s just emotionally immature and without any moral compass at all. The kids these days…” Elijah let the sentence lie unfinished even as he threw Benjy into the air and caught him, making him break out in delighted peals of laughter.
“What about the kids these days?” Solomon asked, dreadlocks swinging as he sauntered into the room, fresh off of basketball practice. He played once a week at the YMCA that was nearby.
“So defensive…” Elijah murmured as he made exaggerated smiley faces at Benjy.
Solomon crossed to the drinks counter and poured himself some water, adding plenty of ice and a twist of lemon to it. He drank deeply, making satisfied sounds as he did so.
“Man, that was some workout.” He said.
“Clearly,” Tony said, eyeing his sweaty lean tall frame. “Don’t sit on my leather couches.”
“You always say that,” Solomon complained as he bounded out the room. “I’m off to shower,” he announced though nobody showed any interest in caring. Tony leaned back with a contented sigh.
“So it’s been a rather quiet six months,” he ventured when Elijah stopped throwing the baby in the air and was sitting quietly letting Benjy suck his thumb.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Elijah said sounding amused.
“It’s not…just…I keep expecting the other shoe to drop. You know?” he said slowly and reluctantly.
“What? Having Solomon kidnapped on top of his being lost, found and having amnesia wasn’t enough for you? Let alone Benjy’s early birth and the whole shenanigans with your father skimming off of you to keep the Bratva off your back? That wasn’t enough excitement for one lifetime?”
Tony laughed wryly, “It’s exactly because of all those things that the last six months have seemed too quiet.”
“Too quiet ha! What with all the screaming and crying and colic and nappies…and that’s just Sophie,” Elijah said. Tony turned around reflexively like she might have heard her name and come storming in to see who was back biting her.
“Scaredy cat,” Elijah mocked seeing him look.
“Hey, you’re her grandfather. She can’t divorce you,” Tony protested making Elijah laugh outright.
“Please, never in the history of humanity has a woman loved a man the way Sophie loves you so just hush up,” Elijah said holding Benjy close.
“You wouldn’t know it the way she yells at me sometimes,” Tony mumbled.
“Ach! That’s just…” Elijah waved his hand around as if that was sufficient explanation.
“What?” Tony asked.
“Oh you know. You said yourself; it’s been stressful. You anxiously scan newspapers, Sophie snaps at people now and then. It don’t mean nothin,” Elijah stated. “What y’all need is some time.”
“Yeah. Time. Take your wife and your kid, go somewhere and just relax.”
“But what about-“ Tony began.
“No ifs, buts or maybes. Take your family and go. What’s the use of having all this money if you can’t take random vacations?” Elijah asked very seriously.
“You make a good point,” Tony replied wryly, “I’ll make arrangements.”
“We’ll keep it a surprise. No need for Sophie to have more on her plate right now. Her hands are full with this munchkin and you. Where is she anyhow?”
“Out for dinner with Curtis.” Tony said somewhat grumpily.
“What? You know that negro is gay right?” Elijah asked looking quizzically at Tony’s face.
“I know…” Tony said but he continued to look grumpy.
“What then?” Elijah asked impatiently.
“Nothing.” Tony said, thick blonde eyebrows almost touching his hair.
“Well then stop looking like the dog ate your homework,” Elijah said and went back to playing with Benjy.
Music was blaring quite loudly from the speakers as Snoop Dogg asked what his motherfucking name was. Sophie studied her plate of fried chicken wondering if she’d been wise to order so much. It wasn’t like Curtis would help her eat as he was perpetually ‘on a diet’. Even so he did take her to the most fast food type places he could find – probably to live vicariously through her plate.
“I may have ordered too much,” she ventured to say as he studied her while sucking on his Krusher.
“Well there’s no law which says you have to finish it…I’m sure Solomon will be glad to polish it off if you take him a doggy bag.”
“Actually Solomon is being all health conscious and shit. The doctor said it’d help with his memory to take supplements and B12 and what not and he’s taking it all very seriously.”
“I mean…that’s good right? Why you sound so down?” Curtis leaned forward studying her face.
“I’m not…down…not really anyway. I’m just…itchy?” Sophie said, squirming in her seat in illustration.
“Girl what you mean itchy? Don’t tell me that boy’s giving you some venereal disease,” Curtis asked sounding amused.
“Ha ha. No of course not. I mean…I don’t know; it’s just been a lot of stuff happening in my life and it’s made me…itchy.” She said her lip curling in self derision, “I know how it sounds but I don’t know how to explain it better.”
“I believe the medical term is ‘irritable’,” Curtis said smiling.
“Well whatever you wanna call it, my skin just don’t fit right on my bones right now.”
“So what are you going to do about it?” Curtis asked.
Sophie looked around the restaurant. It was full to overflowing with patrons eating and drinking and bobbing their heads to the music. Technically it was a restaurant but it had kind of a disco vibe going on with the loud music and the psychedelic wall paper. It reminded Sophie of carefree days she never really had and the old school music was the sound track to her life. She wondered if she should bring Tony here. She only ever came with Curtis – it was their common culture and they were both comfortable with it.
Maybe it’d be too loud for him, she mused.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Curtis cut in, reminding her that she wasn’t alone.
“Oh, hi,” she grinned at him, “I was just wondering how comfy Tony might be here.”
“I think Tony’s criteria for being comfortable anywhere is that you are there. He has got it bad,” Curtis teased.
“Well anyway,” Sophie waved a hand in dismissal while grinning from ear to ear, “how’s work?’
Curtis laughed but went along with her change of subject. They discussed the accounting firm that Sophie had been working at when she met Tony, the gossip, the politics, the interesting cases…
“So Rodham was asking me about you. I mean now that you’re all settled, would you consider coming back to work?”
“You mean would I bring Romanov accounts to them?”
“Yes well yeah, that too.” Curtis grinned.
Sophie sat back and narrowed her eyes at him. “This isn’t what this lunch is about is it?” she asked suspiciously.
Curtis put his hand over his heart and opened his mouth in a faux shocked gesture, “Sophie darling! Honestly I’m hurt.”
Sophie crossed her arms and continued to stare at him but Curtis was unfazed at her death stare so she quit it. “Okay then, well Tony actually wanted me to go work for him but with one thing and another, we just haven’t formally started the process yet.”
“Is that wise?” Curtis dubiously asks.
“I know right? That’s what I said. But Tony seems sure that we can work as husband and wife team with no problems.”
“Well…at least he trusts you with his money.” Curtis smiles.
“Yes. He does trust me. And I do trust him. I just don’t know how he puts up with me right now. I’m such a mess,” Sophie’s eyes were suddenly bright with unshed tears.
“Aww stop,” Curtis says his eyes becoming wary, “Tony loves the hell outta you – he doesn’t need to ‘put up’ with you.”
Sophie hastily took a napkin and dabbed at her eyes trying to contain the tears that were threatening to overwhelm her, “I know, I know. It just…oh don’t mind me.”
“I don’t mind. And neither does Tony. Promise.”
Sophie bit out a laugh, “Yeah okay well…that concludes the melodramatic portion of the day; moving on swiftly to these wings.” She picked one up in illustration and bit into it.
“There’s my girl. Have some more soda,” Curtis grinned pushing his Krusher in her direction.
“You are horrible to my hips you know that?” Sophie complained.
“I remember when you had hips. Looks like pregnancy was like the craziest weight loss program for you.”
Sophie perked up, “Tell me about it! That and breast feeding. I’ve lost two dress sizes; I’m down to a size 12 now.”
“I’m not sure whether you’re crowing or complaining,” Curtis said snarkily.
Sophie inclined her head, thinking about it. “I miss my hips,” she said at last.
Curtis leaned down, studying the body part in question. “Mmmh, there are still some left don’t worry. Enough to fill out a dress in all the right ways.”
Sophie threw her napkin at him but she also looked happier. Just then her phone rang.
“Hello,” she said cheerily.
“Maam, you asked me to let you know when it was coming on 6:30. Shall I come pick you up now?” Samuel’s voice came down the line.
Sophie looked at her watch then up at Curtis in dismay. “Already? Give me half an hour then come,” she said.
“What? Curfew’s began?” Curtis asked as she hung up. Sophie shook her head.
“It’s almost time for Benjy’s last feed before bed. He and I prefer to have that one direct from the breast so I gotta jet.” She said apologetically.
Curtis reached over and covered her hand with his, “Hey. If you need to talk some more or just want to gossip…”
Sophie smiled at him, “I know you crazy kid. I have your number.”
“Good. Coz you know I always like to be the first to know things.” Curtis said stealing a chicken wing from her plate.
“Speaking of knowing, how is that guy you were seeing? The one with the faux hawk?”
“Who? Marcellus? He was like three guys ago.” Curtis protested.
“What? Damn, I liked him.”
“Why? Coz he used to bring you hot chocolate?”
“That…among other things. He really seemed to care about you.”
“Maybe he did…probably why he was sleeping with that heifer from the strip club.” Curtis said sulkily. Sophie made a moue of sympathy.
“Bastard,” she said.
“Yep,” Curtis replied.
They finished their meal in companionable silence and as they were settling the bill Samuel stuck his head in the door, scanning the room for Sophie.
“There’s my ride. You want us to drop you anywhere?” Sophie asked. But Curtis was busy eyeing some guy sitting two tables away.
“No, I think I’ll hang out here for a bit.” He said.
Sophie smiled, “Okay honey, good luck with that”, she said as she leaned over to kiss him goodbye.
“Kiss my boo boo for me.” Curtis said eyes still on the guy.
“I will,” Sophie replied as she turned to wave to Samuel. He came over and took her bag from her, ushering her forward to go before him.
“Thank you,” she murmured as she made her way through the crowd.
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