The Light Fantastic

by LA Tucker

Part XIX :  I See Trees of Green, Red Roses, Too

For disclaimers see Part I

Sara was never a good sleeper in strange surroundings, and sleeping at Chloe's was no exception.  She woke several times during the night, to survey the clock on the night stand table.  The red numbers flashed 3:30,  4:15, 5:28, 6:40 and so on, deep into mid-morning for the exhausted but quite happy dark-haired woman. As the hours passed, and Sara woke and checked the clock, she pondered getting up, and quickly discarded that idea when she discovered the redheaded comfort that lay within her arms. Although she woke too frequently, she found the satisfaction and contentment of the warmth of Chloe so soothing, she fell asleep again without delay.  Chloe was spooned against her, or maybe she was spooned around Chloe.  Chloe's body against hers seemed as though a custom fit, her butt laying perfectly against the flat of Sara's stomach and pelvis, her back lined upwards to where her shoulders stopped in conjunction with Sara's breasts.  Sara found that the smaller woman's position still gave her plenty of space for her to move her arms and shoulders and head, although Sara found she didn't want to move away from the small woman. During the night, she merely adjusted herself to Chloe, to gently hold a breast, to tuck a hand into generous warm cleavage, or to lightly grasp a hand.  She was also delighted to find that during her short awakenings that Chloe seemed to be quite aware of the tall woman, even in her sleep. When Sara would adjust, Chloe almost always responded with a tiny scoot backwards, ensuring the tightest fit, with maximum touching of skin surfaces, and would let out an almost childlike moan of content. Sara would hear this moan, and found herself answering back with a deep sigh of her own, the ardent call of two lovers in the night.

As the morning wore on, and the red numbers flashed 8:15, 9:13 and then 10:20,  Sara woke yet again, and as she glanced at the clock, and was just settling her nose into the tickling presence of red blonde hair, her senses detected something was different. There was a new ... smell in the room, a familiar smell that the sleepy woman couldn't quite pinpoint.  As her mind tried to put a name to the aroma, Sara's sense of hearing piqued.  There were small, but infrequent dull noises emanating from somewhere else in the house.  Sara blinked her eyes open, and found that Chloe was just where she had been most of the night, still nestled in Sara's light embrace. The room was quite light, the sunshine of midmorning illuminating it, unfettered by any heavy materials on the three windows of the small bedroom.  Then there was the unmistakable sound of a toilet flush, and water running.  Sara, still not fully awake, but getting there, pulled away from Chloe, and lay on her back, deciding what to do. I should go investigate. What's going on?

"Chloe.  Chloe", nudged Sara. Coffee, that's what it is, coffee. "Chloe, wake up, I think someone is here."

Chloe, true to form, merely grunted, and missing the warmth of her partner, scooted her butt back to where it was again touching Sara's abdomen. "Hmm." she replied.

"Chloe." Sara tapped on her shoulder. "Chloe, wake up. I think ..."

She never got to finish her sentence, because she felt, and then saw, a familiar presence leaning against the door jamb, smiling bemused,  at her.

Sara blinked, and although never much of a modest woman, pulled the quilt up over her bare breasts before she spoke. "Mornin' Marcy."  Her hand kept up its insistent light poking of Chloe's shoulder.

"Well, good morning to YOU, Sara!  Sleep well?"  Marcy's grin was getting wider and wider, noticing the combination of sleepiness and annoyance that showed plainly on the tall woman's face. "Nice hair there, Sara. Do you always let badgers nest in it overnight?"  Marcy let out a laugh as she saw Sara interrupt her nudging of Chloe long enough to reach up and try to smooth down her disheveled hair. It didn't help a bit, but Sara didn't know that, and Marcy did. Marcy laughed, just as Sara gave her a decidedly unamused stare, and combined that with a not too gentle shove to Chloe's shoulder. This finally seemed to roust the redhead.  Sara and Marcy continued their staring, Sara's eyes narrowing with hurtful intent, and with that, Marcy started giggling with unhidden glee.

"Wha?" slurred a slowly waking Chloe.  She noticed that her tall warm comforter was no longer wrapped around her. "Whatsa matter?"

Sara kept her eyes glued in a staring contest with the art teacher. Chloe was just turning over to find out what happened to Sara when Marcy made her move, surprising even the quite alert Sara.

Marcy threw her arms outwards, and then took a running leap for the bed, shouting, "Group hug!!" as she landed,butt first, in between her best friend and her startled, glowering lover. Marcy scooted up the bed just a little, and grabbed a pillow from under Sara's head so she could prop her own auburn curls up against the headboard. She crossed her legs at the ankles, and laid a hand on a bare shoulder of each of the women beside her.  "Rise and shine! Rise and shine, my friends!"

Sara adjusted the covers once again, the heavy landing on the bed had displaced them to where she was displaying her charms again. "Chloe?" Sara grumpily called across to an awakening, but aware and grinning Chloe. "Do you own a gun?" She ignored the snickering Marcy, who was helpfully tugging on the comforters in an insincere effort to help Sara maintain her modesty.

Marcy, satisfied that Sara's dignity was now intact,  turned her attentions to her redheaded friend, who was eyeing her, amused. "Well, Chloe, good morning!  Interesting hairdo you've got there. Very fetching, especially to other ... roosters. Very '70's ...  Rod Stewartish." Marcy reached over an picked an invisible nothing out of Chloe's hair. "And what's this?  Were you two doing kinky things with  ... trail mix?"

Chloe slapped a none too gentle forearm across Marcy's stomach, and left it there. "That's a gerbil pellet. Gerbils, Marcy, gerbils." she said with an air of impatience. She rolled her eyes.

Sara raised an eyebrow, Marcy furrowed hers.

Sara snaked her arm across Marcy's belly, and took the hand of her lover in a soft grasp. She lifted her head to look across Marcy, and into the eyes of the small librarian. "Mornin, Chloe." she drawled, allowing the first smile of the morning to cross her face.

"Mornin, Sara."  Chloe's eyes got wider when she got her first good look at Sara. "Did I do that?" Her gaze was fixed on the chaotic tangle on Sara's head.

Sara distractedly tried to smooth her hair with her free hand. "I guess that egg beater wasn't such a good idea."

The clasped hands of the lovers vibrated with the movement of Marcy's belly as she chuckled.

Chloe yawned, and squeezed Sara's hand. "It seems that maybe we'd better get up, huh?  Is that coffee I smell?"

"Yup." teased a cheery Marcy. "And there's bagels, and muffins, and other surprise goodies, too."

Chloe brightened at those words, and caught Sara's eye again. "Can we shoot her after we eat?  Please?"

Sara nodded and smiled, then got a conspiratorial grin on her face. "Sounds like a plan. I guess we should get up." She winked at Chloe, and slowly, very slowly, started counting aloud, so her lover would have time to figure out the plan. "One ...."

Chloe cocked her eyebrow at Sara, silently questioning her. Sara waggled her eyebrows in reply.

"Two ... " Sara droned purposefully, then saw the comprehension appear in Chloe's eyes, and the grin that turned up the corners of her mouth.

"THREE!" Chloe and Sara shouted in unison, and whipped back the covers onto an usually unflappable Marcy. She was treated to the rare sight of two completely naked, nicely bare bottomed women as they dashed across the bedroom and out the doorway towards the bathroom.

Marcy smoothed out the covers on the bed on either side of her, and grinned, then laughed.  She shook her head, then announced quite loudly, "DAMN!  I still don't know if she's a TRUE redhead!"

"I forgot she had a key!" Chloe apologized again to a still slightly surly Sara, who was sipping her coffee and picking at a blueberry muffin. They were freshly showered, hastily dressed, and sitting at the kitchen table.   Marcy was at the counter,  pouring herself another cup of coffee.

"You said that already." sniped Sara, throwing the smirking Marcy another sneer.  Marcy lazily leaned against the counter, then picked her keychain out of her jumper pocket, and waved them, jangling, at Sara. She jumped back when Sara whipped out an hand in order to grab them from her. She just barely missed, and Marcy dumped them, victoriously, back into her pocket.

"Uh uh. Mine. And it will come in so handy in the future, I'm sure."  gloated Marcy. "I'll bet I could sneak a film crew in here some morning ..."

Chloe, two bagels down, and happily working on a poppy seed muffin, decided to quit feeling guilty. "We go 50-50, Marcy. Try and get 'Inside Edition',  I hear they pay better."

Marcy was just about to answer to that, when there were some loud raps on the front door. She glanced at the startled faces of her two friends seated at the table. She started moving out of the kitchen towards the front door, calling over her shoulder as she walked. "Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that Dave and Nelson were stopping by after going to Charlie Shemp's?"

Chloe buried her face in her hands just in time to block the light impact of the blueberry that came sailing across the table at her.

All three D'Amicos had cheerfully agreed to make a run to the grocery store to pick up the makings for dinner. After Chloe had confusedly insisted that she had plenty of ingredients around to make up an adequate meal for the five of them, Marcy finally took pity on her, and nudged her as Chloe continued to study the blank, expectant faces of the three patiently waiting family members.

"Chloe, get a clue." said a quietly exasperated Marcy. "Chloe, they want to go grocery shopping. With Sara's car."

Chloe blinked, and then, with some slowly awakening comprehension, said, "Oh."  She saw the three smiling faces of the D' Amicos nodding in happy, if silent, agreement, to Marcy's explanation. "OH!"  She returned their happy nod, saving her best smile for Sara. "Got it."

Sara wanted to reach over and take Chloe into her arms and kiss the woman senseless, just because she was so cute and so astute, even if Marcy had to nudge her into a little reality. Dave and Nelson stood up from the table, not hiding their eagerness.

Dave looked thoughtfully at Nelson. "You've never driven a manual clutch, on the wheel, have you?"

Sara stood up, too, and gave a grin in response to the disappointed look on Nelson's face.  She winked at Dave, and scratched at the nape of her neck. Hesitatingly just long enough to tease the young man just a little longer, she finally sighed and pursed her lips into a tight grin. " 'Bout time you did."

Three pairs of blue eyes lit up, and matching grins and deep chuckles followed.  Dave leaned over Marcy, and gave her a soft, lingering kiss. Nelson noted that Chloe's ceiling was painted white, how unique.  Sara bent over Chloe to do the same, as Nelson contemplated that no, the ceiling really didn't need a fresh coat, it was still pretty much a pristine white.

Sara, upon straightening up from the kiss, noticed a small, pronounced red mark just below Chloe's left earlobe, just at the point where hairline gave way to the white skin of the side of her throat. Ruh-roh. She leaned back down quickly and whispered into her ear. "I'm so sorry. Honey, don't tuck your hair behind this ear for a few days, alright?"

She straightened up, and Chloe ran her fingertips to the area where Sara had indicated, and then a small frown of awareness hit her lips. She looked up at Sara, who guiltily gave her an apologetic grin, and narrowed her green eyes at her.  Sara shrugged, and gave Chloe her best pitiful pout, and Chloe melted, and her smile returned. "I'll live. But you, on the other hand, I'm worried about your life expectancy."

Dave couldn't help himself, watching the cute interaction between his sister and her new love. "Marked your woman, huh, Sara. I noticed that first thing as we came in today." There followed three chuckles, with two very silent abstentions. Chloe's hand shot back up to the area, and covered it. "Great, I'm really the town harlot now.", she remarked, rather angrily.  Her features darkened, and she glared at everyone in the kitchen in turn. She then broke out into a laugh of her own, and said, cheekily, "It's kinda cool. I like it. This time."

Four tense people let out a silent sigh of relief. All four had been privy to the somewhat volatile outbursts of the small redhead in front of them, and three of those people were also quietly thanking their higher power that her anger hadn't segued into a pacing, cranky diatribe.  Sara, the most relieved of their little group, had to lean down and lay a grateful kiss on her lover's forgiving lips. Nelson regarded the ceiling again, deciding to himself that it wouldn't need a new coat of paint for a year, or maybe two.

Chloe watched as her lover rose again, and she couldn't help but think some pretty racy thoughts as she regarded those cool blue eyes. God, all the places those lips were last night. Never mind those lips,  it's that tongue, yeah, that tongue. Who knew I could respond like that to ... and so many times?  I lost count and ...

Chloe woke from her instantaneous daydream to see that Dave and Nelson had already somehow exited the kitchen, and found that she and Sara were locked in a mutual lusty stare.

Marcy tapped her coffee cup to snap the women out of it. "Sara, the boys are waiting. Nelson is dying to ruin your clutch. Do you have a grocery list?"  Chloe began gazing at Sara again, wanting to see her lips move.

"List?" murmured Sara, whose mind unexplainably was comparing how much the word 'list' sounded like the word 'lust'. Just change one letter. The 'I' into 'U'. Then it happily morphed that thought into 'I into you', and her eyes unconsciously began traveling over Chloe's blushing flesh.  Her mind then grasped that Marcy was again tapping on her coffee cup again, this time with more gusto. "What'd you say, Marcy?"

Marcy gave an impatient sigh.  We aren't going to see these two for weeks, just when they decide to come up for air. Good thing I have my key. That thought brought an evil grin to her face as she repeated, "List. Sara. List."

Sara broke her gaze only because she suddenly noticed that Chloe was now glowing a rosy red, and had shyly turned away from Sara's blistering hot gaze. Sara grinned, delighted and warm, and finally looked at Marcy. "Uh. No.  D' Amicos don't do lists. We ...  'live in the moment' at grocery stores."

Marcy and Chloe both laughed at the absurdity of the statement, and the absolute truth that shone through it.  Sara was pleased that the women understood, but didn't know why they so easily understood, but accepted it without further comment. She reached and ran a hand to feel the softness of Chloe's reddened cheek. "We'll be back later." She broke the touch, and finally started moving her feet to the front door, where Dave and Nelson were discussing the idea that Chloe really should consider opening her book jammed home as a library annex.

Marcy and Chloe, still seated at the kitchen table, smiled and waved, and watched the D' Amicos depart out the front door. Dave was just pulling it closed behind him, when he stopped and blew a kiss to Marcy.

Marcy caught it, grinned and then said, "Hey, you, where are you guys going grocery shopping?"

Dave's eyebrows did a little mambo before he answered, looking her directly in the eye. "Mayville." he cheerfully replied, as he disappeared behind the closing door.

Marcy and Chloe just looked at each other, and then burst into laughter. Mayville, New York, was 50 miles away.

Sara had called shotgun, after all, it was her car, and that brought its privileges.  Dave had grumbled, then acquiesced, as he struggled to find a comfortable position for his long body in the backseat of the two-door car. He finally leaned his back into the side of the seat behind Sara, and stretched his legs across the seat onto the floor behind the driving Nelson.  Sara was fiddling with the radio dials, trying to find an acceptable AM station. This wasn't an easy task, and she traveled up and down the dial several times before she settled on a station that was touting itself as the 'Music of Your Life'.

Nelson, who had pretty quickly caught on to the mechanics of driving a manual shift on the steering wheel, was happily transporting them at close to 65 miles MPH up the lakeside highway. "That sure isn't the music of MY life."

"Would you rather listen to 'Polka Party'?  That should still be on a few more hours ... " teased Sara, and then pinched her nephew on the arm.

With Tony Bennett softly crooning in the background, all three D' Amicos, the quiet family, sat back to relax into the joyride. Each mind was busy twisting around in its own thoughts.

It'll be warmer soon.  I wonder if I can convince Aunt Sara to let me take Jeanette to the drive-in in this car?  It'd be so cool, and I'll bet everyone there would be coming by to look at it.  I'll have to ask her more about it, so I don't look like a jerk when people ask me questions about it.  This bench seat has definite possibilities with Jeanette, too ...

Great. Just look at those buds coming out on those trees. Pretty soon there'll be leaves, and flowers. Flowers. I should get some red roses for Marcy.  She's seemed so different lately,  kind of distracted.  The golf course will be opening soon, I should make some time and take her somewhere romantic before we get busy. Maybe Sara would lend me the car ...

She sure is ... flexible. She was so far gone, I had to catch her from falling off the bed. And those sounds she makes when she is ....

Maybe Aunt Sara would let me take Jeanette to the prom in this car, too. It'd be so much cooler than some dumb limousine. Justin and Heather could fit in the back.  We'll go to Erie for dinner, then back in time for the start. I wonder if Jeanette wants us to pose for prom pictures. Those are so ... cheesy.  Not if we were standing in front of this car.

Patti Page began singing about 'Old Cape Cod'.

I suppose I should try and make it a romantic setting for the proposal. Maybe even down on bended knee?  Ha.  She'd probably slug me.

What was it, eight, nine hours, without taking many breaks in between?  The woman is insatiable. And who knew she loved Little Debbie's like I do?  The perfect energy pick-me-up. I wonder if she wants me to spend the night again?  I don't want it to be too much, too soon.  I bet I could convince her.  I really love how aggressive she can be ... pushed me right to the edge of sanity.  I still can't figure out how we got into that one position ...

I've got to make a decision soon about college. Why does this have to be so hard?  Dad's not going to like me going so far away.  I think he expects me to stay closer to home, but ... Son, Californy is the place you oughta be. So they loaded up the truck ...

Funny thing is, even if she does say yes, there's no guarantee that she'll actually go through with it.  I don't want to be Richard Gere, chasing Julia Roberts down the street. God that movie stunk. Chick flick. Maybe I can get her all liquored up and haul her butt to a justice of the peace. Would she want to live in my house?  I don't know about some of those 'works of art'.  I'm just a simple guy. What's she going to say about my Arnold Palmer autographed picture? Would she want to move it?  I think it looks nice there in the bathroom.

Peggy Lee had a 'Fever'.

Oh, yeah, Peggy, sing it, baby!  Fever?  I thought we were both going to self combust a few times. Loud. She is loud. It was a shock, at first, but it makes me so crazy! Good thing she doesn't live in an apartment.  As it is, I think her screaming shocked a few cows into sterility. And they're at least a 1/2 mile up the road.

Stan, no, Nelson will be my best man. Of course, Nelson. I keep thinking of him as some kid. Look at him, he looks just like Sara. Mary will be coming in from Arizona for Nelson's graduation. It's going to be awkward enough to deal with her, and then there's the fact that the woman who helped break up my marriage is now my girlfriend, soon to be fiancee. Maybe I should wait until after graduation to ask her ...

I could live at Chloe's, I think. It's small, but ... my little bungalow is even smaller. What am I thinking? I'm such a cliché. No need for anyone to think about moving anywhere.  I do need to pick up a toothbrush at the store.

At least I can dance better now.  Not like we'll be high-steppin' at the prom, but at least I can keep a beat now.  Jeanette's going to go to the University of Arizona.  I can visit her there when I go visit  Mom. Tempe,  I wonder how far that is from Phoenix?  At least Mom wasn't shocked by my being in this play. I wish she come to see me in it.  Really, if I got any singing talent, it's from her. I wonder if Rick will come with her for graduation.  She seems happy with him.  She's always fought with Aunt Sara, well, from the times I can actually remember them being together.  She never approved of her being gay. I don't get it, it embarrasses me, sure, but Chloe seems to make Aunt Sara so happy.  I don't even like seeing Dad kiss Marcy, so maybe it's just a shy thing on my part.  And California is loaded with gays.  That's what that idiot Jason says, anyways. It's a wonder that he is even graduating with us. He's such a loser.

And in August, maybe I could pick up two more used golf carts.  I hope Marcy doesn't want a big wedding.

I have an extra key I could give her. Wonder if she'll offer to give one to me?

Jeanette has the greatest eyes.  She gets all quiet, and just stares at me, and I get all ...

Chloe is so emotional ... afterwards. And during.  And before. I wish I could be like that, but she does seem to bring something out of me that I didn't know was there before.  I feel all ...

That woman has my number, alright.  I don't know what I'll do if she says no.  Just be patient, and keep trying, I guess.  She's something, one look from her and, bang,  I'm all ...

Sara's hand shot out, and turned up the volume on the radio. She and Nelson exchanged knowing grins as the beginning bars of a very familiar song began playing through the small and tinny sounding single speaker of the old Comet. Dave, in the back seat, nodded in pleased agreement, when he recognized the song, too. It was Patsy Cline. All three voices joined in, singing along.

"I'll be loving you, always.  With a love that's true, always ..."

The miles stretched out behind them as they traveled along in the warmth of the sun of early spring, and pondered the endless possibilities that lay directly ahead.

"You, my dear Marcy, have a filthy, dirty mind. I like that in a person." Chloe was on her second beer.

Marcy, who had just recently discovered that she had an oral fixation, was centering her thoughts about sex so she could forget, even shortly, about her all consuming desire to run to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes. She rubbed the patch on her shoulder to hopefully release more nicotine into her deprived system.  She was drinking a bottled water, jealously eyeing Chloe's beer bottle. "Tell me again how it's the right thing to give up smoking. Tell me again how I should not be drinking right now, even before I come to any conclusions ... "

Chloe, ever predictable in some of her habits, was picking on the label of her beer bottle. "How about that appointment?  Did you make one?"

Marcy was thinking about asking Chloe if she could have her beer bottle, so she could pick the label, and keep her nervous hands occupied. "Oh, yeah, it's Friday. Good Friday, of all things.  A counselor, uh, a Ms. Cardinger ... I'll, uh, we'll be talking with her." She looked to Chloe's face, and saw a bit of surprise reflected there.

"We'll be talking with her?  I thought I was just the chauffeur with this ... "

"Well, I was thinking, I'll just have to repeat everything she says to me to you, anyway, so you might as well be in the room while we discuss it ... I mean, if you don't mind.  And I was thinking we should just leave from there for our ..."

Chloe finished. " 'Spin the Car'. Are you sure you still want to do that, Marse? I mean, you'll have a lot on your mind after that appointment."

Marcy sighed, and unsuccessfully tried to pick at the label on her bottle of water. "All the more reason to play 'Spin the Car', Chloe, and besides, it's traditional for us to do this every Easter ..."

Chloe smiled at those words.  They had taken short trips over Easter vacation ever since they had begun college. They had never done the warm climate sojourns that their college cohorts had, they found that they preferred to renew their very important friendship over their breaks from school, and returned home instead, to reunite in taking little adventures to cities in the surrounding area.  Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo, even to Wheeling, West Virginia at one point. Why should this year be any different?

Marcy was reading her mind. "I don't know how you feel about this, Chloe, but ... I'm sort of glad the D' Amicos will be leaving for Florida on Thursday.  I don't think I could be around Dave right now, I mean, it's hard now, with all this deep thinking that I've got to get done."

"Well, of course, I'll miss her ..."  I'll do more than miss her, god, we just start this new aspect of our relationship, and she'll be leaving for five, six days. Chloe plastered a smile on her face again. "I think it'll be good for all of us.", she lied. But she was totally truthful when she continued, "I like our trips together, Marcy ...  I always have." Chloe was suddenly swept up in the emotions she had been pummeled with the last week or so. The news about Marcy's pregnancy. The explosion of sexual desires. The depth of the love that she felt for Sara. For Marcy. For Dave. For Nelson.  For that old busybody, Doris. For homeless people. For the guy at the Amoco station who looked 20 years older when he didn't wear his teeth. For all of friggin' mankind. Chloe started sniffling, her eyes wet with emotion. "I love you, Marcy." She leaned over to hug her oldest, dearest friend.

Marcy, who had been wondering if there was maybe a smokable cigarette butt under the front seat of her car, and how she could sneak out there to check, was a bit thrown by the sudden emotionality of her friend. She leaned into the hug, and held her tightly for a while. "I love you, too, Chloe."

Chloe finally leaned back into the couch, and blushingly said, "Sorry, I know you don't normally like that kind of stuff ... I just felt all, you know, 'What A Wonderful World' there for a minute."

Marcy grinned at the reference to the optimistic Louis Armstrong song. She narrowed her eyes at Chloe, and then said, with certainty in her statement, "PMSing, aren't you?"

Chloe blinked, and then laughed. "That must be it ... " Oh, please, Lord, not until Thursday. Let it stay away until Sara leaves for Florida.

"That, and being totally sexually satisfied, and in love, I would think."

"Well, there is that ..." giggled a blushing, very satisfied Chloe.

Marcy took a look at the clock on the wall. "It's nearly 5, they've been gone for almost 3 hours, so they should be coming back soon ..."

Chloe put her beer bottle down on the table, and stretched to crack her back. "Yeah. I suppose I should ..."

"Go brush your teeth, Chloe.  I need to go get something out of my car, anyway ..."

Chloe got up from the couch, and gave her friend a skeptical look, and was going to say something, but decided to stay quiet. I'm not her mother.

When Chloe returned from the bathroom, satisfied that her breath was more palatable, and her hair looking respectable, her front door opened, and Marcy came in, trailed by Dave, Sara, Nelson, and to Chloe's surprise, a beaming and bashful Jeanette.  Sara caught Chloe's eye, smiled broadly, and shrugged her shoulders.

Dave, juggling bags of groceries in his arms, gave Marcy an unembarrassed long smooch, and then looked to Chloe, who was smiling at the family, and friends before her. He shifted the groceries and put an arm around Jeanette, and gave her a quick squeeze. "Look what we found, all alone on a Sunday Dinner night.  Nelson here was afraid she would waste away, and well, Sara and I figured that she's irreplaceable ... " He punched his blushing son in the arm. "... to the play and all. So ... we picked her up, threw her in the trunk, and here we are ... " He looked at Chloe for acceptance, and was pleased to see that she was smiling back him.

Jeanette looked shyly at Chloe, and held out a covered dish to her. "I hope it's all right, Ms. Donahue ... and here, I brought a cherry pie ... "

Chloe graciously took the pie from Jeanette, and clucked her tongue at her before she bestowed a shining and welcoming smile at the nervous girl. "Jeanette, in my own house, you may call me 'Chloe'. And it looks, from what I've heard, that you and I will soon be initiated into the singular, spectacular experience of 'The D' Amico Sunday Family Dinner.' "

Nelson both groaned and grinned at this,  and then suddenly brave, he took Jeanette's hand, and led her towards Chloe's kitchen, as four smiling adults trailed behind.

"See, it's like this, Jeanette," said Nelson, his voice holding a teaching tone, "first, we'll start with the pie, and then ..."

Continued in Part XX

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