This story contains sexual content, violence, coarse language and consumption of alcohol.
It is rated R and is for readers 18+ only.
The Gut Buster (Snow Angel)
My brother Elton is forward and protective. He had to be. He took most of the brunt from our father growing up. He always protected me even if it drove me nuts. He’s also brazen and has filter issues due to his lack of social graces.
“Elton.” My mom scolded, “I specifically told you not to bring that up.”
“Which is exactly why I’m bringing it up mom. I’m curious, how do you go from dreadfully single to… ga-ga snuggly in one maybe two dates?”
I thought I’d feel weird about this. I don’t. “We met a few weeks ago, I thought he was married and cheating on his wife. I was mean, he was persistent for some reason and it turned out he’s not married or cheating and it was all a big mix up.”
I explained in detail after Elton insisted and by the end, Penelope was smiling behind her glass of wine. A good smile or bad one I couldn’t tell with her, I’m hoping for good.
“So two dates?” Elton said with one brow raised. “And you bring him home for family dinner?”
“Elton enough,” Donovan said firmly.
Elton didn’t look away from Locke. “No, it’s fine, by all means, bring him here among total strangers. I mean Locke you seem like a great guy and all, and you must have balls of steel to come to dinner with her family after two dates.”
“I swear to God Elton,” Mom warned and Locke chuckled.
Locke rubbed my shoulder, “Elle if that is the worst he says and even if he said worse, he’s nothing compared to what my sister said and did and probably will say and do. I can respect the protective mistrust hat you’re wearing Elton.”
“Is he for real?” Elton looked at me.
“That’s not even his best material,” I replied.
Elton laughed and spilled his drink on his leg. “You’re a romantic aren’t you?” He asked Locke as he set his glass on the coaster. “You don’t have a creep, jerk, slimeball, or asshole vibe at all. So I’m good.”
Elton walked out to presumably change or clean up.
“Just like that?” Locke asked looking adorably stunned.
“Yup,” I said and snuggled closer and to my delight, Locke shifted to accommodate.
“What about you?” Locke asked Donovan.
“What he said.” He hitched his thumb behind him in the direction Elton went and we all laughed.
The conversation was a breeze after that. I directed most of it as I usually do. Got the low down on the bakery and moms latest ideas. I had Donovan talking about the cooking classes he was starting in the spring. Penelope and Elton were easy to get talking. Locke was harder for me to coax and I know it’s because I don’t know him well. Donovan took the lead on that.
Two drinks in, except for me and Penelope, Elton brought out the deck of Uno of cards and after one explanation, and Locke caught on. It’s not exactly a complicated game. We laughed and teased and Locke was hilarious with his anecdotes and little stories of random things. He artfully skirted around his profession by saying he writes books and then he skillfully, like a little conversation ninja, changed the subject. His modesty was admirable. By the time, everyone was getting silly dinner was ready.
Donovan outdid himself as usual. He treated the last dinner of the year as he does Christmas dinner and nobody minded. The turkey was perfect, the stuffing, gravy, yams, roasted mini potatoes, asparagus and Brussel sprouts were too delicious. I love Brussel sprouts. Locke burst out laughing when my mom set a plate in front of him with four different pieces of pie, small slices, but still four. There was apple-pear, Pumpkin, white chocolate drizzled pecan and mom’s classic cherry, which was my favorite.
“You’re joking,” Locke said with a slight smile that showed the little boy in him that wanted to eat all of the pieces.
“New guy gets the gut buster,” Elton said, “We’re totally judging you. Are you man enough?”
Locke narrowed his eyes at Elton, “I know I am, but am I the only one?”
That did it. With silly machoism from the men caused laughs from the women. Three men sat ready to out eat the other to put on a useless show of who’s dominant. It was gross and probably a bad idea, but the testosterone was outrageous.
They didn’t race since it wasn’t who could eat faster, it was who could eat it all. Locke finished first having more to prove, but all three managed.
“You’re going to regret eating all that,” Penelope said with a frown to Elton.
“Maybe,” Elton nodded at Locke. “But good lord those pies were a divine mom.”
“What was in the cherry pie?” Locke asked my mom.
“Cranberries, lemon and some secret spices.”
“Elle, that was by far my favorite.” Locke said looking all too pleased with himself.
“Thank you, it’s my own recipe.” She smiled and started gathering up plates.
I started to help and Donovan gathered the men to go do whatever men do after overeating pie. Probably puke, I would.
In the kitchen, I got to work cleaning while Penelope and mom put food away.
“This is so gendered gross,” Penelope muttered.
“Why?” I asked.
“The men have an eating contest then go off to drink whiskey while we clean up?”
I hate when she gets like this. “Hmm, well perhaps gender roles don’t have to be entirely abolished. I can do many things Elton can’t those used to be gender specific things. I like both and I don’t mind.”
“Who cleans up in your apartment?” Mom asked.
“We both do equally.” Penelope said with her nose raised.
Mom didn’t buy that for a second but she kept my mouth shut. The truth is Donovan cooked most of this so he didn’t have to clean up. Usually, he was first in the kitchen cleaning after a dinner. While I like Penelope she rubs me wrong all the time. She didn’t approve of pretty much anything I do. I understand why she’s jealous. It’s weird but she doesn’t like how close Elton and I are. She also doesn’t understand what it’s like to live under a heavy fist. My mom asked me to behave and find kindness in my heart for Penelope so I will.
“I’m sorry Adley,” Penelope said, “but I don’t understand.”
“Don’t understand what?” I asked.
“How you could possibly think you’re in love with him.”
My mom pursed her lips and looked away.
“I never said that I was, but why would you say that?” I kept my back to her and continued rinsing pots and loading the dishwasher.
“Adley we all know how quick to fake-love you are. You find a guy, have sex and all of a sudden you’re instantly in love. It never lasts because-”
“Penelope,” My mom said in a scolding tone.
“Elle you know it’s true.”
“Because why?” I turned and crossed my arms.
“Could this not happen today of all days? What has gotten into you two?” My mom said.
“Me?” I dropped my arms and frowned.
Had I been odd? I didn’t think so. Penelope had a point to make and she wouldn’t rest until she said it. I’m just surprised she didn’t wait until we weren’t with my mom. I got the warning look that I was being mean and swallowed hard. Penelope was one of few people who irk me. She can get me angry so quickly and yet I adore her. It was confusing but I thought she was wonderful for Elton, just maybe a tad judgmental.
“We’ve been over this Penelope I don’t have daddy issues. The men I date are all normal average men… mostly. You know why they walk away so what’s your point?”
“Why not tell them upfront? Why not just get it over with and save yourself the heartache?”
“You mean save them the heartache,” I said trying not to get angry.
Penelope put the last container in the fridge. “Well yes actually. I mean come on Adley, it’s a fairly big skeleton and the longer it hides the faster is scares them off.”
“How cruel,” My mom said with a frown.
“She has a point mom, but that’s only because she doesn’t understand and if I’m guessing correctly she hates me and that I’m Elton’s sister.”
“I don’t… Of course, I don’t hate you or that you’re my sister in law. I just think it’s too much to expect most men to accept or understand.”
“You’ve made your point Penelope.” My mom said flatly. “I’m hoping this lapse in the heart is due to your hormones.”
It was Penelope’s turn to squirm. I know she has trouble seeing beyond my history sometimes, hell I do too. Her reactions are normal, human and I have learned to expect them. I’m also used to it and like a snowflake, in the wind, the comments are whisked away easily.
To be continued…
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