A Gathering of Brothers
Anne was determined over the next few days to spend some time alone with each of her boys. She wanted to talk to them individually and find out what was going on in their lives. It was not going to be easy as they all flocked together and she didn’t want it to seem obvious. She was happy the next morning when she got up early to find Steve in the kitchen making coffee.
“You ought to put a shirt on you’re gonna get chilled.” She said as she passed him on the way to the freezer.
“Morning Mama, I’m not cold.”
“I quit making biscuits when I found these frozen ones.” Anne brought out two bags of biscuits and turned her oven on. “And you’ve made coffee, good boy.”
“Are we having sausage and gravy biscuits this morning?”
“Yes we are, good old artery clogging food, you’re looking good, Steve. What’s going to happen with you and Monica, I’m sorry she left.”
“I don’t know, she says she’ll be there when I get back to New York but I’m not sure what that means either.”
“I hate to see you so unhappy.”
“I’m not really, you know.”
“How’s your work, you haven’t sent me any pictures lately.”
“I’ve got a job coming up that might be interesting, shooting skyscrapers from odd angles for a book this guy is writing. Architectural pictures.”
“That does sound interesting, send me some prints, I hung some of your work in the family room.”
“Yeah I noticed, thanks.”
“You’re very talented Steve, have a good eye. Still got the same apartment?”
“Yeah, same one you visited. Monica is there now…I think.”
“Have you called her?”
“No, I thought I’d give her time to wake up this morning, don’t know what time her flight got in last night.”
“Don’t leave it too long, let her know you miss her…if you do. Why did she leave, you have a fight?”
“No, not a fight, she said she didn’t feel comfortable here, didn’t fit.”
“Oh I am sorry, I hope we didn’t do something to make her feel that way.”
“No Mama it’s just her.” He lay his head on his arms on the table.
Anne walked over and put her hand on his head, “If she don’t fit in here maybe she don’t fit with you either Steve, that’s why you fight all the time.”
Ben and Delia rolled apart in the double bed that Cal had slept in after Ben left home. “Ben I’m so glad we made this trip.”
“Are you darlin’, you like it here?”
“I love your Mama, and Donna is so sweet; and this house it just goes on and on.”
“I’m glad you and Mama hit it off, I figured you would. Ah this old house has been built onto so many times it’s lost whatever shape it started out with.”
“It’s unique I like it. I can’t believe you went all those years and didn’t come home, shame on you.”
Ben grinned running his hand over her hip, “I had my reasons, but you can shame me if you want to. I’ll try and do better from now on.”
“Yes you will,” she placed a soft kiss on his lips.
Ben totally aware of what he had in his arms would do nothing to upset that apple cart.
Down at the end of the hallway was the master bedroom, John and Donna had been awake for some time and lay in each other’s arms.
“I really like Delia, she reminds me of a good friend I once had.” Donna snuggled his neck.
“What happened to her, your friend?”
“She moved away, moved to Vancouver and I never saw her again.”
Delia made him think of Ben, “What do you think of Ben?”
“Ben, I like him he’s really charming; he and Delia are a good match.”
“Yeah, charming,” he rolled over on his back.
Cal, trapped in the nursery was debating on whether to just open the door and walk through the bedroom or knock. He had a pressing need to visit the bathroom. He resolved to move in with Steve today since Monica was gone. The nursery was a small room probably once a dressing room with a door that led into the master bedroom and one that led into a closet. There was a daybed against the wall where he’d spent two cramped nights.
He slipped on his jeans and a tank top and softly knocked and then opened the door trying not to look toward the bed.
“Morning, Cal,” John caught him.
“Oh hey, John…bathroom.” He slipped out of the room.
He met Steve in the hallway coming from the bathroom, “Hey Steve do you mind if I move in with you?
“No, there’s a bed.”
“Too damn cramped in the nursery.”
“Yeah, you’re too big for a cot,” Steve smirked and continued on to his room.
Cal raised his brows and looked after him and padded downstairs barefoot to the kitchen for coffee.
“Umm mm don’t tell me you’ve been making biscuits this early in the morning.”
Anne smiled at her oldest son, “If popping them in the oven counts as making biscuits. How are you this morning.”
“I’m good Mama, I’m graduating from the nursery today, that bed’s a little small for me.”
Anne looked him over, “I imagine it is; you’re putting on weight, Cal.”
“Yeah, it’s the unhealthy diet I have.”
“Why don’t you change it, what is it you eat?”
“Junk food, chili cheese burgers and fries.”
“Ugh, just thinking about that puts a pound on me.”
“You’re a good looking man you don’t want to get fat.”
“Ha, as if anybody but you would care.”
“Ha yourself, it ought to be enough that I care since you don’t date anybody.”
Cal sipped his coffee, ”Let’s don’t go there this morning.”
“Well what is that saying; where others fear to tread?”
“Where Angels Fear To Tread, it’s a book by E.M. Forester…you’re gonna tread?”
“Yeah, why aren’t you married?”
“Mama, I haven’t…there’s not anybody I want to marry.”
“You’re not like Jeff are you, I never thought…”
Cal laughed, “Not hardly. I don’t take the time to form relationships, frankly I’m not really interested. I work all the time all kind of hours, it’s just not something I’m looking for right now.”
“Don’t be afraid of it Cal, there’s a woman out there for you somewhere.”
“If there is she’ll have to find me because I’m not looking.”
“Don’t be surprised if that happens. Take this stick of butter and run it over the top of these biscuits.” Anne set a big pan of biscuits on the old wooden table and handed him a stick of butter.
“This looks like diet food, you’re so worried about my waistline.”
“Ha, there’s gravy to follow,” she laughed. “I’ll feed you whatever I want to but I expect you to do better when you’re on your own.”
“Well what do you eat when nobody’s looking?”
“Frozen dinners, a chicken from the grocery store. I don’t cook much for myself, breakfast mostly.”
“That don’t sound too healthy either, Mama. Maybe you should find you somebody to cook for.”
“You’ve got to be kidding Cal, the last thing I want in this world is another husband.”
“I didn’t say you had to get married.” He smiled.
Richie and Colin were sitting on the sides of their beds smoking cigarettes.
“I think you owe me a pack of cigarettes, Richie.”
“I’ll get you a pack when somebody goes out, might as well get myself one.”
“You haven’t quit smoking you just quit buying.”
“I don’t smoke at home, in the apartment.”
“Why are you sucking them down here then?”
“I don’t know. It’s your fault.”
“I offered you didn’t have to take one.”
“I guess we were a bit rough on you yesterday.”
“Yeah well maybe I needed it.” Colin examined his cigarette.
“What are you going to do?”
“I dunno, sounds like I can’t go back to LA, you know I got an apartment there and a girl I’ve been seeing. I had a life going”
“Not much of one.”
“I really need to go back and get my stuff.”
“What for, where are you going with it?”
“Not sure, might go to Mexico.”
“Not to Ben?”
“Don’t think so,” he stubbed out his cigarette.
“Why not, sounds like he’s got a place for you?”
Colin smiled, “Not for me he doesn’t, don’t worry, Rich, I’ll make it.”
“I worry Colin…but I’m glad you aren’t going to Ben.”
Colin’s eyes widened but he didn’t comment.
“Bathroom’s empty,” Jeff came back into the bedroom he shared with Zack having taken his shower.
“Oh thanks, guess I need to get my lazy ass outta bed.” Zack sat up on the side of his bed.
“Hey Zack, don’t think anybody was mad at you last night?”
“I don’t think anything Jeff, let them all blow off it doesn’t bother me, I know who I am.”
“Good, I’m glad Ben’s gonna look after Colin.”
Zack stared at him, “What makes you think that’s happening?”
“He said he had a safe place for him sounded to me like he was going to take care of him.”
“I guess that’s up to Colin wouldn’t you think?”
“What else is he going to do, better to be with family.”
Zack smiled , “Maybe, maybe not; say the bath’s empty, I’d better get in there before somebody else does.” Zack gathered his things and went to the bathroom, it wasn’t his place to destroy innocence.
Pepper had been patiently sitting by the stove waiting while Anne made sausage patties and cooked them. Now she broke one apart to cool and put it on a paper plate for him. He was a spoiled child but she loved him. He ate what she ate plus his dog food and it didn’t show on him, he was still a good weight. “You ready to go out now?” he wagged his tail over to the back door and she let him out to make his rounds. He’d been good with so many people in the house, he barked his greetings and then was on to the next thing.
Donna came into the kitchen carrying Joey.
“What are you doing carrying that big boy he’s got good strong legs.” Anne peered around her shoulder to see Joey’s face.
“He always wants a cuddle when he wakes up, I went up to check on the boys and he was awake.”
“Cuddle’s one thing carrying around a boy that heavy will tell on your back.”
“Now you’re not going to tell me you didn’t carry yours around.”
“I did till they were big enough to get around on their own. But cuddles, oh yes we had cuddles. That big rocking chair in the family room was our cuddle place, sometimes I had two or three in that chair rocking.”
“We’ve got a good rocker too, John reads to the boys sometimes in that chair.”
“Oh now John was a cuddler.”
“Still is,” Donna smiled finding a seat with Joey on her lap.
Anne smiled filling her frying pan with another load of sausage patties. “How about the rest of the boys, were they still asleep when you went up?”
“Yeah, all over the place I don’t think you had to worry about beds, they had their pillows on that rug and a game started it looked like they just fell out.”
“I’m glad they’re getting along so well, no fights or fussing.”
“Was there a lot of that when your boys were growing up?”
“Sure there was, some days it wouldn’t do for one to even look at the other.”
“Who got in the most fights?”
“Oh I couldn’t really say; the one that comes to mind is Jeff, now he was the youngest and got teased as boys will do, but he would come at them fists flying; he didn’t care how big they were. Richie and Ben used to get into some big fights.”
“Cal, he’d stop it in a minute and John would too, even though he was little he’d make them feel bad.”
“That sounds like him.”
“I always said he was the peacemaker, but that was mostly with the younger ones, Steve, Zack, Colin and Jeff.”
“Joey and Mikey fight too but not much, we make Mikey quit, he’s older and bigger and he knows better.”
“Wait till Joey gets some size on him, he’ll take care of himself.”
Richie, showered and dressed, climbed the attic stairs to find his son and get him in the shower, otherwise the boy would never bathe.
He found him still asleep on the rug and looked at the game they had been playing, he smiled and picked up a piece off the board and put it back down, the other two were still asleep too so he left Michael alone. He looked down at his son who favored his mother, and bit his lip, life was not fair, not to anybody. He got up and went back down the steps.
Zack coming out of the bathroom saw him coming down the steps to the attic, “Are they up yet?”
“No still out, they probably stayed up half the night.”
“Uh, how’s Colin?” he asked quietly.
Richie looked at him, “Why don’t you ask him?”
Zack stared back, “Yeah.”
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