Page 42

| The Reunion |

I looked up at him as he stood. My breathing had finally returned to almost normal. “Pick me up at seven.” Chaney smiled. “Will do. See you in a few hours then. Thanks for the invite.” Me and Quilt-a-Woman watched Chaney leave. Ma looked at me with that know-it-all squinty look of arrogance she gets. She pumped her fist uncharacteristically. “I’m going to get me some grandchildren.” I wasn’t letting her get away with that crap. “What the hell, Ma? It was just a kiss.” Ma grabbed my chin. “A kiss? Hell, if I hadn’t come in from the living room, I’d be only nine months away from holding my first grandkid.” My snorting attempt to forestall full-blown hilarity failed. “That was hot!” I admitted finally. “Maybe I better not—” Quilt-a-Woman grabbed me by the ear, shaking it, with my head following for good measure, shutting off my protest instantly. “Don’t you screw this up! March that bubble butt of yours upstairs and get ready. We have that big guppy across the street on the hook.” I broke the ear pinch with some pain and grabbed her upper arms. “Ma! Calm down. I . . . what the hell . . . did you just call me a bubble butt?” “Never mind, young lady. You need all your charms tonight. He owns the house across from mine. Good Lord, think of someone else besides yourself, you ungrateful—” I shook her. “You set me up! You and Bonny Burrell planned this!” Ma twisted out of my hold with a wave off. “We didn’t make you ask him to the reunion or nearly rape him on my kitchen table. I may have been tipped off to his arrival time. So what if I put you on the scent, instead of watching you mope around the house like a lost puppy. Go get ready before I take the switch to you!” I watched Ma chuckle her way back into the living room, realizing not for the first time, that I was no match for Quilt-a-Woman. I took a deep breath, remembered the kiss, and went upstairs. When the doorbell rang at a few minutes before seven, Ma answered the door, with me right behind her. Yeah . . . I was a little pumped. I had my black off-theshoulder dress on that accentuated every good curve I had and toned down the bad ones. Even the nylons 42 | btsemag.com

I wore were causing no pain on my still sensitive leg. I looked damn good. As Chaney filled the doorway in a charcoal gray suit, he looked even better. He had brought roses, which Ma took as she pandered to him like the cheap, conniving fishwife I knew her to be. Chaney stared at me, his mouth slightly open. I think I just hit it out of the park. “Wow, Kath. You look incredible.” I decided to get my suspicions out in the open. “Did you know our moms set us up?” “Kathleen Louise!” Chaney grinned. “Yeah, I suspected it. I’ve had a crush on you since we moved here when I was in second grade. If you want to go slower, we can have a coffee before you go, and we’ll start over another time.” He had all the right answers. “Let’s do this. It’ll be fun. Besides, I already paid the plus one and RSVP’d. I was going to show up and pretend my husband couldn’t make it. Don’t wait up, Ma. I may get lucky tonight.” “Kathleen Louise!” We chortled our way out the door as Ma came out to stand on the front stoop. “You two have a good time. Don’t let her chow down too much, Chaney. She’s getting a little bottom heavy.” It was all I could do to keep from spinning on Quilt-a-Woman, but no way was I going to give her the satisfaction. Chaney swallowed hard, and went into a mild coughing fit to cover his attempts to stem off full-blown laughter. I bumped Chaney warningly with my heavy half. “Stow that, Marine!” “By your command.” Chaney bowed his head slightly as he opened the passenger door of his SUV. He attentively watched my dress ride up while I shifted into the seat. He leaned in and kissed me, the touch of his lips brushing against mine tentatively at first. The same fire flared up from earlier today, molten hot. In seconds, we rocketed into a writhing oneness, where all thought of reunions fell away like charred ash on the wind. “Will you please let that boy take you to the reunion for God’s sake!?” Quilt-a-Woman jarred us again from getting biblical right on the front seat. “Kathleen Louise Green! I swear. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were switched on me at birth.” Chaney broke away with regret, closing the car door, and turning sheepishly toward my Ma.

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