Jonathan spent the week at Aubrey’s restaurant. He didn’t think she needed the supervision but thought she’d appreciate his stalwart support. She was fantastic just as he thought she would be. Every day, he walked in with her, flaring his nostrils with his chest out so proud. Most of the time, he sat at the bar and worked on his phone, responding to emails, ordering stock and paying bills for Viviana’s. Other times, he conversed with the patrons. Some were familiar and some were not. Spending time at J. Pruett’s Grill caused him to miss his man date with Derek. Though he understood, Jonathan was determined to make it up, but Derek had a lot going on as well. So, instead of taking an entire night to hit the town, Jonathan went to the Mumbach residence to hang out for an hour or so. It had been far too long since he stepped a foot in that house and saw his family.
Zander, Derek’s toddler was a little escape artist and ran out when he answered the door. Jonathan and Derek both ran after him. Once the child was caught, Jonathan thought he’d poke fun at him. “Where ya going, buddy? You have a hot date?”
Derek chortled. “She must be real cute the way he made a run for it.”
Jonathan scooped the boy into his arms and carried him in the house. “We can’t have you running away now, can we? Your mommy would miss you…and your sisters too. I don’t know about your daddy.”
“Of course, I’m just kidding. Hello, OJenn! How are you this evening?”
She snorted. “I’d be better if he would sit down and eat.”
“Ooooh, looks like you’re in trouble, Zander.”
He put the little guy down and left him to his fate. His sister, Madelyn, went after him. “I got him, mama.”
“You’re getting so tall, Madelyn! Stop growing already!”
“You’re so funny, Uncle Jonathan.” She and Jonathan were second cousins, and while it was perfectly fine for her to call him by his first name, Derek told him she felt weird about it and began calling him uncle. He and Derek were so close, his kids felt more like nieces and nephews anyway.
“Sit down with me before my husband steals you away.”
“Absolutely. How are you, Jenn? Still taking the interior design world by force?”
“Oh yes, OJA has expanded a lot over the years. When I decided to step back a little to raise my children, it felt so good to feel comfortable and confident about things going on without me.”
Jonathan nodded. “That’s so important.”
“Mmm hmm. What about you? How are you feeling about this Estate business?”
She wasn’t a Pruett by blood, but she had skin in the game too. After all, it was her team that styled all the new rooms and designed the courtyard at the Pruett Estate. In a way, he always wanted to know how she felt about it. Did she feel her time and effort were wasted? Did it reflect badly on her? He had those questions, yet he didn’t want answers to them; they might hurt.
“I’m…I’m good, most days. Getting the plans together for the park and overseeing the project keeps my mind off it most of the time.”
“Mmm, yes I can see that. It’s been a million years, but for what it’s worth, I’m very sorry. I’m not sure I ever said that to you before.”
“Thank you, Jenn. That means a lot.”
“Ok,” Derek yelled, “too much serious talk. Can I have my cousin now, Jenny?”
OJenn through her hands up as if to surrender.
“Thank you! We’ll be on the terrace.”
Jonathan got up and followed Derek to the master bedroom. “Terrace? Where did you learn fancy words like terrace?”
“You forget who I’m married to! I’ve learned all kinds of fancy words from my design queen.”
“I see she’s finally gotten you to wear real clothes.”
“Shut up, man.”
“Maybe she can do something about your hair.”
“Oh, uh uh! She not touching my hair!”
Jonathan laughed. “One can always dream, huh?”
“Whatever, man. So, what’s been going on? I never know what’s going on in the family without you to give me the skinny.”
“Ha! You could get out more and go visit people, you know? Or, at least call?”
“Meh. It’s not my thing.”
That raised a question. Was Jonathan a family guy naturally, or was it his grooming as an heir? “That’s messed up, Derek.”
He shrugged. “It might be.”
Jonathan shook his head. “Anyway…Juliana is pregnant. It’s a boy!”
“Word? Good on her. I’m glad it’s working out with her husband.”
“Mmm hmm. Mark and Sarah just had a baby too.”
“Oh, please tell me it’s a boy.”
“Nope! Another girl.”
“Dag! Poor guy. Well, at least he has his own child now.”
Ever since moving out of the Estate, Jonathan and Derek’s lives were very similar. They each worked hard at their jobs, were very much in love with their wives, were surrounded by women, and even had sons late in life. As much as their lives mirrored each other, they each had one life experience the other didn’t have and probably would never have. Jonathan lost everything and recreated his life from ground zero. Derek had a blended family. Those were popping up a lot in their family lately, and Jonathan had no idea how it worked and how people felt about it. “What’s it like being a step-parent?”
Derek slumped in his seat as he considered his answer. “It’s kinda like…like watching a movie already in progress. Like, you flip the channel and you see this movie, right? You have no idea what’s going on, but it’s interesting enough to hold your attention so you keep watching. After a while, you have enough information so you’re not completely lost anymore. But, even though you’re not lost, you still don’t know everything. You don’t know where the characters came from, what their deal was…nothing. You can only speculate.”
Jonathan was impressed. He never heard Derek say anything profound.
“But, with your own kids, you get to watch the movie from the beginning. You get all the jokes and see all the Easter eggs. You even have an opinion on how the movie will end. Sharon is a great kid, and I love her, but it’s not the same with my daughter and son.”
Jonathan nodded and thoroughly enjoyed the Deep Derek.
“Oh, speaking of my daughter and son…me and Jenn decided to take a page from your book.”
“Yeah. Our birthdays would be coming up next week, but we took the youth potion.”
Though he was glad Derek’s children would have their parents for a long time now, and he would know the joys and pain of adult children, Jonathan couldn’t help but be a wee bit selfish. He was most grateful that he wouldn’t lose his BFF anytime soon. “That’s so great, Derek. I’m glad to hear it.”