Aubrey and Jonathan shared the responsibility of providing the family with fabulous meals. Of all the delicious dishes they made, and all the new foods they introduced to Oliver, what did he enjoy eating the most? Chicken nuggets. Aubrey hated those vile little things, but the boy never had enough of them. Chicken nuggets for breakfast. Chicken nuggets for lunch. Fights, tantrums, then chicken nuggets for dinner. If he started sprouting feathers–or grew a third arm–she wouldn’t have been surprised.
As nutritious as they weren’t, and as much as she wished he had more variety in his diet, she couldn’t help but be amused by how much he enjoyed them. He bounced in his chair as the microwave roared. When she placed the oddly shaped monstrosities before him, he’d grin really big and thank her by singing, “than-koo Aww-bee!” He’d pick one up, and clumsily dunk it in the sauce; his motor skills needed work, but he was still very young. He would raise the nugget in the air and then cram it into his mouth. While he chewed, he’d sway and hum a tune only he knew. It was adorable.
Aubrey agreed to keep Oliver until she was ready to begin working. Her parents attempted to talk her out of it seeing as how Jonathan suggested she rest and take a break. But, like the sweet daughter she was, she insisted on taking up that responsibility. Janessa was well up in years, and having two toddlers around was a lot of work. Aubrey wanted to give her a break. Besides, she wanted the practice. She never doubted motherhood would be in her future, but she never thought about having children until the “heir talk” at the country club before her birthday. With the new knowledge of what the legacy was truly about, and her natural desire to please her father and follow in his footsteps, she had to have children now. The structure of the legacy had been destroyed, but she still wanted to do her part to perpetuate it as Jonathan’s unofficial heir. Although she was in no rush to get to that part of her life, she did recognize that in order to have children she needed a husband–at least she preferred it that way. In order to have a husband, she needed to have a deep relationship with someone. Relationships build over time, and she did want to begin stacking those building blocks with someone. Luckily for her, she had a date that night.
Aubrey stood on the sidewalk gawking at the flaming edifice. “Whoa. This place looks…dangerous!”
Julio chuckled. “Yeah. The first time my dad took me here, he said, ‘We’re going to hell.'”
She gasped. “It’s not really called that, is it?”
“No, but that’s what he called it. Solar Flare is the name. It’s the hottest lounge in Oasis Springs.”
They laughed at his cheesy pun as he ushered her inside. The place was magnificent. Aubrey loved how every little detail reflected the theme of the lounge. As she walked across the platformed entrance, she really did feel like she was traipsing across the sun.
Julio was so cool. He was always calm and collected, but he seemed to be even more at ease that night. Perhaps because he was on his own turf. His life was so much different from hers. That night would probably be the first of many nights they would spend together at spectacular venues. It was bound to be fun the first few times, but could she get used to living so extravagantly? That thought was a long way off, and she needed to go back to square one.
“Can we go somewhere and talk?”
He seemed surprised. “Yeah. Uhh, there’s a VIP section upstairs.”
VIP. That was something she had never been before. Well, she was but didn’t know it. Even after learning she was, she didn’t feel any different.
The view was even better from on top, and she was in awe of it all.
All the excitement she had previously about that conversation died when she saw the nervous look in his eyes. What if he didn’t see her in his future? What if being together was a mistake? After all, their friendship was the stuff of fiction. Befriending the son of her father’s enemy? And then marrying him, joining the two families together permanently? She couldn’t make it up if she tried. Still, she had to know. She had to get over it and ask him.
“Uhhh…do you…” She couldn’t make eye contact and focused on his blazer. “I ummm…”
He chuckled nervously. “What is it, Aubrey?”
She took a deep breath as she gathered her thoughts. “Do you think it’s time we…we declared some sort of official relationship?”
“I’d love that.”
A smile stretched across her face as she breathed a sigh of relief. It felt weird though. Just last week, she was at the country club with her father telling him she didn’t want to make any life-altering decisions about Julio yet. But, something happened at her birthday party. All sorts of thoughts and feelings she never had before filled her head and heart, and all she desired was to be with Julio…romantically.
At the end of the night, he walked her to the front door like the gentleman he was. Standing there, staring into her eyes, she saw he wasn’t as cool as he was before. She knew why. It was their first date.
As much as she wanted it, she didn’t feel like the moment was right. “Don’t feel pressured to kiss me. Let’s let it happen naturally.”
He nodded and looked relieved.
“Goodnight, Julio. Thanks for an incredible evening.”