The Pruett family was no doubt rocked by Kiara’s sudden close brush with death–Viviana especially. Being juxtaposed between her job and her emotions made her more reflective about life and how fragile it is. Normally, she wouldn’t interfere in her children’s private affairs, but she felt the need to step in and take charge this one time. She felt like Julian was just sitting on a gold mine, and she had to know why. But, first, she needed to speak with Jeannette to make sure she got both sides of the story. One night, she invited her over for dinner.
In Brady-like fashion, he was showering Viviana with praise at the table in front of everyone. Jeannette thought it was so sweet.
She didn’t grow up in that kind of environment and found it to be refreshing. Her father died when she was very young–she doesn’t even remember him. Seeing Brady and Viviana together made her wonder about what life would have been like if her father had not died. She also wondered if she and Julian would ever be like that.
Jeannette’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Devine, were high school sweethearts. They got married and had her right away. Their plan was for Mrs. Devine to be a stay-at-home mom, but those plans quickly changed. He worked at a steel mill and was killed in an accident on the job. While her mother was still grieving his death, Mrs. Devine had a brief fling with a man, and that’s where Jeannette’s brother came from. She wasn’t in love with the man and recognized that he was taking advantage of her emotional state–he never saw her again after they had been together. She never remarried and found herself needing to find a job with very little skills. She took odd jobs here and there and struggled to feed her two young mouths, but she did it. They never lived in a nice house or had nice clothes. However, Jeannette and her brother never starved, and their utilities were never shut off. When Jeannette graduated, she took a job as a writer and started working right away. She can never repay her mother for all the sacrifices she made, but she wanted to. Jeannette chose not to move out and gives Mrs. Devine a significant portion of her salary.
Viviana felt something strange at the table. Something wasn’t right, and she watched Julian and Jeannette all night and resolved to ask Jeannette about it later. Brady took the opportunity to conduct his own mission on the black ops network.
“So, Jeannette…what’s a nice, polite girl like you still doing single?”
Jeannette opened her mouth to say something, but Julian interrupted her.
“Mom,” Julian yelled. “Ummm…this cioppino is so good! You’ll have to teach me how to make it some day.”
Brady looked at Julian strangely and asked Jeannette another question.
“Don’t you want to settle down and get married?”
Julian answered again, “So what is the difference between cioppino and paella? I mean, they’re both seafood stews, right?”
Something indeed wasn’t right, and Viviana was going to get to the bottom of it.
“Jeannette, dear, I’d like to speak with you after dinner, if you don’t mind,” she said.
“Of course,” Jeannette replied.
Oh. No, Julian thought.
The Pruetts completed dinner without any other strange, random outbursts from Julian or covert missions. Everyone finished their food, washed their plates, put the food away, and made themselves scarce without any prompting from Viviana. They all knew what was about to go down.
“So,” Viviana began. “What in the world is going on? You guys barely looked at each other and didn’t say two words tonight. And Julian was totally blocking you! What happened in that hot tub?! Where have you been?”
“Oh, Miss Viv…I need help!”
“Clearly. What happened?”
“I don’t know! I…I’m just a punk,” Jeannette said and hung her head low.
Viviana sat there and waited for her to tell her what happened.
“Everything was going great. We were talking and he was opening up to me and we started playing and he was tickling me and…,” she trailed off as she started to beat herself up internally again. “There was a moment, Miss Viv! It was magical. We were sitting so close, all I had to do was lean over and kiss him! I chickened out. It’s been…awkward between us, so I thought I’d give him some space. But then your niece got sick and all of that, and now it’s like three weeks later and he’s still acting weird.”
“I see. I’m gonna tell you something, and you’re not gonna like it, but it’s the truth.”
“I know, I know…you’re gonna tell me that I need to tell him how I feel. I know! It’s just so scary putting myself out there and not knowing if I’m going to be alone in this!”
“I don’t think you’re alone.”
“No. I think what’s happening is he’s realizing that he has feelings for you too, but he’s not letting himself go with it.”
“Really? How do you know? Why do you think that is?”
“Everybody knows he likes you, Jeannette! We all saw it at the birthday party. You two were electric, and everyone kept commenting on it all night!”
“Seriously? Since then?”
“Probably even before! He talks about you all the time, and you guys spend an awful lot of time together. He hasn’t shown this much interest in anyone. I think he just doesn’t understand what he’s feeling. I think that maybe he’s got the wrong idea of what love is.”
“Hmmm. What do you think he’s thinking?”
“Well…I’m not so sure. He’s always been very energetic and dramatic. Everything always has to be so…epic! I’d say he’s probably waiting for some big, magical, electrifying thing to happen…like in the movies! Hmmm…and even here in the house.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you saw it…me and Brady have a very healthy and passionate relationship! I mean, I’m approaching my mid-40s and I just had a baby,” she blushed and they both giggled. “We’re not ashamed of it, and we don’t hide our feelings from our kids. I think it’s good for children to see their parents in acts of love, but I think that’s where Julian may have gone wrong. He sees the passion, but that’s not where the love is. Love isn’t in the electricity. The electricity is an extension of the love.
“Love is in the subtle things! Love is in taking care of the house while your spouse is busy. Love is in getting up in the middle of the night to change diapers when it’s not your turn. It’s in washing dishes at the end of the night when you’re dead tired. It’s in making decisions together. It’s being mad at each other and working through it.
“Love is in the sincere apologies, the kisses on the cheek…cuddling quietly on the couch. It’s being in each other’s arms, swaying back and forth to music only the two of you can hear. Love is trying to be there even though you know you can’t. Love is in the pillow talk…and cloud gazing…and conversations over chess and eating stale burgers in the park when you have food at home…you know, that stuff.”
“Wow…that was beautiful, Miss Viv!”
“Love is beautiful! Love is a decision. I hear that at some point kissing and woo hoo gets old. I have yet to see that, but if it’s true, what I know about love is real. If love is making out and having spectacular woo hoo, then what do you have left when those things are gone? That’s what I tell my daughters: beware of the man who only wants to hang out behind closed doors.
“Men are visual, so it usually takes them some time to understand this because they’re so stuck on the exterior. You just need to be patient with Julian. Buuuut, you know…you could help him out a little…”
“How do I do that,” Jeannette asked eagerly.
“Well, like I said…men are visual. Give him a little something to look at!”
“But, he tells me I’m beautiful all the time.”
“And, you are! But…give him something extra! Make it so he can’t take his eyes off you. Give him party Jeannette! Make him drool a little,” Viviana laughed.
“But I hate getting dressed up,” Jeannette groaned. “My mom made me wear that outfit.”
“And she knew what she was doing! Look, Jeannette, you don’t have to dress like me to be irresistible. I enjoy dressing up and looking amazing all the time. Remember the subtle things? You can make very small changes to go from beautiful to drop dead gorgeous!”
“Ok, Miss Viv,” Jeannette laughed. “You’re clearly the expert here. What can I do?”
“You have beautiful hair, Jeannette! Why do you keep it tied up in those braids? Let it down sometimes. And your eyes…you have really pretty eyes! Make them pop with just a little mascara. Get rid of the baggy clothes and wear something more fitted. You have a nice shape under that hoodie!”
“Thanks,” she blushed. “But, I’m not into clothes like that, Miss Viv. And I really don’t have the money to be shopping like that! I’m just trying to help my mom out…”
“Say no more! You and I are going to go shopping.”
“I couldn’t ask you to spend money on me.”
“Then don’t ask! It will be my treat. If you can’t accept that, then just think of it as an investment in my son’s future.”
“Or, it could be an extremely early gift for my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower!”
“HA! I’ll accept that gift!”
“Uh huh! I thought you might like that one. So, you and I will go shopping and get some outfits both of us can agree on, you come over here when you’re ready and tell him how you feel, and the rest will work itself out. He’ll be all over you in no time!”