Long Cold Winter: Chapter Fifty

“Hey, everybody! I’m home!” Lena’s voice drifted up the stairs to greet Matt as he emerged from the shower.

He smiled. “Hurry and get dressed, Hon. We have company.” He called.

She hurriedly emerged from the bathroom as well. Like a giddy little school girl, she was wrapped in a towel. “Who?”

He chuckled. “Lena’s home. Which means that at least half are probably on their way here. And we still haven’t set a date.”

She smiled as she put her bra on. “How about June?”

He pulled on his shirt. “Sounds like a great start. What day?”

She grinned. “Father’s Day.”

He stopped mid-pull, his jeans not quite past his hips, and looked at her perplexed. “Are you trying to tell me something?”

She shook her head and smiled. “No, I just like the date. And, besides. You should have seen the look on your face.”

He finished pulling his jeans on and went over to kiss her. “You never stop surprising me.”

He smiled at her and left the room. She watched him go, then hurried to finish dressing. She giggled. She had him going with the date. But she was serious. It was the best date.

They could change it, of course, if not everyone could make it. But it was a possible date for now. She sat down and found a small note pad and pen. On the top sheet, she wrote four different dates. All in the summer. All during break. They would all allow the ones who had to travel the farthest enough time to plan.

She rose and finished dressing. No need in keeping the guests waiting.She tore the list from the pad and headed down to the living room.

Matt stood talking to Lena when she arrived in the doorway. He turned and smiled. She smiled back. “Who else is coming?”

Lena came over and gave her a hug. “Lady Jane, Marnie, and Matt’s daughter Misty. And they won’t be alone. Lady is bringing Lucinda. Marnie is bringing the whole tribe, and Misty is bringing her fiance.”

Amanda was baffled. “And Lucinda is?”

Lena smiled. “Ah, yes. I forgot. You have never met Lu. She is Lady’s lover. Sam isn’t the only gay sibling in the bunch.

“My brats are all now in college, so I am here alone. My hubby died in Iraq.” Se turned to Matt. “And before you say anything, I have been out there, mingling. I thought I had a keeper, but he bailed on me. So I am looking once again.”

Amanda looked at her. “What seems to be the problem?”

She shook her head. “No one wants a war vet with three grown kids and baggage. They seem to only want one-nighters and no commitment.”

Amanda nodded. “I know the feeling. Try being interested in marriage and the forever thing around a thousand walking hormones.”

Lena giggled. “Ah. College. Where men are boys and boys are, well, boys. And women can’t find an honest date who won’t spike her drink at a party or try to do something.”

Matt cleared his throat. “Uh when were Jane and Marnie supposed to get here?”

Lena looked at her brother. “Well, Sam was supposed to pick up Jannie, and I think Al was getting Marnie. You know, Janie’s been on tour. She’s huge now.”

Matt chuckled. “That means, if the flights are on time, all should be here any second.”

Amanda looked at both. “Good. I took the liberty of making a list of dates to be considered. If anyone had emails for those who can’t make it right now, we can send them out for them to talk over. I want the whole family here.” She handed it to Lena.

Lena looked down at the list. “All who have teaching positions should be able to make any or all of these dates. Planning, though, will take time for all who have kids. So expect them to pick the date farthest away so they can make sure they have everything packed and their kids ready to go. And most of our kids, those in college as students, will also be able to make these dates unless they have summer classes.” She looked over at Matt. “By the way. I heard from Tariq.”

He smiled proudly. “What’s my boy up to?”

She smiled back. “He’ll probably tell you when he gets here.”

His mouth dropped open. “He’s coming home?”

She nodded. “Yes, but didn’t sound permanent. He still has a year or two in France to go in school, but he’s off on break. Decided to come see his Pops.”

“I heard my name.” Everyone turned to see Tariq standing in the living room doorway.

Matt walked over to where his son stood and gave him a hug. “Welcome home, Son.”

The young artist smiled. “I missed you, Pops. I hear you quit drinkin’. Congrats!”

Matt looked over at Amanda. “I had a reason, Terry. A very good reason.” He motioned Amanda over. “I want you to meet Amanda. My bride-to-be.”

Tariq grinned. “Welcome to the family, Mom. I can call you mom, can’t I?”

She smiled. “I would be honored if you did, but only if you want to.”

He leaned forward and whispered. “Get used to it. We’ll all probably call you mom, even Egypt, once we get used to you. Besides. Anyone who is able to get Pops to stop drinking is Mom in my book.”

Matt looked at his son. “So how long are you back for?”

Tariq chuckled. “Only until after the wedding. When you two go off on your honeymoon, I leave for Paris.” He swung his backpack off his shoulder and fished around in it, producing a gold envelope. “Which reminds me. I brought your tickets for your honeymoon adventure.” He handed the envelope to his father. “Now, I know you have never taken a vacation in your life, Pops. But this is a must-do adventure. Besides. I think us kids are ready for some younger brats to train up right for you.”

Laughter rippled through those gathered. Everyone could remember how ornery Tariq was. Matt would often confuse people by calling him Terry. It was his way of letting Tariq know he was in trouble. But he had always been a good kid. Never once got into trouble with the law. And that made Matt proudest of all.

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