“No,” I said sternly. “Now that I’ve seen you naked, I’d like you to be that way as often as possible, please.” I kissed her temple, leaving my mouth there.
She laughed and I rolled over, propping myself up on my elbow. “I wasn’t kidding.” I shook my head.
“Well,”—she rolled over and faced me—“I’m thinking that might make Matthew ask a few questions I’m not ready to answer yet, so I suppose you’ll just have to wait until he goes to bed every night.”
I tucked a stubborn piece of hair behind her ear. “You bet your ass we’re gonna do that every night… and every nap time… and when he’s watching TV… and when he’s outside playing…”
“Easy.” She laughed. “I’d like to be able to walk regularly.”
“Are you hungry?” I asked.
“Starving!” she said dramatically.
“Well, seeing as how I’m too fucking exhausted to cook any of the stuff I brought with me, wanna order a pizza?”
“Very fitting. I would love to.” She chuckled to herself. “And… I can think of something to keep us busy for the half hour until the delivery man gets here.”
“ARE YOU EXCITED?” I looked in my rearview mirror at Matthew, who was grinning in the backseat, as usual.
I turned toward Michelle. “How about you?”
“I’m nervous,” she admitted. “I mean… this is the equivalent of meeting your mom. She’s the most important person in your life.”
“Correction.” I lifted her hand, kissing the top of it. “One of the most important people in my life.”
She smiled at me with her whole face, from her mouth to her beautiful eyes.
“You have nothing to worry about. She’s gonna love you.” I hopped out of the car and unbuckled Matthew from the backseat while Michelle reached in and got Maura.
We were halfway up the sidewalk to Gam’s when she came out on her front porch and waved at us. “Hi, everyone!”
“Whoa,” I muttered under my breath before leaning over to Michelle. “Clearly you’re not the only nervous one. She’s never this chipper.”
“Hi!” Matthew waved back, running up ahead of us. “I’m Matthew.”
Gam rested her hands on her knees, bending over just a little bit to be closer to him. “Hi, Matthew. I’m Gam. Nice to meet you. You’re a cutie pie.”
“Thanks.” Matthew nodded. “So are you.” He climbed the rest of the way up the porch and walked into her house like he owned the place.
Gam stood and looked back at him with her mouth hanging open before turning to us. “I love that kid already.” She laughed.
“Hi, Gam. I’m Michelle.” She reached her hand out for Gam to shake, but Gam playfully pushed it away.
“I know who you are. You’re the woman that made my grandson’s brain turn to mush. I shake hands with strangers; I hug family.” She pulled Michelle into a big hug, wrapping her arms around Maura at the same time. “And you, you pretty little thing, you must be Maura.” Gam tickled under her chin with one finger as Maura smiled shyly and tried to hide behind her mom.
“How are you, you old bat?” I said when it was my turn.
“Wow. For once you don’t look like shit. Way to go, kid,” she said warmly as she hugged me back. “Come inside. I made lunch… unless Matthew already ate it all.”
We spent the next hour chitchatting as we sat around her dining room table eating BLT sandwiches and her famous pineapple coleslaw. That was my absolute favorite of hers. I swear I could eat it by the pound.
“That was delicious. I’m stuffed.” Michelle wiped her mouth with her napkin.
“I loved the bacon!” Matthew cheered, throwing his little hands up in the air.
“Me too, buddy.” I reached my fist out for him to bump it.
Michelle stood up and handed Maura to me as she started stacking the plates on her arm. “I’m gonna start cleaning this table off. Would you mind keeping an eye on Maura for me?” she asked.
“No problem.” I nodded, setting Maura down on my knee. Immediately, she squirmed to get down. “Hang on, baby. We’ll go play in a minute.”
“Oh, let her down.” Gam waved. “There’s not much here she can get into. Besides, I like watching her play.”
I set her down on the floor and turned in my chair so I could keep an eye on her.
“Wow, look at you,” Gam said as she pressed her lips together, shaking her head slowly at me.
“What?” I asked defensively.
“The way you are with the kids. It’s natural. I never thought I’d see you with kids.”
“Eh, Michelle is the real superhero, Gam. I just try to help out where I can and make her life a little easier.”
“Well…” Her eyes welled up with tears. “It’s nice to see.”
“You know, for such a tough old lady, you sure cry easily,” I teased.
“Oh, shut up, you brat.” She took her glasses off and set them on the table as she pulled a tissue out of the sleeve of her shirt to wipe her eyes. “Let’s move into the living room where the kids can play while we talk.”
Matthew spread out all the Legos he’d crammed into his backpack on the coffee table, and Maura immediately stood up at the edge of the table, smashing all of his little buildings like Godzilla.
“Hey!” Matthew squealed as she slammed her fist down over and over, giggling.
“Uh-oh. No way, missy.” Michelle scooped Maura up to keep her away from Matthew. So of course Maura arched her back and threw a fit.
“Hang on. I have an idea.” Gam stood up and walked into the kitchen, returning a couple minutes later with a stack of measuring cups and spoons. She set them on the floor next to Maura and her tiny little eyes lit up. “There. Babies love those things.”
“Thank you.” Michelle smiled sweetly as Gam reached over and squeezed her hand.
“So, how have things been with you guys?” she asked as she relaxed back into her couch.
“Um…” Michelle sighed and shifted her eyes over to mine. In that one look from her, I saw all the stress and chaos the last couple of weeks had included.
“It’s been… okay.” I took over for Michelle. “We didn’t make any big official announcements to the world that we were together or anything, but of course as soon as we went out once or twice, there were some pics posted in magazines and the mean tweets began.”
“Oh no.” Gam shook her head. “All those electronic devices are the devil, I’m telling you. I hate them.”
“I know. I have to come over twice a year to change all your clocks to the right time, remember?” I teased her.
She shot me a playful glare. “But wait, what did these tweety people say?”
I leaned forward and lowered my voice so Matthew didn’t hear me. “They just said some shitty things about Mike dying and how wrong it is that we’re together now. It wasn’t that they were lies, but the way they said it just hurt.”
Gam ran her tongue over her top teeth as she nodded slowly, looking back and forth between Michelle and me. “You know what? Fuck them.”