My father and Benita were in the dining room, when we arrived. Dad was feeding Benita apple pie and ice cream, and then licking her lips after each bite. It gave me the shivers.
“They’re like teenagers,” I said. “Jeez, Dad.”
He cleared his throat and looked embarrassed. “Oh, uh… sorry.”
I took a piece of pie from the table and sat next to him. “I suppose I’ll get used to it. I take it you too are official now?”
Benita’s smile was shy. “You don’t mind?” she asked me.
“God no. It’ll be good for the newbie to have someone to hold his hand.”
Everyone laughed, and Aristes patted me on the back. “Don’t forget you’re only a few days older than your father now.”
Dad shook his head. “That’s a surreal thought. But I have to tell you, El, I’ll be moving back here eventually. When I say here, I mean to Benita’s villa in Tuscany.”
“Sure. Rub it in,” I said. “Tuscany. Must be nice.”
Benita looked worried. “Of course you’d have a home there, too. You’ll always be welcome, and I’ll pay to move you there and—”
I put a hand up to stop her. “It’s okay. I’m sure we’ll visit a lot, but I have my own mate, and from the way you two are acting, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the privacy.”
We stayed in Italy for another three days before heading back home. We had missed two weeks of school, and if I didn’t get back soon, I wouldn’t be able to graduate. It didn’t take much persuasion to get Dad to let Aramis live with us, especially since Benita had also moved in.
We were having dinner one night when there was a knock on the door. Dad looked puzzled. “Who’d be here this time of night?”
I shrugged and went to find out. When I opened the door, my mouth dropped open in shock. My mother stood on the porch, smiling.
“Hello, darling!” she said brightly. I was totally incapable of speech. She breezed by me and set her bag down in the foyer. I shut the door and simply stared at her.
“Who is it, El?” my father called.
Mom put her finger to her lips and walked into the dining room. I followed, and wasn’t surprised by the look of absolute stupefaction on my father’s face.
“Hello, John,” my mother said.
I wasn’t quite sure how he would react. For a few tense moments, he said nothing. Then, he burst into laughter. “What are you doing here, Karen?” he asked.
Her smile faltered. “I’ve come for a visit.”
“Who is this, John?” Benita asked, hackles raised.
It was only then that my mother noticed the dark, gorgeous woman seated next to Dad. Mom’s eyes grew wide. “I’m his wife.”
My father and I spoke in unison. “Ex-wife.”
Mom scowled and asked, “And who are you?”
Benita put a possessive hand on Dad’s arm. I could tell she was getting really pissed at my mother trying to claim her mate. For a moment, I was afraid of what would happen, but Dad solved the problem. He took Benita’s hand and pulled her down into his lap. “This is Benita. My fiancée.”
“Your what?” Mom screeched.
The look of supreme satisfaction of Benita’s face was priceless. She kissed my father gently and turned to my mother. “His fiancée. And I don’t share well with others, so I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
“You can’t make me leave. I’ve come to see my son.”
“You’ve seen me,” I said blandly. “Jesus, Mom. Where do you get off? You leave us out of the blue to move in with what’s-his-face, and we don’t hear anything for months, and now you expect us to welcome you with open arms? Well, fuck you.”
She looked as though I’d slapped her. “John! Are you going to let him get away with speaking to me like that?”
Dad smirked. “Yes. In fact, I think I’ll raise his allowance.” He stood up and walked around the table to confront her. “You really hurt me. You hurt our son. You’ve only ever thought about yourself, so I’m grateful to you for leaving when you did. Saved me a lot of trouble. The divorce was finalized months ago, so go home to your boyfriend and don’t bother coming back here ever again. I’m happy now. I have an amazing woman to share the rest of my…life with, and an amazing son, who happens to have an amazing partner.”
My mother looked around Dad to see Aramis seated at the table, studiously trying to ignore the family drama. She turned to me. “Partner? What are you talking about? You’re only seventeen!”
I rolled my eyes. “No, I’m eighteen. Seriously, Mom. Just go. I suppose I should feel sad to say that, but I don’t. Aramis and I are partners. He lives here now. Benita does too. So…sorry, but there’s just no more room at the inn.”
“But Mark left me!” she cried. “I have nowhere to go.”
I looked at Dad, unsure what to do. He shrugged. “Well, your mother’s got a spare room, right? I’m sure there are tons of things for a shallow, self-centered woman like you to do in Poughkeepsie. Enjoy the drive.”
With that, he led her into the foyer, handed her her bag and practically pushed her out the door. When he came back in, we all sat down and looked at each other, still trying to process the events of the evening.
Finally, it struck me, and I started giggling. “You know what’s hilarious?”
“What?” Benita asked.
I lifted my drink. “There were four bottles of synthetic blood on the table, right in front of Mom, and she never even noticed them.”
We all burst out laughing and raised our bottles in a toast. Aramis leaned over and kissed me gently. “Cheers, babe.”