The angel lightly snoring on my shoulder warmed my heart. The more I got to know Rhapsody the harder I was falling. She was quickly becoming more than just my baby’s mama. We’d only been driving a few minutes when she fell asleep. According to the baby books I’d been reading it was normal for that to happen.
“Is she snoring?” Alec asked.
“Yep. It’s adorable.”
“Sure if you like the sound of a dying rhino.”
“It’s still adorable.”
Rhapsody let out a well-timed snort then began drooling on my shirt.
“Oh God! Is she drooling now?”
I sighed. “Alec, shouldn’t you be paying attention to the road and not what’s going on back here?”
“I am. I’m good like that. A man compensating for something wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing.”
“Oh for fucks sake. Save it for when Rhapsody is awake or her cousin is around.”
“That banshee is her cousin?” Alec screeched.
“Jesus, take it down a notch. Do you want dogs following the car? Yes, it’s her cousin. She was touring with Blue Vengeance.”
“Oh God! I know who that is. That’s Cassandra Bash. Son of a Bitch! I used to think she was so hot.”
I laughed. “What changed?”
“I found out she’s a horrible shrew. That really sucks. She was in the top ten in my spank bank.”
The car turned onto a driveway that curved around a large tree blocking the house from the road. I smiled as Alec brought the car to a stop next to Miranda’s sensible SUV. The house was a modest sized rancher. The one good thing my father did was buy that for my grandparents. I wasn’t sure if it was out of pride or guilt but it didn’t matter. Up until two years ago, my grandparents lived a blissful retirement there.
When my grandmother died, Miranda decided to move in to help take care of our grandfather. He resisted and if Miranda was correct he was still resisting. The one thing our family continued was our Sunday dinners. Alec rarely came. Normally, his excuse was that he was busy with work. However, I knew it was because he and Miranda didn’t get along.
Rhapsody snored a bit loudly and woke herself up. “Are we here?”
“Yep. Did you have a nice nap?” I brushed a strand of her hair out of her face.
“Yeah. I can’t believe I fell asleep.”
“I can’t believe those horrible noises you were making didn’t wake you up sooner.” Alec smirked at her.
Rhapsody glared daggers at him then turned to me. “Definitely compensating.”
“What? I am not-“
“Let’s get out of the car before Alec blows a gasket.”
Rhapsody took the dish I was holding while I slid the passenger seat forward and opened the door. As I unfolded myself from the car I heard a squeal.
“Uncle Chord!” Alice ran toward me.
I caught her as she jumped at me. “How is my little munchkin doing today?”
“Good. I’m so excited.”
“Mama said you were bringing a surprise. Is it a bike for me? I told mama I thought it was a bike for me. She mumbled something about a baby doll. I don’t really like those anymore. I hope you didn’t get me one of those.” Alice prattled on.
“Chord?” Rhapsody said as she tried to get out of the car while holding the dish.
I placed Alice back on the ground then took the dish from her letting her get out of the car.
“It’s ok. I was just worried I was going to drop the cobbler.” Rhapsody smoothed down her shirt.
“Who’s that?” Alice’s little voice brought their attention back to her.
“That is Uncle Chord’s incubator.” Alec said with a smirk.
“What is an ink-a-baber? Is that a good thing?” Alice asked.
Rhapsody shot a look at Alec that told me if she got him in a corner he’d never procreate. Which could actually be a good thing. The world didn’t need little Alecs running around.
“Oh great! It’s the Great Douche with the douchemobile.” Miranda said from the steps.
“Hello, Shrew!” Alec called to Miranda.
“Mama! Uncle Chord brought us his intuberator.” Alice pointed to Rhapsody.
Miranda had a confused look on her face. I shook my head at her. She stepped down the front steps, rammed her shoulder into Alec as she passed him then walked up to Rhapsody.
“I’m Miranda Reedy. It’s nice to officially meet you.” Miranda held her hand out to Rhapsody.
Rhapsody put her hand in Miranda’s. “Rhapsody Bell.”
“You’re mom is Emmerson Lee, right?”
I watched as Rhapsody tensed. We hadn’t really gotten into our relationships with our parents but from the look she had on her face she had a similar relationship to what Miranda and I had with Jimmy.
Miranda stared at Rhapsody for a long moment then smiled. She swung an arm around her shoulders then said, “Yeah we hate Jimmy too. I think we’re going to get along great.” Miranda looked back at me and smirked. “Did Chord tell you how hard he’s crushed on your mom? She may have even been in his spank bank.”
Rhapsody grimaced then laughed. “No. He conveniently omitted that information.” Rhapsody looked over her shoulder at me. “Did you only knock me up to get to my mother?”
“Wha? No. How could you say that? I didn’t even know you were her daughter when I knocked you up.” I sputtered.
Miranda and Rhapsody shared a look then burst into laughter.
“Were you screwing with me?” I stared at them.
That only made them laugh harder.
“I don’t think this dinner was a good idea.” I mumbled as I walked past them.
“This should be fun.” Alec smirked. “Not for me but for me to laugh at your pain.”
Miranda and Rhapsody walked between Alec and I. From one moment to the next, I barely caught Rhapsody pulling her arm forward then swinging it backward in a sharp motion. She effectively made contact with Alec’s balls causing him to collapse on the ground.
Another laugh escaped Miranda. “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“So, tell me how you met my grandson.” Grandpa Lew said while he shoveled some cobbler into his mouth.
Rhapsody looked at me with an I told you look. Then she turned back to Grandpa Lew.
“We were both at a wedding. We were seated at the losers table together.” Rhapsody smiled.
“Sounds about right.” Alec added.
Grandpa Lew slid a look toward him. “Alec, maybe you should go to weddings to meet nice women. We haven’t seen you with one in a while. Well, there was that one girl that kept twitching. Stay away from the bars.”
I snorted a laugh.
“Grandpa, you know Alec only likes women who have the same STDs as him. That’s hard to find since he has so many.”
Alec glared at Miranda. “Where is Alice’s father again, Miranda?”
Miranda stood from her seat and moved to lunge at him. I grabbed her arm and pulled her down. “It’s not worth it.”
“Strangling him to death would be very satisfying. I even have a spot under a certain tree picked out to bury his body.” Miranda said while having a staring contest with Alec.
Rhapsody giggled then leaned toward me. “Thank you for inviting me.”
“Are you sure my family isn’t scaring you off.”
“Not at all. It reminds me of my own family.” She smiled.
“Rhapsy will you braid my hair?” Alice asked with a face covered in cobbler.
“Alice, I’m sure Rhapsody doesn’t want to braid your hair.” Miranda shook her head.
“I’d love to but why don’t we clean up your face a bit then I can do your hair.” Rhapsody stood from her seat.
Alice let out a squeal and ran around the table.
“You don’t have to do that.” Miranda said to Rhapsody.
“I want to.”
Rhapsody took Alice’s hand and led her to the bathroom. I watched them disappear down the nearby hallway. When we heard the door to the bathroom close Grandpa Lew broke the silence.
“That’s a keeper, Chord.”
“I know, Grandpa.”
“She’s a keeper for the cobbler alone but she’s also a wonderful young woman.” Grandpa Lew reached for another helping of cobbler.
“Grandpa.” Miranda moved the cobbler out of reach.
“Miranda, I believe I am old enough to decide if I want another helping of dessert.”
“Well, your endocrinologist says different.”
Grandpa huffed then said, “Fine. You win.”
“I like her, Chord. She’s good for you.” Miranda smiled.
“She’s just so…” Words escaped me as I tried to fight the smile that curled my lips.
“If you ask me, I think she’s too sassy for her own good. She needs to spend more time doing women things.” Alec crossed his arms.
Miranda narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean by women things?”
“I don’t know. Knitting, cooking, cleaning and sewing socks.”
I looked at Alec. What the hell was he doing? He was poking the bear. The bear was only moments away from ripping his face off. I sure as hell wouldn’t be holding her back again.
“Alec, do you think we’re in the nineteenth century? You’re a fucking idiot and now I understand why you don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Any woman I’d be with will need to understand her place is either on her back or in the kitchen. There will be times both of those things occur at once.”
Grandpa Lew sighed. “Boy, you are a few ants shy of a picnic. Why don’t you just shut that trap of yours before I let Miranda shut it for you.”
“But, Grandpa-“ Alec began.
Grandpa Lew raised his thick eyebrows at him. Alec slumped in his seat.
“What is taking them so long?” Miranda asked.
“I have no idea. I’ll go check.”
I stood so quickly I almost knocked the chair over. Fleeing from the tense atmosphere, I saw the bathroom was dark and empty. I could hear voices from a nearby room. The voices were coming from behind a door covered with stickers and peaked in the room.
“Mama says that Uncle Chord smiles a lot more now.”
“Oh really? That’s good.”
Rhapsody was sitting on the floor with Alice in her lap. I watched mesmerized as Rhapsody wove Alice’s hair. Alice continued to chatter on as her captive audience braided her hair.
“I made this for Uncle Chord. He doesn’t know I took it but I think he’ll like it.” Alice held up a black and white photo covered in stickers.
“Can I see that?” Rhapsody asked as she finished the braid.
“Sure but you can’t tell Uncle Chord about it.”
Alice handed the photo to Rhapsody after she twisted a band at the end of the braid. Rhapsody looked closely then shook with holding back a laugh.
“Do you like it?” Alice asked.
“I think it’s great. Very nice.” Rhapsody handed the picture back to Alice.
“What are you two doing in here?” I asked making my presence known.
“Look what I made you.” Alice jumped up from Rhapsody’s lap.
I took the picture from Alice’s outstretched hand. When I looked at the picture I felt the blood drain from my face. There were stickers framing the image. A few lines of crayon turned the picture into a stick figure dog. The mystery of where my ultrasound image went was finally revealed. I looked over at Rhapsody who had tears streaming down her face from holding in her laughter.
Looking down at Alice’s hopeful face, I smiled. “This is wonderful. Thank you, Alice.”
“Yay! I got Uncle Chord to smile too.” Alice ran out of the room calling for her mother.
I sat next to Rhapsody on the floor. Her giggles finally broke free. I joined her in the laughs as we both looked down at the picture of our little bean who was turned into a puppy with a few swipes of crayon. Rhapsody leaned her face into my shoulder and I wrapped an arm around her shaking shoulders. A sense of home overcame me. I knew in that moment I could be anywhere in the world and as long as I had Rhapsody in my arms I’d always be home.