Smokin'(7)

By: Shirley Penick


He shifted from foot to foot. “My mother taught me to never show up to dinner without bringing something. But I’m a guy, so my repertoire is chips, flowers, or booze. Chips didn’t seem right since you told me not to bring any food, and booze is out because of Barbara’s pregnancy. So, flowers it is. They’re okay, aren’t they?”

“They are lovely, and Barbara will be thrilled.”

The two of them walked to the front door. Amber opened it and yelled, “It’s me.”

Someone yelled back, “We’re in the kitchen. Come on back.”

Amber led the way. She wasn’t sure if Jeremy had been to their house before. She went into the sunny yellow kitchen with the sunflower accents and felt her spirits lift. Barbara’s kitchen was always so fun. She hugged her sister-in-law and Kristen, Barbara’s sister. “I met Jeremy on the sidewalk.”

Jeremy stepped in and offered his flowers to Barbara. “Pretty flowers for a beautiful hostess.”

Barbara took them and crushed them to her chest, smelling the blossoms. Then she thrust them into Kristen’s hands, burst into tears, and ran out of the room.

Jeremy looked horrified. “I didn’t mean to upset her.”

Both Kristen and Amber patted his arms and said in unison, “Pregnancy hormones.”

“But…”

Kristen said, “She’ll be fine in about two minutes. She’ll walk out here like nothing happened and be perfectly normal.”

“Are you sure?”

Kristen nodded. “She’s my sister. She’s been like this for months—only a few more to go.”

Just then, Barbara walked into the room and took the flowers out of Kristen’s hand. “Thank you, Jeremy. They are lovely. I’ll put them in some water and on the table.” She turned and did exactly that.

Jeremy looked at both women and they shrugged. He cleared his throat. “I think I’ll go out back and join the guys.” He hot-footed it out the door.





“MAN, AM I glad to be out here with you guys.”

Nolan turned to look at him. “Why is that?”

“Oh, I brought some flowers to Barbara, as the hostess. She burst into tears and ran out of the room.”

Chris groaned. “Dammit, did you have to bring flowers?”

“It was that, chips, or booze. The other two didn’t seem like good choices.”

“Chips would work,” Chris said.

Nolan laughed and said, “Worried you’re in the dog house? When’s the last time you brought her flowers, big guy?”

“Shit, I can’t remember, but it’s clearly been too long if she burst into tears. Not that she’s not doing that pretty regularly—since the second she got pregnant—but she’s always been a sucker for flowers. You’ve doomed me, Jeremy, until I can get her some. What kind of flowers did you bring?”

Jeremy shrugged. “Just flowers—daisy looking ones, but, you know, for fall.”

“Mums. Perfect, I can bring her roses and get out of the dog house. Never bring her roses. Do you understand, Jeremy? Never.”

“Sure thing, man. I was just trying to be a polite guest.”

“Next time.” Chris pointed at him with the meat fork. “Bring chips.”





AMBER TOOK OFF her new dress and hung it up in the closet of her apartment above the restaurant. When she had bought the business and building from the former owners, she had consolidated the four tiny apartments above the restaurant and created her large, spacious home, and a storage area. She didn’t really want the hassle of renting them out and she didn’t like to feel cramped, so it was a perfect solution.


Several of the other businesses on Main Street had apartments above them, like Greg’s bar. Greg’s was of the tiny variety and he kept it on hand for people that needed a place to crash. Her brother had used it when he and Barbara hit a snag in their marriage earlier in the year. But, they’d managed to work things out and were happily expecting their first child. Fortunately, Chris had learned not to freak out when she had her hormone explosions, which seemed to be several times a day. Barbara had given him some hassle over the flowers Jeremy had brought her and Chris had been loving to Barbara, while shooting looks at Jeremy over her head or behind her back. Amber had found it all amusing; she knew Chris would do something elaborate to get back on Barbara’s good side.

She was happy with the way the evening had gone. The food was delicious. They had laughed and talked about town happenings during dinner. Then, after dinner and before dessert, they had brain-stormed for her children’s menu. Jeremy had several drawings started for the other parts of the menu and everyone enjoyed looking at those and offering suggestions. Jeremy listened to each one and never seemed to get upset as they picked apart his work.