A few days later…
Everyone in the Anderson family, connected to, or have adopted themselves into, began arriving as the smell of BBQ assaulted the air. A few, stopped and watched in amazement as the buffet tables began filling up with food as if by magic.
Suddenly, the music began and DJ Mack spun songs that were guaranteed to keep spirits high and bodies moving; no one complained when the first song was Outstanding by the Gap Band.
“Hey son,” Senior said to Robert.
“Dad, man, this is nice!”
“I know right! Your mother out did herself; and Yelena and these pies…” Senior says as he nibbles on a pear tart.
“Yeah, I know—the gym is now my best friend!” Robert said to his father. “And it’s not just her baking, it’s everything, Dad; I’m so happy…I mean look at her!” His father smiled at him happy for him. Senior remembered when Robert brought Yelena to their family dinner, officially; it’s one thing for Yelena to be an employee, but dating their son is another. One of Senior’s concerns was that they are from two different worlds, especially culturally, and he didn’t think they’d work on that fact alone. He forgot that love, real love, knows no boundaries.
Yelena is from Santiago, Chile; she knew English, but still struggled somewhat, and Robert knew zero to little Spanish; they bumped into each other on the street, she was lost trying to get to an interview; little did Robert know, that he was who Yelena was looking for—literally and figuratively.
Once Robert told her that her interview was for his restaurant, Yelena’s eyes gleamed at Robert, so much so, she had a moment where she forgot where she was and where she was going.
“Umm…” Robert started to say; he wanted to spend that moment watching Yelena’s eyes dance, but he brought himself back to reality and told her to follow him. The two didn’t speak, at all, until they got to the restaurant, but, by then, Robert noticed Yelena’s demeanor changing; suddenly, her frame was straighter, her walk more secure, making her appear taller. “So, ah…” he said and gave Yelena a puzzling look.
“Yelena, Yelena De León,” she spoke in a beautiful eccentric tone, and reached her hand out to shake Robert’s. At that moment, Robert didn’t care if she could bake or not, all he knew was he was changing her last name.
That afternoon, Yelena baked and ran the pastry counter, as the Anderson’s refer to their bakery space, like she’d been in the kitchen her entire life—which Robert would later learn that that was indeed the case. He hired Yelena that afternoon and married her a year later.
“Son, I want you to know that it gives me great joy to see you this happy, and that Yelena is the reason behind that happiness,” the two men embraced and looked at the family gathering on the dance floor under the pavilion. “So, Mom said that Jonathan is coming?” Senior asked as he and Robert made sure the drinks were getting cold. Robert only nodded to his father. “That’s gonna be something to witness; your sister has been going on and on about him, she might be mad at all of us when she finds out we knew who grocery guy is…” Robert took a deep breath and prayed that it would never come to that, but he knew different because Nicolette was both angry and concupiscent about grocery guy.
“Well, let me get some food before she comes because if that happened, it’ll be the end of the reunion.”
“You tell the truth, son; I really think she’ll be ok, but is Jonathan?”
“No, sir, he’s not,” Robert added and both men laughed.
As Robert moved through the family gathering, greeting and laughing about when they did what they did as kids, he saw his sister arrive. She looked stunning in a pair of dark blue shorts and the family reunion shirt tied in a knot at the side accentuating far too many of her curves for him, but, even in that, she was still classy.
“Sis, you made it!”
“What’s that supposed to mean, there’s no way I could not be here, really?”
“Really…there’s no way,” he said and hugged his sister—one because he wanted too and two because he saw DeWayne and Jonathan arrive and he didn’t need an immediate attack. “Let’s go get some food…”
“Not really hungry yet.”
“That may be, but those sweet potato and apple pies aren’t going to be there for long,” Nicolette shrugged her shoulders and went with her brother to grab a few pies for later.
DeWayne pauses and looks at Jonathan, “You ready for this, my friend?”
“I guess,” Jonathan said and started looking around. Since he learned that the lady in the grocery store was Nicolette, he had many pleasant dreams coupled with far too many nightmares.
He wanted to know her.
He wanted her to know him.
He wanted to be understood.
He wanted to understand her.
But he was also scared that none of it would come true.
“Let’s go see Senior, at least if she shows up there, she might behave slightly better around her dad than if we were alone.”
“Man, is that supposed to help…” Jonathan asked and rubbed his hands together trying to warm his bones. “This is almost too much…I think I’m going to head home,” he said, but quickly remembered he didn’t drive.
“What is?” DeWayne asks and stops Jonathan before they get any closer to Senior.
“This whole thing with Nicolette, I’ve never reacted to a woman like this before. I couldn’t believe I just stood there and not helped her—that’s not who I am. I can’t even explain what happened. I really feel like being here is a mistake.”
“I get that and you surely can leave, but the way Nicolette has been going on and on about you, don’t you think you had some kind of impression on her, granted, it’s a negative one, but I know her enough to know that once she gets past the first meeting, she’ll either tell you to go to hell or jump your bones. At least get something to eat and meet her parents; besides, Rob and I are here with you and if Nicolette gets out of hand, we got you…she’s not going to cause a scene, her mother would kill her.”
“Ok, I’ll trust you, but I’ll also kill you if this goes left…” Jonathan said and tried to laugh, but he couldn’t even try too.
The music and the food were hot and surprisingly DeWayne and Robert did an exceptional job keeping Nicolette and Jonathan apart from each other, until she saw him talking it up with her brother, cousin, and father.
“What the hell!” Nicolette said standing near Yelena who only looked at her like here we go.
“What’s wrong?” Yelena asked as innocently as she could.
“That guy with dad, D and Rob…that’s…that’s the guy—grocery guy!”
“Oh, wow…” was all Yelena could say.
“Why is he here?” Nicolette said turning and facing Yelena knowing she knew why he was at their family reunion.
“Umm, so, here’s the thing…” Yelena begins to tell her about Jonathan and the little she knew about him. All Nicolette could do was smile. “And when we all learned that he was grocery guy and the way you’ve been going on about him, we kinda was hoping that you two would actually hit it off.”
“Oh…wait, who is we?”
Yelena looked away.
“Well, I be damned, all of you—you all knew? For how long?”
“A few weeks,” Nicolette began blinking trying her best to gather her thoughts.
She didn’t say anything.
She didn’t scream, although she wanted too.
She didn’t even get angry.
A part of her wanted to be angry, but her fascination with grocery guy overrode her desire to be angry.
“He likes you, according to Robbie and DeWayne, and when he found out you were you, he started asking about you…” Nicolette began laughing uncontrollably at this point much to Yelena’s amazement.
“I’m going to enjoy this! I’m going to give him a hard time just because. Will you help me?”
“Sure, but you’re not mad?”
“How could I be? I liked him from the moment he had that dumb look on his face in the store; but, by the time I got in his face, I had to keep up the act, but, really, I wanted to kiss him. When I saw him, I just knew—like when you saw Rob…just look at him though!” Yelena did look at Jonathan and then at her husband who in her eyes was definitely God’s gift to her.
“Good luck, but I gotta put out these last pies; I’ll join you in a sec…”
“Negative, I’ll wait; I’m having too much fun looking at him. You think he notices?”
“Chica, estás loca, pero te amo,” Yelena said and Nicolette gives her a slight shove as both women laugh. Yelena has been teaching the family Spanish, so Nicolette knew that not only did Yelena call her crazy, but she also said she loved her.
After a short while, both Nicolette and Yelena headed towards the men; DeWyane bumped Rob, on the arm, and nodded in the direction of the ladies.
“The game is afoot,” DeWayne said, but Rob said nothing as the women got closer, he also didn’t bother telling Jonathan to turn around because he wanted his reaction to be as authentic as possible.
“Hello everyone,” Nicolette said causing Jonathan to damn near drop his plate of food. “How’s everyone?” No one said a word. “And you,” Nicolette added stepping closer to Jonathan, who swallowed really hard… “Don’t I know you?” Jonathan raised his eyebrows and gave his plate to DeWayne ready for battle.