Butterflies twist into a tornado inside me. “Within the past ten years, have you been a prostitute or procured anyone for prostitution, or do you intend to engage in such activities in the future?”
“I’m trying to cut back.”
He can’t see over my shoulder, and I know this could be a golden opportunity to get a little Calvin info. “Have you ever conspired to engage in, or do you intend to engage in any form of terrorist activity?”
“When was your last relationship?”
He stops with his beer halfway to his mouth. “It wants to know that?”
I hold my hands up in mock innocence. “I didn’t make up the questions.”
“Erm, a while ago.”
I pause with my fingers hovering over the keys. “It wants a date.”
“About ten months ago, I suppose. Though it wasn’t very serious.”
“Have you ever joined or do you plan to ever join the mile-high club?”
Calvin opens his mouth to answer, but seems to figure out what I’m doing. “You little shite!”
I laugh, ducking the pillow he lobs in my direction.
More often than not, it’s me pounding at the door of Robert and Jeff’s apartment with arms full of groceries. But Friday night—three days after the wedding—Uncle Jeff shows up loaded down with takeout.
Although he’s silently forwarded communications between us and Sam Dougherty, we haven’t spoken since the morning he left Robert’s office, fuming. Jeff and I have never gone this long in an anger-induced silence, and I’m so grateful to see him that I throw myself into his arms. More accurately, since he’s holding bags from Pure Thai Cookhouse, I hurl myself at him, pinning his free arm at his side with my non-casted one.
“I’m sorry,” I say, taking a step back and swiping at my eyes. Calvin is there to rescue us and slips in, taking the food from him with a smile. Jeff nods in thanks before pulling me into a genuine hug.
“You’re an idiot,” he says into my hair. “But I suppose you’re my idiot, and I’m pretty grateful for that.”
I press my face into his dress shirt, smearing tears and mascara onto the blue-and-white-checkered cotton. “So you’re okay with all this?”
“I’m definitely not okay.” He pulls back enough to swipe at my cheeks with his thumbs. “But I understand it a little better. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him, either. Anyway,” he says, stepping back. “I come with an army.” He gives me a silent look of pleading.
Robert is, of course, at the theater, but it’s true that Jeff isn’t alone. Behind him, Lulu holds up two bottles of tequila, and behind her is Gene, Lulu’s . . . bed-friend, holding a bag of limes and sporting the world’s most enormous mustache.
I take the bag of limes from him. “Are you guessing my weight tonight?”
Jeff laughs in a loud bark before heading into the kitchen, but Gene does a bewildered double take. “What?”
“Do I get to shoot a water gun to knock down the ducks?”
I see the moment he gets it because his giant mustache twitches under his suppressed grin. “I’ll take my limes home if you’re going to be sassy, miss.”
“You look like an old-timey auction barker,” I say. “Or Yosemite Sam. I have this sudden urge to buy a few head of cattle.” Behind me, Calvin snickers.
“You wish you could grow a ’stache like this.”
I burst out laughing. “I’m sorry, I can’t even hear what you’re saying through that thing.”
“I told him it’s awful.” Lulu tugs at it and Gene leans away.
He smoothes it down proudly. “I’m so lazy, and this is much more low maintenance than shaving.”
I don’t need to look that closely to see he’s clearly waxed and styled it with a comb. It’s really not an afterthought mustache; it’s the kind that a person chooses from a book on various mustache styles—the perfect accessory for his very carefully crafted I don’t care enough to even glance in the mirror look (which Lulu tells me takes him a long time in front of the mirror).
Gene steps inside and Lulu stops in the open doorway. I don’t think I have to ask how she ended up coming along with Jeff tonight. “He called and yelled at you, didn’t he?”
She leans in, pressing a kiss to my cheek. “He sure did. But I appeased him by sending him all the photos. He said I did a great job with your hair.”
I laugh as she makes her way into the kitchen, and I close the door in time to see Jeff step up to Calvin.
“I don’t believe we were properly introduced.” My uncle extends his hand. “And I want to apologize for being rude. Holland is my youngest niece, and more like a daughter to me, so I’m very protective of her.”
“No, no.” Calvin balks at this, returning the handshake. “I completely understand.”
“And, congratulations.” Jeff smiles with a twinkle in his eye. “You’ve passed a three-step criminal background check.” He looks over at me. “Holland, I emailed you a copy.”
Calvin’s eyes go wide. “Honestly?”