Ben hadn’t slept well the night after the Festival because he was worried about Emma. Nick and Rachael were still asleep in Nick’s room so he quietly let himself out of the apartment. He went down to the local coffee shop and got breakfast for he and Emma.
Ben knocked softly on Emma’s door.
She opened, still in her pajamas, obviously a little unsure why Ben was standing at her door. Ben held out one of the cups of coffee. “I needed one and thought you could use one too,” he said. Emma finally smiled and opened the door wider so he could enter.
As Ben followed her inside, and sat down at the bar with her, he thought he may have finally won her over.
Turned out it was the coffee and food that she was salivating over, not him.
As they ate, Emma smiled at him and said, “You really are a good friend Ben. Thank you for takin’ up for me last night. And thank you for breakfast. You know, maybe you aren’t really a dick-hay-ud after all.”
“There are benefits other than breakfast that come with being my friend you know,” said Ben wiggling his eyebrows.
Emma just shook her head. “You just can’t leave well enough alone can you Ben?”
Ben shrugged and gave her his best hurt look and they finished their coffee in silence.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The following week, Nick rushed into the apartment and sat a bag of groceries on the table. “Merry Christmas!” he called out grinning from ear to ear, “I got my first check and put it to good use. I bought groceries and goodies!”
Ben walked into the kitchen to help Nick put away the groceries and saw him sitting at the table. He sat down to look at what Nick was pouring over and groaned. “Tell me that’s not what I think it is.”
“You said you would!”
“Remind me why I agreed to this.”
“Ben, I already spent my whole paycheck. You can’t renege on our deal.”
“No, I’m not,” he said with a deep sigh. “Show me what you got and then I need to call your sister.”
After they unpacked everything, Ben called Sofia to see if she had any hints for growing outdoor plants indoors.
“Hi stranger,” she said, sarcasm dripping from her words, “You guys could at least call once in awhile. Are you too good for us now that you live in the big city?”
“I love you too Pia,” he snarked back using her nickname to soften her up.
“Sorry Ben. I miss you two Neanderthals. So how did I earn the honor of a phone call? Nobody to fish with?”
Ben laughed into the phone. “No, I don’t have anyone to fish with but that’s not why I called. I have a science project and have to grow an outdoor plant indoors using artificial light to speed up the growth cycle. Any pointers you can give would be appreciated.”
“Science project?” she asked skeptically.
“Yes,” he said ignoring her tone, “We, uh, will compare to natural light.” He hoped the lie sounded convincing. “So what kind of lights should I get?”
Sofia asked him a couple of more questions and told him what he should do.
“So, how have you been?” he asked when she stopped talking, “I really do miss my fishing buddy, in fact I miss fishing period!”
“Right. Hey, I have a secret, but you have to promise not to tell Nick.”
Was she dating someone and maybe she didn’t think Nick would approve? The thought worried him. “Sure. What’s up?”
“We are coming to San Myshuno for Christmas to surprise Nick – and well – you too!”
“Who is ‘we’?” asked Ben worried ‘we’ included one or more of his parents, step-parents, siblings or half-siblings.
“Me, Mom and Dad. Don’t tell Nick! Mom will be really mad!”
Ben was relieved. He was pretty sure none of his family would come because they had all those damn little kids that still believed in Santa Claus. Both his Mom and Dad had tried to get him to come home. His Dad wanted to send him money for a plane ticket and his mom for a bus ticket, but he refused them both ‘because of his job’. The had argued about it before finally giving up.
“I know better than to get on your mom’s bad side, so don’t worry,” said Ben. He really did like Nick and Sofia’s parents. They always included him in everything. Why couldn’t his parents have been like them?
“Thanks Ben. We’ll see you in two weeks.”
Ben hung up, walked over and sat down next to Nick. “Nick, my man,” he said, “Guess who’s coming to dinner!”
“Please tell me it isn’t my family.”
Ben just grinned and nodded his head.
“Is this your idea of a joke?” asked Nick.
“Nope,” he said, “The parents and little sis are coming. It’s supposed to be a surprise.”
Nick groaned. “When?”
“Two days before Christmas. But now, because of your stupid weed, I have to have a cover plant. Sofia is going to want to check it out.”
“Yeah, she will. Sorry dude. Well, at least the girls are going to be home with their families. One less thing to deal with,” reasoned Nick.
“Okay, well, let’s plant this shit and go buy a legal plant for Sofia to mother while she’s here.”
“Wait, they aren’t staying here are they?”
Ben laughed at Nick’s panic. “Relax Nicky….they are staying in a hotel. They know there is no room at the Inn.” Ben laughed at his own joke before groaning. “I guess we better put up some decorations or they will never let you stay here for holidays again. And you know they will report back to my families,” he said rolling his eyes.