“They’re here. Act surprised when you answer the door Dick-hay-ud,” said Ben imitating Emma.
Nick shot him a go-to-hell look as he opened the door to let in his family.
“Mom, Dad, baby sister!” exclaimed Nick trying to act surprised, “Wow! What a nice surprise! Come in!”
Sofia hugged Nick then stepped aside so her parents could have at him.
Then she walked over and hugged Ben. “You just had to tell him didn’t you?” she whispered while they were embracing.
Ben just shrugged. “Our secret?”
Sofia smirked at Ben, “You will never change Ben Murdock,” she said.
Ben relaxed. He hadn’t seen Sofia since their awkward encounter in the bathroom at his mom’s house four months ago. She seemed to have forgotten all about it and he was relieved. Still, he couldn’t help but notice how cute she looked.
Having finished smothering her son with hugs, Mrs. Hamlin walked up behind Ben and Sofia. “Ben! You are looking as handsome as ever! Give me a hug!” said Mrs. Hamlin, “We have missed you!”
He turned and hugged Nick’s mom and kissed her on the cheek.
“I’ve missed your home cooking for sure. Nick didn’t inherit that skill!” said Ben.
Then Nick’s Dad shook his hand and clapped him on the back. “Nice to see you son!” he said in his booming voice.
Mrs. Hamlin looked at Nick, “Show us around. I want to see the place.”
As they walked off, Sofia eyed the picture on the wall of Ben and Emma. “Who’s this?” she asked.
Ben was quick to say, “It’s Emma, just a friend. She lives next door.”
“She looks like more than a friend to me,” replied Sofia.
Then she looked up at Ben with a mischievous grin. “Wanna show me your science experiment?”
He laughed. Thank goodness he was prepared. “Sure. It’s in there,” he said and motioned towards the bedroom door.
They walked into his bedroom and he pointed to the plant next to the dresser, complete with a light directly above it. She laughed when she saw it. “Ben, if I didn’t know any better, I would think you were growing something illegal!” she said as she bent down to inspect it.
Ben laughed nervously. Sofia turned and gave him a backwards glance then went back about her inspection. She gave him a few suggestions that he took to heart. If he was going to grow pot, it needed to be good quality or they couldn’t sell it or smoke it.
Ben offered Sofia his hand to help her up. “Thanks for the tips Pia. I don’t know if Nick told you, but I am majoring in horticulture. Maybe I will be able to return the favor one day.” He wanted her to be proud of him but he didn’t really know why.
“Really?” said Sofia beaming as she took his hand, “That’s amazing Ben. You’ll be very good at it.”
Her approval and enthusiasm warmed him. Still holding her hand he said, “Thanks. That means a lot coming from you.”
Sofia’s smile faltered just a little as she pulled her hand from Ben’s and brushed them off on her dress. “Um, we should join the others. Mom brought gifts.”
When they walked back in, Nick’s Mom had indeed placed several wrapped gifts on the table. She motioned them over and they sat down with her.
“These are for you Ben! This one is from your Mom and Leroy, this one is from your Dad and Janet and that one is from your Uncle Reid and Aunt Shea,” said Mrs. Hamlin smiling, “And this one is from us. Merry Christmas Ben.”
Ben was speechless. He hadn’t expected for his screwed up family to send anything especially after the tense conversations they had about him coming home. He most certainly hadn’t expected Nick’s parents to give him a gift.
“You can close your mouth Ben. You are like family to us. You know that.”
“I’m sorry Mrs. Hamlin, I just didn’t expect anything. Thank you,” he said.
At the same time, Nick’s father had given Nick several gifts. Nick was smiling and chatting up his Dad. He seemed really happy to see his family.
Even with them trying hard to include Ben, he still felt like an outsider. At one time, he thought he was finally going to have that same intimacy with his own dad, but when his half-brother was born, Ben had became an afterthought.
“Okay kids!” boomed Nick’s dad jovially and quickly bringing Ben back to the present, “We have dinner reservations. Let’s go!”