I turned around upon hearing the café door chime open, smiling from ear to ear when my older brother, Joe, my niece, Michaela, and my dad all walked inside. “HI guys!” I exclaimed, rather loudly and excitedly as I practically ran over to them, hugging my dad and brother tightly then scooping my niece into my arms. I felt myself relax instantly the moment her little arms wrapped around me. Damn, I missed them.
“Hi auntie J,” Michaela, (or Cay, as I like to call her) mumbled as she snuggled against me, still hugging me tightly. She leaned back and kissed me quickly, giggling when she pulled back and looked down at me.
“What’s so funny munchkin?” I asked, tickling her a little.
“I got lipstick on your lips,” she said, laughing harder now, making me smile and laugh along too.
“And what are you doing with lipstick on?” I asked, looking at her puzzled, trying not to laugh.
She closed her eyes, smiling, “and eye shadow!” she stated proudly.
“Well I think you look beautiful, you might have to do my makeup for me when we get home.” I said as I put her down, walking over and hugging my dad once more, this time a little longer, then kissing his cheek, “I missed you,” I whispered, looking seriously up at him. Damn he was a lot thinner then I remembered. Tanner too. But then again he was always out working on the boats and dock this time of year so I should have suspected it.
“Oh jess, I miss you too sweetheart,” he said smiling and pulled me in for another hug. Before I moved my dad and I were always close, and I know me moving away killed him a little. I hated that, but I needed to grow up on my own a little, and I needed to shed the typical “daddy’s girl” image I had in high school and college.
“Alright, we know you’re the favorite but let’s not make it too obvious,” my brother said, laughing when I glared at him.
“Jessica!” I heard, Maureen calling from the kitchen. Luckily the café was pretty dead today.
“Maureen, my dad and brother just got here!” I called back. Maureen was probably relieved to hear that too. I hadn’t stopped rambling and talking about my family coming down all day, which I’m sure was obnoxious, but I couldn’t help it! I was excited.
Maureen came around from the back, introducing herself to my dad and brother, making small talk while I went behind the counter and finished cleaning the coffee machine. Grabbing a cookie for Cay. “Jess why don’t you take the afternoon off. I was thinking about closing anyways.” Maureen said, turning around to face me. I opened my mouth to protest, “don’t try and say no, you’re off the clock,” Maureen added smiling, “have a nice weekend off with your family, and I will see you next week.” She said smiling.
“Thank you so much!” I said, hugging her quickly then gathering my things. I waved goodbye and made my way outside, joining my dad and brother who were already waiting a table outside while Cay ate her cookie. “Ready guys?” I asked laughing when I saw chocolate all over Cay’s face.
The four of us made our way down the street towards home. Cay singing Let It Go the whole time. I laughed as she twirled back and forth, walking ahead of us. My dad closely behind her to making sure no cars where pulling out of driveways.
“How have you been?” I asked Joe, looking up at him curiously. Right before I moved, he and Cay’s mom had gone through a nasty break up, but she was starting to become the kind of women Joe did not want around his baby girl, and I commend him on that decision. Not to mention I never was a fan of the girl he knocked up after a few dates, but I was thankful we had Cay as a result of his drunken stupidity.
“I’m good, things are good.” He said smiling genuinely. “Kristin stopped coming around a few weeks ago, I haven’t heard from her since.” He said shrugging, “To be honest, I like it that way. I know she should be able to see her daughter, but Kristin is bad news, so the less I hear from her or have to deal with custody crap, the better off.” He said, wrapping his arm around me and pulling me into him laughing, “what about you little sis, how’s the dating game in Connecticut? Jake told me there was a motorcycle man lingering in your kitchen the other morning,” he said smirking, and raising his eye brow as he looked down at me.
I rolled my eyes, making a mental note to kill Jake when we got home. “Of course he did, Jake has the biggest mouth ever.”
“Don’t change the subject J, are you secretly dating someone new?”
“It’s not a secret, and were not officially dating. We just started hanging out this past week!”
“And he already slept over Jessica Rose!” he said in a scolding voice.
I laughed, ahh the over protective brother syndrome. “Nothing happened, he just fell asleep here and I didn’t want to wake him when I went to work.” I said shrugging like it was no big deal. “I was going to tell you guys about him, and eventually introduce him, but not this soon. Him and I aren’t even technically together, were just starting out and getting to know each other. I need to get a feel for things before I let you guys at him.” I added just as we were heading up the drive way. I smiled hearing daisy barking and Cay cracking up on the other side of the door. I missed the sound of her laugh filling the house.
“So dad, do you think you could keep an eye on Cay tonight, while the four of us go grab a drink?” Joe asked, while we were all sat at the table for dinner.
“Yea dad that would be awesome!” Jake added, taking a bite of his steak as he did.
Another plus to having my dad around! Not only was he was an amazing cook and stocked my fridge up, but he was also a free babysitter when needed. I cut into my steak and vegetables, talking to Cay to keep her distracted from the conversation, knowing she would have a meltdown if she knew we were planning on going out tonight.
“Yea that’s no problem, I’m tired from the drive anyways so I’ll get her into bed then probably sleep myself.” He said smiling, “You guys have a good time.” I frowned a little, my dad was never one to be in bed early or to willingly stay home doing nothing. Something wasn’t right. Just as I started to worry and was about to open my mouth to say something cay flung a carrot across the table and brought everyone’s attention to her as she started cracking up.
“I’ll text my friends and let them know about tonight, maybe they’ll come out too.” I mentioned, after the laughter died down and everyone was back to stuffing their faces.
“Pretty friends I hope,” Joe said laughing at me when I rolled my eyes. I know he’s just teasing but if all my brothers’ friends were off limit, why weren’t mine. Talk about unfair! I cleared my plate from the table and grabbed my phone texting the group.
My brothers are in town for the weekend. Bar crawl downtown? Come! Can meet up at my house around 930 and then head down! I miss you girls!
It had only been a week since I had last seen the girls, partially because I was busy with work and Cole, but I had missed them. I couldn’t wait to fill them in on Cole tonight! Almost instantly I got a reply from Sky and Lauren.
Lauren: I will be there! See you then J
Sky: Me and Tom will meet you guys down at the bar! Citrus first?
I had to admit, Tom coming out made me feel a little sad that Cole couldn’t, seeing that they were close. But I was looking forward to a night out with my brothers and girlfriends so I couldn’t wait either way.
Me: Citrus is perfect to start, see you there Sky. Lauren I’ll see you here in a little bit.
I helped clean off the table with Jake and Annie as Joe washed up Cay for bed, then rushed off to change around 8. I showered and changed into tight pink jeans with a black strapless tube top tucked in (if you couldn’t already tell I owned about a million black tube tops and practically only wore those). I slipped into black wedges and curled my hair big, putting on a little extra eye makeup. Around nine I headed downstairs and sat with my dad until Lauren showed up. After introducing her to my dad, the five of us headed out to my car. Luckily we had Annie, who couldn’t drink but served as a very reliable designated driver! I showed her where to go and a few minutes later we were squeezing into a bar down town, Citrus.
“I'll get us drinks, you guys find a table!” Joe yelled, as he and Jake made their way to the bar. Lauren, Annie and I made our way through the bar until we luckily found a table with six chairs. One less then needed but it was as good as it was going to get tonight. After sitting down I scanned the bar, waving when Sky and Tom walked in. I smiled, wishing Cole was there as they took their seats at the table.
“Tom, this is Lauren, Jess, and….”
“Annie,” I added, forgetting they hadn’t met yet, and introducing her to everyone. “Nice to see you again,” I added smiling.
“Ahhh the reason my roommate has been missing,” he said laughing. “I’m sure he will be jealous when he finds out I was with you tonight!” he shouted over the music.
I blushed and shrugged, laughing along with him.
A few minutes later Joe and Jake carried our drinks to the table setting them down, and taking seats. Annie sitting on Jakes lap so everyone was able to sit.
After a few drinks we decided to make our way down the street a little to another bar to get drinks and appetizers, hopeful that it wouldn’t be as crowded since it was more of a restaurant type scene. After getting a table and ordering I excused myself to go to the bathroom.
I pushed through the crowd, finally making my way to the single stall bathroom line which seemed to be taking forever. After seriously considering ducking into the men’s bathroom it was finally my turn. After holding my breath (public bathrooms…EW) and peeing, I washed my hands and pulled the door open, looking down to fix my shirt that was tucked in twisted. Just as was finished fixing it I bumped into someone and started to trip. The hand that wrapped around my back to steady me felt familiar and I gulped as I looked up, knowing my cheeks were already bright red.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, my eyes locked with Andrew’s.