At least now they know that the spark is still there, always will be and they can take it from there. Slowly! I so want them to not EVER regret making love like that awful debacle that happened last time they did.
Yeah, that last time was so awful. They've got something to make up for now.
Since you write relationships so well, I assume everything won't just be magically solved (which it may appear like at the moment), but you'll have them deal with the difficult parts as well.
Amy's arrival is going to bring them both back down to earth, especially Michael, and make it clear that, even though things are going well, it's still not perfect.
Glad they were interrupted. Never thought I would say it, but they were rushing things!
Yes, they were! If John and Sylvia hadn't shown up, it's no mystery what they would have ended up doing.
Life has been crazy sad and crazy mad busy but I am glad I could finally settle in for this.
Oh, no. That doesn't sound good. I hope things calm down for you soon.
I think it is great Michael's folks came before Amy. I can really picture the glow Maria must have had smoothly greeting his folks and just being her and them getting see and experience how far she has come.
It was definitely a nice moment for her. For Michael, too, but especially for her.
Thank you for the feedback! On we go!
John and Sylvia did indeed rise early, and even though Maria hadn’t quite gotten as much sleep as she’d wanted, it didn’t seem right to not be awake when they were. So she forced herself out of bed and out of Michael’s arms and headed downstairs to help Sylvia with breakfast. Michael came down shortly after. And just like that, it was family breakfast. But John and Sylvia were obviously anxious for their granddaughter to get there.
“So even though I have to wait until next spring, it was just such a relief to know I’d get back in the program again,” Maria told Sylvia once they’d started talking about college to pass the time.
“Oh, I’ll bet,” Sylvia said. “So that’s when you’ll do your student teaching?”
“Yep. And then there’s the daunting task of finding a job.” She made a face, not looking forward to that.
“Oh, you’ll find one,” Sylvia assured her.
“I don’t know. Male high school English teachers are in high demand. Female elementary ones? Not so much.”
Sylvia shrugged, halfway in agreement, but kept on. “You’ll get a job,” she said. “I just know it.”
“Hmm, you sound so confident.”
“Well, that’s because I have a lot of confidence in you, Maria.” She smiled.
“We both do,” John added.
Hearing them say that sparked a little confidence in Maria, too. “Thanks.” It was nice to feel so supported.
“So, Son, speaking of the working world . . .” John took a bite of his French toast and asked between mouthfuls, “How’s the gallery going?”
“Good,” Michael replied. “We’re gonna have another Sex Sells auction.”
John nearly choked on his food, and Sylvia’s eyes practically bulged out of her head. “Sex Sells?” she shrieked.
“Yeah. We had one awhile back.” Michael glanced back and forth between his parents, shifting in his seat uncomfortably. “Didn’t I tell you about it?”
“No,” Sylvia answered swiftly.
“Oh.” Michael looked away from her and looked down at the kitchen table instead. Maria laughed inwardly.
“Well, it sounds interesting,” John said.
Before the conversation could go any farther (and probably much to Michael’s relief), the front door opened, and Tess and Kyle escorted Miley inside. “Honeys, she’s home,” Tess called.
“And she’s tired,” Kyle added. “We let her stay up way too late last night.” He stopped when he saw John and Sylvia and said, “Oh, hi, guys.”
“Oh, Miley, look who it is,” Tess said, pointing the grandparents out.
Miley yawned and rubbed her eyes, but when she saw John and Sylvia, she exclaimed, “Grandma! Grandpa!” and trotted forward as fast as she could to greet them.
“Oh, look at you!” Sylvia exclaimed, kneeling down on the floor. She swept Miley up in a hug the moment she could. “Look at you.”
John made his way toward them, smiled down at Miley adoringly for a moment, and remarked, “No more crutches.”
“Nope.” Michael smiled, too.
John looked . . . relieved. He bent down, lifted her in his arms, and said, “Come here, kiddo,” as he gave her a kiss on the cheek.
Maria slipped away from the kitchen table and made her way over to Tess.
“I thought they weren’t coming ‘til later,” Tess said quietly.
“Oh, they’re full of surprises. Come with me for a minute.” She slinked upstairs, gesturing for her best friend to follow. Once they were in the privacy of the bedroom, she shut the door.
“So, how was date night?” Tess asked right away.
Maria leaned back against the door, grinning.
“Good?” Tess guessed.
She nodded emphatically.
“Oh my god, did you guys have sex?” Tess blurted.
“But you did something. Spill.” She sat down on the foot of the bed and motioned for Maria to sit down beside her.
“Okay, so we ended up going to a frat party instead of a movie,” Maria revealed.
Tess made a face.
“I know, weird, but it ended up being, like, the perfect moment to recreate our first kiss. So I kissed him.”
“You kissed him?”
“Yeah, I walked right up to him and just kissed him. And then we came home and we . . . well, we did a little more than kissing.” Even just thinking about it sent a pleasurable tingle up her spine.
Tess’s eyebrows shot upward, her interest obviously piqued.
“Not sex,” she reiterated. “But honestly, we were heading in that direction until his parent showed up.”
“Oh my god, Maria, this is a milestone,” Tess raved. “I’m so happy for you guys.”
“I know, I’m happy, too.” It had been a long time since she’d been able to say that and really, totally mean it. “It feels . . . right, you know? And it feels like . . . like it’s been a long time since I felt this way.”
Since his parents were completely absorbed in Miley’s adorableness, Michael took the opportunity to slip outside with Kyle. He shut the door firmly and leaned against the porch railing, trying not to sound like an overexcited, spastic moron when he revealed, “So, uh . . . Maria and I totally made out last night.”
Kyle made an incredulous face. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, is that so hard to believe?”
“Kind of.” Kyle thought about it a minute, then nodded his congratulations. “Nice. So, what, you just macked on her in the back of the movie theater or something?”
“No, we went to a party instead,” Michael informed him. “And she initiated it. She kissed me, and then we sort of just . . . kept kissing.”
“But no sex?”
“Not yet.” He grinned, not wanting to sound like he was bragging, but still . . . this was the most progress they’d made in months, and he was damn glad about it.
“Oh, you lucky bastard,” Kyle said.
“Wait, what do you mean by that?”
“No, I’m not saying . . .” Kyle quickly tried to backtrack. “It’s not that I wanna . . . with Maria. I just . . . I would think that everything feels . . . brand new for the two of you right now, and that’s gotta be pretty cool.”
“Yeah, it is,” Michael agreed, distracted by a car that was coasting down the road. He recognized it right away, and when it slowed and pulled up out front, he noticed Amy in the passenger’s seat and Ed on the driver’s side. “This is less cool,” he muttered, bracing himself. They, too, were here earlier than he’d expected. But they could have arrived a month from now, and it still would have put Michael on edge.
Amy stepped out of the car, a firm, stoic look on her face. “Kyle,” she greeted with no hint of warmth in her tone. But if possible, the tone got even colder when she said, “Michael.”
Michael just stood there, not sure what to say. Hi? He couldn’t possibly just say hi, could he? Not after everything that had happened. This woman hated him for what he’d done. ‘Hi’ just wouldn’t cut it.
Luckily, Kyle spoke up for the both of them, “Hey, Amy,” he said, but it was full of nervousness and quiet.
Ed got out of the car a moment later and gave both of them a friendly wave. Clearly the man was just along for the ride, literally, but he’d probably heard an earful from his wife all the way down.
“Is my daughter inside?” Amy asked as she approached the porch.
Michael nodded, noting the phrasing. Not just Maria, but my daughter. Very possessive.
Amy walked past them without another word, and Ed followed. Michael couldn’t seem to force the tenseness to leave his body, not even when it was just him and Kyle out there again.
“You know how I said you were lucky?” his friend said, staring at the closed front door. “I take that back.”
Michael was too worried to even laugh at that. He gripped the porch railing tighter as his stomach twisted into knots.
Maria was a mess of giggles as she and Tess treaded back downstairs. The Michael kissage talk had morphed into a Michael sex talk, and she knew they were going to have to put the brakes on that when the parents and kiddo were within earshot.
She froze on the second to bottom step when she noticed the addition of a few more parents in the room. Amy and Ed were standing by the door, and Miley was hugging Amy’s leg.
“Mom,” she managed to get out, suddenly very on edge. She’d known this was coming, the whole family together like this, but now that it was actually happening, she didn’t know what to do or say.
“Hi, honey,” her mother greeted, smiling gently at her. “I thought I’d get here early, but apparently I’m too late for that.” She motioned at John and Sylvia in the kitchen, and Maria knew she was seething inside that she hadn’t gotten there first. “Come here, honey,” she said, opening her arms up wide.
Maria slowly stepped down off the stairs and into her mom’s embrace. She hugged her, not completely upset to see her. It was just . . . nerve-wracking. Things had been so calm lately, but given all the animosity she knew her mom had stored up, it wasn’t likely to stay calm around there for long.
“Oh, you look beautiful,” Amy admired.
“Pretty sure I don’t,” Maria mumbled, pulling away.
“No, you do.” Her mom reached out and stroked her hair, tears sparkling in her eyes. Maria smiled self-consciously, able to understand where the tears were coming from. Her mom was happy to see her like this, because the last time she’d seen her, she’d been a depressed shell of herself at Cresthaven.
“What about me, Grandma?” Miley asked, tugging on her pants.
“Oh, you look beautiful, too,” Amy assured her, bending down to give her a big kiss on the cheek.
“Don’t say anything about the way I look,” Tess told her dad, coming into the living room so she could give him a big hug.
“Why not?” he asked. “You’re glowing.” He touched her rounded stomach momentarily, then shook his head in amazement.
Maria stared at them enviously, wishing she and her mom had an easy relationship like that. But they never had, and even though they’d gotten closer over the years, there was no naïve part of her that expected this weekend to be smooth sailing.
Silence settled upon all of them, but finally, Sylvia, still seated at the kitchen table, cleared her throat and said, “Um, would you two like to join us for breakfast?”
“We already ate,” Amy replied swiftly. Even though they were only three words, each of them was dripping with hostility.
Michael and Kyle came back inside a moment later, and Maria breathed in sharply, halfway expecting her mom to turn and rip Michael’s head off. But she didn’t even look at him, just remained standing there, nearly motionless.
“Whoa,” Michael said. “Packed house.”
“It sure is,” Amy agreed. “And Michael, since this is your house, maybe you can tell me what you have in mind for sleeping arrangements.”
Oh, crap, Maria thought. It was beginning. The passive-aggressive argument style Amy was so well-known for. Even if something didn’t seem like an insult, it probably was. Even if something didn’t seem like a big deal, she’d make it one.
“Well, uh, last night my parents slept down here,” Michael said. “We pulled out the couch bed.”
“Great,” Amy chirped, not at all cheerily. “So if they stayed here last night, Ed and I can stay tonight.”
“Well . . .” Michael backed up a few steps before saying, “We were kinda thinking you could stay with Tess, or Marty.”
Maria cringed. That wasn’t going to sit well.
“So they can stay here but I can’t?” Amy said, her voice rising in volume and intensity. “Am I not welcome here?”
“Mom, he didn’t say that,” Maria jumped in, unable to let it go on any longer. “It’s just that you have two kids who live in this town and a stepdaughter. It makes more sense.” She didn’t know why the hell she was even attempting to use logic, though. Her mom didn’t respond to logic, especially not when she was pissed off.
John cleared his throat and rose to his feet. “You know, if it’s too big of an issue, we can just get a hotel room,” he offered.
“No, John, you can stay here,” Maria assured him. Truth be told, she was much more receptive to the idea of John and Sylvia sleeping downstairs than her own mom. “It’s fine.”
“We can figure all this out later,” Michael mumbled.
Amy clearly wasn’t satisfied, but she clenched her mouth shut and said, “Right,” staring daggers at Michael all the while.
Words could not express the relief Maria felt when everyone went out back to play with Miley, leaving her alone with Michael inside. He was occupying himself with doing the breakfast dishes, but she stood at the window, looking out, watching her family around each other. Amy was mainly the only one playing with Miley now. She was swinging, holding Miley in her lap. Ed came over to push them once in awhile, but mostly, he just let them be. John and Sylvia stood off to the side with Tess and Kyle, talking, watching Amy with interest but not interacting with her.
“God, she is such a personality,” Maria practically lamented.
“Always has been,” Michael muttered, clanging pots and pans around as he tried to put everything away underneath the oven.
“I feel sorry for your parents. She’s, like, hogging Miley all to herself.” Part of her wanted to go out there and ask her mom to go on a walk with her, just so John and Sylvia could spend some quality time with Miley. But she didn’t do that, because she really didn’t want to be one-on-one with her mom. That would inevitably lead to an inquisition, a why-are-you-and-Michael-acting-so-cozy inquisition.
“It’s just awkward right now,” Michael said. “Nobody’s getting along.”
“We were getting along just fine until she got here,” Maria pointed out.
“Are you mad at her?”
Maria turned away from the window and folded her arms across her chest. “Kind of,” she admitted. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my mom . . . nowadays. But I hate that she just waltzed in here with such an attitude.”
He picked up a plate from the dry side of the sink and wiped it off with a towel. “Did you really expect anything else?”
“No. She’s just so dramatic, and that gets stressful.”
“Oh, believe me, I know.”
She sighed heavily, realizing it was probably hypocritical for her to be calling someone else dramatic when she managed to create her own fair share of drama, some of it good, some of it bad. “Right after I . . . when I first went to Cresthaven . . . was she totally unbearable?” she asked.
Michael didn’t look at her, just kept his eyes focused on the plate in his hand as he continued to dry it off. “She was angry,” he said. “And she had every right to be. She said . . .” He trailed off and shook his head, putting the plate away instead of answering.
“What?” she pressed.
He set the towel down on the counter and looked at her for a minute, very reluctant to answer. But finally, he did. “She said I’m no longer part of her family.”
Maria felt her heart go out to him. That had to be tough to hear, especially because Tess had been pretty upset with him at that point, too. “Michael . . .”
He glanced over her shoulder and out the window, and he must have seen something he didn’t like, because suddenly, it was as if he couldn’t get out of that kitchen fast enough. “I’m gonna take the dog out,” he said, bolting into the living room. He snatched Frank up and was out the front door in an instant.
Maria turned around and saw her mom coming back inside. She rolled her eyes at the ridiculousness of it all, Michael having to feel uncomfortable in his own house.
“Hi, honey,” her mother said when she stepped back inside. “Whatcha doin’?”
Avoiding you, Maria thought and sort of wished she could say. “I don’t know.”
“Well, why don’t you come outside and join us?” She plastered a big smile on her face that wasn’t meant to be there.
“I will in a minute,” Maria assured her. “We both will.”
Immediately, Amy’s smile fell. “You and Michael?” she asked as though there were some other candidate.
“Yeah.” It really shouldn’t have been such a big deal. They shouldn’t have had to feel as though they were breaking any rules, because there were no rules. There was no law written that they couldn’t be back together again, despite how much one particular parent probably wished there were.
Amy must have felt like saying something, but she kept herself quiet, apparently resigned to spending family time with Michael included in that family, and she turned and went back outside again without another word.
Maria let out a heavy breath, raking her fingers through her hair. Her mother’s big personality seemed to be at an all-time record intensity, and that wasn’t good news for anyone.
“You disgust me; you sicken me.”
The words Amy had ground out to him months ago came flooding back to Michael as he stood outside, halfheartedly watching the dog run around, just biding his time until she wasn’t inside anymore.
“And as far as I’m concerned, you’re no longer a part of this family.”
It had hurt then, and it still hurt now, worse now that he was seeing her again. Although she was hardly seeing him. She’d barely looked at him since she’d shown up, and whenever she did, there was pure contempt in her eyes. It was as though she were looking at a cockroach, one she wanted to squash badly.
But that wasn’t even the worst part.
Isabel. His hands on her. Her mouth on his. The horrified whimper that escaped Maria’s lips as she stood in their bedroom doorway, watching them.
The worst part was that all of Amy’s anger, all of it directed towards him . . .
It was justified.
TBC . . .