Buttered green beans, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, dinner rolls, Jeff’s mouth watered as he watched what all hit the dinner table. Cole slaw, grilled chicken, steak, he started getting nervous, though there were plenty of people sitting around the table, so maybe this much food was justified. Peach pie, salad, croissants, another chicken, Jeff broke out in a sweat.
When Suzie cooked this much, even with Vin, Miranda, Suzie, Ben and Gene and two girls Jeff didn’t recognize plus himself, it meant she had some huge favor to ask. Since he was the only one here from whom she might ask this huge favor, it meant she was going to hit him with it tonight.
He hoped whatever it was wouldn’t make him regret stuffing his stomach, because he didn’t get home cooking like this very often.
“Here, Jeff. Have a steak. It’s medium rare, just the way you like it.”
“Thanks.” He watched the slab of beef closely as Suzie placed it on his plate. It looked mouth watering, though he may have thought so mostly because he’d had steak at Suzie’s house before and knew what to expect.
“I’m sure you’re wondering what I want.”
He nodded, not very eagerly.
“I’ve had an idea. I’m not entirely sure how good an idea it is, and I want to run it past you to see if I’m being at all reasonable.” Suzie settled into the seat at the head of the table, then passed a variety of serving dishes around, more interested in what went on other people’s plates than her own.
“Well I think it’s a great idea,” Miranda said as she reached across Vin’s setting for the rolls.
“You would,” Suzie said with a pointed look at Miranda’s hand. “It was yours.”
“Adopting Gene was your idea?” Ben glared at Miranda, his face going red and his chin jutting out.
Surprisingly, Gene also glared at Miranda. Jeff wasn’t sure, but he could swear he heard the boy mutter something like “what did I ever do to you?”
“I think it’s a stupid idea,” the girl next to Gene said. She had a rainbow of temporary dyes in her hair, giving her a parrot-like appearance. She was busy with her food and didn’t seem to notice or mind that Miranda gave her a dirty look.
“Why is that,” Suzie asked calmly. “You can’t say he belongs with a father who beats him.”
“No, but what if his mother comes back?” The parrot girl arched an eyebrow.
“Gene, I thought you said your mother abandoned you when you were five.”
“Yeah,” he said grudgingly. He’d grown at least an inch since the last time Jeff had seen him, which was only a couple of months ago.
“Have you seen any sign of her since then?”
Suzie took a deep, calming breath before speaking again. “I think we all need to accept that for good or bad, both of Gene’s parents are out of the picture. He’s as good as orphaned.”
That shut everyone up. Jeff managed to put away several delicious bites of steak cooked to perfection, a buttery roll, and several forkfuls of green beans before Suzie hit him with the question he expected. Luckily, he’d already guessed what it would be and had his answer ready.
“So, do you think I’m being reasonable in adopting Gene?”
“From a legal stand point, sure. It won’t be easy since he does have living parents and you are not married, but it’s certainly possible. From a personal stand point? You might want to discuss it with Gene. If he agrees, then come on down to the office and we’ll get the ball rolling.”
A bit of salad, a slice of peach pie, and a period of conversational mayhem later he excused himself. Eating as at Suzie’s house came at a price, but one he considered well worth it.
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