“So says the Chia pet.” Tori replied.
Laughter erupted around the table.
“Ch ch ch chia!” Ava sang. “T-Mom, that’s a good one!”
Tori winked at her and fed Lauren another spoonful of yellow beans. Sitting back, she eyed her brother. “So, Jon, are you going to let me have my husband back anytime soon or are you just going to keep booking tour dates?”
“Uh uh Bela, don’t you know that guitarist’s wives don’t get to dictate tour dates?” David wagged his finger at her.
“Ah, but I’m not just his guitarist’s wife, I’m his sister. Besides, I wasn’t dictating anything, merely asking a question.”
Jon eyed her warily. “You’ve been talking to Dot.”
Tori shrugged. “It’s kind of hard to make plans when we don’t know whether you guys are going to be available.”
“I don’t understand why you’d want to spend a lot of time with Chuck anyway Bela.” David smirked.
Sapphire eyes narrowed. “The real question, Shirley, is why Karin would want to spend any time with you at all!”
The edge in her voice silenced the room as the band members all exchanged glances. Richie gave his wife a meaningful look and raised one brow slightly. Her answering nod was almost imperceptible. Richie leaned towards David. “Stop poking the bear.”
Forks hit plates all around the table. They all knew what that particular phrase meant.
Tori fed Lauren another spoonful of food before anyone spoke. When they did, it all came at once.
“Aw man!” Ava groaned. “Don’t you guys know anything about birth control?”
Richie’s head snapped towards his eldest. “What do you know about it?”
Tori laid her hand on his arm and leaned closer to murmur. “Better she knows than she doesn’t.” She turned to Ava. “Now you have proof that it’s not a hundred percent effective.” A slight frown creased her forehead. “Are you upset about this? I thought you wanted brothers and sisters.”
“I did. And I’ve got them.” She gestured towards Stevie and Lauren.
“What’s the problem?” Richie asked.
Ava made a face, then at a look from her father, sighed and shrugged. “I’m just trying to figure out how to tell my friends that my parents are having another baby....at your age!”
“Hey! I’m not old!” Tori chided her stepdaughter.
“No, you’re not...but Dad is.”
“Oh, well, okay.”
“Hey!” Richie pouted.
Stevie looked around the table, then reached out to pat his big sister’s arm. “What wong?”
“Your mommy’s going to have a baby.”
He looked at Lauren. “Her did. Seetpea.”
“No, I mean she’s going to have another one.”
“Oh.” He went back to his dinner.
“How are you feeling nina?” Tico asked.
“Tired.” Tico suggested.
“Cranky.” David added, which earned him the female version of the stink eye.
They all looked at Richie.
“I love my wife and she’s perfect, just the way she is.” He kept his face expressionless.
“Good answer.” Tori snorted and leaned over to kiss him.
Jon gazed back and forth between his sister and his brother-in-law. “Do you want the name and number of my urologist?”
After dinner, as they headed into the living room to relax, Jon held Tori back. “Are you okay with all of this? I mean, it’s got to be hard on you so soon after Lauren. Are you taking care of yourself?” Her smirk had him replaying his words in his head. “I’m trying to be prepared to answer the questions Mom and Dot are going to throw at me.”
“Ah. Yes, I’m fine and taking care of myself. But now you understand why I asked about when the tour was going to end.”
“Yeah, and I’ll take it into consideration.” Jon promised.
“Do. I’d hate to have to ask Dot or Carol for help.”
“Blackmail!” They entered the living room to join the others. “She’s actually blackmailing me! Her own brother!
None of them were brave enough to admit they wished they had the power - and the guts – to do it.
“Did you forget how nasty she is when she’s hormonal?” David asked him.
“Scarecrow Syndrome sets in again.” Tori scowled at him as she sat down on the couch beside her husband.
It was a peaceful, family scene. The adults were spread around the room on various pieces of furniture. Tico was even lying on the floor, Lauren sitting on his stomach playing ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’. Stevie was on Jon’s lap showing him his latest pop-up book. Ava was curled up in a chair busy texting. A movie played on the TV.
David walked in, a drink in one hand, his phone in the other, which he held out to Tori. “My wife wants to talk to you.”
The smirk on his face and the expression in his light blue eyes warned her. “Hi Karin. How are you?”
“Never mind how I am! Do you have something you want to tell me?”
“I’m guessing Shirley already has.” Tori responded dryly.
“And why didn’t you tell me?”
“I haven’t told anyone until tonight. You know how I feel about announcements in the early stages.”
“I know.” Karin sighed. “I thought you were done after Lauren.”
“So did I.”
“Yeah. But this is definitely the last one.”
“So....how are you handling it?”
“I’m fine. Just the usual crap. I’ll survive.”
“But the last thing you need is Richie on the road when you need him the most. And now you’ve got all of them, including my smartass husband to deal with! I’d better have a talk with him and remind him what proper behaviour is around the bear.”
“Ha ha. And I suppose that you’re just a barrel of laughs and good cheer?”
“Hell no! Just...I think maybe my swings aren’t quite as...deep as yours. Still, I’m glad it’s only temporary.”
“Amen!” Tori looked at her children. “And at least we get something beautiful out of it.”
“So it really does make all of this crap worthwhile?”
“Yes, even though it might not feel like it right now.”
Karin sighed. “I’ll be glad when the tour is over. At least David’s been through this before and can help me figure out what’s normal and what’s not.”
Tori bit back a crack about Shirley’s version of ‘normal’. She knew that, as crazy and quirky as he was, he loved Karin and treated her like a precious gift. “I will be too.” She reached for Richie’s hand and squeezed.
“Well, maybe now that you’re expecting again Jon will stop adding dates and we can be sure our husbands will be around when the babies come.” Karin yawned.
“I’m working on that. I heard that yawn. Get some sleep. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Okay. And Tori....congratulations.”
“Thanks. I’ll put Shirley back on. Nite.”
She handed the phone back to David and snuggled closer to Richie. “I guess I’d better call my mother tomorrow.” She glanced at Jon. “And yours and Dot.”
Jon nodded. “You’d better or you’ll be in for it.” He paused. “Seriously though, how are you feeling?”
“I’m fine.” She knew that look in his eyes. “What’s on your mind Jon?”
“You’re coming to the show tomorrow night right?”
“Yes, and I’m bringing the kids.”
“Do you feel up to joining us for a few songs?”
Ava glanced up. “That would be totally cool T-Mom!”
“Yeah? You think so?” Tori smiled at her step-daughter.
“Uh huh. I love hearing you sing. And you and Uncle Jon sound really great together.” At her father’s lifted brow she rushed to add. “And Dad too of course.”
Richie grunted. “Gee thanks Bean.”
“So what do you say Tori?” Jon pressed.
“I think something can be arranged.”