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Jake waited a few days after they were back in Lexington to talk to Suzie about moving the shower up and not waiting for the guys. Kevin had heard about the baby shower that Bron didn’t want. Gossip traveled fast with the women in his family. Approaching Jake was Kevin’s best bet to lift Bron’s spirits when he couldn’t be there. He expected Jake to call him when Jake felt that the shower should be within a few days. Kevin would make the arrangements for the ladies to get to Lexington because he knew that he and the guys couldn’t make, at least they could. Kevin’s bandmates were let in on the shower only because Kevin knew they would be pissed at him if they weren’t informally invited even if they couldn’t make it.
Kevin knew what was going to happen when she returned home, so did Jake. Bron was going to go downhill straight into a depression. The 'Outlaws' as she referred to them, had showed up at the concert via an invitation from Kevin. Kevin had hoped that he could show these people what a very small part of his life was like. They didn’t seem to understand that even though it was show business on stage, off stage it was family. They came away a little more enlightened. Kevin swore that he had saw the old woman’s eyes soften when Kaylin was dancing around back stage with him to some silly tune he had made up for her. When Nick joined in, as well as Brian, they understood the family atmosphere. It wasn't showbiz all the time.
Bron stayed a noticeable distance from them and clung to Kevin. This only happened when she felt very threatened, since Bron didn’t threaten easily, he let it roll off his back. Things could be dealt with later when they were home.
The ride to Cleveland seemed to have a family road-trip ambiance, even with Kevin driving. They talked about the weekend, tried to clear things up for Kaylin so that she wasn’t having any misunderstandings about her grandparents, and generally, they re-connected as a family.
Jake was as heterosexual as they come but he was deemed as one of the girls with Bron and her friends. Jake had been around Bron for so long and was involved in the chats that went late into the night. Even after the women had met him, they still would tease and call him Jackie. It boiled down to the basic, “Jake is in the know,” with the women that had hung around together for the last three years.
“It’s time,” Jake swaggered into the room as Suzie sat typing.
“You think?” Suzie glanced to the closed office door. Both of them could hear the darts landing in the drywall and not the dartboard. “She’s doing that on purpose because it bugs me.”
“Most likely,” Jake nodded as the door to Bron’s office opened.
“I’m going to take a nap, I’m tired,” Bron grumbled and walked out of the offices.
After waiting the customary half hour to make sure Bron did not come back up to the offices, Jake made the call to Kevin, who was on his way to Chicago. “Tomorrow is the day. Suzie is booking the flights now. I'm glad we are prepared for this.”
A punctuated sigh came from the other end and but no words reached Jake’s ear.
“We know you want to be here and you’re coming home in few but she is actually getting depressed. I think if you were home it would be different.”
“I know, I know, her appointment with Gabe went well. She’s just in a funk. She was doing great until we were at her place.” Kevin could hear Mary’s cell ring on the other side of the room.
“Is that Suzie?” Jake heard Kevin ask. A pause and Kevin again spoke to Jake, “Listen, Suzie just called Mary, the ladies are going to fly in tonight. The bed and breakfast is just about empty so they can hide over there.”
“No problem boss,” Jake smiled into the phone. It drove Kevin crazy when he did that.
“Jake don’t….” Kevin stopped when Jake began to laugh. “I’ll see you next week. Hey, how is Bounce doin’?”
What could Jake say, Kaylin was showing attitude all over the place and with everyone. “We’ll talk when you get home.”
“Man…” Kevin whined. “I’m gonna nail her yet if she doesn’t knock her shit off.”
Jake’s laughter was even louder, “See ya in a few.”
“Yep,” Kevin hung up.
Bron never re-entered the offices that Friday afternoon. She sat in her room going over the letters that had been sent to her on her arrival back in Lexington. She sat on the bed and studied them, made notes, and comparisons. Bron still feared the letters but wanting to get to the bottom of the matter seemed more important. The threats had become more and more uglier. Her every move and the goings on in her life were more detailed. Bron started her own list of suspects. Stopping as she wrote names, she debated on whether or not to call Webster. The only thing that had prevented that was Kaylin coming home from school.
The evening was spent quietly as Bron, Kaylin, and Andrew ate dinner and hung out together. Once her children were in bed, her mind had begun to race again. The morning came too quickly, since the night was filled with little sleep.
Cleaning house seemed to help with the frustrations and lack of sleep. Mindless tasks like cleaning were good for things like that. Jake was teasing her when he found her removing the outlet covers and dusting behind them with a q-tip. A quick call to Bron’s best friend Suzie and Anne would take care of this. The shower had been set for tonight at Anne’s house. It was the central gathering spot for everyone in town and it would be easier to keep things quiet.
Noon rolled around and Bron and the kids received a dinner invitation to Anne’s. “Is Gabe going to be there?” Bron grinned into the phone.
Anne cleared her throat, “No,”
“Kevin is going to find out eventually,” Bron snickered. Winding up her mother in law was fun, almost as fun as winding up Kevin. “Then what are you going to do?”
“He will only find out if you tell him,” Anne knew the cat and mouse game with Bron very well. Then she hung up on her.
Bron looked at the phone, “Oh, you’re playing that way huh?”
“Kaylin,” Bron called her to get dressed. They could run some errands in town as long as they were going to dinner. “Andrew,”
“What?” Andrew answered from behind her.
Bron’s hand went over her chest, “Scare me why don’t you.”
“Sorry,” he apologized.
“Do you want to go with Bounce and I to Anne’s for dinner tonight? I figured we would leave early, I have some stuff to do.”
“Nah, I’ll pass, I have a ton of reading to do and a set of blueprints.”
“Okay, but I’m not cooking.” Bron waited for the response.
“You always have something kicking around, I won’t die of starvation.” Andrew hoped he was convincing enough.
Jake nodded approvingly from the other end of the hallway. Andrew had handled it perfectly. Now they would sit and wait.
Bron sat in the truck while Kaylin sat in the back and Jake ran into the flower shop for Bron. Driving to Anne’s seemed quiet as Jake and Kaylin argued most of the way. Bron walled the conversation out when she should have been correcting Bounce. It seemed lately that was all she did was get on Bounce’s rear for the way she was acting.
As they pulled into the driveway, Bron froze. Something was off as she looked at the house, her eyes narrowed at Jake. “What’s up?”
“A party for the baby,” Kaylin had been un-buckled and out of the truck when she blurted the words out.
Jake groaned as he snagged Kaylin by the arm. “You have a big mouth.”
“Let go of me or I’ll kick you,” Kaylin didn’t like being restrained.
Bron came out of the truck, pulling Kaylin to the back of the vehicle by the arm. She leaned over her. “Knock it off and straighten up. I don’t know what is going on with you because you won’t tell me. But if you show your ass in there today in front of Kevin’s family, you’ll get your first beating. Anne has spoons too.”
Kaylin dropped her head, her mom was really mad. “Sorry.”
“You’re always sorry, dammit, knock it off,” Bron gave Kaylin a shove to the door.
Bron watched Kaylin bolt into the house, no doubt heading straight for Anne to be consoled. When Bron walked in, Kaylin was perched on a chair next to MeeMaw. Kaylin gave Bron a wiseass smile and Bron stared her down enough to get her to knock it off. “I mean it,” Bron hugged MeeMaw but glared at Kaylin.
“Close your eyes,” Anne came up from behind, placing her hands over Bron’s eyes.
“Are you sure I won’t trip going out the back door when they all yell surprise?”
“Shit,” Anne sputtered.
Bron turned around, her eyes huge, “You just swore.”
“Well hell, we worked hard.”
Bron gasped, “You did it again, I didn’t think you were capable.”
“Get in the backyard,” Anne grumbled.
“Blame Kaylin,” Bron quipped as she headed out the backdoor.
“SURPRISE!” the party goers yelled at her.
Bron feigned astonishment just for them and shock too. Anne walked by later and patted her shoulder, “Nice job.”
“I’m telling Kevin,” Bron sing-songed back to her.
“Better not,” Anne warned her as she saw to her guest’s needs while Bron went around to greet all of her friends. Fifteen women had been flown in. Bron was calculating what that had cost when Suzie walked by her, “Stop counting, it’s his gift to you because he can’t be here. Besides, look at all the frequent flyer miles you racked up.”
They ate, they talked, they carried on most of the evening. Backstreet was the music of the night. It was what Bron wanted to hear. The party games weren’t the traditional ones, since Suzie knew Bron would bitch later. One was the game, “Who said that?” A quote was read, everyone had to guess which of the guys had said the remark. Suzie rolled her eyes when Bron kept getting all the quotes right.
Bron laughed, “I can’t help it, I write, I have to know these things. Besides, where would I be without Nick and where he ‘resigns’?”
Suzie closed her eyes and shook her head. A game of Name That Tune Backstreet style was played along with a few others. Then cake followed by Bron being ushered to table laden with gifts.
“You shouldn’t have done this people, we have enough. Anne knows this, she helped me sort them out.” Bron chastised all of them but eagerly began opening gifts. These were sentimental gifts, gifts from the heart, meant for her and the baby.
Gillian had bought a beautiful baby book for her that was adorned with ribbons and satin in a soft green. The color of the day seemed to be yellow or green. They were all playing it safe. Anything that would match the funky new nursery, which was Sherwood Forest with Disney characters.
Mary had given her heart in her gift, she had made Bron items for the nursery that matched. Bron smiled at the homemade gifts. Everything was hand sewn and embroidered. “I didn’t know you could sew?” Bron ran her hands over the intricate design.
“I sewed your head, didn’t I?” Mary laughed.
“True,” Bron couldn’t say much else.
One by one, Bron opened the gifts from her friends. All of them were special in there own way. Bron opened MeeMaw’s gift and smiled. “I made that for my great grand baby.” MeeMaww motioned for Anne to do something. Anne went in the house and came out with a box. MeeMaw called Kaylin over to her and Anne handed her the box.
Tearing the wrapping paper open, Kaylin lifted the lid. “It’s like the baby’s!”
MeeMaw pattered her arm, “Now all my great-grandbabies have a quilt from me.”
Bron lost it; quietly she walked around the yard. These were the times that she missed her own parents. They never saw their grandchildren. Leighanne seemed to pick up on the vibe and followed Bron. They talked about Anne’s flowers. “Are you going to be able to finish this?” Leighanne could see she was having a hard time.
“Yes, I’ll be fine,” Bron turned to Leighanne. “When are you going to tell them about the baby?”
Leighanne chewed her lip, “Who told you?”
“I guessed,” Bron turned around since most eyes were focused on her. “The book, it’s beautiful.”
“It’s too early, I’m afraid too.”
“I understand,” Bron grabbed her hand and pulled her back to the party. “If you want to talk, I’m here.”
“Okay Bron, get moving you have a few presents left to open.” Suzie began handing her box after box.
“A.J.,” Bron read the tag and looked at Mary, “Should I be scared?”
“No,” Mary laughed.
“I’m scared,” Bron opened the lid to find the ugliest cowboy hat she had ever seen. “Damn, no way.” Bron lifted the hat out of the box and the crowd laughed at the hideous thing.
“You know A.J.,” Mary rolled her eyes.
Bron lifted a shirt out of the bottom. Unfolding it, she read it. It was a onsie that had, “My mom loves the Backstreet Boys… A.J. is her favorite.”
“My kid is not wearing this,” she laughed.
Nick’s gift was next, Gillian had brought it with her for her to give to Bron. Looking at Suzie with a puzzled face, she frowned, “Why didn’t he just give it to you?”
“I don’t know, maybe he just bought it.” Suzie had no idea what was in the box. She had contemplated sneaking a peek earlier. If this was anything like Nick’s well thought out gifts for her, she was worried.
“It’s not ticking,” Bron pulled the card from under the ribbon and read it aloud for all. “Dear Bron, if you had this stuff then you might not be here today. Hey, it’s cool, I’m glad you didn’t because you wouldn’t be with Kevin or us, Love Nick.”
Bron’s head went from side to side as she looked at the box. She knew Nick rather well, there was something cryptic in that message, she could tell. Nick wasn’t half as dumb as he played himself off to be. “Hmmm….”
“Just open it, would you,” Suzie was annoyed, this was driving her a little crazy.
Bron ripped the paper off the box and it fluttered to the ground, displaying the contents for all to see. Everyone in the yard was screaming with laughter, except Bron, Suzie, MeeMaw, and Anne.
Bron pointed to Anne and Suzie gulped when she saw the look on the elder Richardson's face. “Damn, Kevin gets that bad ass temper from her.”
“Sure does,” Bron smiled and then took it in stride. Blinking a few times at Suzie, a long lazy smile came over her face.
“No, no, no,..” Suzie was begging. “Don’t hurt him, I know you.”
“I wouldn’t hurt Nicky,” Bron’s eyes were shinning as fast as her wheels were turning. She was going to torment Nick for a long time over this. “There is nothing like opening a large box of Condoms and K-Y gel in front of your mother in law.”
“I have a gift for you.” Jake stepped forward hoping to cool Bron’s ire.
“Thank you Jackie,” Bron giggled.
“Don’t call me that." Jake frowned at her. "Actually it’s from Suzie and me. I know you aren’t sleeping well…”
“Just open it,” Suzie wasn’t sure how this was going to fly now that Nick had been a dim wit.
A large box sat by the house, Bron’s mood jumped right to happy. “Is Kevin in the box? I sleep better with Kevin.” The box was about his size.
“NO Bron, Kevin is in Minneapolis.” Jake reminded her.
Bron thought about what she had just said and her cheeks pinked slightly, “Oh well.”
Bron made her way to the box as Anne joined her. She handed Bron a pair of scissors. Bron snipped the ribbon and moved the lid, which was almost like opening a door. Pulling back the tissue, she squealed with glee.
Suzie and Jake high-fived each other.
“Oh my God, It looks just like him.” Anne stood back.
“It’s a pillow that looks like him.” Suzie smiled
“It’s a body pillow,” Jake spoke with authority. “Bron uses one in Lamaze class. She told me the only thing better than it, was Kevin. It’s supposed to take some of the pressure off of her body when she sleeps.”
“Your handiwork Suz?” Bron pulled the life size pillow out of the box. The pillow was now decorated with a life size image of Kevin. It was the waxing shot that stood in Bron’s closet.
“Yes and do you know how hard it is to scan Kevin’s body parts?” Suzie was grinning at her.
Bron snorted as she hooked her finger on the authentic black boxer briefs to check out what lay underneath. “Very nice,” she smiled as she let the band snapped. “I always wanted to do that to him.” Bron laughed. She did smirk the rest of the day. Printed in the very spot of what should have been what made Kevin a man, Suzie and Jake had printed. "You've got to be kidding me."
Bron’s Kevin pillow was propped up in the corner like a proper boytoy. He was man handled, stroked, admired, and touched all night. Then he was packed in the truck after saying thank-yous and goodbyes.
Bron curled around her Kevin pillow later that night, laughing at the day. She had been sliding slowly down hill, now she felt much better, thanks to her best friends. She had talked to Kevin and told him about her new ‘bed buddy’ as she called him.
Kevin’s closing remark had been, “Just call it a pillow, please.” He would be having a long talk with Jake and Suzie when he returned home.
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