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Chapter Thirty Three

The first week back at Shelby and Mason's went fast. Having family around you, especially a family as crazy as mine, seems to make time run on sonic speed. Before I knew it, the weekend had rolled around, mom and dad were talking about going back to Florida (together, I might add) and Joe announced he had a date.

Joe's date was big for a couple reasons. For one, Joe had never really called his dates, 'dates' before. It was always 'hooking up,' 'hanging out,' or outside the presence of mom and dad, 'bangin' and eggs.'

Yup. No lie. 'Bangin' and Eggs.'

Secondly, wherever Joe was planning on taking his date required him to dress up. I about died when he stopped by in a dress shirt, a fedora (don't ask me where he got that), and dress pants. He even had on cologne. For the first time this summer he didn't smell like manure.

"Who's the date with?" I asked. Joe took of the fedora and spun it around on his fingers. He grinned.


That was the last thing that made the date big. Not only for Joe, but for Krista too. I couldn't help but think about how excited she would be to be out on her own, for lack of a better word, like a normal teenager.

"Where ya going?"

"To eat."

"Like that?"

Joe scowled. "Kevin coughed up some of my wages. I'm splurging."

"Why aren't you taking me out to eat for putting up with you all these years?"

"And date my sister? Ga-ross!"

I took the fedora and slapped him with it. "Not a date!"

He grabbed the hat back, his grin relaxing into a permanent smile. "Maybe I'll buy you a cone or something at McDonald's."

With that he tweaked my nose. Shelby had been watching the whole thing from the living room doorway. She looked amused.

"Bye, sis," he said, addressing her as he turned for the door.

"Bye," she said. "Hey Joe?"

He spun back around. "What?"

"Treat her like a lady and you might get a good night kiss."

Joe rolled his eyes. "Girls."

Shelby and I laughed. After he walked out the door, I watched him for a second through the screen. It was kinda cute to watch him fix his tie and actually, (dare I say?) look a little nervous.

"Well, lookit the time," Shelby said. "I have to get ready for my own date tonight."

I turned to look at her. Her face was awash in excitement.

"Just tell me you haven't loaded Brenna up on sugar," I said. Shel shook her head.

"Nope. Actually, while you were with mom and dad shopping, Kevin and Addy took her to the zoo. I'm pretty sure she'll be going to sleep early tonight. Especially since Mason just took her out for a bike ride."

"Excellent," I said.

It was Mason's birthday weekend. I was going to be watching Brenna while Shelby and Mason had their first date in God-knows-how-long. My parents, Kevin, and Addy were all having a poker night over at the Richardsons, aka, they were on stand-by if I needed them.

All was well.

I followed Shelby back to her bedroom. Shel kicked a pile of clothes away from the closet and stood there, hands on hips, looking in.

"Whatcha going to wear?" I asked.

The sound of the hangers scratching along the metal rod sounded loud even to me. She seemed to be pawing all the way to the back of her closet until--


She pulled out a pink garment bag. I recognized the logo. Victoria's Secret. She unzipped the dress and lay it over her arm as if on display. "Waddya think?"

There wasn't a lot of words that came to mind. The little scrap of fabric was a sage green mini-dress trimmed at the bottom with a little light beige lace. It was medieval proper gone sex kitten.

"I bought a dress kinda like this when I was your age," Shelby explained. "Mom and dad went ballistic, but Mason loved it. Well, before I had to return it. So I figured, since we're both twenty-one now..."

It was sometimes hard to remember that Bren wasn't that much older than me. With the responsibility of taking care of Brenna, Shel always seemed much more mature.

But this moment reminded me that she was not that far removed from her own teens.

I smelled trouble.

"What exactly are you going to do in that dress tonight?" I finally asked. Shel's eyes sparkled.

"I don't know. Since it's Mason's birthday, I told him he could decide where to go and what to do."

The look on my face must have betrayed my thoughts. Shel laughed.

"That's why we're staying at a hotel tonight," she teased. I felt my cheeks turn red.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Okay, we're ready to take off. You have our cellphone numbers in case of an emergency. Grandparents are nearby. If Bren gets hungry before bed, give her the applesauce in a tube. No c-o-o-k-i-e-s'es."

"Don't throw any wild parties," Mason added.

My first thought when they had stepped into the living room was how perfect they looked together. Mason had his suit jacket slung over his arm. His crisp white shirt paired nicely with his blonde hair and sparkling green eyes. Shel looked stunning in the mini-dress, albeit I feared for her if she needed to sneeze or take a deep breath. I was sure it wasn't the most comfortable thing to wear, but judging by Mason's inability to tear his gaze away from her for longer than three seconds, I judged that she had achieved her goal.

"No parties, check," I said.

"Not che-eck, Awwy! Go Fish! GO FISH!" Bren said. Her chubby little foot shot out and pressed against my leg. I laughed and picked up a card.

"Have a good time guys," I said.

"Oh, we will," Mason said. Even my stomach got butterflies by the innuendo in his voice.

"Beaner, come give us a kiss," Shel said.

Brenna tossed her cards down, leaving them face up. I bit the inside of my cheek. She ran over to her parents, throwing herself at Mason first.

"I wanna go!" she complained. Mason picked her up; Bren wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned back so she could still see his face.

"I spent all day with you Bean," he said gently. "Now I promised mommy I'd spend some time with her."

Brenna sighed dramatically. "But mommy can paint or something."

"Or something," Mason said, the innuendo creeping into his voice again. Shel laughed. Mason smacked loud kisses on both of Brenna's cheeks.

"Be good for your Aunt Ally."

"I love you, crazy girl," Shel said. She duplicated the kisses. Bren covered her face and began to giggle. Mason airplaned her over to the couch, tossing her down onto the soft cushions. The giggles rose to the sound of pure delight. Mason bent over and pressed a kiss to the top of my head.

"Thanks for watching her, Al," he said.

"Anytime," I said lightly. Shel didn't bend down (I'm not sure she could), but she blew me a kiss.

"Have a good night!"

I knew I didn't need to say it, but I did anyhow. "You too!"

Bren had been rolling around like some invisible hands were tickling her. When she heard footsteps going towards the door, she shot up like a rocket, her eyes wide and worried. "WAIT!"

I caught her around the waist right before she tried to bolt past me. The backdoor closed. Bren's mouth dropped open.

"THEY LEFT!" she gasped.

"It's okay," I assured her. "I just wanted to have a night alone with my favorite person in the whole world." I threw in a pout for good measure. "Don't you want a sleepover with me?"

She looked torn. On one hand, she seemed to be headed directly towards a Brenna blow-up. On the other hand, the idea of a sleepover seemed to interest her. I decided to sweeten the pot.

"We'll bring all our blankets and pillows out here into the living room," I whispered as if tons of other people were listening in. "We can watch a movie and I'll make popcorn."

Okay, so popcorn wasn't applesauce. But it wasn't chocolate either. I knew I hit paydirt when Bren burst into a smile.


I nodded. "Really. But can we finish our game first?"

That was all it took. I was Ally McLean, babysitter extraordinare. Bren scooped up her cards, pressed them to her chest, and plopped down. She put on a faux-poker face.

"Got any...sevens?"