“You’re welcome. Thank you for standing up for what’s right,” Aiden replied, giving each a gentle kiss.
With Inez, he got more than just a little kiss in return. Both realized it wasn’t the venue for such a thing, but she couldn’t help it. He promised to call her, and the girls also went to the buffet.
Finally, the line ended and they were able to get some food. Several of the ladies had set aside special tidbits for them, knowing they would disappear quickly. The buffet was hosted by the Council of Catholic Women. The family made sure to thank them for their kindness and generosity.
“It’s the least we can do for a lost lamb,” the president, Mary, said. “When Barry told us the circumstances, we couldn’t say no.”
It was finally time to go. The family, with Eoin, drove home. Changing into more comfortable clothing, they sat in the living room together. Fred brought out a bottle of wine that looked somewhat old and dusty.
“I had planned to save this to celebrate Aiden’s twenty-first birthday, but I think we need it now. I am a firm believer in celebrating someone’s life, after mourning their passing. We’ve had the sorrow of the day, now the joy.” He poured each of them a glass, including the two younger boys. “To Wendy. You touched our lives in many ways, whether you knew it or not. Your love, gave us a beautiful granddaughter. Your death brought us closer together. We mourn you, daughter, but delight in you as well. May you find peace that you didn’t know in this life.” He raised his glass.
The all clinked glasses before sipping the wine. It was a good vintage, a lovely, mellow white wine. Fred gazed down into his glass after taking his first sip.
“I bought this the day we found out we were going to be parents. From the beginning, I knew it was a boy. I have no idea how. I had a name picked out, and I was lucky Deirdre liked it. I wanted to name my first born son after the best man I knew, my grandfather, Aiden Stewart Partridge. He came to this country as a boy, with his mother and younger brother. His mother wasn’t well, so he was the one who found work, supporting them. He worked tirelessly until the day he died, providing for his family. If you will bear with me a moment more, to my grandfather.”
They toasted his grandfather as well. After that, the mood lightened and they told funny stories about Wendy and Granda Aiden. He had been around when Aiden was young, and he remembered the old man fondly.
The stress of the morning finally caught up with Deirdre and she went to bed. When she woke later she heard voices, more than she’d anticipated. Not quite feeling up to a houseful of company, for the first time in years, she made her slow way to the living room. She found Vanessa and Dario, along with Fonda and Inez. Not a bad crowd, she could handle that.
Fred brought her water and a pain pill once she was settled in the recliner. Eoin fussed, doing his own impression of a mother hen, and she had to laugh at him.
“I didn’t get a chance to meet the young ladies,” she said, smiling at Fonda and Inez. She didn’t miss how close the girls were sitting to Aiden and Eoin, but it didn’t bother her.
Aiden made the introductions.
“It was their testimony that helped get the search warrants,” Vanessa explained. “But that’s not why we’re here.”
“We know you have a lot of food already,” Fonda said. “But we really wanted to thank you, and this is the only way we know how. Despite our mothers’ shortcomings, they insisted that it wasn’t a true thank you celebration without food. So we made a comfort meal.”
Once they were all seated at the table, the girls served heaping bowls of mashed potatoes, parsnips and butter beans. Along with these side dishes, they served the best fried chicken any of them had tasted. This wasn’t the Colonel, or Publix deli, they had made it themselves.
“My granny taught me how to fry chicken before I got my first bra,” Fonda said, unashamedly. “The secret, she says, is cooking in cast iron. I don’t know if that’s true, but I don’t use anything but the deep skillet she gave me when I was ten.”
Inez set two platters, mounded with flaky biscuits, in front of them. “My grandmother insisted that every girl had to know how to make biscuits. While Fonda friend chicken, I mixed biscuits until I could do it in my sleep.”
“Mine are never this light,” Deirdre said.
“You could pave a road with them,” Fred said, earning himself a punch in the ribs. “I’m telling the god’s truth, woman,” he laughingly complained.
“Which is why we have Pillsbury,” she countered. “I know my weaknesses. This is absolutely delicious. Thank you.” She genuinely liked the girls, and felt that her two oldest boys, that being Aiden and Eoin, were in good hands. “At least I know they won’t starve,” she teased.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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