Now Hana knew how Jasper got his beautiful hair and coppery tan. His father was at least half Native American. He carried himself with pride. A handsome man, he had passed his looks and bearing along to his son.
“Not another J, I hope? I’m going to have trouble keeping track after a while.”
Jasper chuckled. “No, that’s mom’s side. Her name is Jeanette, by the way. His name is Tyee Flying Eagle.”
They went back to the table. Jasper helped her sit and then took a seat beside her.
“Dinner will be served shortly,” he told her.
Just then, the doors from the kitchen opened and the brothers came out carrying trays of steaming food. Hana’s sensitive nose picked out the sultry, spicy scent of barbecue cooked on a charcoal grill. Platters of smoked ribs and chicken were placed in the middle of the tables. Plates were passed family style as bowls full of mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and baskets of cornbread were added to the fare.
Someone had gone to the trouble of cutting Enid’s food off the bone and the corn from the cob. Hana was grateful for that, it spared her aunt the embarrassment of having Hana do it for her at the table. She was able to feed herself if she went slowly. Jasper heaped mashed potatoes on Enid’s plate.
“I know you won’t want to miss these,” he grinned. “Mom made these herself, especially for you.”
“Tell her I said thank you,” Enid replied with a tear in her eyes. “They always remember what I like best. I feel like the Queen of England.”
“Nope, better. You’re Queen of the Lazy J.” He kissed her cheek tenderly. “And you always will be.”
Enid grabbed his hand, squeezing hard. She was crying in earnest, trying to hide it. Hana scooted over to sit by her. She said nothing, just put a comforting arm around her aunt’s shoulders. Enid wiped her eyes with her napkin, kissed Jasper and attacked her mashed potatoes.
“Eat before it gets cold, Hana. I’m fine, just tired. It’s always like coming home here.”
“Yeah, you don’t have Mom hovering around like a preppie vulture waiting for one of us to make a mistake.”
Hana hadn’t really meant to say it quite that way, but Enid almost exploded with laughter.
“Oh, my dear! If that isn’t the best way to describe Aileen! Hana’s mother makes Martha Stewart look like—”
“Andy Warhol?” Hana supplied helpfully.
“Exactly! I was thinking Jackson Pollack, but that’s even better. She’s such a stiff.”
“No sense of humor,” Hana told Jasper. “I get that from my dad and Auntie.”
“Our side of the family is more relaxed. Aileen has ten thousand fits if she finds a crumb on the floor, or her turkey fails to brown sufficiently.”
Jasper chuckled, trying not to spew his potatoes. “You’re exaggerating, right?” He held his napkin over his mouth.
Both women shook their heads in unison. “If anything,” Enid told him, “we’re cutting her slack.”
“God, what would she think of me?”
“Better not to speculate,” Enid replied. “I know she thinks I’m some nasty old curmudgeon. It’s a persona I’ve developed over the years so that she’ll leave me alone. The only one of the bunch who turned out worth a damn, is Hana. Most of your siblings, dear, are just this side of dreadful.” She shuddered slightly thinking about both Hana’s brothers and sisters.
Hana had to admit Aunt Enid was right. Her older siblings were interested in two things: prestige, and the money to make it work. She had never shared these preppie, yuppie values, and neither had their father. He was proud of his children and their accomplishments, but felt they spent to much time working and not enough time with their families.
After dinner, the dishes were cleared and dessert was served. The choices were chocolate cake, apple pie or fried cheesecake. Never having had it before, Hana chose the fried cheesecake eagerly and was amused to see her aunt and Jasper exchange a look as they, too, ordered it.
“I knew you’d try that,” Enid told her, patting her hand. “You’ll love it. It’s even better than sex.”
Hana blushed, looking down at the table. Jasper frowned, working his mouth around as if he were contemplating deep, dark things.
“I don’t know about that one, Miss E.,” he told her finally. “It’s good, but I have to admit, there’s better things to put in your mouth.”
Enid threw back her head and laughed so hard tears ran down her cheeks. “Oh, Hana! I wish you could see your face! Jasper, you wretched boy! You’ve embarrassed her. Shame on you!”
Jasper looked at Hana sheepishly. “Sorry about that, Hana. Sometimes I say things without really thinking.”
“You’re just showing your maleness,” Enid told him playfully.
“Now that begins to sound a bit like an insult, Miss E. Showing my maleness? You make it sound like I’m flashing the dining room.”
They were still giggling when the dessert arrived. As Hana took her first bite, she felt Jasper and her aunt watching her. Wondering what they were doing, she ate the crusty pastry. It was so good, she stopped chewing, just letting it melt in her mouth. Her eyes grew wide and she looked from Jasper to Enid and back again.
“That’s fantastic! Oh, my God I never tasted anything so decadent!”
“I knew you’d like it!” Enid grinned happily. “But is it better than sex?”
© Dellani Oakes 2022