Early the next morning, the Izambard household was teeming with activities as both adults and children scampered about packing their overnight bags. Sebastien set about making arrangements for the Il Divo private jet to take him and Ginny to Paris immediately after dinner and back two days later. He couldn’t book any tickets for the commercial flight as it was a weekend and all flights were fully booked. The kids didn’t forget to bring their favourite toys with them as they happily got into the car and waited for their parents to load their bags into the trunk.
Thirty minutes later, Sam stood at the door to welcome the guests. The kids said a quick hello to her and immediately ran into the house, only to be met by Urs coming out of the playroom.
“Hello, Lily and Nick. Are you happy to be staying here for two nights?” he asked warmly as they stopped to acknowledge him. Both of them nodded their heads impatiently and he laughed, “Ok, run along, they are waiting for you inside.” Soon, kiddy laughter and chatter could be heard coming out of the playroom.
“Thanks for doing this for us, Urs,” Ginny gave him a hug.
“No problem, Ginny. Just enjoy yourself,” and he gave her a cheeky wink. Ginny blushed and Sam jab him in the side before pulling Ginny into the kitchen to help with the breakfast.
“I hope you haven’t eaten breakfast cause I’ve prepared something for you guys as well,” she said when they got into the kitchen.
“I wonder what my husband told your husband,” Ginny mumbled absentmindedly as she looked at what Sam had prepared for breakfast: toasts, scrambled eggs, sunny side ups, ham, bacon and pancakes that were in different shapes like Mickey Mouse, heart, and normal round shapes. She idly wondered how Sam had managed to make so much so early in the morning. Then she noticed the apple pie baking in the oven and her eyes widened.
“Does it matter, Gin? He’s only trying to secure some precious time for the two of you and that’s very important in view of the tour they’re going to do soon, don’t you think?” Sam replied as she set about taking out the pie and cutting it into slices. She instructed Ginny to help bring the food into the dining room where Urs had already set the table.
When everything was laid out on the table, the kids were summoned to have their hands washed before joining the adults at the table.
“Oh look, Mommy, a Mickey Mouse pancake,” Lily’s eyes were round with wonder as she looked at the special pancake.
“My Mommy made those. Here, use this chocolate fudge to make the eyes and mouth,” Angel instructed her best friend and both set to work decorating their pancakes. Grace had problem doing hers and big sister Angel had to help her out. Nick tried his luck at decorating his piece but made a mess. Tony observed them all before deciding it wasn’t worth the trouble and proceed to take a bite at his Mickey Mouse, starting with one ear first.
Sebastien laughed softly as he observed the kids having fun with their food. “Do you always make something special for them?” he asked Sam.
“No, only on weekends. We’ll spend time in the kitchen whipping up a storm,” Sam replied. “So, you’re going to Paris for two nights?”
“Yes. I hope you don’t mind the extra work with my kids around here,” Sebastien stated apologetically.
“Don’t be silly. It’ll be fun having them around. I spoke with Joanne this morning about the kids all staying here and she wants to come and spend some time with them too, to make up for the lost time she said.”
“So she and Carlos coming to stay over?” Urs asked.
“I’m not sure yet. She had to check with Carlos. He had gone out to have breakfast with a friend.”
“What’s he doing having breakfast with a friend and leaving Joanne alone in the apartment?” Ginny was disgusted at the thought, especially since she felt that being apart constantly was the root of their earlier problems.
“It’s a friend from a Spanish tv station who flew in for some business,” Sam explained.
“Could be Carmen Calderón, the VP of the tv station that wanted us to star in a soap opera in exchange for helping Joanne sort out her contractual problem,” Sebastien explained.
“Well, I hope he remembers to keep it professional by not going into her hotel room,” Ginny huffed.
Carlos sat in the hotel café opposite Carmen, smiling enchantingly at something that Carmen said. In his mind he was thinking about Joanne being left in the apartment alone. He had insisted that she come with him to meet Carmen but she declined, saying that Carmen probably wanted to discuss their appearance on the TV program.
Joanne was right though and they had just gone through the schedules and were now making small talk.
“So what are you doing this evening, Carlito?” Carmen asked in their native tongue.
“Oh, Joanne and I have a dinner appointment at the Buhlers’ tonight. We plan to be there early to chat and then set out our plan for the album and tour.”
“I see. So there’s no way I could get you to show me around town, is there?” she asked with the raise of one finely trimmed eyebrow.
“Well, I’m free till maybe three, then I have to go back and pick up my wife. We need to go grab some wine for the dinner. Can’t go empty handed even though we’re really like a family now,” he explained.
“Then would it be too much if I ask you to take me around till three? My business contact had postponed our meeting for this afternoon and I’m stuck with nothing else to do, and my English is not very good.”
She did not seem to be flirting with him and he relaxed a little before replying, “I’d be honored to be your host, Carmen. Just let me make a little phone call to my wife and tell her to expect me at three.” Carmen smiled her agreement and he proceeded to call Joanne.
“Oh, but I was thinking of going over there earlier since Seb and his family are already there. They are leaving the kids there while they fly to Paris for two nights,” Joanne sounded a little disappointed.
“Why don’t we stay there for the night then? Or even two nights. It’s time we make use of the EC. I heard from David it’s got everything we might need,” Carlos suggested, all the while keeping an eye on Carmen, hoping that she wouldn’t think he was being rude making such a long phone call.
“Ok then, I’ll pack some overnight clothes for us. You’ll be back by three?”
“Yes, my love. Three, I promise.” With that they ended the conversation and he breathed a sigh of relief.
Carmen noticed that and gave a little laugh, “Stressed, Carlos? You should be, after what went on between the two of you.” She proceeded to ask what he planned to do about the rumors that were spreading about Joanne and he told her about Joanne’s decision not to confront Felix or the press about it.
“She’s a smart one for staying away from the public eye like this. Soon the rumors will die down and she’ll be the popular host that she is again.”
“But don’t let me see that guy again or I swear I’ll break his neck,” Carlos said vehemently.
“Tsk, tsk! You should rein in your fiery temper, Carlos Marin. You could do more harm than good for your reputation and hers,” Carmen cautioned. Though Carlos still seethed with anger, he understood what Carmen was saying and Joanne’s words came back to his mind.
They left the café and made their way through town, stopping at various boutiques where Carmen picked up some expensive labels. Carlos’ hands were laden with shopping bags by the time they were done, or so he thought until she dragged him into a store selling premium wine. There she picked out two bottles of the finest wine and said to him, “Here, your wine is ready.”
Carlos shook his head, “You don’t have to do this, Carmen.”
“But it’s just a small token of appreciation to you for keeping me company,” she said, then added in English, “No big deal.”
Carlos laughed and then sobered a little, “Thanks, Carmen. After so many years, you’re still the one who understands me most, apart from my wife of course.”
“Ah yes, but she has more to offer you that I cannot. I’m glad we remained friends, Carlito. Otherwise you’d be looking for someone else and we’d have ended up in a bitter divorce.” She touched his face tenderly, and he reached up to hold her hand and let it rest on his cheek.
“It would be so easy to fall in love with you again, Carmen. It’s a good thing I fell in love with Joanne all over again after the fight. I’m not going to risk losing her again,” his honey brown eyes sought her understanding.
She smiled and nodded, “She’s a lucky lady.”
“Why don’t you join us for dinner tonight? The other guys would love to meet you too, I’m sure.” He felt bad having to leave her alone after what they had just shared.
“No, we can meet when you’re in Spain. I’d like to get some work done in my hotel tonight. The meeting with my business partner is early tomorrow. Thanks for asking anyway.”
After dropping her off at the door of her hotel suite, they shared a brief kiss and said goodbye.
The moment he stepped out of the hotel entrance, he heaved another sigh of relief until he remembered he was in London, where Il Divo first started out. With the rumors of Joanne and Felix still rife, he and Joanne had both been hounded by some reporters wanting their story. Would there be any paparazzi trailing their every move? If so, then what he did with Carmen might be captured by them on camera. Deciding that honesty is the best policy, he decided to tell Joanne about his little escapade with Carmen, praying that she wouldn’t blow her top.
“I’m back,” Carlos announced as he stepped through the door of their luxurious apartment. He noticed two overnight bags by the door but no sign of Joanne. He walked into their bedroom and there she was, curled up in foetal position as she slept. He lowered himself onto the bed gently and kissed her cheek.
“Wake up, sleeping beauty,” he whispered in her ears. She stirred a little but still refused to wake up, so he nuzzled her neck, “We’re going to be late, Joanne.”
She stretched and opened her eyes to see him smiling tenderly at her. Her heart did a flip flop and she pulled his head down for a deep kiss. He chuckled against her lips, “Not now, you little seductress. Get dressed and ready for dinner.”
In half an hour, they were headed for the Buhlers’ residence in their car. During the drive, Carlos talked about his meeting with Carmen and did a confession that they were more than just friends before he met Joanne. Joanne turned to look at him with astonishment in her eyes.
“Why didn’t you tell me that sooner? Why now?”
“We ended our relationship months before I met you. We agreed to remain friends when it was clear she didn’t want to settle down, and that was what we’ve been all these years, just friends. We hardly ever met after that, except when I have to film something at her studio,” he shrugged, trying to downplay his relationship with Carmen.
“Still, you could have told me about it. When you went to look her up for help with my contract, you could’ve explained to me your special relationship with her but you didn’t. Why now? What did you do with her just now?”
Sighing, he took her hand with his free hand as he maneuvered the car with his other hand on the steering wheel. “Joanne, there’s really nothing between us. She wanted to shop around town and asked me to accompany her. We did talk a little about our past and she understood all that to be history. I made sure she knew you are the one I love now with all my heart.”
She looked at him skeptically, “Did you kiss her?”
His eyes widened at that question and he remained quiet for a while before replying, “Yes, we shared a kiss at the door of her hotel room. That was all, a very brief kiss between old friends.”
“That’s why you’re telling me all this right now, isn’t it?” Joanne folded her arms and looked out the window. He sighed exasperatedly and rubbed a hand over his face as he tried to come up with something that would make her forgive him but he was loss for words.
Joanne could feel the sting of tears in her eyes as she looked out the car window. It wasn’t the fact that Carmen was his old love that hurt her. It was him telling her about it right now that riled her; he must have felt guilty about what went on between them earlier that day that he felt a need to confess. And that kiss! Though it was nothing like what he did with Anna, still it stung her to know that he had kissed another woman. Whatever happened to his promise of no flirting?
They remained quiet all throughout the ride to their destination. The moment they stepped through the door, Sam immediately picked up on their moods. Greeting Carlos first, she hugged Joanne warmly and led her into the kitchen after telling Carlos that the guys were in the family room.
“Had an eventful ride, huh?” she said knowingly.
Joanne smiled wryly as she tried not to cry. Ginny noticed something wasn’t right with her and immediately sat her down.
“Honey, what’s the matter? Did you have a fight again? Is it because of that woman, Carmen?”
Joanne was taken aback by that comment, “How did you know about Carmen?”
Ginny explained what Sebastien had told them earlier on. Hearing that, Joanne knew there was no way she could keep it from her best friends, so she told them the conversation she had in the car with Carlos.
“Oh honey, I’m sure there’s really nothing between the two of them.”
“I know, but still it hurts to know that he actually kissed her. I mean, if they didn’t feel something for each other, then why the kiss? Why the guilt?”
Sam sat down opposite her and said, “Joanne, trust him when he said there was really nothing between them. He’s no fool to risk another fight with you. So they kissed. It could be their way of finally putting the past behind them. A goodbye kiss. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Joanne looked at both girls with tear-filled eyes, “You really think so?”
“We know so,” they both replied.
She laughed at their uniformed reply and said, “Ok, I’ll give him the benefit of a doubt this time. Next time he won’t be so lucky.”
“What you going to do? Hit him on the head with a rolling pin?” Sam wisecracked.
They giggled before Joanne replied, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do when I’ve come up with an idea.”
“Ok, you have my email address,” Ginny winked.
“Mine, too,” Sam chipped in amid more giggles.
In the family room where the men gathered, there were some hors d’oeuvres of cheeses and cold cuts which Ginny and Sam had prepared for them, along with bottles of champagne that Sebastien brought to go around as they waited for dinner to be served.
The men had a somewhat similar conversation to the women’s as Urs had noticed Carlos wasn’t his usual self when he just sat on the chair facing the floor to ceiling window overlooking the garden. He suspected things weren’t going right for him and Joanne so he probed.
Carlos was quiet for a while and David sighed, “Come on, Carlos, what is it? We’re family so you know you can talk to us. Spill!”
Turning around to face all three Divos with a look that said “I did it again!’, he gave them an account of what went on earlier in the day and his conversation with Joanne on the way here.
David whistled and exclaimed, “Oh no, Carlito, looks like you’re in deep shit again.”
“Thanks, amigo. You’re a big help,” Carlos replied sarcastically.
Urs walked from where he was lounging comfortably and placed a hand on his shoulder, “Tell me, did you really confess because you were afraid of the possibility that the paparazzi might be following your every move, or did you confess because somewhere in your conscience you felt guilty?”
Staring up at Urs, Carlos was about to bellow out his protest at the suggestion that he felt guilty when he stopped and wondered aloud, “Goodness, did I really feel that way with Carmen?”
“That’s what he’s asking you,” Sebastien joined in the interrogation, raising an eyebrow as he waited for a reply, and then popped a piece of cheese in his mouth.
Carlos thought for a moment longer while his friends waited and observed his facial expressions, and David and Urs exchanged worried glances when they saw a frown appeared on his face.
Rubbing his face with a hand, he looked up at all of them and said, “No, I’m not guilty nor do I feel guilty. I just didn’t want Joanne to get the story from the papers instead of from me. Carmen and I were over long ago and I have no doubt that she felt the same way about me as I felt about her now. She’s too ambitious, that was the reason we didn’t take our relationship any further and broke up.”
“But that was years ago, she might have changed her mind now,” Sebastien suggested.
“She’s a respectable lady and all the time when we were apart, she never tried to get in touch with me until I went to seek her help. This time it was purely business. A little nostalgia, you know, going back to the past, but that was all.”
“Right, so there’s nothing to worry about,” Urs concluded as he walked over and picked up a piece of ham and savored it. Then he went around refilling their champagne flutes with more of the drink.
“Wrong! There’s Joanne to worry about. Now she’s not speaking to me, which is why I’m like this, like a dead man all over again,” Carlos looked so down and out that the guys couldn’t help but sympathized with him.
“Just tell her what you told us, Carlos. After what you’ve been through together, I’m sure she will be more willing to listen to you now. She just needs time to digest this bit of information,” Urs advised. “Besides, if I’m not wrong, I think the ladies may be discussing the same topic right now and Sam and Ginny might be able to help her look at the whole picture, not just the picture of you kissing your old flame.”
“You think so?”
“I know so. We talk, so what makes you think the women will keep quiet?”
“Yes, and if all else fails, you still have the five carat diamond ring as backup plan,” Sebastien winked.
“I think he’ll need to throw in a massive mansion with all the works this time,” David teased, and both Sebastien and Urs chuckled.
Carlos just stared at his brothers-in-crime and shook his head, “I’m having a major crisis here and you’re laughing at my expense. What kind of friends are you?”
“Friends who could laugh with you when everything is fine and rosy, and laugh at you when it’s not,” David joked. This time it got Carlos joining in a booming laugh with them all. With his spirit lifted by a little humour, he started enjoying the appetizers on the tray.
With the personal matters sort of settled, they got down to plan the release of their new album and worked out the venues of their next tour. Since they had all decided a tour was what they wanted, they all agreed to take the tour further than just the UK and Europe, which was the original plan.
David was satisfied that he now had a concrete plan and could tell Claire when he would be back again, and he made sure both LA and New York were included in the tour itinerary. Though it would be another couple of weeks before he could get away from work, he was happy to have that little escapade to look forward to. He missed Claire and Amelia so much that even the video chat he had with them didn’t take away the longing to be with them in person.
Dinner got underway with the kids finally giving up their fun at the playground and joined the table after washing up. Angel requested to sit next to Uncle David and that started the whole kiddy gang resisting their usual sitting place; they all wanted to sit next to him. It took a while for the adults to sort them out.
“There’s only one Uncle David, kids. You can’t all sit next to him. How about sitting next to Uncle Carlos and Aunty Joanne?” Joanne suggested.
“Ok,” Gracie accepted and went to stand with Joanne, allowing her hand to be held while her daddy moved her high chair to where she had chosen to sit. Carlos shifted his and Joanne’s chair to allow a space in between for the little girl’s chair.
“I want to sit with Daddy and Mommy,” Anthony announced, and immediately went to drag his chair closer to where his daddy always sat, at the head of the table. Mommy looked at the others for a while and decided she would vacate her usual place at the other end of the table and sit at the side next to where her son would be sitting at the head of the table.
Next to Sam sat Angel, then David, then Lily. Sebastien sat at the other end of the table, and on the other side of the table facing Lily was Nick, then their mommy, then Joanne, Grace and Carlos.
Sitting arrangement settled, Urs and Sam went into the kitchen to bring out the food that Sam had spent the whole afternoon preparing with Ginny’s help. There were food to cater to adults and children: ox tail and creamy tomato soup, roast chicken, stewed and roast beef, roast and mashed potatoes, mini sausages, boiled vegetables served with gravy, and mini Yorkshire puddings to soak up the gravy for the different types of roast meat.
Sebastien looked at the spread in front of him and complimented Sam, “You really are a great hostess, Sam. The dishes look delicious.
Sam blushed, “It’s nothing special, just typical English food.”
“Maybe next time we could have Spanish cuisine instead? Carlos?” David looked over at the Spaniard with a conspiratorial look.
“Si, si, next time my Joanne will make some delicious Spanish food. Her paella is simply delicioso,” he leaned across Grace and looked at his wife, who sat quietly with a smile.
The guys knew he was getting slightly nervous by his use of Spanish words and Sam could see Urs’ lips curled into a little smirk before he hid it behind his napkin. She gave him a glare and dared him to embarrass their guests further and he sobered up a little, cleared his throat and said what came to mind next, “Right, we’ll have dinner once a month together, the wives will take turns to cook for us, except when we’re touring.” Then he raised his glass of wine in a toast to make it an official decree.
Thinking her husband was a little high-handed to expect the wives to do everything, Sam was about to retort before Angel interrupted, looking genuinely concerned, “But Uncle David doesn’t have a wife. Who’s going to cook for him?”
The adults all exchanged a look of disbelieve at the little girl’s astuteness and Urs was slightly red-faced at being caught out by his daughter. David just threw back his head and laughed.
“Well, maybe by the time it’s his turn he will have a wife,” Sebastien recovered slightly to suggest this, trying not to burst out laughing too.
“Do you have a girlfriend, Uncle David?” Lily asked curiously.
This time it was David who turned red in the face and stammered, “Well…why do you want to know?”
“Because if you don’t have a girlfriend then you can’t have a wife, right Daddy?” Lily turned to Sebastien with a look of certainty in her eyes.
“Right,” Sebastien almost choked on the water he was sipping and tried not to laugh. By now the other adults had their eyes downcast as they tried not to giggle or laugh at the look on David’s face. He was turning more crimson by the minute. He looked over Angel’s head at Sam and mouthed, “Help!”
Sam gave him a blank look and shrugged. She was enjoying this conversation and thought it was about time he confessed to all of them about his little secret back in LA. Though Urs had briefly explained to her what David had told the men about Claire, she wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Seeing that he wasn’t going to get any help from his usual ally, he buried his face in his plate of food and started attacking the mashed potato there.
“Uncle David, aren’t you going to tell us about Aunty Claire?” Angel wouldn’t let go. She had overheard her parents’ discussion about David and Claire over dinner the day the guys met at the club house. David’s head shot up and stared at Urs accusingly.
“Well, don’t look at me. It’s going to come out sooner or later. And that’s your Angel, you can run but you can never hide from her,” Urs retorted to everyone’s laughter, except the young ones who were quietly sitting there and wondered what all the fuss was about. Anthony picked up a piece of roast beef and munched on it when he decided he had waited long enough for nothing to happen.
Throwing in the towel, David sat back in his chair and begun, “Yes, Lily, I do have a girlfriend. Her name is Claire.” He smiled sheepishly as he looked around the table. The other adults waited expectantly for the next question to pop up.
“Where is she now, Uncle David? Why didn’t you bring her here?” Angel asked as she continued eating the broccoli she was holding with a fork.
“Well, she’s in the States, far away from here.”
“Can’t you buy her a plane ticket or something?” Lily asked after swallowing a piece of roast chicken.
“She can’t come as she has to take care of her daughter. She has a little girl named Amelia who’s a few months younger than Tony and Grace,” David replied as naturally as he could.
“Doesn’t Amelia also have a daddy then? Everyone has a mommy and daddy,” Angel was puzzled. “If she has a daddy, then how come you are her mommy’s boyfriend?”
By now the other adults were close to choking on their food, Sebastien especially was turning so red in the face with stifled laughter that he had to bury his mouth in his napkin the whole time the girls posed all the sensible questions. Carlos muttered an ‘Oh my god’ before he too took his napkin to his face. Joanne busied herself by paying extra attention to little Gracie, wiping her mouth and bringing the drinking cup to her whenever the little girl asked for it, all the while with a huge grin on her face. Ginny did the same for Nick, trying not to look at David as that would have been a fatal mistake and she was sure of it.
Sam looked over to David and smiled sweetly. “You’re on your own, brother,” she whispered. Urs paid extra attention chewing at the roast beef in his mouth, but it wasn’t easy as his lips had other idea, constantly curving up into a smirk.
Taking a deep breath, David tried to look serious when he explained, “Well, you see Angel, Amelia’s daddy doesn’t like her and her mommy, so they no longer live together. Amelia now lives with her mommy who loves her very much.”
Lily looked across at Angel and stated matter-of-factly, “Amelia’s mommy and daddy are divorced.”
Sebastien looked astonishingly at Ginny and whispered, “How does she know that word?”
Ginny shrugged, “TV?”
“So is Aunty Claire looking for another daddy for Amelia? Is that why you are her boyfriend?” Angel asked as the little ones continued to eat.
“I don’t know for sure if she wants a daddy for Amelia, but we like each other, so we’re seeing each other,” David gave up trying to be coy about his love life.
“Then you should marry her. Aunty Sandra is not here anymore so you don’t have to worry about her being angry,” Angel advised.
“Oops!” Urs muttered under his breath. Then in a louder tone, he announced, “Ok, now that we all know Uncle David does have a girlfriend shall we all eat a peaceful meal? Dinner is getting cold.”
David heaved a sigh of relief when finally his two tormentors decided to let him off the hook. He looked over Angel’s head and caught Sam’s attention before sticking out his tongue at her. Tony and Urs saw it and Urs’ little clone looked up at his daddy and giggled, bringing an indulgent smile to his daddy’s face.
After dinner came dessert. As Sam brought out strawberry cheesecakes for adults and chocolate brownies topped with ice-cream for the kids, there were claps and words of approval from everyone.
“When are you cooking for us?” Grace asked as she looked up at Joanne.
“Well…” Joanne looked to Carlos for a little help.
“A few more Saturdays later, little one,” Carlos gladly came to the rescue. “Tell Uncle Carlos what you want to eat and I’ll make sure it’s on the table for you.”
That started all the small ones talking about their favorite food at once and among the din things like pizzas, ice-creams, chocolate cakes, hamburgers and hotdogs could be heard.
“Kids, we’re supposed to be having Spanish food, not junk food,” Sebastien laughingly informed them. “Let Uncle Carlos and Aunty Joanne decide what we should eat, ok?”
“Ok,” came the unified reply.
Soon, the table was cleared and as the womenfolk were about to pile into the kitchen to begin washing up the dishes, Carlos volunteered his service and those of his brothers’.
“Why don’t you lovely ladies take a break and let us men do the washing?” he wriggled his eyebrow and gave a cheesy smile. Sam and Ginny broke into a fit of giggles while Joanne just walked over to him and handed him the dish cloth.
“Make sure everything’s in the right place,” she instructed and turning to her sisters, said, “Come on, Sam, I want to see the EC.”
Carlos followed Joanne out the kitchen entrance with his eyes while the other guys followed his gaze.
Sebastien smiled, “Urs, I hope the EC is sound-proof.”
“Why?” Urs grinned, sort of knowing what was coming.
“Either to muffle the sound of his screams when she squeeze the truth out of him or the sound of their…‘ahem’,” Sebastien replied laughingly.
David couldn’t contain himself and burst out laughing. “Ho ho! That’s why Seb’s going to Paris tonight and leaving the kids here. His room isn’t sound-proof!”
Carlos and Urs doubled over laughing along with David as the French one turned lobster red and glared at the youngest Divo. He turned around and begun attacking the dishes in the sink. The other three guys continued laughing, unperturbed that their friend clearly wasn’t happy.
Ginny chose this moment to stick her head in and asked, “Are you guys ok? What’s so funny?”
The three laughing Divos stopped laughing for a moment and looked up at her before they burst into a giggling fit.
“Alright! Enough! I’m leaving. Come on Ginny, we have to make the flight.” Sebastien threw the dish cloth into the sink and walked away from his friends who were still laughing uncontrollably. He grabbed Ginny’s hand and led her out of the kitchen amid her protests.
“But honey, it’s not even time yet. We haven’t said goodbye to the kids.”
By now the three laughing men had sobered enough to follow the couple out of the kitchen and they were all stood in foyer.
“I’m sorry, Seb. It was a crude joke, please accept my sincere apology,” David said with as much sincerity as he could muster, placing a hand over his heart and bowed.
Urs and Carlos went over to Sebastien and patted his back.
“Seb, we’re brothers, no? So what’s a little joke among brothers?” Carlos asked.
“Carlos is right. Although David might have gone overboard, I’m sure our relationship now is such that it can withstand a few crude jokes,” it was Urs’ turn to try to calm the fuming Frenchie down.
Ginny was perplexed since she had absolutely no idea what had transpired among the guys but she stood silently and waited for her husband’s response. Sebastien stuck his hands in his pants pocket and looked at the floor, mulling over what his friends had just said. Then he looked up and lifted the corners of his mouth a little, “You’re right. I’m sorry I over-reacted.”
David went over and offered his hand and Sebastien took it and gave him a shoulder hug. The other two Divos followed and finally Ginny hugged her husband and gave him a little kiss to soothe his wounded ego.
“Can we go over to the EC where all the kids are? They’re helping Joanne to settle in,” Ginny asked.
“Ok, let’s go. The others can do the dishes,” Sebastien said with a devilish smile before leaving the house. Urs, Carlos and David shared a look in silent amusement.
“Nick, please stop jumping on the bed. That’s for Uncle Carlos and Aunty Joanne to sleep in,” Sam had her hands on her hips as she talked to Nick.
“But it’s so fun,” Nick continued jumping on the bed.
“No, it’s not fun, especially if you fall and knock your head on the floor,” Sam moved forward and extended her hand to him. Then in a sterner voice she said, “I’ll only say this one last time, Nick. Come down now.”
Joanne watched in horror as Sam moved in and hugged the naughty boy’s legs and lifted him off the bed while he struggled and pummeled her with his tiny fists. Putting him down outside the room and facing the wall, she very calmly told him, “You will stand here for the next few minutes until I tell you your time-out is over.”
As she turned to walk away from him, he turned to run down the stairs, only to be pulled back by her and brought back to his naughty corner, “You’re staying in my house so you will listen to me. Run again or try anything funny and I’ll let you stand here longer.”
“I want my mommy!” he shouted.
“Your mommy and daddy will not be able to help you. They will agree with what I’m doing when I tell them what you’ve been up to.”
Just then, Ginny and Sebastien appeared at the top of the stairs and Nick started to move towards his parents, only to be held back by Sam, “Stay where you are or you’ll be still standing here when we’re all asleep in our rooms.”
Sebastien raised an eyebrow at the scene but Ginny just pulled him into Joanne’s room to talk to Lily. Sam made sure the boy stayed where he was before joining them all. Nick sobbed a little and gave a little hiccup when his breath got caught in his throat.
“I’m sorry, Seb. I know it’s hard to see your child being disciplined by someone other than yourself or Ginny, but it has to be done if he’s to learn to respect authority,” she put a hand on Sebastien arm and smiled apologetically.
Running a hand through his hair in exasperation, he sighed, “I should be the one to apologize. He’s not easy to handle and it’s because of me. Since he’s staying here with you, you have the right to punish him if he misbehaves. Besides, you’re Aunty Sam, so we’re family.”
Ginny looked at her daughter and warned her, “You too, Lily. If you misbehave, you’ll be punished just like Nick, do you understand?”
“Yes, Mommy,” Lily said in a small voice.
“Awww, Lily, there’s no need to be afraid. You’re here to have some fun and as long as you don’t misbehave, you won’t be punished at all,” Sam tried to put her at ease. Lily nodded. Turning to Angel, Sam asked her to bring Lily to the living room to join the twins who were watching cartoon.
When the two girls left hand in hand, Sam turned to Joanne and told her the fridge had been stocked up for her. Joanne was still dazed at the first parenting lesson she got from Sam and could only nod her head. She had never come across a stubborn child and wondered if she could handle one the way Sam did.
“I’ll be cooking dinner every night so come and join us,” she said. Turning to Sebastien and Ginny, she told them not to worry about the kids and just enjoy their little break.
“We will, Sam, since we know Lily and Nick are in good hands,” Ginny hugged her best friend. “We’ll just say goodbye to the kids before we leave.”
“Oh, it’s not good saying goodbye to Nick now. Let me release him first.” Sam quickly went out and told Nick he was released from detention, but not before explaining to him why he was being punished.
Finally the sulking little boy followed her into the room where his parents waited. He immediately went over to hug his mommy and cried, “Mommy, I want to go home.”
“Listen, Nick. Aunty Sam only punished you because you didn’t listen to her. If you had done what she told you to do you wouldn’t be punished at all, instead, you’d be having lots of fun. Do you understand what I’m saying, Nick?” Ginny put a finger under his chin and lifted his head up to face her. Nick nodded.
“That’s my boy. Now, go and apologize to Aunty Sam for misbehaving,” Ginny turned him in Sam’s direction.
Sam smiled at the boy and opened her arms to him. He walked over slowly and mumbled, “I’m sorry, Aunty Sam.” And he was rewarded with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“This is the Nick we all love,” praised Sam. “Now, go and kiss mommy and daddy goodbye. We have a long day at the swimming pool tomorrow.”
Hearing the plan for the next day, his face lit up immediately and he ran over to his parents to kiss and say goodbye to them. They all made way to the living room where Sebastien and Ginny said goodbye to Lily and the rest of the kids.
Before Sebastien and Ginny left in their car, the three Divos had finished up their chores and were already waiting outside the house to bid them goodbye.
Ginny looked at her husband and asked, “Are you going to tell me what went on just now?”
“Nope! Men’s joke,” he grinned.
She huffed and said, “Fine. Guess I’ll be doing lots of shopping and catching up with some friends in Paris. Oh, I might even be staying over at Lydia’s place till the day we fly back.”
Sebastien looked shocked. He turned to her while still driving and said, “You can’t do that!”
She put a hand on his cheek and turned his head back to look at the road ahead. “Yes I can.”
Sighing, he admitted defeat and gave her an account of what David said about them. Instead of feeling humiliated by the crude joke, she laughed and commented that David was a smart one.