Bastian with the help of Carlos, another waiter, had carried between them an intricately engraved silver tub full of bottles of micro-brewed beer nestled in ice chips, and they surreptitiously placed it just to the outside of the assembled group. They then swiftly retreated before further sparks could fly and catch them both on fire.
“Dude, why didn’t ya tell us it was your birthday?” John said. “We coulda had a party for ya or something.”
“It’s just another day,” Bug muttered dismissively.
“No it isn’t!” Danny said. “This was a special one. Coming of age always is.”
“No big deal,” Bug said, more sternly and wishing the subject would change already.
“We couldn’t anyway, cuz we were playing at the Pelican’s Roost that night,” Sophie piped in. “Bug would sooner cut off his arm than miss playing even for a special birthday.”
“What would be the point of cutting off his arm? He wouldn’t be able to play either way,” Elian said, scratching at his curly head as if this baffled him exceedingly.
Sophie rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean. We can celebrate tonight.”
“That actually was the intention,” Mr. Van Gholston interjected. “I’ve missed enough of my son’s birthdays, I’d say, and don’t wish to miss any others.”
John went to grab a beer, but first glanced at Violet. “I’m twenty-four, Mrs. B. All of us are over twenty-one,” he said.
“Uh…except Sophie, he means,” Danny added quickly.
“We never let her have beer, though… like ever!” Elian said, sneaking two beers out of the tub, handing one to Danny, before grabbing the bottle opener from Rick.
“It’s okay, guys,” Sophie said, lifting her ice tea glass in a false toast. “Mom knows I don’t like beer.”
“Do I?” Violet grumbled, suspiciously eying her up-to-that-point-totally-forthcoming daughter. “I haven’t seen you in over a year, so I don’t truly know what you’re about anymore.”
“I…I tell you everything, Mom, you know that!” Sophie said, genuinely shocked.
“Sure, like you did with Antoine?” Violet countered.
Sophie flushed. “There was nothing to tell. It was…We’re just friends, that’s all.”
“You call that psycho a friend?” John said.
“Sophie, is he bothering you again?” Danny asked.
“Don’t you mean stalking her still?” Bug said.
“Didn’t you get the restraining order like we told you?” Elian asked. “He’s dangerous, Sophie!”
“I knew I should’ve snapped him in two when I had the chance,” Rick shouted.
“Will you guys stop? Gees…”Sophie mumbled, slumping into a lounge chair. “It’s like having five, overprotective, extra-annoying big brothers.”
“I wanna be more, but you won’t let me,” Danny muttered under his breath.
“Don’t start that, Danny,” Sophie groaned, hiding her face in her hands. “Not here and not now.”
After an uncomfortable silence which, in truth, barely lasted a minute, Mr. Van Gholston suddenly piped in. “Rance, why don’t you give your friends a tour of the house?”
“What…now?” Bug said, staring at his father as if he’d sprouted antlers from his ears.
“Yes, dinner will be a while yet and…they may like to see where you grew up,” he added, giving Sophie’s bowed head a moment’s glance before turning back to his son, raising his eyebrows in silent communication of this merely being a diversion more than anything.
“What?” Bug repeated, shifting his eyes from Sophie back to his father still looking baffled.
“I’m certain your friends would enjoy seeing your house,” he said, more sternly this time.
“My house?” Bug scoffed. “I haven’t lived here for nearly five years.”
“But as it now belongs to you outright, you ought to…”
“Wait…what did you say?” Bug said, gaping at his father.
“That got his attention,” Rick mumbled behind his beer bottle.
“You had your twenty-first birthday, Rance,” Mr. Van Gholston said, slightly exasperated. “You’ve officially come of age. This house was your mother’s and is now yours…legally. How is that so difficult to understand?”
“Ah…so that’s why you said you couldn’t sell it even if you wanted to. Right, Mr. Van Gholston?” John said.
“Which I never did, contrary to what Rance may think,” Mr. Van Gholston said. “It is his property to do with as he wishes.”
“Dude, you own this mansion!” Rick shouted. "Totally awesome!"
“Great place for a party,” Danny said.
“Great place for a concert… featuring us,” Elian said, already envisioning where to place the speakers and his drum set on a makeshift stage, alongside the pool.
“And there is also your inheritance,” Mr. Van Gholston continued.
“What now?” Bug said, his blue eyes enormous in his now slightly pale face.
“From your mother’s estate, of course. She left you what her father left to her…actually considerably more as I had invested it wisely, but now everything is yours, now that you’re twenty-one… free and clear,” Mr. Van Gholston.
Bug stood with his mouth agape, until Sophie grabbed his arm and tugged him back toward the house, “Let’s have that tour, okay?”
“What?” Bug said, looking stunned and possibly ready to faint.
“Mom, are you coming? You love seeing museums and this is close to one, I think,” Sophie said, motioning the guys to finish their drinks.
Violet glanced at Bug then toward his father and frowned slightly. “No, I think I’ll stay here. I’m sure Mr. Van Gholston won’t mind?”
“Certainly not!” he said, beaming at her.
“Good,” Violet said, pasting a rather sinister smile on her face—well, as sinister as Violet’s angel face could manage, anyway. “I’d like to hear a bit more about Scott’s infamous sixteenth birthday party, the one he barely recalls apparently because he had too much to drink.”
“Uh…” Mr. Van Gholston gulped looking very much like a deer caught in the headlights of a Mack truck. Knowing he was now in some sort of trouble, he gave his son a pleading sort of look.
Bug slowly grinned. “Yeah, I’m sure Father will love to tell you all about it, Mrs. B. You even have my permission to box his ears, if it suits you.”
Sophie grimaced. “Mom, you will be nice, right?” she said anxiously.
Violet smiled. “Aren’t I always?”
“Come on, guys,” Bug said, grabbing Sophie's hand with a new spring to his step as he led the way into the house. “I hope she gives it to him good…deserves it, he does.”
“What exactly is boxing your ears?” John asked.
“My grandmother used to say it all the time. Never did figure it out, but it can't be good,” Bug said, shrugging.
“Sounds painful whatever it is!” Danny said.
Sophie looked back toward her mother and Bug's father and could see them sitting down around an umbrella topped marble table. Surely her mother would behave as she should, right?
Sophie obviously didn’t know her mother very well.
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