(Two posts for the price of one because I have some posting time. It’s been a rough week.)
Shanni couldn’t believe how long it had been since she’d seen her brother face-to-face. Adjo and Toya had a lovely little starter home overlooking the sea, and he talked it up to her on the phone every chance he got. It was high time she went to see Adjo in his new digs.
It really was a lovely little place. Very rustic.
When she raised her hand to knock on the door, it opened suddenly, and she found herself about to punch Adjo in the face. “Oh!” she cried. “I’m sorry!”
“Hey sis!” Adjo said in a rush. “Great to see you! I gotta head to work.”
“But,” Shanni said at his retreating back. “This is your day off. We were going to do lunch!”
“Sorry!” Adjo called over his shoulder. “I’ll catch up with you later!”
Wow. He looked stressed. Shanni couldn’t bring herself to be mad at him. She hoped he was OK.
Toya emerged from the house as Adjo disappeared. “Hey there! Want to come in to meet Charmaine? Did he tell you were expecting again?”
“You’re what? So soon?”
Toya laughed. “Well, it wasn’t exactly planned. But Adjo wanted a big family. Might as well get the maternity leave over with in one dose, eh?”
Wow. Adjo was going to be a daddy. Again.
“Actually,” Shanni said, “I think work’s calling me.” Shanni headed to work and tried to distract herself. Israel Bauer dropped by on her break. “Hey there! I graduated and have a job and everything! Any chance you’re free for lunch?”
(I have only one picture, and it’s not terribly flattering.)
“Actually, I just had lunch,” Shanni admitted.
Israel was not to be distracted. “Dinner then. Maybe we can hit the theater. What do you think?”
Shanni laughed. “You’re the most persistent guy I’ve ever met. OK, you’re out of school and fair game. It’s a date.”
They had a nice time, though Shanni didn’t exactly feel the pangs of love in her chest by the time they got out of the diner. She had a chance to catch up on Israel’s life, and it had be a rough one so far. His mother Devin Bauer got sick not long after Antonio died, and she died when he was in elementary school. He’d been bounced from one foster home to the next, finally setting down with Malika Williams and her two daughters. It was quite a sob story, but he told it with a smile.
(Seriously, the poor kid has been in Twallan’s “Last One Standing” routine TWICE. Devin died, he got moved in with a foster parent, then THEY died, and he ended up in Malika’s house. I don’t know why Devin died so soon. She was a life stage younger than Antonio when they got married, but I have to guess she was actually just days from becoming an elder back when I photographed Layla visiting her in Gen 2.)
“Want to head back to my place for a nightcap?” Israel suggested after dinner. “I like the sound of the word ‘nightcap.’ It’s so old style.”
“Sure,” Shanni said. There was something about this guy…. it wasn’t love, but she was intrigued.
They headed to the Williams house.
Malika’s older daughter Lisette just happened to back from a date of her own.
The four of them awkwardly shared the front lawn for after-date flirts. Shanni noticed that Israel was constantly looking over her shoulder to see what Lisette was doing.
“This isn’t about me at all, is it,” she demanded of Israel. “You’re doing all of this to make your foster-sister jealous.”
Israel cringed. “I didn’t mean it that way. I was… trying to get over her.”
Shanni glanced surreptitiously at Lisette, who turned out to be glancing surreptitiously at Israel. It was something out of a sitcom. “I’m not sure who is trying harder to make who jealous,” she told him. “Watch.”
She pulled Israel close, but made sure he had a good view of Lisette.
“Watch her make with the green-eyed monster.”
“Oh,” Israel said. “Do you think she really cares.”
“I think the two of you should have a long talk.”
“Wow,” Israel said. “You’re not mad at me for dragging you through this?”
Shanni suppressed a sigh. When had she gotten to be everyone’s dating counselor? “No. It’s OK.”
“When I saw you with Mortimer in high school, I knew you were something special,” Israel said. “You really are.”
Mortimer. “Ah, Mortimer was in your graduating class, wasn’t he?” she asked, trying to sound unconcerned.
“Oh, yeah. He has big plans to be a writer now that he’s out. Want me to say hi to him for you?”
“No, uh, that’s OK. Let’s talk later!”
Shanni got out of there and headed home as quickly as she could.
Mortimer. The wound was as fresh as it had been the day of her birthday.
And it was still on her mind at work the next day.
This had to end. It was time to do something.
(I thought the end of Shanni’s date with Israel was HILARIOUS, and it was totally not staged. I had not idea Israel and his foster-sister were romantic interests. After this, I really wanted to see Israel and Lisette get married, and I considered forcing it for story cuteness, but while I was contemplating, he got involved with the Sharpes, and the rest is history.)