Chapter 8

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Carmen

The rest of the week goes by quickly and before I know it, Friday is here. I take off from work so we can go tonight. At five p.m. on the dot, Mrs. Mayfield, Tyson, Akemi and I are standing on Melanie's doorstep. I adjust the wine bottles in my hand and ring the doorbell.

We stand there for a few seconds before she opens the door. I'm feeling a little nervous. I don't know these people, how will I be friends with them? All I need to do is fake it until Mrs. Mayfield is moved. If they don't want to hang out with me after, then that's fine.

The door opens, startling me out of my thoughts. "Hi! I'm glad you're here! Come on in!" Melanie enthuses as she opens the door wider and pulls me inside. I look around and her living room looks so cozy off to the right. There is a brown couch and a love seat with a lot of cushion in them. I can see myself taking a nap on that couch. The coffee table is one of those large ottomans that matches the couch. There is a large screen television to round off the room.

She leads us through the kitchen and out of the sliding doors to the backyard. I look around and to the right is a swimming pool. The kids are playing on one end and Ray and Brianne sitting on the other side watching them. There's a jungle gym and a sand pit in the middle and to the left in between the patio and the jungle gym is the barbecue pit. Brock and Samson are there cooking the meat and sitting in a chair on the patio is Kyle and Rose.

We get Mrs. Mayfield settled and comfortable in a chair and then introductions are made. Akemi and I help Melanie in the kitchen while Tyson helps the guys at the grill. Melanie takes the bottles of wine out of my hands. "I'm sorry, I should have taken these when you first got here." She sticks them in a state of the art refrigerator. I walk over and run my hand across the stainless steel when she closes the door. "This is my new baby. I saved up for six months so I could have this one." She tells me. "It's really nice. I aspire to have something like this one day." I respond.

"I'm sure you'll have it. The guys are almost finished with the food. Let's take this stuff outside and put it on the table." She hands Akemi and me a couple of things each to take out and put on the large table sitting on the patio. We walk outside towards the table and set everything we have down. It takes two trips and on the second trip, the guys bring over the meat. Melanie calls everyone over to eat and I see the kids are already out of the pool and dried off. They come running over and take a seat.

I'm seated between Samson and one of the girls. I think her name is Raven. I'm glancing at her and she looks like she's Ray and Brianne's daughter. She has Ray's light gray eyes and Brianne's blond hair. Samson answers my unspoken question, "Raven, would you like some potato salad?" She nods and holds out her plate so he can put some on it and sets it back down in front of her. I'm guessing that she's about four years old. I help her get the rest of her food and she thanks me quietly eating and peeking up at me every now and then.

I look over at Mrs. Mayfield and she's deep in conversation with Melanie. They're both smiling so I know that she's happy with the people that I have picked to hang out with.

We spend the meal talking and laughing and having an overall good time. I notice Brianne looking over at me every now and then with a frown. About the time that we are finished, another one of the little girls comes over and tugs on my shirt. When I look down, she asks, "Are you Merida?" Who is this Merida and why do kids keep saying that I look like her? I shake my head, "No honey, my name is Carmen." She touches my hair and asks, "May I play with your hair?"

"Sure, as soon as we finish eating and putting everything away, okay?" I say. She nods and goes back to sit by Melanie. We finish eating and putting everything away and as soon as we're finished, she comes over and grabs my hand. "Come on!" She pulls me over to a chair and hands me a comb. I look up at Melanie and she says, "It's a new comb. I pulled it out of the package just so they can do your hair." I smile and comb my hair out, parting it down the middle so they can each braid one side.

They ask me questions and I answer them while they braid my hair. I finally ask them, "Who is Merida?" They both look at me, scandalized, "Merida is in the movie Brave." Their faces change to the 'duh' look. "I've never seen that movie before." I tell them. "You look exactly like her, except your eyes are a different color than hers." Raven says. The other little girl nods in agreement. "What is your name?" I ask. "Shannon." She answers. "That's a pretty name. Both of you have pretty names." I tell them. They both smile and start telling me about the movie Brave.

Samson

Sitting beside her while we eat is a lesson on torture and restraint. She smells like peaches today and I really want to take a bite out of her. I notice Raven and Shannon stealing glances at her all through dinner. Finally, Shannon walks over and asks her if she's Merida and she tells her that her name is Carmen.

Now she's sitting in a chair while they play with her gorgeous red mane. I'm jealous of both of them for being able to play with her hair. They're asking her questions and she's answering and talking to them. They are mesmerized by her.

I look up as Mrs. Mayfield comes and slowly sits down beside me. "You like her, don't you?"


"I like her, but we're just friends." I respond. She smiles at me. "You may think that and she may think that, but there's so much more between you. I can see it in your eyes. Melanie tells me that you lost your wife almost seven months ago."

I nod, "Her and my unborn son. She was at the doctor's clinic that was blown up."

"I'm truly sorry to hear that, but take it from someone who lost someone they loved like you did your wife. There is no right amount of time when you can stop mourning your loved one, but if you find someone who makes you happy, step up and be with them. Don't fight it." She says. "It's too soon." I answer. "Take it from an eighty-five year old woman, it's never too soon." She states. I really like her, she makes me smile.

"Are you really going to be her friends?" She asks me. "Yes we are. We're already her friends. The girls love her and the guys thinks she's cool. The kids really like her also." I nod towards her and the girls playing with her hair and talking to her. Even Tyler has made his way over and is sitting on her lap. She's rubbing his back and talking to him. He has the biggest smile on his face.

She interrupts my thought, "The best way to judge someone's character is by how kids react to them. Brianne is kind of cold towards her. Why?"

"She used to be my wife's best friend. She doesn't want anyone taking her place, I guess." I answer. "Sooner or later someone is going to take her place. Someone may take Brianne's place. We all have to move forward." She tells me. I nod.

"I'm moving in two weeks and I need to know that she's not going to be lonely. I know that she will hang out with you long enough for me to leave and then retreat because she thinks that you all don't really want to be friends with her. You need to convince her or the only time you'll see her is when she's at work." She says. "You don't have to worry about her, we won't let her out of our sight." I respond. She studies me and states, "I believe you."

She gets up from her chair and saunters off towards Brianne. To keep myself from staring at Carmen, I look around and see what everyone else is doing. Melanie, Rose and Akemi are standing over to the far end of the yard talking and laughing and Tyson, and the guys are standing in front of the grill, discussing the best method to clean it. I shake my head and look back at Carmen. Now she's combing out her hair to keep the tangles out from the girls playing with it. Now Shannon is sitting on her other leg and Raven is standing in between her legs. They're all having a conversation and all have big smiles on their faces.

I smile and take in the scene around me. I could definitely get used to this again.  

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