Patric and Sam
Sam’s first indication that the damnable duo of Céleste and Delphine Touchet-Smith were plotting about his love life—again—came during Sunday dinner. The twin terrors of Copper Creek, Texas, a.k.a. his beloved maman and mostly tolerated sister, couldn’t go more than six months without interfering in les affaires de coeur, or if you wanted it in plain English, matters of the heart. Sam’s heart to be precise. They called it trying to get him settled. He called it a damned lot of tom-foolery. Seeing as Maman and Del were well into their eighth month without any shenanigans, Sam let himself get a touch too comfortable. He couldn’t help it. He liked the lack of what his maman called—and good Lord did the woman ever lay on the French accent thick as anything when she said it—eligible bachelors showing up out of the blue for Sunday dinner. He really should have seen it coming, though.
Sadly, he didn’t. Instead he tumbled through the weather beaten door of the hundred year old farmhouse where he’d grown up with only seconds to spare—if he was lucky—before his maman decided he was late. Lord help him if that happened, because then she’d start to think up ways to punish his “lack of proper decorum”. His mind firmly fixed on the delicious meal in his immediate future, Sam hot-footed it into the house blind as a new kitten and innocent as a fluffy little baby chick. With his mind more on squeaking in under the wire than being alert to signs and symptoms of meddling, he was ripe for their not-so-subtle machinations.
His wind-milling arms and rubber-chicken legs were half excessive speed on the well waxed floorboards of the front hall, half pure nerves, and one hundred percent Sam. He thanked his lucky stars he wasn’t in Del’s line of sight when he came in, because that would have been fuel for her to heap on the bonfires of their lovingly antagonistic sibling rivalry. She got plenty of mileage out of his clumsiness as it was. His whole life had been plagued by the same trademark lack of grace–it happened anytime he got too nervous. Today’s occurrence made perfect sense in light of his late arrival and the possible revocation of all beignet and crawfish étouffée privileges for a full week. Sam whimpered at the thought.
While enduring a longer span of time than seven days without Maman’s famous étouffée caused severe mood swings, more than three days without beignets might well be a death sentence. That was Sam’s philosophy on the matter and he saw no reason to ever risk such a dire outcome. So he zipped out of his Jeep, sprinted across the front porch, and then yes, tumbled through the front door with no thought to who or what might be on the other side.
Maman and Del’s chattering voices flowed from the kitchen, echoing back and forth down the hall. Paying them all his attention, he tripped over Cletus, otherwise known as Cletus the Lazy, Maman’s old brindle mess of long legs, floppy ears and slobber. Maman insisted he was an example of canine perfection. If you asked Sam the mutt was far from achieving the pinnacle of dogdom. In point of fact, the disreputable lump spent ninety percent of his time masquerading as a throw rug in the front hall—directly in the path of anyone coming in the door. Therein lay the problem. The dog too, or Sam might have gotten all the facts quicker and hightailed it out of Maman’s front door before he got caught in her matchmaking scheme.
All Sam knew in the moment was that he was sweating like a whore in church and praying Maman was in a good mood. Then, he swore he heard Del saying his name with intent asstepped forward to shut the front door. He tip-toed along like a ninja or a spy—at least in his mind—but was foiled by Cletus. The mange infested throw rug yelped out a piteous aaaarrrhhh—oooo—wee and followed that up with a snuffle-whuffle and the doggy sad-side-eye. All sounds from the kitchen ceased. A weighty beat of silence passed, and then Sam’s maman called out. Her dulcet tones dripped false innocence as they echoedalong the passageway. Good Christ, he really should have known.
“Samuel, cher, we’re just finishing up in the kitchen. You go on mon fils, wash up now. We be through to the dining room in a moment.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Maman, we ain’t in de Louisiana bayou no more. You gotta use English. Proper American-style English. I know you speak it, what with all the times you done tanned my backside for not speaking proper when I was in school.”
A choked off snort followed by a thwapping sound came from the kitchen. Then the amusing melody of his sister’s indignation. “Maman, you didn’t have to smack me with the spatula. You got to admit, Sam talking his personal proper Texas-American style language is pretty damn funny.”
Another thwap echoed down the hall. Sam snickered. Del yelped, louder than Cletus had, and then Sam’s maman was talking. Her tone, all edge of the bayou Creole haughty with a dash of pure southern belle temper made it clear he’d gone and stepped in a heap of trouble. Between her conciliatory tone, the lack of reprimand for stepping on Cletus, and her handling of Del, the handwriting was on the wall. It was too late for him to escape altogether, but he stood a fair chance of mitigating the damage if he could figure out what the heck those two half-crazy bayou belles were plotting. Waiting in silence should push one of them to fill the void. Maman’s long, soft vowels and deliberate Parisian-style French warned him. Whatever they were planning, he was gonna be madder than a twice baited bull.
“Ah, we-el, mon fils, je suis tres desole. No matter. I will do my best to speak only the finest King’s English, no?”
Delphine appeared around the edge of the kitchen door before Maman stopped speaking. Her soft brown eyes huge in her little heart-shaped face, she hissed at him. Waving her hands back and forth like angry birds picking at a scarecrow, she advanced.
“Oh my gosh. Sam, I swear Maman dropped you on your head every day you was a boy! Lock up your lips tout de suite before Maman kicks us both out without supper. Just think about it. No more homemade beignets, no crawfish étouffée…and a whole week long to wait for another chance at them.”
Narrowing his eyes, Sam sniffed and pointed at his sister. “I can make my own red beans and rice, little cat, so put your claws away. And…ah, hell, get out of the way so I can go apologize to Maman.”
His vain attempt to camouflage the utter terror of going so long without Maman’s beignets only caused his sister to smile, flip the long tail of her braid over her shoulder, and murmur as she sashayed around him. “Suck up.”
Sam grunted. “You’re damn skippy I am, cher. Ain’t a body on Earth can cook like Maman…I plan on staying in her good graces forever.”
Del laughed, just like he knew she would. Warmth spread through his chest. Sisters. Shaking his head, Sam curled one side of his mouth up and flicked the end of her braid. He never got tired of being able to predict how she would react. Chuckling quietly, Sam ambled through the kitchen door. Spreading his arms, hanging his head and gazing up through his lashes, he gave his best little boy grin. “Sorry Maman. I didn’t mean no disrespect.”
Céleste tossed a small kitchen towel over one shoulder. “Hmmpf.”
Sam snuggled up to her, bending down to hug her tight. “Je suis tres desole, Mamam. Ne soyez pas en colère contre moi.”
Laughing, Céleste pushed him toward the dining room doorway. “Delphine is right. You are a suck up. You sit down, cher. I still be serving crawfish étouffée, you terrible boy. Non, non, you were late getting here, Sam, and you think I did not notice? On second thought, you get right back up. Go help your sister set the table if you want to earn your way back into my good graces.”
They waited until he was stuffed fuller than a suckling pig destined for the table before dropping the bomb. When Del met his eyes directly, and Maman cleared her throat twice in a row, Sam froze in place. Del’s smile wobbled ever so slightly as she began to speak.
“Now, Sam, we done paid already, and there’s no refunds possible.”
Eyes closed to mere slits, Sam waited her out.
“The thing is, you been working too hard. Everybody says so. And wel—”
Maman folded her napkin with small, neat motions, and Sam dropped his head forward to rest his forehead in the palms of both hands. “Just tell me what the two of you have cooked up besides the delicious étouffée I done just ate too much of?”
Del turned beseeching eyes toward Maman. The elder Touchet-Smith woman at least had the grace to get a splash of red in both cheeks. “Samuel, cher, we done booked you a little hiking trip. With Carselowey Tours. You work so hard taking care of us, ever since your père et grand-père, ah, father and grandfather passed. We just wanted to say thank you.”
Sam choked, coughed, and sprayed a mouthful of étouffée across the table, missing Delphine by inches. The bright smile Maman wore as she spoke dimmed. She and Delphine both stared down at their plates. Del grimaced.
“Oh, Sam, it was such a good deal, but because we booked so close to the departure date they can’t offer a refund. Well, except in case of death or extreme medical emergency. And I’m pretty sure bull-headed refusal to take a vacation don’t count.”
Closing both eyes, Sam sucked in a steadying breath before giving in as gracefully as he could.
“Ah. I guess that clears up the issue of what to do with my vacation days this year. When do I leave?”
Delphine cornered him in the front hall after he’d made his farewells to Maman and before he made good on his bid for freedom. Wrapping a strand of her curly brown hair around one finger, she plunked her back against the front door and pressed both little palms against the center of his chest. “Listen, you hard head—I been hearing some things. I want you to promise me to go on this trip. I know you got some kinda powerful dislike for Patric Carselowey, but Maman put down a heap of money she had put by for something else just so’s you could take some time away from that store. I—just you promise to go, you hear me? Go. And maybe find out if there might have been some reason he did whatever made you come all over fulla hate for him so quick. Can you do that for me, cher?”
Sam glared down at Del. “You so fulla yourself. One day somebody going to throw a little magic your way bayou girl, and we see how you like that.”
Del huffed out a breath. “I never!”
“Ha. I’m going on this trip. For Maman. But you? Best admire those eyebrows while you still got them.” Sam backed away as he spoke, knowing Del would do the same thing as always in three-two-one…
“I’m gonna tell Maman you threatening my eyebrows again!” she screeched and lunged toward him. Sam dodged around her, jerked the front door open and ran like the wind. He laughed his fool head off all the way to his Jeep, too.
Jenn Dease: Wordpress: www.jenndease.com
Jambrea Jo Jones: www.jambrea.com
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