You're so Extra - bonus story (contains spoilers)
“It’ll do,” Doris says finally, after her fourth walk through of Peggy.
Yes, the house’s name is now official, although I doubt Leonard will ever stop bitching about it. He enjoys bitching about it, though, and since he saved Delia, he gets a hall pass to be annoying for the rest of his life. I’ll put up with it. Hell, I’d do anything for him.
This is where Delia would remind me that I would have done anything for him before that too, and she’d be right, of course.
Ross snorts at his wife. “You sound like the farmer in that movie about the pig. What’s that movie? Came out ten years ago or so.”
More like three decades, but who’s counting?
“Babe,” Delia says, bumping her side into mine. She’s radiant in a pink dress, her sunrise hair loose around her shoulders. She worries her hands in the way she does sometimes when she’s nervous. I lift one of them and kiss it, but her gaze stays on Doris and Ross. “You like it? I was worried you wouldn’t. I thought—”
I asked Delia to move in with me a week ago, and her answer was an enthusiastic yes—as long as her roommates-slash-adopted grandparents, Doris and Ross, agreed to come too. I’m determined to live with my girl—I don’t want to go another night without her—so I was pretty damn invested in them liking Peggy too. The alternative would be moving into their basement like a college kid who studied the art of getting drunk at frat parties.
I’d do it, but I wouldn’t do it enthusiastically. Peggy has more than enough space for all of us, plus office space for my new house-flipping business with Leonard. Doris has volunteered to be our secretary—her word—although considering we’re only working on one house at the moment, her role is more honorary than anything else. Still, she’s been going on about potpourri blends and snacks for the office.
I’m not particularly eager for either of those things, but I respect and appreciate Doris, and I’m very invested in keeping her happy. So she can fill the office with cinnamon sticks and flavorless muffins for all I care.
Doris gives a decided nod. “Yes, it’ll do.” Then her eyes find mine, and the look she gives me is calculated to make my balls shrivel. They don’t, but I respect a good ball-shriveling look when I get one. “I need a moment alone with Lucas.”
Most people have gone back to calling me Burke now, after I told them they could stop trying to remember to call me Lucas. But Delia still calls me Lucas—and so do they.
Ross gives a jolly laugh. “Whoa, ho, ho! Things you don’t want your wife to say for five hundred, Alex.” He gives me a smack on the back and wanders off without waiting for any of to respond. It’s anyone’s guess where he’s going. I haven’t moved my things in yet, because that’s something Delia and I should do together, which means the house is more or less empty. After a few steps, though, and it’s clear he’s making his way out to the deck—the best part of this house, and not just because of the view. It’s the first place I buried my face between Delia’s legs, which is at least part of the reason why I couldn’t let anyone else have this house.
Delia and I are going to live on the second story, while Doris and Ross’s room suite is on the first floor with the living room and kitchen. The office will be outside, in a little out-building that used to be a shed.
From the look Delia’s giving Doris, it’s obvious she’d like to stick around. Hell, I’d prefer it too. But I lean down and kiss her cheek. “Make sure he doesn’t fall off the deck.”
She glances up at me, her eyes warm but worried.
What does she think Doris is going to do, poison me? That’s more the MO of her great-nephew, but Thomas is one topic we try to veer away from lately, because it usually leads to at least an hour-long rant. She’s decided that he takes purely after his father’s side, always has. I can hardly blame her for wanting to think so, but one thing Thomas and Doris do have in common is a dogged sense of determination. His landed him in jail—which is better than what I would have done to him if the hadn’t gotten caught red-handed. Hers is about to get her whatever she wants, I have a feeling, since she’s by far the more subtle and intelligent of the two.
“Remember what we talked about, please,” Delia says to Doris, which instantly catches my interest.
What did they talk about? I suspect it wasn’t their preferred color for drapery. Then she gives us a smile that’s only slightly tense, because all of Delia’s smiles are at least a little genuine, and steps off.
Doris, of course, catches me watching her ass. She gives me that same stern look until Delia disappears from view, joining Ross on the deck. I wonder if she’s thinking about that evening too. I know it’s stamped into my brain—and my body—for the rest of my life.
Doris’s gaze rips me out of the pleasant memory.
“Yes?” I say politely.
“I know you young people have strange notions, but back in the day, most people got married before they moved in together. What are your intentions toward my girl?”
I have to smile at that, because something tells me this is exactly what Delia told her not to ask me. “Doris, I happen to know that you and Ross lived in sin before you got married.”
“I never said I was most people,” she says with a smile that acknowledges a hand well played.
“But I don’t mind telling you that I have a plan for that. I don’t want to spend another day of my life away from her. That’s what all of this is about.”
She gives me a look of challenge this time. “You’ve only been together a month and a half. I’m eighty two years old boy. To me, that’s barely the amount of time it takes to get up adn go to the bathroom.”
“And you and Ross knew each other for a weekend before you moved in together.” I crook an I grin at her. “So you know as well as I do that when you know, you know.”
She sniffs, then says. “You’re willing to put up with Ross’s gas to live with her. I suppose that says something for your intentions.”
“I want all of it with her,” I say, meaning it. “But I’d prefer it if you wouldn’t tell her we had this conversation. I’d like it to be a surprise.”
“Will this surprise be happening soon?”
She studies me for a long moment. “She has one of her mermaid readings in the morning.”
“I know,” I say, my jaw firming.
The perusal continues. Doris must like what she sees, because she finally gives me a definitive nod. “You know, we wouldn’t move for any other reason. We’ve been in that darn house for going on fifty years. That’s probably twice your life, son.”
It’s not, and if she’d been talking to Danny, he probably would have corrected her. Accuracy is important to him. I’m too busy trying to ease the guilt that’s formed a knot in my chest. I feel like a Monopoly villain, rolling in and telling a couple of elderly people they have to leave their home. “You don’t have to move. If you’d prefer to stay where you are, then I can move into Delia’s apartment with her. Presuming you’re okay with that.”
Somehow I manage not to cringe while I say it.
She laughs louder this time. “So you can wait for me to die like that odious nephew of mine? I don’t think so.” She gestures to the deck. “No, this will be good for the old boot. And for me. We’ve become too set in our ways. Besides, I’ll be happy to leave that old house behind. Every week something else would fall apart, and bless Delia for the angel she is, she’s no good at home improvement. Ross thinks he is, but every time he tries to fix something, he breaks something else.”
“I’m good at fixing things,” I say.
“Yes, you are,” she says, and with a final nod, she walks toward the deck, and I join her. I’m left wondering what she meant…and feeling at peace in a way I wasn’t expecting.
“Am I allowed to laugh?” Leonard asks, his eyes dancing. “Please tell me I’m allowed to laugh. I might give myself a stroke trying not to laugh, and that would probably ruin the whole vibe you’re going for with all of—” He makes a sound that’s half laughter, half hiccup as he waves a hand at me.
I’m dressed up like a Disney prince.
Yes, you heard that right. Prince Eric, to be exact—the one who marries the mermaid.
I feel like a fucking idiot, but there’s not a lot I won’t do for Delia, and I know she’ll appreciate the gesture. She’s a mermaid this morning, so I need to be a prince. I’m not one for public gestures, but I happen to know that Delia’s always wanted a capital B big gesture—or so her sister Mira tells me. There’s a chance Mira’s fucking with me, in which case she’ll have something to bring up at family dinners for years to come, but it tracks.
“Don’t laugh loudly,” I say, rolling my eyes. “I should have asked Danny or Shane to help.”
Leonard makes a rude noise. “Shane wouldn’t have asked about the laughing—he would have just done it. But yeah, you absolutely should have asked Danny instead.”
We’re in the bathroom at a community center. I got the costume from our friend Clancy from the movie set. Turns out he lives locally and runs a second-hand store. He was all too happy to do a favor for Delia, however indirectly. Although now that I think about it, it’s possible he was fucking with me too, because he gave me a shiny red cumberbund to go around my waist and a pirate shirt.
Delia doesn’t know we’re here, but the events director does. I ran the plan by her first to make sure I wouldn’t get Delia banned from doing future events here. When I told her what I had in mind, her eyes got big, and she fanned herself with her hand. Not because I was making her swoon—or not just because of that.
“And we can take photos and video?” she asked.
“Yes,” I told her, taking some amount of stubborn satisfaction in the possibility that my parents might see the footage and be questioned about it. Their lack of approval goes without saying. Then again, if I did something that met with approval, I’d have serious questions about my direction in life.
“I can take video, right?” Leonard says, unintentionally echoing the director. “The guys are gonna want to see this. I want to show Shauna too.”
I eye him in the mirror. “How’s that going?”
Shauna is going to be a bridesmaid in her ex-boyfriend’s wedding to her ex-best friend, and Leonard has agreed to attend both the wedding and the events preceding it—all of which sound like various forms of torture—as her fake boyfriend. I’ve neglected to tell him this is a bad idea, because I have a feeling he has a thing for Shauna. He’d be the last person to admit it, but sometimes we know our friends better than we know ourselves.
I want him to find love. He feels about as ready for it as I did—but if I’ve learned anything it’s that you don’t need to be ready. You just need to be smart enough to see a good thing when it’s staring you in the face, and selfish enough to grab it with both hands.
“It’s going,” he says cryptically.
All I know is that he went to a pompom crafting event and an adult sleepover in the woods. He’s been surprisingly cagey about last weekend, given that he’s the guy who famously got lucky in the bathroom of a fast food joint at two a.m. back when we were younger and even stupider. I haven’t pushed him, because Leonard’s the type of guy who moves in the other direction the moment you try to herd him where you want him.
He angles his head. “Speaking of…there’s something I should probably tell you. You know, after you make an ass out of yourself in front of the cameras.”
“But not in front of Delia?” I ask, arching a brow.
“Nah,” he says with a grin, “we both know she’ll love this shit.”
I smile slightly at the acknowledgment. At least there’s that. If you dress up like Prince Eric for your girl, it would be pretty embarrassing if she wasn’t into it. “Did you do something illegal?”
“Probably,” he says, cocking his head. “Shauna and Constance are in on it too.”
“So only mildly illegal.”
His mouth hitches into a half smile. “To be determined, bud. Let’s hope.”
I should probably push for more information, but I honestly don’t want this particular truth bomb to land yet. It might require some kind of action, and right now my focus is on making an ass out of myself…for Delia.
I want to get out there as soon as possible, because the sooner I get out there, the sooner she’s going to be my fiancée—unless she says no.
Dear God, let her say yes.
If there’s anything more embarrassing than being rejected by the love of your life while wearing a Prince Eric costume, in front of a crowd of small children, I don’t want to know what it is.
“Can you pop your head out and listen for the cue?” I ask. The dressing room we’re in is behind where Delia and her ocean, a cloth embroidered with sparkles and seashells are set up.
“What’s the cue?” Leonard asks as he types something into his phone. Is he sending a message to Shauna?
Damn, when did I become a teenage girl?
“The end,” I say. “I promised not to interrupt story time.”
“Okay, but if someone hauls me away for being a peeping tom pervert, you’re going to post bail.”
“I didn’t say to strip before you do it,” I say, rolling my eyes.
He gives me salute and makes his way to the door, cracking it slightly and looking out. This is the kind of thing he excels at, and there are no terrified shouts from the peanut gallery, so presumably the kids are none the wiser.
It seems like it takes forever—seriously, how long could the picture books she’s reading possibly be?—but he finally turns around and winks, and suddenly time turns into taffy, slow and ponderous.
Leonard gives me a fist bump as I pass him. There’s ringing in my ears as I step out, giving a sweeping bow as the children exclaim over my presence. “Holy shit, that’s Prince Charming!” I hear one little boy say.
“Haven’t you even seen the Little Mermaid?” chides a little girl with pink plastic glasses. “That’s Prince Eric if I ever saw him.”
Well, at least Clancy did his part.
Delia turns as best as she can in her costume, her eyes going wide—the look of wonder and joy I see there, her eyes prisms of color beneath the lights, makes everything worth it.
I walk around so I’m facing her, not wanting her to be uncomfortable.
“Prince Eric,” she says with a radiant smile. “I wasn’t expecting you.” She flaps a hand at her tail—the one that I picked out for her last month when I was trying to win her favor. I hadn’t yet realized that her favor wasn’t the kind of thing you could win. “If I’d known you were coming, I’d have worn two legs.”
There are giggles from the young audience, and I’m sure the media director is beside herself with glee.
“I came to surprise you with my court jester,” I say, hearing laughter behind me. Of course he’s watching. Filming it too.
“Consider me very pleasantly surprised.” Her smile stretches wider. “Do you want to sing a song with me?”
If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was setting me up. Actually, the glimmer in her eyes suggests that’s exactly what she’s doing. We’ve been spending too much time around Leonard and Constance.
The singing is a no from me, especially since my heart is thumping so fast it might leap out of my chest, so I get down on one knee and take out the box in my pocket.
“Lucas,” she whispers, reaching for me, her hand caressing my chin, sending need pulsing through me. She looks so beautiful, so otherworldly, her hair spilling down over that seashell bra that’s a little too child-friendly for my taste. “Lucas.”
“Did you forget his name too?” scoffs the little girl in the glasses.
I take the box out of my pocket and present it to her, popping the top. “Princess Delia of the Sea, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. When I met you, the world was a dark place, but you helped me see it as colorful. When I’m with you, it feels like anything is possible, because you make the world a magical place. Would you do me the honor of marrying me?”
“Yes, yes,” she says, tears welling in her eyes.
“You haven’t even looked at the ring.” I smile as I wipe the tears that are starting to fall down her cheeks, then lean in and kiss her. Quickly, because there are at least a dozen children watching us, along with their parents, who could turn on us on a dime, but with the promise of more to come.
“I don’t need to look at it,” she insists, but then she does, and she lights up even brighter, if possible, like a bulb on the point of bursting, or those lights that guttered out in the Rolf Estate. It’s a garnet with a flourish around the stone that reminded me of a mermaid tail. “Oh, Lucas, it’s so unique and beautiful.”
“Put it on!” someone shouts from the peanut gallery.
“It had to be unique,” I say, taking it from the box as she lifts out her hand. I slide it on, and when it fits—which I knew it would, thanks to Mira—the kids clap. I kiss Delia again, forcing myself to count to five in my head, because again, little eyes. Then I pull back and whisper to her, “Let’s get out of here as soon as possible.”
There’s probably thirty people talking at once, and I can hear the media director asking everyone to get into line.
“Agreed,” she says, her eyes taking me in, warm and full of a wanting I hope never goes away. “But please don’t change. I love your outfit.”
The blood my veins pumping through the veins just got hotter. Damn, I wonder if I can convince Clancy to sell this to me. Something tells me he’s not going to want it back.
“Oh, no, he can’t change,” the media director says, hustling up to us with a bright-eyed smile. “All of the children want to take a photo with Ariel and Prince Eric. What a special day for all of us.”
Delia goes by her actual name when she does these readings, but neither of us object. I’m sure she’s just content to make the kids happy, and I want to make her happy.
It feels like it takes for fucking ever, but finally the last tyke wanders off with their gift bag of sugar and sparkles.
The camerawoman, Madge, beams at us. “You want a couple of photos just for you kids?”
She did that for us last month, to commemorate the first time I went to one of Delia’s mermaid readings, so it feels only appropriate to do it again now—even though I’m desperate to carry Delia out of here, outfit on, and show her exactly how much I appreciate her.
We’re posing for another shot, when Leonard emerges into view, chomping down on candy from one of the extra goody bags. Hell, I hope it’s one of the extras. He may be morally flexible, but he wouldn’t steal candy from a kid. I don’t think.
“The court jester,” Delia says with a smile.
“Not my favorite nickname, but I’ll take it,” he says. “There are a couple of more of the se in the back.” He lifts the nearly empty bag. “Can I take them?”
“They’ll give them to other kids, Leonard,” I say.
“Before you get on the moral high ground, I’ll remind you that you’re dressed up to look like a cartoon character.”
“And he looks really good,” Delia says, squeezing my hand.
“Besides,” Leonard says, “it is for a kid.”
“What kid?” I ask, pulled out of the moment. Of course, I see Madge taking a photo, capturing this dubious moment for all eternity.
Leonard doesn’t say anything, and it strikes me that he doesn't want to tell this story, whatever it is, in front of Madge. That doesn’t bode well. In fact, I’m guessing I’m going to have to put my carry Delia home and make slow but through love to her in her mermaid costume plan on hold.
We say our goodbyes to Madge and the media director, and then we pile into the Range Rover. Delia’s car’s here, but neither of us want to be apart right now, and I know she’s dying for this story just like I am.
“So,” I ask once we’re all inside, my ring on Delia’s finger, the car still sitting in the lot, because God only knows if I can drive through this.
“So, I got a runaway kid staying at the house. Shauna and Constance have been helping out with him too. How big of a problem do you think that is?”
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