Almost party time.
But the first person to show up at their door wasn't on the guest list.
Hamilton was flattered. Of course he was. And she started right in on flirting, being coy about the kind of girl she was,
and wasn't, regardless of the things she did. Even though last night she'd stood there and declared herself a modern woman.
He was flattered. But he wasn't stupid.
"I know you're expecting company but I was hoping we could spend some more time together. At the party?"
"Uh, the garden party is a community thing. Did Mama invite you?"
"Can't you invite me?"
Yeah, sure, he could. But why would he?
The way Hamilton figured, she didn't mind relying on his mother to mediate her acquaintance with him.
The woman was all about shortcuts. That's what last night was. He didn't remember a whole lot about
how it came to that or what all came before they landed in his bed. But he knew what happened there.
And it wasn't just a one-night stand or she wouldn't be here. It was her shortcut to the kinda relationship she wanted
or to using him for some other gain he didn't understand yet, like he owed her. Well, 'Winnie' could forget that.
"Our guests will be arriving soon, so, uh..."
"Yeah, I'll clear off, Senator. Don't you worry," she said, angrily echoing the same words she'd used to seduce him.
Daytona washed her hands of her son's affairs.
For today. She had a party to hostess!
Valentine was the first to arrive. He arrived alone.
"Are you my only Hart?" Daytona asked.
"I better be!"
"You know what I mean. For today."
"For the party," she said. "Where are, hmph, your people? Will they be making an appearance?"
Daytona had not consulted her son before inviting his ex-wife to come along with her new family and when she informed him
this morning Hamilton got quite huffy. Over nothing, she was sure, but he kept raving on about the children and how she had no right.
She begged his pardon, this was her house, but he stuck to his guns; she had no right to put his kids through that in front of everybody.
Daytona still believed that making a show of inviting the wench was the right move, for them both, but she had
to admit, she hadn't considered the children. So far it looked like she was right all along but she had to be sure.
"My youngest ran off to the boyfriend's house early, to help with getting all them young ones they got ready." Or so she
said but Val suspected she was only getting herself out of the way, just in case. "But she'll be along later with them."
He couldn't vouch for anybody else currently squatting in Casa Hart and he wasn't about to, either. Goldie had the right idea there. Valentine wasn't one
for running; he announced that he was leaving, but that's all. He wasn't playing escort, let them sort it if they were hell-bent on defying common sense.
Val had told himself that Daytona knew what she was about and if Sandy called her bluff about the invite, well, that was on her.
But he knew how much this garden party thing meant to Day and the past coupla nights (alone) had decided him on showing
her he was there for her, so Val was prepared to intervene if need be. They wouldn't be strolling up in the mix using him for cover,
Val knew that at least. And, whatever happened, they wouldn't be compromising where he stood. He stood with Day, today.
To the boy's credit, Rhett never had any intention of showing his face here but there was no telling what Sandy might be able to persuade him into doing.
When it came down to it, Sandy was no fool...he didn't think. She looked like she was gearing herself up for a showdown but if she had a thought of strutting back
this way and throwing her head up for the whole town to take notice like she wasn't cowed, there was a hitch, she'd have to do her strutting with the kid on her hip.
(Proxy would be sure to throw her off her gait.
And since a bit of last-minute cowardice surely might have casually co-opted Goldie into being the one to carry
Proxima into the fray, she probably had the right idea running off; Jim-Jim was a much lighter load in her arms.)
The Weisses had the farthest walk but they were next to arrive.
Dora felt a powerful tug at her heart as she and Weiss stepped under that arch together.
They said a small affair, nothing fancy, just family, but wasn't nothin' wrong with a little pizzazz.
It was gonna be her first wedding! Yeah, an arch'd be nice. All pretty and white. With gardenias!
Looked like Dora would have to be havin' her a talk with Daytona.
Dora wasted no time. She complimented Daytona on the setup she had going on back here, busy thinking ahead.
"Worse comes to worst, you bein' Madam Judge and all, we might have to go on and have the ceremony here, ain't that right, Weiss?"
"Well, I...that is, if, er, if Daytona—"
"Why certainly, for you two. We can certainly work something out if doing it here is what you really want."
Dora looked around, nodding to herself. "We'll talk." She smiled at Daytona.
Goldie couldn't believe Junior asked about Rhett. And standing right next to Ms. Beech!
No, he wasn't there; no, she didn't think he was coming. Um, duh?
Sandy might, Goldie couldn't be sure about that, she was acting weird,
but Goldie talked to Rhett herself and he told her no way was he that stupid.
"Need any help?" Goldie asked when she found Virgie setting out the food.
"Uh, no. No thanks."
That's what it was, Dixie was around, so she was supposed to go back to being invisible.
Goldie didn't understand why it still always had to be a choice but then she didn't get a vote.
Or a voice, once Queen Virgie, like Ginger called her, had issued a ruling. So, ousted she was.
Delta ran straight for Junior when she saw him, as always. And she was still his favourite girl.
Look at that face! Junior wondered if maybe Annie would look like her.
David was doing his Mr. Popularity thing so Goldie ended up trailing River around.
"I wish Ginger was coming," she told him.
"I know. But she said 'hell-to-the-no'. I think cuz Ms. Daytona forgot to invite them*. They ain't even know about it til Virgie told Gavin. Yesterday."
"But she invited them then, yeah?"
"Yeah, but who wants to be an afterthought?"
River sure was well-informed.
"You and Ginger seem really close all of a sudden. Somethin' going on?" Goldie asked with a lilt.
"If you say so. But she's gonna tell me anyway."
She bet' not! River mentally channnelled his mama.
*It was an oversight. Daytona invited heads of households, to bring their families. Kids aren't on her radar.
"Go ahead, you snaggle-toothed varmint, make—"
"Go ahead," Rocky repeated, he was allowed to ad lib but he didn't like anyone else stepping on his lines, "make my day."
"My tooth's almost grown back all the way," Sharla protested, now that she had two front teeth. Well, one and a half.
"That's what makes it snaggle," Rocky said, recycling teasing he got from Virgie
during his baby-tooth years, which she most likely recycled herself from Grandma.
Sharla stuck out her tongue at him and yelled "Try and catch me, copper! HaHA!" and she took off running.
(The Beeches don't have one but you can probably guess that someone around these parts has lately acquired a TV.
However, they're not spoiled for choice with the channels they get out here so, as with the radio, they make do.)
Samantha bypassed her husband and mother-in-law to hand her baby to a virtual stranger to be formally introduced to Pete's boss.
She couldn't help being a bit anxious. Mrs Beech looked so fancy and the backyard, too, it wasn't like what she assumed their party would be;
food, folks, and fun*, she just figured...and Pete never told her different, but it was still extra important for him that she made a good impression.
Sam felt a little better when she saw that not everybody came so dressy but she'd have felt a lot more comfortable if Pete had
only given her a hint. She didn't have much that was fancy but, goodness, she cleaned up better than this. But he never said!
Peter had other preoccupations than what Sammie wore, she looked fine. Daytona looked fantastic!
It was risky but he wondered if he could talk her into giving him a, uh, few minutes of her time, inside.
She wasn't about to give him the time of Day until later anyhow.
But if he came up with a foolproof plan of action in the meantime she might be inclined to reward his initiative.
*Wasn't that a McDonald's tagline once upon a time?
Rocky conceded the showdown to Sharla. He'd figured out a while ago the only way to beat her was to let her win. And Dixie was here!
He was feeling good today and after playing with Sharla the kid had jokes.
"Woohoo! Ain't I the best joker you ever had!" Rocky giggled.
"Groan," Virgie said, feeling the corny-kid jokes warranted more emphasis than actual groaning. How else would he learn?
"I don't get it."
"Wait, I don't think I told it right," Rocky said. "Knock knock. This is another one. Knock knock."
"Not you, Virgie."
"Oh," Dixie said, "Who's—"
"No, no, I gotta start over. Knock knock."
"Woo," he insisted, ignoring his sister.
"Heck yeah, bay-bee! Just gimme a coupla years!" Rocky waggled his eyebrows and twirled an imaginary cigar like Groucho Marx.
Dixie told him he was so silly. But she laughed!
And Rocky had more where that came from.
"What kinda bees make milk?"
"I give up. Tell me."
"Boo-bees! Get it? Boobies!"
Um, yeah, Dixie thought that one was hilarious.
Penny was kind of mesmerised by the sight of Ham with the baby. She didn't want another one, but...but he should have one.
He looked so right with a baby in his arm...
"I guess you know my little buddy here?" Hamilton said, snapping her out of her reverie.
"Sure do. With Dad and Dora about to get hitched Una's acquired a whole house full of step-cousins, which is, like, so great for her.
She loves goin' over to Sam's for daycare. Even better than acting like she's one of the big kids in class at our house! So I'm glad I got
talked into taking her. How's it goin' there, Graham, you hangin' tough with Mr. Hamilton? You, um, you ever think about having more?"
Actually, yes. Yes, he did. He'd thought a whole helluva lot about it and got excited about it when his wife turned up pregnant.
Did she forget? Or did she just not understand what it was like from his side? All she lost, at the end of the day, was her boyfriend.
"Ah," Hamilton said when he spotted Dora coming their way, "I, uh, think I've got something that belongs to you."
"You're makin' the rounds today, ain'tcha, Graham Cracker? Gettin' out an' meetin' folks, that's what we're about. Well, come on now to Gran."
Dora took the baby and excused herself to give Penny some time alone with her man.
Sure, she knew, there's not a whole lot a body can put over on Dora Mae. And Penny sure ain't the one to try. All you go to do is ask
and ye shall learn whatever of her secrets ye seeks. (So long as it doesn't pertain to her dad or Woody and where they came from.)
Penny wasn't...insatiable, but there was a definite rhythm to their relationship. Expectation. Anticipation that started
as soon as she saw him. Especially here. It wasn't about to turn off because there were people around. But with Rocky
traipsing through the house, not 'people', his son, all his family around and hers, Penny had to kill her motor. For now.
(It took a few tries but eventually the ACR-crazed side of her stopped trying to barrel through locked doors.)
Val stood back for a bit and watched how Day handled Peter and the wife.
But this thing wasn't no spectator sport.
At least, that's not how he rolled.
They made such a cute older couple, Sam thought, even if 'cute' wasn't exactly the word, her mother-in-law and Skye were cute,
these two were almost glamorous, from what Pete told her, each on their own. Together they were, well, they were just adorable.
"Aren't they cute, Pete?" Sam beamed.
Goldie...didn't agree. (Neither did Peter, particularly.)
She knew her Pop and Ms. Beech...but, yuck! Not in public!
Yes, in public.
That is precisely what Val was aiming to do, transition their relationship into being public knowledge rather than just common knowledge.
Ottomas wasn't the only one with an agenda for Day. But only one of them fully appreciated that Daytona always had agendas of her own.
Best not to step on her toes. Especially not if you weren't man enough to be able to hold her back, if need be, while still managing to hold her up.
Peter didn't mind playing second string, most days, long as he got to bat, but he got it in
his head of coming in first today and he wasn't ready to concede yet, not even to the MVP.
(Falling in love with Daytona has rattled Peter's rational brain. Hard to say how far he'd go, he's retained some sense that his
family and Daytona's image/career are the lines that can't be crossed but he's not seeing those lines too clearly at the moment
so 'somebody' may have to restrain him before Day spots a single toe straying over the line and chops him off at the knees.)
All Valentine knew was that Daytona had worked too hard and was too close to reaching her goals
for some fool with the whip-lash to go forgetting what position he played and trip her up on game day.
The wife didn't faze him, couldn't rouse no jealousy over her.
Of course, look at him, look at him close, it was the mother.
Daytona has secretly had a want for another grandchild locked away in her innermost heart for quite a while now.
It just ain't in the cards, the way they're stacked. But she just may have to take them in hand and give 'em a shuffle.
Penny is a great girl but hardly right for Hamilton.
If only because Daytona knows her son.
After, finally, kicking that wife he was so stupid over to the curb for getting knocked up by that damn reckless Rhett
there was no way in hell Hamilton was about to catch himself up to end up playing stepdaddy to another baby of Rhett's.
He just wasn't. Might as well have kept the wife he had if it came to that. And he didn't keep her.
Daytona had tried to drop a hint to Penny (in her own way and for her own reasons), she better watch herself if
she really was holding out hopes for Hamilton to be willing and able to overlook all that to get serious with her.
Sam watched Penny in action. Everyone was her friend! That was partly just small town living for you,
Sam knew, she grew up in one herself before Peter came and...life changed. But for all the months
they'd been living in Widespot she had made a grand total of one friend. Where was Mary, anyhow?
Oh, there was Mary's husband.
(And her mother. But Sam didn't know Beulah, or know of her like she did Mrs. Beech, so she paid her no heed.)
Yet another of Penny's circle of devoted friends. She still could not warm to Penny herself, she wasn't quite...like them, somehow.
But that was heathen thinking and Sam was determined to be more charitable. Penny and Woody would soon be family, after all.
(Sam and Beulah actually have much more in common than she's apt to notice at first glance.)
Sam went over to be more sociable. She had seen and spoken briefly to Junior before at his store but they'd
never been properly introduced. Penny, of course, hopped to it once she realised they didn't know each other.
Beulah was also on the mission to be more sociable. She didn't care for Lana, still, but she was Mary's mother-in-law,
she was Avery and Annie's live-in grandma, the one they saw everyday, so it couldn't hurt to make more of an effort.
Samantha was pregnant the last time Junior remembered seeing her so she didn't make much of an impression then but she looked pretty good to him
in the shape she was sporting these days! Penny had a big mouth so Junior was quick to put away his sizzle finger when they turned back to him.
The last thing he needed was for stuff getting back to Mary that wasn't even stuff at all—a Mann can look. He didn't wanna hafta deal with her bein' jealous
over nothing. Junior knew that's the real reason she stayed home today. Mary couldn't hide it from him, c'mon. She was avoiding Candy, of course.
Ancient history. And whaddya know, no Candy, just like he thought. She was avoiding the party and for what? For nothing. But whatever, man.
"Who are you looking for?" David asked Goldie.
"Who me? Oh, nobody. Just looking."
"Where are my grandtwins, anyway?" Beulah wanted to know. "Where's Mary?"
"Oh, she wasn't feeling at all well today, poor thing. And then little Avery sneezed and she insisted on keeping
the babies home with her. Junior and Dixie both couldn't change her mind so we had to let her have her way.
Between you and me, I think there may be another grandchild in the making who is kicking all up the fuss."
"You don't say? Another baby?"
"You can't quote me, of course! No one's told me anything so I can't be sure. I doubt she
even knows yet but let's say I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we're in for another new arrival."
"No need to stay on the lookout for your dad," David said, "he's busy."
David easily distracted and consoled Goldie for the telltale Hart display.
Parents were always embarrassing. But it's a two-way street...
Don't press your luck too much, though, son of an Ottomas.
Be glad it was your mom and not her Pop that caught your wandering hands in action.
Lana shooed Junior away to go do something useful, like grab her a plate of salad before it was all gone.
It had been years since Lana had been inside there. Daytona always did have borderline taste.
She'd overheard her talk about her redecorating. Well, well. Not actually terrible.
Oops, there was Hamilton coming back. Not that it mattered but she didn't want to be caught looking like she was casing the joint.
"Well, dear, and who might you be? Oh, wait, let me see, you are the ever-pregnant one, aren't you? Married to that flannel-wearing fellow?"
"Ottomas," Samantha said, "We are the Ottomas family. My husband's name is Peter."
"Yes..." Lana drawled, "that's him."
"Pete works for Mrs. Beech."
"Does he indeed. And you?"
"I mean what do you do, dear?"
"I raise our family."
There went that smug smile again. What right did she, of all people, have to
look down on her for being a SAHM? She was a homemaker. Not a trophy wife.
"And I run the daycare. I'm also a teacher by trade."
"There's a daycare? How interesting."
"Sorry, but we're not taking any more children," Sam cut her off before she could ask, forgetting for
a moment that this woman's grandchildren were Mary's kids, but still, no more sets of toddler twins!
That Valentine Hart was monopolising the field with Daytona so Peter headed over to see about Sammie.
"Ah, Peter...Lovely work on Daytona's panelling."
"Thank you, Mrs. Mann."
"Call me Lana. Are you for hire? I may have a job or two for you around my place if you've the time."
"Oh, uh, I'm real busy with Daytona, see. I don't think I could, sorry."
"Well. If you change your mind..."
Sam stamped her foot as soon as Lana finally left.
"That old woman was flirting with you!"
"Sammie, please. She was not."
"She was! You are so naïve, Pete. I can't believe you don't see what she was doing."
"What's it matter, anyhow. Don't tell me you're about to start fretting over me and some old lady."
"Of course not, Pete. Don't be silly."
Samantha was still put out because that lady didn't have to be so rude.
She didn't like it when people were rude, especially for no earthly reason.
"There you are. Time for a feed, I think," Dora said, handing Graham over.
Hmm. This ain't the table Dora wanted to be at.
She didn't like to judge, not when she didn't know a firsthand thing about the woman, but all the same, she didn't want to.
"Weiss, where's Una? Penny already feed her?"
"I, that is, I believe she is doing so now, with the twins."
"Junior, what happened to my salad? Oh, never mind, forget it. Did you say twins? That's right, you've
got a set, too, haven't you? Not much older than mine. How odd that so many twins should be born
at the same time. Must be something in the water." Lana was at least trying to make conversation.
"Not likely. Jim and Tam were conceived long before we got here," Dora replied, "And the little Newson babies, too."
"Ah," Lana conceded and they all settled back into uncomfortable silence.
Maybe Dixie had actually picked up some habits from living in the house with Junior and Lana but she coulda gone for
some uncomfortable silence herself instead of havin' to listen to Mama 'bout her needing to "eat more than some ol' jello".
"Come on, now, MamaBear, leave her 'lone. She's a grown woman," Homer said.
"Grown women know to eat grown people food with some real nutrients."
Dixie is so glad she had sense enough to get the hell up outta that house when
she did cuz livin' with Mama as a grown woman, that woulda never worked out.
Lana got up ever so briefly for a plate (the salad was all gone, Junior!) and found herself surrounded by all new companions.
How in the world did she end up remanded to the kids' table?
Samantha was uncomfortable.
She was glad that she came, most of the neighbours were very nice people but she was, she was ready to go home.
"I can't leave, Sammie."
"Oh no, no, Pete, You and the kids stay. But the baby and I, we both need a nap,
so I'm going to take him home. It'll be good for us, nice and quiet, for once."
Samantha was ready and eager to leave just as The Riches were arriving, more than fashionably late.
This is Richie Rich's first toddler appearance so, here, have a close-up.
He and Candy both lucked out there, he's basically a grey-eyed Hart, at least so far as his most distinctive features.
(Much of his babyhood was already stolen, and it's not like he was ever going to get a party, so he lost a couple extra hours before his round.)
Dixie should probably go run check on Mary. Maybe she could talk her into coming now since there was no sign of Candy.
(Psst. Turn your head, Junior.)
"Aww, ain't that th'o th'weet," Dixie mocked, making kissing noises at them.
"Oh, hey Delt."
Delta wondered what on earth she was doing.
But Dixie was none too perturbed by her baby sister calling her maturity into question.
Delta shook her head and moved on, she had some redhands to play, seemed like a much better use of time.
And Dixie went back to her sound effects.
"Cut it out, Dix, damn. So, I'll be back in a minute, I'm just gonna run back with my mom and check on the critturs."
"You want me to come with you?"
"Nah, that's ok. Your sister's here and everything, so stay. I'll be back."
Bored now, Dixie wandered off. She wished it was Goldie's brother here instead.
David caught up to his mom and took the baby himself while she was talking with Junior.
Sam ran into him hanging around like he was thinking about leaving the party, too, so they were
commiserating with each other without anyone having to admit why they were uncomfortable.
It was boring. She was exhausted.
Candy tossed Richie over to Gramps as soon as she walked in.
Daytona's been so busy she hadn't even seen Candy since she got back from her, uh, honeymoon.
She got up and gave the girl a big hug, she'd had her father so worried. But, damn. Mrs. Rich Mann. Before they
could get to chattin' at all, though, there was Skye, waiting his turn, but determined to say what was on his mind, which
was that he thought Daytona was beautiful. That said, he turned and hurried away, but if he wasn't the sweetest man!
She'd have to have him and Dora to dinner one day this week, maybe help them settle up some things for the wedding.
"Gotta say, you do look fab, Daytona. Sexy lady!" Candy said, "I know Pop's diggin' that!"
"Well, thank you. I figured it was about time I got back to basics."
Candy smiled. She knew like Daytona knew herself, like everybody with eyes knew that she wasn't nobody's 'basic bitch'. Shit, she almost
said so out loud but she kept in mind where she was and there was Rich standing there and he didn't like it when she talked like that in public.
"But never mind all that. Look at you, Mrs. Mann. And let me get a look at that ring!"
"Oh this?" Candy posed. "It's hot, right? I told Rich I needed me a fire stone. Not ice. But still a big one!"
Rich had tensed at the way the Beech said Candy's name but Goldie was already
getting used to his mannerisms, so she waited for him to resume conversation.
"That it is," Daytona said, "Big. But not gaudy. It's beautiful, Candy. Must've set Mr. Moneybags back a pretty penny, but, hey, when you got it, flaunt it."
"That's what I always say!"
"Excuse me." Rich signalled Goldie aside and brushed by. He was not remotely interested in resuming
idle chat with the adolescent. Two minutes in and the women were already trying his patience.
Lana spotted Junior loitering around by himself under the tree. What was he thinking?
He can't let them win that easily. No victories by default! Now get back over there.
"Mom, I think I'm gonna head out myself."
"Junior, don't be so silly. We are guests at a party, it would be rude to slip away when the fun is just starting. Very unbecoming."
"I don't care. Mom, look, you told me to stay away from Dad, right? So that's exactly
what I'm gonna do. Stay far the hell away from him and Candy both. I'm outta here."
"Junior, I really think that would be a very bad idea. They are the ones who should be ashamed, I can't honestly
believe Daytona even invited them, but it is not for us to run away. Avoid conversation, snub them both, but stay."
Here's to the Judge! And to Widespot, of course.
His mom obviously forgot about the kid or something—cuz how else could she stand it—but Junior didn't.
He came back over but there they were. There he was.
Junior couldn't stop staring at Richie Rich. His replacement. He still couldn't wrap his mind around the fact that this kid
coulda been his son and ended up his brother! What kinda dirty slut—but, know what, it didn't even pay to go down that road.
Forget what his mom said, he just had to get outta there, that's all.
Why the devil were they so chummy? Rich did not like this at all. Not at all.
"So what's up with this highway thing? Is it ever gonna be finished?"
No, Candy, not that! Even Goldie knew better than to talk about that with Ms. Beech
and Rich in the same room, or outside space, whatever. With them both together.
Daytona was ready for defense, figuring she was setting up to be Rich's mouthpiece, but all Candy was really thinking
about was spending his money. "You wouldn't believe some of the stores that's not even that far away, that we hit up while
we was travellin'. Honeymoon, y'know. But you got to go, like, the long way around to get there when they're practically
right there. It's crazy. Hey Rich," Candy called, peeking around Daytona, "Can't your guys get it done like lickety-split?"
"No, they can't," Daytona answered before he could. "It's more complicted than that.
There's a ton of regulations that can't be ignored so it's gon' have to take how long it takes."
"Bummer. I've got enough clothes for the season, I think, but I really wanna hit up that same
jewelry store again. I saw a coupla pieces when we was in there that could set off my ring lovely!"
Kid was begging her to pick him up so Candy was about to see what he wanted but then his cousin came hoppin' over and he seemed cool where he was.
"He don't talk yet, Una."
She nodded at Aunt Candy. But prolly didn't understand cuz she started right in again. "Richie!"
Daytona spun around when she realised who that was coming up on her.
"Now what do you want? If you're looking for the restroom, it's—"
"Don't you tut me. What are you doing in here, Mann? Pardon me. Mr. Mann."
"Such brazen skullduggery," Rich hissed to himself.
"Ain't no kinda skulls getting dug up around here today. So you can stay far the hell away from my closets,
if you catch my drift. Unless it is the water closet you happen to need, in which case it's right through that door there."
"Enough already. The party is outside. So you can move yourself along now, nothing here to see."
"I beg to disagree."
"Hmph. Only if you came to see me," Daytona said, leaning into her hip. "Did you?"
And then she laughed at him. At him!
If there weren't so many witnesses...!
*There is a sound actor Bill Nighy makes, a sort of 'tut', snap, and snort at once. I can only visualise it
from his turn as Victor the pureblood vampire in the Underworld movie but I'm sure I've seen him do it elsewhere.
Anyway, if Rich could imitate that kind of quintessentially peremptory snarl (or I could onomatopoeia it), he so would!
"You must be so proud of Mary."
"Course I am!" But Beulah wasn't sure what he was gettin' at.
"Just look around! All this is her handiwork, every last flower. I mean, I helped, potting plants just the way she wanted, or trying anyway.
But I think it turned out great. I wish she was here," Ham said. "I really do wish she'd come, if only to kick back and enjoy the fruits of her labour."
Beulah was already eager to spill the beans but she ain't apt to put too much trust in what Lana say so she was waitin'
to talk to Mary. Only told Lumpy. But at that word, well, another grandbaby was too exciting to keep to herself.
"Now you ain't heard this for sure so don't tell nobody but there might be a real good reason my Mary's indisposed..."
Beulah didn't pass more unfounded good news along, she'd scratched that itch, but she did turn
right around and start braggin' on Mary. "Daytona hired her and told her to do it up like she
please and all this is what she came up with. In only one day, too, mind. Ain't that somethin'!"
It was a matter of course that Rich had trailed the Beech inside to see her.
To speak his piece.
"You have something that belongs to me."
"The hell I do! Just who do you think you're talking to?" Daytona shook her head and started to laugh again.
"To be more precise, you have something that belongs to my wife."
"Pfft!!" Daytona couldn't even find words in response to that but that proved that the Mann was out of his damn mind.
"Your wife?" she finally said, "And which one might that be? Huh?"
"Don't play games with me, Beech. I mean to collect what is due to Mrs. Mann."
"Hmph. Well, I'll ask again, which one is that you're talking about? Still ain't said."
"Candy!" he roared, "Candy! Candy is my wife!" Rich struggled to compose himself and lower his voice, "As you well know."
Ah, but she got him to say it! And he looked as ridiculous boasting it out loud as the fact itself.
Mr. Rich Mann toting that child around as his life partner? Making her his wife? That was hilarious.
Daytona was friendly with the girl but she liked her even better for showing the Mann up as no better than any other old fool snatched up in the age-old trap.
And here he was, parading her around, and that baby barely older than his grands, in front of the whole town for all to see and know his weakness.
Day always thought the girl was savvier than she looked (and with Hamilton so dumb sometimes that made
her nervous) but these days she had a newfound appreciation for Candy Hart, that is, beg pardon, Candy Mann.
And Candy, in turn, had a newfound appreciation for friends wherever she found them.
David ran into Dixie on his way back, still in her silly mood.
"Oh. Um, hey," David said.
"Hey? I saw that."
"Aw, Goldie, c'mon. It was only a joke, but anyway I told her off. Goldie? C'mon,
don't be like that. It's like you're letting her win. Dixie only did that to piss you off."
"I made you a civil request, Beech."
"And I denied it, Mann." Daytona didn't know what he was thinking, that girl really did have him all twisted up after all. Maybe.
"You have no right to hoard what was given to you in fief*, you thief!" Disloyal Beech! "You defaulted on the terms of the trust. Don't dare try deny that."
Daytona waved a limp, dismissive hand, unconcerned.
"I mean to collect what you owe me." He stepped in too, too close, with the menacing scowl and the menacing voice.
"Oh, you don't want none of what I owe you. Believe that. And let me tell you one better, so as you
get the message crystal clear: What's mine is not yours. Possession is nine-tenths of the law."
"I'm not leaving here without what I came for! Now—"
"Now what? I know you better put that hand down. Now! And I'm not playing!"
*Not exactly the right term but why would Rich let that stand in the way of a verbal flourish?
"The power of the Mann don't compel me to do shit! How you even think to test me...in my own home...Not today, Mr. Mann. Not today."
"Calm the hysterics, Woman."
But at least he'd gotten one back on her, getting the real Beech to burst through that nonchalant facade.
"There you are," Val said. He'd caught a glimpse of the two of them in here and came expressly
to interrupt whatever was going down before any fireworks erupted. "I been lookin' for you, hun."
Rich openly scrutinised the kiss. No doubt it was intended for him. The display of it, that is.
Closed-mouth but accompanied by 'the hum', most likely unaware, with a lingering lower lip nibble.
Quite the sickening sight. But 'fear not, father of the bride', Rich thought, 'we two are far from rivals!'
Although if he knew the un-dowdy-ed dowager was holding his own daughter's
dowry hostage he might not press himself so eagerly toward those poison lips!
Daytona sashayed away and left the men to do what they do and handle all that adversarial bluff hangin' in the air.
Valentine had her back. He didn't have to say it but with a look he let her know, she could go take care of her business, whatever it is, he got this.
She went upstairs to settle this matter once and for all.
After all, the best time to antagonise Rich was in front of a large and unwitting audience.
Daytona fastened the snap of the contested necklace in place and started humming to herself as she reached for the matching earrings.
If I gave you Diamonds and Pearls*
Would you be a happy boy or a girl...
But the girl was far too young for either. So she certainly couldn't carry off a setting with both. She was smart to stick at rubies.
If I could I would give you the world...
But all I can do
Is just offer you
"Ha, ha, ha!"
*I doubt Daytona's much up on her Prince, nor am I, but the Diamonds and Pearls song floated up from somewhere as
I was typing, so there we go. The lyrics are completely off the cuff from my fuzzy memory, though, so I can't speak to accuracy.
Lana was immune to cute. She walked by and grimaced at the brat who caused all the trouble.
He was the true rival, not his tramp of a mother, he was the one primed to
take everything that was rightfully hers, and her son's, and her grandson's!
If the boys were slow on the uptake, Beulah sure picked up the slack. She saw that glinting in the sun and rushed right over.
"Woo! Look at that shine!" Daytona always had the nicest stuff. Quality. Not no cheap nothin', that wasn't her style. Nuh-uh, honey.
Beulah was one of the best friends a woman like Day could have, too, because she was a sincere admirer of whatever she liked. (And a sincere criticiser.)
Envy formed no part for her; she'd found the love of her life, early, and they were still going strong, she had the best family in the world...what was to envy?
"Lumpy, look over there at Daytona. You ever seen anything so pretty?"
"Only you, MamaBear."
Beulah told him to be serious, his family had heirlooms, or they used to before the devil took 'em for payment due.
But if they was anything as pretty as that, that's somethin' she could wish passed down from his side of the family to her Mary. She'd look like
an oil painting dipped in gold and dripping gems and such. Not every woman could pull it off but Daytona did and Mary honestly might could, too.
Candy overheard her and rolled her eyes at that stuff about fuddy-duddy Mary. A mother's love, boy. But she came over to see for herself up close.
"Whoa. Nice bling, Daytona."
"This old thang," she feigned modest and they laughed together.
"You know, I was kinda worried that you wouldn't invite us," Candy started when she led Daytona for them to sit down and talk (sitting is one of Candy's
favourite pastimes), stepping over her kid (again) in the process. "I mean, I know how much you and Rich bump heads and everything, so I'm just glad you did."
Richie had crawled that way for her but now she was over here so he could crawl this way, no problem.
Already he had learned patience. She'd pay attention. When she got ready. But he had to be sure to be there (underfoot) waiting.
"Think nothing of that," Daytona said, "I told you before. I ain't got time for no petty grudge."
LIAR!! Rich eavesdropped on the bald-faced, clumsy lies she was putting over on his wife.
"Least of all against you. Not over no deal that went sour, goodness, so long ago, something that couldn't possibly have had anything to do with you.
Uh-uh, don't concern yourself about that. Onwards and upwards. Never backwards," she said, making sure to catch Rich's beady eye. "I'd say it's past time."
And she said it fondling the evidence she wore to flaunt it in his face that she was a filthy liar.
Even Candy caught that, not the lie but the gesture. She smiled like she knew a secret. "Your ex give that to you?"
"Huh? Ex what? Husband? Hell no!"
"Maybe not husband but it was some dude, I know. You prolly had plenty but it had to be somebody special. I mean if it's right,
you know what I mean, any dude'll put in the cash, even if he got to pawn, llke, his house or somethin'. But for you not
to have pawned it, sold it, whatever and to still put it on...he had to be, like, that dude, to make you wanna remember him."
Rich had already stalked away, the second his wife started talking like she was for sale, giving no thought to what that must make her, or him, look like!
So Daytona dispensed with the double talk, or, well, replaced it with another sort. She leaned in slightly and said, "Let me tell you something. A man don't ever really
know what nothing is worth. The next bit of something that glitters and catches their eye, they walk off chasing the trinket and leave the most precious treasure behind."
"Don't even know it. Until it's too late. Because it's yours by then, yours by right, and don't let nobody come
interferin' between you and yours. At least," Daytona looked back at Candy, "that's my advice. Woman to woman."
Hamilton didn't know a thing about his mama's last woman-to-woman chat with Penny, but of his own accord he had
no clue what he was going to do about her, about them. They never said anything about commitment, in fact, when it did
come up everything they said was against it. But he still knew Penny wanted, maybe even needed...more from him.
The thing is, he didn't want anything more—different, that is—from her.
Rich did not need directions, not to the facilities, nor to any room in this house. He knew precisely where he was going.
Stay out of her closets, indeed.
She should have done as she was told and handed it over.
Now, let's see. What's this? Rich paused at the rose and flicked over the card.
'Roses are red...' Humbug!
But it looked like that "father-in-law" of his was more chump than champ after all. Falling for Daytona...
He pored over the pearls carefully. No, no, no. She was wearing the blasted thing. These, too, were real, of course, Daytona Beech
didn't 'do' costume, but they paled in comparison to the jewels draped around her fat, treacherous neck. But something was missing.
Stupid Beech. Now where would she keep it? Rich proceeded to search every inch of her vanity.
"I'm not sure I completely understand but, y'know, I think I see what you're saying. And I know even I can't be young forever."
"None of us can," Valentine said, walking up to them.
"But I am gonna be hot long as I'm living, just so's ya know!" Candy changed what she was going to say before her Pop came over.
"Knucklehead." He gave a playful nudge to that noggin of hers.
Candy had an altogether different (non) reaction to watching them kiss than Goldie did (or Rich).
She liked Daytona. She thought she was good for Pop. But not too good so, like, perfect.
Pop wasn't no goody-goody, none of them were, 'cept for Goldie, so he needed a bad girl...but a good one.
Man, fuck Lana.
But, like, don't anymore, 'k, cuz that's gross, Pop.
"You talkin' to me, kid? Or you hummin' or what?"
"Mmmm," he hummed and then did it again.
"Thought so. So why are we buzzin' like a motorcycle? Open your mouth. One day real words'll come out."
(It'll go faster if you actually teach him, Candy.)
"Then maybe then I'll know what you want."
But Candy remembered what Daytona was hinting and she did take it to heart. Richie was hers.
No matter whose else's he was. And she was tryna do right by him. She really was.
"Whaddya say we head back inside for a little while," Val suggested.
"And what kinda hostess would that make me?"
"The best kind! Hell, throw some attention my way and..."
And Dixie, that's what. Val noticed they had an eager audience soaking up his every word.
But Daytona was intrigued by the quickie prospect. No surprises, though, she couldn't afford those.
She did a once-around accounting of her guests and...dammit!
"What.in.the.Hell do you think you're doing?"
Daytona swiftly kicked the door closed behind her.
"What does it look like? You think you've bested me with your theivery, flaunting it in my face, but I say—"
"Oh, will you shut up with the crazy talk, Mann. I didn't steal a damn thing."
"Liar!" Rich seethed. "Where is the ring? You will give it to me."
"I will not."
"You wouldn't dare wear it. I'm warning you, Beech—"
"I told you once before, ain't no more rings goin' on this little finger."
"And I told you—not even if you were the last woman breathing," Rich said.
He had such an itch to yank their necklace tight around her undeserving neck, to squeeze until she gasped his name and pleaded for her breath.
Only then, only then!
"Do you hear me?" Rich recalled that he was actually still mid-insult. "Not—"
Daytona cut him off again, all that ranting and bombast, he was worse than Congress. Grandstanding without a damn platform!
"It sounds to me like we are of one accord then and have no present conflict of interest about the past so I thank you to vacate my private chambers, Mr. Mann."
"I'm not done with you yet, Beech. Where's my ring?"
"Quick as you can, please."
Rich straightened up to his fullest height. She had him riled, it was true. She had indeed bested him by the surprise, she had no right
to look like her again—Her!—but he would be damned if he was to be the one flailing around while she stood by calmly, gloating.
Rich dusted off his sleeves and rearranged the ruffles of his cuffs before ambling away, saying only, "We are not finished here."
Daytona was making her way back to Valentine when Peter got in the way.
Val popped up to run interference (or just on a jealous reflex but Valentine Hart, jealous? Never! So he'll tell you.)
But best not to call him out and call attention to him. She should've spent less time 'grooming' him and more makin' sure
he knew the rules and knew they applied to him so he wouldn't get so cocky and forget how to act right in front of company.
But Day had it covered. She just wasn't in the mood for any more ridiculousness. Rich was more than enough pain-in-the-ass for one day, thank you.
"Are you kidding me?"
"Oh, come on, I'm just saying—"
"Nothing. Peter, go mingle."
Peter did go mingle. And so did Rich.
"Hello, Ex-Wife. You're looking rather...peaked. If you don't mind my saying. Wax melts in the sun, but all the same you could do with some colour."
Lana clenched her teeth and, unconsciously, her fists. If he didn't get the hell away from her!
She was rising to the bait, she always did, so Rich gleefully proceeded.
"I'd suggest a good hefty dose of the Vitamin D...however you take it, but I gather that even he
has moved on and doesn't get around to doing as much charity work these days...as was his wont."
Every muscle in her body was vibrating with a need to...attack!
But because it was Rich...she didn't. She couldn't. Rich peered into her eyes, the way he did, like he could read every word of her thoughts and
apparently homicidal vengeance on her part amused him to no end. He strutted away belly-laughing like he'd just heard the world's funniest joke.
Lana dug her nails into her palms to keep from swinging at him and swore to herself that she'd have the last laugh. Preferably while dancing on his grave!
Forget all these Lana Mann trappings, she'd dance her a slap-happy, down-home kind of jig and she'd dance the hell out of it!
It was too busy to sneak off now, Day told Val, but they still had tonight.
"Y'all look cosy over here. Nah, don't mind me."
"Just, here, grab hold of the grandkid," Candy said, plopping him on Daytona's lap.
"He looks just like you. I can't get over it!" Day gushed.
"Not just like me. But a lot."
"You know it."
This wasn't the time or place to bring up the one who didn't look nothin' like him but Val wondered
what would happen, what Day would do, if Proxy turned out to be her grandkid after all instead of his.
"How's my Una? Been havin' lotsa fun? You want up, too?"
"No. Richie come down. See bu'flies."
"See Richie. Bu'fly! Ooh," Una imitated Penny's language of awe when pointing out new things to her.
Richie listened but he didn't particularly want to get down there with her. He was happy nestled next to Daytona.
Lana caught Valentine's eye. She couldn't believe him. She knew he and Daytona had an arrangement but this was too much.
Cuddling up together, with her holding his grandson, looking like they were all, all of them, one big happy family. Mocking her!
Junior had the right idea. Lana caved. She made her exit.
River didn't hang out with Rocky and Delta since he transitioned but they were still friends, Rocky had to ask.
"We've got the microphone and everything."
"I don't think so, Rocky. It ain't even my party. I can't."
"C'mon, you know you want to! It's ok, Grandma said. Please?"
If you insist.
"Now you say you're lonely
You cried the whole night through"
"Well, you can cry me a river
Cry me a river!"
"I cried a river over you!"
(This is a River song but it's not the River Song. He does have a signature croon, ever since he was little, but River still saves really taking it to church for his own home.)
Rocky wished he could sing like that.
(But, quick, River, hide the mic before he gets it in his head to tell some jokes instead!)
The party wasn't over, though.
Daytona nudged Val to come with her to greet them.
"Isn't that a beautiful dress. Don't you think so, Valentine? And shoes! They're a nice touch."
"I do wear them on occasion," she flashed a smile, "but only when it's special."
She apologised for being late to the party but hoped it was all right that they came anyway so Day assured them that was not a problem.
"Everyone, attention please, may I have your attention!"
"Children." A low voice curtly called them to heel and they both snapped into position.
Scot? Yoohoo, Scot. Hey! Pay attention. That means eyes front, buddy boy.
"We have some new neighbours to welcome," Day announced.
"Allow me to introduce the Contrajoques," Day faked a French pronunciation, figuring it was something like contretemps.
She wasn't so very far wrong.
"Welcome to Widespot. I'm Hamilton Beech. So, uh, Contrajocques, is it?"
"Delighted to meet you, Hamilton!" she said, shaking his outstretched hand and continuing to hold it captive, clasped between both
of hers as she spoke. "I am Opal Contrary, actually, and these are my partners. Edward. Contrary," she emphasised, for his benefit.
They wore the rings. He liked it to be known. "And Marcel and Sophia Jocque. And those two lovelies are our children, Indigo and Violet."
"My name's Rick!"
"We're still working on him," Opal confided in her dulcet tone.
"Uh-huh. Well, again, welcome."
But um....wait, what?
The 'Contrajocques' are actually up next. Surprise? And then we'll get back to the Harts. Happy Simming!