A few minutes later Michelle, Vanessa and Noelle returned to the kitchen. They were all laughing and in the company of an older woman. The four of them stopped in their tracks when they saw Damien sitting at the table.
He stood and approached Michelle. “Hey,” he said after a kiss to her cheek.
“Hey, yourself.” She examined his face. “I see you’re not green anymore.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, I’m feeling much better. Thanks for the bed.”
The older woman nudged Michelle with her elbow. “Is that him?”
“Behave, Nana,” Vanessa said, ushering her grandmother away.
“Sooo...” Nana said, halting the conversation at the table.
All eyes—except Damien’s—shifted in her direction. There was no telling what that woman was about to say. Michelle knew better than to think her grandmother wanted to talk about the weather.
Nana grinned as she placed her fork on the plate. “Michelle done brought home a white one this time.”
“Mama!” Margaret shrieked. “Don’t start.”
Nana rolled her eyes. “You know I used to have me a white boyfriend, too.”
“Thanks for sharing, Nana,” Michelle said, mortified.
“Yes, Mama, I think you’ve said enough. How about we talk about something else?” Margaret suggested, glaring at her mother.
“How about y’all let me finish my story,” Nana said, hell bent on saying what she wanted. “Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Earl Beaumont. Me and Earl, we used to sneak off to his family’s cabin in Blowing Rock and do a little race mixing of our own—if you know what I mean.” She nudged Noelle with her elbow.
“I think we all know what you mean,” Noelle said, laughing.
“He couldn’t get enough of me, but it was a different time. It just wasn’t safe for us to be together,” she said. “Besides, I wasn’t interested in marrying no white boy anyhow. I wanted me some black babies with good hair.” She glanced at Margaret. “That’s when I met your daddy and snatched him up right from under that sow Elsie Mae Crawford. We spent fifty wonderful years together, and I loved Edward Joyner. He was a good man.”
“Yes, he was,” Margaret said, relaxing the tight expression on her face. She probably thought her mother had spoken her piece.
“But that Earl Beaumont sure did teach your old Nana a trick or three. Damien, I bet you have a few tricks up your sleeve too,” she said, making eyes at him.
Margaret’s eyes almost popped right out of her head. “Mama! Damien’s tricks are none of your business. That’s between him and Michelle.”
“Jesus, take me now, please,” Michelle begged, bowing her head.
Damien ducked his chin to his chest. His shoulders bobbed up and down as he fought to hold back his laugh. He gained enough control to stab at the green beans on his plate as if trying to collect them all at once on his fork. Wendell, Matt, and Will focused on their plates as well, shaking their heads and snickering.
“Nana, you are crazy!” Noelle said, dabbing tears from her eyes with the cloth napkin from her lap.
“Oh, I’m just messin’. I’m an old woman. I have to get my jollies somehow.” She sipped iced tea then set her glass back on the table. “Is there any of that potato pie left?”
“I’ll get it, you dirty old woman,” Michelle said, pushing herself from the table.
“That’s why you’re my favorite.”
“Don’t cut my piece too big, or I’ll be up all night.”
Nana turned her attention back to Damien, but Michelle intervened before her grandmother could embarrass her any further. “He’s coming with me.”
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