“We’re not that alike. I am clearly still the most handsome.” Chris says.
“When did you get back?” Blue asks.
“A couple of hours ago. I heard you were back.” Clara says.
“We just came to check on the animals. We’ll head back now.” Blue says.
“You’ve really not changed.” Clara says.
“Only when it comes to you.” Blue says.
“Bro, come on we need to catch up.” Chris says.
“How about you two catch up. Momma come to dinner tonight at 7 at the main house. Is there a bike I can use to get back?” Blue asks.
“You are welcome to use the kitchen here Blue. Take the car and bring the food round later. Chris and I will catch up now. Thanks for cleaning out the animals.” Clara says.
“See you later bro.” Chris says hugging Blue.
“Could we have dinner here? Bea and Macon are coming too.” Blue asks.
“Of course, it is still your home.” Clara says, Blue nods and leaves, totally conflicted.
“He needs time.” Chris says.
“Were you together the whole time?” Clara asks.
“No, just the last few months.” Chris says and fills his mother in on what he has been through since they last saw each other, not giving any of Blue’s story until it became entwined with his own.
“You had it worse than Bea. I take it Blue had it just as bad?” Clara asks angry at Lana and Paul all over again.
“I think Blue had it worst because of what he had to give up. Will, his home, the business. The ice-cream being in so many stores, hard to escape what he couldn’t have. And all because he has my face.” Chris says.
“Are the pair of you okay? Why are you here and not at Blue’s house?” Clara asks.
“Blue didn’t want to be there. We want to take time off before I start school and heal. I think we both associate the retreat with somewhere to heal. Blue missed the lake a lot. I did too. We didn’t expect you to be here so soon.” Chris says.
“I got word Bea was back. I came back to find out what the story was. I didn’t expect to see you two. Is it really safe? I will go and see Cheryl in a few days. Is Ocean really okay?” Clara asks.
“Ocean is okay. Pissed at missing gymnastics and he was pretty shaken up. Gervais stayed with him for a good while, when me and the sibs were locked up and got him a bodyguard. I feel so guilty that he got mixed up in this.” Chris says.
“You three are entirely innocent in all of it. You had no idea.” Clara says.
“You knew though. You knew and that is why you bribed us to stay away from Blue in school.” Chris accuses.
“I had to be sure you weren’t involved.” Clara says.
“You set me up to sue them. I mean they ripped you off but you knew it. You turned the spotlight on them with that case and it all spiralled. You could have warned us.” Chris says.
“And risk you tipping them off. It took a long, long time to get everything exposed.” Clara says.
“Was it worth the death of my cousins and not seeing me and Blue for so long?” Chris asks.
“No. Of course it wasn’t worth it.” Clara says.
“They weren’t hurting you but you had to poke the bear without knowing the full picture.” Chris says.
“I did nothing wrong. Remember who the criminals are. I am not responsible for the murders or your exile.” Clara says.
“You never sought custody or access for us, because they would then have got access to Blue. He was the favorite alt along. As long as he was protected you didn’t care. What if it had been too late when you got to us? What if we were already in the business?” Chris says.
“Chris you know not everything is about you. I can’t change the past. And am not to blame. I was so young when had when I had you, found my success and when started my work here. All of that was when I was younger than you are today. Stop judging me.” Clara says.
“I know you’re not to blame and things are better for me than they could have been if you hadn’t come into my life. You know I started volunteering at the animal shelter because Granddad started asking me to do errands. Bea was in loads of after school activities but t wasn’t at the time. I overheard a girl in one of my classes squealing about her weekend walking cute dogs and I thought why not? Probably saved me from jail.” Chris says.
“You owe that girl.” Clara says.
“I’m going to do some work in the garden, it’s pretty neglected.” Chris says wanting some time with his thoughts. It is so hard not to judge and blame Clara for all that happened. He knows it is his family that are at fault but dammit she could have rescued them.
Later in the day Blue, Robin and Gervais arrive and get cooking. Bea shows up after school and gives a hand. She’s really unsure how things with Macon will go now that Clara is back and is feeling a lot less confident about it. Clara boosts and zaps her confidence all the time.
Clara comes back from visiting Roe and everyone tenses.
“I’m glad that you still get such joy from cooking. thought that losing your businesses might have zapped your fun.” Clara Says.
“Taste this.” Blue says holding up a spoon of cheesecake mix.
“I have missed you so much.” Ciara says and hugs her son tightly.
“You’ve raided my preserved fruit.” Clara says, with a twinkle in her eye as she lets him go.
“You know it.” Blue grins back.
“l couldn’t imagine a better use for it.” Clara says and kisses his cheek.
They debate making pasta rather than pizzas as they have moved dinner to the house.
“Look we have shrimp and the crab, we could have paella and just have a salad appetizer.” Robin says.
“It won’t be great, we should have started already.” Blue says.
“Oh rubbish, come on lets get it started.” Clara says and starts gathering ingredients for the stock.
Blue pops outside to get more herbs from the garden,
“You look freezing.” Blue says.
“A bit. Amazing smells coming from the kitchen.” Chris says,
“You avoiding momma?” Blue asks.
“Yeah I am pretty angry with her. You know me, always a bit slower than you.” Chris says.
“I think we have to decide as a trio if she is in or out. If she’s in we can work on boundaries, if she’s out, well we’ll be each other’s support to stand firm as she plots to get us back.” Blue says.
“I am angry, but I will be voting in. For once I know why I’m angry and I know that some of it is misplaced and she can’t change the past, just like I can’t. I just need to stay angry for a bit.” Chris says.
“That’s okay. I worry about Macon meeting us tonight if you’re in a foul mood. I hope my cheesecake doesn’t get thrown.” Blue giggles.
“No one would waste it that way. My goodness Blue, as if anyone would dare.” Chris giggles.
“I need to go back in, we’re making paella.” Blue says.
“Instead of dessert, can I choose garlic knots?” Chris asks hopefully.
“l already made your dessert, but garlic knots sound good. I’ll see what we can do in the time.” Blue says.
“We’re going to be okay bro. With momma and with Bea. We’ll work it out.” Chris says.
“Yeah. I wish I knew how much of me was because of her and how much despite her.” Blue says.
“Despite her you are the most giving, loving and creative person I ever met.” Chris says.
Blue smiles and hugs Chris before going indoors. Chris has changed a lot. A lot for the better.
“Chris has suggested garlic knots. How about I make some and some dips and we do our usual no specific appetizer?” Blue asks.
“Paella, salad, bread, dips, I am in.” Robin says with a grin.
“l have some olives we could make a tapenade with.” Clara says.
“I’ll nip back and get the cheese, we brought a lot of cheese with us.” Gervais grins.
“We brought you a dry order too, Take Chris with you and bring that back too.” Blue says.
“You did?” Clara asks.
“It was automatic, I ordered what we wanted and what you usually get, doubled as we’re all home. We will be awash with beans, nuts and grains.” Blue smiles surprised at the realization of what he did on autopilot after all these years.
“Which parts should I bring here?” Gervais asks.
“All of it as you’ll be cooking here most the time. Those cottages with their single burners are fine for reheating soup but you’ll do all your prep here. You won’t be able to use the main house so much whle the construction is going on.” Clara says.
“Blue?” Gervais asks.
“She’s right. My mother and I get along best in the kitchen. If we’re going to be working on our relationship I need to cook here.” Blue says.
Bea looks at Blue and grins. She knows that she won’t be able to have a good relationship with Clara and Blue unless they are getting along.
“Come on, show me how to make the dough mix.” Bea says.
The table is weighted down with food when everyone arrives. Along with the guys, Clara and Bea, Macon, Heidi, Willow and Roe join them.
“What a wonderful spread.” Roe says smiling.
“It is so good to see you. How are you?” Blue asks squeezing Roe far too hard.
“l am very well. I have so many students here thanks to Birch that I can work as much or as little as I want. Spence, I hope that you will still consider me family despite the divorce. I don’t want to know the ins and outs or take sides. I just hope you will visit with me while you are here.” Roe says.
“Of course. I still love you and Katelyn very much and cannot imagine not having you in my life.” Spence says.
“l think this would work very well for wedding food, we can have a few big pans on the shore, with veggie and fish versions and Blue can recreate his famous seafood platters that he did at Spence’s beach house.” Clara says, surprising everyone. Does she know about tonight’s plans? Had Bea already told her about the food issue?
“No, we want something more formal. A sit down meal, we can use the school or have a marquee. Salmon and vegetables, chicken and potatoes.” Macon says.
“You want something more formal. I want to break up.” Bea says simply, unable to play out the full charade. Not letting Blue or Chris explode on her behalf.
“Was that necessary? To bring me here for humiliation? To get your mother to pretend she wants what you want for the wedding?” Macon asks, his voice low but threatening.
“Leave now. No one talks to my daughter like that.” Clara says standing up, her eyes blazing.
“Lucky escape for me.” Macon says and walks out.
“How did you know?” Bea asks.
“Know what?” Clara asks.
“That Bea and Macon were fighting over the wedding food.” Spence says.
“l had no idea. I just remembered all those pictures of the food from your beach house and thought it would be the perfect wedding for Bea.” Clara says.
“It was. It was exactly what Blue suggested. A big clam bake, everyone invited, beer in the water, casual dress. Just a big party with all of you and my friends. It didn’t suit Macon and it lead to me questioning everything. He’s going to get home to his bags on the lawn and the locks changed. I guess I did set him up for humiliation.” Bea says and shrugs.
“You go girl.” Blue grins.
“Too right, we told you, you cannot marry a man who wants steamed salmon at his wedding. Not when he could have all this.” Chris says motioning the table, which despite the drama they have been clearing like locusts.
“Thanks to all of you. For making me see it. I hated being taken away again but it worked out so well reconnecting with my brothers and getting some distance from Macon. Sorry for the drama, Bro I think its time for dessert.” Bea says.
“Come help me bring it out.” Blue says jumping up.
Bea and Clara follow him back to the kitchen.
“Bea, I owe you an apology. I didn’t see it until today that he was like that with you. I put your personality change down to being in hiding and missing your brothers. I should have seen it.” Clara says.
“So should l. Long ago. Chris and Blue already told me he wasn’t the guy. It took me a while but I saw it and then I really saw it. Today I was petty but it didn’t give him a chance to manipulate me into agreeing with him. I feel good. I don’t feel guilty.” Bea says.
“You shouldn’t sis. Now this is your dessert but save some space to try the others.” Blue says handing a pie to Bea, a cheesecake to Clara and grabbing a plate of dumplings and some sauce jugs.
“I’ll grab the ice-cream.” Gervais says and Blue smiles and nods.
“Go on tell us what we’ve got.” Chris says his eyes like saucers.
“For Bea, to celebrate her freedom rather than engagement we have a espresso and dark chocolate tart. There is a caramel sauce and or a coffee choc chip ice cream. For Chris we have secret cheesecake. And we have pear dumplings, a cream sauce and or cinnamon ice-cream. Roe can you help serve up, I think you’re the most neutral.” Blue grins.
“Here I’ll help, I don’t play favorites.” Willow says with a smile.
Only the sounds of their spoons can be heard as everyone is silenced by the food.
“You outdid yourself with the preserved sour cherry cheesecake. It’s kicked your old one up a notch. Those little hidden domes of fruit and soft meringue blew me away. You have to get your dream restaurant up. No more cafes. Make your wine for sure but this is real talent.” Heidi says.
“I love all of it. Blue is back.” Willow grins.
“If it wasn’t too delicious to waste on such a shit I would send a piece of this pie to Macon to show him what he was turning down. Its so freaking good.” Bea says as Macon appears back in the room.
“Stop being a bitch and let me in to our house.” Macon says.
“My house. Not ours. Mine.” Bea says.
“How calculating are you that you finally let me meet your brothers on the day you leave me. You are a shitty person. You always were. I was only with you for the land and money you would inherit.” Macon says.
“Just fuck off mate. She left you your things.” Chris says getting up, Larry, Blue and Spence getting up too.
Seeing he’s outnumbered and outsized, Macon turns and leaves.
“What a fucking tool.” Blue says.