Stop Fondling My Books

“This is really nice. I’m glad we did this.” Sarah said picking up her wine glass and taking a sip.  Everyone sitting around the table muttered in agreement. Annabelle did a quick assessment as everyone settled in.  Eli only had eyes for her mother; Jack was staring thoughtfully at the menu while Ethan stared straight ahead while drumming his fingers on the table.

“So, Eli, how did you and my mom meet?” Annabelle asked breaking the silence.

Eli gave Annabelle a blinding smile. “So, a few months ago, I was sitting there with my coffee in Starbucks reading the paper when I noticed your mom sitting nearby. She was giggling at her nook, and she has one hell of a laugh. I had to talk to her. I didn’t want to look like a creep or someone with a bad pick up line or anything,” Eli explained. “I decided to be brave and walk over there and ask her. Point blank.”

“The rest they say is history,” Sarah said giving Eli a wink. Eli gently grabbed Sarah’s left hand across the table and planted a kiss.  Annabelle watched them eyes traveling to their joined hands.  She could not help but notice that her mother’s ring finger was sparkling.

“Your finger is shining,” Annabelle said.  Eli and Sarah paused before letting go of each other’s hands.

“That shiny object is one of the reasons why we had this dinner,” Sarah said.  Annabelle looked over at Jack who was looking over at her confused.

“Eli and I are engaged.” Sarah blurted out.  Annabelle stared blankly at her before sitting back in her seat, her fingers gripping the armrest of the chair.

“You two are engaged?” Annabelle asked quietly.

Jack looked at his dad and then Sarah.  “I thought Annabelle knew about this. I thought this was a celebratory dinner.”

“Does it look like she knew?” Ethan muttered. Annabelle looked over at Ethan before shooting a look at her mother.

“When did this happen?”

Annabelle asked. Sarah looked down at the table. “Two weeks ago.”

The three of them looked over at Annabelle.  She gave a quick nod towards her mother before standing up and walking straight out of the restaurant.

She felt the cold instantly on her bare arms as she walked out the restaurant door.  Annabelle crossed her arms as she walked faster towards her place.  Her mother. Engaged. Annabelle was in uncharted territory.  She was used to her mom dating, but she never expected it to go this far.  Annabelle was convinced her mom would be an old blue haired lady in Florida having a Golden Girls moment. Not engaged in Jersey.

Annabelle slowed when she got to her building and walked inside. As she walked the two floors to her apartment, she could hear a Talking Heads song blasting through her door. Annabelle instinctually reached towards her purse quickly remembering it wasn’t there. She left everything she needed at the restaurant.  She sighed and raised her fist to bang on the door trying to compete with the wailings of Road to Nowhere.  She waited a few seconds before banging on the door again.  She could hear the music stop and the locks clicking open.  The door swung open to reveal Elizabeth with a beer in one hand and a cookie in her mouth.

“Don’t you ask who it is before opening the door? Do you know how dangerous it is just to open the door?” Annabelle yelled barging past Elizabeth who was stunned to see Annabelle banging on her door.

“Don’t crazy people, like you, usually use a key?” Elizabeth asked her voice muffled from the cookie.  Annabelle had already made her way to her fridge and was rummaging for something stronger than beer.  When she spotted the Silver Patron tequila bottle behind the Slim Fast shakes, she could hear a heavenly chorus.  She grabbed the bottle and the closest glass and poured a little of the clear liquid out.  Elizabeth watched her friend, confusion evident on her face.  Annabelle downed a shot of the liquid and coughed violently.

“I left everything at the restaurant,” Annabelle told Elizabeth her voice strained.   Elizabeth swallowed what was left of her cookie and walked over to the kitchen counter slowly.

“Why are you walking so slowly?” Annabelle asked pouring more Patron into the glass.  Elizabeth gave a strained smile in response.

“That is what I usually do when I don’t want to scare an angry person with alcohol,” Elizabeth told Annabelle as she took another shot.  She coughed again and reached for the bottle, but Elizabeth put her hand over it.

“I think it’s cookie time.  You had your fill of tequila for one night.” Elizabeth said using her left hand to pull the bottle of Patron closer to her body while her rights hand pushed the cookies into its vacated place.  Annabelle grabbed for the cookies, took one out, and shoved it into her mouth.  As Annabelle busied herself with cookies, Elizabeth picked the Patron up off the counter and made her way back to the refrigerator.

“Now tell me why you have no coat, no keys, and no phone and are self-medicating,” Elizabeth asked opening the refrigerator door and placing the patron back behind the slim fast shakes.  She slammed the door and made her way back to Annabelle who was now looking at a piece of cookie in her hand.

“My mom did have an ulterior motive for the dinner tonight,” Annabelle muttered as her right hand rubbed her left.  Elizabeth stared at Annabelle blankly before she gasped dramatically.

“Do I get to be your maid of honor?  I can help you find a dress, and we can try to make the best out of this situation.  Maybe I can smuggle you to Canada, and you can start a French pine comb statue making business!” Elizabeth told her, no irony ever entering her voice.  Annabelle just stared at her, the grasp on a cookie growing tighter.

“Do you think you can reach Canada before I fling this cookie at you?” Annabelle asked darkly.  Elizabeth tilted her head in confusion.

“Ok.  There won’t be a double wedding…”

“No. There will be a wedding.  My mom is engaged!” Annabelle exclaimed interrupting Elizabeth. She froze and let the new information process.

“This is new behavior for her.” Elizabeth finally said.  Annabelle popped the rest of the cookie into her mouth and reached into the bag for another one.

“She has never gotten engaged before,” Elizabeth said to Annabelle who nodded in agreement.

“I know. I never expected her to get married again. It is unnatural.  She can’t really love this guy.  She barely knows Eli Cooper.” Annabelle said shaking her head in disbelief.  Elizabeth leaned against the counter and looked at Annabelle thoughtfully.

“Cooper. You knew a Cooper at some point, right?” Elizabeth asked.  Annabelle sighed and leaned against the counter.

“Jack Cooper. We went out on a date our freshman year. Well, no. I thought it was a date. He thought it was a day out with a friend.” Annabelle volunteered.

“Was Eli Cooper nice?”

“Yes, he was very nice.  He really likes my mom and seems to treat her well.  I can’t handle another guy taking the place of…” Annabelle said trailing off and looking down at the cookies in front of her.  Elizabeth gave her a sad smile.  Before either one could say what they were thinking, Annabelle grabbed her stomach.

“Ok. Cookies and tequila were not a good idea.  I’m sorry.” Annabelle told Elizabeth running off to the bathroom next to her bedroom. Elizabeth went to follow her but heard a knock at the front door.  Elizabeth sighed and made her way towards the front.

“Sarah? I think you should come back tomorrow…” Elizabeth said stopping short after she saw who was standing there.  Elizabeth gasped and slammed the door and locked it and then she looked through the peephole.

“Who is it?” She asked sweetly.  She could hear a laugh coming from the other side.

“Oh, now you ask!” Annabelle yelled through the bathroom door.  Elizabeth looked back at the bathroom and stuck out her tongue.

“We have Annabelle’s jacket and various objects.  Her mom sent us to check on her.” The man said through the door.  Elizabeth shook her head at the peephole.

“What is Annabelle’s mom’s name? And who are you?” Elizabeth asked.  She could see the guy smile at the door and adjust Annabelle’s jacket on his arm.

“I’m Jack Cooper, and this is Ethan Parker. Annabelle’s mom, Sarah, is going to be my new Stepmom. Carol Brady if you will.” He told her.  Elizabeth recognizing the Cooper name unlocked the door and threw it open.

“Jack Cooper or is it Greg Brady? Who are you supposed to be?” Elizabeth asked Ethan as the two men cautiously walked into the apartment.

“I guess I’m Cousin Oliver,” Ethan responded dryly.  Jack motioned for Elizabeth to ignore him.

“Elizabeth, right? I was told you would be around. Sarah said you are Annabelle’s best friend.” Jack said.  Elizabeth nodded reaching out for the coat and purse resting on Jack’s arm.

“Don’t worry. Her phone and keys are still in there, but I didn’t see a wallet.” Jack said looking at the kitchen.  Elizabeth followed his gaze and threw everything onto the couch.

“She didn’t bring it with her tonight. Sister Cindy is in the bathroom if you are looking for her.” Elizabeth said smiling at him.

“Does that make you Marsha or Jan?” Jack asked as he smiled back at Elizabeth.

“I’m Alice.  I take care of things around here.” Elizabeth told him.

Jack opened his mouth to respond as his cell phone rang. He excused himself before turning away to answer. Elizabeth quickly ran her fingers through her blonde hair and tried to brush off any crumbs left on her shirt.  As she cleaned, she noticed that Ethan was now freely wandering around the apartment.

“Where is Annabelle?” Ethan asked Elizabeth as he paused in front of her bookcases.

“She is in the ladies room,” Elizabeth responded.  “Who are you again?”

“Jack’s friend,” Ethan said as he pulled out a book, looking at the back cover.

“Oh no. Here comes the book snob.” Jack joked walking over towards Ethan. Elizabeth followed Jack, her eyes looking over at the closed bathroom door.

“I’m not a book snob. I’m just very protective over my books.” Ethan responded as she flipped the book onto the side, running a long finger over the spine. “Annabelle apparently doesn’t feel the same way.”

“Come on!” Annabelle yelled as she opened the bathroom door.  She threw open the door and walked with purpose towards the three of them.  Elizabeth and Jack shared a look while Ethan continued to run his finger over the spine.

“Stop fondling my books,” Annabelle demanded of Ethan.  He raised one eyebrow and smiled at her.

“You think this is fondling?”

“Put down the book,” Annabelle asked pulling it out of his hand and holding it close to her chest. “What are you two doing here?”

“Your mom wanted to make sure if you were ok and return your stuff to you,” Jack said pointing to the pile on the couch.

“I know she has a phone and legs. She could have done it.” Annabelle muttered as she put the book back up onto the shelf.

“That’s what I said,” Ethan muttered back.

“She wasn’t sure you wanted to see her. You did just kind of run out of there. Which is unlike you Annabelle.” Jack said running his hand through his dirty blonde hair, letting a few strands fall over his blue eyes.

Annabelle stalled, her eyes taking in what Jack was doing.

“Thank you, boys. In one more hour, she would be lost without her phone.” Elizabeth said to break the silence in the room.

“Are you ok?” Ethan asked as his eyes moved over the other books in her case.  He paused and looked over at her waiting for a response. Jack and Elizabeth shared a look between them.

“I’m fine. Thanks for the visit. Time to go.” Annabelle whispered to Ethan turning away to walk back to the kitchen.

“It will be okay.  It’s not like they are getting married tomorrow. Sleep on it. It will look better in the morning.” Jack yelled towards Annabelle who was making her way back towards the cookies.

She stopped in front of the counter and turned back towards the group. “How many sentences?” Annabelle asked. Elizabeth and Jack looked over at her confused. Ethan turned towards her with a smirk on his face.

“Uh, time to go. She has officially lost it.” Elizabeth crooned pushing the two guys towards the door. Jack nodded at Annabelle as he walked by towards the front door.

Ethan slowed down. “Twenty-two. Why?”

Annabelle shrugged in response. “Just wondering.” She watched Ethan nod and walk out the front door to meet Jack.

“Thanks for stopping by! Have a great night guys.” Elizabeth said waving as she shut the door. Once she locked it tight and turned back to Annabelle. “Hello? What the hell just happened?”

Annabelle picked up a cookie and looked around. “Where is my Patron?!”

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