Welcome to another Sample Sunday. With the anniversary of Brunch at Ruby’s release approaching, I hope these samples from Dinner at Sam’s will whet appetites for the next episode in the lives of Renee, Maxine and Debra.
Slightly edited, subject to change, as usual! Enjoy!
After I hang up with Daddy, I scroll through my address book to call Maxine. She and Joseph live a few blocks away and I know she is awake.
“Why are you calling my house at this time of morning, Renee?” Maxine snaps, by way of greeting. “What if I was in bed with my husband, giving him some of that Good Maxine?”
“Because I know you’re awake and your little “Good Maxine” blocker would never let morning sex happen.”
“It’s a shame how right you are.” Maxine sighs, but it’s one of those content, happy sighs. I’ve learned to tell the difference between that, and a “someone come get this baby” sigh. “How are you this morning? You talk to your dad already?”
“I’m good. Yeah I talked to him. Malcolm just left for work. You sound tired.”
“You know when you were taking care of your dad, how I used to tell you all the time that you sounded tired and you were grumpy?”
“Well, now I get it. I’ve never been so exhausted in my life.”
I’m loving seeing Maxine get her ass handed to her after so many years of looking down her nose at other people. “How many times last night?”
“I lost count. She was up every two hours like clockwork. And she wouldn’t take the bottle for Joseph so I was up every two hours.” Maxine yawns an unladylike roar. “Of course, now that I need to take her over to Inell’s, she’s fast asleep and I don’t want to wake her up.”
I chuckle, though under my breath.
“I hear you laughing. What do you want?”
“I was going to come by for coffee if you were up for it. Or I could run by Starbucks and grab us something.”
“Starbucks, please. I don’t have the energy to mess with that ridiculous brewing system.”
I know her order by heart, so I slip my bag over my shoulder and head out to the car for a short trip to Starbucks and then to Max and Joseph’s house and a visit with my niece, Imani. She’s a perfect mix of her parents– dark, curly hair, bright brown eyes, the roundest cheeks you ever saw on a baby and roll upon roll from her arms to her thighs and her pudgy little feet. She’s a plump and happy dollop of dark chocolate….when she’s not hungry. Or wet. Or tired. Or just bothered in general.
When I was younger, and I did things my mother didn’t understand, she’d tell me that she hoped I didn’t have children like me. Well… no one issued that warning to Maxine. Imani is so much like her mother, it’s frightening.
Maxine meets me at the door with the baby perched in one of her arms. They’re both wearing a luscious pink and I’m betting even Imani wears a designer label.
“There’s my little doo-wop!” I coo at her and she gives me a gummy smile. Maxine takes the venti double espresso mocha that I picked up for her and lets me take the baby. I bounce her gently and revel in the sweet scent of baby shampoo in my nostrils, fat little hands gripping my shirt and sweet sounds coming from her mouth.
Before meeting Malcolm, and Maxine having a baby, I’d never thought about having children. I’d missed most of Debra’s pregnancy and a lot of Kendra’s growing up… and when I was with Marcus, the idea of children with him never crossed my mind. But now… things are different. Malcolm and I are more solid than I’d ever imagined we’d be and thoughts of taking another huge leap… or two… with him have been running rampant through my mind.
“Busy day in real estate today?“
Maxine nods, sipping hot coffee as quickly as she can. “The spring market is really aggressive. The best it’s ever been, actually. We’re busting at the seams with work. I need to hire some more agents and since Imani was born I haven’t been able to work full time.”
She drops onto the couch, the expensive white leather couch from her condo. I still can’t believe she sold it, but after she and Joseph moved into the house, there wasn’t a need to hang onto it. With upgrades to the property and improvements in the market, she made a killing on the sale.
I lower myself onto the couch a few cushions away from her and try to drink my latte without the baby knocking it from my hands. I manage a sip or two and then set the cup on the coffee table in front of me.
“Isn’t it Virgil’s job to worry about that stuff?“ Her long suffering assistant and General Manager at Donovan is a real estate machine. He’s also snooty and pretentious and treats me like belly button lint whenever I happen to talk to him. Although, I’ve been reassured, he treats everyone that way.
“He’s already working ten hour days, trying to fill in for me. I need to get back to one hundred percent. I don’t know how Debra does this working and raising children thing.”
The third Musketeer to our gang of childhood friends, Debra is the Suzy Homemaker of the group, the one who has it all, knows it all, always has an answer. These days, she’s been concentrating on rebuilding her life after nearly losing her husband, her daughter and her job, all at once.
“I don’t think Debra did it very well. That’s how she ended up losing her job.”
“She didn’t lose her job, Renee. She resigned.”
“After they offered her a Sabbatical in lieu of firing her.”
“It’s still not the same thing. She voluntarily left.”
I roll my eyes but smile inwardly. Maxine and Debra pick at each other like sisters, but no one can pick at Debra except Maxine. Not even me.
Imani kicks her little legs and whines, her arms outstretched for Maxine. Max reaches for her and gathers the baby to her chest, plopping a trail of kisses across her cheek. “I guess we’d better go see Grandma so she can get busy spoiling you for the day.”
I stand and help Max gather the diaper bag and her purse and follow her to the car. She straps Imani into her car seat and drops another kiss on a pudgy cheek before backing out and closing the door. It’s still strange to see a car seat in the back of the stark white Maserati that, I have on good opinion, actually gets dirty every once in awhile.
“Off I go. I’m every woman, and all that Oprah feel good shit.” We laugh as I hug her, then I step back and let her get into the car and start it up before I head to my own car.
Smiling, sipping coffee, singing along to the radio, I am bound for Lorraine Gladwell Books.