#Bonus 5: The Tease
Dust and sweat clung to my skin as I wrestled with the new living room furniture.
It was a final touch to the renovations we’d been slogging through for months, transforming our once dull house into a vibrant home. Despite the exhaustion tugging at my muscles, a sense of satisfaction washed over me as I looked around the house. Our house.
Just as I was finishing up on the final bench for our massive dining room table, my phone buzzed in my pocket.
A picture of Nina lit up the screen, her smile making my lips curve in response. “Hey, love,” I answered, using my cleanest elbow to press the speaker button.
“Enzo,” she started, and I could already hear the hesitation in her voice.
“I… uh… had a little run-in with a raccoon. I maybe… sort of… kind of got myself stuck in a ditch.”
The last part of her sentence came out all at once like an avalanche. I could tell immediately that she was embarrassed. And I was a man; it was my job to capitalize on her embarrassment. What good would it be if I didn’t tease my fiancee a little?
I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. A raccoon?” 1 chortled. “Are you telling me you swerved off of the road because of a little raccoon?”
“Yes, okay! It was scary, alright? And I didn’t wanna hit it!” Nina huffed on the other end of the line. I could almost see her pouting, her arms crossed in defiance.
I couldn’t stop myself from teasing her relentlessly; to think that Nina Harper, the strong and independent woman who pretty much single-handedly saved the entire town of Mountainview from the Crescents, survived on her own with a bullet hole in her leg, got spooked by a little raccoon.
“Oh, Nina, I don’t know if I should leave you alone anymore,” I continued to tease as I stood and wiped the sawdust off of my hands. “Raccoons today, and what’s next? Squirrels tomorrow?”
“I need you to come pick me up,” she
said, ignoring my jabs. “And we still
need cake supplies.”
“Alright, alright,” I sighed, trying to smother my laughter as my voice took on a more serious tone. “I’m on my way. You’re okay though, right?”
“I’m fine,” Nina replied, letting out a
small sigh of relief. “Just artnoyed, both
at myself and that damn bastard of a raccoon.
With a promise to pick up Nina, I hung up and prepared to leave. Just as I was heading out the door, however, a glint caught my eye. I frowned as I approached the little hallway table that sat near the front door.
It was a photograph of my mother in a cracked frame, forgotten in the whirlwind of renovations. I picked it up gently, tracing the image of her smiling face. I missed her. It wasn’t fair that she wouldn’t be there for my wedding with Nina, for all of the moments that 1 wanted to share with her.
My father, too. As much as he could be a bastard sometimes after my mom died, I still missed him. I wanted nothing more than to make up for those lost years, to finally come to a respectful understanding with my father.
I wondered if either of them would have liked the renovations we made on this house; my mother likely would have loved the bright colors and the eclectic furniture. I think that my father would have liked it, too,
although he seemed to pick up a fondness for the color gray after my mom died.
But I didn’t think that he ever actually liked the color gray. I think that it was really just a way for him to punish himself, a way to convey the feeling in his heart that his life had become void of color since my mom died.
Sighing, I placed the photograph down and made a mental note to pick up a new frame while we were out.
With a last, satisfied look around the nearly finished living room, I grabbed
my keys and headed to the car. Not even ten minutes down the road, I spotted her. As I pulled up next to Nina’s car in the ditch, I found her sitting on the hood with a stubborn pout on her face.
Despite my concern, her sulky expression struck me as comical, and I couldn’t suppress a chuckle.
“Nina versus the raccoon,” I quipped as I climbed out of my pickup truck – it was really my father’s truck, but I decided to use it rather than let it sit in the garage and collect dust. It was a nice truck, too.
It baffled me that Lewis and his
followers didn’t bother to steal it, but then again, they didn’t seem to steal much of anything. The act of ransacking my dad’s house was more of a way to show their disrespect than anything else. They may as well have spat on his grave. But I supposed that it was a good thing that they didn’t know where he was buried. “I think we can safely declare the raccoon the winner,” I continued, my lips curling up into a teasing grin as I approached.
Nina’s chocolatey brown eyes narrowed, but I could see a smile tugging at her lips.
“Just wait till I bake the best cake
you’ve ever tasted,” she hissed as she
jumped down off of the hood of the car.
“Then we’ll see who’s laughing.”
“Alright, alright.” I threw my hands up in surrender as Nina strode up to me. She was small, but I had to admit that she could be a little scary at times. If she ever truly got mad at me… Well, thes I might just have to flee the country.
Nina, smiling and shaking her head, brushed past me with a kiss on my cheek and climbed into the passenger side of my truck. I walked around and inspected her car for damage; it was fine, just as she said.
But the sun was getting lower in the sky, and I didn’t have a tow package hooked up to my truck.
We would have to call the local tow company and have them take her car back to the house, but for now, we needed to get to the store and get that cake… and I had a secondary mission, too.
I turned back to the truck, where Nina was staring at me through the windshield. Even from where I stood, her brown eyes sparkled in the golden hour that was glowing around us.
I couldn’t help but stop on the side of the road, our eyes connecting through the windshield. In her half-disheveled look, after spending weeks preparing for our wedding, renovating our new home, and preparing for our engagement dinner, she looked more beautiful than ever; even more beautiful than when she took on the evil Luna.
I knew there was no other place I’d rather be. Despite the day’s setbacks and my fleeting sadness, the joy of our shared life was far more compelling.
We were building a home, piecing together a life filled with love, laughter, and yes, even confrontations with raccoons. This was our life, and I wouldn’t change a thing.