Don't Hex with Texas

Page 28


“I’ll go see if Beth can watch Davy,” Molly said. “She and Teddy are good with him. It was nice meeting you, Owen.”
Owen looked dazed. “Do you have a chart?” he asked softly.
“I’ll draw you one.”
Our momentary respite ended when Mom showed up and things really got interesting. I wasn’t sure what she was doing at the store when she was supposed to be resting, but she had a radar for detecting interesting or embarrassing events in her children’s lives. She headed straight toward us, as though she already knew Owen would be there.
Then she managed a double-take reaction that was almost too good to have been unplanned. “Oh!”
she said when she saw him. “My! Katie, who’s your friend?”
If I hadn’t already introduced him to the rest of the family I might have tried to pass him off as a customer before hustling him away from the store. Instead, I gritted my teeth and repeated my rote introduction. Owen didn’t have Rod’s natural (and sometimes unnatural) charm, but he was the kind of guy mothers can’t help but like, all clean-cut and polite. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Chandler,” he said.
She actually blushed, which may have been a first, as I would have thought she was incapable of being embarrassed. At least, she always acted like she didn’t understand the concept of embarrassment around us. “Oh!” she said, fluttering a hand, “Please, call me Lois. So, you came all the way from New York to see our Katie. You must be a very special friend, indeed.” Her tone left no doubt as to what she meant by “very special.”
It was Owen’s turn to blush, and I could feel my own cheeks flaming. I wasn’t sure what to say.
While I froze and panicked, Owen took a step closer to me and said, “Well, Katie is rather special.” I was afraid I’d drop to the floor and die, right then and there.
“Ohhhhh!” Mom said, her eyebrows shooting up to her hairline. “Now, where are you staying while you’re in town? Of course, you’ll have to stay with us. We have a couple of extra bedrooms since the boys have all moved out. Katie’s the only one of the bunch who still isn’t married— yet .” She fluttered her eyelashes and gave Owen a meaningful look on the word “yet,” leaving no doubt that she expected him to step up to the plate and propose at any moment.
“That’s very kind of you to offer,” Owen began, shooting hesitant glances between her and me.
“I insist! You don’t want to stay at that crummy old motel.”
“Mom!” I hissed. “My friend runs that motel.” It wasn’t exactly four-star accommodations, but it was clean, neat, and safe, except when the office windows disappeared, and even then, nothing had been stolen. Even better, my parents didn’t live there. And I didn’t live there. I wouldn’t have to be constantly aware of him under the same roof, seeing him first thing in the morning, and generally being reminded of all the reasons I hated that we couldn’t be together. I also didn’t think it was a great idea for him to have that much proximity to me. That is, if he didn’t hate me now. For all I knew, he’d have no trouble resisting my nearness.
“I’m sure it’s nice enough, but we have plenty of room, and it’s so much homier.”
“The motel does have free high-speed Internet access,” I pointed out. Nita called it her lifeline. “And cable. HBO, even.”
“Katie, I’m sure Owen didn’t come all this way to play on the Internet and watch TV,” Mom said, taking Owen by the arm. “Of course you’ll stay with us. I’ll be insulted if you don’t.”
She looked like she was about to drag him physically out of the store. Dad came to his rescue by showing up just then with Frank Jr. “I hear Teddy got that formula figured out,” Dad said.
“Frank!” Mom said, dragging Owen over to him. “This is Owen . He’s Katie’s friend . Here from NewYork .” She emphasized every few words, as though trying to impart some kind of extra significance.
“That’s nice,” Dad said. “Good to meet you, Owen.” Then he turned back to Mom. “And what are you doing out and about? Aren’t you supposed to be resting?”
“I’m not sick, Frank. The doctor said so. I had errands to run.”
Before this got too crazy, I stepped forward. “If Owen’s going to stay with us, I ought to get him over there so he doesn’t have to hang around here all day.” Mom was too busy being pleased about winning the argument to notice him escaping from her. “You can follow me to the house,” I told him.