“We should have a party to celebrate,” Darah proposed as the whole crew sat around the table. She pulled out a folder from behind her back and placed it open on the table.

Abe and Phoebe exchanged glances before peering down at the elaborate scrapbook page.

Bart sighed. “This isn’t necessary, you know that right?”

Darah wrinkled her nose at him. No matter how many times her siblings had explained that this was a temporary solution for Geraldine’s in-laws, she refused to listen to reason. She beamed at the woman beside him. “Geri, what do you think?”

Geraldine silently studied the page, taking in the meticulous work Darah had put into it. She sniffed and the Teka men stiffened. Even Eleazer frowned with concern as Geraldine swiped a hand over her cheeks.

Bart could feel the eyes of his siblings on him and he hesitantly lifted a hand to Geraldine’s shoulder. Except his hand hovered, causing  Darah to scowl.

Then he dropped his hand when Geraldine sat up.  She gave Darah a weak smile. “It’s nice, Darah. Thank you.”

“So we can have one then?” the teenage girl asked, hope in her eyes.

She’d been this excited when Abe and Phoebe announced their nuptials, helping her future sister-in-law with wedding errands, and endearing herself to Phoebe’s mother with her creative ideas for the ceremony. The teenager loved weddings and Bart could see she was practically drooling at the chance to plan his.

Before he could even protest, Phoebe waved him off and turned to Darah. “It’s a good idea, it certainly will get everyone in the mood. Maybe we can take pictures so you can show your in-laws.

“That sounds fine.” Geraldine managed a wobbly smile.

Phoebe winked, then turned to her young sister-in-law. “Listen Darah, think small gathering. Nothing too crazy, alright?”

“Got it!” Darah turned to Geraldine. “It’ll be something nice and simple to celebrate your engagement.”

“One that’ll end soon,” Bart muttered, his derisive statement spoiling the mood. He shrugged at the glares directed his way.

Geraldine’s wobbly smile waned. “Guys, I’m sorry to get you involved so foolishly…”

Giving Bart a withering glare, Phoebe reached over to grab Geraldine’s hand. “We’re family, Geri, and family sticks together no matter what. Especially this one, right guys?”

Abe, Darah and Eleazar nodded. Bart tamped a sigh.

Biting her bottom lip, she looked up at Phoebe’s kind smile and feeling foolish that she’d once resented the woman for stepping into a role she’d aspired to years ago. She lowered her head again, ashamed. “Thank you.”

“Of course.” Phoebe squeezed Geraldine’s hand. “Now Darah, give us the less extravagant version of the wedding plans.”

Darah promptly delved into her presentation of the simple backyard party; painting a lovely picture of fresh lilies and tealights strewn all over the backyard, with a simple two-tiered carrot and vanilla bean cake.

“No fondant!” Eleazar demanded, prompting laughter for the first time that evening.

Darah nodded, scribbling it down in her scrapbook. “Buttermilk frosting then. That okay guys?”

The newly-engaged couple nodded; a wistful smile present on Geraldine’s face. Phoebe caught Bart peeking at Geraldine and she nudged Abe. When he gave her his attention, she subtly gestured toward the couple. Amused, Abe rolled his eyes and shook his head.

Then Phoebe wriggled her brows in a secret message to which he understood and answered with a nod. Their exchange went unnoticed by the others.

“Do we have to lie though?” Eleazar asked, his brow furrowed.

Darah heaved a sigh. “It’s not a lie, Eli… Bart and Geri are getting engaged.”

Eleazar looked to Abe and Phoebe. “So they’ll get married like you guys did?”

The room grew silent as the adults exchanged glances. Then as each adult grappled with a simpler explanation for the youngest Teka sibling, the doorbell rang.

Abe quickly stood and hurried to the door. Pulling it open, his eyes widened in surprise. “Junior!”

“Junior?” Phoebe released Geraldine’s hand and stood from the table. She walked over to her husband just as he released Clement from a hug. “What are you doing here?”

Clement gave her a wry smile. “Now what kind of welcome is that for your favorite?”

Smirking, Phoebe opened her arms to embrace him. “Of course I’m happy to see you. Pleasantly surprised, actually.” She patted his shoulder and leaned back. “What brings you home?”

Something flickered in his eyes as he released her. “I’ll explain in a minute.”

“Explain what?” Abe and Phoebe said simultaneously.

“In a minute.” He laughed at their similar expressions and turned toward the den. “Anyone home?”

Eleazar and Darah hurried to meet him. Catching each other’s eyes for a brief second, the newly-engaged couple awkwardly left the table to join the family.

“Hey guys.” Clement’s eyes moved over to Geraldine and his brows shot up in surprise. “Whoa, you’re back.”

Geraldine gave him a weak smile. “Hey Junior.”

“Guess what?” Eleazar laughed when Clement ruffled his hair and leaned to his side.

Clement chuckled. “What am I guessing?”

Eleazar hooked a thumb at the couple closest to the kitchen. “Bart and Geri are getting married.”

Clement’s gaze swung to his older brother and his grin widened. “Well it’s about time.”

Geraldine snuck Bart a curious glance. Bart gave his brother a tight smile.

“It’s a fake marriage, silly,” Darah muttered.

Clement’s grin eased off, confusion marring his forehead. “Fake what?”

Abe came to stand by Clement’s shoulder and placed his hand there. “First explain why you’re here in the middle of the semester. Did something happen?”

All eyes turned to Clement and the young man gave them a weak smile. “I dropped out.”

“You did what?!” Everyone except Geraldine and Eleazar demanded in disbelief.

<<Chapter 8 || Chapter 10>>

My sincerest apologies for the delay… I’m back now. 🙂