As things started settling down with Lulu and me, a few minor changes needed to be made. But they were totally minor. I started going without Lucky Charms in the morning. When I wake up, I have an absolute smoke show in my bed. Although, she recently thought about taking up yoga at the gym down the street and I had to step in with a resounding HELL NO. So, Lulu decided to take up kickboxing instead. If she wanted to, she could probably kick my ass in a fight. But more importantly, there was Saturday night.
Lulu may not have had anything to do with the mansion incident (which was still a touchy subject around us. She'd always apologize all over herself and it'd just end in her getting sad. We didn't need that for her.), but that didn't mean she couldn't plan a party. Even though, I don't know if I could call our Saturday nights a party. On the nights where Rox wasn't competing or she was competing the next day, we had our own bracket. The whole family would come over to our house, crack open a liquor of our choice or our not choice (only if they were Roxie and Christian), and hang out. I missed nights like these. And this Saturday would be no different.
"Hey, Quenton?" Lulu doubled over the kitchen counter, peeking around the corner into the living room, "Did you go to the grocery store on the way home?"
"Shit…" I grumbled to myself, "I knew I was forgetting something."
"I asked you one thing," she groaned.
"I forgot!" I squeaked, "I'm sorry. I'll go now, if you want me to."
"No," Lulu let it go, "I'm starting to like that whole grocery shopping thing. It's not like we're out of anything, but we should probably get snacks."
"Actually!" she chimed, weirdly excited, "I found something on Pinterest…"
"Lulu," I stopped her, "I love you. More than anything in the world. But Pinterest has consumed you."
"I know," Lulu bit her lip, "I have a problem. But I love Pinterest. And they make everything look so yummy…"
"I know," I agreed, "But you know what that is?"
"It's all Photo Shop," she flattened out on the kitchen counter, "I know. Pinterest lies through its teeth. But maybe this time, we'll get lucky and one thing will work out for me. We don't have time for it, though. Now that I think about it."
"Weren't you home all day?" I wondered.
"No," Lulu shook her head, "I stopped by the mansion today."
"And how is everyone?" One of these days, I really needed to label the cables behind the TV. Tonight was the championship bracket. And…I know it's going to be a bloodbath.
"Well," she smiled, "Sophie and Angela send their love."
"It's too bad they couldn't come tonight," I awed.
"I'm sure Elias is devastated."
"I heard from Elias the other day," I told her, "He just saw her a couple nights ago. They're good. I hope those crazy kids work out."
"Me, too," Lulu let out a sweet sigh, "When is everyone supposed to be here?"
"I'm guessing there's the first one," I got up from the rat's nest of cables and started heading for the door.
"Fuck!" Lulu grumbled, grabbing the Range Rover keys off the hook and kissing my cheek, "I'm going to go make a quick run to the store. You want anything specific?"
"Surprise me," I let her go, grabbing the front door while Lulu snuck out through the back. Sure enough, the first ones were here, "Didn't I just see you?"
"And I'm here to wipe the floor with you, Overstreet," Roxie hugged me tight, "No matter what happens, we're still friends at the end of this, right?"
"Of course," I promised, "I love you, Roxie. And a video game isn't going to tear us apart."
"I don't know," she pointed out, "There was that one time we played Mario Party and I thought I was going to stab you."
"I can't help that the rolls were in my favor."
"My money's on the professional tonight," Christian pulled up a chair at the kitchen table, "Speaking of the ladies in our lives, where's the sugar mama, Quenton?"
"We've talked about this, Christian," I scolded him, "Lulu's not my sugar mama. And she went to the grocery store. She should be back in ten minutes. Unless she gets sidetracked like I do."
"And comes back with a cart full of Cosmic Brownies," Roxie teased.
"That was us, Rox," Christian corrected her.
"Shit," she pouted, "Thanks for calling us out, baby. Really cool. So appreciated."
"I love you, too," he pulled Roxie into his lap.
"Tilted already, Rox?" I jabbed.
"Fuck off, Quenton," Roxie glared a hole through me, "You know how easy that is for me."
"And I know your buttons," I pointed out, "You have to let that shit go, Roxie. The other side knows you're easily tilted and I bet you any amount of money they use that to their advantage."
"I know," she sighed out, "It's just…I don't know. It's hard, man."
"Come on," Christian took her hand, "I know something that'll mellow you right out."
"Thank you," Roxie stood up on her toes. Even in her platform boots, she still couldn't reach Christian. Instead, she jumped up, wrapping her legs around his waist, and managed to steal a kiss, "Take me away, my love."
"My pleasure," he carried her off like the princess she was to him. Chances are, he was just going to share a blunt with her to take the edge off. I wonder if Christian gave her something before her last match. That would explain the team's win. She was focused. We all went to go watch that one. And we couldn't have been prouder.
And bachelor number two? Two and three, "Gentlemen…"
"Hi, Quenton!" Elias walked in with Andres in tow.
"Always a pleasure," Andres threw himself into the couch like he owned the place. It's a good thing I didn't buy this furniture new.
"Where'd Christian and Roxie go?" Elias wondered, taking a look around, putting his bag of evening libations on the kitchen table.
"They're on the back porch," I told him, "And Lulu will be back here shortly. Her dumbass boyfriend didn't think to stop at the grocery store on the way home for snacks and booze."
"Way to go, Quenton," Andres teased, "Dumbass."
"Hey!" the side door from the kitchen to the garage slammed, "Only I can get away with calling him that. Well…And Roxie, too. But only on certain occasions. Like when he has it coming and I'm not there."
"Love you, too," I got a quick kiss from Lulu, "Hi, baby."
"Hi," she put the bags up on the kitchen counter, "They were out of Fireball."
"That sucks," I awed, "So, what are you settling with?"
"Tennessee Fire and cream soda," Lulu smiled, "It's delightful. Like drinking a fizzy cinnamon roll."
"That does sound kind of good," Elias perked up.
"You want one, Elias?" she offered.
"Sure," Elias got up from the couch and mixed his own.
"I would've made one for you, sweetie," Lulu brushed him off, "My bartending skills are getting better."
"Don't worry about it," Elias assured, "I got it."
"Isn't he cute, Quenton?" Lulu gushed, laying her head on his shoulder, "Can we keep him?"
"I don't know, Lulu," I chuckled a bit under my breath, "He's a lot of responsibility."
"What the hell, Quenton?" Elias gave me a look, "I'm like a houseplant."
"He takes a lot of caring for him and cleaning up after him," I went on, "And when he's whimpering outside the door at night…"
"I'm not a dog, Quenton!"
"I know," Lulu wrapped herself around Elias's arm, "But I'm sure we can hire it out."
"No, no," I shook my head, "That's not how that works. How else is he going to learn who to listen to?"
"What the hell?!" Elias squeaked.
"And he's excitable," I pointed out, "Don't forget he's excitable. We wouldn't want him peeing on the carpet."
"Fuck both of you," Elias pouted, a drink in his hand and an end on the couch claimed. Although, Andres was damn near pissing himself from laughing.
"Unclench, Elias," Andres gave him a heavy swat to the back, "They're fucking with you. It's how Lulu and Quenton show love. In their own sadistic way."
"See?" I told him, sitting on the arm next to him, "It's all coming from a good place."
"What's coming from a good place?" Roxie walked back in with Christian following closely behind. It's strange. I half expected her to be riding on his shoulders. But she'd end up hitting her head on the ceiling. And none of us want that.
"If I told you to fuck off," I asked her, "What would you respond to that with?"
"That I love you, too," she took a seat on the floor, "Why?"
"Elias is being a little soft," Lulu sat next to her with a drink in her hand.
"It's not that big of a deal, Elias," Roxie assured, "If we didn't fuck with you a little once in a while, that'd mean we hated you. By the way, Quenton…"
"Yeah, Rox?" I grabbed my controller and a spot in the chair, "What's up?"
"Maddie's coming by after work," she told me, "if that's ok."
"I'd never turn her away," I promised, "Of course it is."
"By the way," Lulu did a quick head count, "We're short one. Anyone know where Lucky is?"
"I haven't heard from him," Andres shrugged.
"Me either," Christian chimed in, pulling his lovely lady friend into his lap. And to no surprise, Roxie sucked up his affections like a sponge.
"Neither have I," Elias shook his head.
"Ask and ye shall receive, I guess?" I got the door, "Hey, Lucky. We were just talking about you."
"Sorry, I'm late," Lucky came in with a couple bags on his arms, "I got tied up at the office. Old ladies, man…They take it out of you."
"Looks like it," Christian gave him a wink, "What's with the suit, mate? Escorting, were we?"
"No, no, no," Lucky shook his head, "Do you guys really not know what I do for a living?"
"Popular consensus says old ladies," Roxie was that perfect amount of blissed out and half asleep to where her filter had completely fallen off, "For your sake, I hope that's not true."
"No," Lucky cracked open a beer, "I spend their money for them."
"Oh," Roxie chirped, "Sugar baby. Got it."
"I'm not…" Lucky let out a heavy, exasperated sigh, "Financial advisor. Not a sugar baby. Big difference."
"Same thing," Roxie brushed him off, laying her head in Christian's shoulder, "Just without the sex part."
"My last client just lost her husband," Lucky jumped into my couch, "She was losing her shit about what to do next and she wanted me to be more of her therapist than her financial advisor. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't leave her and she would keep rambling on and on and on. I'm fucking wrecked."
"You want to see wrecked?" Roxie wondered, "Give Quenton and me a couple minutes. He'll be wrecked, too."
"Roxie," I scolded her, cracking open one of those bottles of wine my girlfriend was so kind to pick up for me. Have I ever been made fun of for appreciating a good glass of wine? Oh, yeah. More than once. It's wine. Wine is good when it's done right, "What have I told you about shit talking?"
"No tilting before a match…" she whined.
"That's right," I joined her on the floor, "Alright, kids. No holds barred. Down and dirty street fight. Super Smash Bros. Original recipe. This will be a best three out of five match. There are no rules except one. Does anyone know what that rule is?"
"Nobody's allowed to use Kirby!" Lulu chimed.
"That's my girl," I praised, getting a quick kiss for luck.
"Come on," Roxie pouted, "I main Kirby."
"Why can't anyone be Kirby?" Christian wondered, "Fighting games were never really my style."
"Because," I explained, "Kirby's a copout. Kirby is the best in the game and OP. No Kirby."
"Fine," Roxie allowed, scrolling through the character select screen, "Then, I guess I'll play Pikachu."
"I'll play Link." Because I already had my Zelda backing me up.
"Everybody!" Andres called out, "Place your bets! I got three to one odds on Roxie beating the shit out of Quenton. Minimum buy-in of five dollars."
"Thanks for the faith, Andres," I gave him a nod, "I appreciate the solidarity."
"Hey," Andres shrugged, "What can I say, man? I was a fan of hers long before I was a fan of yours."
"I got ten on Quenton," Elias threw money in the pot. I knew I loved that kid for a reason.
"Thank you, Elias," I gave him a quick high five.
"I got you."
"I'll get twenty on Quenton," Lulu got up and grabbed some cash out of her purse.
"Think about your bets wisely, boys," Christian took Roxie's side, "One of our contenders does this for a living. The other is Quenton."
"My money's on Roxie," Lucky slipped a ten to Andres.
"Switch me," Elias tried to keep his voice down, but I could hear him. The act of betrayal cut me deep. How dare he…
"I think I got this," I took care of the wound to my pride, "At least one of you believes in me."
"Always, baby," Lulu ran her hands down my chest. She got close to my ear, "If you throw this, I'll make tonight the night we push the beds together."
"Our beds are already together," I pointed out, "They were never apart. Are you trying to seduce me as a distraction, Luella?"
"No," she sat next to me, wrapping herself around my arm, "Why would I do that?"
"Roxanne," I shot her a glare while mashing the buttons on my controller, "Don't use my girlfriend against me."
"Or what?" Roxie never broke eye contact with the screen, "You'll use my boyfriend against me? Not going to happen, Overstreet. I am a steel trap. You're not breaking my concentration."
Shit…She's kicking my ass and I'm running low on options. Smash was one of the few fighting games I was actually good at. Everyone except Lulu's bet against me. If I don't win this, I'm going to be sorely disappointed in myself. But at least I know I got to the final round with someone like Roxie. For a while, I thought I'd end up in the final bracket with Lulu. I had no idea she had that kind of skill. But then, Roxie took her out with Samus in the final match. There were no survivors. Although, I was hella impressed with her. But then, I heard a knock at the door. Right there. That was my option.
"Hey, Rox," I stared into the screen, "You might want to get that."
"This isn't my house," Roxie brushed me off, "You should answer your own door."
"I got it," Lulu groaned, getting up from the floor.
"No, no, no," I stopped her, yelling toward the door, "Madilyn Louise, you know better. The door's open."
"Sorry, Quenton," this sweet, loving, innocent creature walked in, wrapped in a short jacket and a pencil skirt. The answer to all my prayers, "I didn't think I should barge in like that. I know Roxie said to come here after work, but..."
"Again," I scolded her, pausing the game and hugging her tight, "You should know better."
I've always had a soft spot for Roxie's younger sister. She was still practically a baby. Just barely seventeen, about to graduate high school in a few months, and smart as hell. The whole world was in front of her. It's amazing that her mother's influence never got to her. She'd kill me if she ever heard me say this, but it did get to Roxie a little. She went through a little bit of a phase where she was nothing but a wild child. Much like her mother before her. Although, as far as Roxie's concerned, ever since she met me, I've been more of a parent to Maddie than their mother ever was.
"I'm sorry," Maddie cuddled into my shoulder, sucking up all the affection she could, "So, what are you guys playing?"
"Smash," Roxie pulled her sister down to the floor, getting a better look, "How you doing, Maddie? You feel ok? You look a little flush."
"I'm fine," Maddie promised, "Just a little tired."
"Alright," Roxie knew when to overstep her boundaries. Maddie didn't look too worse for wear, but I'm sure she's beat, "How long of a shift did you work today?"
"Eight hours," Maddie reported, curling up on the floor with a big ass pillow. I had visions of her being out like a light in the next twenty minutes. Poor kid worked herself to the bone for the sake of saving a little money for college. I'm sure she's been sending out applications left and right lately. And the chances of them all being as far away from here as possible (at her sister's insistence) are probably high, "Eight…Very long hours."
"I'm sorry, baby," Roxie pushed Maddie's hair out of her face, "You shouldn't have to do this."
"Nature of the beast," Maddie rubbed her eyes, mascara smeared on her fist, "I'll be fine. I'd have to do this eventually, right? I'm just getting a head start. Go back to your game, Roxie. I'll be ok."
"You sure?" Roxie worried.
"Yeah," Maddie yawned, "Go ahead."
"Christian…" Roxie shot him some big, sparkly eyes full of concern and nearly tears.
"Yeah," Christian got her subliminal message, pulling Maddie to his hip. And we could kick that timeline up a little to…Oh…Say…Three…Two…One. Now.
After they had been dating a week, Roxie unintentionally got to introduce Christian to the one person in her life that mattered most. If he had Maddie's approval, he was in. He decided to surprise her, but he didn't realize Maddie was staying with her that night and it made for a weird Sunday morning encounter. But instead of the morning he had planned for the two of them, he took both Roxie and Maddie for breakfast somewhere in town. He adored Maddie from day one. And when Roxie came into work the next day…I have never heard her gush about a single human being than what she did about Christian. It wouldn't surprise me if he ever comes to me asking for Roxie's hand. Archaic, in my opinion, but I'd be flattered.
"Alright, Overstreet," Roxie kept her voice down, "Let's go back to kicking ass, shall we?"
"Absolutely," I nodded.
And that was all the confirmation we needed. I had intentions of using Maddie against Roxie like she used Lulu against me, but Maddie's too wiped. I couldn't do that to her. Not for the sake of beating her sister. Instead, I'd fight her on my own merits, trying not to get too overly worked up. Because hell hath no fury like Roxie when Maddie hasn't gotten enough sleep lately and someone wakes the baby. Just because I'm ok with her giving me a digital beating doesn't mean I want a real one. And not over something like that.
But then, it started coming down to the wire. Roxie was at ninety-seven percent damage. I was at a hundred and three. We were tied two matches each. The stage was Final Destination. Shit was getting serious. This was it. One more hit and either one of us were done. This was the moment where Ash Ketchum's hat gets turned backwards. The moment where Link pulls the Master Sword out of the pedestal in the Temple of Time. The moment of greatness where everything comes down to this. I could either throw this or I could kill her in front of all our friends. Decisions, decisions…
I had money riding on this, too, so…
Link grabbed a hold of Pikachu and dropkicked the little yellow shit into oblivion. For someone who did this for a living, said someone also forgot that I kicked ass at this. I dropped the controller, doing my best to not screech my excitement at the top of my lungs. We didn't want to wake the baby. Instead, Roxie dropped her controller and stuck her hand out to me.
"It was an honor and a privilege, Mr. Overstreet," Roxie gave me a nod, "And as always, a good time."
"As to you, Miss Underwood," I extended the same courtesy, "You hung in there, Rox. At one point, I thought you were going to beat me."
"I did, too," she agreed.
"So did I," Elias sighed out.
"So did I," Lucky groaned.
"So did I," Christian pulled his wallet out of his pocket, making sure not to wake Maddie, and slapped a twenty in Andres's hand.
"Yay!" Lulu smiled, leaning over to me, "Sorry, Roxie, but…"
"I understand," Roxie brushed her off, "If it were Christian going against Quenton…"
"It was at one point," I pointed out, "And I kicked his ass to the fucking moon. No offense, Christian."
"None taken," Christian let it go, "It was fun while it lasted. Didn't expect to get knocked out in the first round, though. Tried my best, though."
"And I'm proud of you, baby," Roxie kissed his cheek, "But that meant me not going against you. And it would've been slightly more humiliating."
"When you two are done being cute," Lucky got up and cracked another beer.
"You're just jealous," Christian cuddled Roxie a little closer, "Because I got a cutie in my lap, a cutie on my arm. You need to get you one, too, Lucky."
"I'm good," Lucky brushed him off, "Just a little cynical."
"Besides," Roxie teased, "What would the old lady population of Evergreen do without their favorite sugar baby?"
"Don't bother, Lucky," I advised, "Roxie's ruthless."
"Ruthless," Christian agreed, "But look at that face. You can't be pissed at her for long."
"Hey, Quenton," Lulu laid her head on my shoulder, "It's getting late, don't you think?"
"Yeah," I nodded, "Anyone crashing here?"
"I think Maddie is," Roxie noticed, "I go where she goes."
"And I go where she goes," Christian chimed in.
"By the way, Lulu," Andres slapped some cash in her hand, "Here's your winnings."
"A pleasure doing business with you, Andres," Lulu did a quick count in private. And she made a face at it, "Uh…Andres…You're short a ten."
"House always takes a cut, Mistress," Andres put his well-earned cash in his pocket.
"Fine," she let it go, giving me a quick kiss, "I'll see you in bed."
"Sure will, baby," I sent her off, "Night, boys."
"Night, Quenton," Elias pushed himself up from the couch, helping Andres along with him, "Nicely done beating Roxie."
"You do know that doesn't leave this room, right, Elias?" Roxie was damn near asleep herself, "And if you tell anyone, I can and will have you…Taken care of?"
"Yes, ma'am…" If I didn't know any better, I'd think Elias just pissed himself a little.
"Don't worry, Elias," I promised, "She doesn't have any underground connections."
"Good," he let out a sigh of relief.
"I do, though," Andres admitted, "I got some cousins that have done some…Let's just say less than savory shit. I'm sure they'd do me a favor."
"I'm worried about the life you lead, Andres," Lucky got up, "But what do I know? I'm escorting for old ladies apparently."
"Thought so…" Christian jabbed.
"Shut up," Lucky rolled his eyes, laughing a little bit.
Just as Elias, Andres, and Lucky left, I stood in the doorway of the bedroom, looking down at the beautiful creature asleep in my bed. Sometimes, you wake up, get the mail, make a bowl of cereal, go to work. All the same old, bullshit routine. But sometimes, you go to bed on a Saturday night after a good time with the family you've picked up along the way. That might be a little dysfunctional. That may not have come together in the most orthodox way. But you're still a family nonetheless. And it's all because of that beautiful creature in my bed. I wouldn't trade her for the world. I crawled in next to Lulu and kissed her forehead.
"Good night, Mistress. I love you."