Feeling a little odd asking his mother such a personal question, Mike prayed she wouldn’t start asking awkward questions, but he did need a woman’s advice. “I met a woman—Now, wait a minute, before you start thinking orange blossoms—”
“I didn’t mention orange blossoms, Michael, dear, you did,” Pat said sweetly.
Mike cleared his throat. “Well, anyway, I met this woman. Actually, she’s the daughter of a friend of mine and—”
“Is this the young woman who’s living in your house with you?”
Mike grimaced. His mother was in Chandler, Colorado, over two thousand miles away, yet she knew what he was doing in New York. “I don’t even want to know how you know who’s rented the apartment,” he said.
Pat laughed. “Tammy cleans for your cousin Raine, too. Remember?”
Mike rolled his eyes. The big mouth of one of his Montgomery cousins. He should have known. “Mom, you want to answer my question or find out every tiny detail of my life secondhand from other people?”
“I would love to hear directly from you.”
“She’s never been to New York, and the place terrifies her. Where can I take her to make her like the city?”
Pat’s mind raced. Why was the young woman living in New York if she hated the place? To be near her son? And if she and Mike were in love, what was she like?
“I mean, Mom, should I take her to the top of the Empire State Building? Rockefeller Center? What about the Statue of Liberty? How about Ellis Island?”
Pat drew in her breath, for she knew that Mike hated tourist attractions. Unfortunately, her son was much more at home in a smoke-filled bar than in a group of gawking sightseers, but he must be serious if he was willing to brave the Statue of Liberty for her. “Is she a normal girl?”
“No,” Mike said. “She has three arms, practices several bizarre religions, and talks to her black cat. What do you mean, is she a normal girl?”
“You know exactly what I mean,” Pat snapped. “Is she like that stripper who visits you, or is she one of those muscle girls from your gym? Knowing you, Mike, she could be a down-on-her-luck prostitute.”
Mike smiled at the phone. “And what would you say if I said she was one of those and that I was going to marry her?”
Pat didn’t hesitate. “I’d ask what you wanted for a wedding gift.”
Mike laughed. “Okay, she’s normal. Very normal, if by that you mean prim and proper. Sam could marry a preacher.”
Pat put her hand over the phone, rolled her eyes skyward, and whispered, “Thank you.” “Take her shopping,” Pat said with enthusiasm. “Show her the stores on Fifth. Take her to Saks. Your cousin Vicky is a buyer at Saks.”
“Oh?” Mike said without much interest. He had too many relatives to remember half of them. “And which one is she?”
“You know very well that she’s J.T. and Aria’s youngest. If your young lady still doesn’t like New York after she’s seen Saks, take her walking on Madison. Start at Sixty-first, walk up to the Eighties, and look in all the store windows.”
Mike was laughing. “Especially in the jewelry store windows? Maybe buy her a diamond or two? The kind of diamonds in engagement rings? Tell me, Mom, how many women have you mentally married me off to in my short life?”
“At least six,” Pat said, laughing in return.
Mike’s voice changed to serious. “Mom, you and Dad are happily married, aren’t you?”
At the tone of his voice, Pat thought her heart skipped a beat, for something was troubling her child. “Of course we are, darling.”
“Samantha—that’s her name—said that any woman who has been married for longer than two years to the same man has a very high pain tolerance. You don’t think that’s true, do you?”
After a futile attempt at controlling her laughter, Pat released it. Even when Mike kept saying, “Mom! Mom!” she kept laughing. Even when she knew he put the phone down in disgust, she still couldn’t stop laughing.
Mike put down the telephone, more than a little annoyed at his mother, actually, annoyed at all women. If they thought marriage to a man was so horrible, why were they all trying to get married? All of them except Samantha, that is, he thought. Or maybe her reluctance was merely an act.
Smiling, he went to the bedroom to dress. For Samantha he would put on a suit and tie. Maybe he’d even wear that Italian number his sister had picked out for him.
Forty-five minutes later, he emerged from the bedroom, showered, shaved, and dressed, then checked the hall mirror and straightened his tie. Not bad, he thought. Not bad at all.
“Sam!” he yelled up the stairs. “You ready to go?”