Mike was looking over the very long register tapes. “Twelve minutes to drag half the store to the counter, eleven minutes to haggle over the price with all the gusto of an Egyptian camel merchant; seventeen minutes to tie up three registers and use four rolls of paper, and thirteen minutes to pack the taxi while half of New York gave me directions on how to do it. Yes, Sam, we’re right on time.”
Leaning across two shopping bags, she smiled at him. “Do you mind?”
“No,” he said honestly, reaching out to caress her cheek. The patronizing look was gone and in its place was again that look of desire.
Still smiling, Samantha leaned back against the bags. It didn’t look as though Mike was going to expect her to be a docile little thing who served him breakfast in bed.
Since the movers didn’t bother to arrive on time, Sam and Mike arrived only twenty minutes after they did to find Maxie sitting up in bed and giving orders to the three robust young men who were sweating as they hauled the furniture into the room. A doctor had a stethoscope to her heart.
“Lady, we already told you that we just move things, we don’t hang pictures,” one of the men was saying.
“Well, Nana,” Samantha said upon entering the room, “it looks as though you have everything under control.” She kissed Maxie’s cheek as the doctor straight-end up, then after he’d left the room, Samantha started telling her all about what Mike had done to her apartment, then how Mike had bought so many books and magazines and how Mike said this and did that and—
Mike left the room with the doctor. “How is she?”
“Failing,” the doctor said, then grinned. “But she’s happy while she’s here. I wish all my patients had a couple of fairy godmothers like the two of you. But go easy on the booze, all right?”
“She brought chocolates today.”
“Fine,” the doctor said, then grew serious. “I hope your wife is prepared for Abby’s death.”
“Yeah, Sam’s prepared for death,” Mike said, no longer smiling. “She’s had lots of rehearsal time. Lots.”
It was three hours later when the telephone beside Samantha’s newly decorated bed began ringing and Michael realized that it was his own line and pushed the appropriate button. After removing Samantha’s ankle from his ear and replacing it with the telephone receiver, Mike said, “Hello?”
“Michael? Is that you?”
“Mom! Good to hear your voice. You sound so close.”
Samantha untangled herself from Mike with the speed of a preacher’s daughter caught naked at a revival meeting and sat up primly, the covers clutched to her neck.
“Oh, God, no,” Mike was saying, his voice filled with trepidation, then looking up at Samantha, he saw that she’d gone white—as though she thought he’d just heard of someone’s death. Mike put his hand over the receiver. “My family has come to New York to meet you.”
After the long moment it took for the meaning of those words to sink into Samantha’s brains, she collapsed back against the bed. She almost, almost wished it had been a death.
“How many of you are there?” Mike asked then paused. “Oh? That many, huh?” Pause. “Dad come too?” Pause. “Great, it’ll be good to see everyone and I’m sure the kids will have a good time.” Mike’s face changed from mere dread to horror. “Mom, Frank didn’t come, did he? Tell me Frank didn’t come too.” Pause. “Well yes, of course I’ll be glad to see him, and no, Raine and I didn’t scratch his precious car.” Pause. “Sam? Oh, she’s here with me.”
Samantha watched Mike’s face turn red.
“Mother! I’m shocked by you. Okay, okay, we’ll be there just as soon as we get dr…er, ah, as soon as we can. See you in a few minutes.” As he hung up the telephone, Samantha could hear Mike’s mother laughing.
For a moment they lay on the bed, not touching, both looking up at the underside of the canopy.
“Why?” Samantha whispered.
Mike rolled on his side and ran his finger down her bare stomach. “I told you: They want to meet you.”
“Why do they want to meet me? What have you told them about…us? Did you tell them that we…that we…?”
Mike grinned at her. “One of the major reasons I left Colorado was because of things like that call. But it didn’t do any good to come to New York, they still know everything about me. But to answer your question, no, I didn’t tell them about us, but I’m sure Raine did and Blair did and Jeanne and Vicky did. I don’t know why I left Colorado, since it’s a regular convention of Taggerts and Montgomerys right here in New York.”
She rolled toward him. “Oh, Mike, I’m scared. What if they don’t like me?”
“How could they not? I like you.”
“But you’ve wanted to go to bed with me.”
“What does that mean? That I’m indiscriminate? That if she’s pretty and sexy and I want to go to bed with her, then I’ll like her?”