“What!?” Joni responded, mouth wide open and eyes even wider. “No! At least, not right now! Or in the next nine months; that’s for sure! What in the world made you ask that?”
Deb visibly deflated in front of her daughter-in-law. Her shoulders sank, her chest appeared to turn concave and her head fell. “You just said you wished your mom had lived long enough to see your child. I. Just. You know. Thought?”
John and Dave peered around the kitchen’s eastern partition. “Everything okay?” Dave asked.
A sincere but melancholy smile slowly invaded Joni’s face. She walked over to Deb, placed her forehead against the older woman’s, looked her in the eyes and then hugged her close. “I know what you thought. Sorry. I should have been more careful.
“Yes,” Joni continued, releasing her mother-in-law, smiling at her and giving her a small, triple nod and single left eyed wink. “Just a miscommunication, that’s all. Why don’t you two husky boys take those two chairs into the den and then we can catch up? Okay?”
John looked at his wife with his head cocked slightly to the left side. He narrowed his eyes and waited. She returned his look, nodded at him, minutely shrugged and pointed to the TV room with her head. “Put the chairs away, would you please, sweetie? Then come out to the living room?”
“Sure,” John replied, catching his dad’s eye and turning his hands outward as a sign of confusion. “No problem, Peaches.”
As the two men retreated Joni called after them, “Anybody want coffee?”
“Decaf?” Dave hollered back. “I can’t drink caffeine this late. Acid reflux.”
“Sure,” Joni said. “Decafs probably a good choice, period. Meet you in the living room.”
Joni took the far right corner of the love seat while Deb sat close to her on the couch’s far left side. “Coffee’s perking,” Joni declared to John and Dave as they entered the living room.
“I like this room,” Dave declared. “It always makes me feel comfortable.” Both the love seat and couch had two seat cushions and were in relatively good shape. Though the living room furniture, like virtually everything in the house beside the television, was older than the eldest Hagans child its location meant that it saw far less use than the furniture in the den, bedrooms or kitchen.
“Yes,” Deb agreed as she patted the couch cushion next to her and Dave snuggled up against her, “me, too.”
Once seated Dave took his wife’s right hand in his left, kissed it and let their two hands rest gently on one another’s laps. He sat close enough to Deb so that only the tiniest fraction of his being rested on the right hand couch cushion. “Who!” he declared. “I’m exhausted. You two must be ready to drop.”
Joni smiled at John and offered him her left hand. He took the hand and kissed it as he lowered his frame comfortably close to his wife’s. There was continuous contact between Joni’s left and John’s right sides but neither couple pushed so firmly against one another so as to achieve a contact that signaled insecure possession. They simply sat and were.
“Yeah. That’s for sure,” Joni acknowledged, sighing. “It’s nice to just relax without having to worry about- Well. Things.”
Dave covered his hand with his fist and coughed in a vain attempt to hide his smile. “Yes,” he said. “Things. She’s quite, interesting, isn’t she?”
Joni looked at her father-in-law with eyebrows raised and nodded. “Yeah. That’s one word for it. Nice to see the boys though.”
“Yes,” Dave responded. “From the conversation I take it nobody lives in Cedar Rapids anymore?”
“Nope,” Joni confirmed. “Jake and Bilhah are in Dubuque with their son Dan and Payton and Ashley live just east of Madison in a little town called Waterloo. Wisconsin of course, not Iowa,” she added, rolling her eyes.
In a mocking tone Dave replied, “Really? Wisconsin you say? Never would have guessed that Waterloo, Iowa wasn’t east of Madison.” Smiling, he continued in a conversational tone, “Waterloo. Seems like I should know something about Waterloo, Wisconsin; doesn’t it, honey?”
Deb shrugged. “Beats me. I know where Waterloo, Iowa is but not Wisconsin.”
“Yeah,” Joni said, “the boys aren’t too far apart. Takes about two hours. It’s all like a big triangle from here. Right around a hundred and fifty miles between each point, give or take thirty. They have a nice place tucked down in the southwest side of town. Kinda out in the sticks. Nice park right behind them.”
“Hmm,” Deb said, “sounds nice. You visit often?”
Joni shook her head. “No. Jake’s been in Dubuque before I moved here and Payton probably moved to Wisconsin ten plus years ago. I’ve been to Jacob and Bilhah’s maybe three times and Payton and Ashley’s just once.” Looking at her husband she added, “We really need to make a point of getting together for more than weddings and funerals; you know?”
John nodded several times and said, “I think we will, going forward. Did you tell Mom and Dad the good news?”
Deb lowered her head and glared at her son. “If you are making a baby joke then it isn’t very funny.”
John emitted one staccato laugh and shook his head. “No, no! Not that. I’m coming home to stay. No more separation for Joni and me. We’re going to not only be husband and wife we’re going to live as husband and wife.”