Thursday, August 31, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 51

Mrs. Bannister bustled in a couple minutes after Obi and Clive arrived. "Thank goodness you're here," she said to Clive. "One of the urinals went berserk yesterday, and wouldn't stop flushing. Your father shut off the water to it, but it needs repair."

"I'll have a look. Thanks, Lorna." Clive gave her a kiss on the cheek.

She turned to Obi. "I have messages for you."


"Parishioners—about Sunday."

He winced.

"Don't worry. Mostly positive. Only that woman who's married to Edward Lancaster."

"His wife, Denise?"

"That's the very one. She's threatening to pull their membership."

"What did you tell her?" He took the stack of messages, pleased that most of them were positive.

Mrs. Bannister sniffed loudly. "I told her if that was what she wanted, she was certainly entitled to do so. She demanded an apology for irritating her husband."

Obi wanted to laugh, but felt that the situation was a little too serious for that. "And what was your reply?" he asked, choking somewhat.

"I told her that would definitively not happen, since it was her husband who started the fracas."

"Did you say it exactly like that?"

Lorna cut her eyes at him, looking like a coy owl. "Not entirely. I might have gotten—slightly vernacular with her."

"Lorna Bannister, you never cease to amaze me!" Giving her a kiss on the cheek, he went into his office.

Clive came out of the men's bathroom, soaked. Patting himself dry with paper towels, he wandered to Obi's office. Dripping in the doorway, he wiped his face.

"Do you have a plumber you like?"

"Yes, why?"

"Because Abner must have jury rigged the handle. I can't get it apart. When I tried, something broke, and I got a face full of water. I managed to get the water shut off to the bathroom, but it's beyond my ability to fix."

"I've got a number. One second."

He flipped through a calendar. Scrawled in the back was the name of the plumber he liked. The family had been parishioners for six generations, and gave him a discount. Fortunately, they did good work, as well as doing it inexpensively. Fortunately, this was an expense that the board wouldn't have to decide on, they would simply accept the bill.

"Give me the number, I'll call. I can describe it better."

"You're soaked."

"I've still got my overnight bag. I ran a load of laundry last night, so I'm good."

"Thanks. I'll let you field that. I've got some calls to make, and I just remembered the liturgical committee is meeting at noon. Mrs. Bannister!" he called.

"Yes, Father?" she called back.

"What's for lunch today?"

"I got a variety of salads. Is that all right?"

"Yes, perfect. Thank you!"


Clive stood there, laughing. "Do you always do that?"

"Yes. I've tried the phone, but she won't answer. If I go to the door, she thinks I'm spying on her. So we holler back and forth." He shrugged. "It works for us."

"Frankie's starting her job at St. Blaise today."

"That's fantastic!"

"Her mom is there, talking her through."

"How did they get there? I know Wynter didn't want to drive."

"Father Charlie got them. I said we'd pick them up at lunch time. If you're here for the meeting, I'll get them and come back."

"Sounds good. Where are Emily and Wynter?"

"Wynter didn't tell you?"

"No...." He frowned.

"Emily is interviewing with Cisco's mom today."

"And Wynter?"

"It's a surprise."


"She said she would tell you." Backing up, he held his hands up. "I have to call the plumber," he rushed outside, his phone in hand.

Puzzled and frustrated, Obi called Wynter. She didn't answer. Leaving her a message, he fussed and muttered for a good thirty minutes. When it became apparent that she wasn't calling back anytime soon, he took his annoyance into the sanctuary. He told himself it was to check and make sure the cleaners had done a good job, but it wasn't. He needed something to do, and it was the only thing he could manufacture.

Just before noon, the liturgical committee members gathered in the fellowship hall. Mrs. Bannister's salads arrived by Uber Eats. They members served themselves, complimenting the meal—which seemed silly, since Obi had nothing to do with it. He accepted their comments politely, planning to share them with Lorna.

"That was some service on Sunday," Max Horton, the committee chair said.

"In a good way, or a bad way?" Obi asked, eyes narrowing.

"Good. Very good. We should do that more often."

"I'm all for it," Mrs. Crist said. "I had such fun. Who chose the songs?"

"Dad and I did," Obi lied. He wasn't about to tell these people that he'd had nothing to do with it. Had they complained, he'd have gladly cast his father under the bus.

"We should do that old Doobie Brothers song," Mrs. Crist said, humming a few bars.

"That's Jesus is Just All Right," the music director said, making a note.

"Great song. I always liked that one—by the Jewish fella—only it's about Jesus," Mr. Horton hummed the distinctive beginning to Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum.

"Excellent choice," Mrs. Crist agreed.

"How often do we want to do this?" Obi said. "I feel if we do it too often, it will get boring."

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 50

"Tried somethin' difernt," Alvin announced as he plunked three bowls of stew down. A basket of fresh bread and creamery butter joined them. "Taste."

They dutifully did. Closing his eyes, blowing over it like fine wine, Obi smiled.

"You've added another herb." He took another sip, giving it the same treatment. "Is that—fennel?"

"Yeup! His idea." He jerked his thumb at the kitchen. "Like?"

"I do. It brightens it up, and brings out the flavor of the onions. Did you use different onions, too?"

"Yeup—leeks n' red ns."

"It's delicious. Even better, and I didn't think that was possible."

"Cool." Nodding, he went back to the bar.

Others came and went while they enjoyed their meal. It was mid-afternoon when they left, with another loaf of Alvin's bread, and two growlers of his home brew. Back at the cabin, they geared up for another fishing trip. This time, all three went.

Slathered with sunscreen, they sipped Alvin's beer, talking quietly about various subjects. All of them had similar interests, which were highly eclectic. The subjects varied greatly. During that time, they managed to catch six fish. Deciding that was a good haul, they headed back to the cabin.

Obi's phone rang as they were tying the boat off at the dock. "Hiya, beautiful," he greeted Wynter.

"Hiya, handsome. How's your day going?"

He told her what they'd been doing. "How about you?"

"We're having a good day at home. Mom wanted movie madness. Emily wanted a spa day, so we gave one another manicures and binge watched Hulu."

"Sounds like a fun day."

"It has been. When are you coming back?"

"Tomorrow morning. Clive and I have to go right to work, but Eagle will be doing—whatever he's going to be doing."

"Having a long talk with Sarah," Eagle said from behind Obi.

"That sounds like a good idea," Wynter said, having heard Eagle. "She's called twice, mildly freaking out. I guess he left an enigmatic message on her voice mail?"

"No idea. We told him he needed to talk to her about—various things."

"You mean sex," she said.

"Yes. How did you guess?"

"They're to a point where they need to do something definitive. He doesn't want to push, she doesn't think she's ready—whatever the issue—I'm too old for that stress."

Obi laughed loudly. "Are you? That's a pity, because it's a conversation we should have, too." He stopped walking, letting his brothers pass him on the path.

When Wynter didn't say anything, he forged ahead. "I know we haven't defined our relationship, but I'd like to be able to call you my girlfriend. Would that be acceptable?"

"I'd like that."

"So would I. In that capacity—"

"You'll be wanting sex."

"Eventually. I know you're a born again virgin, and I accept that. But I hope you see our relationship having staying power."

"I do."

"Good. Because I look at my future life, and I see you in it."

She gave a shuddering breath.

"We haven't known each other long, but I connected with you on a level—I've never been here before. No one makes me feel the way you do."

"As if you could leap tall buildings?"

"Yeah. Provided you asked me to. For you, I'd figure it out."

"Me too. I feel the same way. You're the man I've waited for, my entire adult life."

"And you're the woman I've dreamed of."

She sighed happily. A moment later, he joined her.

"Obes!" Clive called, holding up a fish.

"I have to go help fillet the fish. I got out of it last night, by making the sides. But I made enough for two meals."

"No excuse."

"Nope. And that beer won't drink itself."

Laughing, they said goodbye.

"Sorry. Had to have a conversation with Wynter."

"And?" Eagle asked, raising his eyebrows.

"I officially have a new girlfriend."

"Excellent, dude," his younger brothers chorused, laughing as they pointed at one another.

"The fish won't fillet itself," Obi stated, picking up a knife.

Between the three of them, the fish were quickly prepared. This time, they wanted to marinate them for a little while. Obi set that up while the other two cleaned out the grill, filling it with fresh coals. That accomplished, they joined Obi in the kitchen. Clive made mashed potatoes, and Eagle shucked some fresh corn they'd picked up at a roadside stand on the way out.

After another delicious meal, they cleaned up and went to bed early. Obi and Clive had to be at the church by 9:00. Since it was nearly an hour drive, at peak rush hour, they needed to give themselves a good two hours.

The following morning, they cleared out the perishables from the fridge, and put their trash in the trunk of the car. They intended to stop by Slow Moe's and drop it in the dumpster. Alvin offered this amenity to regular visitors. Grabbing coffee and fresh donuts at Moe's, they got on the road. Clive drove, because Obi's shoulder was bothering him. He'd overdone the day before, but wouldn't have traded the time with his brothers for anything.

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Thursday, August 24, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 49

"He didn't even argue," Clive whispered hoarsely, following Eagle inside.

Slightly concerned about his youngest brother, Obi went into the house. The brothers had put their dishes in the washer. He finished loading it, setting it to start. He checked the cabin to make sure that the doors and windows were secure, before heading to bed.

The next morning, Eagle was up before his brothers, preparing biscuits, bacon, hash browns and fried eggs. When it was ready, he called up the stairs to wake them.

"Coming!" they replied.

Five minutes later, they were dressed and downstairs. Obi offered blessing, and they ate until they were stuffed. Nothing was leftover.

"When did you want to head home?" Clive asked as they cleaned up.

"I want to spend the day," Eagle said. "I have some thinking to do, and I do it best up here."

"I agree," Obi said. "You got a burning need to get home?"

Clive chuckled. "I have a blistering hot reason to get home, but I'll survive. Did you want to spend another night?"

"I thought we'd go back in the morning."

"I like that idea. It's sort of pointless to come all the way out here, and only spend a few hours," Eagle said.

"Works for me. What did you want to do?"

"I need to do some meditating," Eagle said.

"Not a bad idea," Obi agreed.


"Why not? It's not exclusive to other religions. You can meditate as a Christian. In fact, if you want, I have this great app on my phone, which does daily meditations."

"I kind of wanted to do my own thing," Eagle said shyly.

"No problem. You do what you want, but keep your phone on you."

"I will. I'm not going far, to the Stone Circle."

"Okay. I'm going to the dock. Clive, want to join?"

"I was gonna smoke on the roof," he stated, pulling a joint from his pocket.

It interested Obi that their favorite spots varied so much. As a Scorpio, he was drawn to water. Clive, a Libra, loved the open air—hence the roof. Eagle, a Taurus, had always loved the Stone Circle—a tumble of rocks which might have originally been some sort of building. No one knew where they came from, but they were on their property as long as any of them could remember.

Making sure to have their phones on them, they went their separate ways. Eagle and Obi went the same direction, until the younger Randolph made a hard right, heading down the bank to the circle.

Obi settled on the dock. Legs crossed, eyes closed, he put his back against one of the poles which supported the dock. The gentle lapping of the water against the wood, was soothing. Taking a few deep breaths, he went into his meditative trance. He had no idea where this would take him, and didn't try to control where his thoughts went. Concentrating on his breathing, he opened his mind.

A million things bombarded him at once. It took a couple minutes, but he slowed things down to a manageable speed. As each image or thought came forward, he acknowledged it, before putting it on its own plinth. These, he laid out in his mind, in a circle. When they were all there, he spun the circle. Watching it flutter by, he let them slow. One came forward, hovering in front of him—Wynter's face. She smiled at him, blowing him a kiss. His chest swelled, and he felt a rush of love through him. He tilted his head, warming his face in the sun. Dots of color, sparkled across his mind's eye.

Staying that way, he had no idea how much time had passed. Hearing a piercing whistle, he looked around. Clive stood on the roof of the cabin, waving. His phone rang.

"Yeah? What?"

"I just got a call from Frankie."

"Okay. I'll be right there."

Trying to hop up, he stumbled, his left foot asleep. Glancing at his watch, he realized he'd been down there for nearly two hours. Moving more slowly, he walked up to the house, meeting Eagle on the path.

"Is everything all right?" Obi asked as they neared the cabin.

Clive stood on the path, hands on his hips. "Yes, everything is fine. She called, and I realized it's almost lunch time. How about a burger at Slow Moe's?"

"That sounds good. I need a pitstop," Eagle said, trotting up the steps.

All of them made a visit before piling into the car, with Clive at the wheel. He took off down a dirt road, that looked like it didn't lead anywhere. In actuality, it led to a backwoods restaurant, which had been there since their grandfather's time. It was a familiar sight. Grinning, they sauntered in the front door.

"Hey-o!" the bartender greeted them.

"Hey-o!" they called back.

"—can I get ya?" Alvin, the bartender and owner, always spoke in fragments, as if he only had the energy to get part of a sentence out. "Usual?"

"Three of your own," Clive said.

"—up!" He pulled three perfect drafts for them.

Clive went to the counter while the brothers sat at a table.

"—to eat?" Alvin asked.

"What's the daily special?" Obi called from their table.

"Swamp Stew," Alvin replied.

"Three," Clive said, handing him money for the drinks.

"Got it. Three Swamps," he yelled into the kitchen.

"Yee-up!" His equally verbose cousin manned the kitchen.

Swamp Stew was a local creation. Everyone claimed their recipes were the original, but Alvin had a hand written recipe card, dated 1922, in a frame by the register. His claim was that his distant relative, who had started the restaurant back when this had been a logging camp, had originally made it to serve to the lumberjacks. The ingredients had morphed from one place to the other, but were pretty consistently venison, onions and tomatoes. From there, spices and vegetables varied. There was a lot of controversy as to whether Swamp Stew had beer in it, or not. Alvin announced, loudly and proudly, that each pot of his stew had a pint of his home brew.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 48

"You talking about me now, or you?"

"Does it have to be mutually exclusive? Keep in mind, the thing that men are the most anxious to rid themselves of—their virginity—is what women treasure the most."

"Why is that? It's so stupid!"

"I know, but figure that back in the day, a woman's virginity was her greatest commodity. Fathers would use their virgin daughters for alliances, gifts—the works."

"Stinks for the women," Eagle said.

"I expect it did. It still happens, in some places. Hard for us to imagine, but it does. Also, girls are taught that if they give it away too freely, they're sluts."

"No one would ever think of calling a man that," Eagle said.

"I think some religions go overboard with how they preach celibacy. We're talking about a bunch of hormone driven teenagers, who want to discover what those feelings are. Boys, especially, want to know what it is to be a man. We were all like that."

"To never going through puberty again," Clive said, raising his beer bottle.

They clinked bottles, joining in the toast.

"At least I had you guys to talk to," Eagle said. "I don't think I'd have figured it out on my own."

Clive and Obi exchanged a look, winking.

"What?" Eagle hadn't missed it. "Did you ask Dad, or something?"

"Oh, no!" Obi gasped. "He didn't say a word, neither did Mom. Uncle Toomy gave me the talk when I was ten."

"Really? Why?"

"He could see that they weren't going to. Mom was too embarrassed, so was Dad . So Uncle Toomy, the man with no children, told me about sex. How about you, Clive?"

"Yep. Between you and him, I learned a thing or two. Eagle?"

"What I learned, I got from you two. I guess Uncle Toomy was over it by then."

"Wasn't that, it was the fact that he told me and Clive to do it. He said we needed the experience for when we had our own children."

"How would he know a thing like that?"

"Apparently, their father had trouble with it, when he spoke to Dad. Our father was so traumatized, he couldn't bring himself to say anything to us. He asked Toomy to."

"Do you think you'll be able to talk to your own kids?" Eagle asked, eyes big.

"Yes. Not only because of Toomy, but because it's part of my job to talk to the teenagers at church. The church line is to preach abstinence. I do that, but I also tell them that I recognize how difficult that is. I tell them they can talk to me anytime, and I give them private advice. I also keep a stock of condoms in my office."

"Really? Wow! I had no idea," Eagle said. "Why, if it goes against the church rules?"

"It isn't expressly forbidden. They come in for counseling, and I give it to them. I answer their questions honestly, and openly. They're going to do it, they should be able to do so without fear, injury or condemnation."

"What do you think I should do with Sarah?"

"I think you need to have a long talk, and let her voice her fears."

"I've tried. She shuts me down—won't discuss it."

Obi paused. "What has she said—exactly?"

"She doesn't want sex until the time is right."


"She hasn't specified."

"Maybe she's worried that you're not the man with staying power," Clive said. "Some women are worried about giving it up, and being dumped."

"Would I have hung around this long, if I just wanted sex?" Eagle asked exasperatedly. "I'd have bailed the first time she told me no."

"Have you told her that?" Clive asked.



"I don't think so. Why?"

"Does she think you'll bail afterward?"

"I hope she knows me well enough, not to."

"You need to talk specifics. You need to lay your soul bare, and tell her exactly what you want from your relationship," Obi said. "Not just the sex, obviously. Love, marriage, babies. That's what you want, right?"

"Yes. All that. Only with her. Kids were a thing to fear, before I met her."

"I can see that," Clive said, shuddering.

"If Frankie got pregnant, what would you do?" Obi asked.

"Do everything in my power to get her to marry me. Not just because of the baby, but because I know I could love her. You and Wynter?"

"The same."

"I don't want her to think that I just want to marry her, for sex," Eagle said.

"Will she think that?" Clive asked.

Shaking his head, Eagle spread his hands. "No idea."

"Talk," his brothers said together.

Eagle recoiled slightly. "It's creepy how you guys have always done that."

"Done what?" they asked, doing it again.

"The talking together, or finishing each others' statements."

"Oh, that thing," Clive nodded. "We're telepathic. We didn't tell you?"

Laughing, Eagle threw his napkin at Clive. Then he had to hop up and chase it, because it caught fire from the coals, blowing around the yard.

"Talk to her," Obi stated again. "She needs to know exactly how you feel. I can't guarantee she'll change her stance, but she still needs to be told."

"I will." Eagle yawned. "I'd better get to bed." Grabbing dirty dishes, he got up. "Thank you," he said, looking from one brother to the other.

"The fee for my time is you cook breakfast," Obi said, gathering dishes of his own.

"What do you want?"

"What is our usual first-day-at-the-river meal?"

"You got it!" He took his burden into the house.

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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Thursday, August 17, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 47

Eagle burst out laughing.

They both remembered the Henderson dog. It was old when Eagle was born, and lived to be ancient. One thing which characterized it, it was virtually hairless from a skin condition.

"You wanna get a beer?"

"Yeah. Mind if I bring the other brother?"

"Sure. Why not. Your place?"

"Mom and Dad are there. How about the cabin?"

"Kind of a drive."

"Your place?"

"I moved in with Sarah."

"You did? When? Are you—? Sorry, not my business."

"Not yet."

"Then why move in?"

"My lease was coming up for renewal, and they raised the rent to a ridiculous amount. We're sleeping in the same bed, but not making love. I think that's why I got upset. There's Clive, all smug.... And you—I've never seen you so happy."

"Aren't you happy with Sarah?"

"Very. I love her a ridiculous amount."


"Let's get together, and I'll explain."

"You got it. Let me grab Clive."

"Where you wanna go?"

"I'll come get you. Pack an overnight bag, we're going to the woods."

"If you're sure."

"We've got a lot to hash out. I think we need some Brother Time."

This was something they'd done since they were kids. Originally, they had gone out to the woods behind their home. They'd built a fort there, and would camp in it overnight. Eventually, that lot was sold, a house built on it. By that time, Obi could drive, so they would go camping, or head out to the cabin.

"I'll be ready."

"Great. See you soon."

Hanging up, he went back in the house. Clive was heading to the kitchen with dirty dishes.

"Road trip," he said, giving his brother a long, penetrating look.

"Brother Time?"

"Yeah. We haven't had enough of that lately."

"Probably two years?"

"At least."

"The girls won't mind?"

"Won't mind what?" Frankie said, looping her arm through Clive's.

"Brother Time," Obi explained.

"I think that's a great idea. We kind of need a Sister Moment, so go for it."

"Thanks." Clive gave her a kiss. "Let me get these to the kitchen, then we'll head out."

"Great. I'm gonna call Lorna and let her know I won't be in tomorrow."

"Have Dad hold down the fort."

"He's got to get to St. Blaise."

"Not until next month. Father Charlie's better," Frankie said.

"Then I'll ask him to step in. I'm sure he will."

Phone calls made, bags packed, the brothers got on the road. Obi knew he'd miss Wynter, but this was something he and his brothers needed.

It was late afternoon when they got in. Dropping their bags in the living room, they grabbed fishing poles from the front closet. They wanted fresh Steelhead for their dinner. All of them were proficient fishermen. It was decided that Obi, since he was technically still laid up, would prepare the side dishes. Eagle and Clive, armed with their poles and bait, headed down the bank.

Obi made a large garden salad, sliced fresh pineapple, and concocted aromatic rice. The pineapple would go on the grill with the fish. Hearing the small boat motor returning, he went out to light the grill. He'd set it up before starting on the salad. By the time his brothers got back to the cabin, their filleted catch in hand, the coals were ready.

Clive was given the job of grilling the fish and pineapple. Of the three, he was the most adept at it. Obi got each of them a cold beer from the cooler Eagle had lugged from the kitchen. Once their meal was ready, they sat at a picnic table under the trees, and ate. The sun setting over the river, set the rippling water on fire. It looked as if a golden path led the way to the sun.

"I always used to think that was the way to heaven," Eagle mused. "When Sparkles died, Mom told me she'd taken the rainbow bridge. I imagined it as golden, though." He gestured with his beer bottle to the sinking sun.

"Who knows, you might be right," Obi said with a grin. "Sunsets and sunrises remind us of the beauty in the world. I feel like God did that, so we'd remember we aren't alone."

"Sounds legit," Clive said, grabbing them each another beer.

They watched the sun set in silence. When the last golden rays were extinguished by the water, they drank another beer and roasted marshmallows over the coals.

"So, you and Sarah moved in together," Obi said, gently opening the topic.

"Yeah. It's great—and awful. I love her a lot—"

"And you want to be able to show her," Clive stated.

"Exactly. I know she's got strong convictions, and I appreciate that. But I also know that humans are sexual beings, who are drawn to one another. What do you think?" he asked Obi.

"Are you asking as my brother, or for my professional opinion?"


Obi paused, the beer almost to his lips. "As your brother, and a grown, lustful man, I get it. She's beautiful, intelligent, and everything you ever wanted."

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Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 46

"Which he is," Clive reminded him.

"Yes, but it's what he's doing with it that upsets me. I'm all for examining the truth of other faiths. I've studied all the major religions, and a few lesser ones, to find out how we're alike—more so than you can imagine. What's his take on it? That Christianity somehow lied to him, let him down. Or that I'm a sellout, because I believe what I've been taught."

"Your limited dogma?" Emily teased.

"The very one." He shook his head, sighing. "I love my brother...."

"But you really want to punch him," Clive finished.

"Pretty much."

"There have been times I've wanted to punch him, too. And you. I'm an equal opportunity puncher."

"Same applies."

"I think it's part of being siblings," Emily stated. "We know exactly what to do or say to get on someone's nerves. We get angry, and don't hold back."

"This feels like more than that," Obi said. "It feels like something which could really put a rift between us. I don't know what I did, or said—"

"Maybe it wasn't you," Clive said. "You take the blame for so much, you always have. This, you can't put on yourself. I think that Eagle realizes that he hasn't got the faith you have, and it upsets him."

"He could have it. Anyone can have it."

"We know that," Clive motioned between himself and his brother. "But he might not."

"May I interject something?" Emily asked quietly.

"Sure," the brothers chorused.

A smile flickered across her face. "Speaking as the youngest, I have a little insight. Eagle is in the unfortunate position of being the youngest—with a big gap. Like my sisters, you two are capable, confident dynamos. If Eagle's like me, and I think he is, he's always resented the fact that you're closer to one another, than you are to him. He sees what he lacks, and wants what you've got."

"He's brilliant and talented," Obi began.

"Have you ever told him that?" Emily asked, raising a questioning eyebrow.

"Yes. More than once. I envy the kid. He can do what he wants, study, examine and learn whatever he's interested in. I never had that chance."

"You never really had to," Clive said. "You always knew what you believed. You had convictions and faith—never faltering. You were our rock, as much as Mom and Dad. We knew that if we ever needed you, we could count on you."

"I feel the same."

"But you never really said so. You've always been so self-reliant, never asking for help. You went through a terrible relationship, a horrific breakup. You didn't call us. If it hadn't been for Mom and Uncle Toomy, we'd never have known."

"I planned to call you—"

"Me, maybe. Eric?" He shrugged. "We've been bad brothers, only including him when we had to. We've always been so close, and he's like—the extra. And you wonder why he's taking this badly."

"Am I supposed to apologize?" Obi grumbled. "Because I didn't start it."

"Perhaps not," Emily said in a small voice. "But you need to be the one to fix it."

Rolling his eyes, Obi let his head drop to the back of the couch. He knew Emily was right, and it irritated him considerably. He loved his brothers, but Eagle's behavior had been far out of line. He'd insulted him, their father, and – most importantly – their mother. He could forgive the insult to himself, brush away the slight to their father. Their mother was different matter. The Randolph boys were fiercely protective of their mother—especially Eric.

"He pounded the crap outta a guy once, for calling him a son-of-a-bitch," Obi mused.

"What on earth for?" Wynter gasped.

"Because it insulted our mother," Clive explained. "What made you think of that?"

Obi shrugged, shaking his head. Clive, who was able to follow his thought progression, nodded.

"I know he attacked you and Dad, but—"

"He insulted Mom. I think that, more than his anger with me, is the reason...." Pulling out his phone, he stood. "Excuse me." Wandering outside, he sat on the porch swing and called his youngest brother.

The phone rang several times. He was formulating a voice message, when Eagle answered.


"Are you okay? I was worried, when you didn't get to church."

"I didn't think you'd want to see me."

Scoffing, Obi had to bite back on a snarky comment. "You'd have to do a lot more than you did, for me not to want to see you. You're such a goof, you make me look good. People look at us and say, Wow, Father Obadiah sure takes good care of his retard brother."

Eagle burst out laughing. "Well, they say the same thing to me."

"I guess the only smart one, is Clive."

"Naw, he's extra special."

"That he is." He paused, trying to figure out what to say next.

"I'm sorry I went after you like that."

"I can handle you talking like that to me—even Dad...."

"I shouldn't have upset Mom. I guess I need to apologize for my crazy beliefs."

"Your beliefs aren't crazy, Brother. Not if they make sense to you, and resonate. Maybe don't attack ours?"

It was Eagle's turn to be quiet.

"I'm trying to understand what set it off," Obi said gently.

"I don't know."

"Let's try to figure it out, because I don't want this between us."

"I don't either." He sniffled.

Obi felt his own eyes tearing up. "You may be a goof, and a retard, but you're my baby brother. I remember when you came home. You were about the size of Mrs. Henderson's chihuahua, only you had more hair."

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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Thursday, August 10, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 45

They decided to go out to lunch. Together, they descended on their favorite Asian restaurant. The Thai Garden had all things Thai, but also carried Chinese food. Their Sunday buffet was to die for. The men surrounded it like a plague of locusts, while the women ordered their meals. None of them felt they could eat enough to justify the buffet expense.

Sipping tea, they nibbled off the men's plates, making them laugh. Afterward, Obi took the girls to their mother's house to change, before he and Wynter went to get Wanda. The other two were making sure the house was shipshape before her arrival. Hester and the girls had made a couple meals, and put them in the refrigerator, so no one would have to cook.

When they got to the hospital, they didn't find Wanda in her room.

"She's having a PET scan done," the nurse replied. "Her doctor wanted an updated one, after surgery and her first chemo. She should be back shortly, if you want to wait in her room."

"Thank you," Wynter said with a smile. Grabbing Obi's hand, she led him to her mother's room.

Glancing down, Obi smiled. It was such an intimate, telling gesture. He knew they were falling in love, and it was the best feeling in the world. The door dropped closed behind them, and he couldn't stop himself. Taking her other hand, he leaned over to kiss her. Wynter stepped closer, accepting his kiss with a happy sigh.

The door swung open, startling them. Wanda sat in a wheelchair, pushed by an orderly. Smiling up at them, she reached out to take their hands. They each took one, still holding hands without realizing it. Wanda's smile broadened. She didn't say anything, but was silently delighted that they'd come to this point.

"You ready to get out of here?" Obi asked.

"I am! I have to wait for the results of the PET scan, then I'll be released."

"The doctor wasn't very busy, so we hope to have those results shortly. Dr. Joshua will come talk to you."

"Thank you," Wanda said as Obi and the orderly helped her back into bed.

Her color was better, her eyes held a twinkling brightness. "Have a seat, children. Talk to me. How was church?"

"It was a lovely service," Wynter said with a grin. "Prescott wowed them with some really outrageous songs. It was a lot of fun."

"If I'd tried that, I'd be hearing about it already," Obi said with a grin.

"It helps that he's just visiting."

"True. He tells me he's going to be at St. Blaise's soon."

"So, he's our new priest. I'm delighted to hear that, and look forward to meeting him. Wynter, I was wondering, dear, if you'd be willing to take over for me? I can train you, but I can't manage the post anymore."

"It's not really my skill set, Mom. You should ask Frankie. She's much better at that sort of thing than I am."

"Good idea."

"Emily has a job opportunity—well, a chance at an interview, with Southend Gym."

"That's lovely. If we can find something for you, life will be perfect. I want all my chicks around me."

"I believe that Frankie is motivated to stay," Wynter said with a slight blush. "I certainly am." She smiled at Obi, taking his hand.

The door opened and Dr. Joshua walked in, looking happy, but rather surprised. "I'm so glad you're here," he said to Wynter. "I have some great news for you, Wanda. The PET scan was pristine. I've never seen something so beautiful. I thought for sure we'd find something, but it came back whistling Yankee Doodle! Based on this, I'm going to cease chemo. We will do scans and blood work every few weeks, to double check your progress, but for now, I believe you're cancer free! I don't know who's in your corner, my dear, but it's nothing short of miraculous!"

They all cheered and clapped. Dr. Joshua beamed.

"I'm going to finish the last bit of paperwork, and send the nurse in here for post op instructions. You'll have a followup with Dr. Fredrick in a week, and they'll schedule other appointments for you. Congratulations, Wanda." He shook her hand, kissing it gallantly.

"This calls for a celebration," Obi said. "Nothing big, but at least a bottle of champagne, and chocolate cheesecake."

"That sounds delicious!" Wanda clapped her hands. "How did you know that was my favorite?"

"Because you are a woman of refined taste—and it's my favorite, too," Obi replied, kissing her hand.

The release papers signed, they headed to Wanda's home. She was greeted like a queen, by her other daughters. The women fussed and fluttered around, getting her settled on the couch. Obi went to the liquor store, where he bought two bottles of chilled champagne. His next stop was his favorite bakery, where he bought the cheesecake. Thus armed, he went back to Wanda's to find his family there. The women were warming dinner, so he popped the bottles and cheesecake in the fridge.

They had a great meal, followed by champagne and chocolate cheesecake. Afterward, the Randolph parents went to Obi's home. Obi and Clive stayed behind to help cleanup and get Wanda settled in bed. When she was resting, they sat in the living room with cups of coffee and more slivers of cheesecake.

"I'm disappointed that Eagle didn't show up at church," Obi said.

"You really hurt his feelings, Bro," Clive remarked.

"Yeah? I notice he didn't give a rip about mine."

Saying nothing, Clive sipped his coffee.

"If you agree with him, I might punch you," he growled at his brother.

"You were kinda harsh, Obe."

"I didn't say half of what I wanted to. He's always been so coddled—and I get why. Mom had trouble carrying him to term, he was born six weeks early, and had to stay in an incubator for a month. I understand that. As the youngest, he got away with things neither of us ever did. But now—he's got the chance to explore and learn so many new things."

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 51

Mrs. Bannister bustled in a couple minutes after Obi and Clive arrived. "Thank goodness you're here," she said to Clive. "...