Melissa was very blond and very, very pregnant. I found her in the suite with most of everyone else, including Martin, who had his ear pressed to her swollen stomach.
He pulled back suddenly. “Ow! He kicked me!”
“Do you know if it’s a boy?” Alan asked.
Melissa shook her head. “We don’t know for sure but I have a feeling it’s a boy. That or a really feisty girl. Like me.” She grinned and showed her teeth.
“Hi,” I said, offering my hand. “I’m Daron.”
She did that thing of shaking my hand and pulling me into a hug. Fortunately because I’m not super-tall, that wasn’t a big deal. She squeezed me pretty tight, though, and then let go, saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, I just… I’m so hormonal right now I love everybody.”
“Except when you hate everybody,” said Alan’s wife, who sounded like she spoke from experience.
“Yes,” Melissa agreed with a nod.
“So have you picked out names?” Alex’s wife brought Melissa a drink–a little carton of orange juice.
“It was the first thing Remo and I talked about on the way from the airport.” She took a sip of the juice and sighed. “If it’s a boy we agreed on ‘Ford.’ If it’s a girl, we’re gonna have a fight.”
Alan’s wife clucked her tongue. “You can’t let the man pick a girl’s name. What are the top choices?”
“Well, he wants Annalee, but I want something that’s not so, well, girly. There are so many better names for girls, like Jordan or Cameron or Madison. Or maybe one of the Celtic gender-neutral names like Shawn or Tristan?”
I was starting to like her already. “Where is Remo, anyway?”
“Said he had some last minute shopping to do,” Martin said with a shrug.
“I thought we weren’t doing gifts?” I asked, a little nervous.
“We’re not. It’s probably something for tonight.” Martin yawned and stretched upward.
Courtney tickled him in the ribs and he yelped. “Daron! Your sister’s a menace!”
“What, I didn’t warn you she was?”
Courtney laughed and drifted away from Martin into the bar area. I followed her.
“You look really hung over,” she said, while I filled a glass of water from the tap.
“Plus I was up all night talking with that one.” I pointed at Martin. “So is it my imagination or does Melissa look ready to pop?”
“Due in three weeks,” Court said. She shuddered a little. “I know a lot of women can’t wait to have a baby but I don’t know.”
“Don’t know what?”
“I just can’t imagine putting myself through that. It’d be like having a alien parasite feeding off you.”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“Ick.” She schooled the disgusted look from her face, though. “That doesn’t mean I can’t be happy for other women. I just can’t imagine it for me.”
“She seems really happy about it.”
“She does. I get the feeling it helps that Remo’s so happy about it.”
My brain started to catch up with the situation. “Wait, so she’s been pregnant for eight months and she didn’t tell him until that phone call?”
“What made her change her mind?”
“No idea. But I bet you could find out.”
“From Remo. Eventually.”
I wasn’t sure that was the sort of thing Remo and I would talk about. But, you know, long hours go by on tour and you have to talk about something.
“You’re sure you don’t want kids?” I said to Court.
“Why should I be any different?”
“Just checking. Since I’m not having any, I figure you might be my only chance to have nieces or nephews I can stand.”
She smirked. “Not likely. That kid’s probably the closest you’re going to get.” She motioned toward Melissa.
“Okay, so, help me out. I can’t remember Alan or Alex’s wives names.”
“You’re terrible with women’s names, you know that?” Court rolled her eyes.
“I’m terrible with names overall.”
“But women especially.”
“Am I?” That seemed ridiculous to me. “I mean, I remember people better, usually, the more important they are to me or the longer I’ve known them. I’ve barely met the Mazel wives, we got introduced all at the same time, and it’s been over a year since then.”
“That is male privilege right there.”
“Does everything have to be a political discussion?”
“You better believe they remember your name, though.”
“Because you’re Little Lord Fauntleroy.”
I decided I wasn’t going to let her bait me into a fight I didn’t have the energy for. “At least I’m not Extreme High Ruler of the Universe.”
“Nothing.” I didn’t think I could explain why the joke between me and Antonio was funny.
“And I’m pretty sure Melissa and Remo’s kid is going to be Little Lord Fauntleroy.”
“Just telling you what I see.” She gave a little shrug and patted me on the back. “Doesn’t mean I don’t love you, big brother.”
For the record, I did eventually learn Alan and Alex’s wives’ names, but I’m going to leave them out here to keep you in the moment. Dinner was coming up.