“SURPRISE!!” everyone yelled as Dave walked in the front door of his father and stepmother’s house. His girlfriend Tracy was beaming a bright and hopeful smile. His stepmother Ann grabbed his face and pulled it down to hers to give him an exaggerated motherly kiss. His half-brother Jake stood back a little ways, hands shoved in his pockets, looking appropriately guilty.
“Oh, wow! Guys…!” Dave feigned surprise and confusion, hoping it didn’t look like he was faking it. “This, is…wow. Hoooly crap! I’m…so…blown away. Seriously.”
“Are you really surprised, babe?” Tracy asked, still beaming. She was such a sweet and honest woman. Nothing blue or crazy about her. They’d been together just shy of a year and Dave cared more for her than he expected. He could kill his half-brother for nearly ruining this whole thing for her.
Dave made his way through the living room and kitchen greeting the friends and family gathered, all of them slapping him on the back, giving him hugs, and eagerly showing off all the “Over the Hill” decorations his girlfriend and stepmother spent so much time selecting and putting up. Someone put a beer in his hand and herded him out to the backyard where his father was barbecuing. “Over the Hill” decorations were littered all over the backyard as well.
“By the looks of all that smoke, I’d say you’ve got too much sugar or oil in the sauce,” Dave joshed his father as he made his way across the lawn.
“So says the geezer of the moment,” his father joshed back.
“What’s with all the ‘over the hill’ crap, anyway,” Dave complained. “Fifty’s not old.”
“You date a woman practically half your age, this is what you’re gonna get.”
Dave chuckled. “Well, dad, you would know.”
A couple of guests walked over and asked again if Dave was really surprised. Sure, sure. A real surprise. Very cool for Tracy and Ann to do this. He turned back to his father and rolled his eyes.
When they were alone again, Dave’s father said, “Don’t stay pissed at Jake. And, make an effort tonight to, you know, not be you, and actually give a damn. Tell Jake he’s forgiven. That little girl of yours and Ann busted their butts to pull this off, so just because Jake blew it, shouldn’t take away from them.”
“Yeah, OK. I’ll go in and put on a big show for everyone. Just…would you…” Dave thought better of finishing his sentence.
“What? Would I, what?” his father snapped.
“Just, quit being on my ass about Jake and about Tracy’s age, is all.”
“JAKE!” Dave’s father yelled, ignoring his son’s remark.
Jake came out of the house and made his way across the lawn, keeping his head down and gaze off of Dave.
“Jakey, here,” he said, holding up a platter of burgers, chicken tenders and ribs. “Take this plate into mom.”
Jake started back to the house. Dave’s father turned to him and gave him a long, steady look. Dave sighed, finished his beer in two long gulps, and trotted across the lawn after his half-brother.
“Jakey, Jake…,” Dave called out. Jake stopped and let Dave catch up.
“Look bud, this is a raw deal and I hope you learned something from it. Seriously man, these past weeks have really sucked for me,” Dave paused a moment, “… but here’s what we’re gonna do: We’re going take this platter into Ann and Tracy, and then we’re going tell them what went down.”
Jake looked mildly horrified. “Mom’s gonna be pissed!”
“Yeah, and so will Tracy, but we have to man-up on this. I can’t keep up the BS forever. I don’t like lying to Tracy, or your mom, for that matter. I don’t want to keep pretending I didn’t know a thing. OK? You with me?”
“Yeah, alright. Whatever,” Jake reluctantly agreed.
“Alrighty, then,” Dave said, triumphantly. “Done and done. Let’s get it over with and call it a day, little man.”
“Don’t call me that.”
Dave gave Jake a gentle smack on the back of his head. “I will if I want.”