Calgary skyline: copyright doranjclark
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Shakespir Edition, License Notes
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination and should not be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used.
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This series is dedicated to all my wonderful friends from ‘The Rock’. Newfoundland culture has a special place in my heart since so many people from there have a special place in my heart, too. You always make this ‘come from away’ feel welcome. This one’s for you!
Thank you to a wonderful team of Beta Readers – Violet, Ruth, Diane, Deborah, and Natasha – who gave me such valuable feedback during the writing of this sequel. Thanks to my sister Jane for letting me stay at her house (affectionately known as the ‘Park Hotel’ ) for much of the editing. Thanks to Priscilla Benterud for her ongoing editing of this series. Thanks to my writing colleagues and friends at ‘Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship’. You are a wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement. To all my family, especially my husband Gerald, I acknowledge your support and love. Finally, I thank Almighty God, who has given me stories to tell and the means with which to tell them.
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Jed Malloy first came alive in as a minor character who just wouldn’t go away! Even though he had a small part to play in that first series, he made his mark with his quirky ways and ‘down-home’ manners. He soon became one of my favourites – and apparently yours, too, if reader feedback means anything! I knew I needed to continue the series and make Jed’s large family the stars. As I began to write, I soon discovered that every member of Jed’s family was just as unforgettable as he was, each in his or her own way. It has been a fun ride getting to know these folks better. In the end, it was even more special for me to see some of them come to know Jesus as Saviour. Welcome to the neighbourhood!
WARNING: Although this series is categorized as ‘Christian fiction’ and has a strong redemptive message toward the end, there may be events that some Christians find troubling, such as the use of alcohol and references to sexual activity, although this always takes place ‘off camera’.
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Neighbourhood Tangle Vol 1 – Jed
Jed Malloy shuffled barefoot down the narrow hallway and let out an inadvertent groan. He was shirtless, bleary eyed, and his tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth. The price of too much holiday cheer the night before.
He ran a hand through his thick brown hair, making it stand on end. He squinted when he reached the brightness of the main living space. Coffee. He needed coffee and lots of it.
A loud snore followed by a snort, a groan, and a sigh broke the morning stillness. The noises came from the living room couch. Jed grinned. He and his brother Zeb had bantered – okay, argued – far into the early hours. They’d consumed more alcohol than was good for them, trying to solve all the world’s problems in one night. It was the way they operated. Always had. Good natured but competitive. As the closest brothers in age out of a family of nine, the battle had started at an early age.
Bo and Reba, two of Jed’s other siblings who were visiting for the Christmas holidays, had crashed earlier than he and Zeb. Bo was still sleeping on the floor in Jed’s bedroom. Their sister Reba got the privilege of the spare bed. She’d passed out on the couch and Jed had moved her sometime after midnight.
Jed loved his family, but a week in their company was starting to take its toll. Too many late nights along with everything else it entailed and he was beginning to feel his age. Having to get up for work this morning was both a blessing and a curse. He felt like crap, but on the other hand it might bring some normalcy back into his life.
He made some extra noise as he prepared the coffee, banging a cupboard door here and a tin there, just for effect. If he had to get up for work, the rest of them might as well feel his pain. The growl from the couch brought another wide smile to Jed’s face. When the coffee was ready, Jed filled an oversized mug and then clattered the coffee pot back onto the warmer. He took a tentative slurp, released a satisfied expletive, and shuffled from the confines of the galley kitchen to the living room only a few feet away.
Jed stood over his brother’s sleeping form for a moment. Zeb was a giant. He was probably the only man who had ever beaten Jed in a fight. Not that Jed was small by any means. They were both above average height and broadly built, like Gramps on their Pop’s side. But with a full red beard that contrasted with unkempt dirty-blonde hair, Zeb looked like a mountain man – or a grizzly.
At 32, Jed was the eldest boy in the family, but Zeb was right behind him at 30. They had one older sister who was 33, and then a string of siblings after. His parents were staunch Catholics who didn’t believe in contraception – at least not in those days. Nine children in eleven years was the result.
Jed grabbed a stray cushion and thumped it across Zeb’s head. “Wake up, ya lazy bugger. The days ‘alf over.”
Zeb cracked open one eye and then shut it again. “Get lost.”
“You’re some crooked contrary this mornin’. I’m off to work. Don’t sleep all day. And look after the kids. Don’t let ‘em wreck the joint.”
“As if.” Zeb’s voice was muffled by the cushion.
“What’s a matter? Can’t ‘andle yer liquor anymore, or what?” Jed’s own head was pounding with the dullness of a hangover, but he would never admit it to Zeb.
Zeb told Jed exactly where to go and in no uncertain terms. Jed just smiled and downed the rest of his coffee. His brother was crass, but he’d missed him. He’d missed all of his family, but he was ready for a break. Even he had trouble handling more than one Malloy at a time.
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Jed shuffled into the makeshift lunchroom and surveyed the inhabitants. He spotted his friend and co-worker, Lester Tibbett, sitting alone at a table made of plywood and saw horses and headed his way.
It was the first day back to work after the Christmas break. Titan, the construction company that Jed and Lester worked for, was nearing completion of the downtown office tower. Despite some legal setbacks after an accident on site that had brought on an investigation, they were back on schedule.
Jed plunked down on an available folding chair, his lunch pail clattering on the wooden tabletop in front of him. “I miss takin’ lunch in the open air, like we used to. I liked the whip o’ the wind comin’ at ya through the steel and cement.” Jed took off his hardhat and set it off to one side and then proceeded to open his tin lunchbox and rummage around a bit.
“Those days are long gone since most everything’s framed in.” Lester was a clean-cut cowboy. A down to earth, no nonsense kind of fellow with high moral standards and a solid work ethic. His lean and sinewy frame was conditioned to hard labor and he was just a couple of years older than Jed. They’d become good friends since Lester and his sister had moved into Jed’s apartment building last fall.
“That’s your excuse, but we both know it’s on account of the accident.”
“The company has to think about their liability,” Lester said. “Having a designated lunchroom is sensible.”
“Course you’d think so, seein’ it was you who almost bit the dust. But me? I don’t like bein’ boxed in.” Jed exhaled – a prolonged sigh that came out more like a grunt.
Lester squinted over at his friend, his half eaten sandwich in mid air. “Rough day?”
“My own fault. Stayed up too late, that’s all.”
“Ah, I see. You’ve been partying pretty hard since the family arrived.” Lester’s eyes held amusement with not a trace of sympathy.
Jed pulled out a sandwich and carefully unwrapped the cellophane. “Ya got that right, b’y. I ‘ate to admit it but I’m feelin’ it, too.” He took a huge bite and then continued, the words garbled because of the food in his mouth. “I loves my family but I’ve ‘ad just about enough.” His distinctive Newfoundland brogue eliminated all ‘H’s’ from the beginning of words.
“I’ve been wondering how you’ve been managing. Pretty crowded, eh?” Lester poured some coffee from his thermos into the lid that also served as a mug.
Jed nodded. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “Sardines got more room.”
“Now that Christmas is over, they’ll be heading home soon, I imagine. You won’t know what to do with yourself once they leave.”
“Not till after New Year’s.” Jed mouth formed a lopsided bow. “Now that’ll be some party.”
“I’ll just bet.” Lester took a sip of his steaming coffee and surveyed his friend over the rim of the makeshift mug. He pointed at Jed’s eye. “The shiner you were sporting on Christmas day is starting to fade.”
“You should see the one Zeb’s got now.” Jed grinned. “That one’ll be stickin’ around for a day or two yet.”
Lester shook his head and smiled. “I’m surprised Miss Peacock hasn’t called the police on you. I heard her complaining the other day in the foyer when I was getting the mail.”
“That nosy old bat can’t keep her sniffer outta other people’s business.” Their neighbour, Millicent Peacock, had taken it upon herself to police the apartment building. Mostly she just banged on her ceiling with a broom handle, but she had threatened more than once to call the cops if the noise level didn’t diminish to her liking.
“I don’t imagine it’s easy. Four Malloys under one roof…” Lester cocked an amused eyebrow.
“You got that right. I been tryin’ but it ain’t easy. Not Bo, so much. E’s the quiet one of the bunch, if you can call any Malloy quiet. Now, Zeb…” Jed rolled his eyes heavenward. “We always did like to wrestle, me and Zeb, but I don’t remember ‘im bein’ so strong last time we tried it. I could always whoop ‘im but things is changin’.”
“Too much beer and TV. You’ve let yourself get out of shape,” Lester teased.
“Watch it or you’ll be next.”
Lester just smiled. He downed his coffee and started twisting the lid back in place on top of the thermos. “You’ll miss it once Zeb goes back to Fort Mac.”
Jed nodded. “You’re right, I will. But…” He stretched his large frame. “My body won’t. I feel like Hades warmed over.” He rubbed a massive hand over his head, making the coarse dark hair stand out at odd angles. Then he looked straight at Lester. “What are you doing on New Year’s Eve?”
“I’m not sure,” Lester snapped his lunch kit shut. “You?”
“Probably goin’ to the Urban Cowboy.”
“Big deal. You go there all the time.”
“True enough, but I’m told there’s a live country band playin’. That oughta count for somethin’.”
“I’ll have to check with Sherri,” Lester said.
“Oh right. You got the old ball and chain to consider now.”
Lester smirked. “You’re just jealous.”
“Me?” Jed snorted in disgust. “No way, b’y. I loves my freedom too much to get tangled up with some woman.”
“Sherri is more than just ‘some woman’.” Lester smiled congenially as he placed his hardhat on top of his closely cropped brown head. His sideburns peeked out by his ears. “When the right one comes along I’ll be the first in line to watch you eat crow.”
“Not likely, b’y.” Jed waved his hand in dismissal. “I’m happy for ya, but ya won’t catch me givin’ up my freedom so easy.”
“Famous last words.” Lester stood to his feet and slapped Jed across the back. “I’ll talk to Sherri about New Year’s Eve.”
“If she lets you off yer leash, you should come down to the Urban Cowboy tonight. You haven’t been out in awhile.”
“Maybe.” Lester turned to leave.
Jed sighed heavily as he watched his friend exit the lunchroom. He meant it when he said he loved his freedom, even if there was this hollow feeling in the middle of his gut.
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Jed arrived at his apartment building after work, lunch pail in one hand and truck keys in the other. His usual MO was to stop and check his mailbox in the foyer before heading up to his suite. He was fumbling with the keys in an effort to find his mail key and only looked up when a sharp, “Ehem!” reached his consciousness.
Jed stopped in his tracks and let a sheepish grin spread from one corner of his lips to the other as his gaze made contact with the perpetrator of the sound. “Evenin’, Miss Peacock.” He nodded his head in the older woman’s direction.
Miss Millicent Peacock was standing beside the long bank of mailboxes, her arms folded across her chest and her stare as impenetrable as the grey steel of her hair. “I’d like a word with you about the noise coming from your apartment at all hours of the day or night. There are laws about disturbing the peace in this city, Mr. Malloy.”
Jed rattled the keys in his hand nervously. “Sorry ‘bout that, Ma’am. My family are visitin’ from Newfoundland. We ‘aven’t seen one another in quite some time, but they’ll all be ‘eadin’ ‘ome soon.”
Miss Peacock tilted her head up and rose slightly on the balls of her feet. “It’s only my generosity during this season of good cheer that has prevented me from calling the authorities.”
“It’ll only be a few more days. They’ll be leavin’ after the new year.”
“That’s not what your sister said.” Miss Peacock arched one of her brows, daring him to explain.
Jed’s own brows descended in a furrowed line. “You spoke to my sister?”
“Yes, at least I am assuming it was your sister. I went directly to your apartment this afternoon to ask whomever to turn their music down.”
“Oh. I see.” Jed rubbed the back of his neck and in the process dropped his keys. He stooped to pick them up and mumbled an apology.
“She was quite rude. ‘Get used to it,’ I believe she said.”
“Get used to it?” Jed repeated.
“Yes. What does she mean, exactly? If you’re planning on subletting, the housing authority will need to be notified.”
“No, no. Nothin’ like that.” Jed straightened himself to his full height. “Reba just likes to get her back up. I’ll talk to ‘er. She’ll be ‘eadin’ ‘ome to Newfoundland soon enough, don’t you worry. “
“My good will has almost come to its breaking point, Mr. Malloy. I won’t stand for any more all night parties or loud music during the day. I hope I’ve made myself clear.”
Jed watched Miss Peacock march away from the mailboxes, her heels clicking on the tiles underfoot until the sound was replaced by a dull thud once she hit the carpeted area near the elevators. He needed to have a talk with Reba. With all of them. They would have to tone it down for the next few days. The last thing he wanted was to get evicted.
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Jed unlocked his apartment door and stepped inside. The canned laughter from a TV sitcom greeted his ears. He tossed his jacket in the general direction of the coat closet, kicked off his boots and threw his lunch kit on the counter with a clatter. “We need to ‘ave a talk about the noise. All of ya.” The fact that he was practically yelling didn’t register as ironic.
“Pipe down! We’re watchin’ a show.” The voice coming from the living room was Zeb’s.
Jed stalked into the living room and headed straight for the remote control sitting on the coffee table. With a decisive click the room reverberated with silence.
“What the – ! We were in the middle of a show!” Zeb sat forward from his reclining position on the couch, his reddish blonde hair half in his eyes; a beer in one hand. “Now who’s bein’ crooked contrary?”
Their younger brother Bo took up the only armchair, one foot resting on the other knee. “It’s almost over.” He spoke quietly, calmly, not out of fear, just practicality. He wasn’t one to expend energy unnecessarily.
Bo was slightly shorter than Jed, but was a mixture of both older brothers. He had Zeb’s blonde hair, only closely cropped, but Jed’s square jaw, somewhat rounded nose, and the unmistakable Malloy mischief in the eyes. Folks back home always said you could tell a Malloy when you saw one.
With a grunt Jed relented and turned the TV back on. “As soon as it’s over we need to talk.” He flopped down on the couch beside Zeb, not even trying to figure out the silly situation on the tube. “Where’s Reba?”
“Sh!” Zeb growled.
“In the bathroom,” Bo supplied, ignoring Zeb’s surly response.
Jed kept his mouth clamped shut for the next four minutes. He glanced over at Bo once or twice, glad for his younger sibling’s calming presence. If it wasn’t for Bo, he and Zeb might have killed one other by now, even if it was all in good-natured sport. Bo had been forthright with him right from the beginning. He was here to look for a job, but if nothing turned up within the next two weeks he was headed back home to Newfoundland.
When the television episode finished, Zeb lunged for the remote control but not before Jed could click off the TV. “I’m serious. My neighbour is gonna call the cops if we don’t keep it down.”
“Don’t put it all on us.” Zeb downed the contents of his can and then crushed it with one hand. He threw the mangled tin into the corner.
Jed frowned, but ignored the motion. “I’m not. I’m just sayin’ is all. And apparently she came and talked to Reba. Either of you guys around for that?” He looked from brother to brother.
“I didn’t pay any attention. Must a been in the can.” Zeb settled into the cushions and closed his eyes.
“I know someone came to the door and Reba answered. Not sure what they said, though,” Bo offered.
Reba appeared in the living room doorway. “What’s all the fuss?”
Jed blinked. For a moment he didn’t recognize the female standing there in his living room.
Jed’s sister Reba was about five foot six in height, not tall by Malloy standards, but not short either. The sister he knew had thick red hair that normally fell in waves about her shoulders. This woman had jet-black hair. Her chocolate brown eyes stared at him from beneath a thick ring of black eyeliner. Her lips were also black.
“Reba Roxanne! What in blazes!”
Reba frowned and crossed her arms. “Don’t call me that. Only Ma calls me by my full name.”
“And what would Ma say if she saw ya?” Jed retorted. “What ‘ave ya done?”
“What?” Reba spread her arms and looked down at her figure and then back up again.
“That.” Jed made a corkscrew motion with his finger, gesturing up and down her body. “All that black makeup. And your ‘air! Ya gone and dyed it black!”
“So?” Jed snorted. “God gave you a mane of red ‘air that any woman would kill for and you go and dye it black?” A suppressed chortle came from the couch. Jed turned an accusing glare upon Zeb and Bo, both smirking in their respective seats. “An’ I suppose you two knew about this?”
“It’s just a new ‘airdo and a little makeup. Let the kid ‘ave some fun,” Zeb said and then he chuckled. “Although I gotta say, Spitfire, it looks like ‘ell.”
“Thanks,” Reba replied sarcastically. She shook her black mane. “Besides, I’m ‘ardly a kid and its not permanent. I’m not stupid. Angela says it’ll wash out with just four to six washings.”
“Angela?” Jed frowned.
“Yes, Angela.” Reba sauntered into the room and grabbed up the remote. She flicked on the TV. Jed was too shocked to care. “You know. The ‘airdresser that lives in the building. The one who dates that cute French bartender. What’s ‘is name? Jacques?”
Jed grabbed the remote out of her hands and turned the TV down, but didn’t shut it off altogether. “‘Ow do you know so much and when did you get this done?”
“I met them at the Urban Cowboy, remember?” Reba shook her head. “You’re the one who introduced us. When I found out Angela did ‘air I thought it would be fun to try something different before I go back ‘ome.”
“Ma’ll kill ya,” Jed breathed.
“I remember ‘er,” Zeb said, nodding his head slowly. “Nice backside on that one.” His teeth peeked out whitely from beneath the shagginess of his red beard.
“You’re an animal,” Jed shot in Zeb’s direction.
Zeb just shrugged. “I likes a woman with a little meat on ‘er. Seems to me you do, too, if I remember.” He reached for the remote and Jed had to hold it at arm’s length.
“Whatever.” Jed threw the remote at Bo for safe-keeping. “Your mane is the least of my worries. My neighbour says you were rude to ‘er today when she came to tell ya to turn down the music.” Jed held Reba’s gaze with his own.
Reba was not one to back down easily. Her chin tilted up. “Me rude? Ha! She was the one being rude. I just gave it right back to ‘er.”
“Except you forget that I ‘ave to live ‘ere after you goes ‘ome. Which reminds me. She says you said you might not be leavin’. Is that true?”
Reba rolled her eyes. “Of course not. I mean, I would if I found a job or something.”
“And where would ya stay? Ya can’t live with me permanent.”
“What about Bo?” Reba chucked her head in his direction. “You said ‘e could stay if ‘e found a job.”
“Exactly my point. We’re packed in like sardines as it is.”
Reba crossed her arms. “So Bo’s welcome and I’m not?”
“I didn’t say that!” Jed rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m just sayin’ that this arrangement, as nice as it’s been, isn’t permanent. Lard tunderin’ – ya don’t think I’m daft enough to ‘ave all of yas stay with me forever, do ya? A course Bo’s gonna get ‘is own place, eventually – if ‘e finds a job.”
“And if I find a job?” Reba asked.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, I guess.”
Zeb chuckled. “I been scoutin’ for a job around these parts, too. What if we all ended up livin’ on Jed’s couch?”
“Just remember I got first dibs,” Bo said with a grin.
“All I gotta say is Lard ‘ave mercy on us all!” Jed slapped his knees. “What say we go to the Urban Cowboy? I need a change of scenery before I go snakey. You bunch are drivin’ me to drink.”
They all laughed.
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Jed and his siblings arrived at the Urban Cowboy just after eight. The interior gave a definite nod to the seventies with lots of neon, wood paneling, and several large framed posters of cowboys in designer jeans. Jed led the way through a maze of tables to the long bar that flanked one wall. The polished surface was almost as reflective as the mirror behind the counter.
Tad Roberts, a smooth headed black man of indeterminate age was behind the counter putting away some bottles. He and his son Cory owned the establishment, although Cory was nowhere in sight. Jacques Marcett, a resident of Jed’s apartment building and also a very talented mixologist, was behind the counter as well, polishing glasses. His dark blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail and he sported a trimmed goatee and moustache. There was something about the Frenchman that reminded Jed of a fox, but he didn’t say it to his face. Maybe the fact that Jacques had managed to land Angela Carravagio, the hairdresser Reba had been referring to earlier, made Jed feel somewhat cynical.
Jed shook his head. Scratch that. Angela Carravagio was a looker, at least in Jed’s books, but she was welcome to Jacques if she preferred that scrawny frog to a real man. He wouldn’t give Frenchie the satisfaction of knowing he’d been even remotely interested.
“I’ll have what’s on tap, “ Jed hollered to Jacques as he leaned on the counter with his elbows. He turned to watch Zeb, Bo, and Reba sit down in a row on the counter’s stools. “Don’t get too comfortable. I plan on whoopin’ someone’s butt at a game of pool before the night is over.”
“Hello, Jed. These must be the siblings you mentioned were coming for Christmas.” Tad Roberts extended his hand in front of Zeb. “Tad Roberts. I believe we met already at the apartment social. I’m afraid I forgot your name, though.”
“Zeb Malloy.” Zeb’s handshake was firm.
“An’ that’s my brother Bo and sister Reba all the way from Newfoundland.” Jed gestured at the other two with his head.
“I call her Spitfire, but she’ll answer to just about anything,” Zeb teased. Reba punched him in the arm.
“Pleased to meet you as well.” Tad nodded courteously. “Now what can we get for you folks tonight?”
The Malloys ordered their drinks – beer all around – and they settled in for a moment to quench their collective thirst.
“Surprised to see you ‘ere this fine evenin’,” Jed directed at Tad.
“Somebody’s got to work over the holidays.” Tad smiled congenially at the group.
Jed nodded, remembering. “Your son Cory went to Vancouver for the holidays, didn’t ’e?”
“That’s right, although running this place isn’t exactly my forte.” Tad glanced over at Jacques. “Good thing I have Jacques to keep things rolling. Otherwise I’d be hooped.”
“He’s a good boy, our Jacques.” There was only the slightest sarcastic edge to Jed’s tone.
“I’m trying to convince him to take my offer of promotion to manager, but he’s still thinking about it.”
“One can’t be hasty.” Jacques rolled a shoulder elegantly. “I’ll let you know after New Year’s.”
“Well, I hope the answer is yes. Having to spend every evening here is cramping my style.” Tad laughed. Jed knew Tad was talking about his new romance with Goldie Harper, a single mother who also lived in their building.
“If I become manager, what will you do? I’m the best bartender in the city,” Jacques said, his French accent thick.
“I’ll think of something,” Tad said with a laugh. “But enough about that. I’m sure you didn’t come here to talk shop with me.”
“Came to blow off some steam. Thought Lester might show.” Jed looked to the doors and then back again. “‘E ‘asn’t been out in awhile.”
“What kind of experience does a fella need?” Bo kept his steady gaze on Tad as he took a swig from his stein.
Tad’s attention swung from Jed over to Bo. He furrowed his brow. “Pardon me? Experience for what?”
“Bartending.” Bo didn’t blink. “I’m looking for a job.”
Jed turned to Bo and punched him in the bicep. “What do you know about bartendin’?”
Bo maintained a calm face, although he leaned slightly away from Jed and clutched his arm. “I know a couple of things.”
Zeb leaned further across the counter so that he could see Jed at the far end of the line up. “Are ya stun, b’y? Bo took one of them fancy drink makin’ courses. Last spring was it?”
“Mixology,” Reba filled in. “Got the gift, so some people say.”
Jacques had stopped polishing the glass he held and was surveying Bo closely. “How do you make a Boulevardier?”
Bo blinked and thought for a moment. “Bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth and a twist of lemon.” He hesitated before continuing. “Actually, make it an orange slice. More classic.”
Jacques’s head bobbed up and down. “Excellent.”
“The Boulevardier is rather obscure, but it is making a come back,” Bo added.
“Now just a minute. How’s bartending gonna pay the bills?” Jed asked. “If yer gonna stay and look fer a job, the oil patch is the place to be.”
“That was rather arrogant.” Jacques’s nose tilted upward. “I pay my bills, and quite nicely I might add.”
“You’d be surprised at how well people tip,” Tad added.
Zeb guffawed. “Jed’s such a cheap son of a – he don’t know nothin’ about tippin’.”
“That ain’t true and Jacques knows it.” Jed pointed at Jacques with his half empty beer mug.
“When are you sissies gonna take me on in a game of pool? I’m tired of waiting.” Reba downed the rest of her beer and clunked the mug down on the counter. “I’ll have another, by the way.”
“I’m with ‘er,” Zeb said. He shoved his empty mug in line with Reba’s and then unfolded his considerable height from the barstool. “Let’s go play some pool.”
Tad stopped Bo by placing his hand on his sleeve. “Stop by with a resume. I mean it.”
Bo nodded. “I will. First thing tomorrow.”
Jed just shook his head. Silly fool kid. A big strong boy like Bo should be working a real man’s job, not mixing sissy drinks next to the oh-so-smug Jacques. Not to mention, a permanent housing arrangement was probably in the cards, no matter what Bo said about finding his own place. Cheap rent was hard to come by in this city.
Not that Bo would be hard to live with, but Reba might start getting ideas next and who knew where it would go from there. Talk about cutting into one’s private life! He might have to go back home to Newfoundland to find some peace!
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The pool balls made a loud cracking noise as Zeb broke for the third game in a row. The siblings had teamed up – Zeb and Reba against Bo and Jed. So far, they’d each won a game so this one would be the tie-breaker. Zeb circled the table, sinking several balls easily before missing a shot. Bo was up.
Jed stood to one side leaning on his pool cue. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a familiar figure enter the establishment. He waved as Lester Tibbett and Sherri Chan headed his way. Lester was wearing a tan coloured cowboy hat that suited his physique and was holding possessively onto Sherri’s hand. The top of Sherri’s head was only up to Lester’s shoulder, her sleek black hair framing her Asian features like that of a china doll. “Glad to see Lester could come out to play,” Jed teased once the couple reached the pool table.
“Is that what he told you?” Sherri turned exotic eyes toward Lester and raised a brow.
“His words, not mine,” Lester replied. “So who’s winning?”
“Reba and I are about to kick some butt,” Zeb answered just as Bo missed his next shot. “Looks like you’re up, Spitfire.”
Reba leaned across the table, one foot off the floor as she stretched to get just the right angle. A strong cut with the cue ball and one of her solids went into the side pocket. Two more shots and it was Jed’s turn.
“Now I’ll show youse ‘ow it’s really done.” Jed lined up to shoot. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed another figure moving just into his line of vision. Long, voluptuous chestnut curls, and a signature curve hugging dress accentuated her full figure in all the right ways.
Jed’s cue wobbled and the white ball meandered toward its target, grazing the nearest striped ball before disappearing into the pocket. With a curse Jed straightened, thumping his cue on the floor for good measure.
Reba and Zeb let loose with simultaneous whoops and did a high five.
“Ya scratched!” Bo exclaimed. “I thought you said you ‘ad my back.”
Jed growled a response and shrugged off his younger brother’s hand. Then he made the mistake of glancing her way again and wished he hadn’t. She was kissing that Frenchman, Jacques.
“Yeah, what’s up with that?” Lester asked. “For a guy who likes to brag about how good he is at pool, that was amateur night for sure.”
“Everybody misses once in awhile,” Jed mumbled. He kept his eyes focused on the pool table.
A grinning Zeb wasted no time in finishing the game.
◇ ◇ ◇
It was another short work week because of the upcoming New Year. The boss let them go early for which Jed was glad. This might be his last night with his siblings and he planned to bring the new year in with style. Zeb was scheduled to fly out to Fort McMurray the next day and Reba went back to Newfoundland the day after. Bo had only booked a one way flight, planning to stay for a longer time to look for work. If the job at the Urban Cowboy panned out, he would be staying for sure.
Jed had resigned himself to the fact – not that he really minded. Bo was quiet and clean. Not like Zeb. Or Reba. That girl set off a wildfire in her path. Makeup and curling irons or whatever the heck they were all over the bathroom. Not to mention clothing all over the spare bedroom floor. Jed was by no means a clean freak, but even he was beginning to feel uncomfortable with all the women’s attire strewn about the house. Thankfully, all ‘good’ things had to come to an end.
As soon as Jed entered the apartment building he noticed Bo standing near the elevator talking to that Carravagio woman. A strangely familiar tightening of his gut occurred and Jed frowned. No woman had ever gotten to his insides the way that one did. It made him mad. He noted the way she placed a hand on Bo’s arm and laughed up at him. She was dressed much more conventionally that day, not the usual revealing outfit. Still, women like that couldn’t be trusted.
“I hate the dye job you gave my sister,” Jed called as he headed to the bank of mailboxes. He noticed a confused furrowing of her brow. Then the elevators opened and she disappeared inside. He ignored her as he got the mail. Bo was still standing there waiting for him when he was finished.
“That was kind of rude,” Bo said as soon as Jed was by his side.
Jed grunted. “Just statin’ a fact.”
“It’s not ‘er fault Reba wanted to shock you.”
Jed frowned and turned his gaze to Bo. “Shock me?”
“Of course.” Bo laughed. “You don’t think she actually likes the way she looks. She just does stuff like that to get a rise out of you. Or Ma. Or whoever she thinks is in charge at the moment.”
“You watch yourself with that one. Women like her chew men up and spit them out again.”
“Who are you talking about? Reba?”
“No, numskull. I mean that Carravagio girl. Don’t think she wasn’t trying to flirt. That kind always does. Nothing but trouble. Besides, Frenchie wouldn’t like it.”
“I wasn’t flirting,” Bo said, matter-of-fact. “Although she is kind of attractive, don’t you think?” A mischievous smile was playing on Bo’s lips.
Jed made a huffing sound deep in his throat. “Whatever. Just keep your nose clean. If you’re gonna get a job working with Frenchie you can’t be messin’ with ‘is girl.”
”Jacques’s got nothing to worry about. Least not from me.”
Jed wouldn’t count on it. That one was a looker and a flirt, and if he and Bo shared the same blood, he’d noticed it, too.
◇ ◇ ◇
The Urban Cowboy was packed and it wasn’t just with regulars. Jed’s gaze flashed to some women perched provocatively on some stools just across from where he lounged at a small table with his siblings. He might have seen the girls before, but this time they weren’t in the usual cowgirl costumes – the fake kind that real cowgirls wouldn’t even dream of wearing. Instead, they were decked out in clingy, sparkly dresses with open backs. The kind that didn’t allow for undergarments.
Not that he minded. Ringing in the New Year had its perks. He lofted his beer and smiled, only breaking eye contact when someone bumped him from behind.
“Which one do you want?” Zeb leaned over and flicked his head toward the ladies.
“Who says I wasn’t planning on both?” Jed countered.
Zeb let out a raucous burst of laughter and slapped Jed across the back. “As if. You’ve turned into a monk as far as I can tell.”
“That’s cause I don’t kiss and tell.”
“I was ‘oping for a bit more than a kiss,” Zeb said as he winked at the women.
“Go for it.” Jed shrugged. “Just don’t bring ‘em ‘ome. That would be awkward. Especially since you’re sleepin’ on the couch.”
“You sure know how to kill the fun. Tonight’s my last night in town. I deserve a good send off before I go back to Fort Mac.”
“I’ll just be glad to get your sorry behind off my couch.”
It was good natured banter. The Malloy way. To an outsider it sounded like they were arguing, but it was their way of showing affection. When it came down to it, they fought tooth and nail, even as adults, but whoa to the person who dared cross a Malloy from outside the family. They’d have the whole clan down their throats.
Zeb stood up and downed the remainder of his beer. He thunked the stein onto the table. “Sure you’re not coming? I don’t mind sharin’.” He grinned.
“Have at it.” Jed took a swig of his own drink.
In truth, he really wasn’t interested. There was a time that he would have gladly taken whatever he could get. But somehow the casual thing wasn’t as fulfilling as it used to be. He wanted something more. A committed relationship like Lester and Sherri.
They were at a different New Year’s gathering. When Jed had asked Lester about it, he just said they’d made other plans. Guess compromise was what it took when you had someone special in your life. Jed liked to tease his friend about the old ball and chain, but if the truth be told, he was jealous.
“Why so glum, chum?” Reba’s voice cut into Jed’s reverie. “You’re gettin’ behind!” She guzzled her own beer and then wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve. Suddenly, a loud burp escaped and she laughed loudly.
“You better slow down. You’ll be under the table before midnight,” Jed said.
“I don’t need you to tell me ‘ow to ‘andle my liquor,” Reba said. She turned to Bo. “I think livin’ out west so long made our big brother forget ‘is roots.” She flipped a long tendril of hair over her shoulder. The black was already beginning to fade.
“Not forgetting my roots. Just mindin’ yours, seein’ as you’re livin’ in my spare room.”
“You’re not my ma,” Reba countered.
“Right you are. I’m yer worst nightmare.”
“Come on, Bro,” Bo cut in. “It’s New Year’s.”
Before Jed could formulate a retort, Reba was waving frantically toward an approaching figure. “Come sit with us!”
Jed’s eyes narrowed as he recognized Angela Carravagio heading their way, followed by a rough looking bald man who was wearing a leather jacket. He had a lot of tattoos and a long tapered goatee. Reba and Bo scooted their chairs to make room for the newcomers.
Angela’s version of the ‘shiny dress’ was not as revealing as Jed would have expected. She usually liked to flaunt her assets, leaving little to the imagination. This dress shimmered in the dim light, the cowl neckline and flared skirt highlighting her curves but forcing onlookers to fill in the blanks. Jed found the more conservative style even more enticing than the usual show of skin. He frowned inwardly. She’d made it perfectly clear she wasn’t interested in him, so why keep torturing himself? He was about to ask why she wasn’t hanging out with her boyfriend when a voice interrupted his thoughts.
Jed blinked at the other man’s extended hand. He stuck out his and they shook. “Jed Malloy. Nice to meet ya.” He took in the other man’s features after he released his grip. “Wait a minute. You’re the brother. I remember seeing you at the Christmas party.”
Rocky nodded vigorously. “That’s right. I went with Angela. I don’t recall if we actually met, but I do remember seeing you there.”
“Me too. And this is my sister Reba and my brother Bo. Visiting from Newfoundland.”
“Not visiting anymore,” Bo interjected. “I’m startin’ work next week as a bartender ‘ere.”
“That’s wonderful,” Angela said. “It’s nice that you don’t have to leave us so soon.”
“As long as Jed doesn’t turn me out on the street, I should be good till I find my own place.”
“Tough to get a place to rent these days,” Rocky said.
“So, I’ve been told,” Bo agreed with a nod.
“Oh well. It’ll be nice to see you every once in awhile down by the mailboxes,” Angela said with a smile.
Jed watched the conversation with disgust. Why in blazes was she so fired up happy about Bo sticking around? Didn’t she already have a boyfriend? And Bo was lapping it up like a puppy dog starved for affection. Jed felt like slapping him upside the head!
When the conversation turned to hair colour and the fact that Reba needed her roots touched up, Jed had had enough. He pushed his chair back noisily.
“Where you goin’?” Bo asked.
“Getting another beer. They’re so doggone busy the service is too slow.” Jed turned on his heel to head to the bar where he usually liked to sit. Maybe there he could collect his thoughts – or get stinking drunk. One of the two.
He’d only taken one step when he froze in his boots. He blinked as his mouth dropped open. Perching on one of the high stools was a familiar curvaceous figure. She leaned over the counter a bit to receive a quick kiss on the mouth from Jacques the bartender. Then Jacques went back to spraying some soda from a nozzle into a tall glass.
Jed slowly turned to look back at his own table. Angela was deep in conversation with his sister. Or was it Angela? He pivoted again to gaze at the woman sitting up to the bar. She was wearing a strappy little black dress with a line of sequins around the plunging neckline. The skirt was riding dangerously high as she crossed one leg over the other; one spiked heel was caught in the rung of the stool while the other foot dangled. That was Angela Carravagio.
He glanced one more time at the look-a-like. So if the one at the bar was Angela, who was talking to his sister? They were obviously twins, but how had he not known? Was he the only fool who didn’t? And if so, how could he admit his mistake?
For a split second, hope soared. If the other Angela really wasn’t Angela, then he no longer had to worry about Frenchie. He thought of the few times he had seen her in the foyer and had assumed she was her sister. He should have seen the signs! Look-a-like Angela didn’t wear too much make-up or clothes that were too tight. She seemed friendly and not as loud.
He took a step closer to the table. Then he noticed the way she smiled at Bo and the way he didn’t seem to mind it. Had Bo known all along? The little rat! He was stealing her right out from under his nose.
Embarrassment washed over him. Of course that wasn’t true. Hadn’t he been the one to brag about being single? He’d set the example for all his siblings, except for the sisters back home. Fanny, Mary and Sissy all had families. But all five brothers – and Reba – were proud to still be single. No ball and chain for them. Ha. It was a lie and now he couldn’t do anything about it because his own little brother was interested in his girl.
Jed turned away and headed for Zeb. If he was destined to be a bachelor his whole life he might as well make the most of it. His giant of a brother was sitting between the two girls they had seen earlier, one arm slung around each as they flirted and laughed.
“Hi ladies,” Jed interrupted the threesome’s conversation. “Did my brother tell ya he has a much better lookin’ brother?” He slapped Zeb on the back.
The girls giggled.
“Eh, b’y!” Zeb’s speech was only slightly slurred. “What you ladies say? Think we should let this big lummox join us?”
“Sure, he’s cute,” one of the girls said.
“And strong, too,” the other added. “Are you really brothers?”
“Blood brothers through and through,” Jed said with a grin. “Eh, barkeep!” he called a little more loudly. “‘Ow’s about another round, eh? Let’s bring this New Year in right!”
◇ ◇ ◇
Slap! The window blind whipped upward with a crash, flooding the bedroom with blazing white light. Jed shielded his eyes as some choice words erupted from his lips. He ducked under the blankets but gagged on the smell of his own putrid breath. As hangovers went, this had to be the worst.
“Can I borrow your truck?”
The voice was Bo’s, barely registering beneath the dull buzz in Jed’s ears. Jed told Bo to leave using a common metaphoric phrase ending with the word ‘off’.
“Not till you answer me civil,” Bo stated.
“What do you want?” Jed growled.
“To borrow your truck. Zeb’s leaving and I thought I’d be nice and drive him to the airport instead of makin’ him spend good money on a taxi,” Bo explained. “And it doesn’t look like you’re gonna drive him.”
Jed shook his head, immediately regretting the action. He took a steadying breath and opened one eye just a crack. “Zeb’s leaving already?”
“It’s already past noon.” Bo chuckled. “And if it makes you feel any better, he’s in about as much pain as you.”
Jed grunted. He should get up and see his brother off. Who knew when they’d see one another again? With a groan Jed hoisted himself to a sitting position. After a moment’s rest he swung his legs over the side of the bed. With effort he focused on Bo’s sturdy figure, lounging in the doorway of the bedroom. The blow up mattress that Bo was using each night was already propped up against the wall and his sleeping bag was rolled neatly beside it. “Tell ‘im I’ll just be a minute and then I can take ‘im.”
“No need,” Bo said. “I don’t mind. Besides, you look like ‘ell.”
“Thanks.” Jed still hadn’t moved from the sitting position on the bed.
“And if you’re worried about me getting lost, I’ll use GPS. I think I can ‘andle it.”
The offer was appealing, there was no doubt about it. “Just let me get some coffee into my system and then I’ll decide.” Jed slowly stood up and managed to shuffle past Bo into the hallway and head to the bathroom.
A few minutes later, Jed emerged and maneuvered his body to the kitchen. Reba, Bo and Zeb were already sitting around the small formica table. The smell of coffee reached Jed’s nostrils and he made his way toward the counter like a magnet to steel.
“You look about as good as I feel.” Zeb’s voice was gravelly.
“You both reek,” Reba said, screwing up her nose.
Zeb narrowed his eyes. “I just took a shower.”
“So? The alcohol is comin’ outta your pores,” Reba said.
Zeb laughed hoarsely. “No doubt.” He rubbed his big hand through his thick beard. “We had some good time, eh, b’y?”
Jed joined his siblings and sat on the remaining kitchen chair. “Did we? I don’t remember.”
Zeb laughed, his eyes squinting with the pain of it. “Come to think of it, neither do I. I’m assuming we had a good time. Those were a couple of ‘ot little chicks we landed.”
Jed sipped his coffee. He didn’t actually remember much about what happened beyond a certain point. He recalled sitting at the bar with the two women, and drinking some tequila shooters, which was always a mistake. After that there was some billiards, then the live music started and there was some dancing, some kissing after the count down to the new year… And then what? He looked sideways at Zeb. “Uh, ‘ow did we get ‘ome? Did we come ‘ere or did we go somewhere else first?”
“If you’re asking whether we got lucky, the answer is no,” Zeb said with a sheepish grin. “Seems our lady friends don’t do certain things on a first date.”
Jed nodded. “So there are still a few moral people left in this world.” Relief washed over him at the news, but he strained to maintain an ‘I don’t care either way’ facade. He didn’t like the idea of not remembering certain intimate details. Not to mention the fact that it felt like cheating, which was ridiculous since he wasn’t even in a relationship with anyone.
“And as to ‘ow you got home, you took a cab, as planned,” said Bo. “I made sure you got into the cab myself.”
“Of course you did,” Jed mumbled.
“Well, Andrea, Rocky, and Reba had to help.” Bo laughed. “It’s not easy getting two wasted Malloys to do anything once they’ve ‘ad too much to drink and think they own the world.”
Jed frowned. “Andrea and Rocky? I don’t know no Andrea and Rocky.”
“Andrea and Rocky Carravagio,” Reba explained as if to a child. “Of course you know them.”
Andrea. So that was her name… Jed gulped down the remainder of his now cool coffee. He rose to get a refill, keeping his back to his siblings while he mulled this new information over.
He took another sip and then turned slowly, leaning against the counter with his backside. “So am I the only loser in this room that didn’t know there were two of them?”
“I had no clue,” Zeb said with a shrug. “In fact, I’m not sure what the ‘ell you’re talkin’ about.” He laughed.
“The Carravagio sisters,” Reba said. “They’re twins. Angela and Andrea.”
“You mean the ‘ottie that goes with that French bartender dude?” Zeb asked.
Reba nodded. “Exactly. That’s Angela. The other sister’s name is Andrea. They own a salon together. ‘Gemini’s’. Get it? Gemini’s because they’re twins.”
“We get it,” Bo said dryly.
“So you’re telling me that you knew and you didn’t say anything? Just let me carry on like a fool?” Jed looked from Bo to Reba and back again.
“I knew,” Reba said with a shrug. “I just assumed you morons did, too.”
“I didn’t,” Bo admitted. “Although I wondered at times.”
Zeb shrugged. “Whatever. I’m leaving in…” he consulted his cell phone sitting on the table in front of him. “Two and a half hours, so it really doesn’t matter to me.” He grinned. “It might make life interestin’ around ‘ere for you fellas, though.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jed asked.
Zeb shrugged. “Some ‘ealthy competition, that’s all.”
Bo put up his hands in surrender. “Count me out!”
“Don’t you ‘ave an airplane to catch?” Jed asked sullenly.
“So I do. So which one of you lucky buggers is gonna take me to the airport?” He consulted his phone again. “With the stupid rules about getting there ahead of time, I’d say we better get going.”
Jed downed the rest of his coffee, but Bo was already standing. “I’ll do it,” Bo offered. He looked directly at Jed. “You look like -”
“I know, I know! You already told me. So get going then and don’t get lost or smash up my truck on the way. The drivers in this city are crazy.”
Zeb’s duffle bag was already sitting by the door so it was just a matter of saying one last good-bye accompanied by a bear hug and a few low intensity slaps on the back.
When Jed shut the door behind Bo and Zeb, the apartment felt suddenly quiet. Eerily so. He turned to say something to Reba but she had already disappeared from the kitchen.
With a sigh, Jed poured himself some more coffee. This first day of the new year was shaping up to be a long lonely one.
◇ ◇ ◇
Another day passed and it was back to work for Jed. When he got home that evening, Bo was just leaving the apartment. “Where you goin’?” Jed asked.
“First night on the job,” Bo said.
“Oh, right. You can take my truck if you like,” Jed offered.
“No, I’ve got to figure out ‘ow to make my own way,” Bo said. “Transit it is until I can buy myself a vehicle.”
Jed nodded. He probably would have felt the same. “Looks like we’ll be like two ships passin’ in the night from now on. You workin’ nights and me workin’ days.”
“G’wan,” Bo said with a laugh. “You spend about as much time down at the Urban Cowboy as you do at ‘ome in the evenings, so I figure we’ll see one another plenty.”
Jed laughed. “True enough. Not tonight, though. I’m beat. Gonna eat some food and watch some TV and maybe even catch a few zees on the couch.”
He waved good-bye and shut the door to the apartment. The holidays were starting to catch up with him and he was ready for a quiet evening at home.
Jed cleaned up from work and then went to the kitchen to rummage around in the refrigerator. Except for a turkey dinner on Christmas day, they’d been eating a lot of take out during the holidays. It was time to get back to some home cooking. “Reba, you here?” he called over his shoulder as he continued to peruse the contents of the fridge.
There was no answer. With a shrug, Jed found some farmer’s sausage in the deep freeze compartment and threw it in the microwave to thaw. That and some frozen perogies with fried onions would make a tasty evening meal. He set to work, chopping, boiling and frying.
When the food was prepared, he left everything in the pots on the stove and grabbed a plate from the cupboard. Only slightly miffed that he didn’t know where Reba was, but determined not to phone or text, he sat down in front of the TV with his plate and switched on a hockey game.
It wasn’t until he was snoozing through the third period that he heard the latch on the apartment deadbolt click and he jerked to attention, his empty plate clattering to the floor. He let out a curse and scooped up the plate. Only a tiny dollop of sour cream had hit the carpet. He swiped at it with his finger, deciding that it blended in enough to leave for now.
“Do ya want some taken up? It’s on the stove,” he said as Reba hung her coat up in the closet near the door. One thing about family; you didn’t have to translate when it came to Newfie expressions. He set his dishes in the sink and ran some water over them.
“No thanks. I already ate.”
“You sure? There’s lots.” It was true. He’d cooked like he was making supper for the entire family, not just one person.
“Well, that’s debatable,” Jed said with a grin. “I guess I’ll be eatin’ cold sausage and perogies for lunch tomorrow.”
Reba leaned over his shoulder as he scooped some of the leftovers into a plastic container with a lid. “Why’d you make so much, anyway? Who’d ya think was coming for supper?”
“Nobody. I guess ‘aving youse around ‘as made me feel like I was back in Newfoundland. I felt obligated to cook for the whole family and then some.”
“I’ll try one sausage, since they’re already cooked.” Reba reached into the frying pan with her fingers and grabbed a sausage. She bit into it without bothering with cutlery or a plate.
“Where you been?” Jed finished dividing up the food into containers – two days worth of lunches.
“Just ‘anging out with the girls.” Reba flipped her hair back off her shoulder.
Jed blinked. It was the first he’d noticed that Reba’s hair was the right colour – a rich dark auburn. “You un-dyed your ‘air.”
“No, I re-dyed it.” She fluffed her hair with her free hand. “And don’t say I told you so.”
“Okay, I won’t. But… I knew you’d see sense eventually.” Jed grinned.
Reba rolled her eyes but smiled in spite of herself. “Angela did such a fantastic job of matching my real colour you can ‘ardly tell, don’t you think?”
Jed squinted and tipped his head to one side. Come to think of it, there wasn’t the same variety in tone that Reba’s natural hair had, but it was close. “She did a good job. So those are the girls you were ‘anging with?”
Reba nodded her head. “Good sausage.” She nipped her fingers into the container before Jed could seal the lid and took another piece. Then she headed for the living room.
“You leave my ‘ockey game alone,” Jed called as he placed the food in the refrigerator. On cue the channel switched to the canned laughter of a popular sit-com. With a grunt he looked at the pots and pans, and decided against it. They could wait. He stalked into the living room. “I was watchin’ that game.”
Reba flipped back to hockey. “Okay, fine.”
Jed settled himself in his chair and they watched for several minutes until there was a commercial break.
Reba cleared her throat. “So, what do you think about me staying on in Calgary?” She sat forward and added hastily. “I’m not asking your permission or anything. I just want to know what you think.”
“Well, I guess when you put it that way, you can do whatever you please. As long as you ‘ave a job and a place to live.” He stared at her pointedly.
“The first item seems to ‘ave fallen into place. Andrea and Angela offered me a job at Gemini’s. Their business ‘as really picked up and they need someone to work reception, do shampoos, things like that.”
Jed nodded his head. “‘Ow much?” He didn’t want to come off as negative, but that kind of a job probably didn’t pay very well.
Reba tilted her head, her chin jutting out. Jed recognized the defensive move. “Just a bit over minimum wage to start. But I’ll get part of the tips and if I do good, they said I can work into an apprenticeship.”
Jed furrowed his brow. “You know anything about ‘airdressin’?”
Reba expelled a frustrated breath. “I took cosmetology in school so I know the basics. I even got a certificate.” She shook her head. “You’re so out of touch.”
Jed shrugged. “Sorry for not knowing every single thing my siblings ‘ave been doing in the last few years. I didn’t know Bo’d taken mixology so I figure you can cut me some slack if I didn’t know you took cosmo-whatever you called it in ‘igh school.”
“Anyway, I’ve been thinking about doing it for awhile now. It seems like now is my chance.”
“Okay, but what about the living arrangements? You can’t expect Bo to sleep on an air mattress for too long.”
“I know,” Reba said. “Who knows? Maybe me and ‘im will get our own place and leave you to your bachelorhood forever.”
Reba hesitated. “So… you don’t mind if I stick around then? For awhile until I get my feet under me?”
“Course not. We’re family.” In Jed’s mind that said it all. “I’m more concerned about what Ma’s gonna say.”
“She’ll be fine. I’ll get Sissy or Fanny to pack a few of my things and ship them out. The rest she can pack into the attic if she wants.”
“I wasn’t thinking so much about the stuff, as ‘er losing ‘er baby girl.”
Reba rolled her eyes. “I’m hardly ‘er baby. That’s Pip’s distinction.”
Jed smiled at the memory of his youngest brother. Steve, or ‘Pip’ as he was called, was already 22 years old, a full ten years younger than Jed. That there were six other children between them wasn’t the point. Pip represented Jed’s own youth, which he sometimes felt was slipping away. Perhaps having Bo and Reba around would fill the void he felt inside at times.
“Well, just make sure ya let ‘er down easy, my girl. Too many children leavin’ the nest at one time might be more than she can take.”
Reba straightened her stance and crossed her arms. “She’s got five more at ‘ome not to mention the grandkids. She’ll be fine.” Her tone held more confidence than Jed suspected she felt.
He wrapped her in a bear hug.
“What’s that for?” Reba’s voice was muffled by Jed’s shirt.
“Just cause I felt like it.” He released her and smiled. She was frowning, but he could tell she was grateful for his support.
That was another thing about being a Malloy. Never admit to being scared.
◇ ◇ ◇
Rocky Carravagio had a shaved head, a boat load of tattoos, and a scraggly goatee that ended in a point. He was sitting in one of the faux leather chairs at the front of Gemini’s hair salon as Jed entered.
“Mind if I sit ‘ere?” Jed wasn’t one to be easily intimidated, but he was glad they weren’t meeting in a back alley somewhere.
“Course not,” the other man said with a shrug. “I hear your sister is working for my sisters now. Small world.” He smiled congenially, showing a gap where one tooth was missing. “You picking her up?”
Jed shook his head. “I’m ‘ere for a ‘air cut. Thought I’d better give the place a try now my sis works ‘ere.”
Reba rounded a corner and took up her spot behind the high reception counter. When she looked up her eyes widened in obvious surprise. “What are you doing ‘ere? I told you Angela offered me a ride ‘ome after work.”
Jed jumped to his feet and took the two steps to the counter. He rested his elbows on the shiny surface. “I know. I just thought that… uh… maybe you could squeeze me in for a ‘aircut.”
Reba narrowed her eyes suspiciously then perused the appointment book. “Angela could probably squeeze you in while ‘er colour is drying.”
Jed peered over the edge at the appointment book. “What about Andrea? Is she free?”
Reba looked up, mischief in her eyes. “What’s it worth to you?”
“‘Ow’s about the fact that you’re livin’ in my apartment for nothin’.”
“Only temporarily. Till I gets my feet under me.”
“So you says.”
Reba scanned the book with her pencil. “Come back in ‘alf an hour.” She looked up. “And be prepared for some royal teasing once I tell Bo.”
Jed frowned. “Keep yer mouth shut if you want to keep the spare room.”
Reba shrugged. “Deal.”
Jed waved to Rocky on his way out the door. He knew he wore a silly grin, but at that particular moment, he really didn’t care.
◇ ◇ ◇
Jed arrived back at the salon in exactly half an hour. Silly how nervous he felt. It was just a haircut. Reba seated him in one of those swivelling chairs that pumped up with hydraulics. She gave him a sly grin before walking away.
“Well, hello, there neighbour.” Andrea’s voice had a soft feminine quality.
Jed felt his insides tighten. “‘Ello yourself.”
“You’re here for a cut?” Her fingertips touched his hair.
Jed squirmed in his seat. “Nothin’ fancy. Just a trim.”
“You’ve got nice thick hair.” She continued to run her hands through his dark curls. It was torture. “Need a wash too, or just the cut?”
Jed cleared his throat. “Just the cut. I showered this mornin’.” Letting her fingers massage his scalp for a prolonged period of time was out of the question. The cut was bad enough.
Andrea placed a plastic cape around Jed’s shoulders and fastened it at the neck. Next she spritzed his hair down with a spray bottle and began combing it out. “So how long have you lived in Calgary, Jed?”
“Four years, give or take a few months.”
“Do you miss Newfoundland?”
“Sometimes.” He shrugged. “But it looks like Newfoundland is coming to me, now, what with Bo and Reba movin’ ‘ere.”
“Stay still,” Andrea directed.
Jed glanced in the large mirror in front of him and wished he hadn’t. Andrea looked as fresh and pretty as a flower in the soft pink smock she wore over her clothes. Not like her sister two chairs away who was wearing a V-neck that plunged way past decency. How did he ever get the two of them mixed up? Andrea was nothing like her sister Angela.
Andrea caught him staring at her in the mirror and smiled. His gaze immediately flew somewhere safe.
“We’re very glad to have Reba working for us. She seems genuinely interested in the business and is a great worker. Very organized.”
“That she is.” Jed kept his eyes fixed on the counter top in front of him. Various blow dryers, curling irons and straighteners were plugged in and waiting in their dock. A tall clear vase-like contraption held combs and brushes in a turquoise blue liquid. There were a couple of magazines on the counter, too.
Andrea snipped away for a few minutes in silence. When she moved around to the front, she all but blocked his view. All he could see was her ample bosom staring him in the face. He shut his eyes.
“That about does it, I think. It wasn’t very long to begin with, but you’ve got a nice crown. Your hair does exactly what it’s told.”
“The only part of me that does, I suspect.” Jed grinned and risked looking in the mirror again.
Andrea smiled before swinging him around. She produced a hand held mirror so he could see the back of his head in the reflection.
“You can pay your sister at the front.” She undid the smock and whipped it from his shoulders. Then she stepped on the hydraulic pump and the chair slowly descended.
Angela walked by and waved. “Hi, neighbour. Fancy meeting you here.”
“Hi, Angela,” Jed mumbled. When she was safely past, he cleared his throat and spoke more quietly. “Say… You ‘ungry? I’m just about gut founded. What say?”
Andrea blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
Reba appeared out of nowhere with a broom and began sweeping the dark fluff into a pile. “E’s asking you out.”
Jed felt the heat infiltrating his ears. “For a bite is all. If you’re free, that is.”
“Since you’re my last client, I think I would like that very much.”
“Good. That’s just fine.”
“I’d like to go home first, if that’s alright.” Andrea looked down at her serviceable smock.
“No problem. What time you be ‘andy?”
“I should be home by five thirty. How about six?”
“Suits me. I’ll meet you downstairs in the lobby then, at six o’clock.”
“Looking forward to it.” Andrea smiled.
“You g’wan.” Reba made a shooing motion with her hand. “I’ll finish the clean up and make sure this lummox pays ‘is bill.”
Andrea laughed. “Okay.” She waved before turning and walked toward the back of the salon.
“Now if that weren’t embarrassin’!” Jed let out with a puff of air.
Reba stood with her hand on her hip. “Which part? You askin’ Andrea out on a date, facin’ them both at once, or ‘aving me ‘ere to over’ear everything?”
◇ ◇ ◇
Jed checked his watch one more time and then shoved his hands in his jeans pockets. Plaid shirts and blue jeans were about all he owned for clothing, but at least they were clean. The elevator doors swooshed open and he turned eagerly to greet Andrea. His smile faded when Bo stepped out.
“Off to work?” Jed asked. The answer was obvious of course, but he and Bo had barely seen one another yet that day so it seemed the polite thing to say.
“Yup. See you in the morning.”
“Doubt that. You’re still in bed when I wake up.”
“Tomorrow is Sunday,” Bo reminded.
Of course it was. Today was Saturday which is why he had time to drive all the way over to Gemini’s for a haircut. “Right. I forgot. Maybe we should have Newfie breakfast tomorrow since all three of us will be home for a change.”
“I hate bologna,” Bo said.
Jed’s eyes widened. “All these year’s eating Ma’s Newfie breakfast and you hates bologna? Well, I’ll be giggered.”
“Nobody gets away without eatin’ everything on their plate,” Bo reminded. “It was pure survival.”
The elevator doors swished open once again and Andrea stepped out. “Hi, Bo!” she greeted warmly as she walked toward the men.
“Hi.” Bo lifted a hand in greeting.
“Off to work?” Andrea asked.
Bo nodded. “You should stop by later. I’ll mix you up something special. Virgin.”
Jed’s eyebrows shot up and his mouth dropped open. “Hey b’y! That was rude.”
“Bo knows I don’t drink alcohol, so he was just offering to make me something without,” Andrea explained.
“Course, I knew dat.” Jed clamped his mouth shut.
Bo gave his brother a quizzical look but continued talking. “Anyway, maybe see you both later.”
Jed’s gaze followed Bo out of the building.
“I, uh… I didn’t know you didn’t drink. Alcohol, I mean.”
“Bo knows because he’s mixed a few fancy drinks for me when I’ve gone with Angela.” Andrea sighed. “She often needs a DD.”
They exited the building and walked toward the parking lot. Andrea pulled her coat more closely around her form. “That wind’s nippy.”
“It’s still January,” Jed replied.
“I don’t want you to judge Angela,” Andrea said as she slid into the open passenger door of Jed’s pickup. “She’s got some issues – don’t we all – but she’s just choosing to deal with hers in a different way right now. I’m sure she’ll come around.”
Jed was in the truck himself now. It was toasty warm since he had started it remotely while waiting in the lobby. He put it in gear and headed out of the parking lot.
“I’m the last person to judge somebody. Get the log outta your own eye before you go tryin’ to get the speck outta someone else’s.”
“You know scripture!” Andrea fairly beamed at him.
Jed took a quick sidelong glance at the woman sitting next to him. “I went to Catholic school so I guess I’m not totally heathen.”
“So you’re Catholic?” she asked.
“Hm…” Jed rubbed his chin with his free hand. “I suppose I am for all intents and purposes. Been baptized and did my time as an altar boy if that’s what you mean. Not sure I really believe in it much, though.” He looked over at her again. “I take it you’re religious?”
Andrea smiled and shook her head. “I hate that term ‘religious’. I suppose to you I am, but I prefer ‘in a relationship with Jesus’.”
Jed tightened his jaw. Hoo-boy. One of those fanatics. Wasn’t that just his luck. “So this not drinking thing… Is that part of your religion – I mean, your relationship?”
“It’s just a personal choice, really. Drinking alcohol isn’t necessarily bad; it’s the overindulgence of alcohol that’s the problem. I believe a person can have a glass of wine or a social drink on occasion as long as their conscience is clear and they don’t get out of control by getting drunk. I just choose not to bother at all. I don’t want to end up being a stumbling block to someone who is weaker than me and can’t say no after they’ve had one.”
“Hm. Never thought of it that way before.” It was true, he hadn’t. The consumption of alcohol had always been part of his life; part of his family. It was almost a cultural thing for him. He’d seen quite a few folks abuse it in his time, but most just saw it as a way to have some fun amidst the hardships of life.
“‘Take heed lest this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those that are weak.’ At least I think that’s how it goes.”
“I sees you know your Bible well enough,” Jed said.
“Probably not well enough, but… I try.” She flashed him a smile.
They had arrived at their destination – a small Indian restaurant in a strip mall that was only a few blocks away. “I ‘ope this is okay? I didn’t think to ask if you cared for Indian food.”
“Love it. Butter chicken is one of my weaknesses,” Andrea said with a laugh.
Well, at least they had that in common.
◇ ◇ ◇
Jed and Andrea enjoyed a sumptuous Indian meal and were topping it off with cups of warm, authentic chai tea.
“I can tell your faith is important to you,” Jed brought the subject up again. “Is that a family thing or something you decided after you left ‘ome?”
Andrea cocked her head to one side and leaned on her hand. “Hm… how can I put this? It was sort of a family thing, but we didn’t grow up in a regular family. Our parents were killed in a car accident when we were young. Ang and I were nine and Rocky was already fourteen. Nobody wanted to adopt an entire family of kids, especially not at our age, so we went into foster care. We were never split up, but Rocky left as soon as he could at seventeen and joined the military. Ang and I were fortunate that our foster parents were nice people. Not the kind of horror stories that you hear all the time about abuse and what not. They were kind, caring people. Christian people. That’s not to say we didn’t have our share of troubles. We did.” Andrea laughed and looked down at her mug. “Believe it or not, I was probably more rebellious than Angela when we were young. I didn’t always like having to go to church and youth group and that, where as Ang lapped that stuff up. Later, when I was about seventeen, I decided to give my life to Christ. Once we graduated from high school, Angela suddenly decided it was time for her rebellious phase. I’m still waiting for her to grow out of it.”
“How many years has it been?” Jed asked.
Andrea flashed Jed an amused smile. “Is that your way of asking me how old I am?”
He chuckled. “Maybe.”
“Twenty-five. As soon as we turned eighteen our foster parents had no choice but to let us go on our own. I think that’s what turned Angela. In her mind – in mine, too, I guess – we were like their own kids. But suddenly after our eighteenth birthday, the government would no longer pay our foster parents for our care. We were expected to make a life for ourselves without their support.”
“That seems cruel. No wonder she was pissed. I would be too.”
“I understand why. They had other mouths to feed and if they let every foster kid just keep living with them indefinitely they wouldn’t be able to afford it. They prayed with us before we left, but it still hurt. A lot.” Andrea sighed and then straightened her shoulders. “But I’ve moved on. At least I had Jesus on my side. Unfortunately, it kind of turned Angela away from her faith.”
“Then what happened?”
Andrea shrugged one shoulder. “We busted our butts. Got jobs and a tiny apartment. One of us went to school full time while the other worked full time and then we switched it up. It took us four years to do a two year program, but we did it. Certified in hair, aesthetics, and massage therapy.”
“Good for you. And now you own your own salon. That’s quite an accomplishment.”
“We’ve worked hard for it.” Andrea leaned forward. “Despite what you may think, Angela is very responsible when it comes to money. She’s the brains behind our business. I’m the softy who takes stray clients in off the street and then only charges them half price.”
Jed’s eyebrows shot up. “You only charged me ‘alf price?”
Andrea nodded. “I figured with the minuscule amount of hair I took off the top, it would be highway robbery to do otherwise.”
Jed ran a hand over his closely cropped head. “I guess I really didn’t need a ‘aircut yet…”
“I believe that she’ll come around one day. Back to her faith, I mean. I’ve done a lot of praying. Even my brother has come to know Jesus. And that’s saying something.”
“Rocky?” Jed asked in surprise. “The tats man?”
Andrea laughed. “A pussy-cat in tiger’s clothing. Rocky was dishonourably discharged for possession of marijuana – a big deal back when it happened. He maintains to this day that he was framed, and I believe him. The bitterness was eating him up until he came across an army chaplain he calls ‘the padre’. Now he’s living for Jesus. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.” Andrea looked into Jed’s eyes and smiled sheepishly. “I can tell you already think I’m a looney-tune or something.”
“I don’t think that. I think you’re one brave gal, that’s what I think.”
There was a moment of silence as they held each other’s gaze. Finally, Andrea shifted in her seat. “I like you, Jed. I really do. You seem like a nice, down to earth, honest man. But the Bible says that a believer shouldn’t become unequally yoked, so until something changes, I’m afraid we can never be more than friends.”
What the…? That came out of left field! “What are you sayin’ exactly?” Jed asked, his voice hesitant.
“Just what I said. You’re strong and attractive, too. And you’re fun to be around.”
Andrea sighed. “I know you coming to the salon today was not an accident. I’m flattered. On the other hand, I can’t help wondering if it’s really my sister you’re attracted to, not me.”
“Absolutely not! She may be a looker, but she’s not my type.”
“So you mean to tell me you never got us mixed up? Not even once?” Andrea looked pointedly right at him.
“No… well, yes. I didn’t know there was two of you till New Year’s,” Jed admitted. He allowed a small half grin to lift the corner of his mouth. “Which explains why I wasn’t always nice to you. I thought you were some kind of two-timing little… you know.”
Andrea nodded. “I wondered. Sometimes it seemed like you liked me and then the next minute you were rude. I thought it was just the Newfoundland way.”
“Never! We Newfies pride ourselves on bein’ nice to everyone. Even come-from-aways.”
“Come from aways?” Andrea repeated.
“Folks not from Newfoundland,” Jed clarified.
“Ah. I see.” Andrea lifted her chin. “In any case, none of that matters. As long as you’re good with us just being friends. I wouldn’t want you to have expectations beyond what I can give.”
“Suits me fine,” Jed lied. He hoped his smile was genuine.
“Good. I like you – and your family – a lot. I almost envy the bond that I see between all of you. Not that Rocky and Angela and I aren’t close, but… it just seems less riddled with baggage, that’s all.”
“What you see is what you get,” Jed agreed.
“Good. Now, how about if we go over to the Urban Cowboy and celebrate our new friendship? Bo promised me a drink and I expect him to deliver.”
Bo. So that was her angle.
“Sure, I can ‘ardly wait.” Jed pasted on a smile and slipped from the upholstered booth.
Andrea chatted on the way to the Urban Cowboy but Jed paid little attention. All he could think about was how he had lost out again. Andrea made it sound like it was her religion that kept her from dating him, but in truth it was much closer to home than that. Andrea Carravagio preferred his younger brother Bo. And there was nothing he could do about it.
Except maybe drown his sorrows in a pint or two of beer. That was one relationship he could count on.
Cast of Characters
Jed Malloy: 32 – back woods boy from Newfoundland is the head of the ‘clan’.
Zeb Malloy: 30 – rough around the edges; likes to party, and likes his ‘freedom’.
Bo Malloy: 27 – quiet and more sensible than the rest. Works at the Urban Cowboy.
Will Malloy: 26 – into sports, the outdoors, and anything fun!
Reba Malloy: 24 – fiery redhead with a stubborn streak.
Pip (Steve) Malloy: 22 – the ‘baby’ of the family and a bit of a ‘ladies’ man’.
Andrea Carravagio: identical twin to Angela. Owns Gemini’s Beauty Salon.
Angela Carravagio: identical twin to Andrea. The ‘wild one’ of the two.
Jacques Marcett: manager of the Urban Cowboy, originally from Quebec.
Lester Tibbett: former cowboy and Jed’s friend.
Patsi Tibbett: Lester’s younger sister back from the country.
Brett McMillan: Patsi’s former boyfriend and one of the ‘elite’.
Marigold Reynolds: artist and environmentalist. Her parents own a campground.
Ophelia Stanfield: rich California girl visiting her relatives, the McMillans.
Cory Roberts: owns the Urban Cowboy; likes dreadlocks and DJing.
Viann-Patrice Marcett: Jacques’s step-sister from Montreal.
Sherri Chan: college professor who goes with Lester Tibbett.
Tiffany Yuen: Martial arts instructor visiting from Toronto.
Lily Chan: Sherri Chan’s cousin who also works at the family restaurant.
Tamara Spence: owner of the Brew café where Patsi works.
Carmen Lamont: owner of the Brew café where Patsi works.
Sherman Chan: Architect. Sherri’s brother. Goes with Carmen Lamont.
Rocky Carravagio: Scary looking brother of Andrea and Angela.
Jeremiah Reynolds: Will’s boss. Owns a campground.
Maizy Reynolds: Jeremiah’s wife.
Buck Stone: First Nations man who works at Jeremiah’s camp with Will.
Tad Roberts: Cory’s father and financier of the Urban Cowboy.
Dr. Lawler: has a brief relationship with Viann.
Crystal: waitress at the Urban Cowboy.
Millicent Peacock: nosy neighbour who lives in the apartment building.
Ma and Pops Malloy: The parents who started it all.
(The three sisters still in Newfoundland):
Fanny: 33 – married to Joe with 3 kids
Mary: 29 – married to ‘Dr.’ Trent with two kids
Sissy: 28 – married to Hank with four kids
Megan McMillan: Patsi’s friend and sister to Brett.
Emmanuel Fernandez: Megan’s boyfriend whom she eventually marries.
Elaine and Bruce McMillan: Brett’s lawyer parents involved in a scandal.
Steve Russell: Newspaper columnist who dates Tamara Spence.
Matonabee Spence: Tamara’s young son.
Goldie Harper: Lives in the apartment and goes with Tad Roberts.
Jason Harper: Goldie’s son.
Vinny Kirkpatrick: retired newspaper reporter.
Renee Tucker: Carmen Lamont’s niece, who used to date Cory Roberts.
More in the series
This short volume is just part of – the sequel to NEIGHBOURS SERIES I. Bo’s story is next – Volume 2 NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH, or save when you buy the . (Also available in paperback.)
If you haven’t read Series I, starring Lester Tibbett and many of the other characters found in Series II, you can find the entire nine volume set here – (In ebook or paperback)
I hope you enjoyed this episode in the continuing saga of the Malloy family. An honest review is always appreciated, and helps other readers find books they’ll love.
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[*Tracy Krauss *]writes contemporary Christian romance with a twist of suspense and a touch of humour. Her books strike a chord with those looking for a hard hitting yet thought provoking read – no sugar added. Her work has won multiple awards and has been on Amazon’s bestsellers’ lists. She also writes stage plays tailored to a high school audience, and has contributed to several anthologies, devotional books, and one illustrated children’s book. Tracy has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Saskatchewan and teaches secondary school Art, Drama and English – all things she is passionate about. She is a member of , , and is on the executive of , a Canada wide organization for writers of Christian faith. She and her husband have lived in five provinces and territories including many remote and unique places in Canada’s far north. They have four grown children and now reside in beautiful Tumbler Ridge, BC where she continues to pursue all of her creative interests.
Visit her website for more:
Other Work by Tracy Krauss
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- fiction on the edge without crossing the line –
Wind Over Marshdale
Play It Again
And the Beat Goes On
My Mother the Man-Eater
Neighbours Series I
Dorothy’s Road Trip
Ebenezer’s Christmas Carol
Ali and the Magic Lamp
Mutiny On Mount Olympus
A Midterm Eve’s Phantasm
The Western Tale’
Little Red In the Hood
Life is a Highway: Advice and Reflections On Navigating the Road of Life
Thirty Days of Targeted Prayer
The Sleepytown Express
They’re back! The Malloy family are taking over the neighbourhood! Jed - a ‘down-home’ boy from Newfoundland who’s a bit rough around the edges - moved ‘out west’ several years ago, but now his raucous family are joining him, one by one. A confirmed bachelor, Jed finds himself attracted to a hairdresser who he mistakes for her identical twin sister. Just when Jed thinks he’s ready for love, he finds out that their moral standards don’t align. In anguish he turns to alcohol – the one true friend that has never let him down. Note to readers: This series, although labelled ‘Christian’, contains elements that may be troubling to some readers, such as the use of alcohol and pre-marital sexual encounters. (The latter take place ‘off camera’.) There is, however, a faith based element throughout with a strong redemptive message at the end of the series.