Sunday with Grandad
Chris and Emery visit her ailing grandfather. The old man gives them marital advice.
Warnings: language, fluff
Word Count: 2292
Get to know Emery and Chris in their novella Georgia on My Mind
Chris smiles down into the car, helping her get settled and handing her the tray of cupcakes to hold. She reaches up and pulls down on his tie. “This will make him happy.”
“I sure as hell hope so, cuz if Ilaria saw me now, she’d totally give up, thinking I’m a lost cause,” he says, smoothing down the striped tie from the mid-eighties.
Emery rolls her eyes, moving her feet into position on the floorboard. “She’s seen you in the track suits you still wear. Fratboy wanna-be. She gave up hope a long time ago. Why do you think Seb gets all the modeling gigs?”
“Because he’s a pretty boy,” he chuckles, slamming the door closed and tapping the hood as he walks around the front. Loosening the tie, he crawls into the driver’s seat, already sweating in the hot Georgia, early morning sun. “I’m sweatin’ like a sinner in church.”
“Oh honey, bless your heart! You’re pickin’ up some of these Southern phrases!” She praises, stretching out her own drawl.
Turning the car out of the the little drive, he angles onto the empty road. “Dear God, our children will have the most fucked up accents one day,” he laughs, clapping his hand to his chest.
She swats his arm. “Shut up. They’ll be adorable.” Watching in the rearview mirror, she shifts in her seat. “Did I ever tell you about the student I had that spoke with a British accent the first five weeks of school? When I met his parents, I was so shocked to find out they were American!”
Chris chuckles, turning left at the stop sign. “So what? He was just fakin’ it?”
“Yea, he thought it would be cool.” She explains, pointing out a pothole in the road. “He’d been to a study thing at the Harry Potter theme park for a week, and came back with a British accent.” Emery shrugs. “Girls at school fell for it.”
“Smart kid,” he mutters, “why didn’t I think of that?”
“You were a little shit in class, weren’t you?” She asks, peering at him over the top of her sunglasses.
He smirks. “You know those old pictures, with my long floppy hair? It hid my eyes. I slept in class. A lot. Tara would lend me her notes, and Carly helped me figure out stuff I didn’t get. I wasn’t what you’d call an ‘exemplary student.’” He wiggles his eyebrows at her, leaving just one up, in a high arch. “None of my teachers looked as hot as you.” He pats her thigh, squeezing above the knee, exposed in her summer sundress.
She purses her lip and raises her brow in return. “Turn left up here,” she says, with a tilt of her chin. She squints. “You’d have been a kid I would convince to stay after school. You’d avoid it for weeks, and then once you came, and saw the atmosphere, you’d stay. You’d come whenever you didn’t have play practice.” Emery rests her head back against the seat.
He squeezes her leg again, before returning both hands to the wheel to make the turn. “You miss it, don’t you?”
“They had teacher stuff in the dollar bins at Target yesterday,” she pouts. “I bought a few things, but lecturing at conferences and helping to set up after school programs isn’t the same as having my own class, my own kids.”
He cocks his head. “Kitten, if you really want back in the classroom, just say so. You don’t have to go to Toronto with me this fall. I’ll be back for Christmas. I don’t know how much Marvel needs me for the press tour next Spring.” He sighs, pulling into a parking space in front of the old Southern brick home. “I feel like for the first time, we can breathe. Make our own plans. Have a little freedom.”
She bites her lip, removing her seat belt. “I know. I feel it too. No, I love what I do, advocating for good teachers and consulting with districts to make things better.” She sits still when he motions her to stay. He dashes quickly around the front of the car, straightening his tie, and she picks up the conversation where it left off when he opens the door. “I’m always gonna miss the classroom.” She winks, handing him the tray of cupcakes. “Maybe I’ll go back someday, but for now, this is the right thing.”
He balances the treats in one hand, reaching for her purse as she swivels around in the seat, putting one sandaled foot and one braced foot down on the ground. Grabbing the door frame above the window, she pulls herself up. “Stupid boot,” she mutters, balancing and pushing away, stepping awkwardly around the door. She glares at the front steps.
“I can go inside and get a wheelchair?” Chris offers, jumping out of her reach when she swings out to hit him.
“Fuckin’ hate you,” she giggles. “This is your fault, you know? I wouldn’t be in this boot, have tendonitis if it wasn’t for you.”
He laughs, smiling at a nurse who comes out to to greet them. Emery makes small talk with the young woman, passing off the sugary treats to her. Chris takes his wife’s arm and gently guides her up the steps. “Tap dance lessons to impress me didn’t have to turn into some imaginary, wild audition for ‘Dancing with the Stars.’” He reminds her.
“But I was having so much fun,” she stops on the step, pouting. “That would be something, to be on that show.” She shrugs. “I was just having fun dancing for you, and the family talent show. Besides,” she runs her hands down over her waist, smoothing out her sundress. “I lost all that weight that had been bugging me. It was addicting!”
“It was an expensive emergency room visit.”
She hits his chest. “Cheapskate,” she teases.
Pausing in front of the big, heavy wooden doors, she sighs. “I used to hate this place. When I was little, I had a great aunt here, and it always seemed so scary.” She scratches under her nose as Chris pulls up the door and a blast of air conditioning greets them. “It makes me sad he’s here.”
Chris squeezes her arm, “It’s better here for him, Em. He started a fire; someone could have been hurt.”
“I know, I know,” she whispers as he crosses to reception and announces they are there to visit Grant Thomas, her paternal grandfather. Chris and the nurse chat briefly, before he turns to her, pointing the way down the hall.
“They said he’s had his nap today, and should be awake, reading,” he explains quietly as they pass through the hallways. Some residents sit in their doorways, calling out as they pass by, or sit and play games in little alcoves. Before reaching the room, a nurse stops them, handing them a small plate with three of the cupcakes Emery made. She nods her thanks as Chris reaches his hand up to knock on the door.
“What? What’s that? Who’s there?” an old, tired voice calls out.
Emery caresses the side of Chris’s bearded cheek and pushes the door open. Loudly she announces, “It’s me, Emery, Grandad. I brought Chris today; we wanted to visit awhile.”
The couple step into the crowded space, smelling of tobacco, menthol and vanilla. Chris smiles at the plug-in in the outlet and fights the urge to loosen his tie in the heated room. The old man, weathered and tanned, his skin aged from the sun, is wrapped in a crocheted quilt with a sweatshirt resting around his shoulders.
“Who? Who is it? Turn up the light,” the man commands.
Emery steps forward, resting the cupcakes on the table beside the chair, turning on the lamp. “Grandad, it’s me, Emery. You’ve got it too dark in here.” She leans down and kisses the man on his cheek, feeling the slight stubble. “Can I open the shades? I wanna see you better.”
“The big bad wolf come to visit, eh?” He chuckles, crooking his finger and pointing at Chris. “You’re too damn tall.” He motions his hand for Chris to lower himself.
Chris squats by his chair, reaching out his hand for a shake. “Good to see you again, sir. Emery’s talked all week about coming out to see you!”
Mr. Thomas drops his hand, looking back at Emery, patting the arm of his chair. “Sit, sit.” He looks up at her, caressing back her long hair, running his aged and weak fingers through the ends. “Just like your grandmother’s,” he chokes. “Who’s the fella? It’s not that bloke from the bank is it?”
Emery blushes. “No, Grandaddy, it’s Chris. My husband. The actor? Captain America?”
“Captain, you say?” He points at the photos on the shelf, and Chris stands to retrieve one. “I was in World War II, son. You don’t look old enough to have been a Captain. What’s your unit?”
Chris sighs, having had this conversation with the old man before. He and Emery decided it was easiest for him to answer as Cap might, and the two trade war stories, real and fake, for a good part of the afternoon. After sharing the cupcakes, the man dozes off for a few minutes, jumping awake when he snores too loudly, scaring himself. Emery and Chris have a good laugh, and he joins in with them. “Son, what’s your last name again?”
“Evans, sir,” Chris offers.
“Grant Evans, has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?” He kicks out his foot, tapping the side of Emery’s boot. “So when’s that gonna be? I wanna be alive to hold my great- grandson. And you aren’t getting any younger, peanut!” He guffaws.
“Granddad!” Emery scoffs, blushing again and smoothing down her dress.
He turns his attention to Chris. “What’s wrong, soldier? Shooting blanks?” He glowers over his glasses. “Quit wasting your testosterone growing that damn beard and tell your swimmers to do their job, dammit.”
Chris bites back a laugh as Emery hides behind the photo album she was looking through. He salutes the older man. “Yes, sir. I’ll take her right home, and we’ll get right on that after we study scriptures tonight.”
“Good. Good Christian man. Nothing funny about that, no sir.” Mr. Thomas sits up proud. “All my babies been baptized. Raised by good Christian parents. You’ll be no different.” He points at both of them. “None of this nonsense about spoiling a child. You lead by example. Live the Golden Rule. Save your money. Visit Vegas once a year. Nothing too fancy,” he advises. “Simple. Like that tie. Good lookin’ tie, son.”
Emery smiles as Chris runs his hand proudly over the tie her grandfather had given him for his Broadway premiere.
“Sounds like a good life, Granddad,” Emery says wistfully, nodding at the nurse when she quietly enters the room. “It looks like it’s time for you to get down to dinner, so it’s time for us to go.”
He scowls at the nurse. “Trying to escape, are ya? Next time you come back, bring me something fried in lard. None of this food has flavor.” He pulls his walker around in front, rocking a few times in his seat, before pulling himself up to an upright position. He chuckles as Emery does the same, tottering in her boot and grabbing the front of the walker. “Looks like you need this thing more than me.” He smirks at Chris. “She get hurt chasin’ you around the bedroom?”
“All redheads. They’re all alike,” Chris laughs. “Can’t keep their hands to themselves.”
“Yep, boy, that’s right,” the old man chuckles, leading them down to the dining room before saying their goodbyes.
Emery kisses the old man on his cheek, whispering, “I’ll visit again soon.”
He pats her back, playing with the ends of her hair again. “Captain America, huh? You picked a good one, peanut. Don’t let him get away. You have pretty grandbabies to play at my feet, ya hear?”
“Yes, sir,” she smiles, holding the tears at bay.
Chris turns to salute the old man, wrapping his arm around his wife’s waist as the nurse leads Mr. Thomas to dinner.
“Come on, Mrs. Evans. Sounds like we’re trying to make a baby again tonight. Can’t disappoint the old man,” he laughs as Emery leans on his side, walking down the stairs and out to the car. “Don’t want him thinking I’ve got faulty swimmers.”
Emery lifts her long hair off her neck allowing a cool breeze to caress her skin. “Mr. Evans, I’m feeling adventurous. Instead of driving home, let’s just drive out to the campground!”
He stops in his tracks. “We don’t have any of our stuff with us.”
“So?” She taunts. “If we go now, we can have the place to ourselves for two whole days, before the reunion. We can get some stuff at Target, necessities, and you can come back later and get the rest of our stuff while I help Mom get things unpacked before everyone else arrives.”
Chris lifts her foot and boot, swinging them around and placing them in the car before closing the door. Walking around quickly, he climbs in the hot car, and starts the air and the ignition. “Emery Thomas Evans! I can’t figure out if this is a ploy for two days of uninterrupted baby making, or another trip to Target for teacher supplies?”
“Both,” she giggles as she rolls down her window, feeling the breeze in her hair as Chris heads for the highway leading out of town.
Watching the traffic in the rearview mirror, Chris asks point blank. “Emery, who’s the ‘bloke’ from the bank?”
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