Gavin hadn’t heard from Carmen since they parted ways after finding out Hugo had a wife. And a baby with that wife. And that his wife was a vampire. And that he kept the whole thing a secret. Gavin checked his phone, just in case Carmen sent up a smoke signal that she needed him.
There was no message from Carmen, but there was a message from his good friend Akira. Akira had just gotten a promotion and wanted to go to dinner to celebrate. Their friend Baby Branham was coming, and Baby decided to invite Robyn Epstein along. It was an odd grouping in Gavin’s opinion, but he was always down for a celebratory dinner, and some mirth after Carmen’s drama would be a nice.
Gavin, Akira, Baby, and Robyn met at the restaurant and were quickly shown their table.
“Thanks for including me, you guys,” said Robyn, “my mom only let me come because she trusts Gavin after he had her back with the vampires. I’m used to hanging out with older people though, like when Baby and I were in the Neighborhood Hang club together, isn’t that right, Baby?”
Baby smiled at Robyn and nodded. Gavin said nothing, he just nodded his head, barely moving. Akira cracked a smile in Gavin’s direction, amused at his accidental role in bringing a teenager out on a school night.
“I’m just glad I don’t have to celebrate my promotion by myself,” said Akira, “we’re happy to have you join us Robyn, even if you can’t join us in a celebratory glass of nectar, isn’t that right Gavin?”
“Mmm-hmm,” said Gavin, still not appearing to react in any way.
“Ahem, right, so… I’ve never been here before,” said Robyn. “Anyone have any ideas for what I should order?”
“Anything you pick is going to be good,” said Akira. “I’ve been here many times, and each time I try something new. I have liked it all. Now where is our waiter?”
The discussed what they should each order and finally decided just as the waiter arrived. They each placed their order, choosing to take Akira’s recommendations.
“Excuse me,” said Baby just a bit too loudly, “I have to.. ahem… I have to go to the bathroom… ahem… I’ll be right back.”
He seemed to be directing his comments towards Robyn, but she didn’t respond when he stood up and walked away. Instead, she turned towards Akira and Gavin and started cracking jokes. “Did you hear the one about the llama who won the Tug of War World Series?”
Gavin listened to her joke and laughed, his first real smile of the night. Still chuckling at her own joke, Robyn stood. “Now that I’ve elicited smiles from all the handsome men, excuse me while I go powder my nose. And I’m going to check in with my mom, make sure she’s knows I’m not getting into any trouble.”
“So… that was weird, right? I mean, that was…,” said Akira.
“Eh, I guess,” said Gavin, “but I don’t know her very well. Whenever I’m at the Epstein house, she’s usually busy watching her little sisters.”
“Baby is being weird too,” said Akira. “But enough about that. You seem really distracted tonight.”
“I don’t mean to be,” said Gavin, “I just had a crazy day out with Carmen.”
“Too much karaoke?”
“Ha! No, I wish. Too much baby daddy drama.”
“Oh boy,” said Akira, “you’ve never called him that before.”
“Yeah, he’s never deserved to be called that before. But I don’t want to talk about that anymore today. Tell me about how you got your promotion!”
“Well, as usual,” said Akira, “my technical proficiency and technological prowess earned my company lots of money, so they decided to give me more responsibility and a bigger piece of the pie. I graciously accepted, and I’m moving on up in the world.”
“Look at you,” said Gavin, “I’m so proud. I know how much this means to you.”
“It means everything,” said Akira. “It’s why I came to San Myshuno. In this city whether you’re an immigrant or native born, they judge you by your talents, not your birthright.”
“You sound like my grandfather,” laughed Gavin.
“He’s a wise man,” said Akira. “I’m glad you brought up your grandparents because I actually wanted to talk to you about something.” Akira took a look around before continuing, “I was going to wait until later, but since Baby and Robyn are still missing, now is a good time.”
“You want to talk about my grandparents?”
“Well, yes, but also you,” said Akira. “The first thing I did after getting my big promotion was move to a new apartment.”
“Oh, wow! Good for you,” said Gavin.
“Yeah, it’s a four bedroom over in Uptown.”
“What are you going to do with a four bedroom?”
“That’s where you–and your grandparents–come in,” said Akira. “I came here by myself, but since meeting you all, you feel like my family. I don’t want to be by myself all alone in that big apartment, on a side of town away from all my friends. I want you all to move with me.”
“Wow,” said Gavin, “it sounds intriguing, but I don’t know how they’d take it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know how proud West Indians are,” said Gavin, “They may take it as a charity offering and decline just because.”
“But they brought you here for a chance at a better life,” said Akira.
“And if they were back home, they wouldn’t think twice about combining resources with family so everyone is better off.”
“And they were happy you gave me an apartment key, told me to think of myself as family.”
“And they’re not getting any younger.”
“Yes, that’s true too.”
“Just imagine getting the chance to see them living their San Myshuno dreams–with you–with family–while they still can.”
“Okay, okay! You’ve convinced me,” said Gavin. “I’ll ask them.”
“You’ll ask them tonight?”
“First thing in the morning?”
“After my protest in the Spice Market.”
“Fine, fine, you win,” said Akira. “We’ll meet at the park afterwards and you can tell me how it went.”
“You could convince a turtle to give up his shell, you know that?”
“Who me? I would never! Unless it was really what was best for him.”
Before Gavin could respond, the waiter arrived with their meals. Baby followed him to the table.
“What were you guys talking about while I was gone?”
“Nothing,” said Akira with a roguish grin at Gavin.
Robyn joined the table and was amused and confused by the plate in front of her.
“What were you all doing while you were gone?” Akira asked as they all began to eat.
“Nothing,” said Baby.
To Be Continued…