Alone again, Sarah and AJ took advantage and talked about what had happened with Ali earlier in the day. Sarah did her best to offer advice but it all boiled down to the fact that AJ was drinking again and THAT she couldn’t fix.
AJ was staring at his hand in Sarah’s when she squeezed it. He looked up, “Another contraction?”
“No.” Nodding towards the front steps, she said, “Look who’s here.”
AJ looked up to see Ali standing at the top of the steps wearing his favorite dress. His heart was in his throat and for the first time in a very long time, he felt like a nervous teenager asking his crush out for a first date.
“Go to her,” urged Sarah. “She obviously wants to work on things.”
Without a word, AJ was up and across the floor in record time. Taking Ali in his arms, he held her tight as his tears fell on her shoulder. She followed his lead and put her arms around him too and they stood there for several minutes.
Unnoticed, Howie slipped into the booth beside his wife and put his arm around her. “Did you have something to do with that?” he whispered into her ear.
“Nope….this is all Alex. Everything taken care of?”
“Uh huh. How do you feel?” Howie ran his hand across her stomach as she nestled her head on his shoulder.
“Deliriously happy.” Taking his hand, she asked, “What are you planning, ‘D’?”
The staff started to appear with dinner for the small group as Howie said, “You’ll find out after dinner, ‘Angel’.”
The gods must have been looking out for Howie and Sarah. With Ali’s arrival, there weren’t enough plates for everyone and Sarah’s excuse for not eating was easy. Shannon was instructed to give Sarah’s plate to Ali and make sure Sarah got a glass for the toast.
As Shannon and the other waitresses served the group, the other four couples rejoined Howie and Sarah eager to find out what was planned for the evening.
“It all looks absolutely scrumptious,” drooled Becca as she took her seat.
Realizing Sarah didn’t have a plate, Kevin asked, “Aren’t you going to eat, baby?”
“Yeah, but we hadn’t planned on Ali so I let her have my plate,” answered Sarah as Howie squeezed her hand under the table.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come,” apologized Ali. “I feel like I’m crashing the party.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Howie. “You were invited just like everyone else.”
“Hush!! I’m fine, Ali. If I get hungry before they bring me something, I’ll just steal some from ‘D’s plate.”
“I don’t know why she bothers with her own plate anyway. She eats more from my plate than she does from her own,” teased Howie.
Everyone laughed as Sarah playfully elbowed him. “You’re so cute, Dorough,” replied Sarah sarcastically.
“You seem to think so,” countered Howie giving her a kiss. Then, getting serious, he reached for his glass of champagne. “I know that tonight was supposed to be a rehearsal dinner for Ali and AJ but despite the postponement, they are still very much in love and tonight is about that…love; love that will last a lifetime, stand up to any test, and grow with each passing day…the love we feel for a friend and the love we feel for our soul mates.”
As glasses clinked together, the group chimed, “To love.”
Sarah’s cravings and her willingness to try new things, especially Mexican food, allowed Howie to introduce new dishes to her. Using this to his advantage, Howie had had the kitchen prepare Jicama and Spanish Onion Lobster as the main entrée with garlic bread and a salad as side dishes. Now, everyone looked at their plates and Becca was the first one to bravely taste the treat.
“This is really good, Howie. Is this something new on the menu?”
“Not yet. I was waiting to see what Sarah thought about it before we added it.”
“What is it?” asked Nick wrinkling his nose at.
“It’s a lobster dish, Nick….called Jicame and Spanish Onion. Jicama is better known as a Mexican turnip.”
“Sarah, you should try some of Howie’s,” suggested Kevin. “It’s really good.”
“That’s okay,” answered Sarah as another contraction started. She tried to hide it but this one was the strongest one she’d had so far and she was in a lot of pain.
Howie felt her fingers dig into his thigh and he looked over at her realizing what was wrong. Leaning to her, he whispered, “Are you okay?”
She shook her head ‘no’ as tears sprang up and she buried her face in his chest as he wrapped his arm around her.
Everyone at the table was aware and Becca and Lynne exchanged knowing glances as Kevin asked, “What’s wrong, Sarah?”
“Nothing, ‘Boo’,” lied Sarah.
“BULLSHIT!” Kevin put his fork down and glared across the table at her. “I know you too well. You’re in pain.”
“I swear, Kevin…I’m fine. One of the babies shifted, that’s all.”
“Kevin, leave her alone,” scolded Lynne. “She’s a big girl and she has Howie to look out for her.”
Convinced that Howie and Sarah were keeping something from him, Kevin said, “She may be a big girl but she still needs more than her husband looking out for her because she’s so damned stubborn. Sarah, you WOULD tell us if you were in labor, wouldn’t you?”
Smiling sweetly through the pain, Sarah said, “Of course, ‘Boo’.”
“So how much longer do you have, Sarah?” asked Brian.
“My due date is still the same but it could be any day now.”
“Didn’t you have a doctor’s appointment today?” asked Kevin.
“God, Kevin….how much do you keep up with OTHER people’s schedules?” questioned Lynne.
Howie laughed, “You’ll have to forgive him, Lynne. Everyone is kinda anxious for these twins to be born. Yes, Kevin….she did have an appointment today and the doctor said she had dilated another centimeter but everything is fine.”
Dinner continued and the conversation was mostly about the twins. Howie was right, everyone was excited about the birth and wanted to know every last detail about all the doctor visits. Howie even showed them the last pictures from the ultra sound.
The pain in her back was getting increasingly worse and the contractions were closer and stronger making it difficult for Sarah to concentrate on the conversation. She was holding Howie’s hand under the table and every time a contraction would start, she’d squeeze it.
Kevin knew Sarah was holding back so he watched her closely. It hadn’t escaped his attention that she still hadn’t eaten even though Shannon had been in and out several times. He also eyed Howie trying to read anything in Howie’s eyes.
Chapter 45 Index