Chapter 74

As the car neared their condo, Howie gently brushed Sarah’s hair back and called to her. "’Angel’, you need to wake up."

"Mmmm," was her first response as she took his hand and pulled it to her eliciting soft laughter from her friends.

"Come on, sweetheart," coaxed Howie giving her a gentle shake. "We’re almost home."

As the car pulled into the driveway, Sarah sat up and yawned. That’s when she saw all the cars. "What in the h…" she started but stopped when she realized Jesse was listening intently. "Howie, what’s going on?"

Howie was just as bewildered seeing the cars. "I’m not sure. I knew Mama and Denise were coming out to be here and your family but I don’t know about everyone else."

Jesse began giggling and all the adults looked to her.

"What do you know, Jess?" asked Sarah.

"It was Uncle Alex’s idea…a party for you Mami and Caroline and Dwaine too!"

Sarah let out a heavy sigh and Howie said, "If you’re tired, I’m sure everyone will understand if you go lay down."

Taking his hand, Sarah said, "I’ll be okay, ‘D’."

With his free hand, Howie tilted her chin and covered her lips with his own. Slowly, he kissed her, his tongue teasing her as his fingers caressed her cheek.

Jesse, who had been playing with Garrett, gave a quiet sigh watching her parents.  She’d overhead the adults talking about how her real father had treated her mother and it scared her.  The love she was watching now, the love both showered her with so easily, made her feel safe but she couldn’t resist.

“Ewww!  Papi…that’s GROSS!”

Sarah and Howie broke apart laughing and Howie reached across to pull Jesse to him. Tickling her and razing her neck, he said, “Gross, huh?”

Squirming in his arms and laughing, Jesse cried, “Stop, Papi!  Please stop!”

“Howie, let her go,” laughed Sarah.

Howie stopped tickling her but he continued to hold her giving her a kiss on the cheek.  “One day, you’re going to have a boyfriend and he’s going to kiss you.  I’m going to remind you how gross kissing is.”

Becca noticed Sarah grimace and asked, “How do you feel?”

“Like a freakin’ cow,” mumbled Sarah as she looked down at herself.

Becca snickered.  “Is it time for them to eat again?”

“NO!” answered Sarah curtly.

That just made Becca laugh harder as she said, “Gonna put a serious cramp in your love life.”

“Becca…..BITE ME!” snarled Sarah as she pulled her jacket on.  “Howie, I’m going to the bedroom when we get inside.  Can you handle the twins for a few minutes?”

As the car door was opened, Howie said, “I expect the second we walk in we won’t have to worry about a thing.”

Howie wasn’t far from being right.  As the group headed up the sidewalk, all five Backstreet mothers met them and absconded with all four children leaving the small group staring in disbelief.

“They didn’t even want to talk to us,” said Nick in disbelief.  “My OWN mother didn’t want to talk to me.”

“That’s not such a bad thing, Nick,” teased Sarah as Howie slipped his arm around her waist.

“Ha! Ha!” snarked Nick but he was smiling.

“Come on,” said Kevin.  “Let’s go inside.”

As the group followed the mothers, Sarah asked, “Alex, did you set this up?”

“Maybe?” he hedged with a smirk.

Howie chuckled and shook his head.  “Jesse’s already told us, ‘J’.”

“I just thought it would be nice to have everyone together today…a few extra hands to help out so Sarah can settle in.  I got a caterer so you don’t have to worry about food either.”

Walking into the apartment, Sarah and Howie were greeted with a banner hanging across the foyer that read ‘Congrats Mom and Dad’ with tons of pink and blue balloons that were held by a wooden stork under the banner.  Behind the banner, in the rest of the apartment, were friends…the dancers, the band, security, and people from the club and center…and family…all five Backstreet moms, Aaron, Kevin’s brother Tim and his wife, Howie’s sisters and nieces, and Sarah’s family.  Looking around, there were piles and piles of gifts everywhere, food of every sort in the dining room, and every imaginable type of flower. 

“Oh my!” gasped Sarah and she turned into Howie’s arms, her tears erupting without warning.

Equally overwhelmed, Howie hugged her tight rubbing her back as his own eyes grew moist with emotion from the out-pouring of love.  “’J’, you’re too much.”

“I really didn’t do that much.  Everyone wanted to be here to greet you and when I called, they jumped at the chance to be here.”  AJ’s eyes became glassy and his voice faltered as he said, “I just wanted to shower you with as much love as you’ve given me.”

Sarah turned to AJ now and wrapped her arms around him tightly.  Whispering, “I love you so much, Alex…we both do!”

Everyone had slipped into the party leaving the three friends standing alone as AJ held on to Sarah tightly, his face buried in her neck to hide his tears.  There was no way he could ever begin to tell or show Howie and Sarah just how much he loved them or how much their support meant to him but he kept trying.

Howie stepped up and put his hand on AJ’s shoulder.  Not wanting to get any more emotional, he said, “Hey…I’m hungry and Sarah, you said you needed to slip into the bedroom.”

AJ let go of Sarah giving her a kiss as he said, “I’m hungry too and I made sure all Sarah’s favorites were included.”

“I’ll be back in a minute.  ‘D’, fix me a plate?”

“Sure.  Don’t be long,” answered Howie with a kiss.

Before going to get something to eat and greet his guests, Howie watched Sarah disappear into their bedroom. 

Chapter 75            Index