A Little Family Business is Book Eight in the Operation Quickline series. Lisa and Sid are trying to track down a stolen weapons cache. They had enough trouble figuring out how to be a couple. Now, they’re a family. You can read the first chapter here, and follow all the chapters here.
One of the reasons Sid had rented the beach house for the week I was at Catalina and had the O’Malleys join him was that all of us were in the process of moving, sort of. Sid and I were just remodeling but given the drastic changes we were making to the place in Beverly Hills, we’d had to move out temporarily to the condo across from the one belonging to Kathy and her husband, Jesse.
We’d bought the condo in early May, while the architect was still pulling permits for the job on the house. Sid’s independently wealthy, thanks to an inheritance from presumably one of his relatives, so we can do stuff like that. Paying cash means that escrow goes extra quickly, and by mid-June, we were crammed into the two-bedroom condo. We’d decided to donate a lot of the furniture from the house, but our books, records, tapes, art, my fabrics, Sid’s baby grand piano, sheet music, most of the files, those were all in storage.
Mae and Neil, on the other hand, were moving. Neil had gotten a post as an associate professor of dentistry at the University of Southern California and would start that fall. So, he’d sold his practice in Orange County. They sold the house in Fullerton right around the same time as we’d bought the condo. They’d decided to settle in Pasadena, where Neil was able to start a part-time practice since he was expected to keep one even though he was teaching full-time. They also found a house in the northern part of the city that, well, was not in the best of shape. It had been built in the early teens and it had really good bones, but it needed a lot of work. With escrow on the house in Fullerton taking its sweet time, then the escrow on the Pasadena place also moving at a snail’s pace, it wasn’t until July that everything closed and suddenly Mae and Neil had two weeks to pack up five kids and nine years of stuff only to find that the house that they were moving to needed to be completely re-plumbed and re-wired.
Mae was so freaked out that when Sid offered to help out with the extra costs, she accepted. So, we paid for a rental place in the area, plus the movers, and storage for what couldn’t go into the rental place. After all, Mae and Neil were going to be spending a lot of money on renovations. We’d spent most of the two weeks before camp, sorting, packing, and donating. Mae remained beyond frazzled, which is why Sid called in a favor and somehow got the beach house, never mind that those places are usually booked months, if not years, in advance. The Saturday I left for camp, Mae and Neil supervised the movers and turned over the keys to the old house to the agent. I’m not sure where they stayed that night, but the rental was from Sunday to Sunday, and apparently, the week had made a huge difference in Mae.
Sid made breakfast that Sunday morning, whole wheat banana pancakes, with a little bit of raw sugar to go on top. Right before he put the pancakes on the griddle, we went into the room where he’d been sleeping and called my parents to let them know about getting married.
How everyone else in the condo did not hear my mother’s scream of jubilation, I do not know. My ears were ringing, though. Daddy wasn’t as thrilled, but then he was just barely getting used to Sid. It wasn’t Sid, oddly enough. Daddy does like him. It’s just a lot like he’s still getting used to Neil, if you know what I mean.
“Now, do you have your date yet?” Mama asked.
“Um. We’re still kind of getting used to the idea,” I said looking frantically at Sid.
“Well, that’s the first thing you have to do, honey. Oh, I am so excited! You’re happy this time, right?”
“Yes, Mama. I really am.”
“Oh, good. Welcome to the family, Sid.”
“Now, I’ll need to get together a list.”
I took a deep breath. “Mama, we want to keep this small.”
“Of course, Lisle, baby.”
“Mama, if you try to make a big deal out of this, I swear I’m going to cancel everything, and it will be just us and the priest. I mean it.”
“Oh. Well, you’re right. Can I be a little bit excited about planning the wedding? I’ve been waiting so long.”
I laughed softly. “Sure, Mama. I’ll call you as soon as we have a date.”
Sid laughed, kissed my nose, then went downstairs to start cooking pancakes.
As we finished eating, Sid cleared his throat loudly. The others quieted. I took a deep breath.
“Okay, everyone.” I swallowed and looked at Sid. “Sid and I have decided to get married.”
“No, duh,” said Darby.
“You’re copping out, Dad,” Nick said, but he had a big, happy grin on his face.
Everyone else was cheering and congratulating us, and I was still trying to catch my breath.
“Oh, look at me. I’m shaking.” I looked over at Sid.
“Why, Aunt Lisa?” Mitch asked.
I blinked and smiled at him. “Because we just made the decision last night and I’m still in shock.”
Sid laughed and squeezed me. “I think we both are.”
“We’re so happy for you,” Mae said, blinking, too.
“Then why are you crying, Mommy?” Marty asked.
“These are happy tears,” Mae said. “Sometimes, you just get so happy, you cry.”
Sid got up. “Okay, kids, I’ll need some help cleaning the kitchen, and then we need to make sure everything’s packed. I have to have the keys to the rental office by noon.”
Janey and Nick went to help Sid in the kitchen. Darby gave Mae a little bit of attitude but went to the room he was sharing with Nick and Sid and started packing. Mae was everywhere at once, trying get sheets off the beds, dusting, and cleaning.
“I’d better get these into the washer,” she called, her arms filled with sheets.
“Mae, you don’t have to do that,” Neil said.
“Oh, my god, look at all this sand! Janey and Ellen, come help sweep this up.”
“Mae!” Sid yelled at her. “The rental company said not to worry about the sand. There’s a cleaning service coming, and they’ll take care of cleaning everything up. They have to, anyway.”
I took the sheets from her. “Come on, Mae. We’ll put these on your bed, then we’ll check and make sure nothing gets left behind.”
“Okay.” Mae looked at me and began weeping again. “You’re getting married. I’m so happy for you, Lisa.”
Soon we were all on the sidewalk in front of the house, and Sid was locking the door.
“Sid, I can’t thank you enough,” Mae said, giving him a big hug. “I cannot tell you how much we needed this week.”
“More than happy to.”
Then the O’Malley family got into their van and Nick, Sid, and I got into the Beemer. Sid dropped the keys off at the rental office in plenty of time. We headed back up the freeway to LAX to drop Nick off for his flight, stopping somewhere near Hawthorne to get lunch and kill a little time.
“Hey, Dad, do you guys know when you want to have the wedding?” Nick fidgeted with a French fry.
“I’m not sure,” said Sid.
“It won’t be for a while yet,” I said. “We’re getting married in the church, and that takes some time to set up.”
Nick looked relieved. “Good. I was hoping you weren’t going to go running off to Vegas right away.” He grinned. “Can I be in the wedding?”
“Sure, Nick.” Sid looked a little shocked, then smiled. “You’re part of this, too. Why don’t you be my best man?”
“Cool!” Nick sat up suddenly and looked at Sid and me. “Wow. We’re going to be a real family, aren’t we?”
“You have your family with your mom,” Sid said.
He looked so sad all of a sudden. “Yeah. I do.” Then he brightened. “But we’ll be a family, too.”
I looked at Sid, my heart fluttering. “Yeah.”
We got Nick onto his plane, and Sid called Marlou from the airport to let her know. In the car, it was clear that he was annoyed, and I knew darned well why.
“We agreed not to make any promises about taking custody,” Sid said after we’d pulled onto the freeway.
“I didn’t. He’s right. We are a family now.”
Sid glared at me, but he wasn’t quite ready to give up. “Yeah, well, try telling Nick you didn’t mean taking custody when you agreed that we are.”
“Try telling Nick you didn’t mean taking custody when you told him we’d take care of him no matter what.”
Sid grunted. He hates it when I deflate a good snit with logic. [And you like it when I do the same to you? – SEH]
“But what if we can’t take custody, Lisa?”
“Then we’ll figure it out. Just like we’ve been doing.”
He shook his head. “Why does everything have to feel like we’re making it up on the fly?”
“Probably because we are.”
“I just wish I knew what game Rachel is playing. It would make it a hell of a lot easier to make a decision.”
“But then life would be easy, and that would be no fun at all.”
Sid started breaking up but forced himself to keep his eyes on the road.
“No, it wouldn’t,” he said. He smiled softly as he shook his head. “I can’t help thinking how lucky I am to have you.”
“And I’m lucky to have you.”
“But it brings to mind our conversation last night. I forgot to ask you something.”
I looked over at him. “What?”
“Crunchy or air-puffed?”
Sid glanced over at me and grinned. “It’s the ultimate test of compatibility. Crunchy Cheetos or air-puffed?”
“Crunchy. Duh.” I laughed.
“Whew!” His eyes flitted my way again. “Have I told you today how much I love you?”
“Actually, no, you haven’t.”
“I think when we get home, I’m going to have to show you.”
I couldn’t help shifting as the excitement ran through me.
Yes, I am Catholic, and I do believe that sex belongs in the context of marriage. But I also believe, and always have, that being inflexible when it comes to the rules can be more harmful than sticking to them no matter what. Sid had been raised with the belief that free love was a good and healthy thing and that marriage was a lie. He had bent far enough to promise me fidelity and a lifetime commitment. What kind of person would I be if I weren’t willing to bend on what defined marriage?
However, the reason we weren’t having sex yet was because of the possibility that Sid had picked up the AIDS virus. Sid wasn’t about to trust condoms. He had a point. He’d been wearing one when Nick was conceived. He was worried enough that he might have infected me through our saliva. [We didn’t know yet that wasn’t possible. – SEH] By the time we’d discovered he’d been exposed, it was way too late on the saliva thing, so that was the only bodily fluid of his that he would let me near.
And yet, that night…
When we got to the condo, I unpacked. I cleared my daypack, stuffing the bits of paper into my purse, then stashed the daypack and my sleeping bag in the closet in Nick’s room. Sid made dinner out of the freezer and pantry and still managed to tease me at the same time. After we’d eaten and cleaned up, we started necking on the couch that we’d brought from our living room at the house. We were doing all the things I tell the teens not to do, with the important distinction being that Sid and I were adults in a committed relationship.
Sid’s hands began wandering and then so did mine. We’d been getting pretty free with our hands since May, but always outside our clothes because Sid was being really careful about the bodily fluids thing. That night, Sid really leaned into it. He moaned happily, then suddenly yelped, gasped, and got up.
“Did I do something wrong?” I asked.
“Something right, but…” He gasped again. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
He hurried off to the master bedroom. I followed him. He’d gone into the bathroom there but had shut the door.
“Is everything okay?” I asked after knocking on the door.
“It’s fine. I’m just undressing.” Sid was usually modest around me, not because he cared if I saw him naked or not, but because I tended to freak about that sort of thing.
I bit my lip. All of a sudden, my curiosity overwhelmed me.
“Do you mind if I come in anyway?” I asked.
He laughed loudly. “Sure. Come on in.”
I was a little embarrassed to find that I’d made him, um, happier than I’d thought.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
He laughed again. “You have nothing to be sorry for. It felt great. It’s just a bit of a mess is all.”
He finished getting undressed, tossed his clothes into the hamper, then bent to pick up an errant sock.
“Your butt’s all hairy.”
That also made him laugh. “Most men’s are, my innocent one.”
Then I saw something else. “Sid, that scar on your left side? Is that a bullet hole?”
“Yeah.” He chuckled. “I usually tell people it was a jealous husband, but it was actually me being stupid. I had the suspect bound around a pole next to a desk but had left the suspect’s gun too close. Caught me there right before the Code Nine team came in to make the arrest. They were not happy. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t then.”
I kissed my fingers, then touched the scar. He gasped happily. Then he turned and faced me.
“Well, here, I am.” He smiled softly.
He is very nicely assembled. However, what really caught my notice were the other scars. He had a white-ish strip on his left bicep. I remembered when a bullet had grazed him. We hadn’t been able to go to the hospital to get it stitched up.
Then I saw the thin white line under his left nipple. I’d seen it before but hadn’t asked.
“Knife?” I asked, gently touching it.
He nodded. “The suspect wasn’t too happy about being cornered.”
I kissed the little, almost invisible line, then the stripe on his left arm.
Which led to me asking questions about what sex is really like because I’d only been wondering my entire life. So, Sid put on a pair of jeans to keep me safe from his bodily fluids, then offered to demonstrate on me. That meant first undressing me and getting to look at me fully naked for the first time. He’d seen my breasts a couple times, although he still swears that first time was an accident. [It was. A happy one, but an accident. – SEH] He also kissed the knife scar on my left arm, which I’d gotten the summer before, and the other knife scar just under the hairline on my forehead, and the burn scar behind my right ear.
The result of the demonstration was mind-blowing and kind of left me wondering if I still qualified for taming unicorns, and not caring at the same time because it was so good and delicious and amazing, and besides, the unicorn is a mythical beast. We tried a couple more experiments, which were not only a lot of fun, but equally intense for both of us. Then Sid said we could share the bed, which was his old waterbed from the house. We’d been taking turns sleeping on the couch while the other took the bed because Sid was finding it a little on the physically painful side to sleep next to me and not make love. Apparently, we’d found a way to relieve that little problem. I sighed happily as he snuggled up to me.
“Thank you,” I said.
He chuckled. “For what?”
“For tonight. For making me feel so good.”
I frowned. “Did I say something wrong?”
“Not at all.” He held me closer. “I’ve just never had anyone thank me before.”
“Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding. Never?”
“Well, praise and some appreciation here and there, but straight-up gratitude? No.”
“You poor thing.” I reached around and kissed him. “Well, I am grateful. And I want you to know it.”
He smiled, his gorgeous eyes shining. “You’re very welcome. And thank you. You made me feel very good, too.”
I rolled back over and fell asleep with him curled around me, nuzzling my ear.
[That night was something else. I’d always known you to be a very passionate woman, no matter how tightly you kept it in check. Even apart from the personal feelings that were developing, I knew that once I found the way to unleash that passion, sex with you was going to be a whole new level of intense. That night, I first saw just how badly I’d underestimated you. Add the love we had for each other, and let’s just say you rattled my back teeth, it was so good. Then you thanked me, and you still do every time we make love. You have no idea how much that means to me. – SEH]
The next morning, Sid nudged me awake. We put on our running shorts and shoes, and I put on my bra and t-shirt, and Sid put on his muscle shirt. We ran for our usual hour. The building we were in was in that section of Wilshire Boulevard called condo canyon because of all the high-rise apartments and condos there. Our building sat on a corner with a much smaller side street. Sid and I generally left the place through the side entrance. We ran up one side of Wilshire and down the other.
When we got back, Sid decided to shower in Nick’s bathroom, while I showered in the master bath. After I dried off, I looked at myself in the mirror over one of the two sinks and noticed the masking tape I’d placed on it two days before I’d left for camp, when my period had started. Of course, I was done by that time, so, I was a little late doing my breast self-exam. I didn’t want to skip it, though. I took the tape off the mirror and tossed it.
As I raised my arm to begin, Sid knocked on the door.
“Mind if I come in?” he asked. “My shaving stuff is in here.”
“Sure.” I began palpating.
Sid got his shaving brush, ran some water in the second sink, and started foaming up the shaving soap. He had on his undershirt and silk boxer shorts. I spotted him looking at me as he lathered the lower part of his face. I moved to my other breast. I figured he knew what I was doing.
“Why don’t you shave in the shower?” I muttered. I gave my breasts one final visual inspection.
“Can’t see what I’m doing in the shower.” Sid carefully scraped around the dimple in his chin.
His face was barely inches away from the mirror, so I knew he hadn’t put in his contact lenses yet. He’s very nearsighted. His contacts case and wetting solutions sat on the counter between the sinks, next to the rack with our toothbrushes in it, and my mascara, blush, and lipstick.
I pulled the toothpaste and floss from the drawer in the cabinet, and my own deodorant. I flossed, then brushed my teeth. Sid wiped the remaining soap from his face and checked out his chin and cheeks.
I yawned. “How is that I am standing here buck naked next to you in your skivvies, and I am not freaking out?”
“I have no idea.” Sid laughed softly. “But I like it.
He reached out, hesitated a second, then squeezed my backside. I squeezed his, then headed into the bedroom to get dressed. We were even using the same tube of toothpaste, for crying out loud.
I could hear the whine of the blow dryer in the bathroom as I stared at the contents of my closet. There was a closet in the bathroom and one in the bedroom. Neither was larger than the other, so I’m not sure why I’d gotten the one in the bedroom and Sid had gotten the one in the bathroom. We’d also picked up a lovely antique dresser, which was in the bedroom, and we each had a set of drawers in it. I decided it was too hot for nylons and pulled from the closet a short-sleeved linen jacket, a full skirt in a pretty print, and a white tank top. Then I got dressed and put on a pair of wedge sandals. As I went back to the bathroom to fluff out my hair and put on what little makeup I wore, Sid came out in his slacks and shirt, his tie for the day draped around his neck, and carrying his suit coat and vest. In the bathroom, I put my makeup on, looked at myself in the mirror again, shook my head, and turned to the bedroom to put on some earrings, my watch, the chain with Sid’s class ring on it, and my promise ring.
We had never done anything like that before. Well, we did share the bathroom, but not at the same time. In fact, Sid was almost always very modest around me, and even then, I’d still get embarrassed. And yet, that morning, it was so… Ordinary. As I left the bathroom, Sid slid into his suit coat. He was happy, but he looked as bemused as I felt.
“Are you awake enough to talk?” he asked.
“Maybe. Why?” I am not a morning person.
“Well, we’ll probably have to go out to get breakfast. The milk went bad, and there wasn’t that much, anyway. There’s no fruit, either.”
Sid slid his pocket watch into its vest pocket and looped the chain around one of the buttons. “Before we do, though. Um, I just thought we might want to call the rectory. See if we can get a time to set up our date.”
“I was thinking we might as well face the music and get it taken care of.” Sid smiled at me. “This is our life now.”
I thought it over. “Yeah. I guess it is. It is nice.”
“I thought so.”
We got in to see Father John just after nine that morning. John took one look at us as we came into his cluttered office, grinned, got up from his desk and gave us both a big hug.
“Let me guess,” he said, releasing us. “Are you two here for a sacramental purpose?”
“Sacramental exactly,” I said.
“As in, we’re doing it,” Sid said with a rueful smile.
“Let me get the book. Have a seat.” Laughing, John went out to the front office, got the wedding book from the secretary, then came back in and settled himself behind the desk. “I have to say, it’s about time you two came to your right senses.”
Sid shifted in his chair. “Well, this is more about Lisa’s religion thing.”
“Like hell.” John laughed even louder. “I mean, I’m glad you’re going for the wedding. But, come on, Sid. The two of you have been in love forever. It’s past time you went public with it. Alright. Let’s see what’s open.”
Our first opening was the first of March, the following year. We picked noon for the time and John wrote us in, then went over all the different paperwork, suggested signing up for an Engaged Encounter weekend as soon as possible for the pre-Cana classes, given that our schedule was prone to changing unpredictably. Then John closed the book and looked at us.
“I don’t usually discuss this with couples. Most don’t give a damn. A few aren’t going to do anything. But it is my job to point out, that according to the rules, sexual intercourse outside of marriage is still a no-no.”
Sid rolled his eyes. “That’s not even going to be an issue until October at the soonest.”
“Is that your next test?” John asked. He watched Sid nod. John knew about our little situation. “However, while heavy petting is frowned upon because it can lead to sexual intercourse, between a couple preparing to be married, it is not condemned. That’s the official line. I, personally, have a real hard time seeing it as a sin when two people who love each other deeply and are committed to each other, when they follow through on that physically, even before the wedding. Lisa, if and when you feel like you are in a state of sin, I do want you to talk to me. And, Sid, if you have any questions, you know you can talk to me, as well.”
Sid nodded. “I know, John, and I appreciate it.”
I was in a good mood when we left. Sid wasn’t.
“You okay?” I asked him as we headed to the grocery store and the mailbox place to pick up our mail.
We’d been using a private mailbox for years, which made things that much easier when we moved from the condo.
“I’m just worried you’re going to feel guilty if we do engage in full intercourse in October.” He winced. “I was really looking forward to it.”
“I don’t think I will.” I shrugged. “On the other hand, we just got a free pass on last night’s activities.”
“Heavy petting, Sid.” I shifted as I thought about it. “It’s not condemned.”
Sid laughed and shifted himself.
Once we got home and got lunch together, I called Mama with the date and agreed to spend that Thursday looking at reception sites with her. After all, that needed to be done first, and soon, or it would be too hard to find a spot.
“I’ll have to put her up in a hotel, too,” I told Sid. “We don’t have any room here.”
“Fine. We’ve got two acceptances and three rejections.”
“Okay.” I pulled out the padded leather three-ring binder Sid had gotten for us to help keep everything organized.
I was doing well with my tickler file, but it was nice having one place where I could keep track of everything, including appointments, stories, addresses, all cross-referenced to each other. We were just finishing the mail when our Quickline pagers went off.
“It’s my turn,” said Sid. He picked up the phone.
We were in the condo’s living room with both our desks jammed up against each other near the couch. The second bedroom was Nick’s, and we only used the bathroom next to it for the second shower. The dining table from the house was in the dining area next to the tiny kitchen. My two sewing machines took up roughly two-thirds of the dining table and an ironing board was set up next to the wall. The other third of the table was where we ate. On the other side of the door to Nick’s room was a blank wall and we’d put an upright piano there. Next to that was a tiny utility room. The walls were bare, and the curtains industrial. But it would serve until the house was finished.
Sid made the pickup that had come in while I concentrated on getting the writing work organized and getting a rough draft done. That night, I went to the Teen Bible Study with Kathy and her husband, Jesse. It was kind of a follow-up to camp, with warm emotions overflowing. Then I talked Kathy and Jesse into going to Jefferson’s for a drink and invited Esther and Frank along. They were a little surprised to see Sid there, at first. But then all four looked at the two of us and realized what was coming.
“I’m so happy for you!” Kathy gave me a big hug.
Esther looked at Sid and laughed. “You really going to get married in church?”
“That’s the plan,” Sid said, reaching over to take my hand. “I’m starting to look forward to it.”