Hildreth smiled as Jeff tried his best to sing in Spanish. “I’m not so sure what he’s saying, but darn! Look at him rockin’ it right out there. Come on, Els. Admit it. You’re so impressed.”
“I am.” Elsie unwound the bacon from her chicken and set it onto her plate. “She’s pretty good too.”
Darius sparkled over the compliment. “She’s wonderful.”
Eduardo tugged on his father’s sleeve. “Daddy? Mommy’s sinking?”
“Yes, she is. Come here.” He scooped him up. “Ohhh, come here you.” He set him in his lap. “See? There she is.”
“Oh!” Eduardo clapped his hands. “Mommy! Mommy mommy mommy!”
Emeren scowled at him. “Stop it, Ed. You’re being annoying.”
“But Mommy’s sinking. See? Mommy’s sinking.”
“She isn’t sinking. She’s singing. Get it right.”
“Em.” Darius said. “Stop picking on your brother. You didn’t always use the right words when you were his age.”
“But you don’t get it. He says things wrong like that just to bug me!”
“Fine.” He crawled under the table to where his two other brothers were waiting for him.
Darius carefully balanced Eduardo on his knee as he peeked under the table. “Don’t kill each other or try to run away from home or get kidnapped when I’m not looking.”
“We won’t.” Emeren and Hernando said in unison. Rudy, however, stared menacingly at the nearest table leg.
“And don’t let Rudy chew on anything. Literally anything.”
“I won’t.” Emeren said.
“Good.” He sat up.
Hildreth smiled at him. “Did you ever think you’d become such a family man?”
“Honestly? No. First time Ara got pregnant terrified me.” Darius looked over at Arabella. “I’ve never told her this. Never found the right moment or reason to spill it all. But, yeah. I thought I didn’t have enough know-how to be a dad. Didn’t have any handyman skills. I’d never housebroken a dog before. How was I supposed to housebreak a kid? What if I looked at our kid and couldn’t find anything to love? What if our kid couldn’t find anything to love about me?”
Arabella and Jeff finished their song and everyone applauded.
“Yay!” Eduardo applauded too. “Yay, Mommy! Yay!”
“Then, we had Emeren.”
Jeff said something to Arabella. She nodded.
“We had Emeren and I fell hopelessly in love. I couldn’t help it. And I knew, as soon as I saw him, I knew that I wanted to do my best for him. I would teach him everything I knew. I would care for him. I would do anything to protect that one small life.”
Jeff resituated his guitar and played the intro for Jessica Simpson’s “I Wanna Love You Forever”. He must have realized the song was a bit out of his range, because he let Arabella sing solo.
Hildreth turned serious. “Will I be good enough?”
Elsie set her fork down. “You will be more than good enough, Hildreth. You will be an excellent father. Trust me on this one.”
Hildreth kissed her. “You don’t have to tell me to trust you, baby.” He snatched the bacon off her plate and ate it. “I already do.”
She shook her head. “You just couldn’t resist, could you?”
“Hey, it was unwanted bacon, which made it completely fair game.”
“True enough.” Darius said.
“Yay! Bacon!” Eduardo cheered.
“Mm-hmm.” Hildreth snatched one more piece of bacon off her plate. “‘Yay! Bacon!’ indeed.”