This was a very fast week -- I spent Monday in the Supreme Court jury room in downtown Phoenix, which oddly isn't nearly as comfortable and fancy as the City Court one across the street. I missed out on a possible ten-day trial, then wasn't selected for a three-day trial after spending the afternoon listening to questions being answered by the 40-person panel (to select a 9-person jury). They didn't let us out until after 5, and then I found out the Supreme Court doesn't validate parking for the City Court garage (where I parked through habit and convenience), so there went most of my cash. Oh, well.
The rest of the week just shot by. I have no idea where it went.
Sean Patrick invited her out to Los Angeles to see his new place when he opened the bar, but Bonnie said she'd wait until the excitement settled down. He had missed the Bicentennial, as he'd expected, with his grand opening scheduled for September, instead. He sent her pictures of his beautiful underground apartment below the bar, which he had converted from the place's old wine cellar. "It's perfect for a vampire, honey," he said enthusiastically over the phone as soon as he had his lines installed. "I hide away during the day and come out at night, just like Dracula." He sounded so happy she couldn't be mad at him for choosing Los Angeles anymore. She laughed at him.
"Like you have anything at all in common with Count Dracula," she said, "other than being royalty, of course."
"Oh, ha ha. Say, honey, since these holidays are gonna be my first out here, I want you to come. Three and Blythe and the kids will be coming here."
"You're all going to leave Matt alone during the holidays?" she said, startled. "Oh no, mister. You and them are going to the ranch for the holidays. I wouldn't have it any other way."
Sean Patrick chuckled. "You know, you have a point. I'll tell you what. If you come and join us there, I will say we need to stay in Texas with the old man."
Bonnie thought about it, and finally agreed. "All right. I'll come."
He sent her a plane ticket so she could meet them there, and there was a limo waiting for her at the airport, since she arrived in the middle of the day. Things had changed in the years since she had been here, she saw immediately that the city had come out a good way further than it had, almost to the sweeping drive, which had now been paved. The sycamores still stood, and there were still horses in the fields, but most of the cattle was gone. The view looking toward the city had changed forever, burying the prairie hills beneath tidy subdivisions and green lawns. At least they were attractive, as subdivisions went.
Blythe was waiting on the front porch with Tara on her lap. The toddler wiggled off when Bonnie got out of the limo at the foot of the steps. She and Blythe embraced. "I've missed you," said Blythe.
"Is Sean Patrick here?"
"He got in early this morning. He's sleeping in the family room." Another thing that had changed was the lack of children, the crowds of family. It seemed odd and lonely. Bonnie looked around at the all-but-deserted lawns.
"Who all is still living here?" Bonnie asked.
"Mostly just the immediate family, now," said Blythe. "The back wing is all but empty these days. It's quiet."
"I couldn't believe how much the city has grown. It doesn't seem like all that long since I've been here."
"Good grief, Bonnie, Matthias wasn't even born when Sean Patrick dragged you out here," said Blythe. "It's been more than seven years."
Bonnie wrapped her arm around Blythe's waist, a little thicker now, and hugged her friend. "I'm sorry. I should come more often."
"Yes, you should," agreed Blythe. They walked into the family room. The ping pong table was gone, having been replaced by a play area which was fenced off from the rest of the music room and contained toys and books and Seana, who was playing with a party of dolls, all seated around a table and having a morning tea party. The little girl looked up as her mother came in and smiled winningly at both her and Bonnie. "Hello, my angel."
Blythe gestured to the reclining armchair, where Sean Patrick was wedged next to a giant multi-colored cat with a smaller matching one on his lap. He was fast asleep, his hair even longer than it had been the last time she'd seen him. Laying across his knees was a boy of about six, with silky blond hair and a sun-tanned face.
"Is that Matthias?" whispered Bonnie. She'd seen his pictures, of course, but it startled her to see how big he'd gotten, that handsome little baby now a sturdy youngster.
"That's my boy," Blythe whispered back. "He's going to be the handsomest man alive, I think."
"Of course you do," Bonnie replied, smiling. "You're his mother."
Blythe smiled. She set Tara in the playpen with her sister and squatted down next to the sleeping boy. She stroked the blond hair off Matthias's face. "Wake up, sugar-pie," she whispered. "Miss Bonnie's here."
Matthias stirred, rolling off Sean Patrick's legs. It woke the vampire, who shoved his bangs off his forehead and grinned when he saw Bonnie. "Hey, my girl's here," he said, shifting the cats and struggling to his feet. He stomped a couple of times, getting his slow vampire circulation going again after playing cot to his nephew, and then pulled Bonnie close for a tight hug and a kiss. "Welcome back."
Bonnie returned the kiss. Everything became warmly right with the world when she felt his arms around her, tasted his mouth, smelled his distinctive scent. He was just as perfect as always, even with his messy curls falling in his eyes and his sideburns thicker and longer than Elvis's were now. "My, haven't you gotten shaggy," she said with a laugh, tugging at them.
"I knew you'd love 'em."
"I do, indeed," she replied, and settled happily into the crook of his arm.
It may have been a quieter Christmas than the last one she'd spent here, but it was no less festive, nor was there any change in the amount of presents or food. Alongside the holiday cheer was the celebration of Matthias's sixth birthday, something his parents were careful to keep distinctly separate. "We always want him to know the difference," said Blythe as Matthias blew out his candles and they sliced the cake, a white confection filled with orange marmalade. "Sometimes we think he's a changeling," continued Blythe, as Sean Patrick heaped chocolate ice cream on his slice, "he seems to be the only O'Connor who doesn't like chocolate."
"I don't think you can look to Sean Patrick as an example," said Bonnie, rather pleased with Matthias's choice, "he's as addicted to chocolate as he is to cigarettes."
"That is true," said Sean Patrick, coming to stand between them. "But little Matt's definitely a mutant. Look at that hair."
"He takes after my mama," Three calmly commented, ruffling his son's blond locks.
It was a calm, comfortable holiday, and Bonnie allowed herself to feel like a part of the family. They certainly made her feel that way, as she and Sean Patrick went to town in the evenings with Three and Blythe for dinners and dancing or a show at the movie theatre or even the opera, anything with music delighting Sean Patrick. This time, though, everything ended too soon. Sean Patrick flew back to Los Angeles the second week after the New Year, parting with Bonnie at the airport as she flew back to Vegas.
"I'll be up in a month or so," he promised, kissing her goodbye at her gate, "but I'll definitely call. I want you to come down and see my place."
"Just say the word," she promised, even though she felt an unjustifiable dislike for his Los Angeles home and the bar he'd chosen to move to. It had been very easy to tell that the family hadn't wanted him to go, either, especially the kids. Matthias had disappeared, sulking, when it came time to say goodbye, and Seana simply cried in his arms, wailing when he'd passed her to her parents. "I'll come."