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A Merry Little Christmas(7)

By:Melanie Schuster

Working quickly, Angelique set two places with plates, soup bowls, bread  plates, water goblets and silverware and turned back to the cupboard to  get footed dessert dishes for the fruit salad. Casually she added, "I  also went to Adam's loft, and he had company. Adonis was there."

Paris stopped in the middle of serving the piping-hot chili. "Uh-oh. Did y'all get into it?" she asked with a smile.

Angelique finished the table settings with big, soft cotton napkins and  took a pitcher of Crystal Light peach-flavored iced tea out of the  refrigerator; both she and Paris were addicted to the beverage. Taking a  seat, she shook her head no. "Actually, he was pretty well behaved  today."

The two women reached out and took each other's hands and said grace, as  was their habit. Then Angelique placed her napkin in her lap and  daintily dug into the aromatic and very tasty chili. Paris followed  suit, but she couldn't leave well enough alone. She had to go there  again, just to satisfy her curiosity.

"You know, y'all don't fight nearly as much as you used to. What happened? Did you declare a truce or something?"

Angelique took her time answering as she had just taken a mouthful of a  flavorful muffin. "Mmm, that's delicious! A truce? No, 1 don't think we  declared a truce, exactly, but ever since he took me to the dentist,  it's been awfully hard to be mean to him. He was too nice to me that  day," she said reflectively.

Paris smiled broadly. "So does that mean you won't call him SpongeBob anymore?"

"Oh, no, girl. As long as he calls me Evilene, he's gonna be SpongeBob  SquarePants. But that doesn't negate the fact that he was really nice to  me when I needed him."

Paris thought back to that fateful day and had to agree that Donnie had  come through like a champ. Angelique was never one to complain about  physical ailments. In fact, she was something of a Spartan when it came  to matters of health. She was rarely ill, and when she did get a touch  of something, she'd soldier on until it was over. However, what had  started as a mild headache had worked its way into horrifying  proportions that left Angelique almost delirious with pain. In her usual  fashion, she hadn't mentioned the pain to anyone, just tried her best  to cope with it. Paris finally found her curled up on her bed, sobbing  like a child. This alone alarmed Paris, as she'd never seen her cousin  in tears before, but the fact that her right cheek was also swollen to  three times its normal size was terrifying.

Angelique obviously had an infection or abscess of some kind and needed  immediate attention, so Paris had called the first person she could  think of, Renee, and luckily Donnie answered the phone. Almost before  she'd hung up the phone, he was at their place. He had a good friend who  was an endodontist and was able to work Angelique in as an emergency.  The only problem was that Angelique was terrified of dentists and  refused to go.

To Paris's utter amazement and permanent gratitude, Donnie had taken  Angelique onto his lap like one of his nieces and held her tightly,  assuring her that his friend wouldn't hurt her, and would take her pain  away. "Evie, sweetheart, I can look at you and see how much pain you're  in. That cute little face is all swollen and I know you must feel like  crap. C'mon, Evie, let's go make it better, okay?" After those soothing  words, Angelique did indeed let him take her to the endodontist, and  Donnie even stayed with her during the whole process. Paris suspected  that he'd held her hand the entire time. After that incident Angelique  and Donnie just didn't seem to argue as much, not even when he called  her Evie, a diminutive of Evilene, the name he'd called her for years  when he wanted to push her buttons.

Paris observed her cousin while she slowly sipped her iced tea.  Carefully setting her glass down, she decided to wade in with both feet.  "So, have you ever thought about dating Donnie? I think he'd be fun to  go out with," she said innocently.

Only a slight redness along her cheekbones betrayed the emotions  Angelique was feeling. With admirable restraint, she merely said, "No.  Not my type, actually."                       


Paris opened her mouth to probe further, but a slight tightening of  Angelique's jaw told her this was dangerous ground. Just then the phone  rang, and with a look of pure relief Angelique dashed to answer it.  Paris sighed and speared another chunk of pineapple from the remains of  her fruit salad. Okay, "not my type," she thought. Whatever you say,  cuz. Whatever you say. Then she laughed, knowing that if Aidan were  present, he'd give her a good whack on the back of her head and warn her  not to do what she was thinking about doing. Not that it would have  stopped her. Not in the least.

Chapter Three

While preparing to make dinner in his well-equipped kitchen, Adam was  taking great pleasure in raking his younger brother over the coals. He  was amused at Donnie's current angst and to some small degree he  sympathized with it, but wasn't about to let him get away with his  behavior.

"Adonis, what is wrong with you? Why were you so rude to Angelique? You  were acting like she turned you down instead of Aneesah. What's your  problem?" he asked bluntly.

Donnie frowned at Adam and took another swallow from his bottle of  mineral water. "Okay, I admit I was less than cordial to Evilene, but  that's how we communicate. It's just how we get down," he mumbled.

Adam shook his head as he assembled ingredients on the counter. "Don't  you think it's a little childish, Donnie? I can't believe my brother  talks to a woman like that," he said disapprovingly.

"Aww, man, Evie doesn't trip over it, why does it bother you? She likes  to play and she can take it. She can also dish it out," he said with a  short laugh. His mind automatically drifted back to another incident  that had occurred shortly after she came to Detroit. Donnie hadn't liked  the idea of Angelique staying in the garage apartment behind Renee and  Andrew's house that was known as the Outhouse and made his position  plain. Even now he felt a little warmth in his face when he recalled the  things he'd said.

Angelique had been playing with his nieces in another part of the house  while he'd been venting to Renee. "I just think you're asking for  trouble having her here, Renee. Let her stay in a hotel or something,  you don't need her underfoot. And you don't need to be waiting hand and  foot on the little princess, either."

Renee had been busy folding laundry and barely looked up from her task.  "Donnie, I don't know why you're behaving like this. Angelique may have  been a handful at one time, but she's turned into a very nice young  woman, which you might realize if you'd stop to take a look. Besides,  she's wonderful with the girls; they adore her. And for your  information, she's a big help to me."

Donnie cringed now as he remembered his next words. Even after months  had passed, he was still embarrassed by what he'd said. "That just goes  to show you, children don't know any better. That woman is a waste of  skin. There isn't one redeemable feature about her, Renee." No sooner  had he finished speaking than there was a soft gasp behind him. He'd  turned to find Angelique standing there with a stricken look on her  face, and felt himself shrivel up inside as he watched her cover her  mouth with a slender hand. Before he could say a word, she had dashed  out the back door, leaving him alone with Renee, who was glaring at him  as though he were the worst scum on earth. He'd immediately taken off  after Angelique to apologize, when he suddenly had the breath knocked  out of him- Angelique had leaped on his back and grabbed his ears to use  as reins.

"A waste of skin, huh? I got your waste of skin right here, you  overgrown tree! You thought I was out here crying, didn't you? Well, I  got news for you, buddy, I don't shed tears, I cause them!" And to  Donnie's utter amazement, they ended up wrestling like children and  chasing each other around the backyard to the consternation of Renee and  the delight of his nieces, who thought it was some sort of game.

Donnie laughed out loud at the memory. That was one of the things he had  to admire about Angelique: she was tough and more than capable of  taking care of herself, and also had a surprising sense of humor. They  had actually started having a little fun with their adversarial  relationship after that. And he had apologized for the incident all the  same, an apology she accepted with no comment.

Adam looked over his shoulder at his brother, who was lost in thought.  "I still think you need to watch how you talk to Angelique. You wouldn't  like it if someone talked to Benita like that," he pointed out.

Donnie's thick eyebrows drew together at the mention of his sister's  name; his protective instincts leaped to the fore immediately. Donnie  was, like all Cochran men, territorial and almost paternalistic when it  came to taking care of those they cared about. "Well, of course I  wouldn't put up with that. Nobody better talk to my sister like that,  even if they call themselves playing. I ain't having that," he growled,  then became silent for a moment contemplating what Adam had said. It was  true, Angelique was someone's sister, too, and it was probably time he  remembered that. Besides, he wouldn't have wanted anything bad to happen  to her.