Hank laughed at his wife’s mischief, shook his head, and said to Keith, “I guess, son, she is not going to give you two minutes of peace as long as you’re here. Y’all got everything worked out?”
Keith looked at Lesli, who gave him a warm smile. He answered, “Seem to.”
Lesli shoved him and told Hank, “Yes, Daddy. We’ve got it worked out.” Then stuck her tongue out at Mari, who stuck her tongue out right back.
Hank said, “So, you’re in town for what, a day, maybe two?”
Keith nodded. “Something like that. I forget where we go from here.”
A thought hit Lesli. “So, how long will you be on the road?”
Keith gnawed bacon, finished off his last forkful, and put the plate in the sink. “It ain’t so much how long, darlin’, as how when?”
Keith had to think about it himself a minute. “It’s not your usual tour. I mean, the thing’s going to go on for at least a year.”
“What?!” Lesli stiffened. Mari got ready to say something. Hank put his hand on her shoulder.
“Calm down.” Keith gave Lesli a reassuring look. “It’s not all in one fell swoop.”
“Okay, so, what is it?”
“See, Helen and Sam have to make all these pit stops at different intervals. Doing a movie, TV, like that.”
“Mm-hm.” She still wasn’t pleased.
He kept going. “Which is when everyone else has down time.”
Lesli relaxed. Mari couldn’t hold her tongue: “How much down time?”
Hank rolled his eyes and drank tea. Lesli shot her a sharp glance. “Mother, I got this.” Then, to Keith, “How much down time?”
Keith shrugged. “Month, month and a half at a clip. Be surprised if I spend more than my usual six weeks at a time.”
Lesli and Mari said together, “Good.”
Both Hank and Mari were visibly relieved that, yes, it looked like Lesli hadn’t dropped the ball after all. It turned out to be a pleasant late-in-the-day brunch.
At length, Mari and Lesli clearing the table, setting dishes in the washer, Hank and Keith went in the living room and put the baseball game on. “I knew she loved you,” he said. “But with the Hall women, Keith, it can be hard to call it. You don’t know the storms I’ve navigated with my wife — and she’s one of the more stable.”
Keith, looking glum at the thought, said, “But, it’s worth it.” Hank didn’t say anything. “…Right?”
“I’m thinkin’, I’m thinkin’,” Hank joked. Saw Keith’s nervous look. Thin smile. “I’ll say this. She has never been this wild about someone before you. I’d say the odds are in your favor.”
Cold consolation, but Keith went with it. “Okay.”
There came a whole lot of laughter from the kitchen. “Girl,” Mari fairly shouted, “if he’s that good, next time you walk out on him, I’m walking in!”
Mari delightedly shrieked, “Just don’t tell your father I said so.”
Hank hollered, “Heard you out your own mouth.”
Mari stage-whispered, “Well, at least don’t tell Keith.” Whereupon all of them broke up laughing.
The rest of the afternoon into evening was a fine time. They’d topped brunch off with mimosas and, putting the game on the set outside, sat around on the patio watching the sun go down. Then Mari, who kept flirting with her husband the whole time, finally dragged him inside and upstairs. To Keith and Lesli’s amusement.
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