“Children,” his mom chastises.
“Well, I have nothing to lose,” Meg says quickly. “Vaughn didn’t dress up as Bugsy. No, he insisted on being Tallulah every time! He used to get Mom’s dresses and shoes and put them on! He even wore lipstick!”
“Oh my God!” I laugh.
Vaughn picks up a roasted potato off his plate and throws it at Meg. She ducks, and it misses her.
“You’re such a see you next Tuesday.” He frowns at her, but I can see that he’s also fighting a smile.
“Mama, why is Uncle Vaughn saying he’s going to see Aunt Meg next Tuesday? He’s seeing her right now,” Nora asks innocently.
“Yeah, Tallulah, why are you going to see me next Tuesday?” Meg teases him.
Vaughn scratches his forehead with his middle finger. Meg sticks her tongue out at him.
I swear, he and his sister act like kids around one another. It’s funny to watch. And it makes me wish that I’d had a sibling growing up. But I have Nick, and that’s all that matters.
“Uncle Vaughn’s just being silly,” Sasha explains to her daughter, giving Vaughn a dirty look.
He just smirks at her.
“We have some photos of Vaughn dressed up as Tallulah,” his mom says.
“No, we don’t. I burned them,” Vaughn says.
“Don’t tell lies, Vaughn. You never burned them. I know exactly where they are.” His mom gets up from the table. “I’ll go get them now before we have dessert, so Charly can have a look. I’ll get your baby photos, too.”
Dessert? Good God, I might die from overfeeding.
“Jesus Christ,” he complains. “Can’t you stop her, Dad?”
“I wish I could, son. But this is the first time you’ve brought a girl home. Your mom and sisters have been waiting years for this.”
He looks at me with a help-me expression on his face. He looks so adorable, I can’t help but smile.
“Sorry, West. But I really want to see your baby pictures. And, of course, the ones of you dressed as Tallulah.”
“Traitor,” he grumbles.
I can see a smile teasing the corner of his lips.
I tug on his bottom lip, and that smile finally makes an appearance. His eyes soften on me, and he takes hold of my hand and kisses it.
When I turn back to the table, his sisters are looking at us like we’re magic.
Honestly, I feel like magic when I’m with him. This whole thing with Vaughn feels like magic. Not real. I keep expecting to wake up at any moment.
Being here is so wonderful. I did worry that being in a family environment like this would be weird for me. It’s not something I’m used to, so I wasn’t sure if I would know how to act around his family, but they make it easy. They’re so warm and friendly. I feel lucky to be a part of this even if for a short time.
“Got them!” Vaughn’s mom comes bustling back into the dining room with a stack of photo albums in her arms. She hands them to Meg, who gives a wicked grin to Vaughn.
“Oh God,” Vaughn grumbles.
“Girls, why don’t you take Charly into the living room to look through these? The men and kids can help me clear the table. And we’ll have dessert in there.”
“Can I go with Mommy, Charly, and Aunt Meg to look at the pictures?” Nora asks.
“Sure you can, baby.”
“That’s not fair!” Parker complains.
“Life ain’t fair sometimes, kiddo.” She ruffles his hair.
I get up from the table, pressing a kiss to the side of Vaughn’s head.
He catches my hand. “Whatever you see in that living room stays in that room, Pins. I never want to hear of it again.”
I grin. “Sure thing, Tallulah.”
I head off toward the living room with his sisters and Nora, who catches hold of my hand, surprising me.
Jester jumps up from his spot in the hallway. Vaughn’s mom put him out here, as he wouldn’t leave me alone at dinner. He kept trying to climb onto my lap.
I felt so bad for him. He’s so cute.
He comes trotting over to me, tail wagging.
“Hey, Jester.” I lean down, patting his head.
“Jester likes you a lot,” Nora says.
“Yeah. I like him, too.”
“And I think Uncle Vaughn likes you a lot,” she whispers to me. “I’ve never seen him with a girl before.”
I smile down at her. “I’m glad ’cause I like him a lot, too.”
I take a seat on the floor where Sasha and Meg have set up camp with the photo albums. Nora sits down beside me. Jester climbs into my lap. I give his ear a scratch.
“Okay”—Meg gleefully rubs her hands—“let’s get this show of embarrassing my brother on the road.”
She opens a photo album, and the first picture is of a glammed up Tallulah-looking Vaughn. Oversized dress, too-big high heels, and bright red lips.
“How old was he here?” I ask.
“Eight. Wasn’t he such a pretty boy?” Sasha says.
And we all burst out laughing.
“You made such a pretty Tallulah,” Charly murmurs, sounding sleepy, her arm linked through mine, head resting against my shoulder, as we walk the short distance back to my house.
We’ve got Jester with us. He’s trotting on up ahead, sniffing every blade of grass possible. He was at the door, following us out when we were leaving, so I said to my mom that he could stay at mine. He wouldn’t leave Charly alone all night. He’s obsessed with her. As it turns out, I am, too.