Nicholas was waiting outside the door of Ven’s new apartment. He stood tall, his freckled face beaming with pride. “Momma and me, we get all the boxes put away!”
“Mother and I.” Quentin’s didactic response wiped his son’s enthusiasm away.
Bonnie-B appeared in the doorway, her son stepping aside for her, just before Ven arrived. She laid a gentle hand on Nicholas’ shoulder, as she looked at Ven. “We were wondering, since we’re done so early with the move, whether we should help you get started unpacking all your possessions.”
Ven sighed, and realized he was standing literally in the middle of the Richardson family, Bonnie-B and Nicholas in front of him, Quentin and Hannah behind. And it occurred to his actively curious mind how he was also in the middle of a life transition, no longer living in his college-town apartment where he would still be paying rent, but not quite living in his new dwelling in the city.
The young man cleared his throat. “Thanks, but I can’t ask for anything more of you. You have your own home, your own lives — I’ll be fine, really.” He looked down at Nicholas’ disappointed face, and raised his eyebrows. “But I did say I’d buy lunch for everyone, right?”
The Richardson children erupted with delight, and soon Bonnie-B, equipped with a pen from Quentin’s vest pocket and the back of an envelope from a utility bill Ven recovered from his backpack, was writing down everyone’s sandwich order. Quentin excused himself to use the bathroom, and the children raced to the elevator, leaving Ven and Bonnie-B alone a moment outside the apartment door.
Ven began retrieving bills from his wallet. “This should more than enough, even with drinks. They’ve got bottled iced tea, I like — ”
“Honey ginger, if I recall.” Ven looked up at Bonnie-B, expecting a smile of recognition. The sadness he saw in her face came almost as a shock to him.
“Ven.” From his new bathroom, Ven heard the toilet flush. “Promise me, that you’ll talk to Quentin.”
Ven opened his mouth to ask what they should discuss, but stopped at the silent command of her gaze, telling him that he already knew.
“I will.” And on hearing Ven’s words, Bonnie-B smiled, then touched his cheek. For a moment, Ven thought she was about to kiss him, but then she lowered her hand, excused herself, and walked towards her children waiting at the elevator.