Another answer to Debbie’s challenge:

1- Niles falling in a pool.
2- Fran and CC horse riding.
3- Max getting a black eye.
4- A mention of Julie Andrews.
5- Brighton and a blow-up doll.
6- Grace getting a boy friend.
7- Fran losing a shoe.
8- CC speaking Yiddish.

9- A monetary wager.
10- The whole family catching Niles and CC in a compromising
situation.
11- A toy, stuffed crocodile.
12- Lots of Fran/Max and Niles/CC kisses.



Summer Vacation

by

Anakin
(anakin.david@free.fr)


 

It was a quiet warm summer. The Sheffields, Niles & C.C. had decided to rent two neighboring houses for a two week’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

Maxwell drove the car up the graveled driveway next to their house and stopped. Fran came out of the car, her sunglasses perched on her nose, breathing in the fresh iodized air, while Max toured the car to go to the trunk.

Inside the car, Grace & Brighton were busy unbuckling each twin from their seats, then exited the car with them.

Carrying two large suitcases, Maxwell opened the door and let Fran in.

She smiled broadly, taking in the beautiful house which was decorated in a marine style, all white, with wooden panels on the walls, and lots of marine trinkets, such as shells, ropes, small steering wheels, boat models,…

There was also a large picture window opening on a garden with a swimming pool in the middle, separated from the drive way by a small hedge of loose thuja. The house was built on a small hill which allowed people standing by the pool to see the ocean.

"Oh Max, this house is beautiful!" Fran squeaked, turning to find herself enclosed in the arms of a beaming Maxwell.

"I’m glad you like it, Darling." He said softly before kissing her soundly.

Right then, Brighton and Gracie stepped in, with the twins in tow.

Seeing his parents kissing, he coughed softly.

"Hey, you wouldn’t want to give those children an X-rated show, would you?" he quipped, looking skywards.

Max and Fran parted, Fran lightly brushing her lipstick from his lips with one finger.

A little annoyed, Max looked at his eldest son.

"Why don’t you go upstairs and show the twins their rooms?"

"Hey I came to the sole condition that I wouldn’t baby-sit all the time!"

"Brighton…"

"Oh, OK… Come on, you two… Gracie, would you help me carrying everything upstairs?"

"I’ll take Jonah & Eve, go fetch their bags…"

"I’m a slave…" Brighton said, dragging his feet out of the house to the car.

Maxwell hugged Fran tenderly.

"Niles and I decided to go shopping after we’re all set, would you like to come with us?"

"What?… You’re asking ME if I want to go shopping?"

"Grocery-shopping, Darling, we need food…"

"Did you tell him we’d like him to cook?"

"Actually that was arranged before we left, on the condition we made no difficulties if he wanted a night alone with his wife."

"Oh you’re so good, honey!" She beamed.

"So? Will you come with us?"

"Yeah, if Grace and Brighton agree to baby-sit, it’ll be nice to walk a little after this trip."

"I know you’re dying to go see how Niles and C.C. are set, so could you please ask him to join me here when he’s ready?" he winked.

She playfully slapped him on the chest.

"How come you know me so well?!… Okay." She pouted.

"There’s one very good reason for knowing you so well…"

"Oh yeah?"

"Hmmm, hmmm… " he nodded. "… I love you." And to prove his point, he kissed her softly.

"Mmmm, you know me well indeed…"

They parted, and Fran went outside to Niles & C.C.’s house while Max began to take the suitcases upstairs.

***

Carrying Emily, who was very busy slapping her mother’s face and pinching her nose, C.C. climbed up the stairs and went to lay her daughter in the first crib she saw.

Holding a few hair from her mother, Emily giggled and started analyzing her new surroundings, while C.C. did the same with the nursery. She removed the ear plugs she and Niles had put on as soon as they had gotten into the car, since Emily had decided to sing a concert ever since.

She pulled the curtains to darken the room while Emily was starting to show the first signs of drowsiness by rubbing her hands against her eyes. Then she exited the room, leaving the door slightly ajar behind her.

Downstairs, Niles finished bringing in the last of their suitcases. He opened the windows and toured the room with his eyes. Their house was decorated with different tones of wooden panels artistically arranged, that gave the rather large rooms an intimate feeling. A stairway was leading to a mezzanine with the nursery, the bedroom, and the bathroom.

Niles turned, smiled, and silently called his wife within his opened arms. C.C. reached the bottom of the stairs and accepted the invitation, nestling her head in the crook of his neck. They remained like this a few seconds, then Niles kissed her slightly, until they were interrupted by a familiar:

"Knock! Knock!" she stepped in.

Niles slightly raised his eyebrows as if to say "later", and turned to Fran, one arm possessively drawn around C.C.’s waist.

"WOW! Your house is great too!"

"Yeah, I must admit that Maxwell did have a wonderful idea." C.C. added.

"Niles, Max said that when you’re ready to go shopping, you just have to come over to our place and we’ll leave to town."

"Thank you, Fran. I’ll help C.C. to unpack, and then we can go."

"OK, see you then!" she said, waltzing out of the house.

Niles turned to his wife, his eyelids half shut in a seductive manner.

"Now where were we, Babcock?" he said in a low voice, be fore dipping her to kiss her.

***

They had bought almost everything and only needed what Niles called ‘the aromatic plants for a Niles’s touch’. They were walking down a street, Niles ahead looking for a special store he knew was there, Fran & Max hand in hand behind.

Suddenly going out of a shop a man bumped into Niles. The first moment of surprise gone, they beamed broadly and embraced each other. Niles turned to Maxwell, his blue eyes shining, and smiling broadly.

Maxwell beamed broadly in his turn, exclaiming:

"Dear God! Richard!" he left Fran’s hand and went to hug him. "What the Devil are you doing here?!… Oh God, after so many years… We have tons of catching up to do!!!"

"Well, to answer your first question, Mary and the children wanted a change in their vacation, and I happened to have business to attend in Jersey not so long ago, so I figured they could come here and we’d spend the holidays on Martha’s Vineyard… You know Derek is here too with his latest conquest!"

"Derek too?!"

He was interrupted by the discreet coughing of his wife.

"Oh! Where are my manners?! Richard, this is Fran, my wife. Fran, this is Richard Ashford, an old friend from Eton."

"Nice to meet you!" Fran held her hand gracefully smiling.

Richard bowed, brushing his lips of the backside of Fran’s hand.

"Same here, Madam."

"Look, Niles and I have rented two houses on the hills up there, why don’t you and Derek come over with consorts and kids?"

"… I also have to show you my wife and our little bundle of joy!" Niles added.

"Niles?… Married?! I can’t believe it! Casanova finally found a lady to tame him?…"

"Hmm… Actually it’s much more like the contrary, I tamed a shrew… Niles mumbled to himself, chuckling at his own joke.

"Casanova?… Oooh!… I guess I don’t know everything about our so perfect English butler!" Fran teased.

"He almost got kicked out of Eton for his wooing escapades, Darling." Max added.

"That’s not true!"

"Still the same sparring partners I see!" Richard interrupted. "If I didn’t know better, I’d think you two are an old couple of queers!" He chuckled, making both Max & Niles frown. Upon seeing their faces, Richard quickly added. "Hmm, well… Max, thanks for the invitation, but we’re leaving in three days. With all the packing and so on, I doubt we can make it to come to visit you, but there’s a nice Irish pub in the town center, why don’t you join us there tomorrow? We hooked up with a bunch of nice fellows there, it would be a nice way to reminisce?"

"I think that’s a splendid idea, Richard…" then upon seeing Fran’s look. "Only, can we meet in the afternoon rather than in the evening? I saw an ad about a romantic ride on the beach when we were shopping and I would like to take Fran."

Fran beamed, forgetting all about her husband going out with friends without her.

"Oh, sweetie, I love you!"

"Richard?"

"Of course, let’s say 4 o’clock?"

"4 o’clock it is then…"

They all shook hands and parted.

When Richard was nowhere in sight anymore, Fran looked at her husband expectantly.

"’Seems like you had quite a bunch of friends when you were at Eaton?"

"Yes, sometimes, much to my parents’ dismay, but then again, life at home was not particularly enjoyable. Eton was more of an outlet for Niles and I than a ‘school’ with everything it means."

Niles chuckled.

"We almost got kicked off several times actually, and if Mr. Sheffield senior had not interfered in our favor more than once, I don’t want to imagine where we’d have ended… One thing you owe to your father, Maxwell."

Max smiled bitterly.

"Yes… I should be grateful…"

Fran rubbed her hand on his back.

"Come on, sweetie… Let’s go back home and you can tell me about that ride you want to take with me…"

"We’ll buy the tickets on our way back. That’s actually something I wanted to do with you when we were living in Los Angeles, but we never had the opportunity to do so… We can swap baby sitting, Niles, if you want to go with C.C.?"

"Riding? Interesting idea… I’ll think of it, thank you." Niles said, his eyes sparkling.

"Niles!" Fran said, chuckling and giving him a slap on the shoulder. "… Although, that’s something YOU could have thought about too, sweetie!" she said winking. "’riding’ on the beach… ‘been there, ‘done that…!" she concluded in a seductive tone, giving him a small peck.

Maxwell rolled his eyes and opened the car trunk, while Fran and Niles giggled.

***

Maxwell parked the car in front of the house. Niles exited, took a bag of stuff he had bought for Emily and C.C., and went to his house, while Fran & Maxwell took the bags from the trunk and headed for the house.

While they were passing by the swimming pool, Fran suddenly tripped, avoiding that the bags fall into the swimming pool by a mere miracle, and finally fell flat on her tummy into the grass. Maxwell rushed to her side.

"Darling, are you all right?"

Fran rubbed her chin, wincing.

"Yeah, I guess…" she said, slowly rising and checking herself for injuries. "… But not my shoe…" she resumed, pointing at her shoe lying totally dismantled a few inches from her heel and her sole stuck into the ground.

Maxwell helped Fran up, looking at the mess with incredulous eyes.

"How the Devil did you manage that?!"

"I don’t know! My heel suddenly got stuck into the ground and when I tried to lift my foot, it wouldn’t move, and the top of the shoe came instead of the whole thing.

"Well…" Maxwell started, binding to try to remove the reluctant heel from the ground. "… I’m not sure you can repair it but…" he pulled on the sole which rather detach itself from the heel than come out with it… "… Now you sure can’t." he concluded with a much dismayed face, looking alternatively from the sole to the heel which hung out of the grass like a golf tee. He looked at his wife with a sorry look. She shrugged, then looked at her husband, a smile slowly creeping on her face, then burst out laughing, causing Maxwell to laugh too, still holding the ridiculous piece of leather in his hand.

When their fit of laughter subsided, Max came to pick up their scattered groceries, put them back into the bag, while Fran took off her other shoe and headed to the house barefoot.

Once they had helped put everything inside the fridge and cabinets, Brighton and Gracie went to change and headed for the beach, leaving Max & Fran with the twins.

"Daddy, me and Eve want to go to the beach too!" Jonah started.

"We’ll all go tomorrow, Jonah. It’s already rather late and Brighton & Gracie won’t stay long. Did you go to sleep today?" he asked, knowing the answer pretty well, since they had been way too excited during the trip to take a nap.

Jonah scowled.

"Me and Eve are big now, we don’t sleep!" he said sternly, as Eve cuddled comfortably into her mother’s arms.

"I think you’d better go to bed, sweetie." Fran said softly, caressing her daughter’s hair.

"Evie! You traitor!" Jonah said, balling his fists in frustration.

Maxwell chuckled.

"Come on, you two, go to bed and sleep for a while, then we can all have a nice evening together."

Jonah sighed, resigned, and started ascending the stairs.

"Come on Evie, the grown ups want to be alone…"

"Mommy, I’m tired, I want Daddy and you to put me to bed." Eve said in a sleepy voice.

Fran smiled and Max came to pick up his daughter. Jonah finished ascending the stairs mumbling.

"Creep…"

"Jonah Sheffield!" Maxwell exclaimed.

Jonah didn’t ask for more and rushed up to his room.

***

Niles and C.C. finally emerged from the tangled sheets and exchanged one final kiss.

"Mmmm Niles! ‘seems like the marine atmosphere carries vitamins!"

"You don’t like?" he asked mischievously.

"Hell I do!… Your performance a few minutes ago was among the best ones!"

"Among the best?" he said with a contrite look, stressing the word ‘among’.

C.C. purred.

"Okay, the best… but now you’ve put the limit pretty high if you ask me."

Niles smiled coyly, gathering her in his arms.

"I like challenges…"

"What time is it?"

"Half past six… Oh God!… we’d better get ready, the Sheffield are expecting us for dinner, and I have to cook!"

C.C. bolted out of bed and rushed to the shower.

"Join me if you’re a man!" she shouted giggling.

"Much as I’d like to Miss Babcock, I DO have to be there ‘five minutes ago’… You can take your shower when I’m gone!" he said, beating her up into the shower.

C.C. stopped, flustered.

"I’ll charge you on that one!" she said, already planning revenge.

"Oh I bet you will!" Niles chuckled from inside the shower.

***

Brighton and Gracie stepped cautiously into the house.

"You’re sure they’re asleep?"

"You heard them when we left?… They put the twins to bed… I’m pretty sure with all the exhaustion of the trip and the *exercise*, they’re sleeping by now…" Grace said.

"No we’re not, and for your information, I’d rather you keep these conversations out of your mouth, Miss…" Maxwell said eyeing Gracie with a severe look. "… Now I hope you had a nice time at the beach, for you certainly took a long one!"

Brighton and Gracie looked at him with guilty looks, knowing fairly well they had stayed longer than they should have.

"We hooked up with a bunch of cool guys and didn’t see the time fly." Brighton tried as an explanation.

"I don’t want any of your explanations, Brighton. You agreed to come with us freely, there was one condition, it was your help, you’re late, full point. Now go get showered and come down help us with the table. Niles and C.C. should be here any minute, and one of you will have to bring down the twins…"

"Okay…" Brighton mumbled. "Brilliant, Gracie!" he blew.

"I was not the one to ‘forget’ about the time!"

"And stop scolding each other, I wonder how old you are! I hold you both responsible anyway!" Maxwell roared, overhearing them.

"Don’t you think you’re a little harsh on them, after all, we’re on vacation." Fran said, bringing plates and cutlery to the dining room.

"We are on vacation too, besides, I’m not harsh: I didn’t punish them…"

"Well, with Brighton being 20, that would be a little difficult." Fran snorted.

Maxwell sighed.

"I keep forgetting they’ve grown adults…"

"Not yet for Gracie, sweetie, thank God…"

"Since we’re on the topic of ‘vacation’, did you talk to Brighton about… errr…"

Fran laughed.

"A long time ago, mister! When I was still your Nanny!…"

Maxwell frowned.

"Hey, better be prepared to all this, don’t you think? Kids nowadays are rather early for that kind of stuff so I figured warning them about everything or almost couldn’t hurt. If that can make you feel better, I only told Gracie when she started having her *feminine problems*s."

Maxwell sighed.

"I guess you’re right…"

"Meanwhile, *it* didn’t happen to Brighton until he was sure of what he was doing… It lasted a whole year… And look at Maggie, she married the guy…"

"Brighton already did it?! No-one ever tells me anything in this house!"

"Well I learned it by accident, and sweetie, they were not going to tell YOU when it happened anyway… That’s something rather intimate, you know…"

Maxwell sighed.

"Actually, it’s not Brighton or Maggie I’m afraid of…"

"Gracie?… She’s the wisest of all our kids… So yes, she’s having her teen mood swings right now, but I doubt she would ever do anything inconsiderate…"

"She knew what she was talking about with her innuendos a few minutes ago!" he said defensively.

"Of course she knows, she’s not dumb, that doesn’t mean she’s going to jump on the first guy she’ll meet… Now please stop worrying and help me lay the table."

Right then, a freshly showered Niles entered.

"’Evening everyone!…"

"Hiya Niles!…" Fran beamed. "All is set on the kitchen counter…"

"Then I’d better set to work, Ma’am!" he joked.

He put an apron on and started working on one of his culinary miracles, which tonight was a large composite salad, with many flavors and many colors.

***

Fran cuddled up to Max after they had gone kissing the twins good night. She sighed of contentment.

"Hmmm… there’s no place I’d rather be right now…" she said in a sleepy voice, caressing his pectorals.

He encircled her shoulders pulling her closer to him.

"Because that’s where you belong, my Darling." He said softly, kissing the top of her head through her hair.

"I always imagined my life as a married woman to be perfect…"

"It’s not?" he asked worriedly.

"It’s better!"

He smiled.

"Better than perfect?"

She raised her head to meet his gaze.

"Actually, I can think of one or two things that could make it even better than that…" she said, sliding her hands over his bare chest seductively.

He smiled sexily.

"Would you happen to have any idea, Mrs. Sheffield?" he said huskily, his lips searching hers.

"Not ‘any’, Mr. Sheffield… many!" she giggled, meeting his lips with hers.

***

The sky was dark blue, the shimmering stars of the milky way giving it a surreal glow. A shadow dressed only in shorts crept out of Niles & C.C.’s house and made its way to the Sheffield’s.

It was tiptoeing along the swimming pool, probably to get inside through the picture window which was slightly ajar when suddenly it tripped, its momentum leading it inexorably into the glistening water, its fall ending with a loud splash, and a loud four letter word.

Niles’s head broke the surface, as the lights went on into the house, a scantily clad Maxwell going down the stairs menacingly to check on the intruder, followed by short by Fran wearing a light silk robe.

Swearing and dripping, Niles finally reached the edge of the pool, just when Maxwell realized who the ‘intruder’ was, holding out his hand to help him out of the water.

"Niles?! How the Devil did you end up in our swimming pool?!"

"None of your business!" he shot back, more angry with himself than with Maxwell.

"Niles!"

"Sorry… I didn’t mean it." He replied, sulking. He started towards the point where he had tripped and squatted to examine the ground, with Maxwell and Fran in tow. He spotted something and took it form the grass with some kind of effort, then tried to understand what it was.

"What the Hell is that?!"

Fran looked closer, and smiled.

"My heel!!!"

Niles looked at her with a quizzical look.

"What?"

"I lost it this afternoon, it got stuck into the ground…"

Niles shook his head.

"… And may I ask what on Earth you wanted to do at our house?" Maxwell asked, his fists on his hips.

"C.C. wanted some whipped cream and we didn’t have some in our fridge…" Niles replied sourly.

"Whipped cream?! At 2.00 in the morning?! Whatever for?!…"

Niles looked at him with an embarrassed look.

"Err… sorry… no need to explain…" Maxwell said, rolling his eyes. "Now take a towel, dry yourself, take your bloody cream, and GO HOME!…"

"Yes, Sir." Niles said with an even more embarrassed look on his face.

Fran started giggling, but stopped at once when she saw the not-so-happy glare of her husband, and they all headed to the house.

***

The next day, the whole clan went to the beach for a picnic. While Niles, C.C., Fran & Maxwell took care of their young ones, Gracie and Brighton left to meet the group of young people they had met the previous day.

"Mommy, can we go swimming?" Jonah asked.

"Jonah, I told you to wait: you’ve just eaten breakfast, you have to wait at least another hour. Let me smear some sun lotion on you and your sister, and then you can go build sand castles with Emily if you want."

"I don’t want to play with Emily, she always destroys my castle!" Jonah pouted.

"Jonah?" Maxwell raised an eyebrow "Remember what we talked about!"

"But daddy, she’s too young to play with grown ones like us!"

Fran gave a short laughter, as Maxwell tried to remain serious.

"Jonah, you and Eve are four, Emmy is three, I don’t see such a big difference."

"She can play dolls with Eve?" he asked, hopeful.

Maxwell sighed and looked quizzically at Fran, who retrieved a set of beach toys from her bag. Eve reached for it, and went to sit next to Emily, while Jonah took his rake and bucket to build his sand fortress.

C.C. stretched lazily on her towel, while Niles smeared some tan lotion on her back.

"Looks like the last signs of your pregnancy are gone, Babcock… Your body’s perfect." He said, moving amorously his palms over her already glistening skin.

"Mmmm Niles, always the gentleman…"

"I mean it." He said finally, stretching next to her giving her a soft kiss on the lips.

"You’re not bad yourself either, especially in those bikinis." She said, eyeing his behind with a sultry smile.

"Now stop this or I’m going to prove you you’re an exciting woman, to hell with the people on the beach!" he said sexily.

"Would you two knock it off, now?!" Fran said exasperated. "There are children here!"

"Yes, if you need so much to be together, then for Heavens sake, go home and let us baby sit Emily!" Maxwell added.

"You’re jealous…" Niles smirked, putting distance between his body and his wife’s.

"I just don’t need that permanent verbal fencing to be enticed by my wife!" Max said defensively. "But we can very well compete in the same category!"

"Sweetie, you’re talking dirty now…" Fran warned, while Niles and C.C. were trying very hard not to burst out laughing.

"I am not jealous!" he muttered so that only Fran could hear.

"Max, you’re the best man for me, and it’s all I care for."

"Yes, but I am fun, right?… I mean I’m a good catch?…"

"You’re the best for me, period." She said tenderly, silencing him with a kiss.

***

Brighton felt a little bit under: the guys were cool, but they all had toned and sun-tanned chests and biceps, which he had to admit was not exactly his case, and the girls seemed to be attracted like magnets to their muscles. Although they were nice and friendly, he decided to do something about it as soon as he got home.

Gracie attracted his attention, or rather the 17 year old who had his arm in the small of her back now. He approached them and started the conversation as casually as possible.

"Nice bunch of guys you have there… How long have you been here?"

"Oh, we live here… most of us. We have jobs on the beach during the summer." He said, gently caressing Grace’s back, making Brighton wince a little.

"Nice to meet you, I’m Brighton Sheffield." He said, extending his hand.

"Nice to meet you, I’m Josh…" he said, shaking his hand.

"I see you’ve already met my sister?"

"Oh, Grace’s your sister?… You’re a lucky chap, she’s a bomb!"

"Yeah, as my fist is if you misbehave…" he said, coldly.

"Oh, big brother defending little sister-ey?"

Brighton suddenly eyed him menacingly.

"Brighton! I can defend myself alone!" Grace started.

"Gracie, shut up!"

"Hey Pal! I understand you are worried that a guy like me working on the beach and so on might trick Grace into things she doesn’t want to do, but don’t worry, I can assure you I’m honest and have the purest interests in her."

"You’d better…" Brighton mumbled.

"Brighton, you’ve heard Josh, now go, and I can defend myself alone, thank you." Grace said, irritated.

"OK…" Brighton said, going back to the group of friends he had just made.

"He wants to play tough brother-huh?" Josh asked Grace, rubbing his nose against hers, smiling.

"Well… I’m his little sister…" she said smiling back.

"Not so little, Grace…" He said, running a finger down her jaw. "… Not so little." He resumed before gently kissing her on the lips.

Grace was surprised at first, this was not her first kiss, but her first "real" kiss. Josh was very gentle and tender, his arms driving her closer to his chest, and she felt herself respond to the sweet invasion. When the kiss ended, they stared deeply into each other’s eyes.

"Wow!" she said, mesmerized.

Josh chuckled.

"That much?!" he said joking.

"You’re a very good kisser…" she said bluntly, realizing what she was saying when the words left her mouth.

Josh looked at her smiling.

"Thank you!" he said softly, concluding on her lips. "What are you doing tonight?" he said, when their exchange ceased.

"I have no plans, but maybe my Mom and Dad have."

"Aren’t you on vacation?"

"Yes."

"Well then maybe you can come here on the beach tonight? We’ll have a campfire, we’ll roast sausages and potatoes, and have some fun…"

"I have to ask…"

"Grace, you’re 16 years old!"

"Yeah, but they think I’m 10… Look… You’ll come with me, meet my dad and mom, and I guess that if you guarantee you’ll come to pick me up and drive me back at a definite hour, my dad shouldn’t see any problem… They trust me enough."

"OK, let’s go see your parents then…"

***

Fran was getting too hot for her taste. Maxwell was reading the papers under the beach umbrella, looking at the twins from time to time, while Niles & C.C. were doing pretty much the same on the other side of the "playground" they had arranged for the children: a shady area with several large towels spread on the sand where the three toddlers were playing.

"Max?…" Fran asked.

"Mmmm?" he mumbled, concentrated on his papers.

"I’d like to go swimming."

"That’s a wonderful idea, my darling." He replied, still not leaving his newspaper.

Fran looked at him.

"Max!"

This time, he lowered his paper and looked at her.

"I’d like to go with you…"

Max smiled.

"Why didn’t you say so?" he helped her to her feet, and they headed to the glistening water, asking Niles & C.C. to keep an eye on the twins for them.

They entered the water slowly, holding hands.

"Do you remember the last time we did this?" Fran asked mischievously.

"Hmmm hmmm…" he replied, smiling.

"As I recall, we were both naked, and had just made love for the first time on our deserted island…" she said, dreamily.

He drew her closer and took her into his arms.

"And?…" he asked tenderly, kissing the tip of her nose.

"And it was simply wonderful." She resumed, looking into his eyes. She raised her hands, buried her fingers into his thick mane, and drew his head close to give him a long and sweet kiss.

She prolonged the kiss, clinging to him. He started feeling unbalanced, and suddenly, she pulled him down, both ending into the water with a loud splash, Fran giggling hysterically.

"Fran!" Maxwell said panting and soaked, as he emerged from the water.

She was laughing wholeheartedly.

"You’re going to pay for that!" he said jokingly.

She stepped closer and whispered into his ear.

"I have far more interesting waiting up for you when we get home from our ride this evening…" she suggested, running a nail slightly over his back, sending shivers down his spine and into a region of his body even the cool water couldn’t do anything for at this precise moment. He blushed, and murmured back.

"Fran, this is not the moment, nor the place to do such enticing things to your poor husband. I’ll keep that in mind though…" he concluded, nibbling on her ear.

"Dad! Fran! Are you getting out of the water already?! I have something to ask you!" an impatient Grace shouted form the shore, with a young man by her side.

Fran and Maxwell stared at each other amused, and exchanged a small peck, before heading for the beach.

"Yes Grace, what is it?" Maxwell asked eyeing the teenager suspiciously.

"Dad, Fran, this is Josh. There’s a barbecue here on the beach tonight, with the guys, and I was wondering if I could go. Josh will be with me."

"I don’t think…" Maxwell started, but he was interrupted by Fran at once.

"I guess we can trust our Gracie, honey, can’t we, Grace?"

"But I…" Max protested.

"… Was about to say that Grace could stay until 11 o’clock, I know, and that was exactly what I was going to say." Fran cut him again, smiling to Grace.

"11 o’clock is a bit early…" Grace started, but changed he opinion when she saw that Fran was clenching her father’s arm, her knuckles whitening, and was glaring at her with a ‘don’t-ask-for-more’ look. "… but I guess I can do with that." She finished smiling.

"I guarantee I’ll look after her Mr. Sheffield." Josh said, offering his hand.

"Well thank you for taking care of her, but you’d better not look too closely at her, my boy." Maxwell said, taking the offered hand, smiling, but raising his eyebrows significantly.

"On my honor, Mr. Sheffield. I respect Grace, and I will take care of her, I promise."

"Good…"

"OK then… Grace, why don’t you and your friend come back with us and the twins? You can use the swimming pool…"

"Josh?" Grace asked, turning to him.

"Yeah, that’s a good idea, that way me and your Dad & Mom can get to know each other better…"

Maxwell couched discreetly.

"What is it, sweetie?"

"Well… you know, Niles and I had that meeting with Richard and Derek…"

"Oh! That’s right, I almost forgot, well I can still get to know Josh on my own, can’t I?"

"Of course, darling, and you’ll have to give me a detailed report." He said, half joking.

They all finally headed to their spot on the beach. Niles and C.C. had already begun packing, while Brighton was keeping an eye on his siblings and Emily. Josh helped them, and they left the beach.

***

Fran stretched on the deck-chair. She had invited C.C. to stay with her, as the men where at the pub.

Josh helped Grace out of the pool, and draped a terry towel around her shoulders, before the two came to sit next to Fran.

"So, Josh, what are you doing?"

"Well I live here, but in about a month, I’ll have to go to college in New York."

"College?"

"Yeah, I finished high school this year."

"And what’s going to be your major?"

"Well I’m interested in almost everything that doesn’t have to do with science. I will start with Sociology, but I eventually want to be an architect. I designed my dad’s condo here when I was fifteen, I’ve always been interested in drawing, and designing houses…"

"What’s your dad doing?"

"He’s a chartered accountant, he owns his company. And before you ask, my Mom’s a high school teacher in Mathematics."

Fran smiled.

"… Have I passed the preliminary test?" Josh teased.

"Not entirely yet, I have to be sure your intentions towards Grace are totally honorable…" Fran teased too.

"Fran!" Grace exclaimed, a little bit exasperated.

Josh chuckled.

"I understand, Mrs. Sheffield, my mother did exactly the same thing when my sister had boyfriends. But I can assure you my intentions ARE totally honorable." He looked amorously at Grace. "Grace is the purest definition of just that: grace…"

Grace blushed a little.

"Josh, that’s the nicest thing a boy’s ever said to me…"

"I mean it."

Fran coughed discreetly.

"OK, kids… I am not Max, but still… I’m getting uncomfortable here, keep that for when you are alone. In the meantime, Josh, you’re welcome to come by the swimming pool whenever you want."

"Thank you Mrs. Sheffield… I hope I will still be able to see Grace when I am in New York?"

"Of course you can, we’re not monsters, you know. So yes, Maxwell is a little uptight and stuffy when it comes to seeing his daughters dating, he almost got a fit when Maggie, our eldest, decided she wanted to get married to a young man she’d dated only a few months, but they are now the happiest couple on Earth after Maxwell and I…"

"I deny, Fran. C.C. said, raising on her elbows… After Niles and I…"

"Err… Oh OK…. Well, they’re very happy anyway, and I smell they’re going to tell us even greater news when they come back from Michael’s promo tour in Europe."

She spotted Brighton on the terrace with his laptop.

"B.?!… You had to bring your laptop here?!"

"Hey, Fran! I’m expecting emails from the producers of my short’! I couldn’t let this unattended for two weeks!… And I have the screenplay to review, too!"

"So you’re working?!"

"Yeah… Well…"

"That’s your father’s genes once again! And he complained he owned none of his kids, well I have news for you, mister, you’re your dad’s son, no doubt on that!"

"I’m not only working, Fran. I’m currently ordering some express delivery stuff…"

"Oh? What for?"

"Well, I’d rather keep it for myself, it’s rather personal…"

Fran frowned.

"I suppose I have nothing to say, you’re 20, right?"

Brighton chuckled.

"Yeah, right, but don’t worry, it’s nothing you wouldn’t approve of…"

"OK…"

Some baby cries were heard from the house. C.C. raised once again.

"I guess it’s 4 o’clock-snack duty for us, C.C.!" Fran said, sitting up from her deck chair, and draping a Tahitian ‘pareo’ over her hips.

"Indeed…" C.C. said, readjusting her swim suit, and putting on a light summer dress.

Both headed for the house to attend to their motherly duties, leaving the teenagers chatting by the pool.

***

Maxwell and Niles were having a really good time with their old friends, and several pints of beer later, the atmosphere of the pub was seriously starting to get heavier.

"Remember that punishment you got from the principal when he discovered the toilets of the dorm had been painted in green, and you and Niles had to clean it all?" Derek started.

Max’ and Niles’s faces darkened.

"Yeah… We were innocent, we were not even present when this damn silly trick was discovered as we had spent the week end at home!" Maxwell replied indignantly.

"’t was not the first time in my life I had to clean up something I hadn’t done, but that one was mean… I don’t know who left the anonymous letter denouncing us on the principal’s desk…" Niles quipped.

Derek burst out laughing wholeheartedly.

"Well, after all those years, I guess I can confess it was me!"

Niles and Maxwell exchanged one quick angry look, then got back at Derek.

"WHAT?!" they said in unison.

"Yeah! And Richard covered for it! I had been grounded for the week end because I had played nasty tricks on Jason, you know? That guy with glasses and spots all over his face, poor fellow… well he married, and is now at the head of a very famous bank in England!… Well, err, back to what I was saying, I got bored, and decided to paint the toilets with the paint the gardener was supposed to use for the wooden benches, but when I finished, I suddenly freaked out, because I thought if the principal discovered it was me, I would be fired for good, and my father would send me to a military school or something! Anyway, I talked to Richard, and he suggested I denounce you, which I did." He finished, almost choking for laughing too hard, Richard giving him a loud slap on his back.

What he hadn’t seen, was that during his confession, Niles’s and Max’ fists had balled, their shoulders tensed, and their faces reddened. Neither Richard nor Derek saw the attack come and they found themselves lifted from their seats and roughly hurled against the wall a few feet behind them.

Niles ad Maxwell stared at them with furious looks on their faces, their fists against their hips.

"Do you have any idea what your little trick earned US?" Maxwell roared.

"… A disciplinary committee, grounded for an entire year, and every time we would go home, we would have to clean the stables and finish the cleaning with a toothbrush!" Niles resumed.

"Hey! That was a joke, a silly joke, but a joke!" Richard protested, standing up.

"Yeah…" Derek said, standing up too and massaging his jaw.

"A *joke* that almost got US kicked out for good!"

"Oh come on, Maxwell, your father would have paid for you to be reintegrated." Richard smirked.

"Oh you won’t get away with this that easily, mister! Besides, that’s not true, and you know it!"

"In any case, we didn’t deserve that!" Derek said, catching Maxwell on the left cheekbone.

Niles went to his rescue immediately, and soon, the pub was a confused battlefield, where everyone tried to punch everyone…

***

Fran looked at the time for the hundredth time.

She had put on jeans and sneakers, ready for the romantic ride at sunset, and she was awaiting her husband who should already be here.

C.C. looked from her book.

"Fran, if you don’t stop tapping that foot of yours one more second, I swear I’m going to ring your neck!"

Fran sighed impatiently, and went to sit next to C.C.

"Your husband is there too!"

"Yeah, but my husband is not taking me on a romantic ride this evening…" she started dreamily, then chuckled. "Well… As a matter of fact, he is… but the stallion is much more fit to my needs…!" she laughed, making Fran pout.

"I really didn’t need THAT Miss Babcock…"

"Oh come on, nanny Fine… Relax… I’m sure they’ll be home soon."

"Well they’d better because the ride’s in half an hour!"

22 minutes later, it was C.C.’s turn to be annoyed… Furious actually.

"He’s not going to get away with it like that!" she repeated for the hundredth time.

"He’s going to get Hell for that!" Fran added on her own. Stomping her foot, her arms crossed over her chest. "C.C., you know what?"

"What?!" she almost barked.

"Let’s go together!"

C.C. was surprised at her suggestion, but didn’t hesitate long.

"You know what, Fran? I think you’ve just had a very good idea! I’ll be back in ten seconds!"

"Brighton!" Fran called.

The young man emerged from his room.

"You baby sit Emmy and the twins while I’m going riding with C.C.!"

"But…"

"No ‘but’! Your dad’s done enough already, so I won’t stand any male contrariness right now! We’ll be gone an hour, you can baby sit for an hour!"

"I had planned to go to the barbecue too!"

"You’ll go in an hour!" and she stomped out of the house.

***

The police squad entered the pub and started roughly shoving everyone outside. Maxwell felt a powerful hand grab his shoulder, and he was suddenly pulled towards the back of the place.

He started to protest, but Niles shushed him imperatively.

They remained quiet for long minutes, then the noise diminished, and they heard the police sirens fade away.

Slowly raising from the mess the struggle had created, Niles and Maxwell didn’t ask for more, and tiptoed out of the pub to their car.

Once in the car, Maxwell finally looked at his watch, then at Niles in horror.

"We’re going to be killed!" they both said at the same time.

***

C.C. and Fran were trotting silently behind their guide.

"Nanny Fine, I suppose you have slang words in Yiddish too?"

Fran looked at her, surprised.

"Yeah, we do…"

"Teach me." C.C. said determined.

Fran looked at her again, with a quizzical face. Then she smiled mischievously.

"That could be fun…!"

C.C. laughed evilly.

"Come on, tell me…"

"Okay, what should I start with?… The soft ones, OK?"

"Go ahead."

"Mishugena… That means crazy person it’s not very offensive."

"What else?"…

Fran proceeded to tell C.C. all the useful Yiddish slang words she knew, and at the end of the ride, they were laughing so hard, that tears could be seen at the corner of their eyes.

***

When they got home, they found Maxwell and Niles slumped on the couch with a miserable face, decorated with a beautiful swollen eye for Maxwell.

No word was spoken, but Niles silently went to take his sleeping daughter, and followed his wife towards his house, while Fran climbed the stairs in a mostly offended fashion, her nose pointed upward, her arms crossed over her chest.

Maxwell bent his head, looking miserable, and followed her.

As he lied in bed, he tried to sneak his arms around, but she pushed him back, turning on her side, and presenting him her back.

He sighed in a dismayed manner.

"There will be a hell of an explanation to give me tomorrow mister! In the meantime, I have a sudden terrible headache."

"I have no excuse, Fran…" he tried.

"Tomorrow! My headache requires me to fall asleep instantly! Oh, and you’re on twins duty if they wake up tonight, but before taking care of them, I guess you should go wash your teeth ten times to get rid of that terrible beer breath!"

She fell silent, and left Maxwell to his guilt…

***

Niles gently put Emily in her own bed, and after C.C. had kissed her on her forehead, they tiptoed to the living room.

She turned towards him, her eyes pointing daggers at him.

"I suppose you’re proud of yourself!"

"C.C. I can…"

"Don’t! After all you said to me I would never had imagined you would once become so shikker! Your breath smells alcohol a hundred miles away!"

"We had a nice time with the boys and…"

"You poor shmuck! For once in my life I do sympathize with Nanny Fine!"

"Babcock, I don’t understand a word you’re saying!… But… I like it…" he concluded with a slightly excited smile.

"Ha! You can kush meer in toches for tonight, mister!"

"What is it, Yiddish?" he said with a devilish grin, getting closer to her, his eyes shining with desire.

C.C. didn’t notice though, but the echo of her own words in her mind sent shivers down her spine.

"Now bring your tokhes to bed…" she was interrupted by Niles hungrily exploring her mouth with his tongue, and of course, the waves of pleasure his kiss elicited in her body didn’t go unnoticed.

"… That I understood, but I’m afraid we won’t have time to reach the bed…" he murmured huskily before trailing hungry kisses down her throat.

C.C. grabbed his shoulders, and the next thing they knew, they were rolling on the floor, furiously disrobing each other.

***

Maxwell tried once more.

"Fran, I know you’re angry with me, but I need to explain."

"What is there to explain? You got drunk, period."

"Indeed, but not as much as you think."

"Pfff!" she smirked.

"I’m not justifying myself, but don’t you want to know how I got the black eye? It really wasn’t my fault, you know…"

Fran relaxed a little, and turned on her back.

"What is it?"

Maxwell proceeded then to tell her what had occurred at the pub.

At the end of his explanation, Fran switched her bedside lamp on and went to the bathroom to retrieve some ointments and tranquilizers for the pain, and was amorously taking care of her husband.

"Fran, I still have no excuse for being late. I promise I’ll take you on that ride, and what do you say we ask Grace and Brighton to baby-sit tomorrow while me and Niles treat you and C.C. to a nice restaurant?"

"I think it’s a good idea, why don’t we go out and tell them?"

"What, now?"

"Yeah! Why not?!"

"Because right now, I want to make love to my lovely wife." He said, grabbing her and kissing her. "Any objection?"

"What about your black eye?"

"A black eye doesn’t prevent a man from doing his husbandly duties." He assured her, pinning her onto the mattress…

***

In the morning, the Sheffields all had breakfast together. They sat around the huge table, and started eating in a boisterous good mood.

"So, Gracie? How was your evening at the beach with Josh?"

The teenager blushed a little.

"Fran, if I ever dreamed of my knight in shining armor, then Josh is…"

"Sweetie, don’t get too ecstatic, it’s your first real boyfriend… things might change in the future."

"Oh please Fran! Don’t spoil the moment! I’m not saying I love him, I’m just saying that he’s a great guy. He’s protective, tender, and romantic, what else could I ask for?"

"My God, hear my prayer!" Maxwell mumbled.

"Oh come on! You’re not going to freak out like with Maggie, Max!"

Maxwell sighed.

"No, I won’t… I trust you, Grace, it’s just that… You’re growing too fast." He said with a gentle smile."

"Don’t worry Dad, I know perfectly what I am doing." Grace assured him. "Besides, we might have the opportunity to keep the relationship going when we’re back in New York since he’s going to study there. You will probably get to see him and know him better then…"

The door bell rang, interrupting her. Brighton stood up smiling.

"That’s probably for me!"

Maxwell looked at Fran quizzically, who stared back blankly.

Brighton opened the door and signed the receipt the delivery man was presenting him. He then gave him an average sized package. Brighton grabbed it feverishly, but as he weighed the object, his look turned from eager to worried. He closed the entrance door, and frantically began unwrapping it. He tore the cardboard away, and pulled up a folded pink and red piece of plastic, that unfolded as soon as it was eventually released from the confinement of the box …

Max gasped, Fran’s mouth shaped in a perfect ‘o’ as Eve excitedly exclaimed:

"Oh! A giant inflatable doll!!!" she looked at it, then grimaced in disgust. "Ugh! It’s not pretty! I don’t want it!"

Max stood up coldly looking at his son.

"It’s definitely not for you Eve, now everybody out, except Brighton, and Fran!"

Knowing when it was better to obey her father at once, Grace gently took each twin by their hand, and walked out to the terrace and the pool.

"Dad, I don’t know…"

"Don’t start with lame excuses, Brighton! If you cannot keep your hormones in check, take a bloody cold shower, but I never ever want to see that again in my home!"

"Dad, please! I’m not that desperate!"

"Brighton, I didn’t know you were ordering that yesterday, and I certainly do not approve of it, like you implied. Oy: What did I do wrong?!… Anyway, it’s none of our business, you’re 20 years old, you’re not a teenager anymore, you can do whatever you want, but please, don’t do it in front of the twins or Gracie."

"Would you hear me out?!" Brighton interrupted in desperation.

Silence spread out.

"It’s a mistake. I did order something in express delivery, but it was a device to help me consolidate my abdominal muscles, and biceps. Nothing of that kind, I just want to be fit on the beach with the girls… I really don’t need that."

Maxwell calmed down a little while Brighton was fumbling with the wrapping.

"See!" he said, holding the piece of paper holding the address… "Brandon Setfield!… He lives two doors from here, according to the address written here."

Right then, the door bell rang and another delivery boy brought another package for Brighton. Maxwell went to sign the papers this time, and unwrapped the object, revealing a muscle building device indeed, which Brighton grabbed feverishly.

"That’s it! That’s what I ordered!"

"What are we going to do with the doll?" Fran asked.

"Send it back saying it’s not the right address…" Maxwell replied blankly.

"I know better… I’ll bring the package myself, and leave it on the door mat…"

"… Although… Maybe Niles and C.C…"

"Fran!!!" Maxwell exclaimed.

"Oh well, OK it’s not ours anyway… Brighton, before you go, go fetch Gracie and the twins, we’ll stop by theirs on our way to the beach…"

"Oh, I’ll come with you anyway, I’ll exercise after lunch."

While Maxwell and Fran were cleaning the dishes, Brighton and Gracie went upstairs with the twins to get them ready for the beach, then they took their beach bags, and exited.

***

The door to Niles & C.C.’s house was unlocked, they all entered the house and stepped inside the living room.

Maxwell gasped and Fran’s eyes bulged out of their sockets, her hand protectively covering Jonah’s and Eve’s eyes, while Brighton’s and Gracie’s mouths were forming perfect ‘o’s’.

Niles and C.C. stirred and looked above their heads lazily to see who had just entered. As soon as he realized, Niles’s face immediately reddened, his hand grabbing the fortunate handmade quilt covering the sofa, to put it over their exposed bodies.

Fran was the quickest to recover.

"We’ll wait for you outside, take your time!" she said quickly, stepping back towards the entrance, taking the protesting twins with her.

Maxwell tried to recover his breath while Brighton and Gracie stepped back too, like hypnotized.

"We’re… we’re deeply sorry old man… The door was unlocked, we thought it was… We’ll… We’ll wait for you outside indeed… Bye, see you…" Maxwell blurted escaping this embarrassing scene.

***

Once outside, Maxwell exclaimed.

"Oh my God!…"

"I want to get a lobotomy…" Brighton started. "I want to wipe this vision out of my memory…"

"… It’s interesting to see how both Niles and Miss Babcock reacted…" started Grace with a thoughtful look.

"Gracie!" Maxwell exclaimed. "A little decency, here!"

"I am decent! I’m talking about the sociologic aspect of it…"

"Sociologic my aaaaa..eye!" Brighton quipped, changing his choice of words at the last minute upon seeing his father’s glare.

"Now that was an interesting view… More interesting than the last time we saw them actually…" Fran almost giggled.

"Fran!" exclaimed Maxwell, utterly shocked. "Did you really need to say that?!"

"Oh, come on, we didn’t expect them to be in that position, but it’s Nature, right?"

"It is, but you don’t go wandering naked in the streets just because it’s Nature as you put it!" he said emphasizing Fran’s way of pronouncing ‘nature’. "How the Hell are we going to be able to look them face to face now?!" he resumed.

"Just like that, face to face, and pretend nothing ever happened… Remember that one time I told you about when I lost my panties in a big store?"

"The last time I saw Niles naked, we were children!…" Maxwell resumed, not listening to Fran. "Oh my God! How is he going to take that? How am I going to be able to look at him?!"

"Sweetie, calm down, would you? Pretend as if nothing ever happened, and that’s all."

"How can I…"

"When you want it, you can do it, period." She interrupted just as Niles, C.C. and Emily who had gotten ready in record time, came out of the house looking as if nothing had happened.

"What a beautiful day!" C.C. said, trying to sound as casual as possible, fanning herself with her magazine. "Don’t you think it’s a bit hot, though?"

"I guess it is indeed!" Fran said, looking knowingly at both with a wide smile.

But Niles ignored her look, and said:

"Maxwell, I actually thought it would be a nice opportunity for us to have a barbecue by the swimming pool… I bought several items at the food store yesterday for just that purpose."

"Oh! Ahem… Yes! I think it’s a wonderful idea, Niles! What do you think, Darling?"

"Whatever suits you is fine, sweetie!"

"A barbecue it is then."

"Dad, can I go fetch Josh to spend the day with us?"

Maxwell swallowed his worry, and replied.

"Of course sweetheart, go fetch him."

"Well then if we are going to stay home, I’m going to exercise."

"Don’t you care about being a little ridiculous doing that in front of everybody?" Fran asked.

Brighton rolled his eyes.

"Fran!… Thanks for the vote of confidence! I’m not THAT decrepit at my age!… Besides, when it comes to ridiculous situations, I think we’re vaccinated in this family. So no, I’m not afraid of appearing ridiculous in front of everybody. I even think it’s a rather healthy activity! Better that than going to a pub or something, right?" he said, casting an eye at his father knowingly.

Fran looked briefly at a scowling Maxwell.

"Well son, you do whatever you desire." She said, patting his shoulder, stepping back towards their house.

***

After they had had lunch, Grace, Josh, and Brighton left to meet their friends on the beach, while Fran went to put the twins and Emmy to bed, Niles took a book to read, and C.C. on a deck chair lazily.

Maxwell stood up, put a tee-shirt on, and announced he was going to buy a few magazines and news papers at the news stand.

Fran caught him as he was about to exit the house.

"Sweetie, can you buy me the latest People Magazine? It’s been ages since I didn’t read anything about celeb’s, and I kind of feel out of the loop…"

"Ages?… Fran, it’s only been two weeks…"

"So?… That’s a LONG time!"

Maxwell shook his head smiling tenderly.

"Anything for you, my Darling." He gave her a peck on the lips and exited.

He was going up the street back to the house with his stack of magazines, when someone suddenly hailed him.

"Maxwell!"

Max turned towards the voice. When he saw the origin, he sighed scowling a little.

"Yes, Richard?"

Richard reached his level.

"Look, about yesterday…"

"There is nothing left to discuss, Richard."

"Yes there is, listen, I’ve talked to Derek, and after a night at the police station, we both agreed that first, it had been silly to tell you, but before that, that it had been particularly mean to play this trick on Niles and you, and not tell anyone because Derek was too coward to admit it was him."

"That we had already figured out by ourselves Richard, thank you. Now if you’ll excuse me…"

"Just a second, there’s more to that. We are sorry, sincerely sorry, and Derek offers that on our last night here, he takes us all to the best restaurant in town, I was just coming to see you to tell you that."

Maxwell sighed heavily.

"Listen, Richard, I have to tell Niles and then we’ll decide what to do, besides, I have to ask Brighton or Grace to baby-sit for us…"

"All right, tell you what, give me your cell phone number, I’ll call you in about two hours to see what you have decided."

"All right."

"Thank you, Maxwell… You know, we were young, we didn’t know what we were doing…"

"Yeah, yeah…"

The two men parted, and Max reached the house. He went directly to the swimming pool and settled back on his deck chair, giving Fran her People’s magazine. Niles picked the Times, and C.C. proceeded to read her novel.

"Oh, Niles, before you start… I met Richard when I went to fetch the magazines."

"Had he recovered from yesterday?" he smirked.

"Not that well…" Maxwell chuckled. "He had an even darker black eye than me, not to mention several bruises on the face… but anyway… He wanted to make peace with us, was sorry about what Derek and him did when we were at Eton, and wants to invite us with our wives in the best restaurant of the town this evening."

"Provided we find a baby-sitter…"

"We could always ask Grace or Brighton…"

"If you can manage that… I think that after all those years, there is some kind of prescription, right?"

"Probably… nevertheless… we did give them a good show, old man!"

"Indeed we did!" Niles chuckled.

Both men suddenly quieted down upon seeing their respective wives’ glares.

Sighing, Fran opened her magazine and became quickly engrossed in her reading. An article particularly drew her attention.

"Oh sweetie, I’ve got some interesting news for you…"

"Huh?" Maxwell answered, not really paying attention.

"Julie Andrews wants to set up a revival of ‘My Fair Lady’, but she can’t seem to find any producer. It says here that the not-so-young actress has lost her hit ability, and that no one wants to bet on her anymore…"

"Hmm hmmm…" Maxwell murmured, still reading the economical review he had started.

Fran let her magazine down, talking to no-one in particular.

"Not-so-young? I think they exaggerate a little, she’s still a hit, didn’t she get an Oscar or something a few years ago? I think she’s a great lady, and that she should be treated as such. She’s aged a little, so what? Don’t we all?… Well except me of course…"

"Hmm hmmm…" Maxwell continued, not having paid the least attention to his wife’s blabbering.

"Sweetie?"

"Hmm?" he mumbled in a distracted tone.

"Sweetie?! Hey!" she said, snapping her fingers in front of his nose.

"What is it, Darling?"

"Why don’t you produce that play?"

"What play?"

"Julie Andrews’s."

"Oh, you mean that revival of ‘My fair Lady’?"

"Yes."

"I know she’s been seeking producers for a long time, but I’m not sure I want to take that bet."

"Oh come on, she’s a sure hit!"

"People expect new things…"

"So what?… It’s a revival, why don’t you hire a playwright that adapts the play to nowadays?… I don’t know, Eliza could be a kind of Pretty Woman, and Henry Higgins could be like Richard Gere on the film, except he wouldn’t be a rich wonder boy hiring a street girl, but a distinguished man having bet he would make a real lady out of her…. You know… Same story, different context…"

"I’ll think of it, Darling…" he said distractedly, his article getting the better of his interest to what Fran was saying.

"I really think it could be a real hit, you know… A challenge for the beginning of the year…"

"Hmm hmmm…" he resumed his reading while Fran did the same.

They stayed by the pool all afternoon long, until Brighton, Gracie, and Josh came back from the beach.

Brighton and Josh stayed by the pool, discussing the latest baseball results, while Grace went inside to help Fran with the twins with their bath.

"Fran, I want to thank you for your trust…"

"About Josh?… It’s alright, sweetie, it’s perfectly normal at your age, you know…"

"Yes, but Dad…"

"Your Daddy’s a bit shaken to see his youngest grow up, that’s normal too… It’ll be the same for Evie when she reaches the age too, you know…"

"What Mommy?" Eve asked at the mention of her name.

"When you get a boyfriend, sweetie… In a very long time…"

"Oh… Does that mean I have to kiss a boy?"

Fran chuckled, along with Grace.

"You don’t ‘have to’…"

"Oh, good then… Because I hate it when you do that with daddy… Ugh!"

Fran looked at Grace with a mock face.

"Oh great… We’re safe for a good ten years at least!"

Grace chuckled.

"Fran… Josh suggested that we baby-sit for you and Niles and C.C. tonight, so that you can go out together…"

Fran’s head snapped up.

"Can I trust you then too?"

"Josh wants to take things slow… You don’t have to worry about that… Besides, I’m not sure I’d want to take that step now, at my age. And the second reason is that who knows what will happen when this vacation is over?"

Fran smiled warmly, while extracting Jonah from the bathtub.

"That’s very nice of you to think of us, sweetie. Your father wanted to ask you if you could do this for us, actually, ‘seems like we’re invited…"

"You can go then… Josh said he would bring the video of ‘Nell’ with Jodie Foster if you accepted."

***

The Sheffields, Niles and C.C., Richard and his wife, and Derek and Pamela were all seated around a table on a terrace, chatting amiably in the sweet atmosphere of the dying sun and the fresh breeze.

"So Maxwell, what’s new on Broadway?" Derek asked.

"I’d be tempted to say ‘same old, same old’, but I’m sure C.C. will jump my bones if I do!" he answered smiling.

"We’ve had a nice season so far." C.C. added. "Now we’re seeking a big hit to start the fall season."

"I’ve heard that Julie Andrews was seeking a producer for a revival of ‘My Fair Lady’…" Richard started.

"Yeah Maxwell! Why don’t you produce that!" Derek said chuckling. "’My fair Lady’, Maxwell Sheffield’s brand new production!"

Maxwell felt his ears burn.

"Well on the contrary to certain people I know, who launch brand new high-tech businesses and have to ask for help after two years of existence to finally shut down the place," he started, stressing his words in reference to Derek’s latest business failure "I’ve had successes!"

Derek winced.

"Oh Maxwell, calm down, I was just joking…"

"I don’t think it’s the place to joke, Derek." Maxwell replied coldly.

"You’ve always been a turn off, Maxwell!" Derek started, a bit irritably. "I bet you don’t have the guts to produce her play, and like with ‘Cats’, you’ll regret it all your life!"

Fran had to dig her nails in Maxwell’s forearm to prevent him from ringing Derek’s neck.

He cooled down silently, then looked straight in Derek’s eyes.

"Well Derek, I’ve got news for you… I’ll take that bet, Fran suggested I should produce the play, and I will, what do you think C.C.?"

"Maxwell, you know I like challenges…" C.C. said, siding with Maxwell.

Derek’s eyes flashed.

"All right, I bet £ 10,000 the play won’t even make it to the premiere night!"

Maxwell’s eyes cast the same sparks.

"Done!" C.C.’s and Maxwell’s hands shot out from their lapses and shook Derek’s.

"Derek, I hope you have the money on your bank account…" Richard started with a worried tone.

"I do, I may be a poor businessman, I’m good at making stock exchange deals…" he replied, smiling evilly.

"We’ll set to work as soon as we get back to New York, Derek." Maxwell said, smiling hypocritically, block that money, because it’s mine now!"

Later, the four of them were walking up the streets going back to their houses, each couple holding hands tenderly.

"I told you, you should produce this, honey!" Fran said, giggling.

"That only proves that I’m listening to you, my darling." Maxwell said tenderly, kissing her lips. "I should know better than not trust more often that beautiful lady that has accepted to be by my side forever." He finished lovingly.

C.C. rolled her eyes.

"Oh would you two knock it off!"

"Our turn!" Fran said defensively, before throwing her arms around her husband’s neck and kissing him passionately to prove her point.

"Let them be C.C., what I have in store for you is way above their lukewarm romantic games…" Niles said teasingly, making C.C. smile evilly, before she planted a firm kiss on his lips.

"And there we go again!" Maxwell said, half chuckling. "There’s no competition indeed Niles, 20 years beat 5 by far, I surrender!"

"You heard Richard?… He called me Casanova…" Niles said proudly before getting a slap on the arm from his wife.

"You’d better keep your instincts in check, Casanova, or you might have to face the Babcock dragon…" C.C. said menacingly.

"Mmmm I love it when you’re playing Dragon…" Niles said, his eyes sparkling.

"Fran, if you don’t mind, I’d rather leave them to their sick games…" Maxwell said, deceptively embarrassed.

Fran laughed wholeheartedly.

"As a matter of fact it gave me a few ideas, sweetie!" she said, raising her eyebrows.

"Oooh! I can’t wait!"

"Would you mind?! This was a private conversation!" C.C. said.

"Sorry C.C., but the copyright is not always yours!" Maxwell laughed.

They finally reached their destination and parted to go to their respective houses.

***

The ten days that followed were lived on the same rhythm, between beach and swimming pool, going out when Brighton or Gracie, or both volunteered to baby sit, taking rides on the beach, and simply enjoying life.

The day of the departure had arrived. Everyone piled up in the cars, and they headed off to the small airport.

In the plane, C.C. cuddled Emily in her lap, as Niles put his arm protectively around her shoulder, before all three fell asleep.

Brighton and Grace had each volunteered to sit next to a twin, to leave their parents a little bit more intimacy, which was well used in kissing and cuddling.

Grace held dearly to her heart the piece of paper where Josh had written down his phone number and his address, while Brighton furiously typed on his laptop, showing a sleepy Jonah the fine art of ordering stuff on the Internet.

They reached the mansion where a big package awaited Grace.

Once inside, she opened it to find a huge stuffed crocodile with a letter from Josh:

Grace beamed and looked up with dreamy eyes, clutching the letter against her heart, along with the cuddly toy.

"Gracie has a boyfriend!" Brighton teased her, pinching her cheek.

"On the contrary to a certain brother I have, I do have a dating life!"

"Hey, calm down, I was just teasing, and I’m proud of you, Grace!"

"Brighton, no need for you to take care of your sister’s education! Until she’s 18, that’s my role!" Maxwell retorted a bit angry.

"Calm down, sweetie, you met Josh, he’s a nice guy, I think you’re over reacting a little bit, now come on everybody stop talking and get inside!… I have an urge that really can’t wait any longer!" she hurried.

"Me first!" C.C. shouted, struggling to get past the obstacles on her way to the bathroom.

A confused struggle ensued between both women to determine which one would be the first to the bathroom.

Niles looked at Maxwell with a content smile.

"It’s good to be back!"

"I’m not so sure, Niles." Maxwell mumbled, raising his eyebrows.

***

Fidgeting with his bow tie, Josh was anxious: it was his first premiere, and he had even been invited to stay in the guest room afterwards! Grace arrived behind him and gently arranged the reluctant piece of clothing. He turned towards her smiling.

"How do I look?"

"Perfect!"

"Nah, not yet… There’s one last thing missing!"

"What?"

"This."

He reached for her waist, attracted her closer into his embrace, and gently deposited a kiss on her lips.

She beamed and wiped his mouth gently with her fingers.

"Now look at me, I act like Fran every time she kisses my dad!"

"It doesn’t bother me!"

"Kids!" Fran yelled from the floor ground. "We’re leaving!"

"We’re coming!"

They descended the staircase, hand in hand, while Fran gave the last instructions to the baby sitter, then they all disappeared into the Limo.

The applause was deafening, Julie Andrews and her male co-star had already come back 4 times, and Maxwell was called on the stage along with the director and the playwright. He took his cell phone while going backstage, dialed a number, and before he went past the curtain, waited for the call to be picked.

"Hello?"

"Derek?"

"Maxwell?"

Maxwell went past the curtain and he was met by a standing ovation. He beamed, and said:

"… I think you’ve just lost £ 10,000!" and he held his cell phone up high over the chorus of applause and whistling so that Derek could hear their success. "Congratulations my dear Derek… Now we’re even!" and he hung up.

 

The End

Note:

All the Yiddish slang words were taken from the site:

http://www.notam.uio.no/~hcholm/altlang/ht/Yiddish.html







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