Thursday, May 28, 2020

Book Review: The Way of the Househusband, Vol 3 by Kousuke Oono


The Way of the Househusband, Vol 3     

Author: Kousuke Oono
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: May 19, 2020
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Comedy/160 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Miku arrives home to find Tatsu in a panic and their home in disarray. When she questions him, Tatsu says it’s the black bullet, a hitman with a lot of balls. But he swears he’s not going down without a fight!

When Masa goes to the store with Tatsu, he’s surprised to see his former boss pa Christmasy apron and a Santa cap! Tatsu tells Masa it’s for the neighborhood kids club Christmas party. The kids are somewhat taken aback by Tatsu’s appearance. He certainly isn’t the traditional Santa they expected! Tatsu’s got it all covered, as he puts his own spin on the festivities!

Miku comes home from work, exhausted, to find that Tatsu intends to pamper her with a variety of foods calculated to give her the boost she needs. However, she questions his methods when he pulls out a blindfold. Will this have the effect he hopes it will?

Tatsu is looking to make some cash in a hurry. Something to utilize his particular skill set. Can he serve his customers to their satisfaction?

While browsing the clearance section of the grocery store, Tatsu runs across the wife of the Torii group, who apparently works there. She recognizes him and they catch up on old times.

While Miku and Tatsu are shopping together, Miku suddenly drags him off to show him that there is a live Policure show going on! When the call goes out to the audience for a volunteer to come to the rescue and afterwards have their picture taken with the members of the show, Miku is too shy to volunteer. What else can her loving husband do but offer to go in her stead?

Masa has acquired an item he isn’t sure how to handle, so he comes to Tatsu for advice. Together, can they figure out how to use a toaster oven?

Tatsu encounters his old boss, whom he hasn’t spoken with since he left the family. The boss has something he wants to discuss with Tatsu. Will he suck Tatsu back into the yakuza life?

Masa comes to Tatsu’s apartment, meeting Miku for the first time, in order to bring Tatsu’s birthday present. When he sees the state of the apartment, he offers to help Miku surprise Tatsu when he comes home later that evening. Together, will they make this an occasion to remember?

I am so in love with these books, and with Tatsu! I’ve already pre-ordered the next volume! Tatsu is so adorable! I love him and Miku together. I would love to see more of their past lives, and how they became a couple, see what changed Tatsu from yakuza to house-husband.

The story is very funny, and also touching. The artwork is fabulous, and the characters memorable. I’ve seen some reviewers call the series one-note. I prefer to think of it as variations on a theme, all of them good, and very much fun to read. I would love to see an anime made from this!

Can’t wait for the next volume, although I’ll have to. I think it comes out in September.  lol



Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #18 (3.4)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Evan has just got off work and met up with Chan. Their evening together has just begun. See what's happening in this week's chapter of Super Trooper. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Super Trooper #18 (3.4)

A warmth stole through Evan at Chan’s words. He knew he was smiling again, but he couldn’t help himself. He wanted to believe… wanted to follow his gut instinct which told him there was something real between them. Something they could nurture into maturity and—dare he hope—into something solid, something lasting.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d dared to dream of a future with anyone. Past experience had led him not to expect a happily ever after, at least none where he was concerned. Nothing in his past had prepared him for being part of a relationship, and he’d always voided such entanglements before, and yet here he was… on the brink of possibly the most wonderful event in his entire life. And how his heart ached for it.

He kissed Chan tenderly, then saw him to his car. Made sure he was buckled securely before leaning in through the open driver’s window for another kiss… or two. Realizing they would get nowhere fast like this, he reluctantly drew back.

“Don’t speed,” he warned Chan with a knowing smile.

“I won’t if you won’t,” Chan replied with a knowing grin. “I’m following you, remember?”

They both laughed, then Evan returned to his vehicle, and they finally headed toward his apartment.
Evan lived in a town house located in a nice part of Tucker Falls. He’d rented other places before he’d moved there, but he liked this one pretty much. The town house had two levels as well as a large basement. He slept in one of the two bedrooms and used the other one for storage. His computer was set up there, as well as a TV and a video game console, although he didn’t play very often. But sometimes he got the urge to take out frustrations, and that was a safe way to do it. Especially on nights when having a one-night stand didn’t cut it.

Once they’d both parked in front of his unit, Chan met Evan at his car and insisted on taking some of the bags from him. Evan didn’t argue, although he could have easily handled them all himself. He liked how helpful Chan was, how thoughtful. That was something he’d seen too little of in his life. At least until he became a trooper.

Evan unlocked the front door, glad everything was clean and in its proper place. “Here, you can put those here,” he said, indicating the island in the kitchen, which was just through the living room.

“Let me show you around before we eat, so you know where everything is.” He hoped he didn’t sound as nervous as he felt.

First floor consisted of a good-sized kitchan and a living room/dining room combo. Evan didn’t have a table, since he never had guests and always ate his meals in the living room. Near the kitchen was a half bath, with a full bath upstairs.

“You have a very nice home,” Chan said as he followed Evan up the stairs to the second floor.

 Evan turned once they reached the top. “Thank you,” he said. “I hope you’ll be very comfortable here.” And come back often.

“I’m sure I will be, with you,” Chan said sincerely, taking one of Evan’s hands in his own.

Evan’s heart fluttered at Chan’s touch. They stood there for a moment, content not to move, before Evan showed Chan the extra room and then his bedroom.

“Oh my,” Chan exclaimed as he took in Evan’s room. Evan didn’t have a lot of furniture, just a queen-sized platform bed, and a matching dresser and bedside tables. The bed was comfortable and sat lower to the ground then some he’d looked at. That had taken some getting used to, but now he loved it. A sudden thought struck him. Would it be an issue for Chan?

“Oh my,” Chan repeated in an awestruck voice. “This looks so… comfortable.” Approaching the bed, he leaned down and pushed on the mattress, lightly at first, then a little more firmly, before taking a seat at the edge of the bed. “Very comfortable indeed.” Without warning, he began to blush and dropped his gaze to the floor. “I’m sorry, I am being forward.”

Evan fell to his knees before Chan. He tilted his head up so he could look into his eyes. “Don’t be sorry. I want you to feel comfortable here.”

Chan leaned in to Evan and laid his head on his shoulder, snuggling against him. He breathed a soft sigh of contentment. “I am already comfortable here. As if we have already done this before, although I know that can’t be. I don’t know how to explain this feeling any better than that.”

But Evan didn’t need any further explanation, for he felt the very same way. He wrapped his arms about Chan and held him for a long moment.

to be continued

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #17 (3.3)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Evan is just getting off of work and ready to spend the evening with Chan. See what's going on with him in this week's chapter of Super Trooper. Don't forget to check on the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Super Trooper #17 (3.3)

“Hey Evan, wanna go grab a beer? Watch some sports?”

Evan finished handing in the last of his paperwork to the desk clerk, then turned to his fellow trooper. “Hey Nathan. I would, but I’m already doing something tonight. Maybe another time?”

“Doing something?” Nathan Harding was a little shorter than the average Texas State Trooper, but he made up for it by having a very muscular build and a very friendly personality. It was said that the people he pulled over for speeding never even got mad at him, and had nothing but nice things to say about him. Nathan’s thick brows shot up inquisitively. “You mean like a date doing something, that kind of doing something?”

Evan knew why Nathan looked so surprised. Evan tended to keep the few liaisons he’d had on the down low because he didn’t feel it was anyone’s business. He never discussed his private life, although he was open about being gay. He just didn’t feel the need to talk about picking up men at Partners. Plus those trysts tended to be short-lived in duration, just a means to an end, nothing to brag about.

Tonight, on the other hand…

He felt his lips curl up into a smile before he could even think of a proper response. He couldn’t help himself. He’d been thinking about Chan a lot today… and probably looked as goofy then as he did now. For once, he didn’t care. He felt too good to worry about what someone might think of him.

“Yes, I have a date,” he confirmed.

Nathan pumped a fist into the air. “Hot damn, that’s what I like to hear. Yeah, definitely another time, bro. Bring your guy too, okay?”

“Okay,” Evan easily agreed. “What about you? You seeing anyone?”

“Not right now, but you know how that is. Hope springs eternal, eh?” He winked at Evan then turned to the desk clerk and handed her his own forms. “Looks like I’m free tonight, sugar. How about you and me spend some time together, if you know what I mean?”

The desk clerk, whose name tag read Christina, gave him an are you kidding me look as she set his papers down on the desk in front of her. “I do know what you mean and you just keep that hope alive, trooper,” she told him, then addressed Evan with a sincere smile. “Have fun on your date, Evan.”
Evan had seen this act before. He knew she was just trying to rile up Nathan, and her ploy was succeeding. She seemed to be the one person who didn’t automatically succumb to Nathan’s charms, but Evan also knew she wasn’t immune to them either.

“Thanks, Christina,” he said before offering her a quick thumbs up. “Just remember this! Never surrender!”

“Thanks, bro!” Nathan pretended to moan. “What do you think she is, the Alamo?”

Evan had to laugh as he saw Nathan give her his best and most sincere puppy dog eyes. He knew Christina was more than able to handle herself.  His work done for the day, he strolled out of the station with a spring to his step that belied the lateness of the hour. When he reached his patrol car, he paused long enough to text Chan. Just got off, what sounds good to you?

You came the immediate reply. Evan felt his cheeks warm, but in a pleasurable way.

Feel the same way he texted back. What sounds good for dinner?

Anything but chicken.

That produced a chuckle from Evan. He was sure there was a story there. After a few more texts, they finally decided on Chinese food and arranged to meet in the parking lot of one of Evan’s favorite restaurants. Evan assumed he would have to wait for Chan to drive in from his apartment, but they arrived at roughly the same time.

Seeing Chan step out of his car, Evan couldn’t help the wolf whistle that sprang to his lips, surprising him. He’d never done such a thing before, but damn, Chan looked so fine. A pair of khaki trousers that clung to him but not too tightly, and a short-sleeve shirt that might have been some shade of orange, which brought out a warm glow in Chan’s golden skin, even under the harsh glare of the parking lot lights.

“I’ll change when we get to my place,” Evan promised.

“You would look good in anything,” Chan said as they linked hands and entered the restaurant together.

Half an hour later, they carried their dinner to Evan’s patrol car.

“I should have picked you up,” Evan said. “Then we could have ridden together.”

“I’ll be right behind you,” Chan assured him. “Besides, it’s better that I drive myself the first time. I’ll remember how to get there again more easily after I’ve done it once.”

Evan felt pleased that Chan intended to do this more than once. That made up for not being able to be close to him on the drive. Which was silly, he reminded himself. They would be able to sit together to their hearts’ content shortly. And he didn’t mean as a prelude to sex. If that happened, great. If not, also great. He just found himself yearning for Chan’s company, no matter what they did.

Chan helped him to pile the bags in the passenger seat of the patrol car then closed the door. Immediately, Evan pulled him toward him and kissed him softly. “I’m so glad you waited for me,” he said.

“I would wait for you as long as it takes,” Chan said breathily.

to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!




Friday, May 15, 2020

Book Review: Hamilton's Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole


Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances   

Authors: Alyssa Cole, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan
Publisher: Courtney Milan
American release date: October 17, 2017
Format/Genre/Length: Kindle/Gay Romance/Interracial Romance/378 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Hamilton’s Battalion is a trio of novellas, set during and after the American Revolution. After the death of her husband, Alexander Hamilton, Elizabeth Hamilton collected reminiscences from those who knew him, particularly those who fought with him during the war. That was the inspiration for these tales, told by three different authors.

Promised Land by Rose Lerner

Corporal Ezra Jacobs is actually Rachel Mendelson, a Jewish woman who also wants to fight for her country. Once married to Nathan Mendelson, she left that life behind five years ago, letting him think her dead. Don’t ask—it’s complicated! But when she accidentally runs into him in the middle of her camp, she pegs him as a spy and turns him in. However, things are not what they seem. Now Rachel and Nathan have to make sense of who they were as opposed to who they are now. Have they been brought together for a reason… and will the war tear them apart in the most final way possible?

The Pursuit of… by Courtney Milan

Corporal John Hunter is serving in the rebel army with the promise of being freed from his condition of slavery once the war has been won. His concern is for his sister and her child, and he wants to return to them as quickly as possible to make sure they are all right. When he accidentally runs across a British soldier named Henry Latham, Henry’s first comment to him is “Nice weather for a siege, isn’t it?”

These men are opposites, yet they soon find themselves together under circumstances which would have been impossible before the revolution, as they travel to Rhode Island. What began as a confrontation could change… but for the better or not remains to be seen. John has never met anyone who talks as much as Henry. And as for his cheese… well, the less said about that the better.

As opposite as night and day, they find themselves drawn to each other by a power too strong to fight. But considering the day and age, will they be allowed to be happy together? Or will they be forced to separate forever?

That Could be Enough by Alyssa Cole

Mercy Alston works for Elizabeth Hamilton, helping her to preserve the stories she collects from the people who served with her late husband, Alexander Hamilton. When another young black woman, Andromeda Stiel, comes on behalf of her grandfather, Mercy is immediately drawn to the beautiful dressmaker. Andromeda is lively and flirtatious and utterly enchanting… and she seems to be very attracted to Mercy as well.

But Mercy has known too much heartache from other women, so she’s buttoned herself up and walled off that part of her heart which might respond to Andromeda. Mercy doesn’t believe happiness is in store for her, and she’s not willing to take a chance again. Not to mention society frowns on such as they. She has her work with Mrs. Hamilton, as well as taking care of her daughter Angelica, who has not been the same since her brother Phillip was shot in a duel years before, while defending their father.

Can Andromeda get through to Mercy and show her that she deserves to be loved? Or will she live in the memory of lost lives, like Mrs. Hamilton and her daughter?

I loved each of these novellas. Each tells a different story, and each writer has her own style, but together this is one great read. I love all things Hamilton, so when I ran across the book, I had to buy it. I’m glad I did. Each story has one thing in common… love. People in love. And each couple has its own obstacles, whether it’s an interfering Jewish mother-in-law or a society that does not allow people of the same sex to love one another or people who are of different races.

Prior to reading this, I was familiar with Alyssa Cole, and have reviewed several of her books, I didn’t know Rose Lerner, and Courtney Milan was on my to-read list.

If I had to pick my favorite couple, that would be a hard choice, but I think I would go with John and Henry, because I do love a good story about two men, and these two are wonderful, each in his own way. The first story was a good introduction to many Jewish customs and traditions I was unaware of. And while I did not warm up to Mercy and Andromeda immediately, it didn’t take long for them to click with me. Especially when I realized Andromeda felt the same as I do about Mrs. Hamilton wasting her life on a man who not only is dead but who mistreated her when he was alive and certainly didn’t deserve to be canonized.

This is a must-read for anyone who loves Hamilton, but I also recommend it to those who enjoy history, and those who like good love stories. This has all of that and more!




Thursday, May 14, 2020

Virtual Book Tour: Selena Rose by Rhiannon Futch

Good morning everyone! Please welcome author Rhiannon Futch to Full Moon Dreaming. She is here to tell us about her new release, Selena Rose.  Rhiannon will be offering a $25 Amazon/BN GC to one randomly drawn commenter via Rafflecopter during the tour. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. To find the other stops on her tour, go here. Don't forget to look for the Rafflecopter at the end of this post!



Selena Rose
by Rhiannon Futch

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GENRE: Paranormal romance

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BLURB:

23-year-old Selena is a single mom with a bonus, witchy healing abilities. What happens when her ex walks back into her life with an agenda?

As is that wasn’t enough this gorgeous, though obviously crazy, woman shows up at her favorite café claiming to be her dead mom.

Selena just wants to keep raising her daughter in peace, maybe date that hot shifter she knows, is that really too much to ask?

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NOTE: The book is only $0.99.

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EXCERPTS :



“Do I know you?”

The lady replies, “You knew me a long time ago and until recently I was blocked from getting anywhere near you.” She stands, tall and elegant. Her white skirt and blouse setting off her skin to perfection, she seems to almost glide over to Selena’s table, “I have waited a very long time to look upon your face again.”

Selena is very confused and a little frightened, who is this lady? She is gorgeous, but gorgeous doesn’t mean safe. “How do we know each other?”

“Selena, I’m your mother.”

“What? My mother is dead,” Selena stands angrily, “How dare you? What is your game lady? Who the **** do you think you are?”

“Hear me out please, may I sit with you? To talk, nothing more. I promise to explain and I can provide proof that I am who I say I am.”

“I don’t know if I want to sit here and listen to you. For all I know you are out of your mind and want to take me with you.”

“You have no reason to trust me, I know. If I show you a picture of you and me and your father, will you at least hear me out?”

“A picture? You have a picture of me from when?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~



AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Rhiannon writes urban fantasy/paranormal romance. She is an avid reader of many authors in a variety of genre though she tends more toward fantasy.
She has three former pound puppies that she dotes on and three daughters that she adores.

Rhiannon has lived in multiple states though she is currently residing in North Carolina. Wandering, witching, and reading with her puppies and husband are what she does when she isn't writing.

Stay in touch by following on:

www.rhiannonfutchauthor.com (sign up to my email list and get fun things in your inbox)

Facebook- www.facebook.com/rhiannonfutchauthor
Instagram- www.instagram.com/rhiannonfutchauthor
Twitter- @futchIamtired

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Selena-Rose-Daughter-Rhiannon-Futch-ebook/dp/B07TYT7HNJ/ref=sr_1_6
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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #16 (3.2)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Chan is visiting with his mother and stepfather before taking the siblings out for some play time at the park. As he is happily anticipating the night to come, his mother knows something is up and asks him about it. See what's going on in this week's chapter of Super Trooper. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!


Super Trooper #16 (3.2)

Madhu was the baby of the family and the apple of everyone’s eye. She was a happy child, always smiling, even if she didn’t talk very much. Chan’s mother defended her younger daughter by saying that she would speak more when she had something she wanted to say. Who could argue with such logic?

“Are you excited to go to the park?” Chan asked his little sister. He placed her on his hip, where she fit naturally and comfortably. “Have some fried chicken?”

“Chicken,” Madhu repeated, nodding.

“See? Madhu is starving, we have to go now,” Kamal insisted. He pushed at Chan’s legs, as if he could force his older brother out the door. Chan only laughed.

“There is plenty of time for Chan to have tea with us,” his mother said.

“Excellent idea, my dear!” Balji exclaimed. He kissed his wife on the cheek. “I’ll go make it now, shall I?”

“Thank you, but do not trouble yourself. Chan will help me, won’t you, Chan?”

Her question took Chan from his momentary reverie, his thoughts having gone to Evan and their date tonight. “Of course, Maa,” he quickly responded.

Balji reached for Madhu. “Let’s get you dressed, little one,” he said. “Your face needs washing, too. What have you been into?” He carried her off as Chan followed his mother to the kitchen, wondering why she’d asked for him when normally she would have his stepfather prepare the tea. Was something wrong, perhaps?

She gave him a sharp look as she put on water to boil for the tea. He had no idea what the look meant until she said, “You seem very happy today. Is there something you would like to share with your mother?”

Was he that transparent? Chan’s mouth dropped open slightly, as he struggled to answer the question truthfully without revealing too much. After all, this was only their first date. Second, if you counted the encounter at Partners. All right, second. Still a little premature to be making announcements. And he certainly had no intention of letting her know what happened between them last night… all night long.

That thought produced a smile, before he realized he was just fueling her suspicions. She had such good instincts when it came to him. “Of course I am happy to see my family, shouldn’t I be?” That was the truth, wasn’t it? Hopefully she would be satisfied with his response.

But of course that didn’t happen.

“Are you seeing someone?” she asked in a knowing mother tone. He couldn’t evade a direct answer now. That was a yes-or-no question, and anything but yes would be a lie.

“As a matter of fact, I am.” He opened the cabinet where he knew she kept a variety of teas. “What kind did you want, Maa?” That gave him an excuse not to face her, so she couldn’t read his face like she’d obviously been doing.

“I have it already,” she replied. “I got out the masala chai when I heard you at the front door. Now then, tell me about this someone you obviously don’t want to talk about.”

Chan sighed. No getting out of this, he saw. He closed the cabinet door, took a deep breath, and schooled his face into what he considered a neutral expression before turning to face his mother.

“There is not a great deal to tell. We just started seeing each other very recently”—if seeing each other was a euphemism for hot steamy sex—“and I haven’t exactly grilled him on his life story.”

“Well, setting aside his biography at the moment, he has a name, yes?” His mother persisted.

“Of course. Everyone has a name.”

“And?”

“His name is Evan.” Dammit, just saying Evan’s name brought a smile to his lips that he couldn’t manage to hide.

“That is a nice name,” she commented, still watching him closely. Luckily the water boiled, and she had to give attention to the tea, to Chan’s relief.  Interrogation postponed, however temporarily. When she turned back to him, she gave him a cup of the aromatic chai tea she knew he loved. He took it from her and breathed in the cinnamon and ginger scents that predominated above the others.

“Thank you, Maa.” He took a quick sip of the brew, felt the warmth steal down his throat and through his body, both relaxing and energizing, and very soothing.

“He makes you happy, I can tell.” His mother sipped at her own cup, watching him over the brim. 

“That look on your face tells me so. Will I get to meet this Evan, and what is his last name?”

“Rainsford. Evan Rainsford,” Chan said. “And yes, I would like that. But first, allow him time to get used to me before I unleash the horde upon him.” That was a teasing reference to his siblings, one his parents often used themselves.

“I look forward to meeting someone who can make my son so happy.” His mother gently patted Chan’s cheek with her free hand, warm from holding the cup of tea. “But I promise not to nag… too much.” She winked at him, then picked up the other cup of tea. “Let us sit for a few minutes and talk before you go out, shall we?”

Not waiting for a response, she exited the kitchen to give her husband his tea. Chan followed obediently behind. He would love to have them meet Evan. He hoped that Evan would feel the same way, whenever he found the courage to bring it up. This was new territory for him. He’d never been with anyone he wanted to meet his parents.


There was definitely something special about Evan Rainsford, so much more he wanted to know about the man. Hopefully he would learn some of it tonight.

to be continued

Now go see what the other Briefers are up to!



Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #15 (3.1)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Chan and Evan are meeting for dinner Saturday night, after Evan gets off work. But in the meantime, Chan has promised to spend some with this young siblings. See what's going on in this week's chapter of Super Trooper. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Super Trooper #15 (3.1)



Cleaning hadn’t taken very long—selecting something appropriate from his wardrobe for tonight had consumed far more of his time. He had waffled longer over what color to select than anything else, and was dissatisfied with everything he found in his closet. He wanted to strike just the right balance. Not too formal and not too casual. Something that made him look good but not overtly seductive. Finally he decided on a pale peach polo shirt and khaki slacks. He laid his choices out on the bed for later, in case he ran late, then dressed quickly to meet his family.

They lived in a quiet residential area of Tucker Falls, within walking distance of the school and a short drive from several parks. Chan’s mother taught at the school, and her husband, Baljiwan—Balji, for short—owned his own insurance agency. Between them they were able to afford a comfortable life for themselves and the children. Even before she’d married Balji, Chan’s mother had always made sure her son lacked for nothing, especially love. Nothing had changed when she remarried, except for having two parents who loved him instead of one. Balji had always treated Chan is if he were his own son, not just a stepson, even after the little ones were born. Chan had loved them from the minute he saw them, each and every one.

Chan parked in the street in front of the house and sauntered up the driveway toward the sidewalk. He could tell it was going to be a glorious day. Warm but not too warm. The sun was reaching toward its zenith, a warm orange glow in the sky. Unseen birds chirped merrily, as if to say all was right with the world. Could anything bad truly happen on such a day?

He reached the front door, but before he had a chance to knock, it was flung open with abandon by his brother. Kamal wore a wide grin, excitement mixed with impatience. He reached for Chan’s hand and tried to drag him inside. Chan didn’t argue and good-naturedly allowed his brother to lead him, pausing just long enough to close the door behind him.

“Laksha!  Madhu!  Chan’s here! C’mon, let’s go!” Kamal yelled, still dragging Chan along without pausing.

“Kamal! Mind your manners. Your brother has only just arrived. Let him catch his breath before you try to run off with him.” Chan’s mother emerged from the kitchen, drying her hands on a dish towel. She smiled at both her sons, even as she admonished the younger one. She threw the towel over one shoulder then held her arms out toward Chan.

Chan returned her embrace, once Kamal reluctantly released his hand. His mother’s cheeks glowed, and her dark eyes sparkled. Chan divined the cause when Balji appeared, also drying his hands. Even after all these years, his parents were still crazy about one another and did the household chores jointly.

Chan kissed his mother’s cheek, then turned toward his stepfather for another hug. His family was very open about showing their affection for one another, a trait which Chan greatly appreciated and emulated.

“You’re looking good,” Balji said before addressing his younger son. “Don’t yell that way, none of us is deaf. Besides, give your brother a chance to visit with us. The park isn’t going anywhere, is it?”

“No, but what if it rains?” the seven-year-old argued. “Then what? We should go now, while the weather is still good.”

“You always worry for nothing.” This was from Laksha, who had just joined them. Just eleven, she was already as tall as their mother, and blossoming into young womanhood. Chan knew it was only a matter of time until the boys began to flock about her, but at this age they were luckily still into video games, for the most part. “Besides, it’s just a park. No big deal.” She tousled Kamal’s hair as she spoke, and winked at Chan, out of her younger brother’s sight.

“Just a park? Just a park?” Kamal’s voice began to rise in indignation. “It’s more than that. It’s fried chicken too, remember, Laks? And Chan! We have Chan today!”

“You make it sound like he’s never here.” Laksha laughed. “You’re so silly.”

“Am not!” Kamal insisted. “And you don’t have to go if you don’t want to. Not like you play with us anyway!”

“Kamal!” Maa said in a stern voice. “You don’t talk to you sister like that. Apologize to Laksha right now. You know you don’t mean that.”

“Well,” the boy began, but at a look from their mother he backed down. “No, I want her to come, of course. But she shouldn’t make fun of me for wanting not to get rained on. Besides, she always has her nose in a book when we go to the park.”

“And what is wrong with that?” Balji interjected. “Reading is important. You like to read too, don’t you?” He swept the child up into his arms until they were at eye level with one another.”

“Yes, but not at the park.” Kamal was not about to be deterred in proving he was right.

Another country heard from.

Chan felt a tug at his pants leg and glanced down to find Madhu standing there, looking as though she’d just rolled out of bed. Perhaps she had. Little girls like her tended to take naps still. She gave him the sweetest smile and held her arms up. He lifted her up and hugged her tightly.

to be continued

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