“Yes, Mom.” Enzo does exactly as he’s told. He’s a good kid, equal parts nerd and sports enthusiast. He’s busy and active, and sometimes forgetful, but he’s our Enzo, and we wouldn’t have him any other way.
“Shit,” Wren whispers from the kitchen. I look over to see her scraping stuck-on macaroni noodles off the bottom of the pan.
“What’d you do?” I ask.
“I put the pot back on the stove, but I didn’t shut off the burner.” She lifts her wooden spoon, showing me Exhibit A: a spoonful of black-as-night macaroni stuck together in one hard clump. The kitchen smells like burnt flour. “At least I didn’t waste any milk or butter on this mess.”
“So what’s for dinner now, huh, Mom?” I tease.
“Pizza!” Enzo pipes up, clearly not upset in the slightest that his boxed macaroni dinner met an untimely demise. “Can we go to Chauncey’s?”
Wren and I exchange looks as she sits the hot pot in the sink and fills it with warm, soapy water.
“Aren’t you tired of Chauncey’s?” she asks.
“No,” Enzo says, matter-of-fact.
“You’re going to get sick of it one of these days,” I say. “Especially if Chauncey’s going to be your new stepdad. You guys will be eating pizza every single night for the rest of your lives.”
Enzo smiles, nodding and rubbing his belly, and Wren groans. She and Chauncey have been engaged six months now, planning their December wedding with the patience of two saints who are happily in love but are in no hurry to rush down the altar.
Chauncey’s a good guy. So good, in fact, he won’t even live with Wren. Says his tradition-loving Irish-Catholic mother would have a conniption fit, so they’re waiting until it’s legal. With golden-red hair and hooded brown eyes and a soft-spoken, gentle way about him, Chauncey is night and day from Enzo’s dad, Lorenzo, which as Wren’s sister makes me exceedingly happy. Enzo deserves some stability in his life, and Wren deserves a guy who will appreciate how truly magnificent she is as a human being.
Wren turns to me, one brow raised. “You want to go out for pizza?”
Slumping over the kitchen table, my head in my hands, I glance up at her. My stomach rumbles, and pizza sounds good, but Chauncey’s pizzeria is all the way uptown, and I was just there a few hours ago. Steering clear of Lexington sounds like a good idea to me. But then again . . . free pizza.
“I don’t feel like walking or taking the train. Can we cab it?” I ask, the soles of my feet aching from making the miles-long journey and subsequent exercise in worn-out sneakers earlier. I’m due for a new pair, but I’ve been too swamped with work and new clients to take the time to do some proper shoe shopping.
Wren shrugs. “Yeah. Sure. Enzo, go get your shoes on.”
* * *
Chauncey’s pizzeria is situated halfway between Midtown and the Upper East Side. From the outside, it looks like an Irish Pub, complete with an emerald green awning with Finnegan’s Pizzeria scrolled across it in gold lettering. Irish bagpipe music plays on a loop inside, and the menu consists of the most ridiculous pizza offerings like Bram’s Corned Beef and Cabbage, Quinn’s Potato Leek and Bacon, and Mrs. O’Flannery’s Shepherd’s Pie.
He said when he first opened this place, fusion restaurants were all the rage, and he’d never seen an Irish-Italian fusion done quite like this before, so he took a chance. And he got lucky. Because this place is never not busy.
“Hey babe.” Chauncey comes out from the back room dressed in khaki slacks and a gray button down. He wraps his arms around Wren, his face lit like the Griswold’s house at Christmastime. He never kisses her in front of Enzo out of respect, which is yet another thing I love about Chauncey. “What a surprise. My favorite girl. My favorite guy.”
He reaches down, ruffling Enzo’s thick, dark mop.
“And my favorite future sister-in-law,” he adds, giving me a wink.
“Your only future sister-in-law.” I’ve heard this joke a million times, and for some reason it never gets old to him, so I punch his arm playfully and do my part because he’s Chauncey and he means well.
“Saved you guys a table in the back.” He motions for us to follow him, and I spot a “reserved” sign at the edge of our favorite booth in the corner. “Best seat in the house.”
We slide into the booth, the green, waxy seats still wet from their fresh wipe down, and I grab a drink menu from behind a parmesan shaker.
“You’re drinking tonight?” Wren asks.
“Is that a problem?” I arch an eyebrow.
“It’s just not like you to drink on a Monday night,” she says.
“Still a little rattled from that asshole earlier,” I say.
“Why’d you let him get to you? Screw him.” Wren’s face pinches.
“I told myself I wouldn’t,” I say, flipping through the drink selection. “I know people like him aren’t worth it. It’s just like, when you try to do something nice for somebody and they’re a giant ass, it’s hard to shake that off.”
“Nothing you can do about it. Can’t control the way other people act, Aidy. All that matters is you had good intentions.”
“Damn right, I did.”
“What happened?” Chauncey asks.
“You know that journal she found last week?” Wren says, pointing at me but looking at her fiancé. “She went to return it today and the guy was a total you-know-what. Said he’d never seen it in his life. Accused her of stalking him and wanting an autograph.”