“Is that all the stuff you have?” Sara asked incredulously as she surveyed the pickup truck that had just parked at the curb.
Chris climbed out of the passenger’s side and nodded. “I’ve learned to travel light.”
Rusty, Chris’s older brother, got out of the driver’s side, walked around and opened the tailgate. “It would have been just three boxes, but Mom added some things.”
Sara peeked in one of the boxes. “Mac and cheese, chili, cereal . . .”
“There’re two boxes of food and another box full of soap, shampoo and towels,” Chris told her.
“Ahh . . . so, Mama Bird was okay with her baby leaving the nest?” Sara asked.
“Ha!” Rusty snorted. “Are you kidding? She had his stuff packed and sitting by the front door.”
“I heard a far different story this morning,” Sara teased.
“She’s probably already turned his room into a craft cave or whatever the hell they call it,” Rusty laughed. “When I moved out several years ago, I had barely loaded the last box in my SUV when they made my room a home gym.”
Chris smiled ruefully. “I thought she’d be upset, but apparently, she and Dad are enjoying life without us around. When I left for boot camp, it was the only home I’d ever known. But when I came home, it felt weird to sleep in my old bedroom.”
“Get over it, baby brother. It’s the circle of life . . . you know, matumba matada.”
“It’s hakuna matata, and that doesn’t relate at all,” Chris corrected.
Rusty just waved it off. “You know what I mean. Grab a box and let’s get this shit upstairs. Julie wants me to meet her at the bakery so we can pick out a wedding cake, and I’ve got to drop my buddy’s truck off at the station on the way.” Rusty stacked one box on top of another and easily lifted them.
Chris did the same. Sara, not to be outdone, tried to take the last two boxes, but couldn’t budge them. “Jeez, what’s in here, bricks?”
“Books,” Chris replied. “Here, take these. They’re lighter.” He handed the two boxes he was holding to her and picked up the two boxes of books without so much as a grunt.
Even though her boxes weren’t as heavy, Sara still had to struggle with them. But she was determined to carry her share of the load. The two guys knew her well enough not to suggest that she take them one at a time.
The building had enough age and character to be registered as a historical landmark. Originally built as the Bergstrom Hotel in 1891, it had been converted to apartments and remodeled in the late 1990s. The investors had kept the original name as well as the classic redbrick exterior with its tall, arched windows, but inside, the apartments and lofts boasted twelve-foot-high ceilings, exposed brick walls and great views of the city and the Rocky Mountains.
There was a small courtyard in the center and, thankfully, an elevator that made the trip to Sara’s third-floor apartment easier than three flights of stairs. Two more trips and they had the new double bed frame, mattress set, Chris’s old chest of drawers and all the boxes stacked in the small bedroom.
“Go taste your cake. I can take it from here,” Chris said.
Rusty looked around the room. “There’s no window.”
“That’s a good thing.” Chris shrugged it off. “It’ll make it easier to sleep during the day.”
“Not if there’s a fire.” Rusty’s point of view was always through a firefighter’s eyes. “It’s against code.”
“I’m sure this old place has some sort of exemption. Besides, I’m just steps away from the front door and right across the living room from the big windows. I’ll be fine.”
“I just don’t want to have to rescue you.” Chris gave his brother a punch in the shoulder.
“Hey, I’ve got Sara. She can drag my body out to the ledge.”
Rusty’s eyebrows arched skeptically. “Good luck with that.”
“I can drag you across the floor,” Sara challenged. “Lie down and let me show you.”
Rusty laughed and backed toward the front door with his hands raised as if to defend himself. “I take it back. When we were kids, you always beat me at leg wrestling. You had an unfair advantage of being short.”
“Excuses, excuses,” she teased.
“Hey, tell Julie hi for us,” Chris said. “How’s she feeling?”
“She’s doing great. She had her first sonogram, and we could see the baby’s tiny heart beating. He even gave me a little thumbs-up.”
“So it’s a boy?” Sara asked.
Rusty shook his head. “We don’t know yet. But realistically, there aren’t many females in my family, and the sperm determines the sex.”
“God help us all. Another Wilson boy!” Sara pretended to be horrified at the possibility.
“Julie and I really don’t care. It’s a miracle she got pregnant, so we’re pretty happy about it.”
Chris rolled his eyes. “I still can’t believe you’re going to be a father. I would have bet you’d be the last one of all of us.”
“Yeah, well, no one’s more surprised than me,” Rusty admitted. His expression softened. “But when it’s right, it’s right.”
“Well, go take care of your manly duties.” Chris lifted one of the boxes of food onto the counter.
“Yeah, I get to decide between red velvet, chocolate or vanilla,” Rusty answered. “I really don’t care. It’s free cake. Hey, you’re still coming to the wedding, aren’t you? We scheduled it on a Sunday because we’re all off that day.”
“It’s pretty tricky with all of our shifts,” Chris agreed. That was an understatement. The middle brother, Sam, was a cop who worked the night shift on patrol. Rusty’s firefighter schedule caused him to be on twenty-four hours straight, then off for forty-eight, and Chris and Sam worked four ten-hour night shifts and three days off. “Of course we’ll be there. I still can’t believe you’re the first one of us to take the plunge.”
Rusty smiled. “Me neither.” He opened the door.
“Hey, man, thanks for your help.”
“You can pay me back with some babysitting when the time comes.” He gave them a jaunty wave and left.
“I’ll help you put your bed together,” Sara offered. “Then I’m going to crash.”
lives with her husband and co-author, Bob Wernly.