“That spot looks good!”
Erika got out first, quickly surveying the surrounding area for the best view of the city below. The hilly section of the protected forest that surrounded a large dam was open to the public for recreational purposes.
Tommy and Eric lugged the baskets while Liza followed with the table cloth in hand. Leyla stayed with Joey who parked the van at the nearby designated lot.
“It’s not a bad idea,” Leyla said, convincing Joey not to be hard on his sister for her elaborate ruse. “She meant no harm.”
“Has she squealed about me?” he asked, thinking he was the only person outside the plan.
“About what?” Leyla asked, herself asking a similar question in her mind.
“Something I said sometime ago,” he continued.
“I have not talked to her ever since we came to your house.”
Joey looked at her and sensed she told the truth. If she knew about his admission to his sister, she could have prepared herself when he last visited. Her shock was more than his shock seeing her totally different at home.
They were about to join the other four when they overheard what Liza had to say.
“Men cannot live without women.”
“I can vouch for that,” Eric immediately concurred to which Tommy smirked at.
“I think my brother does not agree,” Liza noticed him frowning.
“He does,” Erika corrected her impression, nudging him to defend himself.
“Frankly, I disagree,” he replied, getting Erika’s glare as a result. But he added, “because women cannot live without men, too.”
“That’s correct,” Leyla joined in as she sat beside her brother. “We cannot live without each other.”
“Amen!” Joey agreed, opening a bottle of wine and pouring each a glass. “A toast to us!”
Such general starting point opened a spontaneous discussion about personal relationships, what it meant to an individual and how it could affect all those related to him/her.
“Erika is correct,” Tommy admitted, recalling what she told of his importance. “Each one of us is a key to another’s happiness. Alone, we can be happy. With someone we love, even happier.”
Joey felt proud for what Tommy said, especially about his sister’s influence to his thoughts. Leyla was right: Erika never meant any harm.
“Well, if it was not for Liza, I could not have met Tommy?” Erika intimated.
“If it was not for Erika, Eric would still be looking from outside my house because Tommy is always on guard.”
“If it was not for Erika, I could not have known how sincere Joey is with my sister.”
Leyla’s surprise was total. Joey, too, could not believe what he just heard.
“I slipped, all right,” Erika confessed, her sad face accepting whatever Leyla or her brother would say.
“You should have told me,” Leyla said seriously.
“You should not have told anyone,” Joey was a bit angry at her but he backtracked and asked Leyla for clarification. “What do you mean she should have told you?”
“If I knew you like me before your visit, I could have played hard to get. I could even convince Liza to make Eric’s life harder. As for Erika, I could ask her to make Tommy sweat for a long time.”
“You’ll do that to me?” Eric asked seriously. “I am grateful Erika did not tell you.”
“I agree with your brother,” Tommy grinned. “I am sorry for my brashness before. It’s a good thing I am not your enemy now.”
“That’s a first,” Liza said. “Tommy agreeing with Eric. I think that’s a good start.”
The two shook hands to seal the new chapter in their relationship.
Erika played a song via speakers to celebrate their warm gathering.
Everyone seemed to be satisfied except for Joey who was still speechless. In effect, he indirectly started the ball rolling, leading to not one but three pairs.
But he summed it all up, embracing his surprised sister.
“If Erika told Leyla the truth, Liza’s remark would make perfect sense: Men cannot live without women.”
(to be concluded)