“What are you doing in my office?” Mary Beth set a file folder down on her employer’s desk. She was so used to Brad sneaking up on her she hardly jumped anymore. Pleased with herself she turned around and smiled at him. Whatever she was going to say was forgotten as the vision of him wearing a dark purple shirt swam before her eyes. “Nice shirt. Is purple your new favorite color?”

“It’s not purple. It’s aubergine.”

“I bet Gretchen spent half her paycheck on that shirt. How come you're all dolled up?” Brad smiled at his hygienist as he leaned against the doorway. “I'm going out to lunch with a very special someone. With regards to the shirt, how much do you want to bet?”

Mary Beth’s big brown eyes went around his office as she shook her head. She had lost bets to Brad one too many times. “Let me guess, the shirt was dirt cheap on some clearance rack because no one wants to wear purple. You're not going to wear that thing out in public are you?" Brad's left hand went to the button at the top of his shirt. “If you don’t care for my clothing all you have to do is tell me. I would be more than happy to take it off for you.”

“I was kidding Brad. Totally kidding. Ha ha, joke. When is Gretchen getting here?”

“Gretchen is in Atlanta.”

“She’s going to kill you if you’re going out with someone else dressed like that.” For no good reason a shiver went through Mary Beth, whoever had purchased the purple shirt knew what would look good on Brad.

“Wanna bet?” Mary Beth gave him a critical look. He had been acting funny all day. "What's going on?"

"Nothing." Her eyes narrowed. Something was up. "You have been in a strange mood all day.”

“It’s working with you Mary Beth. Like someone once said long ago, we can work together or sleep together, not both.” A blush spread across Mary Beth’s face. She couldn’t think of anything witty to say so she gave him the finger. Brad was not himself today and she had no idea why. As soon as he left she was going to call both Gretchen and Natalie. If his fiancée didn’t know what was up his sister would. The thought of having one up on Brad made Mary Beth smile.

With a superior look on her face and a spring in her step Mary Beth went back down the hall. The receptionist up front called her name, she smoothed her black scrub top down as she went up front. Unprepared for Brad’s mother she took a step back. “Rita, I didn’t know you were…”

Her words were cut off as Rita hugged her. Belatedly Mary Beth noticed that Rita was just as dressed up as Brad was. She hugged the smaller woman back wondering what the heck was going on. The phone rang, both Rita and Mary Beth turned when they heard Brad’s name. In his office Brad answered the call from his receptionist. “You have a call from one of Dave’s patients, do you want to take it or should I have them call back when he’s in?”

“I’ll take it. When Rita gets here…”

”She’s here now.”

“That figures. She’s the only person I know who calls because they think they might be five seconds late. Have her call Natalie and tell them I’m going to be a few minutes.”

“Are you wearing the purple shirt or did you chicken out?”

“It’s the only one I brought so I’m wearing it. What does Dave’s patient want?”

“She didn’t say. Is Lana Schwartz related to Gretchen, Greg and Gloria?” The air around him stopped moving. He was sure of it. “Yes. That’s Gretchen’s sister and she’s calling from Japan. Put her through.” In the back of his mind he knew nothing catastrophic had happened but Lana wouldn’t be calling him at work in the middle of the day unless..., there was no use speculating on why she might be calling. Brad turned to face his computer. Maybe she had sent him an e-mail. “This is Brad.”

Brad, it’s Lana. Are you busy?”

“I have a few minutes. I’m going out to lunch with Rita and Natalie. Can I call you back later?” He was babbling and he knew it. When he finally heard her voice it was nonchalant. “Sure.”

“What were you calling about?” Lana squeezed her eyes shut. This was harder than she had thought it would be. “Are you going out to lunch for Rita’s birthday?”

“I know you probably wrote some touching sentimental story for her but all I have is time and money to give.”

“You should take her out by yourself. That would mean so much to her.”

I invited Natalie along for moral support.”

“It would be quality mother/son time.” Being alone with Rita was one of the last things Brad wanted. “I can hardly call Natalie and just cancel on her.”

“I’ll call her. I want to talk to her anyways.”

“Okay. You win. I’ll take Rita out by myself. Is that why you called?”

Lana bit her lip nervously. This was it. Now or never. “I sent you a letter. I was in a terrible mood when I wrote it. I never should have written it. I never should have sent it and I’m calling to ask that if you do read it…, please don’t read it and please don’t hold it against me. I…, I know you probably won’t believe this but I got really drunk with my mom and I wrote you a letter and it’s the worst thing because I didn’t mean any of it.”

Boy did she have a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. “This is really not what I need right now Lana. I invited Rita out for lunch because I finally told her that Gretchen is pregnant.”

“My mom told her as soon as she found out.”

“Fuck, are you serious?”

“That’s what my mom said. She thought Rita would want to know.”

“I can’t believe she hasn’t slapped me yet. She’s probably just waiting for the perfect public place.”

“Give her a little credit. You deserve something for not having told her sooner.”

“I guess I owe your mom. Thank her for me. I just didn’t know how to tell Rita. My dad either.”

“How did you tell your parents?”

“I gave Rita a card. I left it on her desk, I stuck an ultrasound picture in it. It’s a birthday card and it’s from Brad, Gretchen and baby. I didn’t tell my dad anything.”

“That’s nice." She didn't sound sarcastic but it was hard to tell with Lana. "That’s a nice way to tell someone they’re going to be a grandparent.”

“We agreed..., Gretchen said she would tell my family if I would tell hers. I told your parents and I told you. She told no one.”

“Your mother loves you Brad. You know that.”

“Knowing something and really believing it are two different things. I feel sick to my stomach.”

“You need to eat something. I’m really sorry I sent that letter. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

“Yeah. I’ll tell you what. I won’t read the letter but I’m going to hang onto it. If I’m…” Just in time he stopped himself. Lana wouldn’t like it if he tried bargaining. “It’s a deal. I won’t read it.”

“I owe you one. You can call your favor in at any time.”

“Come home for Christmas. Even if it’s for three minutes.”

“I can’t. My parents bought me a ticket to Greece."

"Spend half your time here and half the time there. I’ll pay for your ticket home."

"I really can’t. I already made plans. Plus I’m meeting up with Brent and Fern in Thailand. You can come if you want.”

Did you hear he’s going to play for the White Sox?”

“A couple people told me.”

“Nice. I just found out the other day.”

“I just found out the other day too.”

“Forget it. Would you be willing to meet Gretchen someplace if I bought you a ticket?”

“I really don’t have any…”

“Damn it Lana she’s your sister and you know she would meet you someplace if you were...," Annoyance crept into his voice. "Whatever.”

”I have offered to meet her places and she’s never done anything. Ever. She flies everywhere to see her friends and never to see me. I offered to meet her in California a couple of times.”

“Okay. Forget it. Just forget I ever said anything about it. I’ll throw your letter away and I won’t expect anything in return. At least that way I won’t be disappointed when that’s all I get.”

“If you and Gretchen get married anywhere on the west coast I’ll come and I’ll get Brent to come too.”

“He won’t come but thanks anyways.”

“He’ll come if he knows you want him there.”

“Let’s be real. You like reality. Reality is Brent is not going to go to any wedding of Gretchen’s. He didn’t invite her to his. He’s not going to go to hers. Let’s all be real mature about the fact that the two of them went out ages ago. Family sure is important to him.”

“It is important to him Brad. Sometimes I think family is more important to him than it is to you but I didn’t call to fight with you. I called to tell you I’m sorry. I really mean that too.”

“I’m sure you do. I’m sorry I’m in a bad mood but you couldn’t have called at a worse time.”

“Call me back when it’s a better time. For what this is worth Rita is super excited about the baby.”

“I know she’s not going to be happy about…”

“No, you don’t know. You think it but you don’t know it. She loves you Brad. She loves children, she loves babies and she is going to love any child of yours just as much as would love any children Brent might have.”

He knew Lana believed that even if everyone else knew that Brent was Rita's favorite. ”I can’t argue about this right now. Tell your mom thanks for telling Rita about Parker. Tell her I hope she has a good return flight. She’s supposed to let Gretchen know if she doesn’t. Gretchen said she’d raise Cain if your mom had a crappy flight and as much as I like your mother it would be nice to see Gretchen doing something besides sitting around and looking pathetic. I understand that building a baby is hard and I get that she feels like crap but, forget it. This is what I wanted. I’m excited about the baby and I guess maybe I invited Rita out to lunch because I knew she’d eventually come around.”

“She’s a wonderful woman Brad. You’re lucky to have her.”

“I know. And I’m making her wait but not really because she’s like half an hour early which I knew she would be so I was early too. I’m sorry I was a crab. I want the baby to hurry up and get here. All this waiting is getting to me.”

“I love you Brad. I’m excited about the baby and I’m going to go to Florida for Gretchen’s birthday and I’m going to come and see the baby. Not right away because I want you guys…”

“Come before the baby is born. Please?”

“I’ll think about it. Take care. Tell Rita I said hi. Tell everyone I said hi. I’ll call Natalie and let her know that you’re going to take Rita out by yourself.”

“Thanks. Tell her thanks for the shirt too. She bought me this dark purple shirt. I didn’t think I’d like it but I kind of do now that I’m used to it.”

“Take a picture of yourself in it and give that to her for Christmas.”

“Okay. Good idea.”

“Those are the only kind I have. A good friend of mine told me there was no point in having ideas if they weren’t good ones.”

“Yeah. Take care kiddo. Good to hear from you again.”

“I’m really sorry about the letter. Call me sometime. It'd be nice to get an unexpected phone call.”

“I will. I’ll let you know how lunch goes. I should get going. Thanks for the call.”

“You’re welcome. Hey Brad?”

“Hey Lana?”

Smile. Bye.” There was a smile on his face as he put the phone back down. Now all he had to do was go meet his mother. His smile faded but when he saw Rita talking to Mary Beth and dabbing at her eyes he knew things were going to be okay at least for today.