There was more she hoped to have ready for Meghan's arrival, but she knew she would have to put that out of her mind for now and move on. She wasn't sure if even the most careful planning would truly prepare her for the addition of a fourteen year old girl to the household. She had a feeling this was something they were going to have to take day by day.
"Bye, Mom. I'm going down to the lake. I'll be back later."
"Not yet, Julian. Meghan's going to be here anytime and I want you to be here when she arrives."
"Why? I mean, she's not anything to me. Do I really have to be here?
"It would be a nice gesture. I know you aren't technically related, but Meghan is practically your step-sister and she's going to be living in this household. It would be nice if we were all here to welcome her. You won't have to stay long."
"Alright, Mom, I'll wait . . . What smells so good? Are those your cinnamon rolls? I'll stick around for those," he grinned.
"They'll be ready in a few minutes. Thank you, Julian."
"Something smells good in here," Andrew said as he walked into the kitchen and gave Shayna a kiss on the cheek.
"That's what I just said," Julian laughed. "Mom's making cinnamon rolls to welcome Meghan."
"That was thoughtful of you," Andrew said to Shayna.
"It was the least I could do, really," Shayna replied. "I wish we would have done more to get ready for Meghan's arrival."
"What is there to get ready?"
Shayna stared at him dumbfounded. Men really did not have a clue. What would they do without the women in their lives to run things behind the scenes. "For one, I think we should have fixed up the guest room especially for her, to show her that she's really a part of the household now."
"I know, but I don't have any clue how to decorate a teenage girl's room. I don't even know what she likes."
"We should have called her or her mother to ask," Shayna sighed. "Well, this afternoon, you'll have to take her shopping and let her help you pick out some things for her room. It will give you a chance to bond and get to know each other. I have a list of a few things for you to pick up while you're out anyway."
"Don't you want to come too?" Andrew asked hopefully. Shopping for girly things with the daughter he barely knew left Andrew feeling anxious. He knew it would go more smoothly with Shayna to guide the way. "You would know better than I would what she would need."
"I'll make you a list of suggestions," Shayna replied. "I have too much to do today to go shopping. After you go shopping with Meghan and I finish my work for the day, we'll all meet up for a nice dinner tonight. That includes you too, Julian, so don't make any alternate plans tonight."
When the doorbell rang, Shayna, Andrew, and Julian looked up, but no one moved.
"You should get it Andrew," Shayna suggested.
Andrew nodded and opened the door to let his daughter and ex-wife inside.
"Hello, Amanda," Andrew greeted his ex-wife cordially, before turning his attention to his daughter. "Meghan, is that you? You've grown up so much since I've seen you last. I barely recognize you."
"Hi, Dad," Meghan responded as Andrew greeted her with a hug.
"Brunch is almost ready," Shayna announced. "It will be just a few more minutes. While we're waiting, Andrew can bring in Meghan's things, so she can start to get settled. Julian, why don't you show Meghan the house."
"Good idea," Andrew responded. He tried to ignore Amanda's smirk as he walked past her out the door.
As Julian followed Andrew, he couldn't help noticing Meghan smiling at him. Her father wasn't kidding about how much she had grown up. He was expecting to see the gawky little girl he remembered from her last visit. Instead the person he saw before him was definitely not gawky or a little girl anymore. Suddenly self conscious that he was staring, he looked away.
Keeping his eyes averted, he nodded toward the hallway. "Come on. Everything's this way."
"How have you been, Amanda?" Shayna asked courteously once the others had left the kitchen.
"Terrific," Amanda smiled. "Things are going really great in my life right now. My job is going well. I'm seeing a great guy who just asked me to go on a fabulous trip with him. Things have never been better for me."
"That's nice," Shayna replied evenly. "I take it you're still a receptionist for R.J. and Associates?"
Amanda pursued her lips and tried not to frown at Shayna's indifferent and possibly condescending response. "Yes, I'm still with the competition. I'll admit I wasn't happy about the circumstances behind switching companies, but I enjoy working there."
"I'm not the competition," Shayna replied frankly. "I'm not employed with the Townsend Corporation anymore."
"Really?" Amanda asked. "Why not?"
"I decided to take a new position as the director of Arrendale Heights neighborhood association and as Lawrence Arrendale's personal assistant. I've found it more rewarding than continuing in the corporate world and I thought it would be a good idea to distance myself from the office once the relationship between Andrew and myself started to get serious. I've never thought interpersonal relationships at work were a good idea."
Amanda paused again, wondering again if Shayna's comments were a hidden dig at her. Andrew and Amanda had met and started dating when they worked at the Townsend Corporation, she as a receptionist and he as a business executive. They continued working together even after they were married. In fact, she only stopped working there after their break-up when their animosity got so bad that the company president, Lawrence Arrendale, insisted that one of them would have to be let go. Of course, the company's vice president wasn't going to be let go so easily, but a receptionist was expendable. She ended up being offered a job at R.J. Major's rival company and worked there ever since. Her change in employment occurred just before she found out she was pregnant with Meghan, almost fifteen years ago.
"Why don't you have a seat, Amanda? Would you like a cup of coffee?"
"No, thank you. I think I'll be going. I wanted to visit my sister, Alma, while I'm in the neighborhood and then I need to go home and pack. I'll just say goodbye to Meghan and be on my way."
"Okay, if that's what you want to do," Shayna said. Amanda was sure there was no tone of regret in her voice and that made her all the more eager to be out of this woman's house.
* * * * *
"So, this is the hallway, Mom and Andrew's room, the study, living room, my room, your room, the bathroom," Julian rattled off as Meghan followed him through the house. He wasn't really sure what to say about the house beyond that. He hoped that would be good enough.
"Yeah, I remember from when I was here before."
"Why didn't you say so?"
Meghan shrugged and smiled coyly. "Your mom was kind of set on the idea."
"She can be like that."
"So, I guess we're going to be neighbors . . . my room is right next to yours," Meghan grinned.
"Yeah," Julian blinked, slightly bewildered, not so much at the statement itself, but at the playful tone in which it was delivered. "I guess so. I hadn't really about it."
"Is that okay with you?"
"Sure," he cleared his throat and shrugged indifferently. "Why wouldn't it be?"
Meghan shrugged her shoulders and grinned again at him. "I don't know. I just wondered."
"Meghan," Amanda called as she approached Meghan and Julian. Once Amanda had Meghan's attention, Julian quietly slipped away. "I'm going over to Aunt Alma's house. Do you want to come with me?"
"Are you sure you don't want to say hello to your cousins?"
"No. I'm going to be seeing them all the time now, especially once school starts. I think I'd rather hang out here."
"Oh, okay," Amanda said, disappointed that she wouldn't be spending just a few more moments with her daughter before leaving her here. "I guess I'll say goodbye then . . . I'm going to call you often, even when I'm on the trip with Ben and don't hesitate to call me, any time day or night, if you need anything or if you just want to talk, I'm just a phone call away. If you decide you don't like living here or don't like the school-"
"Mom, I'll be fine. Don't worry," Meghan rolled her eyes.
Amanda gave her daughter a hug. "I'm sorry, but I can't help it. You're still my baby."
"Mom," Meghan whined. She was glad Julian had left the room. Otherwise she would have been mortified with embarrassment.
"Well, you are," Amanda insisted released Meghan from her embrace and backed away. "Just be good and if you need anything-"
"I know, I'll call," Meghan repeated impatiently.
"Right," Amanda said. It was hard leaving her daughter for the first time, but she knew she had to walk away. She tried to remind herself that this wasn't forever and that it was with Meghan's best interests at heart. "I'll see you soon, sweetheart."