Royal(99)

By: Winter Renshaw


Demi says that’s the measure of true love and also true friendship. I couldn’t agree more.

“Aunt Demi’s making Nana’s lasagna.” I sit Haven down at the head of the kitchen table where she likes to sit because she loves to be in the middle of all of us.

“Hi, Aunt Demi.” Haven waves.

“Hey, baby doll,” Demi says, browning Italian sausage over the stove. “I’ll be over there for kisses in a minute, okay?”

“Okay!” Haven’s legs swing under the chair.

“Is that a panda on your shirt?” I ask.

Her face lights, and she grins.

“You know I love pandas. They’re my favorite.” I told her that the last time I saw her. Don’t really have a favorite animal, but it seemed to make her smile.

“I remembered, Royal,” she says.

“She wanted to wear it for you,” Derek says. “Apparently, she’s pretty fond of you for some reason.”

“And who wouldn’t be?” I wink.

“Need any help, Dem?” Derek offers.

“No, no. You guys can go in the living room and hang out there if you want. Haven, do you want to help me make Nana’s lasagna?” Demi lifts a wooden spatula and points it at her niece. “I have a little apron that’s just your size . . . and I could use a ton of help . . .”

Haven looks to Demi, then to Derek, and lastly, to me.

“No, thank you, Aunt Demi. I’m going to play with Royal. He likes to play Legos and puzzles with me.” Haven melts me with her big, blue eyes. They match Demi’s. And if we’re lucky, maybe someday we’ll have a little girl with that very same gaze.

“Burn.” Derek laughs.

“That’s cool, that’s cool,” Demi says, her hands in the air. “I get it. Royal’s fun. I’m boring. I only color with you and braid your hair, but that’s cool. Whatever.”

Haven hops down from the chair and walks back to me, reaching for my hand and slipping hers into mine.

“Come on, Royal.” She leads me to the living room and goes straight for the box of Legos hidden under the sofa. Haven stayed with us a couple of weeks ago while Derek was entertaining a new client during his custody weekend. Demi insisted on taking her to Target and buying her whatever she wanted, and she chose pirate Legos. “Let’s play.”

At least she didn’t pick Barbies. I’d never hear the end of it from Derek if I was sitting on the floor dressing Ken dolls.

An hour later, the four of us are sitting around the kitchen table, enjoying Demi’s dinner, which tastes bite-for-bite like something Bliss would make, and Haven’s telling me all about her new preschool teacher.

“They bumped her up to three day,” Derek says. “She was the smartest kid in her class.”

“Doesn’t surprise me,” Demi said. “She’s a Rosewood. Overachieving is embedded in her DNA.”

“Speaking of overachieving Rosewoods,” Derek says. “Did you know Delilah’s coming back in a few months? She’s in some wedding in April for one of her old friends from high school.”

“Yeah, but we were thinking of taking a trip to Chicago sometime soon and visiting her.” Demi hands Haven a napkin.

“Let me know when you’re going. I’ll go too,” Derek says. “As long as it’s not my weekend with Haven. She doesn’t do too well on planes.”

“Imagine that. Haven Rosewood can’t sit still for longer than an hour. Doesn’t surprise me.” Demi laughs.

“How’s your pre-law program going?” Derek turns his attention to me.

“Going pretty well. Just a few weeks into the semester, but so far, so good. Really immersed in the program. Definitely feel like this was my calling.” I nod as I take another bite and chew.

“Allendale College has one of the best legal programs in the state,” Derek says. “You chose well.”

It’s not like I had many options, but I agree. It’s one of the best, and so far, it’s a great fit.

“Not sure where I’ll go for law school,” I say. “I’ve got a few ideas in mind, but a lot of it will depend on where Demi’s teaching by then.”

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