Izzy loved Nick's accent, which he allowed to come through a little more as the two of them whispered in the corner booth. She found it charming if difficult to understand at first, but he was patient and explained everything that she had trouble with. She was almost disappointed when he began dropping the accent.
"Why do you do that, Nick? I think your accent is charming." she said earnestly.
"Ah, cher, not so many here or in other places I've lived, do. N'awlins is... like another world. A colorful, exotic world filled with all sorts of people, smells and places." He laughed deprecatingly, “Some of 'em not as nice as others of course." he sighed wistfully. "But I do miss it." he continued. "I've been thinking when I'm of age and after I've got some money saved, I'll go back. At least just to visit."
"It sounds like heaven, the way you describe it. Why did you and your parents leave?"
"I was pretty much living with my Maw Maw and Paw Paw til I was eight. Then they and some of their friends died in a boating accident on Lake Borgne. No one was ever able to find the bodies. The police looked and looked, they had hounds on the shores, and boats and everything looking for them. It was thought that the current brought them out into the Gulf of Mexico and, well, if that were so there wasn't much left of em but bones after the fish... Oh! I'm sorry Miz... Izzy! I didn't mean to upset you!"
He looked into her blue eyes to see that they had turned moss green and were turning to hazel as he watched.
"Don't be sad, Izzy. It happened a long time ago, and I went to live with my parents afterward. Ma mere and pere only stayed because of Maw Maw and Paw Paw, so when they were officially declared dead we sold a lot of stuff, gave more away and packed only what we needed. We rambled around and made money by doing odd jobs. Pere is a jack of all trades, Mere does laundry and sewing, and me, I do lawn work and such to earn a few dollars. Only just recently I talked to the manager at Aerophor and he has some grunt work he thinks I can do til I turn of age and graduate, and then I can be trained so that I can work the big machines. So all's not as dark as it seems."
"What about your brothers and sisters?"
"Only two of my brothers are still to home. The others are older and they got jobs and either stayed in N'awlins or moved with us til something likely presented itself. One dropped roots in Alabama. One went to Tennessee and one went out Jacksonville way."
"What do your brothers do?"
"One, Andy, works carpentry, an' he makes furniture. Goes out into the woods and takes likely pieces of wood to turn into knick-knacks and such. He only takes stuff that fall natural like, 'cause of storms and such," he reassured her, "He don't... doesn't... chop down healthy trees. Nice sturdy pieces. He sells 'em by the roadside on Saturdays."
"The other one, Cordell, is our mechanic. You got somethin' needs fixin' he kin do it. Don' madda if it's a truck engine or a toasta, if it's broke he kin fix it." Nick said with some pride, his accent ebbing and flowing.
"Nick, can I ask you a personal question?"
"Why were my grandparents raising me?" he countered with a grin.
Izzy smiled back. "Yes," she replied.
"I was the youngest of seven kids, and there was just no room for me. Mere and pere lived in a one bedroom apartment. They slept in a bed in the living room, and they put the other kids in bunk beds three deep in the larger room. There wasn't room for even a crib, so they asked my grandparents to take me. They came over a few times a week to visit me and brought my brothers and sisters, and I knew I'd sort of been fostered out and that it hadn't been anything personal. They just couldn't afford to rent a bigger apartment, and maw maw and paw paw lived in a small house that wouldn't fit all of us any better than the apartment had."
"So they made up the attic room for me and that's where I slept. It was really nice though!" he assured Izzy at the girl's wrinkled nose. "It was cool up there in the summer and warm enough in the winter. Plus gran was a rabid knitter and crocheter... are those real words?" He laughed, "Anyway, maw maw was always making something, blankets, sweaters, scarves, gloves. I coulda lived outside in Alaska in mid-winter and been snug as a bug in a rug with nothin' but her blankets."
The waitress arrived at the table and asked if they were ready to order yet, breaking Nick's spell on Izzy, who smiled and grinned again.
"Just a burger and fries... oh, and a cherry Coke, please? Thank you," said Izzy.
"I'll have the same but may I please have a little mynez on the side?" Nick asked politely with his charming smile.
"I'm sorry, a.. a l-little what?" the waitress stammered.
"Ah... a little plate or cup with a little mynez on it, separate from the rest of the order?" Nick smiled again as he explained.
"I'm sorry, man I don't know what mynez is," she admitted, blushing uncomfortably.
It was Nick's turn to look uncomfortable. "Mynez." he looked pleadingly at Izzy for her to understand but she was equally lost.
"Catsup, mustard, mynez..." he tried again. He really couldn't understand what the problem was.
"Mayonnaise!" Izzy said happily. "Is that it, Nick?"
Nick looked back and forth between Izzy and the waitress trying to contain his irritation. "Yes'm, that's what I'd like," he said. He was a little put out that these people couldn't understand plain English. He didn't hear any difference between the way he'd said it and the way Izzy had said it and wondered for a minute if they were putting him on.
Izzy could see that Nick was upset and she put a hand over his balled up one which rested on the table. "Don't feel bad, Nick." she said quietly after the waitress left to put in their order, "Why, when I'm with the others, they're always saying things that I have to have translated, just like there're going to be some words and such that are common in Canada that no one here is going to get until I explain them. It's all good, OK?" she asked, looking earnestly into his ever so blue eyes.
He looked up from beneath his lashes and looked into her now hazel eyes, and smiled.
A jolt of electricity seemed to go through her, from the nape of her neck down to... oh my goodness, she thought. She released his hand a little too quickly, making Nick wonder what was wrong.
"Static electricity," she explained hastily, her eyes turning from hazel back to that intriguing moss green.
Nick smiled again, putting her at ease. He loved looking at Izzy, to him she was like a book, a mystery novel, and each page was more fascinating than the one before.
He loved the way her hair fell across her shoulders, the stunning way her eyes would change color with her mood. Her sister, who was undeniably pretty, was what he considered to be paper thin. Izzy had curves. She wasn't overweight, but she had the perfect figure by his way of thinking and he found it hard to keep his eyes off of her. He'd missed her in those weeks that he'd cut himself off from them so stubbornly. What a fool he'd been. How lucky he was that she and the others were forgiving sorts.
The food came and went mostly untasted, as the two of them seemed to have eyes only for each other. Izzy shy. Nick amazed and enraptured.
"This is as big a gumbo ya-ya as the cafeteria was," he said, raising his voice to be heard above the general chaos that was the normal after-school rush.
"A what?" Izzy said, not knowing what it meant. He'd said it once before but they hadn't had time for him to explain what it meant.
"Noisy," Nick responded. "Is there... Is there a place we could go to talk where it's a little quieter?"
"I know just the place, come on," Izzy said with a mischievous smile. "It's the perfect place unless someone else is there, but I doubt it."
"Dor... Bella!" she called to her sister using the still unfamiliar nickname, "We're going to the gazebo." she said, once again grateful that the guys had shown her and her sister that quiet little retreat.
"Izzy..." Bella warned.
"Just for quiet conversation!" she said in her own defense. "It's just too crowded and noisy here is all."
"Make sure you're home on time or dad'll be on you like bees on honey, Honey."
Izzy grinned, stuck out her tongue at her sister and turned to leave with Nick.
Milo noticed Bella's concerned expression. "Don't worry, they'll be fine. If it'll make you feel better we can go there in a little while and check up on them. All right?"
"All right," Bella said, relaxing just a bit. "I know Izzy won't do anything wrong, but Nick is kind of a loose cannon. I mean, he wouldn't talk to us for weeks after... well, you know. I worry about his temper."
"I think a lot of his temper had to do with fear and uncertainty, rather than him being a bad sort." Amadeo conjectured thoughtfully. "Some people just don't handle tension or stress well. My family is naturally loud, but my brother Dan used to be worse when he got nervous. The more nervous he got the louder he'd get. That was until he met his wife. How much more tense can you get than being new in a school and thinking you've blown your chance to make friends?"
"And he didn't get loud or violent, or pick fights," Angelo reminded her softly in her ear, "He did just the opposite. I really believe that Izzy is safe with him. It's a gut feeling." he said with a smile. "If we have to worry about anything with Nick it's more him running off and disappearing than anything else."
He blushed as Amadeo arched an eyebrow at him. That sparkle was in his man's eyes and the corner of his mouth was quirked up slightly. If they'd been somewhere private he'd have shown his appreciation for that look in several ways.
"Well, Cordell came out nearly as bad as I did for names." Nick continued as they walked along the path toward the gazebo. Mere and Pere.... mom and pop..."
"Don't change what you call them for me. I love the way you talk when you're not worrying about it." Izzy smiled.
"Nah, it's best if I do as the Romans do. Makes it easier to blend in." he smiled back, "That's why maw maw and... I mean grandma and grandpop never learned us French. They knew that outside of N'aw... New Orleans we'd probably never run into anyone who spoke our partic'lar brand of French, or any French for that matter, and that would make things harder. I picked up as much of the language as I could just listening to the people around me on the streets. But I'm not... what's the word?"
"Yeah, that's it, thanks. Anyway, before I forget what I was saying, our parents insisted that all of us have one Americanized name and one French name." he continued as they reached the stone gazebo and sat on the narrow ledge.
"Cordell is French, isn't it?"
"I dunno, I seemed to meet a lotta Cordells so could be, but that was his American name. His French name is Chevalier."
"Those are both nice names," Izzy replied, confused.
"Yeah, they are, but I wish my parents had done for me what they did for him and made my middle name my first name. Cordell hates Chevalier as much as I hate Xavier, but when he was in school he was only ever introduced as Cordell. Whenever I end up in a new school, no matter how many times I asked teachers and such NOT to use my given first name, they always did it anyway and boy you could hear the kids laughin' all the way down the hallway." Nick said with a grimace.
"That used to happen with Dora... I mean, Bella... I'm never going to get used to that new nickname, I don't think. She's always been Dora, Adorabelle when I'm mad at her." she laughed. "She used to take a lot of ribbing over her name until she just pretended that it didn't bother her, even trying to come up with stuff that rhymed with it. Eventually, people not only got tired of making fun of her name, they got tired of her making fun of her own name and they'd tell her to cool it every time she did it."
"We all just called her Dora at home so that's how she started to introduce herself."
"And you outed her in front of ever'one at the diner 'cause you were mad at her." Nick stated with a grin.
That pretty blush rose to Izzy's cheeks again.
"Yeah," she replied ruefully, "I'm afraid I have a bit of a temper, and instead of using my hands I use my tongue. My mother and father have had the worst time getting me to think before I talk when I'm angry." she lowered her voice and grinned, her blush becoming deeper, "You'd think after the number of times they tried to get that lesson up to my head through my backside I'd have learned it by now." she giggled self consciously.
Nick chuckled. "Now I know what to do to you if you ever blurt out my first name." he joked.
Izzy grinned wickedly, stood up and went to the doorway of the gazebo. "Nick's real first name is Zaaaaaveeeeeaaaairrrrrrrrr!" she shouted.
"You, my little praw-leen, are gonna regret that!" Nick said with a mischievous glint in his eye and a feral grin as he got up slowly and stalked the girl, who shrieked playfully and ran to the overgrown arbor. She gently pushed aside the curtain of overgrowth and slid in, trying to control both her breathing and her laughter as she heard Nick walking to and fro outside, looking for her and calling her name.
Suddenly he went quiet. She couldn't hear his movements and he'd stopped calling her. She wondered if he'd given up and was a little put out that he'd done it so quickly. After a few more minutes of waiting inside, she gently pushed aside some of the overgrowth. He was nowhere to be seen.
In a fit of pique and prepared to give him a piece of her mind when she caught up with him she left the arbor and began to head for the edge of the park and the sidewalk to make her way home.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Nick came on silent feet and grabbed the girl around the waist.
"Now I've got you!" he exclaimed, unnecessarily but evilly and with a matching grin.
He carried her back to the gazebo, sat down and put her on his lap. Instead of spanking her as she'd thought he was about to do, he began to tickle her. Strong arms surrounded her and she had very little wiggle room. She kicked her feet in an attempt to get loose but he captured hers under one of his and continued to tickle.
She was about to holler when he covered her mouth with his and kissed her, deeply and thoroughly.
She stopped squirming.
He released her with one arm and put a gentle, loving hand up to her cheek and kissed her again, fully expecting the girl to haul off and slap his face so hard his ears would ring for a week.
She tentatively kissed him back. She knew she should be outraged. She knew she should be angry. She knew she should be insulted and defend her modesty. She knew she should tell him off and insist that she wasn't that kind of girl. But she didn't feel like it just now.
She liked the feeling of his arm around her. She liked the feel of his warm hand on her cheek. She liked the feeling of his thighs under hers, a firm foundation. She liked the feeling of electricity that was running up and down her body from her head to her heels.
They broke the kiss.
"What was that?" she gasped softly.
"Just think of it as a lagniappe. Sugar for my sugar," he said softly. "You are mine, aren't you, Izzy?" he asked in that same soft voice, blue eyes looking into hers.
Somewhat breathlessly but firmly she replied, "I'm yours, Nick, and you're mine. But I want you to know right off that I'm a decent girl... I'm not..." she hesitated, unable to say the words.
"I know you are. We won't go any faster than you're comfortable with. All right?" he said, entranced by sparkling, ocean blue eyes. "As long as I can call you mine, that's all I need," he said gently, bending his head down to capture her soft lips in another kiss.
Milo and Bella turned quietly and left, grinning at each other and looking for their own quiet place 'to talk.'
N'awlins Slang from the Cajun Dictonary
"N'awlins" "New Orleans"--It's faster that way!
Creole - Descendents of French, Spanish, and Caribbean slaves and natives; has also come to mean any person whose ancestry derives from the Caribbean's mixed nationalities.
Gumbo Ya-Ya - Translated: everybody talking all at once; i.e., at a loud party.
"It don' madda" - Translated: "It doesn't matter."
Lagniappe (lan' yap) - Something extra that you didn't pay for--thrown in to sweeten the deal--like a baker's dozen.
MY-Nez - Translated: "mayonnaise"