“Ma’am!” Susana laughs in delight. “Oh, sorry dear. I’m not laughing at you. It’s just that I’ve hardly known anyone your age who is still polite enough to call someone else ‘ma’am’. How sweet.” She dimples charmingly at him while shaking his hand.
Hardly offended but blushing a little, Peter says back, “Think nothing of it, ma’am. Nysa reminded me earlier in not so many words that I’ve lived here for so long and have yet to meet any of my neighbors. I apologize.”
“Oh, that’s alright, really. You were busy working, as I understand it.” Susana continues smiling winningly at him.
“Still, it’s no excuse for my being un-neighborly. And I don’t think that I’m that much younger than you, ma’am.” Peter says.
Poor guy, he is trying.
“Call me Susana. Ma’am is for someone grandmotherly, unless you think I look like a grandmother?” Susana raises her eyebrow at Peter in challenge.
Really, so vain that woman, I ogles at her. Of course Peter isn’t being insulting, he is just being polite, I try to project to Susana, even though I know that she is mostly just teasing him. I feel oddly defensive of Peter, go figure.
“Not at all, Susana. I actually thought you were Beatrice’s older sister when I saw you just now, you look so young.” Peter stumbles over his words. He acquiesces pretty fast and laying it on rather thick, if I do think so myself. Susana can be quite intimating when she wants to be.
I, however, give up. That is too much, even at being polite. Both Susana and I burst into laughter.
“Oh, Peter,” I giggle while patting Peter’s shoulder comfortingly, “You are so bad at this flattery thing. What ever you do, sucking up is so not for you. Go the direct approach.”
“What do you mean? I wasn’t ‘sucking up’, as you say it. I was merely being truthful.” Peter splutters back stiffly.
Oh my, the dear man is really offended now. We really needed to give him a break.
I just snicker back at him. I know, I can be annoying sometimes.
Susana comes to his rescue, “Oh, stop it Nysa. You’re embarrassing the poor man. It’s alright Peter. We really shouldn’t tease you so just when you’re getting to know us. What must you think of us? I am sorry. Nysa, stop laughing at the poor man!”.
Susana gives what she must think is a stern look at me, but the twinkle in her eyes kind of say the opposite.
I stop snickering, though. Then I grin, “Oh alright. Sorry, Peter. You’re a doll. We’re the good neighbors, I promise you.”
Peter, the sweet gentleman I now assume him to be, smiles hesitantly at first, but then says, “It’s fine, really. I’m not offended, I promise. Just kind of, overwhelmed. You two make this whole ‘getting to know your neighbors’ task quite pleasurable. To tell you the truth, I was dreading it at first.”
“Oh, I know, right? After meeting Nysa here, I can’t imagine you wanting to meet anyone else. She’s kind of overwhelming, isn’t she?” Susana whispers loudly to Peter, while winking at both of us. Subtle she is not.
I say agreeably, “That’s right, I’m an ogre. I swallowed people whole then spit their bones out. Watch out. So, Su, are you going to let us in anytime soon? How long are we going to stand at your doorway for?”
Susana rolls her eyes at me while apologizing at the same time, “I’m sorry. Where did my manners go? Please do come in.”
“Well, I’d rather not if you’re busy…’ Peter wavers. He really is a polite one
“Not at all. I was just about to give Bea her breakfast. Well, brunch now. She just woke up. I’ll have a cup of coffee myself. Come join me.” Susana invites while opening the door wider.
Not hesitating, I enter. “Well, c’mon in then, Pete, I could use a cup of coffee!”
“Pete?” I hear him murmur behind me even as the man himself follows me in.
Determinedly, I make straight for Bea who has parked herself in front of the TV, watching her favorite Disney cartoon about some flying house or whatever.
I pick her up and carry her to the kitchen, “C’mon baby, eating time. Let’s see what your mama made you.”
I settle her in her high-chair, seat myself at the table and wait expectantly for Susana to start playing hostess. To my pleasant surprise, Peter seats himself on the other side of Bea and smiles sweetly at her.
I coo internally. That is rare, alright, a bachelor who is not afraid of the little kiddies.
I look at Susana who is looking back at me. She wiggles her eyebrows at me, I raise one of mine at her deliberately, and then, smiling, we both look at Peter who is now getting along quite nicely with Beatrice, handing her the sippy cup while answering something she has asked him.
Indeed, Peter is turning out to be quite the upstanding, nice guy, if rather quiet. Not at all the uptight, stern unfriendly neighbor he seemed to be during all those past months, and I chasten myself internally for thinking he could be that person.
I suppose, to start him out, he just needs a couple of nosy but well-meaning neighbors to get him to open up, teasing and cheekiness not-withstanding.
And now, he is sitting in a warm kitchen with said neighbors, getting acquainted and hopefully making good ties.
Thank God for Spock. Not for the first time my outgoing cat has been responsible for getting neighbors together.
Most times we click immediately, but every time we definitely get the chance to get to know each other better. Those pesky first impressions have no legs to stand on, but are downright unreliable in drawing a complete picture of what a man, woman or child can be like for certain once you start talking to them and actually spending time getting to know them.
It is early days with Peter, still, but the days are looking promising. He will find a place here, at our building, and make his family.
Even a busy man needs to not be alone. When he is at his home after a long time away with work, it could be that he will want to see a friendly face or hear a cheery ‘hello, how are you today?” or an invitation for a cup of coffee.
Me? I want simple things. I miss my real family, having moved out when I decided to follow my own path in life. Now, I want a family away from family. I guess I found it.
Somewhat content, I sip my coffee, then turn to Susana who is asking me a question, Peter and Bea’s chattering making a pleasant background noise.
Yes, it is good to have neighbors. Better yet to have family. This is family, even the new guy among us, because we are nothing if not all-inclusive. Who knows, perhaps he needs a family away from family, too.
Now, if only they can help me with my writing. Hmm. Maybe I’ll write about our new neighbor Peter and see how that turns out.
To read previous parts and other stories, go here https://myreadingpoet.com/category/fiction-and-short-stories/
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