Though junior year spring exams were coming up, so was Marcus's birthday, and Meadow and Orlando wanted to throw a party for him.
"Come on, little man," Orlando told his son as he was changing his diaper. "You have to help Daddy entertain our guests until Mommy gets home."
Meadow would be at class for another hour, but all of their friends had already arrived. "Chloe, you're not losing weight, are you?" George asked her, sounding slightly worried.
"I'm not trying to," Chloe answered, "but I'm on my feet all day in the kitchens doing my food practicals, so that's taking its toll."
"Will you be able to catch up on your rest this summer?" asked Calista.
"Nope," Chloe said. "Culinary Arts majors all have to do summer externships between junior and senior year, and I'm doing mine at Red's Famous '50s Diner."
"Kevin must be happy--" George laughed, "isn't that his favorite restaurant?"
"It's every college guy's favorite restaurant," Chloe answered.
"I thought the diner was always closed during the summer," said Yulia. "Once the college kids leave, so do Red and his wife, right?"
"They have in the past," Chloe explained, "but one of the chef-instructors in my department convinced them to give it a go this summer. I've got a couple of weeks to produce some profits, or my externship will be over really fast!"
Yuri seated himself one table down from Rebecka. (She had told him that couples weren't supposed to hang around with each other at parties.)
Alvin was slow to join the others, insisting on working on an assignment at Meadow and Orlando's kitchen table.
Brittany wasn't much more sociable, although she was at least working outside on the grass.
Randy looked a bit concerned about the baby. "Should Marcus be lying on the ground like that?" he asked Derek (who of course had no children, but was at least pre-med).
"Doesn't hurt him at all," Derek assured him authoritatively. "He's in the shade, it's not a very hot day, and this helps him socialize." Randy seemed to be silently taking notes, for some future child of his.
"What's this I hear about Meadow starting a business?" Yuri asked Orlando.
"She leased a tiny farmstand downtown," Orlando answered, "and plans to sell her organic fruits and vegetables there this summer." He turned to his friend. "Thanks, Yuri, for all the paintings and quilts you sold for us, or we never would have been able to afford this venture."
Meanwhile, Rebecka was thinking how hot George looked, and Derek was reveling in having won the top sophomore Biology prize (which Yulia had won the previous year).
Meadow arrived back home, picked up and kissed Marcus, and handed him to her husband. "Mommy's so proud of you on your big, big birthday!" she cooed to her son.
Orlando called their friends over to the birthday cake.
"Thank you all for your love and support of our young family this past year. Please join Meadow and me today in wishing Marcus a very happy birthday!"
He helped Marcus blow out the candles,
tossed the baby up into the air,
and caught a toddler.
"Good job, Marcus!" Orlando kissed his son on the forehead and put him down.
Meadow immediately picked up her little boy,
and showed him the toddler play table that Yuri and Yulia had brought him (it had been theirs when they were children).
"Thanks again, Yulia," Meadow told her friend.
"Can I see the fabulous wedding picture I've been hearing so much about?" Yulia asked eagerly.
Meadow brought Yulia into the house. "Here it is, in all its glory," she said.
"It's gorgeous!" cried Yulia.
"Orlando wasn't happy with any of our wedding photos," Meadow explained, "so he painted some instead. Wait till you see the one in the living room," she laughed, pulling Yulia by the hand. "Tada!" she said.
"It's so ... big," observed Yulia. "But lovely, of course," she hastened to add.
George, who was studying on the couch, thought it was great. "I'm going to ask Orlando to do a painting like this of Tosh for our wedding!" he said enthusiastically.
After their guests departed, Meadow put Marcus to bed.
"You're a good, good boy, honeybun," she said to him. "Hopefully you'll be a gem about toddler training, which we'll start tomorrow."
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week for summer vacation, as Marcus learns to walk, talk, and go to the potty by himself; Meadow opens her organic farmstand; and Chloe tries to make a go of Red's Famous '50s Diner.