Gabriel could almost feel Mrs. Jenkins coming up the walk. The eccentric old woman’s shell necklace made enough racket to announce her coming. He opened the door before she could ring the bell.

“Oh my stars!” she beamed. “Gabriel! It’s been so long I almost didn’t recognize you!”

“Good evening, Mrs. Jenkins,” Gabriel greeted politely. “Won’t you come in?”

He took her arm and led her to the kitchen.

“Always the gentleman,” she obliged. “Tell me: how’s that pretty young lady of yours? What was her name? Mary?”

“Abigail,” he corrected her.  “I’m not quite sure. She and I stopped seeing one another.”

“Oh dear,” she said remorsefully. “What on earth happened?”

“We had a falling out,” Gabriel answered offering her a chair.

“Well, that’s too bad,” she took a seat next to Gabriel’s mother. “She was such a dear thing. Oh, but how rude of me!  Chloe, you poor dear, how are you feeling today?”

“I’m fine, Mathilde,” his mother answered without turning. “Thank you.”

“Well, the whole town is just torn up about Tom,” Mrs. Jenkins continued. “What a dear man. It’s a shame really.”

“Yes,” his mother answered flatly. Mrs. Jenkins turned to Gabriel curiously.

“Mom?” he said. “Would you like some of Mrs. Jenkins’ caseroll?”

“Oh, it will need to be warmed, dear,” she began to stand up.

“Please, allow me,” he geastured for her to stay seated. “I’m sure my mother would love your company.”

“What an angel,” she smiled. “Your mother taught you well. Just put it in the oven at 300 for about fifteen minutes.” Then to his mother, “I’m afraid it cooled on the walk over. I’m not as young as I once was.”

“Oh, Mrs. Jenkins,” Uriel entered the room in a swoop. “You don’t look a day over thirty.”

“Oh Uriel!” she laughed. “You really did a wonderful job raising these boys, Chloe! They know just what to say to an old woman. It’s too bad my girls never married any of you.”

“I’m sure your girls are much better off,” Uriel answered pouring himself a glass of water from the tap. “Gabe over here is a nothing but a heartbreaker. And don’t get me started on Eli!”

“Abigail broke my heart, Uri,” Gabriel corrected.

“That’s not what she told Natalie,” Uri said in a sing-song voice as he exited the kitchen, kissing his mother on the crown of her head before exiting.

“He’s joking, Mrs. Jenkins,” Gabriel shrugged off. “Can I get you something to drink? We have coffee.”

“That would be lovely, dear,” she answered. Gabriel poured her a cup of the warm beverage, topped off his mother’s cup and then excused himself.  He was hoping that Mrs. Jenkins would get his mother talking, perhaps lift her spirits a little. He met up with Uriel in the basement den also known as the “man cave.” Uriel had just thrown on the game on the large screen television when Gabriel entered.

“There’s beer behind the bar,” Uriel gestured. He opened a bottle for himself and threw his feet up on the coffee table. Gabriel helped himself to a beer and joined his baby brother on the large couch. “Who’s playing?”

“Pittsburgh versus Dallas,” Uriel answered.

“Well, this ought to be good,” Gabriel answered almost sarcastically.

“Pittsburgh is playing well this season,” Uriel took a swig of his beer. “Dallas, well….what can I say about them that hasn’t already been said?”

“I’ll drink to that!” they clinked bottles. Gabriel waited a moment before asking what he came to ask.

“What does Natalie know about my break-up with Abby?” the second the words flew out of his mouth he regretted them.

“Oh!” Uriel reacted with feigned surprise. “So you do care about her feelings?”

“I do not,” Gabriel defended. “I’m just curious.”

“I’m not at liberty to say,” Uriel answered.

“I have it on good authority that Natalie is just talking trash,” Elijah answered entering the bathroom.

“What do you know about it?” Uriel snapped. “You’ve been out of the country!”

“But not out of touch,” Elijah said getting a beer.  “Who’s winning?”

“Who do you think?” Uriel gestured to the screen.

“Yep, that looks about right,” Elijah said sitting with his brothers.

“They’re playing like clowns out there! Look at the score!” Uriel said annoyed. “Sometimes I wonder why I even bother watching!”

“That’s what you get for picking a shitty team,” Elijah answered.

Gabriel finished his beer and stood to leave.

“Where are you going?” Elijah asked.

“I’m going to check on mom,” Gabriel said.

“Ah, she’ll be fine!” Elijah waved. “Mrs. Jenkins is just yammering away about God only knows what. Sit down, have another one.”

“Yea, don’t you want to know about Natalie?” Uriel teased.

“Forget I even asked,” Gabriel tried to brush off. He went to the fridge and grabbed a second beer.

“Not a chance,” Uriel laughed.

“Look, Gabe,” Elijah said turning. “You know Natalie. She likes to cause a stir. Don’t pay any attention to what she says about you.”

“I’d just like to know what to expect,” Gabriel said returning to the couch.

“If I were you,” Uriel began, “I’d keep away from the ladies while you’re in town.”

“Why’s that?”

“I’m not at liberty to say,” Uriel grinned.

“I hate you guys,” Gabriel shook his head. His brothers laughed at his expense.

“Oh, there it is!” Uriel shouted standing and pointing at the television. “Go! Go! Go! GO! GO-GO-GO-GO-GO-NOOOO!!”

“Ha!” Elijah teased.

“No!!!” Uriel stood aghast. “What was that?”

“An interception,” Elijah sat laughing.

“I quit!” Uriel sat back unhappily. “There’s no way they’re gonna make the playoffs like this!”

“Nope,” Gabriel chuckled in agreement.

The three brothers sat back and watched the game like they always had in their youth. There was no further discussion of girls or of the empty chair in the corner that once was the throne of their father.