“I’m in transition,” Ian sniffed, thumbing the control pad on the TV remote.
Cooper’s sigh was loud enough to wake his long-gone great-grandmother, bless her soul. “And just how long will you be in transition, do you think?” He snatched the remote away from Ian, tossed it at the green lazy boy. It bounced and landed on the hardwood floor, the AA batteries springing out of their casing.
“You’ve broken it.” He crossed his arms over his chest and pushed himself deeper into the overstuffed sofa. “Now I’m stuck watching Mr. Ed.”
“You could get up and fix it.” Cooper sat on the coffee table, strategically placing himself between Ian and the HDTV. Wood protested slightly.
“Look,” Cooper continued, drawing on supernatural patience, “I know you’ve been bummed ever since Angie kicked you out of the house.”
Ian flinched, then tried to cover it by scratching at the four or five days worth of blond beard at his chin.
“But don’t you think that getting a job, and oh, I don’t know, an apartment-”
“I have an apartment.” He leaned to one side for a straight line of sight on Wilber and Mr. Ed.
“This is my apartment,” Cooper clarified. “I think it might convince Angie that you’re ready to take responsibility for yourself if you,” he paused, emphasized his next words, “um, took responsibility for yourself.”
“My life is over, and you want me to move out, all on my own, with no one to-”
“Alright,” Cooper lifted one hand. “Alright.” He stood, scooped up the remote and batteries. “Have you tried calling her recently?”
“Forty-two times,” he moaned.
“You remember how many times you’ve called her since you moved out?”
“No.” He shrugged. “That was just yesterday. I tried for forty-three, but I think she disconnected the phone.”
Cooper popped the batteries back into the remote, closed it up again. Then, against his better judgment, he gave the junkie back his drug of choice.
Ian snatched at the remote and immediately began thumbing through the channels. “I Dream of Jeannie in HD!” He cheered. “Things are looking up.”
Cooper was ready to say something when the doorbell rang. Shaking his head at his beleaguered and belligerent cousin he pulled open the door.
“Hi,” came a soft, shy voice on the other side.
The petite, raven-haired young woman revealed something between a smile and a grimace. “Is Ian here?”
“Always,” Cooper muttered, gesturing her inside.
Ian was off the couch in an instant. Cooper hadn’t seen him move that fast in weeks. He ran his hands through his curly hair, doing more harm than good. “Uh, hi,” he said.
Cooper turned away. “I should go.”
“No, don’t,” Angie insisted, with her eyes still on Ian. “Maybe you should stay.”
No, really, he thought. Please let me leave.
“Accountability, and all that?” Ian suggested.
“We’ve been fighting a lot lately.” She finally looked up at Cooper. Her face was sincere, blue eyes sad, and maybe a little scared. “I don’t even think I trust myself anymore. Help us work this out?”
He glanced at Ian. Ian’s look was pleading.
Despite Ian’s flaws, Cooper knew he had the ability to astound--when sufficiently called to the challenge. He and Ian were of an age, and Cooper’s love for him was closer than that of a brother. He wanted to see Ian and Angie happy. “Yeah, okay.”
He closed the door and gestured for them to sit on the couch together, while he took the lazy boy.
Angie toyed with the strap on her purse before finally looking over at Ian. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t have kicked you out. I’ve just been . . .” She sighed, stood up, and started pacing. “I’m pregnant, okay. I was going to tell you that night, but you came home with all that crazy stuff about how you quit your job to develop video games, and I . . . I felt so insecure.”
She never had the chance to finish. Ian had left the room. Startled, she looked at Cooper. Cooper shrugged.
A moment later, Ian came back with his cell phone. He dialed in a frenzy. “Hi. Mr. Johnson? I’m ready to sell you that video game I programmed.”
Glowing with pride, Angie wrapped her arms around Ian. “Thank you,” she whispered. Then she looked over at Cooper. “And thank you.”
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