Finally, the day of the christening and party has arrived. It has been the subject of much conversation in TEKville ever since the invitations began to arrive. Colette's parties are justifiably famous, and everyone looks forward to them with great anticipation.
Everyone, that is, except Jes. Ever since the night at the pool hall Vasquez and Jes are seldom seen apart, to the enormous dismay of Jessy's friends, especially Giselle and Gannon. Again and again Giselle attempts to reason with her, but Jes looks at her friend with dead eyes and says, "Leave me alone, Zellie. He's what I need right now."
On the day of the party, Colette stands in the garden, checking every last detail to make sure everything is perfect.
As usual, Coco arrives early to help set up, dragging Darius along to assist with carrying the tubs of food she has prepared.
"Darius! Just een time!"
"Coco, I don't know what I'd do without you! I am so lucky to have a cousin who is a chef and who is willing to cater!"
"It's a labor of love, Colette. For you and for what I do!"
As Darius grabs a beer and assists Diego at the grill, Colette helps Coco with the fruit, vegetable and cheese trays.
Coco finishes up the dessert table just as her sister Colleen and her beau, Peter, arrive.
"Thanks so much for offering to be background music, Colleen! Everyone always enjoys your singing and guitar playing so much!"
Colleen gets situated in a corner of the garden while Peter makes his way toward the patio for some male bonding.
Colette's sister Angel, who has volunteered to document the event in photographs, and her friend Jett are next to arrive.
"What do you want me to do with these, Angel?"
Angel moves to the corner to greet her cousins, while Jett joins the men near the grill . . . and the liquor table.
The next couple to arrive are Colette's cousin Cece and her date, Darryl.
"Oh, Cece! I love your dress! But don't you worry about it . . . you know . . . staying up?"
Darryl's attention is caught by this remark even though he is looking around distractedly. It's not as if he hasn't had the same thought.
Colette's favorite aunt, Eugenia, arrives alone, with another favorite aunt, Alexia, following shortly thereafter.
They find seats and begin to catch up on each other's lives.
Colette is surprised to see that even her cousin Justice, not normally one to frequent family events, has deigned to attend with her lover, Player.
They quickly move to an out-of-the-way spot where they can watch and observe, neither of them being much for "mingling".
"Harmony! It's so good to see you! Cute dress. Nice to see you, too, Rob."
Cece finds a seat while Darryl goes for drinks, and checks out the cheesecake.
"Rachel! What a lovely dress -- so retro! Francisco, how are you?"
"Thanks, Colette. I'm doing a film set in the 40s and 50s and am trying to stay in character."
"Hello, Erin! It's been a while! What a cute dress -- but kind of a departure from your normal style, isn't it?"
"Hi Colette! Yes, I picked this up at a consignment shop and thought it would surprise everyone." She grins. "This is my friend Michael."
Typical party. All the guys together in one place.
But Erin doesn't waste time heading for the liquor table!
"Anyone want to play croquet?"
"I'm so glad you brought Sera, Meagan! There's no need to feel awkward around friends."
"Thanks, Colette. I'm still a little uncomfortable being 'out', so I appreciate your kindness . . . and your openness."
"I'm so glad you guys are here! I'm really worried about Jes. Giselle, is she coming?"
"I haven't talked to her, Colette. She's . . . not herself."
Giselle and Gannon drift off, leaving Colette to greet her next guests.
"I'm so glad you came, Morgan. You too, Thane."
"I donna feel right being here after what happened with your cousin, but Thane insisted we come. Thank you for not holdin' it against me."
Morgan takes a seat next to Eugenia while Thane goes to confront Gannon.
"You have balls, Campbell, I'll give you that. Showing up here after what you did to Jes? And bringing her with you?"
"We were invited, Gannon. If Colette can forgive, why canna you?"
"I love Jes like a sister, and so does Giselle. It won't be easy to forgive what you did to her, especially . . . especially seeing what's become of her."
Harmony is particularly interested in this conversation because of Rob's recent near-defection.
Fortunately what could have turned into a very awkward situation is saved when Mr. & Mrs. Roberts appear at the gate. Colette immediately engulfs them in an embrace.
"I'm so glad you're here! How could we christen one of the children without you? You've been like their grandparents ever since they were born. I can't wait for you to meet Diego's mother. She should be coming out with the children in a few minutes. Did you bring Kenzie along?"
"We wouldn't miss this occasion for anything, dear! Yes, I sent Kenzie in through the front door so she can relieve your mother-in-law."
"And here she is now! Mother Rodrigues, this is Mr. and Mrs. Roberts."
Mrs. Rodrigues and Mrs. Roberts find chairs near the dessert table and begin getting acquainted, while Mr. Roberts -- who has volunteered to tend bar -- takes his place behind the liquor table.
"Ayumi! I haven't seen you in forever! What a lovely outfit!"
"Domo arigato, Colette. This is my friend Takeo. He's the new manager of TEK Hotel."
Amazing. She's dating this Takeo, so suddenly she embraces her Asian heritage when she's never even mentioned it before?
Most of the guests have arrived, and the party is in full swing.
Cece and Darryl have an intimate conversation in a corner of the garden.
The guys make sure Diego doesn't burn the meat, while Angel circulates, taking photos of the party guests.
Kenzie brings the children outside and occupies them while the adults mingle.
Mrs. Roberts and Mrs. Rodrigues hit it off immediately.
Colette chats with Justice and Player in an effort to make them feel more involved.
It appears that Cece's and Darryl's conversation has just gone from intimate to inappropriate . . .
Let's hope Darryl's brother Darius isn't making an equally ill-advised suggestion.
As Rachel watches Francisco cross to the patio to fetch her a drink, she thinks how different this is from the last party she attended in this garden. That time her date was Lukas, who had completely bewitched her and was very nearly successful in binding her to him for eternity. She has Francisco to thank for her near escape.
It looks as if everyone is having a good time.
Colette, concerned about the sun, brings the baby's bonnet.
The party is going full swing when suddenly conversations begin to drop off as one by one, guests turn toward the gate in astonishment. Jes and her date have arrived.
They are dressed completely inappropriately for the occasion, and more than one of Jessy's friends is disturbed by the proprietary way Vasquez's arm drapes across her shoulder and drops so that his hand regularly brushes her breast.
Diego stiffens as he notes his brother's presence, and his eyes immediately seek out his mother.
He is relieved to see that her back is toward the gate and that she and Mrs. Roberts continue to be caught up in their conversation, unaware of the scene playing out at the gate.
His eyes return to Vasquez, who grins maliciously, knowing that Diego will not make a scene at his wife's party. After all, Jes is an invited guest, and he is her invited date. Diego's glare only intensifies the defiant smile on his brother's face.
Vasquez pushes his way toward the bar, Jes in tow. Mr. Roberts looks at Jessy's date in disapproval, but Vasquez simply smiles knowingly. Angel captures the dead look in her cousin's eyes with a quick photo.
Vasquez asks for two shots of tequila, which they toss down, then he grabs each of them a beer.
As the partygoers' attention gradually shifts away from Vasquez and Jes, he arrogantly leans against the wrought iron fence and surveys the crowd, his eyes seeking out the children.
Two people, however, continue to watch the couple, each for reasons of his or her own.
When Vasquez spots the children playing near the back gate his eyes narrow, focusing on the brown-skinned girl in the infant seat.
"Come, Jace. Eet ees time for my nieces to meet their Tio Vasquez."
Unfortunately at this moment Diego's and Thane's attention is diverted by a crisis at the grill. Kenzie is being introduced to Mrs. Rodrigues, and Colette is inside checking on something in the oven and is blissfully unaware of the drama beginning to unfold in the garden.
Vasquez tows a puzzled Jes through the crowd toward the children, who are so intent upon the croquet set that they are oblivious to the adults in the garden.
Vasquez pauses to set down his beer on the garden wall as he stares down at the three Rodrigues girls.
A slight frown creases his forehead as he compares the middle child, Hope, with the others. Her blonde hair, blue eyes and fair complexion momentarily divert his attention from his primary purpose. Jes, meanwhile, is painfully distracted by the obvious devotion of Francisco to his Rachel.
With a nearly imperceptible shake of his head, Vasquez focuses on the baby, cooing in her infant seat. A fleeting smile, almost tender, crosses his face. Surreptitiously he looks around from behind lowered lids, and suddenly, with a swiftness born of his many years on the streets, he snatches up the infant seat and bolts through the nearby gate into the woods beyond, dragging a protesting Jes behind him.
To be continued . . .