“Why did your father forbid you to see Aloise?” Manny’s mother asked.
“You probably know more than I do?” Manny answered. “What happened that split our family in half?”
Mom glanced nervously at Aloise, as if calculating how much to share with her. “Maybe we should sit down.” She sat at one corner of the sofa and Aloise boldly sat near the middle, facing her new mother-in-law.
Manny pulled up a chair from the little kitchen table and sat facing them so that they formed a triangle and able to communicate without craning their necks. Although still half dressed and counting the minutes for his mother to leave so he could be alone with his bride, this conversation needed to happen.
“Well, um, your father and his oldest brother never had a great relationship to begin with.” Mother twisted her hands in her lap, pulling at the bottom hem of her shirt. “Uncle Liam did and said a few things that were very offensive and started a heated argument which never fully recovered.
“When Grandpa Levi died, the brothers fought over the family’s fortune and who should run the shipping company in particular. David Ashish sided with Uncle Liam and Uncle Lyle, and they”—she glanced at Aloise— “weren’t very nice to the rest of the family.”
“What do you mean by ‘weren’t very nice’?” Aloise asked.
“Uh… they kind of… sabotaged the business,” Mom answered. “And made death threats. And then Grandma Sarah sold all her shares to your Uncle Nicholas, giving him a majority control.
“Liam and Lyle thought that they should wait for Grandma to die and have her shares divided evenly among the brothers. They were furious. Heated words were exchanged, sides were chosen, more threats were made. They accused us of stealing. We accused them of sabotage. Things got very ugly.”
“So, what happened?” Manny asked, leaning forward, engaged in the story.
“They finally dissolved the company, liquidated all the assets, and went their separate ways.” Mom shrugged. “But everyone left angry with each other. That was the year your father and I moved as far away from Cancun as possible. Apparently, we didn’t move far enough.” She glanced at Aloise.
Manny took his wife’s hand and offered her a soft smile. Although he couldn’t take his eyes off Aloise, he spoke to his mother. “I promised I’d explain why I needed my birth certificate.”
“I kind of figured it out when I started getting phone calls this morning from friends saying they heard it from someone else who heard it from someone else that you got married yesterday.”
“Yeah, we probably should have driven up to Rogers City or something before shopping. Everybody knows me in this town.”
“And no one knows her,” Mom said. “You should realize an out-of-towner stands out like a sore thumb. Especially such a beautiful woman.”
“Thank you.” Aloise ducked her head and bit her lower lip.
“I agree with her beauty.” Manny winked and then turned back to his mom. “Mom, I want you to know that her beauty is not what made me want to marry her. I’m not that shallow.”
“Why did you marry her?”
“We both felt compelled to get married,” Manny said. “Like it was the most important thing we needed to do for some reason we didn’t understand.”
“I’m not sure I believe in love at first sight,” Aloise said. “I’m pretty sure we’re not actually in love yet. We just had this magnetic attraction we couldn’t explain, like we were meant to be together. And it seemed imperative that we get married immediately.”
“I understand the attraction at first sight thing,” Mom said, relaxing a little. “Your father saw me from twenty feet away and he made a fool of himself drooling over me.”
“He’s still a fool for you, Mom.” Manny loved his parents and their relationship was inspiring.
“By the way”—Mom turned to Aloise— “You look so much like your mother. She was the most beautiful woman any of us had ever seen. I truly wish we could have met under better circumstances because I would have loved to meet the woman she is deep down.”
“Maybe you’ll have that chance now that your son is married to her daughter,” Aloise said with a soft smile.
“I’d like that.” Mom returned her smile.
Manny had a peaceful feeling in his heart that his wife and his mother were going to be fast friends. Now to convince his father.