"What else did she say?" I asked.
"That was it. She probably didn't want to say much because, you know, she assumed I would tell you guys, and our group is always so..."
"Caring?" I piped in.
"I was going to say nosy."
"We're only nosy because we care," I said.
"I think we do a pretty good job of looking out for each other."
"Yes, we do," Christy agreed.
A little more than a year ago, five of us friends unexpectedly formed a group and named ourselves "Daughters of Eve" or "DOEs." We liked the connection to the way Aslan called Susan and Lucy "Daughters of Eve" in the Narnia tales. More than that, the name fit because we could all relate to Eve in some way. My connection was that Eve didn't have a mother to help her figure out how to raise her children.
Recently our group had migrated to another term we liked. It fit all of us, whether single or married. We called ourselves haven makers because we saw ourselves as being a haven for each other.
"I wish all the DOEs could have come tonight. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to invite our husbands." I glanced around Christy's quiet downstairs. "Speaking of which, where're Todd and your kids?"
"They left almost an hour ago. When Todd heard Emily wasn't coming and no one was bringing dessert, he decided we needed ice cream. Of course, as soon as the kids heard him say ice cream, they ran to the car."
I lifted one of the two large pans of lasagna from the basket and folded back the foil. "Do you think we should put this in the oven?"
"Oh, that smells good." Christy pulled back her long nutmeg-brown hair and leaned in for a sniff. "I feel bad that you and Joel made so much, and now it's only the four of us."
"You won't feel bad and neither will I when we have leftovers for days. This is GiGi's recipe, so we had to make a lot. I don't think any of my mother-in-law's recipes come with ingredient proportions for under twelve people."
Just then the door to the garage opened, and Todd entered with Joel, along with seven-year-old Hana and four-year-old Cole. Cole had telltale signs of chocolate ice cream circling his contented smile.
Hana, their affectionate little blond cutie, dashed over and gave me a big hug. "We got vanilla bean and chocolate chip for you guys."
"And what flavor did you get?" I asked Hana.
"I got a strawberry cone, Cole got chocolate, and Daddy got a mango shake."
"Kid's size all around," Todd said before sliding two containers of ice cream into the freezer.
I watched as he gave Christy a chin-up grin in response to being busted for treating the kids to dessert before dinner. Her response was to lower her chin and offer a close-lipped grin in return. If she was mad at him for his parenting choice, it didn't show. I saw nothing but a field of love between the two of them.
Their exchange intrigued me because if Joel had done that with our kids, I might not have said something, but I probably would have been shooting messages his way with scolding looks. I had to admit, Todd looked pretty happy that he had scored points with his kids. Christy's quiet response seemed to infuse the noisy kitchen with a special sort of peace.
Todd's attention had turned to the pan of lasagna on the counter. "Whoa! Look at this beast!"
Joel laughed. "If we ever add my mom's lasagna to the menu at the restaurant, someone remind me to call it 'The Beast.' "
Christy pulled the warmed baguettes from the oven, and we all joined hands around the counter to pray, as was the Spencer family tradition. It felt so good to be with friends. To be holding hands with Hana and my husband and to feel connected. Included.
I realized it was the first time that day I hadn't felt painfully alone.