The Twelve Tables Ch. 23

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Authors Note: Thank you to everyone left comments or sent me feedback about previous chapters of this story. Thank you again to Margaret who proofread for me. ~ellie

Peri found it hard to relax during the Christmas day breakfast and the Giving Tree ceremony where Joseph and Antonia showered all of the children with presents. She knew that being Josh’s wife would make her the mother of the table once he had taken the chair but she had thought it very much removed from the table itself. Her experience that morning had shocked and scared her. She desperately needed some time alone to think about what it all meant.

It wasn’t until midmorning once the wives had had a chance to talk to their husbands that Peri began getting strange looks, and she could see small groups forming to talk quietly as their children played. She could see it happening, but she had no idea what to do about it. She sat on the blanket nursing her beautiful babies while they were awake and talking to Andie, who had joined her as the men all ran around with the children. She could see Josh in the distance with BJ in his arms as they spoke seriously.

“I think that’s enough of the summer sun for these little ones,” Peri said quietly to the nannies. “I need to relieve the tightness as well.” She said placing a hand on her chest.

“I’ll come,” Andie said happily. “I still can’t believe I’m a granny,” she laughed getting to her feet.

“You certainly don’t look like a Granny. I think we will have to invent another name for you,” Peri laughed.

“Oh I don’t know Granny Anny sounds cute, doesn’t it?” Andie asked and grinned as she looked around to make sure Josh had seen them making a move toward the cottage.

They had walked half way back when Josh wrapped his arm around Peri’s waist and smiled as she jumped in surprise. “Have I told you how wonderful you look today?”

“At least twice,” Peri laughed.

“Well I’d say more but your mum’s watching us,” he chuckled.

“Don’t mind me,” Andie laughed. “I can give you two some time alone if you like.”

“I plan to abduct her for an hour or two once she has expressed what she needs so I can wait,” Josh said easily. “Did you enjoy the concert?” he asked making small talk as they entered the cottage.

“Oh, it was wonderful. You have such a beautiful voice, Josh,” Andie enthused. “I won’t stay, though. Come and find me when you return Peri, I love being able to spend the holidays with you.” She embraced her daughter and left the young couple alone.

“I know you,” Josh said pulling a wooden rocking chair over to where Peri sat in the recliner and taking her hand. “I know you have questions and will be looking to find a place where you can be alone with those questions and thoughts today.”

“Yes,” she nodded, “You do know me.” She smiled softly at him and looked over to where Bridgette, Heather, and Madeline changed the babies and patted them back to sleep. As if content to sit in silence for a moment Josh leaned back and closed his eyes.

“You can’t have time alone while we are here, but we may have come up with something we can all live with that will give you a little of what you need,” he said quietly.

“I knew that I would have to take on much of what Antonia did when you became the Donati Chair, but you should have warned me about this morning,” she just as softly.

“I didn’t know,” he replied defensively. “I realise that what I knew about the table and our family as a whole is barely a drop in the ocean. We accepted this weeks ago without understanding what it fully entailed. Not just D. and me but you accepted this.” He reminded her.

“It’s just that back then and even right up until I was in there sitting at that table, it was all about you; what I could do to help you grab hold of your dreams. You would be the Chair, and Dante would be your right-hand man, and I would just go on with my life, the babies, and the books at work. I don’t want the attention of this morning. I don’t know anything about what happens in there with you men and…” she took a deep breath and looked at him with a scowl as he tried to hide his smile.

“I love you,” he said helplessly unable to take her in his arms while she was expressing. “I love every single thing about you. Especially the way your crazy mind works.”

“I’d be upset by that, except I must have been crazy to marry you,” she continued to scowl, but it was softened by the look of love in her eyes.

“Hey, you proposed to me remember?” Josh said. “And you rushed me into a shotgun wedding if I remember it rightly,” he chuckled.

“Oh God, I did didn’t I? What on earth was I thinking?” she lamented but smiled as he continued to chuckle. She felt better already about this morning with this few minutes alone with him.

She spent barely five minutes of this precious time she had alone with Josh on each breast before stopping the pump. She knew there was an expectation on her now and while the other men’s positions Escort bayan may not be discussed in detail everyone would know by now that he was to be the new chair and she, as his wife, the mother of the next table. She knew she couldn’t run away to a safe place just to think about what had occurred today without Josh saying it, but it didn’t stop her wishing for it.

“Anyone home?” Dante’s voice called as she and Josh were in the bedroom. Peri had been trying to repair her small amount of makeup after sitting in the hot summer sun and tie her hair up while Josh stood behind her teasing her and suggesting a little more alone time wouldn’t hurt them.

“In here,” Josh called back grinning at Peri in the mirror. “You were right someone did come looking for us.”

“Soccer match,” Dante announced throwing some jerseys and shorts on the bed. He began removing his belt and loosening his jeans as he walked into the bedroom. “The new twelve versus the old men and the oldest of our nephews.

“Great,” Josh laughed as he too began to undress. Peri turned from the mirror to watch the two men that she loved with a smile. She remembered a time when she couldn’t believe that Josh would look at her twice, even turn down Andie’s advances in favour of spending an evening with her. Watching the handsome brothers now as they began excited about a family soccer match, she marvelled at how her life had changed in less than two years.

“What’s this?” Peri asked seeing a velvet box slip from the pocket of Dante’s jeans as he threw them on the bed. Dante looked at Josh. He had wanted to tell her the truth about the rings, but they weren’t sure how she would take the idea of being watched so closely.

“A gift for the three of us,” Dante said. “You can open it,” he encouraged.

“They’re beautiful,” she said. “Who is it from?”

“Papa, he gave them to us after the new table was formed this morning,” Dante said carefully, and she turned to look at him.

“Is there something wrong with them?” She frowned and watched as Dante looked at Josh again.

“They’re trackers,” Josh said. “I know it’s all been a little more than you’ve had time to take in, but we can’t have anything like what happened at the Battaglia happen again. No one is going to watch us day in and day out as we hang out at home, but if your car breaks down or the plane we’re on makes an emergency landing then they find us quicker.”

“That’s a good thing,” Peri said without flinching. “I’ll wear mine if you both wear yours.” She took the beautiful ring from the box and slipped it on her finger holding out the box to the two men who seemed stunned by her response. “What? You both drive like maniacs and Josh wants to learn to fly. I like the idea of someone keeping tabs on you two for me.”

“Well, that went better than I thought,” Dante chuckled and picked up a ring tried it on, then passed it to Josh. “How big are your fingers?” he questioned with a laugh.

“I’m big all over. Just ask Peri,” he smirked and grabbed his crotch.

“I’m not playing this game,” she laughed.

“Yeah we can play that game tonight,” Dante chuckled and pulled her into his arms kissing her deeply. “But first we men must battle on the soccer field,” he turned to Josh, “I guess you can come along too, Wah-wah.” He chuckled releasing Peri and pulling his jersey over his head.

They left the cottage still laughing together and headed to the now cleared space in front of the house. It seemed that most of the women had disappeared from the crowd, and Peri approached Rosanna who lectured her husband about not getting too competitive with his brothers this year as they were all on the same team.

“Wonderful your back!” Rosanna said happily as Peri walked toward her. “Let’s let the kids play. We have plans to make.” She linked arms with Peri and walked her back into the house.

“Plans?” Peri asked worriedly.

“Of course,” Rosanna laughed. “You don’t think you have to put together holidays like this by yourself do you? Josh has his team, and you have yours. We all help Antonia. You’ve had a busy year, so we haven’t made you get involved yet, but the other girls and I have been doing it for years.” The walked into the house together and found the ladies in the living room.

Peri sat amongst the other wives of both the older members of the table as well as the newly formed table and let them talk around and over her. She listened for almost an hour taking it all in and making notes on a notebook she had been given that matched those that the other women held. She had been overwhelmed at first and during each lull in the conversation, she could see them all looking at her as if judging her ability to take on the role that Antonia had held for so long.

“If I could interrupt all of your wonderful plans,” Peri said quietly making everyone turn to look at her. “It would seem very clear to me that Antonia and Joseph won’t be retiring their positions for some years yet and Bayan escort while we have the wealth of knowledge she and the other ladies possess at our fingertips I would think we should take advantage of it. I for one am in no hurry to change decades of tradition, and though in time we may make changes, we have time to adjust to the idea of their retirement and see what works for the new generation.”

“Dear Peri,” Carmen said patronisingly, “That’s very sweet of you, and I’m sure Antonia appreciates it, but perhaps you should let us handle things for you. You are very new to the family and our ways. We,” she indicated Emily and Rosanna, who sat either side of her, “Have all grown up knowing what needs to be done and are more than capable of taking over.”

“I would love to maintain the Christmas Eve concert here,” Rosanna admitted looking at Carmen and then at Antonia. “I’m inclined to agree that there is no need to change things that have become a tradition immediately.”

“I’m new to this family, and it’s traditions, so is Tina and Margarite when she joins us. I think taking some time to get to know each other better and find the best way forward is a good idea,” Finola said quietly. “This is such a great way to spend Christmas, especially for all of the children and I would be happy to work with Rosanna to keep it a tradition if Antonia and Peri would let us take on some of the responsibility.”

“Perhaps we should give the girl more than half a day before beginning to tell her what we think she should do, Carmen. I’m sure she already has commitments that she must continue to address regardless of what has happened this morning,” Manuel’s wife Concetta pursed her lips and gave Carmen a hard look.

“I guess the first thing on my agenda this year is a christening for the babies which could be combined with a housewarming party. It might be a good way to introduce some of the extended family to our home and the up and coming table members. I have already asked Lucia to help me begin planning for that,” she smiled at her sister-in-law.

“They will be six months old on Saint Joesph’s Day,” Lucia said tentatively. “That would give us three months to plan, or close enough.

“It might be nice if Emily and Bianca would like to share the day with us and we could christen all the babies who arrived last year together. Maybe even ask Margarite,” Peri asked hopefully. “It might be a nice show of solidarity for the leaders of this family to host the first family event together. Josh may have the chair, but each of your husbands sits on the table with him. No one leads such a big family alone.”

“Jules will have to leave after the New Year, but I wouldn’t mind staying while he sets up the house for us there. It won’t hurt to ask him at least. I was wondering how I would organise the christening before we left. Even if we had to come back for it, it would take a load off my plate if we could share the day,” Bianca said.

“It would save on having to attend three different ceremonies if we can all work together,” Emily said thoughtfully. “I would have to check with Ben, but I’m open to the idea.” Her expression though told a different story.

“Lucy do you want to co-ordinate that? I can call Margarite if you like but if we decide to do it together, then we’ll need someone to organise a meeting or two and bring everything each of us wants together,” Peri asked. “If it doesn’t work out that way you and I can get together and plan it for just my babies. I like the date you suggested so let’s aim for that.”

“Sounds good,” Lucia said with a smile. “Honestly, I’m happy to do anything at this point. I’m just glad that Dino is part of the table, and I don’t have to move to Canberra for good.”

“As far as the rest of my commitments go, there are a few things I’d like to say. I’ve listened to you all talk about your charity work, and I think that is wonderful, but I have preferences for the organisations I would like to support. I don’t want to intrude on any of your spaces, or stop you from any philanthropic pursuit. You are all amazing women individually. We don’t have to share everything nor do we have to do or like the same things all of the time. I believe you all have the family’s best interests at heart. I know I do, so I would appreciate it if you give me some time to take this all in before making any decisions.” Peri didn’t want to put anyone offside, but she also didn’t want to be pushed into anything else until she knew the full ramifications of it. She was dealing with enough already that she hadn’t fully wrapped her head around yet.

“I don’t think you…” Carmen began to speak, but Marisol cut her off.

“Well I for one appreciate not being written off yet,” Marisol said with a laugh. The seven younger women looked embarrassed as Antonia began to speak.

“It’s good to see such enthusiasm from you all. The next few years will be fun and much easier for us with the shared load. Peri is right to be cautious, too many Escort changes too quickly can cause people to become unsettled, and that will make your husband’s jobs harder,” Antonia smiled adding to the younger women’s discomfort.

“I need to see to the lunch baskets,” Antonia said. “Peri you can come and help me and start taking in my wealth of knowledge,” she gave a short laugh. “Perhaps you ladies would like to take the time to find out just how clever your aunts are?”

They walked through the house side by side to the busy kitchen. “Everything under control here?” Antonia asked.

“Absolutely,” a smiling woman with rosy cheeks laughed. “The lunch baskets are ready to go and Christmas dinner is looking good for a seven thirty start. This basket is for you,” she indicated a large basket.

“That’s the first lesson, have the best people in key positions,” Antonia said, “I’d be lost without Alice.”

They continued through the kitchen and back around to where Antonia and Josephs private suite of rooms lay. Saying nothing she led Peri through to a side room and up a series of stairs to a small cosy room with wide French doors that led onto a small balcony. Alice had followed them with the basket and left it on the small table in the room before leaving discreetly and closing the door behind her.

“This is my little haven,” she smiled and opened the doors stepping out onto the balcony. The balcony was shielded from the front, and rear yards by trees and seemed particularly private.

“This is so lovely, I wish I had a space like this at home,” Peri whispered.

“Then you tell those men what you need, for you, not for them or the family. It’s too easy to get so caught up in everything the family needs and that you forget what you need. Especially when the children are young,” Antonia said.

“Joshua says the way you come to terms with things is by taking the time to think and ask questions. I have seen that you don’t act rashly or over dramatise situations, but you will have to address the issue with Carmen before it gets out of hand. She will continue to try and undermine you if you don’t confront her and put her in her place. Don’t let the men interfere on your behalf; this must come from you, and it needs to be soon. Tomorrow if not today.” Antonia advised.

Antonia said nothing else going back inside and beginning to unpack the basket laying it out on the small low table and pouring them both a glass of pale pink rose. Peri joined her, and the silence stretched out punctuated only by the sounds of eating and drinking until after some time Peri began to let all her anxiety bubble out as questions. They talked long into the afternoon with Antonia being impressed with how perceptive Peri was for a woman who had not grown up with their laws and traditions.

Peri realised that Antonia said very little to answer her questions letting her work through what she knew or felt she knew. She confirmed some points and corrected others when necessary but didn’t give her a great deal of information beyond that. Antonia knew from her time taking over the organisation of such a large family that Peri needed to find her own way and that she was intelligent and well equipped to lead if she could just believe in her abilities.

Peri knew what she needed to do before they all left after the boxing day celebrations tomorrow and she had a small idea growing about how she could achieve it. They had moved part of the way through the afternoon to the small living room in Antonia’s suite so that Peri could feed her babies as they continued to sit in the comfortable silence. She could ask the questions that sprung to mind as she worked through the changes that were occurring not just for her but for the whole family.

“Madeline, could you see if you can find Emily Donati and ask her if she and Timo would like to come and visit with us while the babies are so wide awake?” Peri asked. “Carmen is welcome as well if they are together.”

“I’ll go,” Antonia suggested seeing the wheels of Peri’s mind putting all her thoughts into action. “I need to stretch my old legs.

Peri was surprised when less than ten minutes later Emily and Carmen walked into the small living room. She smiled warmly.

“Look, Blaze, there’s your cousin Timo,” Peri said as the baby in her arms turned his head at the movement and noise of the women entering.

“I can’t believe you’re still feeding them all,” Emily shook her head. “I gave up after three months when I had the twins. This little guy needs all the antibodies he can get, though,” she jostled the gurgling Timo.

“My milk’s supplemented now,” Peri admitted. “I was turning into a zombie, and Josh pointed out that he was feeling neglected.”

“They’re just big babies too at heart,” Emily agreed. “Ben made me promise this was the last one.”

“Emily, I’m sorry if I put you on the spot this morning with the christening idea. It’s just that I always thought that you would be… ” she considered her words. “Well that you and Ben would be the next Mama and Papa, and I guess I could use your help.” Emily seemed surprised by Peri’s honesty. “I’m sorry.” She said again watching as both women looked at her not hiding their surprise.

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