"This is very good," said Luka, through a mouthful of bacon. "I can see where Dave learned his cooking skills."
"I'm glad you like it," said Florence, "Eat up, there's plenty more."
"Have you two got any plans for the day?" asked Ricardo, from behind the morning paper.
Dave shrugged. "Not really, thought we might go for a walk later. You know, show Luka all my old haunts."
"Hmm," grunted Ricardo, "Well take it easy. Remember this is a small town. Word gets around fast." He returned to his paper.
Luka looked at Dave, puzzled. Dave shook his head, and mouthed the word 'later'.
"Let me get those," said Luka, as Florence started to clear the table.
"I can manage," she said, smiling.
"Please, I insist," said Luka, taking the plates and stacking them in the sink.
"Suck up," hissed Dave, as Luka came back to the table for more.
"Such a well mannered young man," said Florence, smiling as Luka began the washing up. "I don't hear you volunteering to wash the dishes, Dave."
Dave rolled his eyes. "Bit difficult with this leg Mom. I mean I'm supposed to rest it."
"And what was your excuse the last time you were here? You didn't have a broken ankle then."
"She's got you there Dave," said Luka, with his hands in the sink. Dave stuck his tongue out at him, and received a light slap on the head from Florence.
"Ouch," he said indignantly.
"Mind your manners, young man. You're not too old to be grounded, at least while you're staying here." There was a smile on Florence's face as she was saying this.
"Sorry mom," said Dave.
"So what did your father mean?" asked Luka, as he watched Dave change his clothes. "What he said about it being a small town."
Dave sighed as he pulled on a sweatshirt. "In his own subtle way, he was trying to warn us."
"This is a small place Luka. Small places can mean small minds. Not everyone's gonna be as accepting as my folks were. Dad just doesn't want us to run into any trouble."
Luka was starting to look a bit apprehensive.
"It's not that bad," said Dave, trying to reassure him. "I mean we're not going to get tarred and feathered just cause we're walking around together. But we should probably keep our hands to ourselves, you know, at least while we're in public."
"I understand," said Luka, nodding. "I will try to keep my hands off you, but it will be hard."
"I'm sure it will," replied Dave, with a smirk. "But we can remedy that later."
"You are disgusting," said Luka, as he grabbed Dave and pulled him onto his lap. "But I love you for it." He gave Dave a slow lingering kiss on the lips.
When he came up for air, Dave said, "Maybe we should forget about the walk, and just stay here?"
Luka shook his head, "You need to get some exercise," he said. Dave was about to say something, but Luka continued, "Not that type of exercise. That'll have to wait until tonight. Come, let us see what sort of place produced such a person like you."
The walk proved uneventful. Luka refused to let Dave over-exert himself, so they had to miss out on seeing some of the more distant sights.
"Uh-oh," said Dave, as they were on the way home.
"What's wrong?" asked Luka, "Is your ankle troubling you."
Dave shook his head. "That woman coming towards us. She's one of my teachers from high school. She's also one of the biggest gossips in the town and she's never liked my family. Shit, she's seen us."
Dave put on a big smile as the woman approached. "Mrs. Hale," he said. "Long time no see."
The woman stared at him for a few seconds before a gleam of recognition appeared on her face. "David Malucci, Josephine and Florence's youngest brother. I hardly recognized you. What happened to your ankle?"
"I broke it climbing in a window," replied Dave.
Mrs. Hale snorted, "Breaking and entering, no doubt," she thought to herself. She had never liked the Malucci's. Troublemakers the lot of them, always loud and disruptive. Out loud, she said, "And who is your friend?"
"Oh, this is Luka Kovac. We work together in Chicago."
"I am very pleased to meet you, Mrs. Hale," said Luka, taking her hand.
"Hmm," said Mrs. Hale. "And what do you both work at?"
"We're ER doctors in County General," said Dave, with only a trace of smugness. He knew that Mrs. Hale hadn't expected any of his family to amount to much, and he was pleased to see her jaw drop. "Luka had a few days off and he drove me home so I wouldn't have to struggle on the bus."
"I see," said Mrs. Hale. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I must be going." She hurried off, thinking that if she ever needed a doctor in Chicago, she was definitely not going to go to County. Not if young tearaways like David Malucci were working there.
"Bitch," said Dave, once she was out of earshot. "She used to send kids to the headmaster for the least thing."
"So what did you do to her?" asked Luka.
"All I did was write 'plough me please' in the dust on her car. Josie was the one who put the worms in her desk."
"Why? No, I don't want to hear about it," said Luka grinning. "Come, it is time you were getting home."
A few hours later, Dave and Luka were watching TV and eating popcorn. At least Luka was eating popcorn; Dave was throwing it in the air and trying to catch it in his mouth.
"Your mother isn't going to be very happy with you," said Luka, indicating the heap of missed corns that were scattered on the floor.
Dave shrugged, "I'll just tell her that you dropped them. You're a guest, she won't mind."
"Evening all," said Ricardo, as he walked into the living room.
Dave quickly removed his uninjured foot from the coffee table and his hand from Luka's knee. "Hi Dad, how was work."
"I tell you Dave, if I'd known how much paperwork was involved in running my own garage, I'd have stuck to being a plain old mechanic."
"Yeah right Dad," said Dave, grinning. To Luka, he said, "He's been saying the same thing for the last ten years. He loves it really."
Luka smiled and took another handful of popcorn.
"So Luka," said Ricardo with studied casualness. "How'd you like to come out to the garage and have a look at my car?"
Luka gulped and choked as his popcorn went down the wrong way.
"Luka?" said Dave, with concern, as he saw Luka struggling to breathe. "Easy there, try to relax your muscles." He gently rubbed Luka's back and then lightly hit him between the shoulder blades. The kernel dislodged and Luka spat it out into his hand.
"You okay there, Luka?" asked Dave, continuing to rub his back, oblivious to his father's scrutiny.
"I am fine, Dave," said Luka, taking a long gulp of water. "Ahh, that is better."
Turning to Ricardo who had been watching the whole proceedings with interest, he said, "Yes, I will come out to the garage with you."
Ricardo nodded. "Take your time," he said, walking out of the room. "I'll be there for the next half hour or so."
Luka turned to Dave, a look of apprehension in his eyes. "So, what do you think he will ask me?" he asked nervously.
Dave shrugged, "Hard to say. He asked one of Josie's boyfriends how fast he could run. Course that was when she was in her 'biker chick' phase. Don't worry."
"That is easy for you to say. What if he tells me he doesn't approve of me?"
"If Dad disapproved of you, then you'd know it. Kat's first boyfriend didn't even get inside the door. Dad took one look at him and started counting tattoos and piercings. And I know you don't have any of those; unless you want me to check again?"
Luka smiled, as Dave's hand moved further up his leg. Gently removing it, he stood up.
"If I'm not back in half-an-hour, send a search party," he smiled, then walked out the door.
to be continued