Michael coughed into his sleeve as the scent of burning flour singed his nose. He spotted Fiona at the oven as she threw it open and a plume of black smoke filled the room; she cursed in Gaelic and pitched a tin of what was once brownies onto the counter.
He raised an eyebrow. “Experimenting with nuclear fusion?”
She rolled her eyes. “Your oven runs twelve degrees higher than it should.” She was clearly angry with Michael for knowing nothing about it.
“I’ll let Julia Child know,” he said, heading off to the bathroom. “Do you need a shower?”
“I will in four hours,” she replied, turning toward the stove and kicking it. “You said your mother likes chocolate?”
“Loves it,” Michael declared. He decided to forego the shower and toss on a tie for his mother’s party instead. “I bought her a case of her favorite cigarettes and one of her Snowbaby Figurines.”
Fi shot a look at him. “Please tell me it’s not the one with the little baby fishing in the ice lake…”
“…pulling up the goldfish stuck in an ice cube?”
Fiona raised an eyebrow. “You can burn yours - I’m giving her mine…Must you wear that ugly tie?”
“I must. Ma gave it to me.” A knock at the door disturbed their conversation, and Michael grabbed the door and yanked it open.
“Hey,” Sam said, entering the loft with a carefully-wrapped package and a case of beer. “I brought the booze…whoa, nice tie, Mike.”
Fiona’s smug expression was ignored. “Of course,” Fiona said, turning back to her cake mix with a mutter.
“What did you get her, Sam?” Michael asked.
“One of those Snow Babies she always talks about. There was a really cute one at this gift shop down on Alameda – I picked the one of the kid fishing…”
“God,” Fiona groaned, slamming her spoon into the mix. “Please don’t tell me we’re out of eggs.”
“You wanted egg white omelets this morning,” Michael points out unhelpfully, earning him a glare.
“I installed a new GPS in the Charger this morning,” she said, tossing him the keys. “Use it to find a market with some decent produce.”
Michael mock-saluted her and headed toward the door, only to have Jesse throw it open. “Hey – Mike.” He paused and smirked. “Nice tie.”
“Please tell me you didn’t get her a Snow Baby,” Michael begged.
Jesse held out four tickets triumphantly. “Nope - tickets to a play at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre.”
“Have fun in Hollywood, Brother,” Sam teased. “Hey Fi, lemme help you out with that…”
Jesse eyed the group. Sam and Fiona argued over a steaming bowl of brownie batter. Michael’s tie was blinding, his pit stains growing. Three identically-sized packages sat, waiting for Maddie to open them.
“Are you guys like this every year?”
“Uh huh.” Michael grimaced, pulled off his sunglasses, and popped a nearby balloon.