Sunday afternoon, they pulled up to Maddie's house for dinner and noticed something unusual. Jesse's Porche, Sam's Caddy, Madeline's Camry, and one more car.
A rental car.
"Fi, isn't that the rental car your mom was driving?"
"She was supposed to go home with Sean after the wedding."
"I know. I booked the round trip tickets."
"Sooo..." Michael has the tense, worried look on his face that pops up when a job starts to go wrong.
Fi doesn't have anything to offer him; she's just as much in the dark as he is. "I guess we'll find out in a few minutes."
They enter and see Katherine in the kitchen, mixing something up. Buttery, cabbagy scents, warm, heavy, and for Fi, comforting, creep through the house.
Fi kisses her mother's cheek. "Hello, Ma. Shepard's pie?"
"Indeed, luv." She nods toward the counter. "And soda bread. You're looking peeky, and need to put some more weight on. If anything will do that, this will."
And it's true, a diet of her mum's cooking will keep anyone who doesn't exercise intensely every day fairly plump. Low carb and low fat are two terms Katherine Glenanne has never run into and would find deeply insulting. Between growing up dirt poor during the war and post-war years, and her family's history with the famine, food in her home is always rich, satisfying, and abundant.
Sam comes in, inhales deeply, and walks over to Katherine, pecking her on the cheek. "Katie, darlin'." Fi's eyes go wide at the idea that Sam's managed to charm her mom. "That smells delicious."
"Thank you, Sam." He reaches out a finger to taste the bowl of whipped potatoes. Katherine gently whacks his hand with the back of the spoon. "You'll be tastin' it soon enough."
"Yes, Ma'am! I'll go say hi to Jesse and Maddie."
Michael gets a glass of iced tea, holding out the pitcher to both of the ladies. Fi nods, and he pours for her. Katherine looks at the glass of lemonade, mostly full, next to the stove, and he gets the message that she doesn't need a refill.
"So, Ma, not to be rude, but what are you still doing here?"
Fi rolls her eyes, suddenly feeling fifteen again. Her mother would never give an enlightening answer when a not terribly informative but blatantly obvious one would do. "I can see that. I thought you were going back to Ireland."
"I thought I was, too. But you're right, I like the sunshine. And I like the company. Maddie offered to let me stay here as long as I liked, and at least for now, that sounds splendid."
The part Katherine left out was the rather long conversation the day after the wedding between her, Madeline, Sam, and Elsa about how to convince Mike and Fi that running away was a bad idea. She'd been happily recruited into the plan to keep Mike and Fi in Miami, and if that meant moving there for the time being, or longer possibly, then she was game.
Babies are hard enough with your family to support you. On your own, it's nerve-wracking, so anything she could do to help tie them to Miami, she was willing to do. And though she hadn't mentioned it to any of the others, she missed babies. Toddlers and young children she could take or leave, but babies she adored, and right now, the rest of her grandchildren range in age from four to thirty-three.
"So, you're staying, just like that?"
"I'm stayin'. Your brothers and their wives will muddle along without me for the time bein'. Sam agreed to help me get my visa straightened away. That man must be part Irish; he's got friends smilin' at him on every corner of the earth."
"To say the least."
"Now, off with you two. I've got to get this set, and you know I hate cookin' with people underfoot."
Much later that night, after dinner was finished, Sam pulled out a manila folder. He'd been put in charge of setting up Michael and Fi's new identities for wherever they were going next. "Are you really sure you want to do this? If you stay here, we've all got your back, and you've got the home court advantage."
"If we stay here, everyone knows where we are," Michael answered.
"True. I still think this is a bad idea." Maddie and Katherine had decided that letting Sam do the majority of the talking about why them running was a bad idea was a good plan. If they spent too much time talking about it, it was just two moms getting upset. If Sam talked about it, it had the weight of "good tactics" behind it.
"I know, Sam. We're not loving it, either."
"Fine." Sam handed them their new IDs. Jesse looked over Fi's shoulder and snorted a laugh. "Brad and Angelina Smith? Really, Sam?"
"Hey, I had to have some fun with this. I'm rewriting my best-friends lives and history."
Michael looked at him with a question on his face.
"Dude, you have never seen a movie, have you?" Jesse shakes his head. "You're Mr. and Mrs. Smith."
Michael still doesn't get it, but it looks like Fi is remembering something.
"Sam? What have you done?"
"Just christened you with a name befitting of your talents and exploits."
"You know, you look a little like her," Jesse says. "Not like anyone would mistake you for sisters, but you've got a similar bone structure, and hair."
After Mike and Fi left, Maddie and Katherine stared down Sam.
"You call that sellin' them on stayin'?"
"No, I call that planting the idea. Look, ladies, a spooked Mike is a delicate thing to handle. You've got to hit him with the idea just right, and make sure it sits in the back of his head until he thinks he came up with the idea in the first place. Don't worry, over the next week or two, I'll keep subtly mentioning about how useful it is to have a lot of people watching your back, and sooner or later he'll have an epiphany moment, and all will be well."
"You're sure, Sam?"
"Maddie, don't worry. I've got a few things in the works. Tomorrow or the next day one of the ladies at the Carlito is going to tell him that someone's been looking for him. In another few days someone else is going to give him a gentle warning about someone tailing him. It won't be for anything bad. I've got a buddy who needs a hand, and this'll just help set the scene that there are people out there who will help Mike if he stays here. Trust me, this time next week, week after at the latest, and he'll be sold on the idea that they've got to stay."