JP made a gesture for Shane to follow them. Shane was about to do just that when JP asked, “Did you know this was a fix-up? Or did Jean spring it on you?”
“I knew.” Shane appeared shy. “I don’t mind. Jean seems nice.”
“She is nice.” JP smiled. “But I’m biased.”
Before they entered the winery, Shane asked, “Do you like wine?”
“I like beer. But, I’ll drink wine.”
“Beer. That’s what I would enjoy. Are there beer festivals around?”
“I’m sure there are. BJ’s has them. I can let you know when one hits.” JP opened the door to the tasting room.
“Cool. Thanks.” Shane smiled at him and entered the dim tasting room.
JP had a look around. Racks of bottles were stacked from floor to ceiling and a bar had been set up with glasses, cheese, crackers, and nuts.
The thought of drinking booze right after breakfast wasn’t appealing, but maybe it was his fault for waking up late.
Jean waved him closer to the tour guide who was explaining the selection they were going to taste.
He sat on a high stool, allowing Shane to sit beside his sister, and took a handful of nuts to munch on.
“…and you may taste a hint of peach and allspice in this sample.”
JP took a sniff of the white wine. He couldn’t tell the difference between any of them, so he downed it in one gulp.
“JP!” Jean scolded. “That’s not how you do it.” She swirled the wine, sniffed it, and sipped it, her pinky finger pointing up like a mast.
Shane laughed at them, and downed his wine in one gulp as well. When he burped, JP cracked up and Jean blinked at Shane as if he were gross.
“Nice one.” JP elbowed Shane.
Shane leaned closer to him. “Can you taste the allspice, buddy?”
“Nope. But I taste the alcohol.”
“…now you can cleanse your pallet. The next sample is a merlot.”
“Christ, I’m bored shitless already.” JP gulped the merlot down as fast as the chardonnay.
“Did you get coerced into coming?” Shane sipped the merlot and turned up his nose. “No. That’s nasty.”
“Chug it. You’re paying for it.”
Shane held his nose and tossed it down.
JP roared with laughter, interrupting the tour guide and getting the attention of everyone in the room.
“What?” Anne asked, leaning over the counter to see them.
“He chugged it, holding his nose,” Jean said, sipping hers. “It’s nice. I like it.”
The guide ignored him and Shane and went back to describing the climate, and grapes, ad nauseam, until it was a repetitive droning in his ear. JP spun the empty stemware in his hands and looked out of the large window to the street.
Four glasses of wine were gulped down, and the tour guide gestured to the door and their waiting limo.
JP lingered by the exit as Jean and Anne discussed purchasing a bottle.
Rich checked his watch as he waited.
JP nudged him. “Why the fuck did you offer to drive?”
“I don’t mind.”
Shane stood close, listening.
“Aren’t we getting into the limo now?” JP asked, “And you’re not going to drink anything?”
“Hell, it’s a day without the kids.” Rich shrugged.
Shane covered his laugh and then glanced at the women.
“Jean!” JP said, “We have other wineries to hit. Let’s go.”
Rich left the tasting room, waiting by the limousine.
The tour guide helped ring up a sale for one of the bottles of wine.
JP tilted his head for Shane to leave the sampling room with him. They walked outside and stood in the shade with Rich, who was texting on his phone.
“Dude?” JP said to Rich, “You can leave and we’ll take a cab.”
“It’s fine. I really don’t mind, John.”
Shane perked up. “John?”
“His name is John Paul.” Rich pocketed his phone.
JP stared at Shane for his reaction. Shane smiled at him and then spun on his heels in the direction of the women.
Shane felt a little bit of a buzz from drinking wine on a nearly empty stomach. He was tempted to use his phone as a distraction like Rich was, but didn’t. He crossed his arms as the tour guide opened the door for the women. Anne hurried to the minivan, leaving a bottle she had purchased, and then rushed back.
The car door was opened to the limousine for them, and JP and he waited for the women to enter first, then Rich.
Once the three sat down, JP and Shane kept gesturing for the other to go ahead until it was ridiculous. Shane cracked up with laughter and said, “After you.”
“No, I insist.”
“Guys?” Anne leaned down. “Get the hell in here.”
JP winked at Shane and climbed in. Shane waited for him to settle, and then sat down on a bench seat across from the women. Rich was texting on his phone, disconnecting himself from the conversation, as he and JP sat together opposite the women.
“Will you behave?” Jean told her brother.
He flipped her off, but Shane could tell it was playful.
“Stop guzzling the wine.”
“Stop telling me what to do. You’re not Mom.”
Shane kept laughing, and trying not to.
“Stop encouraging him.” Jean’s serious expression cracked and she laughed as well.
Shane dabbed at his eyes, and then the tour guide, who was also their driver, began his narration of the next stop on the tour.
“If I keep this up, I’ll be asleep by noon.” JP yawned. JP rested his head on Shane’s shoulder and snored loudly.
“You’re going to give your sister a stroke.” Shane stared at Jean and Anne’s reaction, but they smiled as if they got the joke.
“Can we have more A/C back here!” Rich moaned and went back to his texting.
Shane looked for a vent, and turned it towards Rich.
“Is it any better?” the driver asked.
Anne said, “Yes.”
Shane didn’t comment, feeling JP using his shoulder as a pillow.
“The next stop is one of my favorites…” the driver inched his way on the packed narrow street.
JP sat up and interlaced his fingers on his lap. Shane glanced at his hands and could see cuts and calluses from the man’s work. His own hands were soft and manicured. While the tour guide kept up a monologue of the history of Napa Valley, Jean and Anne paid attention, Rich appeared to be snoozing now, his head on the seat back his eyes closed, and JP’s leg was moving up and down as if his patience was tried.
Shane’s phone chimed. He was going to ignore it, but JP glanced over at him. Shane removed it from his pocket and read a text from Chelsea. ‘Drunk yet?’
JP leaned on his shoulder as if to read it. “Girlfriend?”
Jean perked up.
“Ex. Housemate.” Shane put the phone into his pocket.
“You live with your ex-girlfriend?” JP asked.
“Yeah.” Shane caught both women watching him as the driver pulled into another parking lot, one with a picnic table set with stemmed glasses and bottles of wine.
Anne whispered something into Jean’s ear.
Shane wondered if the fact that he was living with an ex was an issue. It may become one if he and Jean dated.
The car stopped and Rich startled awake, looking as if he may stay just where he was.
The door was opened for them, and JP and Shane waited for the women to leave first. Rich stumbled out next, and JP and Shane stared at each other, being silly, as if seeing who was going to exit next.
“After you.” JP gestured.
“No, after you.”
“Guys?” Anne poked her head in.
Shane chuckled and climbed out, walking to the picnic table. It was not cool in the shade.