Work was predictably not fun. I was tired, cranky and mad at the world. I tried to hide at my work station but the guys were in a festive mood and weren’t taking no for an answer.
They dragged me almost literally to Guido’s for lunch. Gino, who still hadn’t mentioned those bent up arrows, insisted on buying for me, mostly to head off my usual objection of not wishing to spend the money. They did give me a chance to change, which should have been the tip off that something was up. Had I been in a better frame of mind, it would have, but as things stood, I walked into Guido’s completely clueless.
To my credit, I didn’t actually jump when fifty people started hollering ‘surprise’ at me. Probably more from the shear shock than any self control. The first thing that caught my eye wasn’t the crowd but one particular face – Chester was there.
I roughed up Gino’s hair, "You skunk!"
Gino grinned like an Italian Cheshire Cat. The guys were pounding my back and pushing me toward Chester, not that I wasn’t already going. I got to him and dropped down to one knee next to his wheelchair.
"Good to see you." was all I could squeak out.
"Good to be here, Kid. I hear I have you to thank for that." Chester replied.
I shook my head, "I didn’t…"
Marta thumped me on the head, "You stop that, you dumb boy. We know what you did. Let us thank you proper, okay?"
I rubbed the new bump, "Yeah, okay, Marta…"
Five hours later, I climbed the stairs to our stoop. I was dog tired and walking on air at the same time. Crystal was due to come to our house for supper so I had only an hour or so to sleep before getting ready. I made the most of it. I’m pretty sure I was asleep before I even landed on the bed.
Tim woke me by shaking the daylights out of me. "What the heck?" I demanded.
"Sorry, you said wake you and nothing else worked." Tim shrugged.
I nodded as I climbed out of bed. "Time?"
"You got thirty minutes. Hit the shower, I’ll see you at dinner." He pushed me toward my bath.
"That bad, huh?" I sighed as I went in.
I got myself ready and opened the door to leave. I jumped, startled to see Wolff and a black lady I didn’t recognize already there, Wolff’s hand hanging in midair as he was evidently about to knock.
"Sorry, Master Jack. Didn’t mean to…"
I waved him off, "No, not your fault."
He nodded and turned to his companion, "May I the pleasure of introducing Miss Nyota Chebet of Kenya."
I extended my hand, remembering the name, "Your Crystal’s friend. Nice to meet you, Ma’am."
"The pleasure is mine, Master Jack." she replied.
I explained that my family was still mostly in the dark and invited her to supper, along with Wolff who had thus far declined such invitations. He seemed inclined to beg off again but seemed to think better of it and agreed to join us. I showed them across the hall, my manners finally showing themselves.
I was thinking as I showed them into the dining room that I would have a big surprise for Crystal. It turned out there was another surprise in store for me.
Lisa came up, dragging some guy behind her. "James, my brother Jack!" she introduced us excitedly. "Jack, this is James Thompkins!"