The Inklings: Chapter 16

John had a roller coaster of a week. On Tuesday morning he and his father organized the transfer of the pizza restaurant over to John. Then on Tuesday evening, while working at the restaurant, John realized what that really meant, and it frightened him. Now the future of the restaurant was in his hands. There was nobody watching over him to catch his mistakes. All the people working there now depended on him to get things right. He could understand why his parents had decided to give the restaurant to him though. Now it was him who had to worry about his competence, not them. They’d given away a lot of money but also a source of worry.

John’s father had given him something else on Tuesday too – an invitation to Christmas lunch. It was the first time since he was a teenager that John wasn’t being excluded from a family event. This was another opportunity that placed enormous pressure on John. He was happy to have earned back some trust, but also aware that he did not yet deserve forgiveness. He hadn’t even asked for it yet. Then he realized he’d be expected to bring Christmas presents for all his relatives, but which relatives would be there? Which ones had gotten married or had kids since he last saw them? He’d need his sister Emily’s help!

On Wednesday John was feeling exhausted. He met Fanta for a coffee before heading off to work. She invited him to her place for dinner on Monday night. D’arby was invited too. John was going to meet Fanta’s sisters and her best friend Syafika. John knew this meant a lot. Fanta must really trust him now. More trust placed in him! John felt like he was carrying even more weight. He didn’t even have the energy to tell Fanta that he’d been given the pizza restaurant. He also realized that he should probably invite Fanta to come with him to his family’s Christmas lunch, but how could he expose her to that? How could he cope with her seeing him spend the day asking his relatives for forgiveness?

On Thursday morning John was feeling lighter. He’d started to get used to the idea of holding responsibility and it made him feel important. That was until D’arby asked him when he was planning to do his Christmas shopping and what he was going to get for Fanta. D’arby hadn’t meant to make John stressed. In fact D’arby was hoping that John might be able to help him choose a suitable Christmas present for his sister, who was expecting a baby around Christmas time. D’arby didn’t know much about babies and wasn’t very happy that his sister was having one anyway, because D’arby really didn’t like his sister’s husband and couldn’t bear the thought of that man’s genes being passed onto a child, especially not his sister’s child. If John would agree to choose a present for the baby then D’arby knew it would save him a lot of angst.

Sweat began to pour from John’s temples as he contemplated choosing a suitable Christmas present for Fanta. Being able to afford something nice was not much consolation. It just meant fewer constraints on what he could buy. More options meant more stress.

“Hey, don’t worry” said D’arby. I just thought you’d make a better choice than me”. He was surprised by John’s reaction, but also relieved that he wasn’t the only person scared by the thought of Christmas shopping.

“No, I can buy the baby a present. That will be easy compared to choosing one for Fanta” said John

“Why don’t you just ask Fanta what she would like?” asked D’arby.

“You have no idea!” said John, shaking his head. If only things were that simple.

“I can choose a present for Fanta, if you like” offered D’arby. For a few seconds John was tempted to accept D’arby’s offer.

On Friday John called his sister Emily and caught up on all the family gossip. At the end of the conversation he had a list of people to buy Christmas presents for as well as Emily’s hints on what they would like (even what she would like). Emily also gave John a strong direction to buy jewellery for Fanta. “Take note of what she wears and choose something similar, but nicer” suggested Emily. “Similar, but nicer… what does that mean?” wondered John, but he did appreciate the advice.

John’s weekend was full of despair. He remembered something he’d pushed to the back of his mind. “I’m so stupid!” John thought. “Here I am running a restaurant and planning my Christmas shopping like a respectable person when I’m the man the local police most want to catch! How did I forget that?”

On Sunday morning John discussed the possibility of his arrest with D’arby. “I know how you feel” said D’arby. “It is when my life is going well that I’m most likely to remember that everyone has to die.”

John stared at D’arby as he took in what D’arby had just said. “You mean that it is inevitable that one day I will be arrested and charged over all the things I’ve done wrong and that I’ll go to gaol and lose everything?” he asked.

“I was talking more about the contrast of good and bad things becoming more apparent when things are going well” said D’arby “But you do have a point. Perhaps you should make a list of all the crimes you’ve committed and we can estimate how long they’ll want to lock you up for. Do you know any good defense lawyers? We should put some money aside to pay one”.

The mention of money made John realize that he hadn’t given D’arby his allowance that week yet. John opened his wallet and counted out some money, which gave him a few seconds rest from thinking about his future. D’arby reluctantly took the money. He wished he didn’t have to rely on John that way and planned to pay John back (with interest) when he finally finished his thesis and got a job.

On Monday John couldn’t help feeling happy again. That evening he was going to see Fanta, and meet her sisters.


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