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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.


The Inklings: Chapter 15

It had been more than a month since John’s father had checked up on him. John had spent most of it with his head in the clouds and D’arby claimed John was even whistling in his sleep. The more time John spent with Fanta, the more perfect she seemed. The only downside was that John often wondered what Fanta could see in him. He tried not to dwell on those thoughts and was determined to enjoy his relationship with Fanta while it lasted.

Fanta was also happy. John had told her what he’d been through but she really believed that he had reformed. What John hadn’t told Fanta about was how he’d had some help when he gave up.

Fanta’s last exam was on John’s day off (the restaurant was closed on Mondays) and he’d promised to cook her a special dinner. Fanta hadn’t been to John and D’arby’s place before so John was pretty nervous. He got up extra early and spent the whole day cleaning and cooking.

When D’arby got home that afternoon the flat was sparkling clean, a dining table had appeared (covered in a crisply ironed table cloth) and there were little vases of fresh flowers spread around the place. John had even hung some curtains on the kitchen window. There was a roast cooking in the oven and a bowl of salad on the table.

“I feel jealous” said D’arby. “You never do this for me!”

“Well, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you aren’t as pretty as Fanta” said John. He was lying on the sofa, trying to recover some energy before Fanta arrived. “I’m exhausted though. I wouldn’t want to have to do this every day.”

“Ha ha. Hopefully Fanta won’t want you to do anything too energetic tonight then.” said D’arby

“Don’t laugh too hard. You are the one who should be hoping Fanta doesn’t want to do anything energetic. If I keep you awake at night when I’m here on my own, imagine…..” said John

“No thanks!” said D’arby. “Don’t worry, as soon as I’ve said hello I’m going back to uni to work on my thesis and then I’ll sleep under my desk” said D’arby.

When Fanta arrived John sat her down on his folded-up sofa bed and got her a drink of home-made lemonade. D’arby was putting books into his uni bag and asked Fanta how her exams had gone.

“Ok, I think” said Fanta. “I’m just happy that they are over” but as she said it she wasn’t thinking about what she was saying. Fanta was looking around the flat. She noticed that it only had one bedroom.

“That’s good” said D’arby. “I better get back to uni now. I’ve got lots of thesis to write. It was nice to see you again Fanta.”

“Save some dessert for me” said D’arby to John as he left.

When D’arby had gone the first thing Fanta asked was what was for dessert. She just wanted to make sure that there was some because she thought she’d seen D’arby wink.

“Pavlova” said John, wondering why there was such a strong interest in dessert and hoping that he’d made enough.

When Fanta had gone home John reflected that dinner had gone well, apart from when he briefly fell asleep at the table during dessert. John unfolded the sofa bed and lay down, enjoying the feeling of knowing that he could finally have some sleep. Then the phone rang.

John struggled to get up and answer the phone. Ignoring it was not a choice. If John didn’t answer he knew he’d get less sleep than if he did answer because if he didn’t answer he’d lie there for hours wondering who had called and keep imagining that it had been someone in an emergency.

“Hello” said John

“Hello John” said John’s father. “Your Mother and I have decided to give you an early Christmas present…… we would like to hand over the restaurant to you. We’ll have to meet with my lawyer to sort this out. Will you have time tomorrow morning?”

John pinched himself after he’d hung up the phone, but that didn’t help convince him that he’d been awake during the phone call. “I might be awake now, but how do I know I didn’t just wake up from a dream about a phone call?” thought John. Fortunately the morning wasn’t far away. John finally drifted off to sleep wondering whether his Father would turn up in the morning or not.


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