Jeff walked back to Gendarme Kicker. He walked at a steady, normal pace. He didn’t run. He didn’t push himself.
He walked with Tsunachu still at his side and his guitar case in his opposite hand.
If people didn’t stare at him before, they surely stared at him now. If only to wonder what he could possibly be up to and/or who he was planning to murder.
He instinctively scanned the crowds as he passed through them.
Scrutinizing those who stayed out of the sunlight, who leaned against the store fronts, who loitered too close to the alleys.
He chuckled when he realized what he was doing. “Some habits really do die hard deaths.”
Others just go into hiding.
Could I do it again?
Could I go back into this life of fighting and death and controlled fear? Could I live this life every night? Do I still have the strength to do so? Do I still have the stamina?
Or would I be killed on my first night out?
Would the memory of Master Initskay continue to haunt me? Would it be my downfall?
Would Tessa even want me to do it again?
Do I want to do it again? Or am I happier as I am?
Jeff looked up at the sunlit, clear blue sky.
What do you think I should do? Tell me, because I just don’t know. I have Tessa back in my life and she is alive and she is awake. Isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t that be good enough for me?
What more do I want?
Laura, what should I do?
There were no answers in the sky nor any answers inside his head. Jeff sighed and resumed his journey to the restaurant.
It had taken them a good half-hour to finally make it over to Clarice’s table, but, after all of the conversations they’d gone through, it felt more like two hours.
Clarice smiled a broad smile at Hildreth. “Well, hellllllo handsome!”
Hildreth grinned. “Hey. I felt like I haven’t seen you at all today.”
“I know! I’ve missed you, you sweet potato casserole with crème fraiche sauce.” She blew a kiss at him.
“Ooo! You make me sound so decadent. I just might have to eat myself.”
“Mmm. You might want to save some of that sweet sweet sauce for Elsie. She’s looking mighty hungry to me.”
“Mom!” Elsie said.
Clarice laughed. “Oh, look at you blushing! You know I’m right, though.”
“No comment.” She gave John a questioning glance.
“Oh!” Clarice said. “I’m sorry! It’s been such a long time since we’ve all been together. I’ll have to reintroduce you all. At least, I assume you’re wanting a reintroduction. You have that ‘I do not know this person, but I think I know this person. Who is this person?’ look on your face.”
“Do I really?” Elsie asked.
“Oh, absolutely! John, this is my daughter Elsie and her hot as sin husband Hildreth.”
Hildreth mulled that one over. “Hot as sin. Hot as sin.” He nodded. “Yeah, I’ll take it.”
“Elsie, this is my dear lovely wonderful exotic and exciting—”
John let out a surprised laugh. “Exotic?”
“Mm-hmm. Exotic and exciting John Addleston. He and I are quite the item now.”
“Oh, yes.” Elsie said. “I remember you. You’re Barbara’s dad.”
He stood and held out his hand. “I am.”
Elsie shook his hand. “How is she doing? How did the wedding go?” She chose to not look at Hildreth.
“It went very well. Ambrose had a momentary glitch about being blessed with the holy water.”
“Oh, I would have loved to have seen that.” Hildreth said far too fervently.
Elsie resisted the urge to elbow him.
“It was quite—” John chuckled. “—-the spectacle. So very dramatic. Come. Have a seat and I’ll tell you all about it.”
Hildreth and Elsie dragged over a couple of chairs from an unoccupied table. The five women around Clarice’s table made room for them.
Hildreth sat down and leaned forward with extra eagerness. “Tell us all about it.”
Elsie considered punching him.
I’ll save it for later. Besides, I have to admit I’m just as curious as he is about what went wrong.
I’ll psychoanalyze my curiosity later.
“Go on.” she said. “This should be very interesting.”