They drove in the gate of Sheltering Oaks and the road was lined with signs and banners of all sizes and colors. Each of them welcomed Frank home. They drove up to the small house. Several people stood in the driveway, among them were Paula, Jennifer and her two boys. Friends and family did their best to get Frank in the house and settled. They didn’t stay long, knowing that he was tired, but stayed longer than he wanted.
They had enough food to feed an army for a month as well as all the comforts of home. Someone had even picked up Frank’s dry cleaning, so he had a few clean suits for when he went back to work. There was a note there from Mabel, asking him to call when he felt up to it. Rather than wait, he gave his great-grandmother a call.
“So, you’re really all right,” she said by way of greeting.
“I really am.”
“Don’t scare an old lady like that, Frankie.”
“Never my intention, Mabel. You know I love you.”
“I do. And I love you, my darling boy. When you’re feeling well, you bring that lovely girl here to see me. I have something for you.”
“Will do, Mabel.”
“Love to you!” She hung up.
Frank did well for two days of confinement. By the third, he was champing at the bit to be active, so Marka got him tucked into the car and drove him to his office. He was greeted like a king and ushered into Jeff’s office.
“What the hell?” He was shocked when he saw his name on the door.
“You got a promotion yesterday,” Marka said. “Mabel talked to the board and convinced them to give you Jeff’s job. You did it anyway and now that he’s in jail, the position came empty.”
“Who has my old job?”
Kenny waved from the doorway. “Seems I’m overqualified for maintenance.”
“Couldn’t have picked a better man. Good to have you on board.”
“Your first official day back isn’t until Monday,” Marka reminded Frank as he headed to his desk. “And all that can wait until then.”
“You take all the fun out of a day out,” he pouted.
“We’re due to see Mabel. So hoist up your tight tush and come with me.”
“Yes, ma’am. I know better than to argue with you. You’ll kick my tight tush from here to Alabama and back.”
“And don’t you forget it.”
They walked over to see Mabel. By the time they got there, Frank was hurting. He sank gratefully into Mabel’s comfortable recliner. Rachel was there and served tea on Mabel’s China. Frank sipped from the delicate cup, worried he might drop it. Marka and Rachel pulled up folding chairs next to him.
“I’ve called you here for several reasons,” Mabel said. “For one, I’m making you executor of my will. Not that I expect to die anytime soon, but it’s best to plan ahead. I’ve also split my money between you, your sister and your three cousins. I’ve also left money in trust for their children and any you might have.”
She smiled, her eyes twinkling as she gazed at Frank and Marka. “Now, for the fun part. Rachel?”
Rachel reached into the drawer of Mabel’s dresser and handed Frank two boxes. “Open the blue one first.”
Inside was a lovely ring set. One band was platinum and crusted with rubies. The other ring was also platinum and had a large, circular diamond in a Tiffany setting. On either side, more ruby and diamond chips glittered.
“This was my ring set when I married my Tommy. I want you to have it for Marka. Now, open the other one.”
Inside was the huge ring from Tom. “I know you don’t want to wear anything that big,” Mabel told Marka. “But I wanted you and Frankie to have it. For one thing, I know he’ll keep Ralph from getting his chubby hands on it. Now that you’ve got a ring, my lad, you make this official.” She folded her hands in her lap, staring expectantly at Frank.
“I can’t get down on one knee right now, Mabel. I’ll fall down.”
“The position isn’t as important as the words.” She pursed her lips and nodded at him.
Frank laughed. Taking the engagement ring from the box, he held Marka’s hand in his. “Marka Ventimiglia, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
“Francis Atherton, I’d be delighted.”
He slipped the ring on her finger and kissed her. Mabel and Rachel clapped. They didn’t stay long. Frank could tell Mabel was tired after the excitement. To be honest, he was tired himself. He agreed to let Marka borrow a wheelchair to take him to the car. When they got home, he lay down on the bed and fell asleep. Marka woke him a few hours later.
“Hey, love. We’ve got company.”
“Yeah? Is it my folks?”
“No. I think you need to come out and see.”
“Let me brush my teeth. I’ve got megadeath breath.”
“Okay. We’ll be waiting.”
© Dellani Oakes