The last days of their trip were spent doing salvage of the burned up church. It was slow, grueling work, but rewarding. Periodically, one of them found an item that survived the fire. This was always a cause for rejoicing. Just before lunch break on Friday, Luis, Clayton and Maddie found the greatest gift of all—the altar Bible. Locked in a special box after the service, it had survived even the intense heat. Jose deemed it a miracle. No one argued.
Saturday was set aside for celebration. Maria closed the restaurant to the public in order to have a party. Gabe, Claire and Jane had been released from the hospital. Gabe’s face was a mass of bruises. One cheek sported a neat row of tiny stitches. He held himself awkwardly due to a few cracked and broken ribs. Nothing stopped his smile and indomitable spirit. He walked in the restaurant unsupported.
Maddie greeted him with subdued enthusiasm. She wanted to rush into his arms and kiss him, but refrained. For starters, she was going steady with Clayton and for another, she could have hurt him. Instead, she kissed him gently, wrapping his arms around his waist.
“Lean on me if you need to, I won’t tell.”
Claire and Jane arrived shortly after. Their mother’s had flown down in a private jet. The girls were both in wheelchairs. Claire’s left leg was in a cast and her arm was swathed in gauze from wrist to elbow.
Jane had fared better. The explosives had flared moments before going off. Claire had pushed Jane down and covered her friend with her own body. They were extremely lucky. Some of the explosives had failed to go off. Had they all blown, Claire and Jane would have died. The girls were also greeted enthusiastically. The boys from both groups fussed over them, bringing drinks and food. Gabe was in heaven. The church women and girls, pampered him. His mother hovered so much, his father finally intervened.
“Enough, Maria. He’s fine. You’re like a hummingbird with all your fluttering.” Jose kissed his wife’s cheek.
Maria flung her arms around him, bursting into tears. “We could have lost him!”
“It’s all right.” Jose comforted her quietly. “Give the boy some space.”
The party was a rollicking success. Because of the injured and the fact they had an early service at church, they broke up at 9:00.
Claire, Jane and their mothers, bedded down at Dr. Santos’ clinic for the night. They were leaving after church, flying home on the private plane. The rest of them planned to start the drive home as well.
Gabe was heading home with his mother, but insisted on stopping by Maddie before he got in the car. He took her slightly apart. “I know you and Clayton are together. I’m really happy for you. And I’m jealous as hell.”
“You’ll find someone, Gabe.”
“I know, but she won’t be you.” He leaned over, brushing her lips with his before giving her a sweet, loving kiss. It didn’t last long. Maddie knew it was his way of saying goodbye.