Timeline: February 19th, 2008
It was a dark and stormy night when John walked into the Blood and Brew. He went over to the bar and called for Lyla. “Hey Lyla I have an idea and I wanted to run it by you and see what you thought about it. What if we have a St. Pat’s Day party either at the house or here and invite the whole town, especially the new people like Rey and Daniel and anyone else we can think of and some old new people like Tara and some old people like Alice the librarian and maybe Mrs. Honeywell, sort of a town mixer slash block party, have a pot luck or cater it and maybe and open bar if we have it here. I’ll even shell out for coupons for a free drink for everyone that is of age. What do you think?”
Lyla slipped out from behind the bar and went to sit with John. “I think it’s an awesome idea. But I really don’t know how the bar could afford to do free drinks for the whole town.” The windows light up brightly for a moment as a splash of lightning ripped the sky outside. “We wouldn’t be able to feed the whole town, either. Not even a tiny portion of it. I manage to clear about three grand per month after Rey’s wages, maybe a little more, but that is all and it’s split six ways for the pack. So, we’d have to give up our entire income for the month and more to do it. How about a cash bar, but with some free munchies? Hors d’oeuvres and the like?
“Let’s see,” Lyla continued as she considered. “Town has about four thousand people, right? Let’s say only about 500 show up. Hm.” Lyla looked saddened and disappointed. She really did like the idea, but she had to think about not just her pack but also her baby. Both needed all the income she could get if she was going to provide for them, yet she wasn’t willing to put aside John’s idea so easily.
“Maybe we just need to raise money for the idea,” she said. “Got any ideas?”
“Well I wasn’t saying free drinks all night I was thinking I would buy everyone that showed up one free Drink and then they can pay for anything else alcoholic they want. But thats why I was thinking potluck, you know where everyone brings a dish and shares. Or I could spring for the portable BBQ guys to come and cook a cow or 2. But a fund raiser might be nice too, I know some ladies that make quilts I suppose we could have a raffle. Or we could limit the guest list to those that we like.” John smiles and laughs, “Okay so that wouldn’t cut it down by much.”
Lyla smiled. “I like it. Let’s do it! I’ll talk to the city council and ask for a permit to put up extra seating up in a tent in the alley and maybe out front. That should take care of most weather trouble.”
“What day do we want to do it on and what should we call it? Block party or town get-together or old meets new. First annual get aquainted day?”
Lyla thought about it. “How about the St. Patty’s–” Lightning flashed again, but this time it was followed by a tremendous boom. Lyla jumped so bad she nearly fell. “Oops! Clumsy me…” She managed a little smile, but John could see she was shaking.
“The St. Patty’s oops clumsy me, well it does have a ring to it and I am sure most of the people going home will be feeling that way. Seriously are you okay Lyla? What’s wrong?”
She smiled to cover her embarrassment. “Thunderstorms always scared the hell out of me. I guess Ramiel and I camped in them one too many times and I don’t have good memories of them.”
“I always love thunderstorms, well at least when I can not get wet watching them. The power, the noise, the way the air smells when its all done and statistically speaking you are more likely to get attacked by a supernatural creature than struck by lighting. Anything I can do to help?”
“Can you make the thunderstorm go away?” Lyla asked.
“Well, the smart ass in me want to say, Yes but it will take an hour or two, the friend in me says, No, but I have an MP3 player in my pocket that you could turn up really loud. Maybe you could call Ramiel down here and he could sound proof a room for you.”
John then did something he didn’t do very often, he reached over and patted Lyla’s hand sort of tentatively, and gave her a shy smile.
“It’ll be okay Lyla. We can talk about this later if you want to, I was thinking about some competitions but it can wait.”
Contact seemed to help. She smiled. “Oh, I’ll survive. It’s a stupid phobia, but I just haven’t been able to shake it. Tell me about your idea for the competitions,” she requested.
“Well I was thinking about a kilt competion, a Kayber toss, Limericks clean and dirty, and maybe best Jig or fling since its for St. Pat’s. I suppose we could have a fastest chug or something like that, maybe a best story teller. You know something for everyone, those with kids and those without, maybe a sham-rock hunt, I found a recipe on the internet for making fake rocks and inside could be prizes.” John was trying to get her excited and take her mind off the storm and he was holding her hand unconsciously.
“Wow, that’s a lot of great ideas,” Lyla said. “Blood and Brew will try to help, but maybe this is something the whole town might like to do? Maybe you should bring it up with the town booster club? They have their meetings posted down at the town hall and they really exist for this kind of community-building thing. They do fund raisers and things all year just to have money for this exact kind of thing. Plus they could help with organizing the activities, food, and all that sort of thing that we’d otherwise have to try to figure out on our own.”
A very loud thunder cracked tore the air even inside the cozy little bar. Lyla literally ducked as if the ceiling was coming down on her. “Okay, that’s it!” she said in a shaky voice. “Time to close up the bar and go home.” She had every intention of hiding under her covers and lacked the pride to deny it. It was, of course, only ten o’clock in the evening, but on the other hand the bad weather seems to have kept regulars at home this night. Only John was in the bar with Lyla.
“Sounds good I will get my slicker and let you share my umbrella if you want to or I can play bar tender if you just want to go home.”
John debated with himself whether or not to point out that their house being on a hill would be more likely to get hit than the bar but he kept silent. Sometimes feeling safe was a matter of perception. “I think the reason I like thunder storms so much was because when we were young, Mom and Dad used to go out on the porch and sit in the swing and watch it come in… sometimes we would get to sleep out there and watch the storm.”
Lyla was cleaning up and locking up the cash drawer as she listened. She paused then and ask, “Weren’t you afraid a branch would get snapped off in a lightning strike and that the wind would send it flying through the screen to skewer your favorite pet?”
John just looked at her for a second and sort of blinked like he was trying to wrap his head around an idea that just wouldn’t fit. “Ummm no. Usually the pets were out there with us and there weren’t any screens, if the bugs got to bad you went inside. Why did that happen to you?”
“Sort of. Technically, it happened to Beth,” Lyla said. “I wasn’t allowed to have a dog because we were just the maid’s kids to them. But Elizabeth did since she was their daughter, their little princess,” Lyla said with a wry smile. “Beth didn’t really care for the dog at all, but I did. I took care of it. Scruffy was a pure-bred cocker spaniel.” She smiled wistfully as she recalled a few treasured memories. But whatever they were, she kept them to herself.
“I was staying in Beth’s room the night it happened, sleeping on the floor near her bed because we didn’t want her parents to find out she was fraternizing with the help. Scruffy wasn’t allowed on the bed, so I was curled up next her.
“The storm hit pretty fast. It was one of those thunderstorms spun off from a bigger hurricane that you get sometimes in Virginia, you know? Anyway, it had come up out of a damp heat and the window was open. Scruffy was a good girl, too. She sat up like she was protecting me from the thunder. Beth was asleep; storms didn’t bother her but I was a good five years younger. When the branch crashed through the window, it was Scruffy that got hit instead of me.
“The the house was chaos. Her parents were there and saw me in her room covered in Scruffy’s blood, the dead dog and a very surprised Beth. They threw me and the dog out of the house, told me to take care of it. That was my punishment for breaking their rules, you see. So I dug a hole out in the garden and buried Scruffy there in that storm. I had to sneak back home after that. I didn’t tell Mom what had happened but she was waiting up for me when I got home and gave me the fifth degree. I was so upset I couldn’t say word. I think she wanted to tan my hide good, but she seemed to figure out I was really upset so I got off easy that time.
“Anyway, I never liked thunderstorms since then.” Lyla paused. “I never told anybody that story before.”
“Lyla,” John started, the concern and empathy plain in his voice, and then paused trying to think of anything that might help and all that would come out was, “Thank you for your gift.”
Lyla blinked, confused. “Eh? What gift?”
“Well,” John said solmenly, “given that nothing I say is going to suddenly make you start loving thunderstorms, and that nothing I say is really going to heal a hurt that is over 14 years old, all I can really do is thank you for sharing a burden you have never felt that anyone else could help you bear. You have given me a gift of trust and friendship and that I can thank you for doing. We always used to say, “A burden shared is halved and joy shared is doubled. So hopefully, I can share this burden and take some of the sting out of it for you.”
Lyla smiled. “What a nice thing to say.” She looked around the bar and then, satisfied, she snapped off most of the lights, leaving only a dim light near the front. “There. I’m ready to go home, kind sir,” she said
John stepped outside and opened his huge wind resistant umbrella, and held it over Lyla’s head as she closed the door and made sure it was locked. “So the bank first to drop off the day’s deposits or straight home so Ramiel can help take your mind off the storm?” John said with a shy smile.
Lyla huddled under the umbrella as more lightning lanced the sky and thunder roared. “The bank is on the way, so that first,” Lyla said with a furtive glance toward the nearest tree.
John began to sing and put his arm around Lyla,”People let me tell you about my best friend…”, every now and then he would stop singing and try and take Lyla’s mind off the storm. “So is it storms you are afraid of or trees?”
She poked him in the ribs.
In all the time she had known John, this was probably the most carefree and childlike she has ever seen John. Even though he was trying to distract her, there was a certain … joy for lack of a better word that he rarely shared that was so manifest in the storm.