The next few days rolled by just as slowly as the first few. He couldn’t wait til Saturday. He got up early, took a jog down her old jogging path, showered and dressed. He hopped on his bike, wearing her favorite jeans, and pulled up to the parking lot of the multi-level office complex. It was packed. It must have done well in the transition.
As he walked to the door, he subconsciously realized that Boss’s pickup was parked near the door, but he was too excited to see her to give it much thought.
He got in, hopped in the elevator and hit the button for the 7th floor. When the doors opened, she was there waiting for him. She was wearing a beautiful sundress and heels that reminded him of her first visit, and her hair was floating over her shoulders so softly. She had accented her eyes and lips, and it took him a moment to absorb her beauty. She walked right into his arms and kissed him hard. Yes, yes he liked this. When she pulled back, she looked at him with that spark of mischief in her eyes, she grabbed his hands and started in the direction of the office. A moment of apprehension splayed across her face, but she quickly let it pass. “I have a little surprise for you” she toyed.
When they stopped near the very modern doors of the front office entrance, she let go over her hands, and dramatically opened the doors.
He was shocked. The room was packed with people that all cheered “Happy Birthday!” Boss was in the front, and Tucker knew he had something to do with this. People came up and clapped him on the back, shook his hands, and wished him well. Taylor was there with his family, as was Brad. He looked around and noticed a few of his other unit members from years ago and met them with as much enthusiasm as if they had worked together yesterday. His parents were there with smiles as wide as the state of Texas. Many of the guys from the gym were there, many athletes he had trained, those who were regulars upstairs, and some he hadn’t seen for years. He thanked as many as he could find for helping restore his gym and home. A few of the detectives that worked the case with his team were there, as were the EMTs that brought Ann to the hospital that day. It seemed like an eternity ago.
He finally took a breath and noticed the reception area where everyone had gathered was nicely decorated, tastefully decorated for his birthday. Paper streamers were replaced with fancy ribbon, lights, and handmade one of a kind wall banners. He knew who was behind all of that. He got to a table with the cake. This was no ordinary cake, it was gigantic and tiered and perfectly decorated with items of emotional significance. Parts of the cake held sugar trophies, mimicking those in his gym. The top was decorated as a boxing ring. There were items representing his time in the service. A sugar grill. A front porch swing. A hole in the cake representing a mud puddle. This lady was too much.
His nose lead him to an adjoining room, just as spacious as the first. This one was lined with tables and chairs and an exquisite buffet from one end of the room to the other. An announcement was made that the food was ready, and everyone filed in to fill their plates. She had disappeared as soon as the crowd surprised him with “Happy Birthday,” and he was anxious to find her.
He finally found her, preparing at a stand with a microphone. He walked her way, and when she noticed him coming her way, she met him half way.
“I hope you like it” she said. “I know you maybe are a planner and don’t like surprises but…” he covered her lips with his, in front of everyone, to heck with the rest. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back. “I love it” he said when they finally broke the kiss.
“I was hoping to say a few words while everyone was here, thanking everyone for the roles they had in helping me.” She asked.
“Absolutely” he said.
“Good” she looked nervous but headed to the podium.
“Could I have your attention everyone?” She waited for the room to quiet, and she began.
“I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has helped me along my journey these past couple of years, especially those brave enough to help put a Monster behind bars.”
“My journey began over two years ago. I didn’t know how to fight the Monster, and so I ran. I didn’t run from much back in those days, but that demon seemed more than I could confront. I went from town to town, trying to find a safe place to rest. The Monster was always one step behind me. And sometimes one step ahead of me.”
“When my feet landed here in Missouri, they were tired of running. There were a few moments when I even contemplated giving up. But it was at that moment, at that lowest point of my life, when others stepped in and carried me, when it was too painful to even walk on my own, let alone run.” She looked right at him, and he knew what she meant.
“I’m not always the easiest to get along with. I am stubborn, I am bull headed, and I can’t sit still for more than a second or two at a time, but I found someone who was willing to teach me patience, to help me see the details and to sit back and just see the world around me, rather than bull doze my way through it.”
“It was in these moments that I especially noticed all the helpers and all the sacrifices they made to help me succeed. To help me win.” She then gave Boss, Brad and Taylor a meaningful look, conveying her message.
“Everyone in this room played a role in saving me, whether it was from myself in those difficult days, from the dangerous predicaments I got myself into, or the physical consequences of my choices, and for that I am eternally grateful.”
“One of those helpers I want to thank in particular, and it happens to be his birthday. Would you all join me in singing ‘Happy Birthday’?” and with that the attention of the room returned to him, she stepped off the podium, and the room erupted in song. She brought him to the cake, lit a single candle on top, and helped him slice and serve it when the song was over.
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