Dave used the restroom while John grabbed two chairs from the dining room and placed them on the front door side of the living room. Joni showed Deborah the master bedroom where Deb asked, “This was Lottie’s room; wasn’t it?”
Joni nodded mutely, momentarily overcome by emotion. She looked down, inhaled and then again tried to look Deb in the eyes. Still finding herself tearing up she once more diverted her gaze floor ward. “Yes,” she finally whispered. “It was. Thanks again for coming,” she added.
Deb squeezed her daughter-in-law’s hand and said, “You are so welcome, dear.”
Joni and Deb entered the living room where Amber and Sean had retaken their spots on the love seat. Everyone else was still standing. “Gee, Mom,” John proclaimed, “it’s really great to see you.” He paused a moment and then asked, “So whose idea was it to make this a surprise?”
“Mine!” Joni declared, obviously delighted with herself. “When Deb called and said they were thinking about coming I told her how great it would be to see them and how happy that would make us and I just suggested we keep it a secret.
“Uhm, I guess I should add that I may have lied about Mom’s and Dad’s room not being available earlier. I didn’t want to spill the beans about the Knopicks coming.”
“Oh. So now the truth comes out,” Ashley said, nodding her head. “I was wondering why we had ten people over at Amber and Sean’s four bedroom and there were just the two of you here. Now it makes more sense.”
“Is there a problem with our house?” Amber asked.
“’Is there a problem with our house?’” Payton repeated in a sing-song voice, bopping his head left to right. “Yes,” he said, returning to a conversational tone and voice, “It is not meant for ten people.”
Amber inhaled and looked as though she felt compelled to respond when Dave walked in. In an attempt to Forestall an Amber retort Joni asked, “Dave? Have you eaten?”
“Oh, yeah,” Dave answered, unaware of any tension in the air. “We ate at the Cracker Barrel just off of fifty-nine in Naperville. We’re good. Please,” he continued, “sit!”
Everybody looked around and then Jacob, Bilhah and Ashley sat on the couch. John and Payton sat on the two wooden dining room chairs while Joni and Deb sat in the padded and upholstered TV room chairs, leaving Dave with the recliner. “No, no, no!” he insisted. “I don’t need this!” he said, indicating the Lazy Boy.
“Oh, just hush and sit down!” Bilhah commanded. “Jake? Be a sweetie and sit where Deb’s sitting; okay? Deb? Joni? There’s room for four on this couch; get over here. John? Move over to this chair right next to me so I can keep an eye on you; won’t cha?”
Everyone complied except for John who said, “I’d better not. With you on one side and Jake on the other I’m liable to get hurt. Payton? You go sit.”
“No, no,” Payton insisted, “I’m fine.”
John stared at his brother-in-law who stared back. Eventually Payton shook his head, rose and took the seat next to Bilhah. “Looks like you’re stuck with me,” he said.
“Looks like,” Bilhah agreed, winking. “I’ll live.”
John picked up the chair he was sitting in and brought it over to the group so that it just brushed the corner of the love seat. “Everybody set?” he asked.
“Almost,” Jacob replied. “Deb? Dave? Drink?”
The senior Knopicks looked first at one another and then around the room. When they saw that everyone else had a drink Dave said, “Sure. Thanks. That’d be great.”
Deb nodded mutely but enthusiastically and Jacob asked, “Anybody else? Speak now or forever hold your pees. Okay,” he added and went outside to gather beers before heading to the kitchen for wine.
“So, how was the drive?” Ashley asked.
“Good, good,” Dave answered, nodding. “Hectic when we got close to the city. I guess I figured all the traffic would be flowing outbound but there was still plenty heading in.”
“Always is,” Jake answered, handing the Knopicks their drinks and popping the top of his own beer. “We got behind a little collision ourselves coming over. That’s why we were late,” he added conspiratorially to Joni.
“Did you take the highway?” Joni asked her brother.
Jake coughed. “No. We had a long discussion but were overruled. Mistress of the house insisted surface roads would be faster this time of day.”
“Well, they usually are,” Amber insisted.
Jake nodded, shrugged, and took a long drink of beer. “Don’t doubt it. Just not this time. Hey, Dave, who you rooting for in the playoffs?”
“Well, those Vikings sure look good, huh?” Dave asked. “Eleven five record.”