By nine-thirty the “party” was over and all that was left for Tuesday night was goodbyes.
During earlier hot and heavy football discussions, Dave had declared that the Vikings were going all the way and Payton had countered with an assertion in favor of the Packers. A twenty-dollar wager had been placed and now, as the senior Knopicks were saying good bye to Payton and wife Ashley, Dave declared, “Ashley, a true pleasure. Payton, Great to see you again. I’ll see you tomorrow. Oh! And be sure to hang onto a twenty so you can pay me after the playoffs.”
Payton shook his head, smiled, and said. “Nice to see you too, Dave. And I look forward to you mailing me that check.”
Amber and Sean smiled at Deb and Dave and Dave held his arms out in a tepid invitation to a farewell embrace. Sean smiled and nodded and shook both Knopicks’ hands while Amber air kissed them. “See you tomorrow,” Deb declared with a little left, right repetitive head bob.
Jake had hugged both Deb and Dave and declared, “Let’s ride.”
Bilhah announced, “You may have driven here but you sure as hell ain’t driving home. Move over, baby, gimme the keys.”
Jacob had smirked at his wife and asked, “Who the hell do you think you are, Prince?” He shook his head and handed her the keys to the Sequoia. “Even when we left I figured that you’d be driving back.”
Bilhah took the keys from her husband, declaring, “Cool. I’ll drive. You passenger.”
“Is that even a word?” Jake slurred.
“If you have to ask then you damn well know I should drive,” Bilhah responded. “You’re tanked.”
Swaying slightly, he said, “Not tanked.” And then with a big grin and silly giggle added, “Not driving either. I’m tanked!”
“Hey, drunken frat boy?” Bilhah asked, “Did you finish that eulogy?”
“Pert a near,” Jacob acknowledged. “Just need to smooth it over in a couple places.”
“Okay,” Bilhah said, nodding her head. “I can help if you need. I’m just a tick away from cold sober.”
“Well, if we’re going on who’s had the least to drink, then I should drive,” Amber declared.
“Well, Thumbelina, just a few things wrong there,” Bilhah said, intentionally crowding Amber. “Number one is that I’m bigger than you are so my drinks don’t count as much as yours. Two, this is my truck, too, and unless I’m dying from blood loss or am missing a limb you ain’t driving. And C, this is a full size SUV; I don’t think it’ll accommodate somebody who’s pixie sized, so, unless you’re spending the night here or calling Uber I’m your ride, Clyde.”
Turning to Dave and Deb she winked, hugged them both and said, “It’s been great seeing you. Next time we’re in CR we’ll have to be sure and get together; okay?”
Deb smiled and nodded while Dave expressionlessly looked at her and asked, “Are you’s gonna rough me up if I says no?” Then he smiled, brought her to him for a better hug and whispered in her ear, “Maybe Amber’s the reason that we don’t come see Joni more often.” Followed by an audible, “It’s been great seeing you all, regardless of the circumstance. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
John and Joni stood directly behind the closed storm door while Dave and Deb looked over their shoulders. Everyone waved as the Hagans clan piled into the Sequoia and once the engine fired and the SUV pulled away from the curb Deb declared, “They’re always such nice people. It must be nice to have a sister close by.”
John stole a peek at Joni and she reciprocated his surreptitious glance. They both raised their eyebrows at Deb’s statement, John wondering if his mother was being ironic and Joni’s expression convincing him that she was wondering the same thing. “Oh. Sure,” Joni said. “Family can be a big help sometimes. “
Turning from the plate glass, storm door window Joni shut, locked and dead-bolted her front door. She then turned off her porch light and declared, “And speaking of which, it is just so great to see you guys!”
“Oh, you too!” Dave responded, walking to the living room and picking up one of the dining room chairs. “I’m really sorry it took a funeral to get us here. And, I know I’ve told you this before but, I really wish we could have been here for Lou’s.”
“Oh, Dad,” John replied, “don’t be silly. You guys were in Marina Del Rey for Isabella’s birth. What do you think, we’re gonna hold it against you that Justin and Heather dared to give birth while Louie died? Please, we understand.”
John grabbed the remaining dining room chair and brought it to the big table where he pushed it into place. “Goodness!” he declared. “That means that Isabella is three next month, doesn’t it? Where does the time go?”
“You think it’s bad now?” Deb asked, gathering empty wine glasses and bringing them into the kitchen, “just wait until you’re our age. Oh, Joni. I’m so sorry about your mom, she really was a sweet lady.”
Joni nodded, running hot water in the sink and washing the glasses. “There,” she said, “it’s nice to get these done now so we won’t have to face them in the morning.
“Thank you, Deb,” she continued, speaking to her mother-ion-law’s retreating form. “She was. I just wish she’d taken better care of herself. Both of them. Maybe then they’d have been around long enough for our children to know their grandmop and grandpop.”
The crash from the living room startled everyone. Immediately following the crash Deb bounded into the kitchen and declared, “Really?! Is it really true?! Are you two really, really going to have a baby?”