Betty stood at the picture window and watched anxiously as a taxicab pulled into the driveway. Six weeks had passed since Zach had been attacked and hospitalized, and today he was finally home.
When Zach and Charlie reached the front door, Betty rushed to open it. She held the door open for Zach while he entered the house on crutches. He was still bruised from the beating and wore a black patch over his left eye. He joked that he looked like Douglas Fairbanks in the film The Black Pirate. He was in good spirits and glad to be home.
Betty was delighted to finally see Zach out of the hospital and on his feet again, although he needed crutches. He suffered from Diastrophic Dysplasia, which made his back and knees ache. It was common amongst Achondroplastic dwarfs. Working at the carnival all those years had finally caught up to him, as well. However, he was finally home now, where he was comfortable—Betty would assure to that. She made a special dessert, pecan pie. It was his and Charlie’s favorite dessert, but then again so was her apple pie, key lime pie, and carrot cake.
“Welcome home, Zach,” Betty said. She gave him a warm kiss on his cheek.
“Thanks, Betty. It’s good to be home,” Zach said. He inspected the living room and noticed the new sofa, coffee table and end tables. “Looks like everything’s back in order. Where’s Daisy?”
Daisy cantered into the living room wagging her tail. She was still wearing a bandage around her torso, but for the most part, she was just about healed.
“There she is, my hero,” Zach said.
Daisy whimpered and licked Zach’s face as he pet her. “Daisy really missed you,” Charlie said.
“And I missed her, yes I did,” he said to her as he kissed the tip of her big, wet nose. Then they all crossed the living room and sat on the sofa. Charlie helped Zach as he got comfortable.
“We all missed you,” Betty added. She handed Zach a present once he got settled. It was wrapped with colorful paper with a red ribbon and bow on it.
“What’s this for?”
“It’s just a little welcome home present that Charlie and I thought you could use.”
“You didn’t have to get me anything,” Zach said. He carefully examined the present. “What on earth could this be?”
“Only one way to find out,” Charlie said. Then he and Betty sat next to Zach, and watched as he tore into the wrapping paper. Then he removed the present from the box. It was a leather photo album. It had a gold leaf inlay border on the cover with gold leaf writing.
“This is absolutely beautiful,” Zach said.
“Look inside,” Charlie said.
Zach set the photo album on his lap and opened it. “It’s filled with all my photos.” He was pleasantly surprised and carefully turned each page. He examined each photo as though it was the first time he had seen them. “All my photos from our trips, they’re all labeled with all the locations and dates.”
“I hope you don’t mind that we labeled them for you,” Betty said.
“Mind, are you kidding?” Zach said. “I love it. Thank you so much for doing this for me. I was planning on getting around to it, but...” He couldn’t find the words to continue. Then he started to become sentimental.
“We’re glad you like it,” Charlie said. “We wanted to get you something you could use. Betty came up with the idea.”
“You didn’t have to go through all the trouble,” Zach said. “I feel bad now, I didn’t get either of you anything.”
“Oh, don’t be silly,” Charlie said. “We have all that we need ... you’re finally home, Daisy’s pretty much recovered, and our house is back to normal.”
Charlie took Betty’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Then he smiled and winked at her.
“Are you hungry?” Betty asked. “Would you boys like me to fix you something for lunch?”
“Actually, a short nap sounds good about now,” Zach said. “You don’t mind if I lay down for a little while, do you? I’m a little tired. It’s the medication.”
“Not at all,” Betty said.
“I’ll help you to your room,” Charlie said.
“After your nap, we’ll eat. I made something special for you,” Betty said.
“You didn’t have to make anything special,” Zach said. “You guys are spoiling me. You better watch out, I could get used to this.”
Zach crossed the living room on his crutches and entered his bedroom. Charlie followed close behind him in case he needed any help. “I’m sorry,” Zach said. “The medication makes me a little drowsy. I should be nice and hungry when I wake up though.”
“Me too,” Charlie said wearing a big grin.
Zach chuckled. “Some things never change.”
About one hour later, Betty was cooking in front of the stove when Charlie approached her. He placed his hands on her hips and kissed the side of her neck. She brought his hand to her lips and kissed it. Then she turned and faced him. “I love you.”
“And I love you.”
“When do you think we should tell him?”
“Probably after we eat.”
“Okay,” Betty said with a reassuring smile.
Suddenly Zach entered the kitchen on his crutches. “So, what’s on the menu?” he asked sounding invigorated. “It smells wonderful.”
“Black eyed pea soup, fried chicken, and corn bread,” Betty said. “It’s my Grammy’s recipe.”
“Oh boy,” Zach said. “I haven’t had that in ages.”
“And I made a special dessert for you,” Betty said.
“You guys trying to get me fat?” Zach said. “You keep this up I won’t need crutches anymore, you could just roll me around.”
It made Charlie and Betty feel good to see that Zach still had his sense of humor and a good appetite. A good appetite was a good sign. They hoped the doctor was wrong about Zach’s liver. They hoped it was just temporarily damaged from the beating, and that over time he would fully recover. The only thing they could do was to hope and pray for the best.
After lunch, Zach took his medication and went to the living room to relax. He turned on the radio and A Sailboat In The Moonlight by Guy Lombardo was playing. He sat on the couch and began to read the newspaper. He checked the Stock Market section while Charlie played with Daisy. Everything seemed back to normal—to the way things were before Diehl vandalized the house and almost killed Zach.
Charlie waited patiently for Betty to come out of the kitchen; there was something they both wanted to talk to Zach about. After a few minutes, Charlie went to see what was keeping Betty. A moment later, they both came out carrying trays with coffee and the special pecan pie Betty made for Zach. They set their trays on the coffee table and sat on the couch next to Zach. Betty served the coffee as Charlie began to cut the pie.
“So, is this is the special dessert?” Zach asked.
“Yes, I hope you like it,” Betty said.
“Of course I will, it’s pecan, one of my favorites.”
Charlie handed Zach his plate. “Boy, does that look good,” Zach said. “Sure beats hospital food by a mile.” He didn’t wait for them and began digging in.
After they had finished their pie, they all sat quietly and enjoyed the music on the radio; Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald’s Indian Love Call was playing.
Betty placed her hand on Charlie’s knee and gently squeezed it. He instantly took the hint and cleared his throat. “Zach, there’s something that Betty and I have been waiting to talk to you about.”
“Sure, what is it?”
Charlie and Betty looked at each other briefly before Charlie continued. “I was wondering if you’d be my best man. Betty and I are getting married and set a date.”
Zach looked at them both and smiled. “Well, it’s about time,” he said. “I didn’t know what you two were waiting for. I think you two were made for each other, and it would be an honor to be your best man.”
“Well, I’m delighted we finally got that out of the way,” Betty said.
They all raised their coffee cups and toasted. “Wait,” Zach said. “We’re gonna need something a little stronger for this occasion.” He grabbed his crutches, went over to the liquor cabinet, and removed a bottle of Cognac and three small glasses. He brought them over to the couch, opened the bottle, and poured a little in each glass. “You joining me?” Zach asked as he raised his drink.
Charlie and Betty didn’t think Zach should be drinking alcohol with his condition, but it was only a little, and it was a good reason to celebrate. They both took their drinks and held up their glass.
“Here’s to the best couple I know,” Zach said. “I love you both very much. May you love as long as you live and live as long as you love. Oh yeah, and you better name one of your children after me.”
They all laughed as they all touched glasses and sipped their Cognac. Betty made a face and started to cough. Zach downed his drink in one gulp. “Ah, now that’s more like it,” Zach said.