The week after the move was calm as Mario and Wil settled into their new home. Maria came by twice with her kids to help Mario with the finishing touches, the second time bringing curtains for the front window to replace the venetian blinds, and to help him set up a swing-set that he’d bought in the backyard . She commented as they did so about the high cedar fence which surrounded the small yard.
“Makes me feel a lot safer,” Mario admitted somewhat ruefully. “Who knew I’d ever need the sense of protection it gives.”
“Hopefully you really never will,” she replied, hugging him.
He agreed wholeheartedly.
Then Friday afternoon came around and with it Jonah.
Mario had half an hour before his shift was over. The restaurant was fairly empty since it catered to the breakfast and lunch crowds. He was just in the process of wiping down the counters and filling shakers when the front door opened and Jonah walked in.
“There’s my man,” Jonah said with the heartiness of someone who had already had one too many drinks.
Mario looked up and shivered. “We’re about to…” He bit off the sentence. The last thing he needed was for Jonah to think he could wait around for him.
“Close.” Jonah smiled as he took a seat at the counter. “I know. That’s why I’m here.” His countenance darkened. “I was going to surprise you and go to the apartment. Imagine my surprise when I discovered you don’t live there any more.”
“Nope, we found a nice place through a friend and jumped at the chance,” Mario replied with a smile in an attempt to make light of the move.
“Where?” When Mario didn’t answer Jonah slammed his fist down on the counter and said loudly, “Where, Mario?”
“Sir,” Mr. Reiter said as he came up behind Jonah, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave. You’re disturbing the other customers.”
Jonah took a deliberate look around the restaurant. “What customers?” he sneered.
“Out, now.” Mr. Reiter said firmly as two of the other waiters stepped up beside him.
Jonah stood abruptly, reached across the counter to grab the front of Mario’s shirt and yanked him close. “This is not over. I’ll be waiting outside for you. I want to talk with you. Don’t try to avoid me. Understood?” He released his hold, fisted one hand then must have realized people were watching because he dropped it to his side and stalked angrily from the restaurant. Once he was outside he leaned up against the front window, arms crossed over his chest as he shot a defiant look inside.
“I’m going to call the police,” Mr. Reiter said.
“No, please don’t.” Mario’s voice was shaky. “That will only set him off more. I’ll go out the back way and…and catch a cab to the school…Oh hell.” He pulled out his cell. “What if…” Rapidly he placed a call, asking to speak to the principal. He explained very briefly that he was sending his sister to pick Wil up and he was not to let anyone else take him. Then he called Maria, told her in as few words as possible what had happened then asked her to go get Wil. “But please, just let him think it’s…that I’m meeting you at your place for dinner, or something.” He nodded, smiled slightly at what she said in return and hung up.
“She’s going to do it?” Mr. Reiter asked.
Mario nodded. “Yes. Now I just have to avoid…” he glanced at Jonah who still stood outside with his eyes now locked on the door, “him.”
“Take the bus bin back to the kitchen then get out of here. If he looks like he’s going to move I’ll go out and keep him busy.” Mr. Reiter smiled tightly. “I’ll read him the riot act for how he acted.”
“Just be careful, he likes to use his fists.”
“Don’t worry,” one of the other waiters said. “I’ll go out with him. That should make the ass think twice.”
“Thanks, all of you.” With a fearful look out the window Mario picked up the bin and headed quickly to the kitchen.