She didn’t know what to tell the children but she figured that whatever she would tell them, the outcome would be the same. They were going to be sad about the fact that Miss Tabitha had to leave. No amount of explaining would satisfy them about that fact. Jamila knew that she would have to promise them that Tabitha would come back to visit or they would take the time to go out and visit her. Chattanooga wasn’t that far away; they would be able to make a weekend out of it.
She had to admit that she was going to be sad as well; she had gotten so used to having Tabitha around. Nevertheless, it had been a year since she had seen her family and friends and Jamila made her promise that after the procedure she would have to swallow her pride and do so. Jamila was also excited that not only would the procedure let Tabitha be reunited with her family, but would also give her the opportunity to get some answers from the Army; they would probably track down the general who had her body dumped in Memphis as well. The two wanted to see justice served.
Jamila tried to push all of her thoughts aside as her children set the table and she pulled the garlic bread out of the oven. She slightly smiled as the thought came to her; Tabitha had become one of the family: along with the children and her husband, Jamila knew that Tabitha’s favorite meal was chicken, shrimp and broccoli Alfredo.
Tabitha looked at the clock on the nightstand and put her book on top of her small suitcase; it was already dinnertime. The Lindsey family had done so much for her; too much, she told herself. The professor didn’t have to put up room and board for the woman but she did. She didn’t have to take Tabitha shopping for clothes, buy her favorite snacks or cook her favorite meals but she did. And, she definitely didn’t have to spend countless hours of research on her “condition”, teach her how to better control her powers or even help Wyatt with the procedure that would make her normal again… but she did. Tabitha owed the older woman and her family a lot.
The smell of garlic bread made her smile as she made her way down the stairs. In the dining room, the table was nicely set and the children were neatly dressed, even sitting at the table waiting. The boys wore polo shirts and slacks while Solonia had on a very nice light green dress with matching bows in her hair. She slightly laughed at the scene.
“Special occasion, guys?”
“Momma said for us to dress nicely.” Solonia volunteered. Within the year that she had been there, Tabitha had grown to know each child’s personality… and was saddened that she would actually miss them the most.
Solonia was the voice of the triplets. If an explanation was needed, she was the one giving it, no matter how much trouble it landed the three in! She was somewhat of an enigma; she was a lady-like tomboy. She probably enjoyed wrestling more than her brothers did, and had no problem getting her hands dirty, picking up insects outside freely to her mother’s dismay. However, one look in her room and all one could see were dolls and cute stuffed animals. She was the oldest by two seconds and was named after Albert’s maternal grandmother.
A.C. was born next and he was the average 5 year old. He liked any and everything his father liked, staying true to the fact that he was named after him. Tabitha also saw that he was the bully out of the three; he especially took pleasure into teasing Jamil about who he was named after!
Jamil was last but definitely not least. He was usually quiet but when he spoke, he spoke his mind and would almost always get into trouble for it! He was also the smartest of the three; if Solonia or A.C. needed any type of help, they would seek him out first before the parents. Tabitha noticed that Jamila babied him the most but it was only because he suffered through some complications when he was born, almost not making it.
As she joined the three at the table, she almost laughed at the fact that even though they were 5, their mother still referred to them as babies; she knew that her friend would be hit in the heart pretty soon when the triplets would start kindergarten.
“I told you guys to dress nice, not dress like we’re going to church!” Jamila laughed a little as she placed the plates of food on the table, “Hey! Wait for your daddy!” she saw that they had picked up their forks and were about to dig in. Albert finally came from upstairs and sat at the table; the children immediately started to eat.
“Is it daddy’s birthday?” Jamil asked with his mouth full of food.
“Boy! Eat and then talk!” his father warned him. Jamila poured wine for the three adults and shook her head.
“You know it’s not daddy’s birthday, yet.” she answered as she sat down. She sighed and looked at her children, “Guys… you know how everyone has their own family, right?”
“Right!” the children waited until they had swallowed their food before they responded.
“Well… Miss Tabitha has her own. And her family misses her a lot…”
“Momma… is Miss Tabitha… leaving…?” A.C. stopped eating his food and looked dead at Tabitha. The other two followed suit; Jamila took in a deep breath to keep her eyes from glistening like the children’s.
“Well, baby… she has to. Tonight, w…”
“She’s leaving tonight?!?!” Solonia yelled. She widened her eyes at the women and her lips started to quiver.
“Nooo!” Jamil cried. He immediately left his seat and grabbed a hold of Tabitha, determined to keep her there. The other two children did the same, crying out their pleas for her to stay. It was all a mother could take and her tears finally fell.
“No… she’s not leaving tonight…” Jamila tried.
“B-but… she’s leaving, soon…”
“Don’t make her leave! Daddy… tell momma not to make her leave!!”
“Don’t go, Miss Tabitha; we love you…” the three children cried. She had been through boot camp, training for her job and drill sergeant school. Anyone else in her current condition would have immediately cracked but not her. However, not once did she ever think that a bunch of 5 year olds would tear at her heart strings the way the Lindsey children were doing at the moment. She looked over at the parents for help; she wasn’t used to this… at all. Unfortunately, they weren’t of any help as the mother covered her mouth to keep from sobbing and the father, who never showed much emotion, was fighting his own tears. Tabitha quickly wiped at the couple of tears that fell from her eyes and hugged the children back.
“Hey… it’s okay…” she cleared the shakiness from her voice and smiled down at them, “I’ll be back. I’m only gonna be gone for a little while.” she had made up her mind; after that display, who could stay away from them for long? They loved her; and all that time, Tabitha just thought that they looked at her as a grownup playmate. After hearing their cries and honest pleas, she knew what she had to do.
“R-really? Y-you mean that?” Jamil continued to cry. The three were looking at her and she took the time to wipe at their tears.
“I promise. I’ve been away from my mom and dad and brothers for a long time… and I know that they miss me and want to see me. But… it’ll only be for a short time. Before you know it, we’ll be back here, watching Randy Orton and Batista and… the Caretaker…” she actually hoped she had gotten the wrestler’s name right. The sudden outburst of laughter told her that she didn’t.
“The Undertaker!” Solonia continued to laugh. Tabitha laughed along with them and hugged them tighter.
“Alright… no more tears! We gotta eat before our food gets cold.” she continued. The three wiped at their remaining tears, nodded and went back to their seats. As the children and Tabitha continued to eat, Jamila and Albert could do nothing but stare at Tabitha. More tears made their way down the professor’s cheeks as she realized what Tabitha had decided.
“Tabs…” was all she could say. The young woman looked at her.
“If you tell me that I can’t come back to live with you guys… I’m gonna really cry…” she calmly mentioned as her eyes misted up once more. Three pairs of eyes shot up from their plates and looked at their mother in angst.
“Don’t…” a whine had started from A.C. Jamila switched glances from her children to her husband, who took her hand and squeezed it; it was all the approval that she needed. She gave Tabitha a smile.
“Tabs… you’re family, now; how can I say no?”