A man no younger than sixty sat with three children at his feet.
His rocking chair creaked with every rock, and the laugh wrinkles on his face spoke of days past, when he could do more than sit telling stories to his three grandchildren,
"Tell us a story Papa!" the three children cried excitedly, looking at him with love in their eyes.
The two girls wore pretty summer dresses, while the elder boy wore simple swimming shorts and a tee-shirt.
The old man studied them with a serious look on his face, and they watched hopefully, waiting for his answer.
He adjusted his suspenders, and a smile spread across his face, lighting up his blue eyes, and telling the children that he would indeed, tell them a story. And this is what he told them.
Once when your grandmother and I were quite a bit younger, we were celebrating our engagement by having a dinner date at Morgan's Eatery, our favorite restaurant at the time.
The restaurant was a fine place, more expensive than our usual dining.
Lovely wooden walls and floors of smooth granite, table's made of the finest oak trees, spotless, those tables always looked like they were fresh from the factory, even after six years of usage.
Your grandmother had loved that place; she always claimed there was a special air about it.
Though I never understood what it was that she called a 'special air' I have to admit that was some darn good food they made.
I took her there on her birthday every year, and since we were soon to be married, it seemed fit we would go there to celebrate.
Walking in to the place, your grandmother always seemed to relax, she seemed to lose her worries in there, and whenever we left, she always had sudden realization about how to fix her problems.
It was like something had taken her problems away, only to return them to her, solved when she stepped out of the doors.
She claimed it was the 'special air' of the place that helped her see her problems from a different perspective she could never see them from anywhere else.
She said no other place had ever done that for her. Only once did I experience that feeling, that day, celebrating out engagement.
We were in our late twenties, I was twenty-eight, she was twenty-six.
We walked into that place and then suddenly I felt there was something different, it wasn't the calming feeling she claimed to feel,
it felt to me as though the place was tense with anticipation, waiting for something to happen.
As the waitress had led us to our seats, I remembered dropping my wallet under the seat of my red mustang. I had since bought a new wallet, but that wallet had my important things in it.
I wanted to tell Gina, your grandmother, about it, but I chose to find my wallet first.
Surprised to feel the 'special air' as tense, while your grandmother felt it as calm, I chose to simply wait and see if it continued.
We were looking through the menus when Gina looked up suddenly,
"I know how to solve the money problem!" she cried in excitement, her face lighting up. Smiling at her, I noticed our waitress approaching, ready for our order.
I quickly skimmed the menu and found my usual order, 'Pasta Dishes #3 Pasta marinara with extra mushrooms, meatballs, and garlic toast.
"May I take you order?" the waitress asked, fluttering her dark mascara covered eyelashes at me as she spoke.
Your grandmother must have noticed, as she raised her left hand to tuck her hair behind her ear, and turned her hand just so the waitress could see the ring.
"Pasta Dishes Number Three" I said calmly, pretending to have not noticed the silent battle between them,
"House Specialties Number Eight," Your grandmother handed our menus to the waitress as she spoke, and the waitress shot a glowering look at the ring on Gina's hand as she walked away.
Your grandmother glared after the waitress, then turned to me,
"People like that bother me." Was all she said, and her hazel eyes slowly returned to the calm state they were usually in at Morgan's. We exchanged wedding plans while we waited.
Your grandmother wanted a traditional, white dress, tuxedo, flowers everywhere, church centered wedding. I'm not sure how I did it, but somehow I convinced her to have it outside.
After a short wait, the waitress brought back our food, her face returned to a normal, 'if you need anything ask me' face.
My meal was delicious, the garlic bread was just right as usual, but your grandmother seemed to be less than interested in her steak, she kept glancing up, and finally she spoke,
"It feels tense in here, like there is something coming we don't know about." Surprised that she felt it too, it took me a moment to answer,
"I know, I feel it too." She looked at me like I was crazy, then her face softened,
"At least I'm not imagining things, unless we both are!
" she added the second part playfully, like a joke, but I could hear the tension in her voice, I had never heard that tone to her voice in the restaurant before.
After a while she began to fiddle with the flower arrangement on the table, her steak still untouched.
As the sun began to set, a waiter came around lighting candles at each table; he smiled at us as he lit ours.
Gina's head jerked up at a loud crash behind me, and I turned my head around to see what had happened, the man lighting the candles was gone, but four young men were now shouting at each other,
and a flower arrangement had been smashed onto the floor between them, they were standing up beside their table, and whatever they were arguing about, it wasn't good.
Suddenly one of the men launched himself at another, and they crashed into the floor, just away from the glass, they were punching and kicking each other,
yelling things their mother's would have washed their mouths out for. The other two joined in, and soon everyone in the restaurant was watching.
A few waitresses ran in to see what was wrong, but they all fled when one of the men attempted to grab the dishes off of a tray one of them was carrying.
The shouts were becoming unbearable, but no one moved to stop them, too afraid of being hurt.
Shouts of pain joined those of anger, and suddenly one of the men crashed backwards into a table, and the candle on the table smashed to pieces on the floor, but the flame stayed alive.
It crept up the table leg and slowly began to engulf the table; all of the people except for the fighters were frozen, not knowing what to do.
One woman threw her full wine glass at the fire, but that only sped up the flame, soon the whole table was aflame.
The flickering flame spread up further, burning the open menus on the table, and before anyone could stop it, the flame turned to the walls,
and soon the wooden walls were being covered by flickering orange and yellow light.
A man shrieked for someone to call the fire department, and suddenly the fire alarm sounded.
Having been frozen by the shock of what was happening, many people suddenly leapt up and ran for the door, and I turned to see Gina frozen with fear.
"We have to get out of here!" I cried to her, but she simply wouldn't move. The flame was now covering three of the walls in the room, and people were fleeing, screaming.
I shook your grandmother, and she finnaly came to as the flame flickered closer to our table.
We ran across the granite floor, Gina's heels clinking with her every step. It seemed like a countdown, every clink brought us a moment closer to survival, but also a moment closer to death.
I shoved on the door open, and we were free, safe from the flames.
I heard a fire engine roaring as it came closer, and I felt relief at the sight of water smashing onto the flame lit building, Gina grasped my arm,
looking at me like this was the last time she'd ever seen me, then she fainted clean away.
I had only just enough time to catch her before she hit the pavement, and I carried her to the car, thanking god she was still alive.
I sat in the car for hours watching the flames flicker on the building, slowly fleeing from the water.
It took perhaps an hour for your grandmother to awake, but when she did, I took her home immediately.
She took every candle in the house and put them for sale on eBay, this amused me, but I have to admit I felt much safer once they were gone.
The man smiled down at his grandchildren, their identical brown eyes staring at him with such respect he could have been a king.
They loved him more than he could ever know, and he hoped they knew he felt the same.
"That was amazing Papa! Did it really happen?
" asked the eldest child, he glanced at the picture of their grandmother on the wall, and wondered how she was feeling, Gina had never liked hospitals.
"Yes, did it really happen?" The youngest echoed her brother, following her brother's gaze, and wincing at the sadness that overwhelmed her.
"Of course it happened! All the stories Papa tells are true!
" The middle child smiled happily at her grandfather, trying to ignore the sadness she felt coming from her siblings, she too had seen their grandmother in the hospital,
the smile that usually lit her face had been drowned by the uncomfortable feelings of her illness,
"Of course it's true, that's why your mother's name is Morgan." The grandfather turned to the picture as well, and then he smiled at his grandchildren, and said only four words,
"Go open the door." The three children ran to the door, and cries of happiness filled the little house as they hugged their grandmother, telling her she want allowed to ever get sick again.