Chapter Two Thousand One Hundred Twenty-Six
29th February 1972
The day before, Manny had gotten the cast taken off his arm and he had not been pleased with the result. His left arm was stiff, and he noticed that he didn’t have a full range of movement with it. The Doctor had warned him that with the fractures that he was still healing from it would take time to fully recover but he was young and had plenty of it. It was hard not to be impatient with that. He had seen his arm when it had come out the cast, pale, slightly shrunken, and covered with pealing skin. His mother said that it was a good thing because he could finally take a shower and get properly cleaned up. She had said she disliked how he was stinking up the house.
A day later, he knocked on the door of Kat von Mischner’s house. The crest on the brass doorknocker proclaiming exactly who this house this belonged. He knew that it was a subtle fortress whose defenses had never been tested. Few people were crazy enough to take on Manny’s Aunt directly, even fewer were willing to attack her physically. As far as he knew, only his father was one of the few people who dared to treat her like anything other than the fearsome Tigress, poking fun at his little sister for her paranoia. Manny knew his Aunt had enemies and the house was a secure base of operations. It was like that American Author had put in that weird book set in the Philippines in the midst of the Pacific War that Manny had read recently, “Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not after you.” Considering the perspective of the story’s protagonist it was entirely understandable. He was flying combat missions that were not combat missions as part of the tripwire force that was based on the island of Luzon in case the Japanese or the Allied forces decided they were tired of the obstacle that the neutral Philippines represented.
He had only seen Suse a handful of times since he had gotten home. The first time had been disastrous with Suse going on at length saying things that were largely incomprehensible to Manny, mostly about how he was selfish and arrogant delivered at volumes normally associated with air raid sirens. Later, after Suse had stormed off, his father had told him that he had managed to scare her and what he had listened as a captive audience due to his arm, had been her saying as such. That had been that he noticed that his parents seemed to be in perfect agreement with Suse in this case. It was the sort of thing that let him know that he had pushed his luck way too far this time.
They had seen each other a few times since then and things had gotten better until Suse’s mother had spilled the beans about Manny having asked her to marry him in Argentina. The trouble was that Gerta had somehow left out what the answer had been. Manny don’t know if Suse had not told her mother that detail, or if it had been missed in the excitement. Either way, it had made things profoundly awkward.
Today though, Manny’s hope was that they could put that behind them. It was Suse’s birthday, and not just any birthday either. This year they were celebrating it on the date it had actually fell under. It was something that only happened during leap years. That was why when he was led into the house Manny saw that there were things alluding to how this was Suse Rosa’s sixth birthday, when everyone knew that she was really twenty-four. Suse was waiting for him in the library, a setting that was completely out of character for her and she was wearing a dress. Normal for Suse was Mechanic’s coveralls when she was working and equally practical clothes when she was not.
“Thank God you’re here” Suse said as soon as she saw Manny enter the library. “You won’t believe what they want to do.”
“That being?” Manny asked.
“My mother is making this a big production and Kat is helping her” Suse said, “They invited everyone I know.”
“Your birthday should be special” Manny said, “Especially this year.”
“Yes, but this is absurd” Suse replied, “It is like when I was a little girl, and my mother would invite my entire class.”
“While you hate being the center of attention” Manny observed.
“Exactly” Suse replied, “It isn’t too difficult to understand, and you know full well what everyone is going to want to talk about.”
“It’s the truth, isn’t it?” Manny asked.
“And who is going to tell them that I turned you down?” Suse asked in reply.
“You did then, but what about now?” Manny asked, “We might be able to tell them something different.”
“Little has changed” Suse replied, “You still love to take stupid chances.”
“Seeing that my mother is likely to successfully head off the next war or two, I would say that are going to be few opportunities to take chances, stupid or otherwise, over the next few years” Manny said, “I could also get in a car accident tomorrow.”
Suse gave him a sour look. She didn’t like being reminded that she had voiced her concern that he would recklessly get himself killed. Only he had sort of come close to having that exact thing happen. Inwardly, he kicked himself for doing that.