Jonathan expected that the first day would not be terribly busy as he did not purchase any advertising yet. He wanted to open quietly to get his staff up to snuff before he let the flood gates open. The dining room was quiet, and Skyla looked comfortable floating about talking to patrons and helping Savannah clear tables. Jonathan decided to step away for an hour or two and open the bar. He made sure to purchase a juice license so he was able to sell juice, but he didn’t want to invest in a mixologist just yet. Mixologists didn’t come cheap, and contracting one yielded little return for the restaurant. Luckily, his juicing skills were good enough to make people happy. There was an older couple who happily joined him while they waited for a table. He wasn’t exactly sure why they had been waiting with so many open tables, but they seemed happy enough to enjoy a drink first.
However, there was something strange about them. They smiled nervously at him, and whenever he turned his back to get a bottle, he could hear them whispering back and forth.
“You ask him.”
“No. You ask him!”
Jonathan had no idea what they could possibly want to ask him that caused such a stir, so he decided to help them out. “Are you guys Llamacorn fans?”
“Oh yeah, of course,” the man said. “Did you catch the game last night?”
“Nah. I was trying to will myself to go to sleep.”
The three of them shared a laugh.
The woman eyed her husband for a few seconds and finally spoke up. “We’re, uhhh, we’re glad you’re back in business…”
“Oh…I appreciate that,” Jonathan said. He didn’t want to talk about Sky High Cafe, but it was inevitable. “Did you frequent my first restaurant?”
“Actually, no,” she said and glanced at her husband quickly. “We heard about it in the news.” Suddenly she got a bit embarrassed and didn’t know how to explain.
Her husband stepped in. “Forgive my wife. She’s a bit star struck.”
Jonathan was most certainly curious now. “Star struck? With me?” It had been so long since he was out of the Pruett legacy limelight, he had almost forgotten that he was still a celebrity.
“We’re long time fans of the Pruetts,” the man said. “We’ve been following everything your family does since before we got married. We know we’re weird.” He tried to laugh it off.
Of course Jonathan knew that his family was a huge deal, and he knew that people would know him despite the fact they never met. But it never occurred to him that people would actually pay that much attention to them to the point of being star struck when they actually met. He threw the term celebrity around loosely, but he didn’t think they were real celebrities like movie stars. He didn’t know what to say to them.
“We remember when you and Skyla got married,” the woman gushed. “You two are such a beautiful couple!”
Jonathan smiled nervously. “Thank you.” He still didn’t know what to say and focused on mixing their drinks.
“We uhhh,” the husband hesitated, “we were pretty sad about what happened too. That’s why we’re so happy to see you on the up and up. Do you, uhhh… have you talked to Tony at all? You know…to get the money and the estate back?”
He was sorry for his reaction, but they caught him by surprise. He could tell by their faces they knew they had gone too far. However, he took a step back before he did or said anything that he would regret and damage his fragile reputation. If he was a true celebrity, and they were true fans, that would mean they were probably genuine in their concern for the family and curiosity. It was just like his enthusiasm for Llama Man in his childhood. Well, ok…not just like that because Llama Man isn’t real. But you couldn’t tell young Jonathan that. He knew everything there was to know about him, watched every episode at least nine times, and scoured the Internet for new information about all things Llama Man. Jonathan was their Llama Man. When he came to that realization, he was equipped to answer them properly. He started off with an apology.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—
“No, we’re sorry,” the wife interrupted. “We shouldn’t have asked you that.”
“It’s ok, really,” Jonathan said. “We’ve been laying low for a while, so I haven’t been confronted with too many questions until now. It’s fine. I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.”
The couple breathed a sigh of relief.
Jonathan continued. “No, I have neither spoken to nor desired to see or speak to Tony again. I don’t wish him any ill will, but if I never hear his voice or see his face, my life will be better for it.”
Their eyes were wide and they nodded in agreement with everything he said. He appreciated their concern, truly, but he didn’t want to be their Llama Man. He wanted to be their friend and tried a different approach with them.
“You remember my daughter, Maya, right?”
The woman’s whole demeanor changed. “Of course! She’s such a little darling. She should be close to that teen birthday now, right?”
Even though he recognized that he was their Llama Man, their knowledge of his life still surprised him. “Yeah, a few days ago, actually.” He shook his head wearily.
“That bad, huh?” the man said.
“I’ll just say that I’m glad we took the youth potion.”
They laughed together again.
“You know…I was wondering about that,” the woman said. “I thought you looked kinda young.”
“Yeah, we did it. We wanted to start over and enjoy our new life. A little bit after her child birthday, I had reached the point where I fully accepted everything and stopped trying to figure out how I could get everything back or if I could. I said…this is my life now…and I love it! I had grown so much as a man…as a person. I have so much more appreciation for the simple things in life. I’m not sure if I would be able to say that if things didn’t happen the way they did, you know? Like, I hate what happened, but I wouldn’t change the results. I would never thank Tony for screwing me, but he did bring about some much needed changes in my life.”
The woman was in tears, and the man looked at Jonathan with such respect and admiration. Skyla was coming around the corner to see him just then.
“And here is the awesome and beautiful woman who was with me through it all!”
Skyla sat down and was a bit alarmed by the admirable gazes of the couple sitting next to her—especially when she saw that the woman was in tears. She wondered what she had just walked into but knew Jonathan would tell her later if it was worth it.
“Hi,” she said sheepishly.
“Hello, my love,” he said. “This is…oh…I’m sorry. I didn’t even ask you guys for your name! How rude. You know my wife, Skyla. Introduce yourselves.”
“I’m Adrianna McDonnell, and this is my husband Connor and we just love you,” the woman said quickly.
Skyla was even more confused, but she didn’t let her smile waver. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“The McDonnells are self-taught Pruett legacy historians,” Jonathan said. He winked at the McDonnells.
“Oh. That’s interesting,” Skyla said still trying to figure out what was going on.
“Oh! Here’s something I bet you don’t know about us,” Jonathan said. “Maya has a sister! Her name is Aubrey.”
Adrianna gasped. “Oh my word! Another young Pruett! That is wonderful! Who does she look like?”
“Both my daughters take after my beautiful wife.”
Adrianna turned to Skyla and said, “You know, I had heard that you may have been pregnant, but it was never confirmed.”
Skyla was beginning to see what was going on. “I had her at home. We knew the kinds of questions we would get asked, so we wanted to keep it private.”
“I understand that,” Adrianna said. “Gosh…you two are so brave.”
“And crazy,” Jonathan said.
“Excuse me,” Aylin—the hostess—said. “I don’t want to interrupt… Your table is ready whenever you are, but please take your time.”
The McDonnells thanked her and commenced to say goodbye to the Pruetts. “It’s been a real pleasure meeting you,” Connor said.
“And you’re even more beautiful than you are in pictures,” Adrianna added.
“Whoa whoa whoa,” Jonathan said. “What’s all this goodbye talk? You’re gonna come back and see us, right?”
“Why of course we will,” Adrianna said.
“Good! If I don’t see you on your way out, I look forward to when you visit us again. Oh, and enjoy your meal!”
The McDonnells were all smiles as they left the Pruett’s presence. When they were out of earshot, Skyla had to ask.
Jonathan simply sighed. In all of his planning and dreaming about the restaurant, he never factored in the celebrity quotient. He knew that he would run into old customers, but he thought they would simply be glad he was back in business. He never imagined that they would be so inquisitive. Nothing wrong with that, of course. It was just unexpected. He made a mental note to prepare himself to talk about things he didn’t want to talk about.