02-07-2013, 06:42 PM
"Mom's doing what?!" JD roared.
"It's true," Criss told him. "Didn't you see it on the news this evening?"
"I was too busy working to watch anything! Why the hell would she pull such a crazy stunt?"
"Because she loves that church and she wants to save it from the wrecking ball," Criss replied patiently. "That's why the hell she would pull such a crazy stunt!"
JD glared at Criss accusingly. "And you didn't try to talk her out of it?"
"I did try to talk her out of it, earlier this afternoon."
"She wouldn't budge."
JD buried his face in his hands. "We can't leave her out there all night," he said through gritted teeth. "She'll freeze to death in this weather." He shot up from his chair, slamming the palms of his hands on the desktop. "We're gonna get hold of Costa," he growled, "and the three of us are going to bring her home if we have to drag her by the feet! There is no way in hell I'm going to stand by and let my mother freeze to death in that churchyard!"
"Hey, bro," said Criss, "she's my mother too, you know. And I doubt that you can talk her out of it any more than I can."
JD glared at Criss. "Oh, no? Watch me."
In due time JD's Range Rover was making its way toward Holy Trinity Church with three worried brothers inside. The second brother, Costa, had seen the news broadcast about the protest and had been no less shocked than either JD or Criss. The minute JD had contacted him that evening, insisting he come with him to rescue their mother, he had gone to his own car and retrieved a woolen blanket he had stored in the trunk for picnics and other outdoor activities and climbed into the Rover with his brothers. So, off they went, with JD fuming at the wheel, Criss worrying in the passenger seat and Costa navigating from the rear.
"Turn left over here," Costa told JD.
"I know I turn left over here!" JD snapped as he swerved into the left turn lane.
"Okay, okay," Costa said placatingly. "Don't bite my head off."
"God, I hope Mom's okay," Criss muttered.
"She will be once we get her home," said JD. "Can you pick the lock or something to free her?"
"I think she's got the key already," Criss told him.
"How do you know?"
"'Cause those chains...well, they came from the warehouse," Criss answered.
JD almost slammed on the brakes in midturn. "You gave her those chains to tie herself up to that tree?!" he exploded.
"No, it wasn't me," Criss argued defensivly, "it was George."
"Yeah, George. Mom talked him into letting her and Father Stefan into the warehouse to get some chains and locks for the protest movement," Criss explained.
"You're not mad at George for breaking into the warehouse and giving Mom those chains?" Costa asked.
"Look, that doesn't matter anymore," Criss said. "What matters is that we make sure that Mom's all right. I'll deal with George later."
The brothers rode down the side street where the church was located. "There it is," Costa pointed out, "right over there."
"I can see it, Cos, I can see it," JD replied irritably as he pulled over to the side. "Geez, lookit all these people. This thing's really gotten out of hand."
"That's funny," Criss said, looking around the makeshift campsite, "I don't remember it being this crowded when I was here last time."
JD killed the engine and charged out of the Rover. "C'mon, let's look for Mom. She's gotta be here somewhere."
"She's by the tree out front," Criss told him.
Costa gathered the blanket and followed his brothers to the tree. Criss was even more surprised when he saw the tent pitched around the trunk, with a faint glow coming from inside. He could hear his mother's voice through the vinyl flap, calm and casual, but who was she talking to, he wondered.
In the dim glow of the heater, the Loyals sat attentively to listen to Dimitra as she spoke to them, telling them stories from Criss's past and of her own without delving too deeply into her wartime childhood years that were too painful for her to remember.
"I had very little when I came to America with my family," she said, "but one thing we had was hope--hope for a better life. It was difficult adjusting to a whole new country, learning a whole new language, but we had hope, and we had each other. That is why our family is so close to each other: we needed each other to survive, to live. We depended on each other to see ourselves through the difficult times we faced living in Greece during the war and here in America. When things became too much to bear, my mother told me the story of the Miracle Tree."
"What's the Miracle Tree?" Kris Lee asked.
"Is that the one you wrote in your book?" asked the boy beside her. "The one about the king and the shepherd boy?"
"Yes, that's the one," Dimitra replied. "The shepherd boy longed for freedom from the Ottoman Turks who ruled over Greece for four hundred years. The governor over the province stuck his staff in the ground and said 'If that staff grows into a tree, then your land and people shall be free!'. And the next day, the wooden staff grew branches and leaves, giving hope to the people of Greece. Finally, the Ottomans were overthrown. So, whenever things seem hopeless, remember, there is hope. You just have to believe."
"We believe, Dimitra!" shouted the Loyals. "We believe!"
"Good," she said. "Now, it's getting late, so we'd all better turn in for the night."
"Good idea," came a gruff voice from the tent's opening.
The Loyals turned as one to see who had spoken and were astonished to see JD himself standing there. "How about you coming home instead of sitting here freezing to death?" he demanded as he picked his way through the crowded tent to reach his mother.
"First of all, I am not freezing to death," Dimitra informed him, "and second of all, I am not leaving this place until I they call off the demolition."
"You're not really going to sit in that chair, chained to a tree all night, are you?"
"Yes, JD, I am, and there is nothing you can do about it."
"Looks like your ma's made up her mind," the boy beside her piped up.
"You keep out of this!" JD snapped at him. He turned to his mother again. "Sorry, Mom, I know how much this church means to you, but you gotta come home with us. This is nuts, sitting here chained up like a dog to a tree. Now, c'mon, where's the key?"
"I am not moving, and that is final!" Dimitra insisted angrily. "Plead all you want, but my mind is made up!"
"Criss! Costa!" JD shouted. "Get over here!"
The two brothers made their way through the mass of adoring Loyals. Criss shook a few hands while insisitng that family came first for the moment, but Costa was more singleminded in his goal. He threw the blanket around his mother's shoulders to warm her.
"You don't have to stay here anymore, Mom," Criss said tenderly as he approached his mother. "The lawyers filed for an injunction against SilverStar and we got a class action suit against them. Once they serve it, they won't be able to do anything."
"How long will it take to serve it?" Dimitra asked.
"They said a week at most." Criss answered.
"Then I'll stay here until they serve it."
"Mom, please," Costa pleaded, "you've made your point, so let's all just go home, okay? We're worried about you being here out in the cold all night. You can't last a week like this! What if your heart starts giving you trouble again? Who's gonna help you?"
"My heart is fine," Dimitra told him firmly, "and I am not going to freeze to death. I have my new friends here, and I have the Church to support me. Now, stop worrying and go home. I'll be fine."
Criss looked sadly at his mother. "You sure you won't change your mind?"
"I am sure," Dimitra said. She waved them away. "Now, go! I'll see you in the morning."
Kris Lee looked up at Criss. "We'll take care of her, Criss, don't worry," she assured him. "If anything goes wrong, we'll call you."
Criss fished out his billfold and drew out a twenty. "Here," he said, "make sure she gets a hot meal tonight and breakfast tomorrow. Can I trust you to do that?"
"I swear to God I will," Kris Lee said confidently. "We'll all take good care of Mama D."
"Thank you." Criss hugged his mother as if for the last time. "Take care, Mama," he said, his voice breaking with emotion. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Christopher," Dimitra replied.
"I love you more," Criss choked as he kissed her on the cheek, then sadly, reluctantly turned away. The Loyals stood up as one and surrounded him and his brothers with hugs, kisses and promises to take care of his mother. Their reassurances were comforting but unsuccessful in restoring Criss's confidence concerning his mother's welfare. JD tried once again to talk her into coming home with him, but he, too, was forced to admit defeat. Frustrated, he left with his brothers, leaving his mother at her post.
"God, I hope she makes it through the night," Costa sighed. "I've never seen Mom so stubborn about anything."
"Criss," JD said, "you call those lawyers and tell them to get that injunction served yesterday! Understand?"
"They just filed it this afternoon," Criss told him.
"I don't give a damn when they filed it!" JD snapped. "Tell them to serve it ASAP so Mom will give up this crazy protest and come home!"
"A lot you know about the legal system," Criss mumbled.