Diwa & Kaffi 46

Author’s Note: You can feel confident that you’ve achieved your goals and desires, but sometimes receiving that confirmation from others is the icing on the cake.

*

CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

Samuel glanced expectantly at Graymar. Was he ready for this? All these years living and working here at the estate…watching younglings grow and mature, watching older tenants come and go. Over twenty years of being co-landlords! Eiyah, so many things had happened between then and today. Births, deaths, celebrations, sorrows, loves. They’d had a wonderful run here. But it was true, it was time to hand it over to the next generation. He would miss it, surely…but he would miss being with Gray the most.

But Graymar stood tall, wings slightly lifted, showing his fangs in a wide grin. He was humming quietly, low and soft. Calm and content.

He glanced back and tipped his head towards the crowd. As planned, he would go first, then Graymar would follow. Then together they would release the news everyone was eagerly awaiting. Graymar nodded slowly, letting him know that he could begin his speech whenever he felt ready.

He turned to Dari, who had finally stopped moving enough to enjoy dinner by his side and now stood next to him, squeezing his hand. Ai, he was so lucky to have her…she was a force to be reckoned with here at the estate! She never chose to be a landlord, nor had she ever wanted that position. Instead she’d worked behind the scenes at the community center and on the tenancy committee. She was just as visible and just as important to this estate as he and Graymar had always been, in her own ways. And because of this, she was his inspiration and his pillar of strength. No matter what he’d gone through over the years, she was there, right beside him. “Mahal kita, Samuel,” she said, and leaned in to kiss his cheek.

“Mahal din kita, Dari,” he said in return, squeezing her hand.

He faced the crowd once more. At the front table, he saw Diwa and Kaffi sitting side by side, all nerves and seriousness. Anna-Nassi and Cole were together as well, both grinning back at him, eagerly awaiting the news. And nearby, his other children: his elder son Aldrine, tall and strong and proud of his entire family; and young Maricel, already creating her own role here with her spunkiness and relentless energy. And Graymar’s pahyoh Iliah sitting with them, her arms draped over their shoulders in an affectionate embrace.

Ai, how did I deserve such a wonderful family? he thought.

He looked out over his audience, the secretive paperwork in hand. He and Graymar already knew the outcome, had known it since the close of the election, but he had made it a point not to break the seal of Gareth’s official response until this evening, in front of everyone. Papa Daniel and lolo Akkree had done the same ages ago. He stepped up to the microphone, cleared his throat, and began.

“Good evening, everyone,” he said, “and thank you for coming tonight. I hope you enjoyed the dinner and the wonderful entertainment provided by our tenants and children! This must be a record turnout for the harvest celebration, and I cannot thank you enough for the wonderful food we’ve had here this evening, the decorations, the setup, and everything else. This is truly a wonderful place to be. This will be an evening to remember!”

He shifted in place, pulling a folded piece of paper from his shirt pocket. “Before I move on, however, I would like to give thanks to a few young tenants here who have made it their mission to ensure that our community here at the estate remains an active and caring one, even when Graymar and I had our focus elsewhere. They have both gone above and beyond everyone’s expectations, possibly including their own, through their tireless work with the tenancy committee, the co-op farm, and our own grounds. They took it upon themselves to take ownership of a sadly overlooked part of this estate and their plans are already, pardon the pun, bearing fruit.”

He paused to listen to the amused groans…as well as the chirp of surprise from the mandossi sitting right in front of him.

He unfolded the paper and briefly held it aloft. “I’ve been given the following note from tenant’s committee member Elise-Nooviya to read. She says: ‘At the beginning of this year, we finalized numerous business agreements with the local co-op farm as a future business endeavor. But in doing so, we made the mistake of letting our own apple orchard grow wild from lack of care and attention. This was noticed by many, but it was the initiative of two very special tenants that changed all that. Over the course of the summer, we were able to complete all the business work, get many volunteers and paid workers hired at the co-op, and most importantly, had the orchard brought back to as close to its original active status as possible.

“’However, they did not just stop at rejuvenating the land. During this past season, these same two tenants stepped up to organize and provide back-up daycare for many of the younglings during staff shortages or unforeseen family emergencies. Our tenants Tassh, Kantah and Moffer would especially like to thank these two for their willingness to care for little Koie during their busiest times.

“’So, it is with the greatest appreciation and gratitude that the tenant committee wish to recognize Anna-Nassi sho Leima er Fieya and Cole Caine as outstanding members of our community. They have proven themselves to be extremely dedicated to the estate and the tenancy committee and welcome them as full-time members.’

“Anna-Nassi, Cole, please stand up and be recognized?”

The two recovered from their shock and amazement and stood with pride, their hands clasped tightly together, and waved at the crowd. Annie’s wings fluttered nervously with excitement, but she remained quiet and calm. Cole held his hand to his heart, beaming with happiness, steady and strong. Samuel watched them for a few moments, impressed by the solid foundation they’d created for themselves. They’d prepared for their own futures here at the estate, parallel to Diwa’s and Kaffi’s, and they were proud of their successes. He was proud of them as well…they were going to be wonderful tenancy committee members in a few years…

Eventually the crowd finally quieted down enough for him to continue. He took the moment to nod once more at Graymar. He lumbered slowly to his side, exhausted but not sickly. This night was taking a lot out of him, but he refused to miss this most important moment of his entire life. In a surprising gesture, Graymar reached over and gave Samuel a tight hug. He said nothing, but he could feel the rumble of a low and calming hum. Resonant and smooth. Love.

Samuel hummed in harmony with him, tapping his forehead against Graymar’s.

“Eiyah!” Graymar said to the crowd as he pulled away. Despite his health, his voice could still carry across the room, with or without amplification. “Welcome, and thank you,” he said slowly. “I am going to assume that most if not all of you have already heard the news of my recent diagnosis, so both Samuel and I decided it was best that we retire and hand the estate over to the next landlords.

“But I am not going to dwell on the negatives here. I would rather focus on what has always been the most positive things in my life right now, and I can say without a doubt that most of them are right here in front of me tonight, enjoying this celebration with me. I would like to say that I love this community with my wings, my eyes, my ears, and my heart. I may have foolishly forgotten to mention this numerous times in the past, but I want to say it now: all of you have always made me feel that this is my home and the place where I belong.

“I would like to reach out and give my deepest love to my bond, Samuel Peakes. He has been with me since we were younglings, and he has always stayed by my side. We may have argued and disagreed and snapped at each other like the old paddir that we are, but not once has it ever been out of hatred. He’s looked after me, trusted me, and loved me like I have looked after him, trusted and loved him.

“I would like to reach out and give my deepest love to my family: Shahney, Iliah and Kaffi. They have stayed by my side with love and affection and humor, through days high and low. I love and cherish them, and I am deeply proud of the tintrite they have become.

“That said…” he turned and nodded to Samuel.

Samuel picked up the special envelope from the table behind him, and held it aloft. With a letter opener he broke the seal in front of everyone, all witnesses, and pulled out the official document stating the winners of the election. He tilted it in Graymar’s direction. Their eyes met and they both smiled, and they were both thinking and feeling the same exact thing.

Pride.

*

Graymar and Samuel glanced at each other with that look in their eyes, and Diwa’s heart stopped.

Samuel turned back to the audience and beamed. “We are absolutely thrilled to announce that it is official with the Tenancy Board and Housing Bureau of Panooria and the tenancy committee of this estate that the next landlords starting the first of November of this year will be…Diwa Parkes-Santos…”

Graymar leaned in. “…and Kaffi pahyoh Graymar di Shahney.”

“Ai…!” Kaffi blurted, and reached over to pull Diwa into a fierce, tight hug, his wings flapping excitedly. “Eiyah! Dee! We did it! We did it!”

Diwa was struck numb, both by the shock of the confirmation and the deafening roar of the cheering crowd. He wasn’t sure whether to laugh, cry, cheer, or pass out! He sank deep into Kaffi’s scales, crying and laughing and hugging him back. “We did it…” he whispered, barely able to speak the words. He pulled Kaffi even tighter and let out a strong extended hum into his friend’s chest; ecstasy.

Then he felt the hard thump and heard an excited chirp from Anna-Nassi embracing both of them, sandwiching him between. Ai, yes! Yes! They really did it! His dream had come true! He managed to extricate himself and wipe the tears from his eyes and hugged all three of his friends tightly. He couldn’t believe it…! All that hard work, all that dedication and time spent over the last seven months had worked…! He was just about to turn eighteen and become one of the youngest co-landlords in the estate’s history, and he hadn’t expected this so soon, but here it was, a reality!

“We did it,” he said again, laughing in disbelief.

“We did,” Kaffi said, grinning madly, his snout low and his eyes level with his, and embraced him again.

The tenants were still cheering as Samuel and Graymar walked up. Each father stood before their son and handed them documents that had been part of the sealed envelope: the official registrations and licenses stating their positions and start dates. These would be signed and hung up on the wall in the main offices here at the community center, with copies to be hung with pride in Samuel’s soon to be former office. They removed their signet rings and handed them over.

Samuel dropped the ring into Diwa’s palm. This was a symbolic gesture, but he felt the ring’s weight in his hand and felt his body shudder unexpectedly in response. He’d worn the ring just recently during their trip to Panooria but hadn’t even entertained the thought of owning the thing. Now it was officially his, even if the position wasn’t to start for another few weeks. He closed his hand tightly around the ring and looked up at his father.

“Hindi kita bibiguin, ama,” he said.

Samuel pulled him into a tight embrace. “I am so proud of you, Diwa,” he said, and kissed the top of his head. “I know you can do this. You and Kaffi will make fine landlords. I believe in the two of you.”

Diwa felt new tears at the corners of his eyes. “Ai, Pop…” he said, the laugh catching in his throat. “Maraming pong salamat, Pop. Thank you.”

He glanced over to his right and saw Graymar holding Kaffi. Their embrace was so tight and complete that neither tintrite moved an inch…yet two pairs of wings were out and beating very slowly and in tandem. No shared words, but a long, low and resonant hum from both, in harmony. Deep love and mutual respect.

*

“So! What’s next, boss?” Anna-Nassi said, leaning up against the patio railing on the roof of Palm. She was surprisingly mellow, completely at ease with herself. Cole stood close by, also leaning against the railing, watching the dwindling crowds below. The celebration long over, everyone was exhausted but immensely pleased. The foursome chose to finish the evening here on the roof with a private afterparty of their own.

Kaffi sipped from his fluted glass and glanced at her. “Which one?” he said, completely deadpan.

“Ai!” she giggled. “Starting in on your employees already, are you?” She gulped the remains of the drink and gasped in pleasure. “Serious question, though. We won the election and we’re starting the job in a little less than two months. What’s next?”

“I hadn’t really thought too much about it to be honest,” Diwa shrugged. He’d already finished his drink and had a pleasant buzz going. “We’re in a good place. We’ve got our families and tenants to back us up. And we’ve done good this summer. Change when needed, yeah? We’re open for any new ideas, of course. Including from the two of you.”

Kaffi nudged him playfully, grinning at him. “You don’t have the position yet, Dee. Don’t get ahead of yourself.”

“Says you!” he snorted, nudging him back. “I’m expecting hard work from you as well!”

“Diwa has a good point,” Cole said, turning back to them. There was a zen-like peace about him right now; with all the excitement and emotion of the last few hours, he seemed to have gotten his fill of feeding and then some, but earlier he’d confirmed that he was fine, that he had his syndrome under control tonight, as long as Anna-Nassi remained by his side. He’d come a long way since his previous negative reaction just a short time ago. “We’ve got quite a few years ahead of us. Why rush into it? The tenants love what we’re doing so far, and we haven’t needed to make any desperate changes at all, only positive ones.”

“Glad we have one voice of reason in this bunch,” Diwa said smartly, and held up his nearly empty bottle. “Congratulations to everyone. Annie, Cole, Kaff…maraming salamat. You’ve made my dream a reality, and I’m glad you’ve decided to be a part of it.”

“Anytime,” Kaffi hummed, tapping Diwa’s back with his tail.

*

Glossary:
“Mahal kita, Samuel.” (Tagalog) — “I love you, Samuel.”
“Mahal din kita, Dari.” (Tagalog) — “I love you too, Dari.”
“Hindi kita bibiguin, ama.” (Tagalog) — “I won’t let you down, father.”
“Maraming pong salamat, Pop.” (Tagalog) — “Thank you so much, Pop.”

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