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A Promise Revisited
"Thanks Mark, I'll see you both tomorrow."
Cliff Huxtable hung up the phone, as his wife walked into the kitchen.
"Cliff, who was on the telephone?" Clair questioned.
"Well dear, that was actually Mark Etten. I hadn't talked to him in a while so I decided to call him up."
"Well," Clair said, pleased to hear about their friend, "how's Mark been doing?"
"Fine," Cliff replied, "actually, I invited him over for dinner tomorrow for Theo's birthday- if that's okay with you dear."
"That's fine with me, that is, if Theo doesn't mind."
"What wouldn't I mind?" Theo walked down the stairs into the kitchen, grabbing an apple out of the fruit bowl on the counter.
"I invited an old friend to your birthday dinner," Cliff said casually.
"Mark Etten, you remember Mark don't you Theo? He's going to be bringing his daughter with him too."
"Really Cliff!" Clair said excitedly, "You didn't mention that Ellen was coming too, well I haven't seen her since she was twelve-years-old."
"Well I thought it would be nice to see them both and they were free tomorrow… that is if you don't mind, Theo…"
"No Dad, not at all," Theo finished the apple he was eating and stalked out of the kitchen.
Cliff smiled to himself. It had been nine years since Theo had seen Ellen Etten. She had been a beautiful child all her life, but at the age twenty-one, she had matured into an amazing young woman. It was time that Cliff made good on a promise he made to his son.
Nine Years Earlier
"…and how old did you tell me you'll be when you get married?"
"Well, by the time your 26, Ellen will be around 20…21…. Now don't you think it'd be good to lay some groundwork and be nice to her so she'll remember you when you're 26?"
"All right Dad, but you have to promise me one thing."
"That you'll bring Ellen to my 26th birthday"
Theo wasn't expecting much but he thought that it was best to look good anyway. He hadn't seen Ellen Etten since he was fifteen. They hit it off pretty well, but it wasn't like he would ever be interested in her. She was a nice kid and she knew a lot about basketball and stuff, but at the time, he had other things on his mind. He heard the doorbell ring. His dad would go to the door, let in his guests, then his mother would fuss over Ellen and ask about her mom, then they would all sit down for an awkward family birthday dinner. All in all, Theo wasn't really as excited as he might be for his upcoming birthday. He walked into the living room thinking it would be best if he got it over quickly then after dinner he might be able to go out with Cockroach for old time's sake. As he entered the room, however, his mind focused singularly on the young woman sitting in the chair closest to the door. She looked beautiful and Theo felt he recognized her from somewhere.
"Theo, you remember Mark Etten, right?"
Mark stood up and shook Theo's hand, "Happy Birthday Theo, my my, I can't believe you're turning 26, you've grown up so quickly."
Theo smiled nicely, all of his attention on the young lady, now standing behind her father.
"Hi Theo," she said softly.
"Theo, this is Ellen, Mark's daughter," Cliff smiled.
"Sure, I remember you," Theo said casually. His heart was racing as she shook his sweaty palm, "you were at Dad's birthday, right?"
"Yeah, that's right," Ellen said, surprised he had remembered.
"Theo, Ellen is going to school at Temple, she's getting her degree in child psychology," Clair informed her son.
"Is that right? How do you like Philly?" Theo asked.
They continued to talk avidly until Clair announced dinner was ready.
After dinner had finished and everything had been cleaned up and cleared away, Mark Etten stood to leave.
"Well, I hope you had a wonderful dinner Theo, happy birthday, but I had better be going."
"So soon?" Theo asked- he wasn't ready to say goodbye to Ellen yet.
"I'm afraid so…"
"Dad," Ellen stood up, "Caroline invited me to spend the night while I'm in town, I thought I might go to her house tonight."
"Well, Ellen, it's getting late, I have to work tomorrow and Caroline lives kind of out of the way."
"I could take her," Theo said, jumping on the opportunity to get time alone with Ellen.
"Theo! That'd be great, if you don't mind!" Ellen said excitedly.
"Well, let's go!" Theo grabbed her hand and pulled her out the door.
After twenty minutes of driving around, Ellen broke the silence.
"Theo, thank you so much for dropping me off, I really appreciate it."
"It's okay, it's been nice getting the chance to catch up with you."
"Yeah, you know, I never got the chance to thank you."
"What do you mean?" Theo pulled the car over so he could look into Ellen's beautiful eyes.
"Well, I was pretty nervous coming to your house that first time, on your dad's birthday. I thought it was going to be the worst night of my life. But then, you took me skating with your friends and I had so much fun. I really can't tell you how nice it was. Anyway, you didn't have to do that and I really appreciate it."
"Well, it was not a problem, let me tell you." Theo smiled.
"You know," Ellen said coyly, "When I met you that day, I got a pretty big crush on you."
"Really," Theo said, "how big?"
Ellen leaned over and kissed him softly.
An hour later, Theo returned home, and quietly opened the door. As he turned on the light, he saw a figure in the chair facing the door, eating chocolate chip cookies (that were not supposed to have been for him), drinking a glass of milk, and waiting for him, as if he had known what had been going on.
Cliff smiled at his son, "Happy Birthday Theo."
Theo gave his father a quick hug and Cliff whispered into his ear, "Now we're square."
Theo didn't have any idea what his dad was talking about, he rarely did, but he knew that this was one of the best birthdays he had ever had.