After Janice and Billy served the cake, then he sat by me. I dug in. “This is my first birthday party,” I said. Thank you, Billy. Thank you, Janice and Greg. The only cake I get is at school lunch. This is wonderful and sweet.” They nodded and smiled.
We were well into demolishing my birthday cake when Janice got a paper plate, put a piece on it and wrapped it with Saran Wrap. “You take this home, Ronni, and sneak it into your room for later. I’m tired of you fainting all over the place.”
I jumped into Billy’s lap! “What was that!?” I asked breathing hard. Everyone burst out laughing. Billy’s eyes were smiling.
“It’s the doorbell, Ronni,” Billy said. He pulled my hair out of my face and kissed my cheek. Gregg was up and headed down to the front door. I sat back down. I was glowing red again.
“I feel like the dumbest dummy, so embarrassed.” Down the table, Monique could not stop laughing. Billy leaned over to his mother.
“In a little while, go do the doorbell again,” he said and winked at me.
“I’ll have the camera ready next time,” Janice said.
There was a boy at the door and he was giving Gregg four boxes of Pizza. He told Greg how much the total was and something was off.
“I’ll be right back, Billy.”
I got up and trotted over to the stairs. “Something’s off,” I said to Greg. He turned and looked at me at the top of the short stairway. I came down a couple steps. “I don’t know anything about Pizza. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten any, but I do know money. A person who has to pinch pennies as much as me knows exactly what the tax rate is.”
“What are you saying, Ronni?” Gregg asked.
“If those boxes are nine dollars and sixty cents each, like he said, the tax rate is six cents on the dollar. The total is thirty-eight forty, then add the tax it comes to forty-seventy, not forty-two seventy. He stiffing you two dollars!”
The delivery boy, in his brown and beige pizza uniform, was a skinny kid with a huge Adam’s apple. He looked like high school. He looked away, then back at Greg. “Our pay is dirt, and nobody on this side of town can afford to tip anything. I can’t make enough to put gas in my car.”
“That is not my problem!” Greg said. “You need to find a better job! Here’s forty-seventy, to the cent!” Greg said as he counted out the change. He handed the boxes to Greg and then Greg elbowed the door shut. We went back to the kitchen.
Everyone was happy to see pizza. I didn’t know what the big deal was. I mean, it smelled nice, all spicy. I don’t eat much spicy foods. I decided to play this cool and watch everyone else. Monique, Evangela, and Billy were playfully elbowing each other to get to the pizza boxes. It sure went fast. It reminded me of home and pork chop night. Everybody could only get one pork chop, and Mama would serve them up. The kids, especially Bart, wished they got the biggest one. If I got a bigger one, I would swap with Andre or Bart, of just give it outright to Papa.
Greg watched me watching everyone. He didn’t jump into the pizza right away, either. He sat with his hands folded watching everyone else.
“Thank you, Ronni,” He said. I turned to him and smiled. He was not the big mean man I thought he would be. “I came up poor like you. We didn’t have enough to eat sometimes, and I’m sure you go through the same thing. It’s just been so long I forgot what it was like. I used to do taxes in my head like that, too.”