Monday, February 24, 2014
"What's wrong, mom?"
Charmaine pulled the car down the alley on Panther street. She didn't answer her son (who was sitting in the seat beside her). Her attention was devoted to the fact that the side window was broken.
Kenton craned his head over and saw exactly what was wrong. Charmaine huffed and undid her seatbelt. Yes, it could have been robbers wanting to steal some copper, but she knew that it was just too much of a coincidence after showing Andrea the door.
"Baby, stay here."
Kenton undid his seatbelt and opened the door. There was no way that he was going to let his mother go into this dangerous situation alone.
Charmaine looked down at the doorknob that was sheared off at the start of Andrea's fit of rage. She turned around and started towards the front door. After unlocking it, Charmaine walked into the dining room and saw that the dining room was relatively unscathed. Her heart dropped as the idea of copper thieves started to seem like a reality.
She opened the door and saw exactly what was happening. Her hand went to her mouth as Kenton walked in behind her. Water was spraying everywhere. There was an odd hissing noise coming from the walk-in freezer.
"That… that… that BITCH."
Kenton knew that his mother didn't swear often. Given the circumstances, he could understand.
"We gotta turn the water off!" Charmaine said as she threw open the door to the basement and started down the stairs. She gasped again as she saw that water was leaking through the floor. With a twist of the shutoff valve, the spraying stopped.
"It's a mess, but I don't think that the water damaged anything…" Kenton said as he looked around the cabinets.
"I don't know when this happened, maybe there wasn't much time for it to do much damage." Charmaine said as she grabbed a chair and looked at the mess.
"Well… what now?" Kenton asked. Charmaine shrugged.
"At least she didn't torch the place. I'm going to call the cops. You better be heading off to school."
Kenton nodded and left the building as Charmaine got out her cell phone and dialed the police. He opened the back door of the car, grabbed his backpack, and walked off towards the school.
There was too much going on for the poor kid. First, his day was practically ruined by his mother's new restaurant being "underwater" and now he's got to confront his other problem: Olivia.
He walked down the hallway, snaking around corners before arriving in the Eighth-Grade hallway. He opened his locker and started to put his stuff away when he heard someone else behind him. He looked up to see Elias getting into his locker.
This was nothing new. What was new, however, was Mia coming around the corner. Kenton made like an ostrich and buried his head into the locker.
"Hey, Elias" Mia said as she patted him on the shoulder. Not being used to constant positive interaction with his fellow students, Elias winced a bit. Mia, knowing this, made it a game to try to pester him.
"Uh, hi, Mia." Elias awkwardly said.
"I'm sorry that I didn't get to ask you more about that movie."
"Heh, it's okay."
"Did you like it?"
"Yeah. Were you wanting to see it? I can return it today if you want me to…"
"Oh, no. Just passing by and making conversation."
"Oh, well, okay."
"So… uh, have a nice day."
"Thanks, you too."
Elias closed his locker and walked off. Mia shrugged at the complete awkwardness of that conversation. Kenton, thinking that Mia walked away also, closed the locker and turned around to see her standing there with her arms crossed.
Kenton was cornered. One instinct would be to shove the girl back and take off running, but that wasn't going to do him any favors. Mia smirked and took a few steps to make sure that she was between him and the same door that he escaped from three days prior.
"I'm not going to run, Mia. You don't have to do this."
"I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure that running away from Olivia wasn't the smartest move you could have made."
"I know…is she taking it well?"
"What kind of a question is that?" Mia replied with a scoff.
"I don't know."
"I really haven't talked to Olivia, but I did see you take off running. If you hadn't of told her, I was going to."
Mia dropped her "tough girl" stance and placed a sympathetic hand on Kenton's shoulder.
"I saw the cops over at the building that everyone's saying that your mom is buying."
"Yeah, one of her old friends vandalized the place.”
"Oh. That sucks. Does that mean that the landlord is responsible?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Well, I better take off. I really wasn't coming here to talk to you. But I do want to suggest that you confront your fears and talk to her."
"…Alright. Thanks, Mia."
"You're welcome. Hang in there, buddy."
With a pat on the shoulder, Mia took off for the seventh-grade hall. As she walked, she silently prayed that Kenton and Olivia would end up together, if not for the fact that Kenton was a cool guy to keep as a friend.
That morning went by as slow and as awkward as it could possibly go. When the bell for lunch came around, Kenton walked into the cafeteria and scoped around the room. When it was clear that Mia and Olivia were nowhere in sight, Kenton grabbed his tray and sat down next to Elias.
As he silently shoveled food into his mouth, Kenton wondered two things: first, how was his mother doing and second, what did Mia mean by "I really wasn't coming here to talk to you."
She was there to talk to Elias, who happened to be sitting next to him. That meant that…
"Hey, Kenton. Elias."
Two empty seats across from him was quickly occupied by Mia and Olivia. Kenton kept his head down and continued eating. He ate at the seventh-grade table a week ago, so this must be the universe balancing itself out.
"Mia suggested that we sit over here for a change. I have no idea why." Olivia said, thinking that somehow, she could cancel out the automatic awkwardness by creating some of her own.
What an instigator. Before this whole mess, Kenton and Mia were in their own separate little worlds without a need for regard for one another. Mia, looking out for her best friend, had no problems with stepping on his toes.
"Seems like you've been hanging around Elias a lot, doesn't it, Mia?" Kenton said in a retaliatory tone that was halfway between spiteful and friendly. Mia turned a little shade of red as Olivia looked at her in a way that said "Really?"
"I do apologize, Kenton. I have a movie that she wants to see and she's hounding me to return it." Elias said, finally getting the courage to chime in.
"I AM NOT!" Mia said as she took her tray and scuttled off.
Elias threw a puzzled look at her and continued eating without a second thought. This was bad because the only other party in this conversation just checked out, leaving Kenton and Olivia. No beating around the bush, this was it.
"Olivia, I am so sorry about… yeah."
"Kenton… the note was the sweetest thing that any boy has ever done for me. Ever. By far."
"Heh… even as cheesy as it is?"
"Even as cheesy as it is. Mia said that you used makeup. That must've been messy." Olivia said with a giggle. Kenton gave out a small chuckle as he felt the awkwardness starting to arise.
Knowing absolutely none of the context, Elias tilted his head to watch the conversation at the prospect that Kenton was using makeup.
"Kenton…" Olivia said as she looked down at her plate. His heart dropped a bit as he knew that where this was going.
"Your note… I loved it. And I've known you since we were in grade school. Remember that time when you were tricked into eating sand?"
Kenton chuckled again. Several years are not enough to get THAT taste out of your mouth.
"Yeah, I can't forget that."
"I… like the person who wrote this note, and I guess that means that I like you, too."
Wait, what? Did Kenton hear that correctly?
Oh, maybe it was too good to be true.
"I want to start as, well, friends."
If there's a bad F-word to be used in this situation, Olivia just dropped it.
“I like that I am liked... I just don't know if I'm ready to be a girlfriend, yet. If you know what I mean."
Kenton, a bit confused, could only nod his head slowly.
"We're friends already, but I want to be… well, think of it as being close friends, if you will."
"Friends with benefits?" Mia said as she returned in defeat as there were no other tables that had room for her.
"What? …Whoa, no!" Olivia said as she uncharacteristically bopped her friend on the back of the head.
"I know what you mean. I would like to be friends, in your definition, too." Kenton replied.
The four of them continued eating in peace until Elias looked up to notice that Mia was watching him and only quickly looking away when his gaze would meet hers.
"If you must know, I returned the movie this morning." Elias said, finally getting a bit annoyed by this girl watching him.
Mia looked at Elias and smiled.
"I know. I rented it."
After that conversation, Kenton felt better, and the rest of the day just sailed by. When the final class of the day dismissed, he walked to his locker and opened the door. After gathering up his stuff, he closed the locker and turned around to see Olivia standing there.
"Oh, hey, Olivia."
He wasn't used to having a girl, especially this one, approaching him.
"Want to hang out?"
This whole thing was simply weird. Kenton thought for a moment on how much weirder it would be if they would have been an official couple.
As the two of them walked out of the school in silence, Olivia decided to make the effort to break the ice.
"So, your mom's taking over the restaurant across from the video store?"
"Mia and I saw the cops pulling up as we were running to class. What was going on? Is everything okay?"
As the two of them walked, Kenton found himself telling her about Andrea and how she threw a veil over his mom's eyes despite being friends for years.
"That's terrible! And they were friends for a long time?"
"As long as I could remember. She was like family to us."
The two of them approached the building and walked past the crew that was there to replace the plate glass window that Andrea obliterated.
"That was fast. The window was in pieces this morning." Kenton explained as they peeked in the other, now older window.
"There's a lot of people in there." Olivia said as she cupped her hands around her eyes to look in.
"And mom's not in that group." Kenton said as he peeked down the side alley.
"The car's here." Kenton said as he walked over to the service door.
"Nope. Still broken."
"Where's the doorknob?"
Kenton pointed to a spot next to a cinder block and replied "It was over there. That's the block that we think that she used to break in."
"Oh, is this a tour?"
Before Kenton could reply, the service door opened as a repairman looked at the lock. Charmaine noticed the two kids standing there and smiled to them.
"Hi, baby! Hi, Olivia!"
"Mrs. Hayes!" Olivia said as she gave Charmaine a quick hug.
"Now, now. It's been two years since I've been your secretary. Call me Charmaine."
"Mom, this is who I gave the note to!"
Charmaine, being the secretary, knew everybody from all the classes in the elementary school. This… little girl was now the subject of her son's affection. Meanwhile, Kenton just watched in hopes that his mother would not conflate the fact that his actions merely netted him a friend instead of something more.
"Oh, I'm so happy, baby!"
Kenton raised his hand to his face. “Embarrassing her son” was something that could be on the top of Charmaine's resume.
"Did they catch the person?" Olivia asked with interest in the fate of the person who would dare cross the ferocious Charmaine Hayes.
Charmaine shook her head. "Gone without a trace. She cleaned out her apartment before doing… what she did."
"So, she's going to get away with it?"
All Charmaine could do was shrug.
"Baby, if people are truly evil and truly do wrong, there will be retribution. Sometimes it's not our place to deliver that judgment."