Friday, March 7, 2014
"Right over there, boys." Charmaine said as the two men moved the brand-new deep-fat fryer into place. It was a bit more expensive to have workers come out on the weekend, but Charmaine was biting at the bits to get her dream up and running.
"Alright. Next up is the grease line…" the industrial appliance installer said as he reached behind newly installed cooking apparatus.
"The grease line?" Kenton asked as he watched the handyman with curiosity.
"Yeah. The grease is stored in a tank, is pumped in when we need it, and out when we don't." Charmaine explained. "Eww…" Kenton replied in disgust at the thought of tasty food being brazed in oily slime.
"It's a lot better than I'm explaining it. Tell you what, I'll fix some deep-fried mac and cheese later tonight."
"The stuff from the box?"
"The stuff from the box."
Grease was disgusting, but mac and cheese wasn't. In satisfaction, Kenton walked out into the dining room. Despite Andrea's best efforts, the restaurant was starting to come together, and the dining room was starting to look spiffy.
Across the street, the door to the video store opened and Mia walked out with a bag full of stuff. After she walked out into the street, Kenton was able to see that Elias was holding the door open for her.
"Hey!" Kenton said as he opened the front door to the place. Mia and Elias noticed him and hurried across the street to meet up with him.
"Wow, this place is really coming together!" Mia said as she spied the freshly painted trim surrounding the cleaned (and one brand new) windows.
"Yeah. Mom's having the grease fryer put in right now."
"Are you excited for tomorrow?" Mia said as Elias stood there without saying a word.
"Yeah. It feels weird having to go shopping for a new swimsuit when it's only sixty outside. I'm actually heading off to that new store that just opened on the other side of the block."
"That sporting goods store?" Elias asked, trying to be a little more extroverted for Mia's sake.
"Yeah. That's the one."
"Oh, baby! Don't forget-!" Charmaine said as she popped open the door.
"Hey, Mia! Anyways, I just wanted to remind you to get a swimsuit that's not too baggy. You don't want them falling off again!"
"…Again?" Mia asked as Kenton awkwardly looked away.
"Yeah. I know, Mom. Thanks."
Charmaine closed the door and Kenton turned back around.
"I… think we have to hear this story." Mia said as Elias nodded in agreement. Of all the times for him to stop being introverted.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
The next morning, Kenton opened the front door and got into the backseat of the car.
"Why are you sitting back there?" Charmaine asked.
"Just being polite."
Charmaine couldn't help but smile at her son's act of kindness.
"Where are we meeting everyone at?"
"Oh, that works well, then!"
The car pulled around to Panther street and pulled up in front of the building. After ten minutes, Olivia walked over to the vehicle and Kenton got out to open the front passenger door for her.
"Oh, that's so polite!" Charmaine exclaimed.
"Thank you so much!" Olivia said as she sat down in the seat.
"Do you think that Elias and Mia are going to show up together?" Kenton asked.
"I don’t know. They have been talking a lot recently."
The problem was that there was an adult in the car. Charmaine perked up from her smart phone and looked at Olivia.
"Mia has a crush on Elias. This whole thing is to get them on a date together."
"Oh! So, this is like a double date."
Kenton looked at Olivia as a way of saying "Help me in answering this!"
"Yeah, it's a double date."
Kenton's nerves started firing up. This was supposed to be about Mia and Elias. Now Olivia was saying that this was a double date. As in a date with Olivia.
"So, do you think they're a couple?"
"Why would you ask me that, Kenton?"
"You know Mia, I don't know Elias. Who else can I ask?"
"Well, I really couldn't tell you."
"So, you do know something."
"Couldn't tell you."
"Mom! Make her tell me!"
Charmaine looked at Olivia and smiled before turning back to Kenton and said "Girls' secrets. Boys don't understand!"
"Are we back in Grade School?" Kenton said as he crossed his arms. Olivia couldn't help but giggle at that. A knock on the window revealed that Elias and Mia were both there.
"Both of you to the back!" Charmaine said as she unlocked the door. "Want the window seat?" Elias asked as Mia opened the door. Mia thought for a second and nodded. Elias tried to make enough room to wedge Mia in on the end.
Charmaine put the car in drive and took off for the water park. It was about twenty miles out, so they had a bit of a trip.
"So, what's new?" Mia asked, trying to use conversation to make the people sandwich in the back seat less awkward.
"Olivia has cooties." Kenton said, trying to drag the earlier conversation on.
"Oh, Olivia. Really? Again?"
"Don't you start!"
"Did you get them from kissing Kenton?" Elias chimed in.
"Whoa!" Charmaine said as she tried to stifle laughter.
"We've never kissed! We're not a couple!" Olivia said as she crossed her arms and pouted.
The entire car fell silent for just over three miles. Olivia knew as she counted the mile markers.
"Too bad that it's not warmer out here. We could have just worn our swimsuits out there instead of having to change when we get there." Kenton said, trying to break the silence.
"Yeah, I know, right?" Olivia replied.
"Did Kenton tell you about the time that…"
"Yes, I did."
"Did what?" Olivia asked.
"Believe me, you already know." Kenton said as he looked at her. Olivia, knowing Mia well enough to know exactly where this was going, nodded.
The next few miles passed by and Charmaine pulled into the parking lot.
"You kids be safe! I'll be back in four hours! Have fun!"
"Thanks, Ms. Hayes!"
The group of four became two groups of two and headed off to get changed.
"Hey, I think it's nice that you're playing along with Mia. She can be a handful at times." Kenton said to Elias as they got ready.
"Playing along? I don't get what you mean?"
"You're doing this to get her off of your back, right?"
Elias just looked at Kenton with a puzzled look.
"If you asked me that a week ago, I would have probably agreed. Now, I'm not so sure…"
"Don't tell me that you're falling for her."
"We've known each other as acquaintances for years. She, being a year younger than me, had really no reason to talk to me. I guess this whole mess started when we met up at the video store and she suggested that I rented a particular movie."
"And you two found something in common?"
"Right. She's a bit of a, well, how can I put it…"
Elias shook his head and laughed.
"I guess you could put it like that. We both like movies about the medieval times and we both like fantasy video games."
"I would have never guessed."
"Yeah, me neither. The fact that she's so, well, extroverted took a bit of me getting used to."
"I think it's starting to rub off on you."
"Would we be having this conversation otherwise?"
Elias paused at that remark. Kenton was quite right.
"So, you think you might like her?"
"Well, that's the thing. I really, don't know. I mean, I think I'm close to a decision but I just, well, don't know."
"Just do me a favor. Mia’s a nice girl, so please don't string her along. Let her down gently if you don't think that it's going to work."
The two finished changing and walked out into the main area of the park. Olivia and Mia were already there, both glaring at them with their arms crossed.
"Took you two long enough." Olivia said.
"I had to put on my makeup." Kenton remarked, rightfully preventing Mia from making a similar joke.
"Like I said, I don't know why you wear pants all of the time. Your legs look nice." Mia said as she looked at her date. Elias smiled and awkwardly blushed.
"So, what do we do?"
"I guess we split off again."
"Well, I wanna ride the bumper boats!" Mia said as she pointed in one direction.
"I'm going for the lazy river. Wake me when it's time to go." Kenton said as he pointed in a similar direction.
"Yeah. I'm going for the snack booth." Elias said as he thumbed behind him.
"I'm up for some ice cream." Olivia replied after taking the longest to ponder the situation.
"So, meet up when?"
"I dunno. We'll figure that out later, I guess."
Mia and Kenton took off in one direction as Olivia and Elias went to the snack bar. They didn't catch William laying back on a lounge chair wearing sunglasses. Seeing the two of them made him sit up and pull off the shades.
"Idiots." William quietly hissed as he got up and walked off.
William walked in a huff down the path before bumping into Kenton while he was trying to find the PERFECT inner-tube to float down the lazy river.
"Oh, excuse me." Kenton said before recognizing the boy.
"Hmmph." William said.
"Sorry. I didn't recognize you, William."
"It's fine. Move along, big shot."
"Are you here by yourself? You could have come here with us for a discount!"
"I'm here watching my little brother."
"Oh… where is he?"
"Hopefully drowning somewhere." William muttered before walking off. Kenton, not sure how to react to such a remark, shook his head and grabbed a tube.
Meanwhile, Elias and Olivia made their way towards the snack bar. As they passed by the inevitable gift shop conveniently placed in front of the wonderful world of concessions, Olivia stopped and looked at a stuffed panda propped against a display window.
"Is everything okay?" Elias politely asked. Olivia, not realizing that he stopped along with her, nodded and replied "Yeah, I was thinking about getting this for my little cousin. He's big into pandas."
"Heh, that's cute."
"I know. It's almost creepy. He managed coerce his best friend into dressing as one for Halloween of last year."
Elias didn't respond as Olivia turned to him and noted that something was just a bit off.
"Are you nervous?"
"N-No, why would I be? Because I'm not with Mia right now?"
"I didn't say anything about Mia." Olivia said with an impish smirk.
"Well, it's a date to her, isn't it?"
"Nobody said anything like that. It's just four friends spending time together… or, well, in our case split up, but we're together in spirit and that's what counts, right?"
"Oh… I see…"
Olivia wanted to smash her palm into her face. If it was possible for Elias to get two wrong ideas at once, it was happening.
"Think of it as anything you want it to be. If you have a fun time with her, then you can look back on it as a date and if you didn't, it's just friends at a park."
"Yeah… I guess you're right."
"Now, the question is going to be where are you going to go after you get done here at the snack bar. I already know where I'm going and if you look down inside your heart, you'll know where you want to go."
"That was really deep, you're quite the intellectual one, Olivia."
Olivia smiled and blushed.
"Did you see that commercial where they introduced that new sundae?" Olivia said as she walked next to Elias as they walked on by. Olivia noticed that Elias made eye-contact with a younger boy sitting at a nearby table, almost as if they knew each other.
"Yeah. I think I might try it sometime."
Olivia went to the counter first and got her sundae before Elias got some candy bars.
"I think I'm going to try to see if I can get away with sneaking this onto the lazy river."
"Have fun. I think I'm going to hit the arcade."
Olivia walked back to the entrance to the lazy river only to see Kenton standing at a guard rail with no tube and just watching the people floating by.
"Is everything okay?" she asked as she placed a hand on his shoulder. With a yipe, the boy jumped back both out of being startled and Olivia's hand being cold from holding her frosty treat.
"Yeah… it was just… I dunno." Kenton said as he regained his bearings and tried to put on a grin.
"They make tubes for two people. Shall we?" Olivia said as she returned his smile. Kenton's smile became a little more genuine as he gave a small nod.
A half-hour later, Elias found himself finally gaining the courage to go join his "date" at the bumper boats. He didn't have to go far as Mia was being escorted away by a lifeguard.
"And you can stay off of the boats until you get a better vocabulary!"
The guard crossed his arms and walked away as Elias joined her.
"That guy needs to clean his ears, I very clearly said that his brother is a trucker. I don't know how he could have misheard that!"
Elias couldn't help but silently chuckle at her attempt to justify (or backpedal on) her behavior.
"So, where are ya headed?" Mia said in her "I wanna be equal parts cute and annoying" voice.
"The arcade, I think." Elias replied.
"Awesome! I'll follow you!"
"You don't have to…"
"Oh…" Mia said as she looked down in disappointment. Elias realized the error in his wording and quickly tried to remedy the situation.
"I mean, you can walk with me. After all, we're here together!"
Mia quickly perked her head back up.
"Uh… Yeah, I knew that."
This time the giggle out of Elias's mouth wasn't entirely silent. There was something about making her stumble over words that he just found adorable.
The two crossed a bridge over the lazy river as Kenton and Olivia floated under on a two-person inner-tube. Kenton spotted the two and waved up at them as Olivia was busy trying to sneak bites of her sundae during the blind spots in between lifeguard posts.
"So… do you think the two of them are going to end up happily ever after?" Kenton asked when the two disappeared into the arcade.
"I don’t know."
"I asked him in the locker room, and he said that he wasn't sure how he felt about her."
"I'm surprised you got that much out of him. He was sweating bullets when we were getting snacks."
"I told him to let Mia down easy and quickly if he didn't think it was going to work. Do you think I did the right thing?"
Olivia sighed and scraped the last of the sundae from its bowl. She wanted her best friend to be happy, and there was no good way to fix a broken heart.
"I think you did okay, Kenton. If it's not meant to be, it's something that she'll have to live with. Just between you and I, I think he's not going to do that."
"You think so?"
"Not saying that Mia is the only fish in the sea; in fact, I would think more of the opposite, but I could tell that he was nervous. Then again, he could just be uncomfortable being in a group of friends."
"But then they wouldn't be going together, right?"
"I would like to think so. I told him to go where his heart tells him to go."
Kenton found himself laughing out loud at that remark.
"Are you serious? That's so corny!"
"And what would you have said to him?"
"I would have said what I said, quick and painless."
"Wow, that valentine was your best work, wasn't it?"
Kenton didn't have a response outside of splashing some water at the girl. After a quick gasp, Olivia retaliated by splashing some water back at him. The two started giggling and splashing at each other until a blast from a lifeguard's whistle brought them back to Earth.
"You two in the double! NO SPLASHING!"
The two kids suddenly stopped as Olivia had a quick moment of panic when she realized that the bowl that her sundae used to live in was long gone and probably floating elsewhere in the lazy river.
The next four hours went by like they were five minutes. True to her word, Charmaine picked up the kids on time and brought them back to the town.
Outside of Mia's House
"You know, I could have walked myself home. But thanks, Elias." Mia said as they approached her front door.
"Yeah, but it's the polite thing to do."
"But you'll have so much further to walk. Right?"
Elias shook his head and said "Nah, I can handle it."
"I had a lot of fun today, Elias."
"So, if that's how this whole dating thing works, this could be fun!"
Kenton's words asking Elias what his plans were continued to resonate in his head.
"So… see you again?"
Mia turned to open the front door and Elias turned around to walk away before stopped and turning back around.
Mia took her hand away from the doorknob.
"I think there's something that a man has to do at the end of a date, right?"
"What do you mean?"
Elias took a deep breath, leaned in, and kissed Mia on the cheek. She took a step back and turned red.
"Good night, Mia."
Elias turned and walked away down the path, leaving Mia there to contemplate what just happened.