Wherein C.F.Barrón does his thing...

RTB pts. 5 & 6

As far as full disclosure goes, I spent the entirety of yesterday travelling home to spend time with my family and subsequently working on a project or two for my Mom. Around 9pm I finally got around to writing, and promptly fell asleep, waking up at 1am only to crawl into bed. So to make up for the delay, here’s an extra long post. These parts are about as long as the last four chunks of story combined. Enjoy.

It had been weeks since she had last booted up the battery killing app, so she wasn’t entirely sure why she had done it, or what had compelled her to visit her old hunting grounds. There were fond memories coming back to her from when the app had been completely new and stupidly popular in all of its buggy glory. Nights spent out at the park with mobs of other people, connecting, however briefly with perfect strangers over their childhood passtime. It had made the mosquito bites worth it. But her fascination with the game had ended once she had logged in and her account had been wiped after a new patch had been installed.

Maggie had just said goodbye to Connor as he still had half a day’s worth of work ahead of him, when she had decided to channel her inner Ash Ketchum. It’ll be fun, she thought, before briefly wondering if it was just the weather sparking her excitement, After all that was a good enough reason to play Pokemon Go as any. She had no plans and wasn’t expecting a phone call anyway, so even if the app did kill her battery, like it always did, no sweat. She’d walk back to her car, roll the windows down and drive home for a soak and some Netflix, another lazy Sunday.

She caught herself humming as she strolled down the street to Campbell Park. A sigh escaped her as she shook her head. Connor hadn’t been totally off the mark, and if anyone could tell she was smitten it would be Connor MacLeod. But she hadn’t been, still wasn’t, ready to admit what she’d been feeling. It had only been a couple of weeks since- since Marissa she forced herself to subvocalize. It’s okay. She reassured herself. She’s cute. You’ve found other women to be cute before. It doesn’t mean anything. But have you changed how you dress at work for other women before? Came another thought, betraying her.

Okay, so I’ve been rocking the nerd shirts pretty hard lately. She looked cute that day. Why shouldn’t I want to look just as good? It’s not like I’m seeing her everywhere I loo-

“Marissa?”

“Hey!” the raven haired queen exclaimed. A smile quickly spreading across her face. She was sporting a black hoodie over a wine colored button down and sharp pair of jeans. Her thick rimmed glasses, which she only sometimes wore, completed the look: casual yet refined.

“What are you doing here?” Maggie demanded.

Fighting back a bit of panic and the incessant voice in her head bemoaning the fact that she didn’t look cute enough for this to be happening, Maggie tried to recover.

“Is it your day off?” she continued.

“No.” Marissa replied, obviously taken aback by Maggie’s demeanor. “I got done with my share of the work early so they let me take a half day.”

“Oh how cool.” Maggie said, now panicking over having hurt Marissa’s feelings. “So you just decided to get some reading done at the park?”

“Yeah.” Marissa said, looking back at her book.

Just walk away, you just did damage and she just wants to go back to reading in peace. Maggie thought.

“What about you? Day off?” Marissa asked, clearly just being polite.

“Yup! Just got done having coffee with-” don’t mention a guy’s name she might think you’re not single. wait why does that matter? wait, but then if she gets jealous that might be a sign she’s interested. “With an old friend.” she said, shaking what was left of her latte. “and I didn’t have any other plans so I thought I would walk down here and catch some Pokemon.” she finished, half rambling.

“That sounds like a fun afternoon.” Marissa replied, clearly done with this interaction.

“Hopefully.” Maggie said, unsure how else to respond.

An awkward quiet took hold of the air. C’mon Maggie, fix this. You can’t have her thinking you’re a total bitch. There’s gotta be something you can say without grasping at straws.

“Well, enjoy the day.” Maggie said, defeated. “It’s nice out right now.” she added, rather lamely.

“Thanks. Uh, you too.” Marissa said, seemingly relieved.

No, you can’t let it end here, just try. Something. Anything. You’ll regret it otherwise.

“You know what, are you hungry?” she found herself asking. “Wanna grab lunch around here?”

Marissa’s eyes widened, as if to say “you just yelled at me and now you’re asking me out?”

“Uh, maybe in a little while?” she finally responded.

“Sure!” a soft yes was much better than a hard no, Maggie thought. “I’ll go catch some stuff and then we can head out in like twenty minutes?”

“Maybe twenty-five?”

Wow, I must have really rubbed her the wrong way if she’s asking for extra alone time.

“Sounds good! Start thinking about what you’ll want to eat, because there’s all kinds of restaurants nearby.”

“Um, okay.” Marissa half smiled.

“Okay, I’ll see you in a bit.” Maggie said heading down the closest trail.

She let out a sigh of relief as soon as she was out of earshot. That had actually been easier than she had expected. A smile curled her lips as she approached the nearby Poliwag. Did I just ask her out? Not in so many words, but yeah? No, it’s just lunch. That’s all she agreed to. This is squarely in the grey area of “hanging out” so just play it cool and don’t put your foot in your mouth any more.

******

Neither admitted to being self conscious about eating in front of someone else, nor did they want to admit this as it was usually accompanied by the caveat of the “someone else” being someone they were into it. Thus there was a lot of hemming and hawing as they walked the street both of them naming the restaurants aloud in hopes the other would make an agreeable choice. At length, Marissa, still channeling her inner weaboo suggested the sushi restaurant.

Maggie paused. “ Uh, sure. They’ll have something else besides sushi there right?”

“Most places typically do. Tempura or bentos for sure.”

“Okay. Let’s do it.” Maggie said, still hesitant.

The place had just opened, so they were immediately seated.

“I’ll have a Sapporro Black for now.” Marissa said.

“Uh, just water for me.” Maggie said, distracted by the menu.

“Are you okay?” Marissa asked.

“Uh, yeah. I’m just not a fan of these types of places.”

“We can eat somewhere else.” Marissa said, beginning to stand up.

Smooth, Marissa. You probably missed all the cues earlier on.

“No.” Maggie half exclaimed. “It’s something I need to get over. The only time I ever had Japanese food was with my ex, and he was such an asshole about me using my fingers-”

“Using your fingers?” Marissa asked

Half a frown crossed Maggie’s face as she visibly deflated.

“He only ordered sushi rolls for us and I can’t use chopsticks.” she finally admitted.

Can’t use chopsticks? Marissa thought.

“That’s an easy fix!” she said, perking up.

“Huh?”

“You’ll see. For now, just order whatever you want. Don’t worry about about forks or chopsticks just order what you want.”

When the waitress came back, a petite woman with a round face, Marissa spoke up first.

“Domo, nihongo hanasemasu ka?”

“Hai, hai.” the waitress responded, nodding with excitement.

“Can I please get a set of cheaters for my friend?” Marissa continued, still in Japanese.

“Right away, miss. Your accent is very good for an American.”

“Thank you. I had excellent teachers. Oh, and I think we’re ready to order.”

She turned to Maggie, whose jaw was still open from the exchange she had just heard.

“Go ahead and tell her what you want, Maggie.” Marissa encouraged.

Seemingly bashful now, Maggie hesitantly ordered four rolls- in English. Marissa, herself, was feeling a bit peckish so when they had finished ordering they had eight rolls on the way. A veritable feast for only two people. With a smile and as slight bow, the waitress then left them to enjoy their drinks.

“You speak, Japanese?!” Maggie exclaimed, more of a statement than a question.

“Just enough to make simple requests. I understand it better than I speak it. Same for my Spanish really. I can also understand some Portugese and a little bit of Italian because they’re so similar. French is the hardest for me, unless they really slow down I don’t really know what they’re saying.”

“Did you travel a lot as a kid?” Maggie asked, obviously impressed.

At this, Marissa looked a little sheepish.

“I’ve never been out of state.” she admitted.

Smooth, Marissa…Way to show off how sheltered you really are.

A bout of laughter erupted from Maggie’s side of the table. A throaty cackling like dishes crashing,

“You’re kidding me!” Maggie said. “Well, that’s an easy fix.”

Marissa didn’t know whether or not to be flattered,insulted, or nervous. She didn’t have time to think about it though as just then the waitress came back with the cheaters she had asked for.

“What are these?” Maggie asked, a bit confused.

“They’re called chopstick cheaters.” Marissa said, tearing open her pair of chopsticks.

She delicately removed the pieces of bamboo from their paper sheath, and expertly folded the paper into an origami frog on which to rest the sticks. Then, she opened Maggie’s pair and did the same, before sliding the cheaters onto the sticks.

“Here.” she said. “ I’ll teach you how to hold them properly, but until your hand gets used to using them, you can rely on the cheaters to actually eat.”

“You’re really sweet.” Maggie said, a subtle smile upturning her lips.

“Uh-well, I just don’t think people should be intimidated by eating utensils is all.” Marissa deflected.

She took Maggie’s hand, gently placing the pair of chopsticks into proper position.

“You want the bottom one in the crook of your hand, and stabilized by your ring finger like this.” Her fingers trembled a bit as she moved Maggie’s. She didn’t think this would be enough to make her hands shake. Wait, unless, Maggie was the one- “And you hold the top one like you would hold a pencil. The bottom one stays put, the top one, does all the work.”

The first of the rolls arrived then. The portion sizes were a lot larger than Marissa was used to seeing from a Japanese restaurant.

“Woah.” she said. “I hope you’re hungry. We’ve got seven more of these on the way.”

“You underestimate my power.” Maggie laughed.

Marissa couldn’t help but stare. She must have not been getting enough sleep because for a moment- a tiny, fleeting, almost imperceptible moment, all of existence was in the sound of Maggie’s laughter.

Carlos Barron