“Please pass me the meatballs.”
“Where’s the ketchup?”
“Hey, who doesn’t like cheese in their sandwich?”
“Who has a nine of spades?”
As Athena looked around her she felt like savoring and storing every emotion she could feel and commit it to memory forever. It had been so long since she just interacted freely and confidently with people. Heck, she couldn’t even remember the last time she went anywhere that wasn’t school, home, or the supermarket.
Everyone needed to come with a dish, or two if they wanted and since she knew her cooking skills barely existed, she resorted to a specialty of hers; guacamole and fruit salad with her homemade dressing. She looked around as her salad went from full to half to empty.
“Thea! Your salad and guacamole are amazing!”
“This dressing is so good, what’s in it?”
“Please tell me you brought more!”
What was this feeling she felt? Satisfaction? Pride? She couldn’t tell but she couldn’t remember the last time she was this deliriously happy or if she’d ever been in the first place. Happiness felt like a drug to her; addictive and illegal. She shouldn’t be feeling this happy, she didn’t deserve to. She knew she needed to be ashamed of herself for feeling so ecstatic but at the moment she couldn’t even force herself to feel otherwise.
“Let’s all play monopoly! In teams ooof.....3. Who’s in?” Could she afford to indulge in another forbidden fruit? Before she could convince herself of out of it, she found herself in a team with Greg and Anna, with Anna pulling her in the direction of the picnic blankets.
Anna was a sweet girl, a classmate of hers with a short curvy stature but her competitive streak well overcompensated for her petite size. ” Beware, Anna’s tying her hair up, this is going to be fun!” Greg commented. He was a tall lanky boy with smooth dark skin and curly hair, quite odd for someone of his ethnicity, and was constantly confused for a Cushite.
Athena had only started playing monopoly recently and as such felt so grateful that Anna and Greg on her team. She felt she would disappoint them and vowed to stay in the background and avoid making them lose.
Phoebe got the game rolling and in about thirty minutes, Jason, Liz, and Emma were in the lead with Phoebe, Audrey, and Mike closely after them. Anna was visibly frustrated with her group’s progress but couldn’t speak out. She might have been competitive but she wasn’t heartless and willing to hurt Athena knowing how delicate her emotions were. Athena on the other hand felt strangely happy being in the 4th and the last place, she couldn’t remember a time she sat down with people and just had so much fun.
Greg meanwhile was barely concentrating on the game. He couldn’t understand how he had never noticed Athena before. Maybe it was because he had never seen her smile so carelessly and freely before or never even heard her laugh. When she laughed, he could see a dimple on her left cheek, and how her smile tilted slightly higher on her left side, almost like a smirk or how dark and thick her hair was. He strangely felt exposed and out of it which was a new feeling for him. He knew Phoebe had a crush on him but he didn’t care for her that way; he found her a little too loud and pretentious for him.
" Last round!” Athena now wanted to win. She felt like she was on an adrenaline high as the last round commenced. Anna felt like a queen ruling over peasants as they slid into the first place while Greg felt more in awe of Athena as she demonstrated her analytical skills. Athena could feel tingles on her skin and butterflies in her stomach. She knew they were going to win, she could feel it and it excited her so much.
She was last to play in her group and the game, and as she rolled her dice, she realized the butterflies and tingling weren’t due to the excitement she felt. Just as the dice landed on the board, she was on her feet and away from the others as she looked for a place to puke her guts out.
Greg was unconsciously on his feet and just behind her patting her back awkwardly since he didn’t know what else to do. Anna soon arrived with a cup of water, “Hey, are you okay? Is it something you ate? Ofcourse it is, or maybe you’re too full or maybe it’s the excitement?....” As Anna rambled on, Athena felt a wave of dizziness attack her at once almost landing her on her head if it wasn’t for Greg.
Both Anna and Greg helped her back to the blanket and allowed her to rest but her sick episode had cost them the game. As much as Anna hated losing and especially if it was someone else’s fault, she couldn’t help but worry about Athena. She felt protective of her after bonding with her the whole day.
Athena felt like she had been hit by a truck and run over several times but couldn’t understand why she felt so bad. She could eat almost everything and saw no reason to get sick unless.....No. But it was so rare almost impossible to find.
“Did anyone use sumac in their food?” Athena asked in a raspy low tone, fear evident in her voice?”
“Su-what?” Jason asked aloud, voicing almost everyone’s question.
“Sumac. Did anyone use the spice at all?” Athena repeated with difficulty. Shrugs and blank looks went all round. Phoebe just came back from the washrooms to meet a tense and silent group wondering what drama she’d missed out on.
“Please! Did anyone cook with sumac?” She asked again more desperate than before.
“Yeah! It’s amazing, right? I put it in the vinegar and mayonnaise paste in the sandwich. It’s one of the rarest spices in the world, my mum fortunately crossed by it on her latest trip to Turkey.” Phoebe bragged.
“Dude! She’s allergic and by the looks of it, seriously allergic! Why didn’t you ask anyone whether they were okay with it? Seriously!”
It felt like a slap to the face, Phoebe wasn’t used to getting chastised by anyone for her narcissistic behavior and especially not from Greg. She thought he liked her, he was always nice to her more than with anyone else. But at that moment, she felt like the scum of the earth, gum beneath someone’s shoe, annoying and worthless.
“I didn’t know. Gosh, I’m so sorry. Thea, I’m so sorry! How can I help? Is there something I can do? Do we need to take you to the hospital? Just...... I’m so sorry!” Phoebe lamented with glassy eyes. She couldn’t imagine what pain Thea was going through and she was only picturing the worst. It was taking a lot of her will to remain composed and not break down into tears.
Athena felt a little overwhelmed by Phoebe’s reaction, it felt like whiplash, from proud and narcissistic to somber and empathetic. She could tell she was sorry and was just about to comfort her when she felt the world give way beneath her and was suddenly in a dark unconscious state hyperaware of her surrounding.
She could feel the tickle of the slight breeze on her skin, the wind blowing around her hair and warm hands around her with whispers, murmurs, and a lot of shouts all around.
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