Sparks in a Powder Keg
Libby couldn't believe the stupidity of the people she hung out with. There was no reason for anyone to wait for who knows how long for a plane to land. It was bad enough they she woke up early during the break for this, now she was stuck in the hot parking lot for who knows how long. Having no interest in the card game Jimmy was trying to teach Carl and Sheen, she took a seat in the back of the hover car next to Cindy.
"This is ridiculous," the blond girl spat out. She had her legs up on the chair with her arms wrapped around them, her chin resting on her knees.
"I know…good thing I brought reading material!"
Libby pulled out the April issue of Glamazon. Cindy shot her a disbelieving look.
"What? Periodicals count as something to read."
"Oh yes, why read Tolstoy when you can learn 'eight great ways to moisturize'?"
"Don't joke about that now! A girl needs to keep her skin soft." Her tone grew calculating. "Especially when she has a boyfriend to keep soft for."
Cindy turned to glare at her. "He's not my- oh wait…I keep forgetting about that."
"Well you better get used to it!" Libby laughed. "How will it look at school if you forget he's your man?"
Cindy remained silent for a minute. "Libs, can I talk to you about something?"
"Yeah, cause you've never done that before."
"In all seriousness now," she took a deep breath in, "I kinda sorta….don't want to tell people." Libby blinked. "That we're in a relationship."
"Are you joking?" Cindy kept he eyes on her knees. "Oh my goodness, you aren't. Cindy, are you telling me that after seven years of this little back-and-forth, seven years of questioning how he really feels about you: you finally get an answer and don't want to tell people? Have you popped a blood vessel in your brain?"
"No, it's just….whenever other people get involved….things get complicated. You don't understand."
"Oh, I understand completely: you are one hundred percent out of your mind! Girl, I get it; yes, other people make relationships harder! Don't you thing I get ragged on all the time for dating Sheen?" She gestured to the lummox trying to make an origami something from a napkin (only to have it fly into his face when the wind blew). "But that doesn't stop me from caring about him. Sure, life would be easier if Brittney didn't joke about his 'other girlfriend', Ultralord, but still." She put her hand on Cindy's shoulder. "Cindy, I know you want nothing more than to have the ideal relationship like you did on that island when y'all were eleven; but this is the real world. The true test of a relationship isn't how you feel when things are going great; it's how you deal when things get complicated."
Cindy smiled up at her friend. "Can we talk about this later? I feel like we're being watched." Both girls glanced up. Sheen was talking, Carl was pouring on hand sanitizer, and Jimmy was playing solitaire.
"Pshht, girl you're just imagining things."
After an excruciating wait, the time for Elke's plane to land came. Thank goodness. If she had to wait any longer, Cindy thought she would lose her mind. She had drunk the last of her green tea hours ago, and the sun was starting to beat down on them. Despite the frequent rain, April in Retroville was often hot. She was comfortable in her three-quarter length black and white baseball tee and jean shorts. At least she had thought to dress for waiting outside; Libby looked decidedly uncomfortable in her burgundy tunic and black leggings. The high-heeled boots were probably not the best choice either. Still….Libby had a knack for making her stylishness look effortless. Cindy was just glad she had decided to straighten her hair this morning so she didn't look like she was on her way to the batting cages.
Although, at this moment the usually calm and collected Libby looked….well, downright irritated.
Cindy leaned over to her friend. "What's bugging you?"
Libby kept glaring at the airport entrance. "Brace yourself, she's almost here." Her demeanor was icy and rigid.
"You mean Elke? Yeah, that's kind of the point. Why do you think we've been sitting here all morning?"
Ignoring her response, Libby glanced over to where Sheen was talking to Carl, who was nervously breathing into a paper bag. "I hate the way he looks at her."
"Sheen. When she came two years ago…do you remember that?"
"Um, no. I was at-"
"A martial arts competition, right I forgot. Well I remember it. The guys drooling over her like she was an ice cream sundae-"
"Whoa now, what? Libs, I don't think Sheen drools over anything…except maybe new Ultralord crap; but the point is: why would he want a silly Swedish girl in overalls when he has you?"
Libby's frosty demeanor melted long enough to shoot her friend a small smile. "You haven't seen her recently, have you?" Before Cindy could answer, Libby continued, "And it wouldn't even be so bad if I could hate her and go on my merry way. She's so sweet and innocent about everything; you'd have to be totally heartless not to like her."
"But I hate the way he looks at her, like…like she's a shiny new toy or something!"
Cindy wanted to laugh. "You don't honestly believe he likes her? He is the reason she and Carl got together. Besides, you don't see how he looks at you."
She sighed. "Alright Cindy, how does he look at me."
A sly grin spread over the blond girl's face. "Like you're a slice of hot apple pie and he wants to take a bite."
Libby playfully elbowed her friend. "You are so bad!"
Before she could respond, the automatic doors opened and a plethora of people came through them. The gang scrambled out of the hover car. They watched the crowd for a moment before Carl pointed and said, "There she is! Oh no! What do I do?"
Sheen pushed him aside. "I got this bro. YO ELKE! OVER HERE!"
Then Cindy saw her. The petite platinum blond stopped to glance at the parking lot before noticing Sheen's frantic waving. Libby was right, a lot can change when you don't see a person for four years. She noted the classic porcelain features on her heart-shaped face, framed by two long braids. That coupled with her simple outfit of blue cotton shorts, brown sandals, and a lacy white blouse gave her the air of a sophisticated, if not understated, European woman. True, Elke was just a country girl who worked on her parent's llama farm, but the elegance was still there. Even as she pulled her brown rolling suitcase up to the car, Cindy felt a pang of…not jealousy, (Cindy Vortex was not so vain as to envy another girl's looks,) but more…worry.
If Libby is nervous about Sheen, who clearly adores her, what chance do I have of Jimmy not falling head over heels for…her? Don't be stupid! He's not some jerk who will leave you just because some pretty face comes along! It's not just her face I'm worried about… Snap out of it! You are a brilliant, cultured, professional woman. He likes you because of it, so stop acting like a child.
She quickly plastered a smile on her face as Elke bounced up to the very nervous Carl.
"Carl Veezer!" She exclaimed in her thick accent before throwing her arms around his neck.
Carl took a long puff from his inhaler before answering, "Hi Elke."
She stepped back to look at everyone else. "Hello friends of Carl! It is good to be seeing you all again."
They all said greetings of some sort, and Jimmy went to help her load her bag into the car.
"Oh, before you do that," She unzipped the outer pocket and pulled something else. "Carl, this is for you. I would have wrapped it, but I know how you have trouble with the paper cuts, so-"
"Oh Elke! " He held up an average sized book. "Vitamin E in Llamas- Its Role and Function; thank you!"
"It should really help in the petting zoo. Now you can look through the food and see how much synthetic tocopherol has been added, because these other forms of Vitamin E may compete with the natural form causing reduction in activity."
Jimmy shot Cindy an amused smile. This must be what their nerdy discussions seem like to their friends.
"Say Elke," Libby said, struggling to keep the acid out of her tone, "where are your parents?"
"Oh, they are picking up the rental car. I'm meeting them at our motel at seven for the dinner. I can, how you say, hang with you guys until then."
"Say," Jimmy stepped in front of Libby to hide her eye roll, "Why don't we go to the Candy Bar? Surely you must be hungry after your long flight."
"Oh yes!" She beamed. "Let us go!"
Jimmy didn't know what Libby's problem was. The girl just seemed determined to be in a bad mood. He overheard her grumbling to Cindy about all the empty calories she was being forced to ingest, and she kept shooting Elke icy glances. Was she mad about Elke hanging out with them? They had known about this for weeks, so it wasn't exactly a surprise. It's not like she was super annoying or anything; in fact, she was usually quite pleasant. Sure, the girl was no Lise Meitner, but Libby had once asked if Higgs Boson was a country singer, so she really had no place to be condescending to someone just because of their lower intelligence level. That was his job.
It wasn't like she was even pestering Libby. Elke and Carl sat together discussing various things about llamas and the "Llama Love Society" and other nonsense like that, and yet Libby kept glaring over at them and shaking her head in disgust. It almost looks like she's…jealous. Was that even possible? Of Elke? No, of Carl and Elke. Weird. Sure they seemed to have loads in common….just like he and Cindy…and totally unlike her and Sheen. Hmm, maybe she is jealous. It must be tough dating someone you can't discuss things you care about and see the equal appreciation in their face. What do she and Sheen even talk about?
"Libby?" He heard a slightly timid voice say. He pressed the autopilot button and craned his neck just enough to see what was going on.
Elke had moved her seat next to where Libby sat, reading her magazine. "May I ask something of you?"
"According to the first amendment, yes."
"The first…? Um, vell…I vanted to know where you purchased those adorable boots. They look as though they cost a fortune."
That seemed to take her aback. "Oh, well no. Actually, they were very reasonably priced." Libby extended an ankle to show her short boot. "It's all about knowing where to shop."
"Before I leave, could you maybe take me to these shops vhere you get your, how you say, fabulous clothing?"
Libby chuckled. "I suppose so. We could make it a girls' outing." She turned to the other blond girl in the hover car. "Right, Cindy?"
"The three of us can have a girls' day to go shopping with Elke. Maybe when we look for your prom dress."
"Uh, I guess so."
"Do you have a dress yet?" Libby asked Elke.
"Oh yes!" The two proceeded to go on about fabric choices and necklines.
Jimmy shook his head and went back to the road. He didn't understand how simple things like clothing could completely enamor females. That was one of the things he liked about Cindy: she wasn't materialistic like her friends. Sure, she always managed to look nice, but it was elegance from her simplicity that made her so endearing.
He turned back around only to see Elke and Carl sharing a glance, each with a self-satisfied smile on their face.
Hmmm, perhaps Elke isn't as innocent as she lets on. She'd managed to gain Libby's trust with a few choice words, who knew what else she could do.
A few minutes later the gang walked into the Candy Bar, the girls ensconced in conversation. They took their seat at the usual booth next to the door and waited for Sam to come take their order. After a few minutes, it became clear that he had no intention of doing so.
"Hey Sam, can we get some menus over here?" Jimmy called to the balding bar tender.
"What do I look like, your mother? You can order at the register, yeah!"
"Why do we come here?" Cindy asked in an exasperated tone.
"I really don't know," Libby said, shaking her head. "Well, I know I want pineapple shake." She pulled a pen out of her purse and grabbed a napkin. "Why don't we just send one person up to order?'
"I'll do it," Cindy said.
"Oh, may I go with you?" Elke asked, "I wish to look at the menu."
The guys wrote their order on the napkin and the two blond girls walked up to the register.
Carl leaned back into the synthetic leather seat."This day is going better than expected."
Sheen nudged him with his elbow. "Enjoying having your Swedish lady love here, are yah?"
Carl's ears turned pink as he grinned, "Yeah, she's pretty great. And I haven't felt the desire to faint or projectile-vomit or anything!"
Jimmy forced a smile, "That's-uh, true romance for you."
Sheen leaned back and put his arm around Libby. "Yep, the right girl can make your confidence rise to that level, Carl. That's why I always play better in games where my second best girl is watching!"
Libby's head whipped around to face Sheen with an icy glare. "Second!" Her face softened, "Oh, after your grandmother."
"Nope, after Ultralady," he held up the blond action figure. "She's my reason for living…aside from Ultralord."
This will not end well, Jimmy thought as he and Carl stared on in horror.
"Sheen Estevez, do you mean to tell me that I am second in your life to a doll?"
"Well actually, she's an-"
"Do you mean to tell me," she asked through gritted teeth, "That after years of dating, years of my putting up with your immature self, defending you to people who called you an idiot man-child, smiling politely while almost all my friends told me I could do better, yet all the while staying faithful to you only to find out I am less important that your stupid dolls? What do you have to say for yourself?"
"Action figures" Sheen said in a small voice.
"OH THAT IS IT!" Libby grabbed her bag and slid off the seat to stand up.
"NO, Libby wait!" Sheen followed her. "You know I care about both of you! You're like my oxygen and water!"
"Actually," Jimmy said, "The human body can survive about ninety-six hour without water whereas without oxygen-"
"DUDE, not the time for this!"
"I'm no one's second fiddle Sheen," Libby crossed her arms. "You need to make a choice: Ultralord or me."
Sheen hesitated for a second. "I- uh…"
"Wrong answer!" And with that, Libby turned and walked out the door.
Sheen stood there motionless for a minute, a shocked look on his face. "But- I- Libby wait!" He ran after her.
Jimmy remained seated, trying to wrap his mind about what had just happened. Well, I was right: that didn't end well. Except for once he wished he had been wrong.