Dinner Plans and Future Schemes
Compared to the previous few days, the rest of the gang's spring break was fairly uneventful. Before anyone knew it, Monday morning was here. The idiot genius couple had decided that they were going to walk into the school holing hands to signify their new relationship (at Libby's suggestion, naturally). The school bell was going to ring in fifteen minutes, but the two couldn't seem to move.
Cindy had gotten to the parking lot half an hour early to find Jimmy sitting in the front seat of his dad's car. She opened the passenger door and sat down with the intention of telling him she was nervous about their big reveal, but the look of apprehension on his face said he was having second thoughts as well.
They sat for a while, not touching or looking at each other, when Jimmy finally broke the silence.
"Well, there's the school."
"There's the sidewalk."
"That's an accurate observation."
"And there's the car door."
"Do you want to open it?"
"Well, my perfect attendance depends on us going into the building. What do you want to do?"
Jimmy stomach rolled. The previous evening this had seemed like such an easy solution, but now he dreaded going inside as much as he dreaded dodgeball week in gym class. He turned to face her. "Well, would it really be the end of the world if we waited a week?"
"I think they might figure it out before then."
"The situation would resolve itself then, wouldn't it?"
She rolled her eyes, "Whatever Neutron, I need to go by my locker."
He finally turned to face her; "You're acting pretty blasé for someone who's just as nervous to tell people." He was going to point out that the decision to wait this long was at her insistence, but he noticed the apprehension in her eyes. He reached over to extend a hand to her. "May I not walk you to class my lady?"
"Why I insist upon it. And never call me that."
"Duly noted. Now let us go our separate ways."
Fortunately, their classmates were used to the mercurial friendship, so a period of calm where the two got along was not considered unusual. And interestingly enough, the relationship didn't stop them from getting into a spirited debate over the use of symbolic color in "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock", the correct atomic weight of Tungsten, and who got to use the good Bunsen burner in chem lab. It was almost like nothing had changed between them.
To say they were glad to go back to school would be a blatant lie, but they were eager to be one week closer to the big dance. Everyone that is, except for Sheen.
"Libby, darling!" He sidled up to her at lunch on Monday. Sliding his arm around her shoulders, he attempted to kiss her cheek and failed.
She shrugged his arm off. "Don't talk to me until you have a receipt that confirms you ordered our flowers to be picked up Friday."
He let out a stifled groan, "Here's the thing about that-"
Her voice raised in frustration. "We have less than a week!"
"Don't sweat it baby! I have it all worked out."
"You better, because I'm not speaking to you until I see receipts or proof of purchase."
She eyed him suspiciously before getting up to throw away her empty juice carton.
"Jimmy, my man!"
"I'm not lending you money, Sheen."
He threw his hands in the air in frustration. "Come on dude, you heard her! I have less than a week to come up with the scratch for flowers and dinner and transportation. I can't afford a limo and there are no taxis in Retroville!"
Jimmy sighed. "I suppose we can all carpool, but you aren't getting any more money from me."
"What am I supposed to do then?"
"I don't know, get a job?"
"I don't hate myself that much Jim."
"Well, I don't know what to tell you Sheen. It's time to start thinking about your future."
The bell signaling the end of lunch rang, and the group stood up to go to their lockers, leaving broody-looking Sheen to his own devices.
After the day ended, Cindy sat at her desk preparing to do her English homework. A buzzing from her bedside table attracted her attention. She walked over and noticed the black box had lit up, alerting her to go to the window.
"Goddard, your owner does know he can just call me, right?"
The mechanical dog barked twice and motioned for her to hop on. She climbed
"Ugh!" She tentatively slid onto his back and hung on for dear life.
I must have been too tired last time to realize the looming danger this provides.
They sped across the street, high enough that passing cars wouldn't notice. She was surprised to see that they weren't going around back to the lab, but rather to the side of the house. The saw a window was open, revealing a blue interior. Jimmy's room.
He swiveled around in the desk chair. "How nice of you to…drop in."
She gave him a withering glance. "Really?"
"Heh heh, sorry. I couldn't resist."
She crossed her arms, "What do you want Jimmy?"
"I just wanted to say hi."
"Because the half an hour since we left school was just too long to bear?"
He fumbled with the wrench in his hand, not making eye contact. "Alright, I may have had an ulterior motive."
"Subtlety isn't exactly your specialty."
"Cindy, why is it so hard for us to tell people we're dating?"
Her jovial manner disappeared and she dropped her arms to her side. "I don't know." She moved to sit on the bed. "You're the genius; what do you think?"
He shrugged, "We're scientists: we like to keep controlled variables. Life in the petri dish is easier to sustain."
She slipped her shoes off and pulled her knees up to her chest. "That's kind of a pedantic reason, don't you think?"
"Well, what do you think about it then?"
She closed her eyes and let out a long sigh before opening them again. "I think making it official makes it a real tangible entity, and that makes it fallible. When our relationship is open to scrutiny, we have to accept all of each other, flaws and all."
She had never spoken this bluntly before. Jimmy didn't know what to make of it.
He tried to diffuse the awkward silence, "Are you finally admitting that you have flaws?"
She didn't laugh, but looked right at him with all the seriousness of a mortician. "Jimmy, where do you want to go to college?"
"Evading my question, I see."
"No, this has everything to do with this conversation. We graduate in fourteen months and I have no idea what the future has in store, for you or me or us, and that scares me. I don't even know what AP classes to register for, how am I supposed to predict where this is going to go?"
Realization dawned upon him. This is why Cindy didn't want to tell her mom or anyone else about us.
Over the years, he had witnessed Cindy date a progression of guys, none of which deserving the classification of a relationship. He had assumed this was because they were either too unintelligent to stimulate her intellectual capacity or too weak-willed to handle her, um, tempestuous moods. While he couldn't say with absolute certainty why these boyfriends never stuck, he could see why she wouldn't want them to. Relationships were tricky. They were unpredictable and difficult to maintain. You couldn't just map out your future in a big day planner and know exactly what would happen. There was always a chance for rejection, a chance for heartache or betrayal. To let someone close enough to, as she put it, see all your flaws and hope that they accept them makes a person vulnerable, and that was not something Cindy Vortex was willing to do. At least until now.
"I was thinking MIT or maybe Caltech. Stanford has yet to impress me with their engineering department, although Archimedes knows their admissions director sure is trying."
A small smile turned the corners of her mouth. "I've been looking at Stanford, although I think my mom might have heart failure if I move to California."
"Well, I'm sure you'll have your pick of the Ivy Leagues when you start applying."
"As long as it's not-"
"Cornell," they said in unison, and then laughed.
"What's their acceptance rate?" Jimmy asked, "16.2%?"
Cindy shook her head, "They'll let anyone in!"
Suddenly the door opened and in walked Jimmy's mom with an armload of folded laundry. "Here you go sweetie. Hello Cindy."
"Hello Mrs. N."
"Alright Jimmy, you'll need to make your own dinner tonight, I have a PTA meeting to attend so we can protest the use of-" she did a double take at the site of the blond girl sitting on the bed. "Were you here before?"
"No Mrs. N."
"Oh. Is your mother at work?"
"Oh, good. What's going on?"
Without missing a beat, Cindy responded, "We're nailing down our prom details. I was just letting Jimmy know that a white tie would be fine and that I'm taking care of the flowers."
Jimmy was in awe of how easily she could improvise. He loved his mother, but she didn't need to know all the details of their romantic life.
She turned to her son. "Are you all meeting up beforehand? You know I want to take some pictures."
"Yes, but we're still trying to figure out where to go to dinner." This was true, although they hadn't discussed it in great detail. With all the nonsense that happened over the break, he had honestly forgotten about all the pre-prom rituals. "It's tricky because Elke doesn't know American cuisine well, Libby's a vegetarian, and Sheen is flat broke."
"Hmm," she tapped her fingernails on her cheek in a contemplative manner. "What if you had dinner here?"
"Well, I could whip something up so you all can eat then leave together."
"Are you sure you want to do all that mom? We don't want to impose."
"Sweetie, I think I can make dinner for six people. This will be fun. Let's see, I'll have to look up vegetarian entrees, but it should be feasible. Then we can have a fun photo-op in the front yard! I'll have to see about re-planting my flower bed."
Jimmy wanted to cringe, but he accepted the generous offer.
"I don't think I've ever heard a better plan Mrs. N."
"Oh please dear, call me Judy. Now let's see, I'll have to dig the extra placemats out of the attic and look up some recipes-" she rushed out the door, counting out tasks as she went.
Cindy shrugged her shoulders. "Well, that problem resolved itself."
"If only they all did."
"Look," she scooted closer to him, "I really want us to work. And I'm willing to do whatever it takes, within reason. I like you, Jimmy."
"I figured as much."
He moved to sit next to her. "Cin, I've created time machines, teleportation devices, and a functioning Internet video chat system: I think we'll be able to keep in contact, even if we don't go to the same college. But I don't want to worry about that right now, let's just focus on the present. I can wait a day or year, whenever you want to tell people is fine with me.
She smiled, "Could we maybe wait until Saturday? Make a big dramatic entrance?"
"I should have suspected as much. Might as well face the whole mob and take the comments as they come."
She rolled her eyes. "I highly doubt the words of our classmates could really make or break a relationship. I don't care what they think about me and it's not like people don't already make of you."
"I really don't care what they say, if anyone gives you a hard time, I'll feed them their calculator."
He chuckled, "Cindy, I think dating you could only increase my social status."
"Careful now, or I might get the wrong idea about why you are dating me."
"For your delightful personality and charming disposition, why else?"
She shot his a rueful glance and swatted his arm before snickering as well.