Houston, We Have A Problem
It is ridiculous for a person to feel this nervous. I have entered hundreds of competitions, fought aliens, criminals, possessed pants, and once told Libby that I didn't like her outfit, why is it this is the situation that my heart chooses to pound hard enough that I'm sure everyone around me can hear it. Cindy stood at the Neutron's doorstep, her mother counting down the seconds until her watch said five o'clock exactly. It was strange that they were going to be right on time, considering Mrs. Vortex's philosophy was usually 'five minutes early is ten minutes late'.
"Three…two…one. Alright Cynthia, right the doorbell and let's get this over with."
"Sasha dear, let's try to be a bit more positive about the evening. They are being very gracious."
Cindy pressed the button and heard the familiar muted ring. She glanced at her dad, who shot her a secretive smile.
"Hmph. Perhaps I'd be more positive if we weren't about to dine with the family of a boy our daughter hates where something will undoubtedly explode."
"Now mom, I told you nothing will…" Wait, what? "I don't h-"
At that moment, Mr. Neutron opened the door. "Greetings neighbors! Come on in, Judy-cakes was just waiting to take the roast out of the oven."
They entered into the house; the familiar smell of Mrs. Neutron's cooking filled the air. Normally the heavenly aroma put Cindy at ease, but she had the feeling she would be on edge all evening.
They walked into the dining room only to be greeted by Jimmy, who was filling the water glasses. She caught her breath at the sight of him in his crisp white button-down shirt. True, it had only been about twenty-five hours since the last time she saw him, but lately he had the effect whenever he smiled at her.
How could mom possibly think I hate him? Oh right, there was that giant problem. Well…ok, over the years she never actually sang his praises around the house. And maybe she complained about him to her mom (well it's not like she could to anyone else! Anytime she brought him up around Libby, her friend just gave her sly smiles and disbelieving glares) and it's not like her mom knew about their…dalliance in middle school. Perhaps she had given the impression that she hated him. Dad figured out that I like him. Hmm… but her mother wasn't exactly perceptive about teenage girl feelings. Maybe Jimmy needed to be warned that this problem had arisen.
As her parents and Mr. Neutron took their seats, she made her way over to where Jimmy was filling the last glass.
"Do you need help bringing the food in?" he met her gaze and she raised one eyebrow.
He seemed to understand. "Um, sure. Come with me."
They went into the kitchen and as soon as Jimmy shut the door, she faced him.
"We have a slight problem," she said in a hushed tone, "apparently my mother thinks I hate you."
"That doesn't sound like much of a problem; just tell her that you don't. Maybe she'll be less shrill."
"This is no time to joke. I really don't understand why she would think that."
"Hmm, let's think about that for a minute, Cindy: you've spent the better part of the last ten years being my contender in every academic field. I highly doubt you've ever sung my praises around the house. Just tell her that you no longer feel the need to despise me, that we've formed a truce."
"You don't understand-"
"She can't just let that slip dear, her mother has a vendetta against us because of your history of dislike. If the change-of-heart seems to come out of nowhere, she'll think something's up."
Cindy froze. She turned slowly to see an apron-clad Mrs. Neutron, holding a basket full of dinner rolls.
Jimmy wasn't exactly surprised to hear this. He and Cindy hadn't exactly been chummy over the years, and although they'd stopped being enemies some time ago, Mrs. V did seem to have it in for him.
"Um, Mrs. Neutron! We were just-"
"You can call me Judy, dear."
"I'd rather not." She sounded nervous. "I mean- I don't really think it would be appropriate since none of Jimmy's other friends call you that."
"Think nothing of it. Now, what you should be worrying about is your mother's vendetta against Jimmy. She seems to have formed some sort of hatred by association," she gave them a wry smile, "which is somewhat ironic right now, considering hatred is the last thing on you two's minds." She winked.
Cindy whirled back around to face him. "You told her?" she hissed.
He shrugged sheepishly. "She figured it out."
"I'm a woman dear, it's second nature. In fact, I'm truly surprised your mother is still in the dark about it."
"She would never think that I'd like my biggest rival."
"I don't know about that dear, it's been obvious to the rest of us for some time now."
Jimmy's jaw dropped. "MOM!"
"What? For two incredibly smart people, you certainly can be clueless."
"Mrs. Neutron, as much I as agree with that statement, we kinda have a situation here and I'm going to start freaking out very soon."
"Calm down Cindy, we'll figure something out. You two just go back in the dining room."