Shock and Awe (and more Shock)
As they walked back into the dining room, Jimmy heard Cindy breathing rapidly. He had never seen her this worried about anything. Wait, why is she nervous? Her mother already likes her.
She walked to the chair next to her mother, an obviously fake smile plastered on her face. As creepy as it was, he couldn't help but notice that she looked rather enticing in her pink dress. Professional yet sweet at the same time like only Cindy could. He imagined it felt soft to the touch, just like her...wait, this was not the time for all that! He had to focus on winning over her mother.
Ok Neutron, time to turn on the charm!
"So Mrs. Vortex, how has your weekend been so far?"
She glanced up at him with one eyebrow raised. "I spent five hours at work and now I'm here; how do you think it's been?"
"Mother, please be polite" Cindy had her face hidden with her hand.
"Alright, my weekend has been less than pleasant; does that answer satisfy you?"
He chuckled nervously. At that moment, his mom came in the room holding the pot roast dish.
Oh thank goodness. "It looks delicious mom."
"Yessss," Mrs. Vortex said, "Do you always cook like this, Judy?"
"Usually." She gave a warm smile.
"Mmm, it must be nice not to worry about the calories."
She didn't respond to the veiled insult. "So Sasha, I hear you play the piano."
Surpisingly, a smile spread over the brunette's face. "Why yes, ever since I was eight years old. It was my one true passion, and I was quite good if I do say so myself. We hoped that Cynthia would inherit the talent," she glanced at her daughter, "But we've yet to see it emerge."
"Yes mother," Cindy muttered, staring at her plate. Mr. V rolled his eyes, but continued his quiet conversation with Jimmy's dad. Cindy continued to pick at her food, her eyes tearing. She didn't let any tears fall, but it was obvious that this topic upset her.
Jimmy felt anger bubble up inside of him. He didn't like how the bright and confident blond girl seemed to wither under her mother's scrutiny.
"Well, it's not like Cindy doesn't excel in other areas; she probably the greatest martial arts prodigy in America".
Mrs. Vortex shot his a sideways glance. "How do you know about her skills?" her voice was deadly calm.
Oh shoot! She didn't need to know about him having been to her competition.
Cindy flushed. "He saw me perform at the school talent shows over the years."
"Oh, alright." She seemed to buy it.
"So," Mrs. Neutron said," "Do you all have plans for the break?"
Cindy opened her mouth to say something, but her mother beat her to it. "We had hoped to go on a few college tours, but my work schedule won't allow for it." She looked directly at Jimmy. "Have you begun visiting colleges? Or is that not necessary."
"Tell me James, do you even need to apply to college, or do the guidance counselors just show up at your door to enlist you?"
He didn't know how to respond to that."
Mr. Vortex glared at his wife. "I'm sure he has to apply just like anyone else, Sasha."
Cindy let out a small groan. "Mrs. Neutron, may I have an aspirin? I feel a migraine coming."
"They're in the far left kitchen cabinet, dear." She quickly left the room.
Mrs. Vortex let out an acidic chuckle. "Even being reminded of his superiority hurts."
Jimmy watched as his mother's face turned livid. "Now listen here, you seem to have made up your mind about my son based on some…silly competition concocted ages ago by children. Jimmy receives no special treatment based on his IQ."
The men at the table stared on, horrified to hear her talk like this.
"Oh right, and I'm sure-"
"You have a marvelous, brilliant daughter who has a very bright future ahead of her, and all you do is shower her with criticism!"
Mrs. Vortex's face turned red. "How I raise my child is none of your business."
"It is when we all have to witness it. We're trying to do is have a nice meal to extend the olive branch to your family, and all you've done is made snide comments."
"Why do you care so much if-"
"The least you can do is try to get along with the boy your daughter's dating, is that so much to…" Mrs. Neutron realized what she said and slapped a hand over her mouth.
This is not good.
"What did you say?" Slowly, the words registered on Mrs. Vortex's face.
"Uh, who wants pie?" Mr. Neutron asked with a smile.
Cindy walked back in the room, and glanced around. Her mother turned to face her.
"Cynthia, are you currently dating this boy?"
All the color drained from her face. "I leave the room for two minutes and you tell her?"
"Actually sweetie, that was my fault" Mrs. Neutron had a sheepish expression on her face.
"And another thing, why does she know?"
"Oh calm down Sasha," Mr. V patted her arm, "It's not the worst thing that could happen."
"Did you know about this? Am I the only person in this room that didn't know of this subterfuge?"
No one said anything.
"Right, well I think we'd better leave. Someone has some explaining to do." She grabbed her daughter's arm and headed for the door.
"Wait," Jimmy called out, "It's not her fault; I asked her to keep it a secret."
Cindy turned her head, "What are you-"
He ran up to Mrs. Vortex. "I wanted the chance to break the news to you gently and my parents figured it out, she had nothing to do with it!"
"Jimmy, stop it! That's not-"
"I don't care what happened! We're still leaving." And with that the Vortexes walked out the door.
Jimmy turned back to his parents with a forlorn look on his face.
His mother walked over and gave him a hug. "I'm so sorry, honey."
"It'll be alright, Jimbo" his dad joined the hug. "Now, about that pie…"
As they made their way across the street, Mrs. Vortex went off on a tirade that the whole neighborhood would undoubtedly hear.
"Well, wasn't this just a perfect way to start the weekend? A mediocre dinner with neighbors we can't stand- oh wait, that's not right since apparently our daughter is dating one of them. Nice of you to let me know! I looked like a complete and utter fool being the only one who-"
"Give it a rest, Sasha!" Cindy looked up in shock. Her father was glaring angrily at his wife. "You looked like a fool because you acted like a child! It's your own fault you didn't know they were dating because you never pay attention to our child! You set unrealistically high expectations of Cindy and despite the fact that she usually reaches them, it's still not enough! You would have to be blind not to see that the boy likes her, he even stood up to you defending her!"
"What are you implying?"
"I'm saying place the blame where blame is due." He walked over to the car. "I'll be back late." Before she could say anything, he drove off.
Mrs. Vortex stared after the car. "Go wait in the kitchen, Cynthia."
Cindy sat at the dining room table, bracing herself for the storm. Her mother had yet to say anything, but kept pacing back and forth in front of her.
This is almost worse than being yelled at. She tried to find the courage to say something, but nothing was coming up.
After what seemed forever, her mother sat down in the chair next to her. "Just tell me this, Cynthia,"
Oh no, here it comes!
"Why was I the last to know?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, obviously everyone at dinner knew, and I'd bet my right kidney that Liberty knows. I thought we had a relationship where you told me things that go on in your life."
Are you freaking insane? "Mom, you aren't exactly easy to talk to. And you hate Jimmy, so-"
"The only reason I dislike the boy is because he's caused so much trouble for you over the years. Besides, there once was a time where you stomped all over this house professing your undying hatred for him, remember?"
"When did that stop?"
She suddenly felt very uncomfortable. "I don't know…I guess it was a gradual thing. He grew on me."
"Uh-huh and when did you start dating?"
"A little after the pageant. He asked me to prom."
"And were you ever planning on telling me this?"
"Yes! Obviously I would have to at some point. That's why they invited us to dinner, to smooth things over so you wouldn't hate him."
"I see. Well, that just leaves one very important matter of business to discuss."
"Our communication skills?"
"No. When are you getting a prom dress?"
"I was just going to wear my pageant dress-"
"Oh for heaven's sake, Cynthia, you cannot do that! Everyone's already seen it!"
She chuckled. "You sound like Libby."
"For good reasons; the girl has good sense. I suppose I'll need to send her along on the expedition to find you a dress to make sure something proper is selected." A smile spread over her face.
"Are you going to come?"
"Oh goodness, I don't think I'm up on the latest trends. Besides, I'm working the next three days. Just be sure to send me pictures of possible candidates. " She thought for a minute. "And there's shoes and the flowers; so much to do in so little time. I suppose I'll need to have a word with the Neutron boy….with Jimmy to make sure he is properly prepared."
"Thanks mom. I'm sorry I didn't-"
"It's alright dear. Your father was right: I should have paid more attention. I must have been blind not to see that the boy is obviously crazy for you."
Her mother got up and was almost out of the room when she turned around with a mischievous look on her face. "And at least I know I'll get intelligent grandchildren."