Chapter 3: A Memory
It didn't take long to remember why I didn't like to eat at Mr. Chen's Noodle House. As soon as I went inside with Trent, I knew this was not the environment for me to be in. The whole place was just too colorful and goofy for me. I could imagine kids liking it here one-hundred percent, but I just felt awkward sitting in a place like this. A celebrity like me was supposed to eat somewhere rated at least three stars and above. Those kinds of restaurants had the current mainstream music playing, like a particular song from me and other songs from people like Kelly Clarkson. Mr. Chen's Noodle House played this weird, non-lyrical music that was really annoying.
I prayed someone from the paparazzi didn't find me here. I was sitting in a place of potential disaster that could ruin my week completely. I might have to remain in my cave, also known as my apartment, after today.
I watched the prepared food gradually pass us on the small conveyer belt with a table number on the plates. Trent ordered some kind of sushi with salmon and fried rice. It was funny seeing him eye the dishes as they passed, looking for his given number. I was on my smart phone, playing a game to distract myself away from the danger.
He pulled a plate from the conveyer belt. His food finally came.
I saw him pick up his chopsticks. "You sure you're not hungry?" he asked me.
I looked up from my game. "I'm sure," I halfheartedly replied.
He looked at me for a moment before picking up a piece of sushi between his chopsticks. I returned my focus back to my game, but he slid his plate towards me.
"I know you're not the biggest meat fan, but I know you like rice. Eat some," he said.
"No. Trent, I'm fine. I'm not hungry. But thanks for the offer."
"Are you torturing me because I rejected you?"
"Torturing you? Me not being hungry is torture?"
"You're always hungry. Why else do you think I stock up on snacks whenever you plan on coming over?"
"I think you need to keep in mind that I just got dumped, so…"
He paused, dropping his gaze to the food. "Sorry."
I slid the plate back to him. "It's okay."
He started eating his food quietly. I played my game again. We were both quiet for a few minutes.
I couldn't help but feel like I was being watched from a dark corner or something. I knew I was just being paranoid, but I wasn't familiar with this sensation. I tried not to act suspicious as I quickly glanced up every now and then to check for someone sneaking a camera under their jacket. I've learned paparazzi tricks over the years. Now I was on the lookout for them.
Little kids rushed by our table. I wondered why I wasn't seeing more teenagers, but then I remembered that today was a weekday. Kids and teenagers were in school right now. A woman wearing a teal sweater stopped two of the kids from running. The kids shared similar facial features of the nose and cheekbones. Siblings. The woman was their mother, apparently.
I searched for that one young adult that would come running up to Trent and me. There was always a fan around places like this. I would be immediately recognized, and then when the person saw Trent's face, he or she would recognize him, too. He was well known in Ninjago partly because of me.
The plate slid back to me. The sushi and salmon were gone, but the browned rice remained. "You sure?" Trent asked.
I wanted to sigh but kept it to myself. "Yes, I'm sure. I'm not hungry. Honest." I slid it back to him.
"Alright," he breathed. He picked up the plate and set it on the conveyer belt. It glided away from us. I put my phone away, ready to leave this dump.
Trent didn't get up. "Still want to head out to the storage locker?" he asked.
I didn't respond at first. His stupid question irritated me. I just wasn't in the mood.
"Well, my stash of old soccer balls is in there, and we can't really make the video without them, so what do you think?" I casually spat.
He gave me a surprised look. Remorse settled into my stomach, forcing flames to crawl up to my face. He was taking me out on a playdate so he could help me through my loss. This was originally planned just so we hang out as friends, but now it was Trent's personal mission to be a true friend and help me through my recent loss. He didn't deserve ugliness for what he was doing for me. I shouldn't've said what I said. It was much uncalled for.
"Oh…" his voice trailed. "Sorry. You're right. Let's go." He got up from our booth. I followed him to the register. As he paid for the food, I looked at his back. Through his shirt, I could see his muscly shoulders. Across the right shoulder was a scar from his horrible accident. I've seen it before. I could only imagine how agonizingly painful it was when the metal rod nearly severed his shoulder blade. He could've ended up never being able to use that arm again, but to his own luck, his car kept moving forward. Trent was lucky, and he made sure he remembered that by being kind to others and doing his best to make others happy.
Trent turned around to face me. "Alright, let's go," he said.
I followed him out, glad to be away from the environment. My paranoia drained from my mind, leaving an invisible trail behind me.
Trent had glanced to the side when I wasn't paying much attention. He reached behind him for my hand. I went ahead and gave it to him, not knowing what was wrong. He tugged and quickened his pace. We began to jog to the parking lot that was down the sidewalk. I looked back at where he looked. A young teenager, maybe a preteen, was pointing at me with her head turned to another girl. I knew it would happen. I was recognized. We had to get away quickly.
We hurried to find Trent's dark blue car within the maze of parked automobiles. I followed him through a narrow space between cars. He led me down the second row. A truck drove by us. "Here," Trent said, letting go of my hand. He unlocked the old, beaten up car and hopped into the driver's seat. I got in the passenger's side. The engine rumbled in reaction to the key starting it up. He casually drove away from the restaurant. I watched the creepy moving manikin of Mr. Chen shrink in the rearview mirror, his bowl of colorful noodles moving up and down in his hands.
Trent and I sat in silence for a few blocks. He carefully turned a corner. It took me a minute to recognize what street we were on. How convenient, yet weird. We were on Gallaher Boulevard. This was where the car accident happened.
Trent pulled up to a traffic light and stopped. I grew curious to what actually happened that afternoon almost two years ago. I remembered how there were five fatalities. Trent should've been one of them. I decided to go ahead and ask him, but how?
"So…do you remember anything about the wreck?" I reluctantly asked.
He turned his head and slightly met my eye. "You mean the big wreck?"
"Yeah, the one that should've killed you."
The light turned green and traffic lurched forward. Trent made sure he didn't tailgate the car in front of us. The next traffic light turned red at our approach, so we stopped again. This time, Trent found my hand on the armrest and held it there. It took him a second to say anything.
"I remember everything about it, Mac," he said.
"I want to know what really happened."
"You sure? It's horrible."
"Yes! I want to know, Trent!" I sharply insisted. "That's why I'm asking!"
"Okay, okay, relax! Geez."
I rested my head against the back of my chair. I just went overboard again.
"Sorry," I winced.
The light changed again. He drove forward.
"The accident wasn't my fault," he began. "I was just driving home. It was raining pretty hard, which was unusual. I just remember hearing tires screech and seeing a car spin out in front of a semi-truck. The semi-truck ended up swerving and tipping over and launching its open cargo everywhere. There was nothing I could do for myself. The truck took out the back end of my car. I screamed when the metal rod got me. Another one punctured the back of my seat. If it had gone through the cushions, I would be either paralyzed or dead today."
I imagined everything as he spoke. The scene that built up was scary. I could see the other people being killed and injured around Trent, the metal rods puncturing holes in the cars and bodies. It was so…horrible just as he said.
He changed to the left turning lane and waited on the traffic light.
"I panicked after that," he continued. "I stepped on the gas so I could get away. I crashed into someone else. I remember the airbags going off. Then I wake up in an ambulance. I will never forget the pain in my shoulder. I know the rod was sticking out. The medics were trying to control the bleeding."
The light changed to green. We turned a corner and kept going through open traffic lights.
"I had to go into surgery when I got to the hospital. They removed the rod and fixed everything up. I had to go through physical therapy so I could use my arm fully again. I could everything that I used to do again after a few months, and here I am today…with you," he finished, squeezing my hand.
"Don't forget Linus," I reminded him, squeezing his hand back.
"Yes, and Linus."
The rest of the ride was in silence, but that was okay. We were almost to the storage lockers, anyway.