Chapter 4: As Your Friend
I thought I had left my key at home for a moment. Trent pulled in through the open gate and steadily drove to my storage locker. When he parked, I reached into my mesh bag and couldn't find the key. I began to panic, but then I found it stuck inside my wallet. I let out a sigh of relief.
Trent waited for me as I unlocked the blue door and slid it above me like a garage door. I had a lot of soccer stuff inside that wasn't being used. I couldn't remember why I even had the portable goals and stuff stashed in here. I assumed I planned to do private lessons with kids or something like that if I ever wanted to. Well, that wasn't going to happen anytime soon. I just couldn't make the time for it with my career and hobbies nowadays.
I shuffled past things that littered the floor to get to the big bag that was stuffed with soccer balls. They were old, kind of ragged, and needed to be disposed of, but not without a final farewell.
I opened the back door with the bulky bag draped over my shoulder. The weight was heavier than I anticipated. I brought it in front of me and heaved it into the seat. After tossing the adjustable rope behind it, I shut the door. I went and kicked a couple things back into the locker so I could close it up and lock it. I wasn't sure when I would come back to this place.
I hopped back into the passenger seat. We left the premises and merged into traffic again.
"You printed the scavenger hunt out, right?" I asked.
"Yeah. It's in the glove compartment," he replied.
I opened up the hatch that was in the dashboard in front of me. I easily spotted a folded piece of paper. Inside, I found riddles that were numbered off. Each riddle
was about a various location in Ninjago City. This was our plan for the day: complete the scavenger hunt and get rid of my soccer balls along the way.
"How'd you get so many balls?" Trent asked as we sped up a bit.
"I would get one every year for my birthday, starting at eight years old."
"Well no wonder you have so many!"
"I also got a lot for myself over the years."
"How many do you think is in that bag?"
"Maybe more than thirty. I'm not sure."
"Why do you want to get rid of them all?"
"They're old. I need new ones that can actually hold air, not old ones that've been punctured and stuff."
"That's true. What does the first riddle say?"
I quickly unfolded the paper as Trent passed through a green light with other cars. The top said "Fun Times with Macca and Trent" in a fancy font.
"What's with the goofy font?" I asked.
"I thought it was a nice touch," he explained.
I shook my head and scanned down the number of riddles. I read aloud, "I'm filled with things that are usually digitally based and crowded with people from whom I take money from. What am I?" I raised an eyebrow. "You got this from the internet, right?" I questioned him methodically.
"Yeah. I just looked up 'scavenger hunt' and printed that list out. I don't know any of the answers."
I pondered the riddle. I had no idea what it was talking about.
"I take money from people?" That must mean it's some type of business, right? I wondered.
"Just think about the words," Trent said, interrupting my thoughts. "What's something you go to that's digitally based?"
"Um…I don't know."
"Alright, well, then add the part that says it's crowded with people. That has to mean that it gets a lot of paying customers or something like that."
I connected the words into an image in my mind. People with something digital. I knew what that meant. Videogames. And where did people go to play videogames? Arcades.
"It means an arcade," I blurted out.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. Just think about it. Things that are digital and people that come and pay money. That's exactly what an arcade is."
"Sounds about right. Let's see…we're on Mantooth Street. The nearest arcade would be the Kiddie Arcade, but I would rather go to Raider Rilla's since it's bigger."
"Is it a long drive?"
"Kind of. Maybe twenty to thirty minutes."
"Crap. Okay, let's just go to Kiddie Arcade. We don't have all day for this."
"Whatever floats your boat."
The ride there was a little over five minutes. He parallel parked up the road from it. I looked at the glowing, striped sign that was made up of the colors pink and green. I could barely read the name on it. Little red lanterns hung at the front of the building. Beside the door, there was a weird animal-like statue that was holding a bunch of floating balloons. There was nobody here. That was good news.
"What trick are you planning on doing?" Trent asked as he opened the trunk of his car.
"Get the spare tire out," I replied, getting the bag of soccer balls out. "And can you grab the ball pump?"
I dug through the bag and pulled out a ball that had blue stars on it. I remembered scoring a goal with it when I was in the fifth grade during a recreational game.
I was handed the ball pump. After taking it, I gave the ball a squeeze. My hands deeply sunk into it. These balls were all severely flat from not being used. I quickly pumped it with air as he got the camera ready. I tossed both the pump and ball bag into the backseat when I was ready.
He pointed at the active security camera that was mounted on a telephone pole. I waved at it when I set the tire and ball down. He stopped under it and knelt down, turning the camera on and starting to record. He gave me a thumbs up.
I nodded. I gently rolled the tire across the pavement. I scrutinized its position carefully. It had to be in the right spot before I could do the trick.
I watched it roll past the door and in front of the large windows. I found my target. I casually kicked the ball at the wall under the windows. It ricocheted off and bounced into the hold of the tire, where it wedged itself between the rubbers. I began to slowly follow it as it continued to roll. Trent followed it with the camera. When the tire came to a complete stop in front of an alley, I carefully pulled the ball out without tipping the tire over with the bottom of my foot. I settled the ball and gazed down the alley. I spotted an open dumpster. With a precise kick to the ball, I watched it fly into the shadow and crash into the inside of the dumpster.
"Nice one, Mac," Trent complimented, turning off the camera.
I picked up the tire. "Are we ready to move on?" I asked.
"Yeah. The next riddle is easy."
"Cool. What is it?"
"A grocery store."
"Want to skip it?"
"Nah. Let's just get content for the video."
When we found a grocery store, we stayed on the far end of the parking lot so we didn't have to worry about passing cars. Trent recorded me back-kicking a ball into a moving shopping cart, which surprised me that I could still do it. To give the video something else, I went ahead another trick at the location. As the shopping cart went by, I kicked the ball towards a small sign. It bounced off of it, making a loud banging sound, and plopped right into the cart, all while I just walked away from it.
The next riddle led us to a place called the Temple of Fortitude. When we got there, it was explained from an information sign that the temple could act as a shield by blocking something called Golden Power. I had no idea what that meant, but it didn't matter. We just had to get the trick recorded.
I had placed an empty can on a step in the middle of the long stairway. When I kicked the ball, it missed the can by going over the top of it. As I walked up the stairs, the ball bounced down a few steps and collided with the can.
Trent and I groaned after figuring out the next riddle. The answer was a dojo. The only dojo we knew about was Grand Sensei Dareth's Mojo Dojo, and it was right across the street from Kiddie Arcade. This meant we had had to all the way back to our starting place, taking away valuable time.
When we arrived, we saw that the front window was wide open. Inside was the man himself, Dareth, teaching a class of young kids whatever it was he taught. For the trick, I had the ball across the street in front of Kiddie Arcade. I waited for a car to pass as Trent recorded me from the roof of his car. A car soon approached. I punted it over and watched it sail right through the open window. After hearing a crashing noise, I dashed away and didn't come back.
The Ninjago City Aquarium was the answer to the next riddle. I didn't know what trick to do at this location since it seemed the entire building was made up of glass. The last thing I needed was to cause damage to a place like this.
The only trick I could think of was a simple one. I held both a ball and a Frisbee. I smoothly tossed the Frisbee and watched it glide and begin to fall. That was when I punted the ball into the Frisbee. A direct hit.
The next location wasn't really a famous one. It was just a skate park, like for skateboarding and stuff.
I've never been to it before. The inside of the pits had been spray-painted in with extemporaneous art designs that looked pretty cool. I already knew this would be a great place for a trick.
I was glad it was too early in the day for teenagers to be out here. It was a ghost town out here. I couldn't be interrupted. I placed an empty can at the bottom of a dip. I examined its position as I climbed up to the top of what I named "the island." It was just a small area in the middle of a pit. Trent recorded me in the hot sun as I examined my target.
I quickly turned around and kicked the ball at the opposite wall at an angle. When it bounced off, it soared over my head. My gaze followed it as its shadow momentarily covered my face. It bounced off the other outside wall on the other side of the pit. It ricocheted off and went to the inside wall, where it finally bounced downward and hit the can.
The scavenger hunt was diminishing quickly. Trent and I were already over halfway through. We decided to get one more in before we stopped for a break.
Trent drove to Ninjago Doomsday Comix for the seventh riddle. I knew this would be a tough place for a trick because of the busy road it was located on. But the first thing I noticed were the big letter O's in Doomsday. They were seriously just standing targets. I knew what trick I was doing, and I could double the trick.
I pumped up two soccer balls and placed them side by side on the sidewalk. A couple walked by me, giving me a weird look. When they passed, I booted one of the balls and watched it go through one of the O's. I quickly kicked the second soccer ball into the other O. I dashed away as a celebration, hearing both balls fall to the ground behind me.
Two words repeated in my head when trying to decide what to do for our break from videoing: ice cream! Trent took us to a Dairy Queen because of my sudden want. We sat outside at the tables with our long red spoons in hand. I laughed at Trent's girly sundae.
"What? I like sundaes!" he proclaimed.
"Blizzards are the best!" I playfully countered.
He rolled his eyes and stuck his spoon into his sundae, but a smile was forming on his face. "That's the first I've seen you smile and laugh all day," he said.
I took in his words for a moment. He was right. I've been mopey all day. But why do I feel happy all of a sudden? Why do I feel like my normal self? Certainly I haven't gotten over Tom that fast. That never happens, especially after the breakup he put me through.
Trent slid his hand over mine. I looked up at him.
"It's okay to feel better, Mac. That's why I'm here, to make you happy again."
I nodded. I couldn't hide my smile that came along with it.
"I love it when you smile. It reminds me of when you had braces," he continued.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "I don't ever want to talk about having braces again!" I said.
He laughed. "But you were so cute!"
"Shut up! I was sixteen!"
"Aw! Macca Soxx in high school was the most adorable thing ever with her braces and–"
"Trent, if you don't shut up, I will drag you out of that seat, and sit on you."
He laughed louder. "Okay, I'm done," he said, taking in another spoonful of his sundae. "I love you so much, Macca."
"Love you, too, Trent."
I knew I would have a lot of soccer balls left after the scavenger hunt was completed. I would just have to throw the remaining ones away, which saddened me. I wanted to use every one of them just one last time for sentimental reasons.
Before Trent and I left Dairy Queen, I did a simple trick to dispose of a ball. With the ball in between my feet, I used my heel to roll it up my calf. Once it was right below the back of my knee, I quickly released the ball and kicked it with the back of my other foot. The ball arched over me like a rainbow and went straight into a trashcan.
As we continued the rest of the scavenger hunt, I came up with fresh ideas for tricks. At the Concert Hall, we found an open dumpster. I decided to use a reverse way to do the trick. To start out, I juggled an empty can like I would with a soccer ball. Trent recorded me until I punted it away. When I retrieved it to use it again, Trent had placed a ball on one of the corners of the dumpster. I simply kicked the can straight at it and watched it tap the ball down into the dumpster.
The next answer was the Ninjago Museum of History. The great building had stairs in front of it that led to the entrance like the Temple of Fortitude had, but I didn't want to repeat the same trick. Instead, I was most interested in the two lion statues that were on each side of the steps. I evaluated the length and height of one of their mouths and found that it was a near perfect fit between the fangs. All I did was a free kick from a good distance from the statue, and the soccer ball went directly into the mouth.
Trent was my guinea pig for the trick at a bowling alley. With the camera mounted and angled at a certain place, I had Trent stand perfectly still with an empty can resting on the top of his head. His only concern was being hit in the face with the ball, but I told him he could trust me.
I set the ball at a distance away so that the camera could capture both Trent and myself in the shot. I booted the ball at a perfect slant that curved just enough to smash the can off his head. Trent was so relieved that I didn't hit him. I ran up to him and jumped to hug him to be silly.
The eleventh and final location in the scavenger hunt was Central Park. I wanted a grand finale for the video. It involved Trent being my guinea pig again, but I couldn't tell him or else he wouldn't comply.
I told him I was going to just to do a free kick and hit an empty can in front of him. As I went out for the right distance and angle, I kept readjusting so I could hit him in the place I was aiming for. He figured out that something was up when I kept going farther and farther away.
"Macca!" he called. "Come back! You're too far away!"
"I'm going to hit you in the balls!" I called back.
I could only imagine what he was saying behind the camera after hearing what I was going to do to him.
Once I found the perfect place, I kicked a beautiful free kick as if I was taking a goal kick that travelled well over the can and struck Trent's crotch. I laughed as I watched him bend over and stumble forward. He was on his knees when I walked up to him.
"How're your testicles?" I questioned him, leaning down to pat his shoulder.
"Cracked," he winced.
"Aw, poor you."
It took him about ten minutes to compose himself of the pain. When he could find his feet and make himself walk, we went searching for a dumpster to get rid of all the remaining soccer balls in the bag. We came across a big garbage truck and tossed them all into the back after asking for permission.
Our playdate was officially over after I marked out the last riddle on the list. Trent drove us back to my apartment. We walked hand in hand through the parking lot, down the sidewalk, into the apartment complex, and up to my apartment.
"Linus said to meet at the warehouse tomorrow," Trent said, letting go of my hand.
"Yeah, I got his text, too. Has he gotten the layout planned out for the team video?" I asked.
"Apparently he did, and that surprises me. This is like the only time he's ever met a deadline early."
"He's not bad at meeting deadlines! He turns in papers on time all the time!"
"But that's college. I'm talking about our team."
I didn't answer at first. "You got me there," I said, picking out my keys from my gym bag. I unlocked the door and stopped there. My arms found Trent in a hug. "Thanks for taking me out today," I told him.
He stroked my back. "It's good to have you back, Macca. See you tomorrow."
I let go of him and opened the door. "Yeah. See you tomorrow." I stepped inside and closed the door behind me.
The atmosphere inside my apartment felt better than it did a few hours ago. I couldn't figure out why, but it felt nice. I breathed in a refreshing breath and tossed my gym bag at the couch.
A gray figure was blocking my view after I blinked. I jumped back in surprise. I had completely forgotten all about Jen. Her blank, narrowed eyes burned into me. I suddenly felt like I had shrunk. She's more powerful than she was this morning. I already knew this couldn't be good.
Jen reached for my neck to choke me. I backed all the way up to the door, not knowing how to defend myself against a being I could not touch. I slid down the wall until I was sitting. I was terrified. I could see her figure grow taller until she towered over me. She leapt for me.
I quickly scrambled away from her. She crashed into the wall without making a single noise. I got to my feet and ran for the only room that was separated from the rest of my apartment: the bathroom. She was already coming for me when I threw the door shut. I backed up all the way to the shower and closed myself up in it. I balled myself up in the corner, not knowing what was about to come.
Jen walked through the locked door as if it were nothing but water. Her new size threatened to cause damage I'd never felt before. I screamed in fright. She walked through the glass door just like she did with the other. My lip quivered as she stood over me.
Jen, please don't do this. I'm sorry! I pleaded.
Her glare showed no mercy. I left her all alone and had Trent as protection. She was furious. Her sanity wasn't straight, and bringing me down to take my new happiness away like a toy seemed to be the right thing to do now.
My head banged against the beige tile when she fell on me.