Saturday night, Tina and I were getting ready to go to the food festival. The event focused on showcasing the local produce and foods from the many cultural groups that made up Amoris and the surrounding small towns. There was usually amazing food, market stalls, live entertainment, cooking demonstrations and competitions. Tina and I had never missed any of the festivals since their humble beginnings in 2004.
Tina was busy pulling her eyelashes with a thick brush of mascara. Her mouth hung slightly open in concentration.
“Are you sure you don’t want some mascara?” Tina pondered.
“No its fine.” I returned. Remaining firm on my decisions. Jason had said I looked beautiful without makeup. For now, I was going to believe him.
“Your loss. I was planning on putting you on the market tonight and find someone worth it for you.”
“Only me?” I asked confused, “What about you?”
“Well, lets just say I have found someone worth it.”
“No way. Since when? Who is it? Do I know him?”
“Since last week. You know Darren from last year.” Tina question turning her attention towards me.
“That Darren? The one majoring in Engineering?” My mouth hung open at the revelation.
“He’s in town and he asked me to meet him tonight at the festival.”
“But you said it was going to be girl’s night only. I already cancelled with Jason.” I spoke feeling annoyed.
“I’m so sorry Mary-Kay.” Tina sighed taking my hands in hers, “It was sudden, he asked me this morning and you know how much I like him. I couldn’t say no. I’m sorry. You can still come with us.”
“It’s ok. I’m not going to miss the festival just because some guy will be by your side all the time.” I said.
“Thank you, Mary-Kay. I owe you one.” She replied kissing my hand.
I removed my hand from her grinning face with a disgusted look on my face. “You know you love it.” Tina teased before continuing probing her eyes with the mascara wand.
“I met Carla Thursday night.” I said casually.
“Where?” Tina asked with a confused expression on her face.
“At the Cibo Incredibile.” I spoke casually.
“What were you doing there on a Thursday night?” Tina questioned eyeing me through the mirror.
“Um, that’s not important.” I replied looking away from her.
“Oh, you’re blushing. Did you go on a date? Was it Craig? Jason?” She cooed moving towards me again.
I hesitated before speaking softly, “Jason.”
“What!?” Tina exclaimed, “Why am I just hearing about this?” She rushed to my side. “Tell me everything.”
So I did, keeping out the bit about Jason’s ambushing.
“Wow! that makes so much sense.” Tina replied turning her body away from me. I could see in her expression, she had something that was bothering her.
“What do you mean?”
Tina turned towards me, tears glistening her eyes. What was happening? She sighed before beginning, “I’m such a bad friend.” She didn’t wait for me to let her know she wasn’t. “I didn’t want to tell you this because he asked you out. That night after you left with Jason, Craig had an outburst. He threw the glass vase that was in the hallway onto the ground and kicked several furniture before Carla stopped him. She dragged him upstairs so they could talk in private. I was so curious to hear what they were talking about. So, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. I could see Carla’s dress sipping through the rail of the stairs. I followed it until I caught them both in a heated kiss. I slipped away from the stairs and informed everyone that I was going home.
I’m so sorry Mary-Kay. When he asked you out, I went to him and questioned him if something was going on between him and Carla. He told me they used to date but broke up and weren’t together anymore. That’s why I let you go on that date. But hearing from Jason’s point of view, it seems something is still going on between the two.”
My mouth hung wide open at this sudden disclosure. Jason may have been a flirt and a very unstable guy but at least he realised his mistakes and apologised genuinely and didn’t make me feel like I was the bad guy. Craig had made it look like I was the bad guy on our date. Did Craig warn me to stay from Jason because he knew that Jason would tell me the truth?
However, something wasn’t adding up. At his party, Craig had hugged, kept me close to his side the whole time and Carla didn’t complain a bit. Was that why Carla was so rude to me at the restaurant and flirted with Jason? Was she trying to get back at me for that?
Twenty minutes later, Tina and I were exiting her beetle. We were forced to park about a minute walk from the main street. There were cars and people everywhere like usual. We rushed towards the street not wanting to miss out on the good food. When we got there, the lines were already stretching about fifteen metres on both sides. We sighed before joining the queue for our favourite. I still don’t know what it was called but all I know is that it delighted my palate.
“I’m just going to text Darren where we are.” Tina said before tapping furiously on her phone, “Did you end up texting Jason?”
I shook my head no. Tina didn’t reply as she continued to text furiously. A few minutes later Darren appeared. He was very tall, maybe six feet two. He had shaggy brown hair and laughing eyes. He wore a sheepish grin as he came to view of Tina. The two hugged when they were in optimal distance. They detached, Tina turned to face me.
“You remember Mary-Kate, Darren?”
He nodded his head smiling, “Of course. The dux of the school right now. Nice to finally meet you.”
“Likewise.” I replied, shaking his outstretched hand.
Tina smiled before turning her attention to Darren, “Have you tried this?” She motioned to the stall.
There were only three people ahead of us now. I heard Darren reply Tina with a no. Soon after Tina was persuading him to try. I was pulled out of their conversation by the hairs on my neck standing up. I could feel the person’s gaze grilling my skin. I couldn’t shake away the feeling of being watched. My skin crawled as the fright started in the pit of my stomach. I quietly panicked while searching for the eyes I was sure were watching me. On my far right in the middle of the road, a figure stood wearing black throughout. I couldn’t make out if it was a woman or a man. People seemed to not notice the figure as they passed by it without acknowledgement. Noticing my gaze was trained on it, the figure whirled around and went the other way. I felt the urge to follow it but I didn’t want to risk my life. Was this the same figure I saw under the tree outside my room the other night?
“You’re next Mary-Kate.” Tina pulled me out of my thoughts.
“Oh sorry.” I replied shaking the feeling away. I turned towards the Greek woman who stood there smiling widely.
“How many would you like sweetheart?” The woman politely asked.
“Only one small please.” I requested, before glancing where the figure disappeared to.
“Here you go.” The woman informed, making me snap my attention towards her. I took the plastic container containing the food from her hands before handing her a five-dollar note. “Thanks”
I thanked her as well before moving out of the line, letting Darren and Tina through. I gazed in the direction the figure disappeared to. I searched around me for the figure but it wasn’t anywhere in site. I sighed. I had to stay in crowded places so that the figure didn’t drag me away.
After grabbing something to eat, we walked up and down the main street, observing and judging the market stalls. However, I seemed to be the only one doing that as Tina and Darren were whispering sweet nothings to each other the whole stroll.
“Hey Mary-Kay,” Tina’s voice dragged me from my thoughts, “We were thinking of watching the live entertainment across the theatre. Would you like to come?” Tina asked her arm hanging lazily around Darren.
“Sure, but I’m just going to look for those gulab jamun things.” I quipped, “Would you like some?”
“Yes please.” Tina chirped turning towards Darren, “Would you like some? We can share mine if you want.” Darren nodded with a smile on his lips.
“Ok,” I replied, turning towards the Indian stall. It was about ten metres away from the live entertainment.
When I arrived at the stall, a young Indian girl greeted me. I quickly gave her my order. I had to wait about ten minutes for another batch to cook. Luckily she had about four already made so she gave me to eat while I waited. When I was about to place one in my mouth I heard a voice behind me.
“How’s the girl’s night going?” I whirled around at Jason’s modulated voice.
“Hey,” I acknowledged him. He was dressed in casual blue jeans and a baby blue casual dress shirt. He looked good but it was freezing, how was he surviving with only that. “Aren’t you cold?” I blurted before I could stop myself.
“I don’t get cold. I’m from Yakutsk, Romania. Remember?” He chuckled, “This weather is like summer to me.”
“Right,” I responded popping a gulab jamun into my mouth.
“Where’s your companion?” Jason chuckled putting his hands in his pockets. I thought he didn’t get cold.
“She’s at the live entertainment with her lover.” I replied, annoyance radiating from my voice. “You want some?” I pushed the plate of sweetness towards him.
“No thanks,” He continued, “It sounds like it’s not a girl’s night out anymore.” I glanced at Jason, a suggesting smile on his lips
“Not really.” I laughed before offering the gulab jamun to Jason again.
“I’m allergic to gluten and also lactose intolerant. Thank you for the offer though.” Jason replied waving a hand in front of me.
“Really? That must suck.” I replied, feeling selfish.
“Its alright. I’ve grown to live with it.” I watched him as he tried to hide his disappointment. “However, I’ve always wondered what it tastes like. Tell me.” Jason smiled before leaning in towards the plate and sniffing. “It smells really good.”
“Well, They’re so soft, sweet and juicy. They just melt right in your mouth. Oh, I wish you could try them. Maybe we could try to make you ones that are gluten and lactose free. I hope they taste the same.” I finished with a small smile on my face.
“I would like that.” Jason replied watching me deeply with a small smile on his face.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I urged after he didn’t look away for a few seconds.
“You’re not wearing make up.” He praised with a small smile on his face.
“Well, I decided to try your advice.” I replied shyly looking away from him. “Any who, who are you here with?”
“Me, myself and I.” He replied casually. “I was going to bring you here but you said you had girl’s night so I thought I would check it out by myself.”
“Well, since you’re here and this isn’t really a girl’s night anymore, how about you join us.” I suggested, trying to be an accommodating person that I am.
“Sure,” Jason smiled.
“Here is your plate of gulab jamun Miss.” The Indian girl said behind me making me whirl around to face her.
I handed her a five-dollar note while taking the plate from her. I picked up two forks from the table before thanking her. Jason and I started walking towards the live entertainment. A rock band was playing and the sound increased the closer we got to the stage. I looked around until I spotted Tina and Darren cuddled in the sixth row. We marched towards them trying not to block the other audience.
When I was in eye sight, Tina turned towards us. A confused expression danced on her face when she saw Jason behind me. I just shrugged my shoulders before taking my seat next to her. Jason greeted her and Darren before taking his own seat. I handed the plate of goodies to Tina.
“Where did you pick up Jason?” Tina whispered, “I don’t feel as bad now.” She giggled before turning towards Darren. They dug into the dessert as we watched the performers.
Jason and I didn’t say anything but I could feel his presence loud and clear next to me. I swallowed, nervousness starting to form in the pit of my stomach. What was wrong with me?
After what felt like hours of silence, I felt Tina nudge my arm. I turned towards her. “Darren wants me to go with him to his house.” Tina giggled.
“What?!” I exclaimed in a whisper, “Why?”
“He said he just wants to hang out.” I side glanced her.
“You know what guys mean when they say they just want to hang out.”
“He promised we won’t do anything like that.” Tina whispered, puppy dog eyes and everything.
“Fine, but how will I get home.”
“The same way Jason got here?” Tina replied casually gesturing towards Jason, “Besides, Darren got dropped off by his mother so I can’t give you the beetle to drive yourself home.”
“What if Jason doesn’t want to drive me?” I questioned her.
“I’m sure he will say yes. This guy is smitten of you. Ask him.” Tina replied, a mischievous grin plastered on her perfect lips.
I groaned before turning towards Jason. He was bobbing his head to the music. When he felt my gaze he turned towards me with a smile on his lips. “That kid is really good.” I smiled back at him and nodded my head. “What’s up? Your facial expression tells me there is something you want to tell me or ask me?” I cleared my throat getting ready to present my case. “We really got to do something with that because its getting worse.” Jason teased.
I playfully punched him on the shoulder, “Ow, you sure got a lot of strength for a girl.” He teased.
I ignored him and tried to find a way to present my case. “Would you be able to give me a ride back home?”
“May I ask why?” Jason answered, a confused expression on his face.
“Well, Tina here and Darren are going to go to his house, like now.” I replied, discontent radiating in my every word.
“Doesn’t the chap have a car?” Jason asked as if he read my mind. Shouldn’t a college student have a car by now?
“That’s what I thought too, but apparently his mother dropped him off.” I whispered.
“Wow. Mary-Kate, you’ve got start thinking about the kind of people you keep close to you.” I was caught off-guard by his words. Was he trying to imply that Tina was a bad friend? I glanced at him, saying “Are you any better?” in my head.
“I mean, if I were her, I would try and ensure that my friend was safe before going off with some boy.” Jason spoke casually before turning towards the stage. Somewhat he was right.
“But putting me into your hands that means she trusts you.” I informed him, begging for his gaze.
“True and she can trust me, but I’m just disappointed that she chose him over you.” Jason finished, gazing in my eyes. I was kind of disappointed too. “I can drop you off at your house. You can trust me. I won’t do anything. If I wanted to do something to you I would’ve done it ages ago.”
“Thank you,” I whispered, his words cutting me deep inside. I turned towards Tina, all cuddled in Darren’s arms. Jealousy pinged me, if only I had my own boyfriend so I wouldn’t feel so excluded. “He said yes.”
“Excellent.” Tina squealed before turning towards Darren to break the news. I could see a smile tagging on Darren’s lips. It looked genuine and innocent. “We’ll be going now then. I will see you on Monday ok?” She hugged me and blew me a kiss before saying goodbye to Jason. I waved at them as they disappeared into the crowd hand in hand.
“So…,” I said to Jason not sure of what to do now.
“So?” He repeated before glancing at his watch, “You want to go home now? It’s eight-fifty.”
“Is that alright with you?” I retorted.
“Of course.” He replied before standing up and offering his hand. I took it and stood up as well. He didn’t release my hand until we got to his car.
When we pulled up into the driveway, I saw mum opening the door to the house. I had forgotten that mum worked an afternoon shift today instead of her usual night shift. Jason was already out of the door before I could stop him. I walked out as well just as Jason reached to open my door.
“You’ve to go back in the car?” I interjected.
“No, I’m going to meet your mum, besides she’s already walking over here.” Jason whispered causing me to whirl around and sure enough mum was walking towards us, curiosity written all over her face.
“Keep quiet, I’ll handle everything.” I whispered at Jason before turning to face mum. “Hello mamma.”
“Hello Kate. Where’s Tina? Either she’s still at the festival or she’s turned into this young man over here.” Mum laughed before turning towards Jason. “I’m Jane. You must be Craig.”
“No mum this is Jason, my uh, Chemistry partner.” I blurted out.
“Oh sorry Jason. Nice to meet you dear. Are guys doing another experiment together?” Mum questioned glancing between me and Jason.
Jason answered ‘no’ at the same time I answered ‘yes’.
“Yes, we got another experiment we have started. Isn’t that right?” I stammered glancing at Jason.
He glanced at me for a few seconds before replying, “Of course, we do.”
“Lovely. I don’t think I’ve seen you in town before. Have you just moved here?” Mum asked curiously.
I opened my mouth to reply but Jason beat me to it, “I just moved here with my uncle. Mr Orfeo, the owner of Cibo Incredibile.”
“That’s your uncle? Wow! That man must be doing very well. I’ve heard great things about the restaurant.” Mum praised.
“Thank you.” Jason replied.
“What about your parents?” Mum curiously questioned.
“Mum, I think Jas -,”
Jason interrupted me, “My mother is back in Romania working and my father has passed.” Jason replied casually.
“I’m sorry about your father darling.”
“Thank you. I think it’s better if I take my leave now. It was nice to meet you Jane.” Jason started before turning towards me, “Mary-Kate, I’ll see you later.”
I hummed in reply before waving at him. Mum and I made our way towards the house when Jason’s car started roaring.
“He seems like a nice guy.” Mum said while closing the door behind her. “Is there something happening between you two?”
“No.” I laughed.
“Interesting because I could feel something in the air.” Mum teased as she followed me into the kitchen. She watched me filling a cup with water. “Has he been in this house before?”
“What?” I nearly choked on the water.
“I have smelt his cologne in here before.” Mum casually replied eyeing me curiously.
“Must’ve rubbed on my clothes or something.” I shrugged my shoulders.
“Whatever happened to Craig?” Mum asked propping her arms onto the bench top.
“He already has a girlfriend.” I calmly informed my mum.
“What?!” Mum exclaimed. “That stupid guy. However, by the sound of it, you don’t sound sad about it.” I shook my head as I watched my mum lifting herself from the benchtop. “Where’s Tina?”
“She had to leave early because her mum called her.” I lied. I couldn’t tell mum about Darren. I knew Tina’s mum didn’t want her dating while in high school.
“Right.” Mum replied before sighing. “You’ve eaten right?” I nodded my head. “Excellent. Would you like to watch a movie with me tonight before going to bed?”
I nodded before making my way towards the stairs, “I’m just going to get changed.”
“Awesome. I’m going to make popcorn.” Mum replied before turning towards the food cabinet.
I ended up having a girl’s night with my mum instead. It was excellent, way better than I had imagined. For your own information there were no pillow fights and skimpy pyjamas.