19- Make It Count
“Uh...” I fumbled, jumping out of bed. “Could you stall him?”
“I think your father is already doing that quite nicely.” I groaned. When mom said nice, I was sure it didn’t mean so. He was probably boring poor Rye to death, or interrogating him with his vicious glare. I ran to my closet. I tried to flip through my clothes like a cliché movie, but it didn’t work right and I ended up with a giant pile in my way. Who cares anyway? It’s just a date, you don’t even like those, I told myself.
I tried to think back to what he said to wear. Old clothes right? Okay, I can do that. An old shirt with a mystery stain on the lower part of the back, and cotton shorts that I wasn’t sure if they fit or not. I picked up a bandana and rolled it smaller to tie around my head—it kept my hair out of my face most of the time. Then, as directed, I packed a second set in a drawstring bag.
I set out for the living room. The scene when I arrived was not one I expected in the least. I had pictured Rye, ground into the couch with my dad staring him down.
I’d never guess that Rye would be full fledged in conversation, my dad listening intently and participating like a civilized best friend of his.
“Hey-yo,” I said hiding my hesitancy.
“Hi, sweetie! Nice kid here, I approve.” I froze when dad said this. He approved already. Nothing was going to happen though! I’m not actually getting a boyfriend out of this, I’m doing it because Amanda forced me to.
“Okay, I hate to leave, but we have a time limit, sir. Curfew?” The way Rye handled my dad was excellent, like he actually was an upright kid. Not that he was a hoodlum troublemaker, but this kid could be quite sly. Sly Rye. Hah, that’s his new nickname.
“You coming, Ther?” Rye asked with a smirk.
“One, my name is TherA,” I told him, overly pronouncing the uh sound. “And two, I was just thinking about stuff Sly Rye, so gimme a break.” I ignore my mom’s smiles between our interaction and left calling out my goodbye with actually turning around.
“Your dad’s a pretty nice guy,” Rye told me while opening the car door for me. I rolled my eyes at the action, then groaned when I processed what he said.
“Please never say those words to me,” I said when he hopped into his side.
“And what’ll you do if I don’t?” he challenged, leaning closer to me.
“Well, let’s just say I have ways of shutting people up.” Keep the mystery in the threat and they’ll be sure to back down! He wouldn’t dare–
“Like you’d kiss me?”
I pulled back from the stare-off to press myself against the door, then snorted. “As if.”
Rye playfully glared at me, gave a low hum, then started to drive. Surprisingly, the ride went by in silence on our part, the radio playing the only background noise. The car slowed down some and Rye cleared his throat nervously.
“Okay, I want it to be a surprise so you’re going to have to do one of two things: promise to keep your eyes closed, or put on this blindfold.”
I took the blindfold from and slapped it against his arm. “I am not putting on a blindfold! Are you trying to kidnap me?”
“Hun, if I were trying to kidnap you I would have already done it, quietly and stealthily.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not a word.”
“I’m pretty sure it is.”
“Is too, and you’re just stalling. Choose an option, I just want it to be a surprise, geez.”
I sighed. He had caught me. But there was no way on earth I would trust someone enough to put on a blindfold (I always ruined the fun of Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey). So I chose the other option, to simply close my eyes.
“Can I trust you enough to not open your eyes?” He questioned me sternly.
“Can I trust you enough to not murder me or leave me stranded in the middle of no where?” I countered.
“Touché.” So I was a ‘good kid’ and kept my eyes closed even as I felt the car turn and continue down the road. It felt bumpier than normal, so I assumed the road was unpaved.
“Okay, don’t open your eyes yet. I’m going to get out of the car and come get you from the side, then we have a small walk until you can open your eyes,” Rye instructed.
“A small walk straight into a murky pond,” I muttered but replied with Nothing when he asked what I had said. Shakily I walked forward inch by inch keeping a death grip on Rye’s offered hand. I told myself, If I’m going down, I’ll take him with me.
“Open ’em up!” he finally said. My eyes flew open. I was standing in an open field. Looking around, thinking for sure he was a deranged murderer (all the cute ones are. Wait, what did I call him?), I tried to see the surroundings better. There were walls scattered randomly around, and—stacks of barrels and tires?
“Where exactly are we? What’s going on?”
“War,” was his reply, just as the guns started firing.
The first shot hit it’s target hard–me. The force wasn’t enough to knock me over, but the sheer surprise it caused had me sitting down flabbergasted. I looked at the red staining my shirt.
“Why didn’t you tell me it was a paintball field?” I screamed as I got up and fled for cover. Rye easily ran beside me, laughing up a storm.
“I figured your reaction would be better.”
“I thought I was going to die, MULTIPLE TIMES!” I continued to yell at him as we headed towards the house to gear up.
“On the bright side, now you’re prepared to fight back,” Rye said as he tried to stifle his ever-flowing laughter.
“Game on, Allen,” I taunted.
“That’s not my last name,” he said slightly confused. “My last name is Walker.”
“No, but you look like that guy off of The Flash,” I told him.
“Really? I don’t see it.” He put on his scrunched up thinking face. “Although I did go on a date with a girl named Iris once, that crazy chick wanted to be a reporter and tried to write an article about me...”
As Rye began to ramble, I quickly strapped on my gear and got my gun. When I went to walk outside, Rye followed along like a puppy. Still lost in the past he didn’t even notice that we had reached the field again, so I attacked.
“Pay back!” I cheered as I shot him a couple of times in the chest and ran to safety.
“What? Low blow, Telufa, low blow!”
“Hey,” someone whispered from behind me and I nearly shot on accident from jumping so much.
“Are you trying to kill me via heart attack?” I whisper yelled to the girl.
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” she said. “You on my side or not?”
“I don’t even know your name,” I protested.
“We can take down Rye.”
“I’m in,” I said without hesitation. “But seriously, what’s your name?”
She sighed, rolling her icy gray-blue eyes. “Rayna. Hi, nice to meet you, I’m in the Games too. Now let’s go shoot the guys and show them who’s boss.” On one side I really like her attitude, but not when it’s directed to me. “Move out,” she ordered.
Following her lead (she’d probably done this before), we crouched and moved along the wall. Breaking into the opening, she sprinted for the nearest collection of barrels. We peaked around the edges and I rolled my eyes when I saw Rye running to another cover and doing a spy roll at the end. He had no clue where we were though, so his desired side to hide was in perfect line-up to my scope. I raised it up.
“Pst, come here,” I whispered to get Rayna’s attention. “Clear shot, we can double take him down.” She scooted over and aimed her gun as well.
“Count down?” she asked.
“Three,” I said readjusting my trigger finger.
“Two,” Rayna continued.
“One!” We exclaimed together as we repeatedly pulled the manual paint guns. Rye’s shirt lit up into splattered colors all over the rainbow as he cried out and fell down. He started to army crawl to try and get away. I heard him yell out a name and laughed, he was calling to his so-called comrade, one that had failed to protect him from our ambush.
Suddenly, a form was running across the field towards us. Rayna and I could never get a good view however, because they were weaving over and behind the various barriers.
“Ian,” she breathed out low. “We need to hide! He’s perfected his aim somehow, and I play this game every week during summertime. Get up, party’s over!”
I was somewhat surprised that it was Ian; deep down there were still a few hard feelings that made me automatically think him a failure at everything. I guess it would seem fitting that he knew how to shoot well.
“Gotcha!” I heard him call from behind. So I did the really heroic thing: I shrieked. I blindly shot where I thought he was standing and continued to run, not even knowing where I was going. I ran behind a wall and crawled into the first barrel I saw, wishing that no one saw me. But when was luck ever on my side? It may not have happened at first, but maybe five minutes later (at the time felt like an hour) I saw a shadow outside of my barrel.
“Hm...” I heard Rye taunt. “Wherever could Thera be? Perhaps, this barrel?” I braced myself for impact or a face popping up, but all I heard was a thunk from my left somewhere. “Oh, how petty of me to assume. It must be this barrel!”
Rye face was suddenly very close as he sat on the barrel and hung his head upside down into view.
“Hi,” I said awkwardly, knowing I had been cornered.
“Hey there, beautiful,” was his reply. I refused to blush. “If you surrender now, I get one free shot to your back and we gang up on Ian together.”
“And if I say no?” The defiance in me was always wanting a challenge.
“I give you to the count of three to get out of hiding before I hunt you down like a deer.”
“Well although that second one sounds charming enough, I’d rather get back at Ian. So, one shot and a truce?”
Rye’s green eyes got a little lighter. “Deal,” he said and stuck out his hand to help pull me out. I turned around and braced myself for the shot. The sound happened but I noticed a blue splatter on the grass to my right. “Oops, darn, I missed. Fair’s fair, guess you get off the hook this time, let’s go.” I looked at him in wonderment—there was no way he could have missed that on accident.
The next hour or so was spent playing around on the paintball field. For a while it was three on one until Rayna decided that she should probably make it fair and turn in into two-on-two couple style. It was lots of fun, to say the least. After we all called truce and shook hands professionally, we headed back to the house that the gear had come from to change into nicer clothes. There were shower rooms with individual stalls for both men and women, which made it nice.
Soon enough, we were off again. Rye had one more surprise up his sleeve and I almost thought he looked super nervous. It was a look I had never seen on Rye. On the way here he only drove with one hand, but this time he kept shifting hands and wiping them on his jeans like they were sweating or something. If what he has planned has him nervous, maybe I need to be extra nervous, or at least extra cautious. Who knows what might be about to happen.