29- Welcome to Stage Three
We burst into Amanda’s house without knocking or ringing the doorbell. “I think we’re early,” Rye laughed as he looked around at the absence of people.
A little boy with a mop of dirty blond hair came rushing from the kitchen. “Tera!” he gushed. This little gem used to have issues pronouncing the ‘Th’ sound, and still called me by his nick name. I kneeled down and held out my arms.
“Hey tiger,” I said as he jumped into my arms. Standing up, I started spinning him around in circles. Giggles came from his smiling mouth and I couldn’t help but smile too.
“Rawr,” he insisted. Coming to a stop, I hoisted him higher onto my hip so I could adjust and hold him better. Rye walked up next to us.
“Who’s this little squirt?” he asked. The little boy looked at him with wide eyes.
“Squirt?” I laughed, for he seemed offended by this accusation. “My name is Austin and I’m four! I’m not a squirt.”
Rye raised his hands in surrender. “You’re right, my bad. You are a big guy.” Austin nodded, almost like he was thinking, “Yeah, that settles that.”
“’Manda!” he yelled. “Friends are here!”
“She’ll be down soon,” I told Rye. “It’d be hard not to hear that.” He chuckled as Austin squinted at me. “What?” I whispered as I started tickling him. “You got a problem, little man?”
Austin was still giggling when Amanda and Hope came out to where we were. “Who is it Aussie?”
“Tera!” he told her. Both girls looked up.
“Oh, hey guys,” Amanda greeted.
Hope looked at the clock. “You’re here awfully early,” she said, stating the obvious.
“We were hanging out, just figured we’d come now,” I told them. Amanda and Hope glance at each other before returning their gaze to us.
“What was that?” Rye questioned. I was thinking the same thing. Are they actually mad at us for being early? I thought it would be a good thing.
“What was what?” They were faking their ignorance. Or maybe they’re really that stupid. It wouldn’t surprise me if—stop, I had to tell myself. Play nice.
“We’re just finishing up the video we’re playing tonight,” Hope told us.
“Make yourselves at home,” Amanda said. It seemed like eons, (okay maybe it wasn’t that long) before everyone had showed up and the party was in full swing. Though I didn’t really move around to say hi (why would I willingly engage in conversation with humans, ew), I still noticed those who were there and responded if someone greeted me first. I felt like someone here was missing, but that was probably crazy talk. There were like 22 of us here, I’m sure I’d just forgotten.
Looking around, I started rechecking who I had paired off together. Standing closer to the edge of the room on the opposite side of me, were both Trevor and Christie. Christie kept moving her eyes towards him while biting her lip, not really paying attention the conversation between the three people in front of her.
Treading my fingers together I cracked my knuckles and made my way over. Let’s make it happen people, I told the imaginary matchmaker beings in my head.
“Hey Trevor,” I greeted. He looked at me slightly startled.
“H-hey, Thera,” he responded.
“So, you see the blondie in the group there?” His gaze followed where I motioned.
“Andi or C-Christie?” He questioned. Oh yeah, I’d forgotten hat everyone had already met in Stage One.
“Christie.” He nodded. Now here was the tricky part. How was I to get them together or progressing? Could I just say, Hey, date her. Good match. Is that how it works? “If you ask her, I’m sure she’d walk with you to get some punch.”
“R-really? She w-would?” His eyes seemed to shine with hope.
“You want me to ask for you?” He nodded his head enthusiastically. Now time to convince Christie, I thought.
I walked over the small group and gulped. I really didn’t like starting conversations, but for the sake of the ship, here goes. “Hey Christie,” I greeted, then looked around the mini circle. “Andi, Duke, Destiny.” They said hey in return. “Actually Christie, can I talk to you on the side?”
She seemed alarmed but followed me anyways. “Do you remember Trevor?” She nodded and I think she peeked around my shoulder to see him standing not so far away. “Do you want to walk with him to get something to drink?” At first she didn’t move or respond and I got scared. Then, she broke out into a smile and walked over to him.
“I’d b-be delighted to,” I overheard her say. Destiny came over to me, following my gaze.
“Did you just set those two up?” she asked.
She looked at me smiling. “Not at all. Good call, Thera! That ship should sail nicely.” My eyes drifted over to Andi and Duke, who were the only ones left from that little group still chatting. Duke said something to make Andi laugh loudly, and when they went to walk to another part of the house, he placed his hand on the small of her back. My eyes went wide.
“Destiny,” I said dramatically, reaching out to grab her arm. “Do you see what I’m seeing? Can this be..?” Destiny bobbed her head up and down as she jumped a little. Her mouth was hanging open and I couldn’t tell if it was shock or happiness. Knowing her, it was probably a combination of the two.
“I have a ship for my brother. A ship for my brother. There is hope for humanity! Hope for a future! The protection policy on animals is being strengthened!” I swear this girl was on something, but I just laughed and went along with it.
“So, speaking of ships,” I turned to face her, twiddling my hands on the bottom of my shirt.
“Yes?” Her interested was piqued.
“There’s someone that I think goes well with you,” I said cautiously, not knowing how she was going to react. Destiny just huffed, putting her hands on her hips.
“Dexter,” I said. She blinked at me.
“My home slice Dex?” Now she just seemed curious, as if the idea hadn’t come to her. “He’s such a fanboy. Yeah, I’ll go do that.” She left to go find him. Well that was easier than I thought it would be. I’ll just have to make sure I write them all down on the piece of paper I had at home.
Amanda and Hope made sure that everyone had more interviews, though these weren’t in her bedroom and were just random ones around the room wherever they caught people talking.
At some point, Cole came over to talk to me. He pulled out a little bag and handed me a peach. My eyes were saucers as I looked at him. “A man of magic!” I gushed. He just chuckled and shook his head.
“A man who lives by a locally grown fruit stand,” he corrected.
“Locally grown? That’s even better!” After a few minutes he left and Rye waltzed over.
“What was in the bag?” He inquired.
“Only my favorite food besides cookies,” I said, throwing the peach at him. He caught it, looking down quizzically.
“I didn’t know you liked peaches,” he practically grumbling like a disappointed child. Why was he acting so odd?
“Alright everybody, who’s having a good time?” A few cheers. ”I said who’s having a good time?!" Was I allowed to punch Hope? Nothing personal, but she was annoying me right now. She literally just asked the same exact question two times in a row. Why would she do that? But getting back to the point, the duo of Amanda and Hope had finished the video and started playing it. It was a compilation of all of the different pictures, interviews and other from Stage One. It was very nicely made, but I was still bored so I zoned out for most of it. I zoned back in to see the picture Oscar took of me on the beach. Why I oughta—, but it was gone before I even knew it. Good, maybe no one else saw.
After the video, Amanda and Hope came to give another speech. I can already feel my ears bleeding. They started explaining all of the boring aspects of the next stage, how the girls would be doing the same exact things as the guys the past two weeks (if they chose to start over break).
“Wow, look how far we’ve all come!” Hope cheered and there were a few sounds of agreement. I also heard a phone ring, but it was just lost noise.
“Welcome to Stage Three!” Amanda yelled, like she couldn’t hold it back anymore. Somewhere in the crowd, one of the girls started bawling. Loud, ugly crying.
“Hey, hey what’s wrong?” I could hear Duke asking, trying to help who I now saw and identified as Andi.
“He’s been hit, oh God, he’s been hit!” she wailed.
“Who?” Duke inquired, trying to get her to breathe long enough to speak.
"Who do you not see at this party? It’s Graham. He’s been in a car accident!”