Friday could not have come sooner. This week has felt like the longest week of my life. From rescuing the Prince at the mall to having Nick Collins breathing down my neck waiting for me to have something worthy for the school’s newspaper, it has been hectic. Apparently, it has become obvious around school that Phoenix is rather fond of me as we have sat together at lunch every day this week. Nick had extended our deadline for the article because no one has come close to getting an interview with the Prince. I was still a front runner and Nick knew it as he continued to harass me during our meetings and through the school day. However, Phoenix has made sure to not give me too much information. I learned that his favorite color is blue and that his birthday is on June 3rd. He has also made sure to only give me first names of people he mentions such as his best friends, Theo and Tommy. I tried looking them up on social media along with Cassandra but found endless results on social media. For all I know, Instagram is not a thing they use in Calida. Did Princes have Instagram accounts? I wonder if Phoenix has one.
“What did you do for fun in Calida?“, I asked Phoenix once he sat down with his lunch at our usual spot, in the grass patch under the biggest tree outside of the cafeteria. The weather has been perfect this week and I found that more and more people were spending their lunch outside. Most people that were outside were catching up in homework, absorbed in their fiction novels, or had their headphones glued to their ears. There were still small groups of giggling girls that were looking at Phoenix which I have become accustomed to.
“Hmm, well that is a difficult question indeed. Most of my spare time was spent on my studies. My life is quite a bore in reality.” Phoenix gave me a small smile that made me feel pity for him.
“Oh come on! I am sure you have some wild stories, what about crazy parties that you have thrown at the palace? Or what about any secret girlfriends? I am sure Tommy and Theo have snuck you out on occasion as well.” I jokingly nudged his shoulder with mine.
Phoenix laughed, “Well Tommy and Theo would sneak me out, but we mostly just went out to go buy burgers at night. There is this small restaurant in Calida that has the BEST burgers in the world. I wish you could try one. Absolutely nothing compares to Mr. Garcia’s burgers.”
“Well, Mr. Garcia has Phoenix James as his highest rating customer so I would assume that the food is amazing,” I smirked.
“Theo and Tommy would bring their girlfriends with us from time to time and even tried to set me up once,” Phoenix stopped to chuckle like he was there in the memory, “She was very kind, but it did not work out”.
“Why did it not work out?” I asked.
“My lifestyle is a difficult one. I have only had one path picked for me and that can put a lot of stress on a person. My life nearly destroyed the person she was and I ended it before it corrupted her further.” He stated.
The way that Phoenix spoke sometimes was haunting. Something told me that deep down Phoenix felt like he was the plague and had to keep everyone at distance. I have only known him for a week and there were so many layers of him that I had yet to peel back. I wanted to keep peeling.
My phone buzzed in the back pocket of my jeans.
A text message lit up my phone screen, “Got called in for a double 2night. Left $$ by the fridge. Order takeout. Love u princess. -Mom”
“Ok. I love you.” I replied. Friday nights were usually movie nights for my mom and me, even though half the time she got called in for work.
The lunch bell rang indicating that it was time to head back to our 5th period.
“Hey Phoenix, I was wondering if you wanted to do something tonight? We can watch a movie at my house?” I asked.
Phoenix hesitated for a moment, “No horror films and we can make it a plan.”
I chuckled, “No gruesome horror, I pinky promise,” I held out my pinky and after some confusion, I grabbed his pinky to link up with mine, “a sign of an unbreakable promise.”
The rest of the day passed in a blur. When the final bell rang, I found Ava waiting at my locker. She was smiling at me with a small bouquet of flowers in her hand.
“What is this all about?” I asked.
“Jimmy asked me to homecoming!” She blurted. She opened her backpack and there was a small rolled poster board along with a bunch of candy inside. She handed the poster to me and I unrolled it. It read “It would be a treat if you went to homecoming with me!”
“Oh my god!” I hugged her. I was so happy for her. I noticed that Ava and Jimmy were getting closer during lunch and our meetings, but I didn’t think it was something worth asking about. Homecoming was exactly 3 weeks and 1 day away and Ava was panicking about no one asking her yet.
“You have to help me pick a dress! Can we go tonight?” She begged.
“I can’t tonight. Raincheck for tomorrow?” I said while rolling her poster back up and putting it in her backpack.
“Ok babe. Tell Phoenix that Saturday you are mine.” She smirked before heading towards the exit.
“I didn’t say I had plans with him!” I shouted after her.
“You didn’t have to babe!” She yelled back before being lost in the crowd.
I grabbed my textbooks along with my homework and put them in my backpack. The hallways were almost empty. I pulled out my car keys and headed towards the student parking lot. Once I got into my Jeep, I could see Phoenix sneaking behind a big tree and getting into his drivers’ beat-up car. He explained the day after the mall incident that he had to be more careful and that he had created a new plan with Mr. Mendoza in order to avoid paparazzi from finding his new home. He didn’t mention what the new plan was or where he was living now. However, I found it amusing that I found him without even trying. He was adorable.
I pulled out of the parking lot and heading home. I put on my favorite 80′s radio station where Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” blasted back on the speakers. My body took over and started bobbing to the beat. I loved dancing and singing in the car and didn’t care who watched me. I looked over at the other car that was stopped at the red light with me and began singing to the elderly lady. She looked over at me and rolled up her windows as I continued to sing. The traffic light turned green as I continued laughing at her reaction. I got home 5 minutes later and saw that I had an unread text message.
“Coming over at 6.” Phoenix’s message read.
I responded with a thumbs-up emoji.
I looked at my phone. It was only 3:30, so I decided to jump into the shower. It felt nice washing off the school day off and some stress along with it. When I got out, I put on my comfy jeans on with a black tank top. I picked out a few movies options for Phoenix to pick out of that included some of my favorites. I also ordered some of my favorite Chinese takeout. It only seemed to fair to share some of my favorite food with Phoenix after he shared his passion for Mr. Garcia’s burgers. Then, it came to me. I grabbed my laptop and googled Mr. Garcia’s burgers in Calida. The third link took me to a facebook page. It was under an Edgar Garcia that was self-employed at Garcia’s Cafe. I tried looking at his photos but they were all private.
I looked at his friends and tried to look for any familiar names. I hit the jackpot when I landed in the T’s. Mr. Garcia has both Theo and Tommy as friends. I clicked on Tommy’s page first and saw that his pictures were public. I saw mostly shirtless beach pictures. His skin was perfectly tan in all the pictures along with a messy set of brown curls. I landed on a picture with someone that looked exactly like him who had to be Theo. Theo shared the same tan skin but had his head nearly shaved. The only difference I could identify between the two twins.
I went back to Theo’s page and saw that it was mostly inactive. I noticed that he did have his Instagram account linked and clicked on it. I was redirected to his page where there were hundreds of pictures and thousands of followers. I went full investigator mode and went through his pictures. It felt like forever when I landed on a picture of a guy’s back. I noticed right away that it was the back of Phoenix’s head. The location that was tagged as Mr. Garcia’s Cafe. I gave myself a pat on the back. I found something!
In the picture, you can see Tommy sitting in front of Phoenix as Theo appeared to be taking the photo. Tommy was tagged in the photo, but that was it. It looked like Phoenix did not have social media after all. They did look like they were having a blast. I could see burgers on the table and my mouth began to water. They looked delicious! My front doorbell rang at the exact moment as I shut my laptop. I opened it and paid the delivery guy for the takeout. My stomach growled as I sat down the Chinese food. I looked at my phone and it noticed that it was already 5:56 pm. It looks like I got absorbed with the accounts for a while.
At exactly 6 pm, the front doorbell rang again. I automatically knew that it was Phoenix. Another thing I learned about Phoenix this week is that he is punctual for everything. He will always be there at the time he tells you.
I opened the door and there he stood with a picnic basket in his hand.
“Did you not understand the movie memo?” I lifted my eyebrow as I motioned for him to come in.
“It is a beautiful night. I thought we could set up something in your backyard.” He said. He completely shocked me when he pulled out a small projector out of the basket along with a white sheet. Oh, this was a plan that I could get behind. I help him find a place to hang up the white sheet and set up the projector. We decided on some Netflix film that played in the background as we set down a blanket for our takeout picnic. We passed the containers back and forth as he told me stories of him going to China and trying some amazing dishes. I stuffed my face while listening to his stories. This was the first time that he had ever led the majority of the conversation.
When the movie was almost over and our bellies were full of Chinese food, Phoenix said, “I have one more surprise.” Phoenix opened up the picnic basket and pulled a CD disc along with one pizza bagel. He held out the disc that read “Mila’s Mix” and he looked perfect. The lighting of the projector somehow brought out those beautiful ocean eyes of his and his hair had grown longer that fitted his face better.
“I would be honored if you would be my date to the homecoming dance and wanted to ask if you would like to go with me?.”
I felt a smile fill my face, “I would love to.”
He smiled and pulled me in for a hug. His smell was intoxicating. When he pulled back, he handed me the disc.
“I made you a mixtape for you to listen to in your car. I asked Ava if you would like it and she said you would love it. I hope she was right.” Phoenix said.
I got up and turned off the projector. I held out my hand and he took it. I took him to my Jeep where I put in the CD. The first song blared out my speakers. I started whipping my hair from side to side.
“IT’S PERFECT!” I yelled above the music. He smiled back and watched me dance the night away.