Chapter 15 - The Interesting Dinner
"Oh hey!" Mom greeted us at the door, beaming with happiness and excitement when she saw we brought Ella along.
"Hey Aunt Liz!" Ella chirped, giving my mom a huge hug. These two were the best of friends. I don't even remember when or how. But I do remember them being formidable partners in crime.
Crime, defined by myself, as something they do or think to 'girl me up' or hook me up with someone or something without my consent.
It is a huge crime.
"Are you staying for dinner?" Mom asked as we stepped inside. Ella nodded excitedly. I just looked over her worried. What should I do to cheer her up?
"Goody!" Mom squealed and clapped her hands like a teenage girl. Seriously.
"Great. More noise." I heard Daniel say as he quietly hung his coat near the door.
I just noticed he was actually wearing one over our uniform.
My eyes narrowed at the sight of it. His coat... isn't small anymore.
I shook my head.
Of course it isn't! He's not a kid anymore. I sighed. But compared to the coat he gave me years ago, the one he was using now was twice, no, thrice as big.
What. Ugh. Why does it even matter?
"Tina!" Ella hollered from the living room. She and my mom already went ahead. Eh. Mom's stealing my best friend again. "Come over here!"
I treaded towards them and eyed my mom suspiciously when I saw a playful smile on her face. That look is never good.
"What have you two planned this time?" I asked, my voice sounding like I already caved in before even knowing what it was.
"You really don't trust us, do you?" Mom giggled. "I just wanted to ask Daniel if he can make dinner for us tonight. Your dad's coming home late."
"What." My voice was hoarse. Daniel stepped in the living room the moment I was about to object with all my might. Ella squealed.
"Daniel! Can you do us a favor?" She said, beaming with smiles.
I'm starting to think it was a mistake to bring Ella here and meet with her partner in crime also known as my very own mother.
"Sure." He simply replied.
I wanted to slap myself. Why did he have to agree so quickly?
"Can you make dinner for us?" Mom said. Daniel looked at me; I was giving him the opposite facial expression my mom and best friend had right now.
And that just made him all the more motivated to piss me off.
"Okay. What should I make?"
He's walking directly to a trap. Dumbbutt.
And mom. Ugh. Mom couldn't contain her giggles. She and Ella literally looked like fan girls right now. "You can use whatever's in the kitchen. You decide what to make. I heard from Johnny that you're an excellent cook."
I stared at her and then at him. He is?
I heard him sigh at the mention of his dad's name. "Not really. But I can make edible stuff."
The way he said it was like he was implying that I couldn't make edible stuff.
I wanted to be offended but it was true so I shut up.
"Awesome!" Ella said. "I can't wait!"
"You girls go ahead. I'll help him in the kitchen," mom smiled at us before escorting my butthead of a fiance there.
I don't trust mom alone with that guy. It's either she's gonna tell him something embarrassing about me, or he's going to tell her something embarrassing about me.
I mentally whined to myself as I led Ella up to my room. Well, whatever. Let them do what they want. I need to talk to my best friend about what happened earlier.
"Wow, he's really capable isn't he?" Ella said as she fell on my bed. "Your fiance, I mean."
"Stop that," I groaned at her teasing. I sat on the chair near my desk.
Almost a minute or two passed without us saying anything to each other, and I already knew she wanted to say something, but was having a hard time explaining it.
So, I decided to break the ice, which was pretty unlikely of me to do so.
"Can I ask a personal question?"
Ella was still lying down in my bed, staring at my ceiling. She didn't reply quickly like the usual, but she released a small laugh. "Are you kidding? We're best friends! There's no need to ask permission for stuff like that."
"Then..." I mumbled unsurely, leaning over my seat. She wasn't even trying to look at me. She was trying to hide her face. "Did something happen between you and Sean... in the past?"
There was a small pause. Did I cross the line? Did I make her more upset?
Ella slowly sat up, her eyes on her hands the whole time.
I nodded, a bit surprised at the revelation. I asked because I was curious, but I didn't expect it'd actually be true.
Her and Sean? Really?
"We dated." She added. "But that was ages ago."
I didn't know what to say to make her feel better. I had no experience in this kind of stuff. I'm not qualified to say my opinion.
I don't even have an opinion about this because I literally got nothing.
Ella made a weak chuckle before she finally met my eyes. I felt sad. Her eyes looked so sad.
"You don't have to worry about it that much! Silly Tina. I was just surprised earlier at the mall, that's all."
No ideas were springing from my brain. All I could do was nod and listen to her. I was always more of the listener and she was always the talker between us two anyway.
But this time, I really wished I could say something to make her feel better. Ella's reckless at times and she does stuff to piss me off sometimes, but I know she's doing it for me.
She gives me the push I always need in whatever I do, and that really helps a lot since I'm so stubborn.
Yes, I'm acknowledging that trait.
To be honest, if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have won the seat of council president in our school, much less run for the position.
That's why I feel like such a useless friend for not even giving her a word of advice at a time like this.
"Sorry Tina," she smiled at me weakly. My eyes widened at that smile. She was always so cheerful, and this expression she was wearing could make anyone's heart stop. "But can we talk about this some other time? I'll tell you everything when I'm mentally prepared and--"
"It's fine," I said, trying to reassure her. "It's fine. Tell me when you're ready."
I'm happy enough she told me, and she admitted something she wouldn't admit to just anybody.
We exchanged quiet smiles before Ella stood up quickly like her energy had been fully restored.
"I can't wait to eat dinner!" She exclaimed. "I wonder what Daniel's making."
I suppressed a sigh.
I just hope it's not something even close to what I created before.
The preparations have been done about ten minutes ago, and I was already in the process of patting the tenderloin dry.
I coated all sides with salt, pepper, and garlic. I also tucked rosemary sprigs under strings on all sides of the roast, leaving a few inches between each.
Seeing all the available ingredients and herbs in this kitchen made me want to make Rosemary Beef Fillet and some mashed potato.
It wasn't as expensive or formidable as it sounded, since it was quite easy to make.
Why I chose this gourmet-type of dish, I don't know. Maybe I just wanted to try it. Maybe I was just bored.
Maybe I just wanted to show off and impress her and her mom.
Shut up thoughts and concentrate on the damn beef.
I cleared my throat as I heated oil in a flameproof heavy roasting pan and then partially cooked the tenderloin on all sides.
"You're pretty good at this," Aunt Lizzy said. She's been quietly observing me work for a while now.
I felt a bit embarrassed and a bit proud with what she said, just like a little kid who got praised.
She walked over the counter and watched as I turned the heat off and took the pan.
"What're you gonna do next?" She asked.
"I'm gonna transfer the pan to the oven and roast it for about 30 minutes." I replied. I did what I just said and after that, I went on to my next task, explaining everything to her along the way. "While waiting, I'm going to make the mashed potatoes."
I heard her sigh contentedly before releasing a hearty laugh. I stifled a gulp. Was that good or bad?
"Let me help you," she said, taking the peeler from the drawer and taking one potato from the basket.
"It's okay," I said, but she insisted. She looked at me, and with those eyes, I felt a familiar warmth. She smiled.
"You really look like your mother." I didn't say anything when she mentioned her. That's because I didn't know what to say.
I hardly remember my mother.
She laughed again before she started peeling the potatoes. "It's fine Daniel. Thank you for accepting our request of making you prepare our dinner tonight. Now let me help you."
I quietly stared at her for a few seconds before finally nodding.
"Plus," she added, giggling. I was currently busy looking for the peeler under the cupboards. She leaned closer and whispered to my ear. "This is the quickest way to win her heart."
I accidentally bumped my head on the cupboards. Oh, God.
I hissed from the pain and cleared my throat and hopefully cleared that embarrassing moment just now.
Aunt Lizzy looked too happy.
"Dear, oh dear," she laughed, helping me up. "Sorry my daughter's image is such a distraction for you. Would you like some ice?"
"She's fi-- I mean I'm fine. I'm fine. Thanks."
Stupid stupid stupid.
She laughed again before pinching my cheek like a little boy.
I want to disappear right now. This is so not cool.
Aunt Lizzy helped me with the potatoes. She did most of the work in that side dish but asked me to do the seasoning. I obediently did as told.
...is an opponent I would never dare challenge.
As I was washing the chopping board, I noticed that she was watching me again with a small smile. I tried my best not to panic and embarrass myself again.
Why was she observing me? Was this probably a test?
"You know," she said, the smile on her face widening. Somehow I straightened up. I'm such a loser. "Kristina still has that blue handkerchief."
I felt my heartbeat quicken. Crap I almost dropped the board. How did she know that?
"She keeps it as her lucky charm or something." She continued, watching my reaction closely. "She only brings it to school when she's about to take a really hard exam or when she has to deal with something difficult. It calms her down."
I wiped the chopping board dry as I continued to listen to her, my breath shortening after every word.
It meant that much to her?
"Not only that," Aunt Lizzy said, holding my attention on her words. "But that tiny coat of yours is still in her closet."
"I found it when I was cleaning her room once, and I was about to send it to the dry cleaners but she caught me just in time and got mad at me. She didn't want it washed. I can only guess why."
I tried my best not to show any expression to demonstrate how pathetic I was again.
Somehow, I wanted to laugh, because, she's ridiculous.
Why would she still keep that? If people would ask why I'd laugh, that's what I'd say.
Although that'd be a lie.
I didn't know what my face looked like right now but I really didn't want to know because Aunt Lizzy was seconds away from bursting into laughter.
Without warning, she squealed and pinched my cheeks again. I feel horrible. This isn't what I had in mind when I wanted to impress her. "You are so adorable!"
I hated being called 'adorable.' It didn't sound very manly. But since her mom says I'm adorable, then screw it.
I couldn't help it. I broke out a grin and I laughed at the situation.
"I gave you some useful info," she said, her lips curling up into a smirk. "Now make use of that and break my daughter's stubborness."
I chuckled at her choice of words before nodding in reply. How supportive of her.
The timer beeped and it was time to take the beef out.
I transferred the beef to a cutting board and let stand for a few minutes. After that, I discarded the strings and rosemary sprigs before slicing it into four equal parts.
Aunt Lizzy went out to prepare the table, and as soon as she was gone, I slowly stopped slicing and put the knife down. I stared quietly into thin air.
I covered my mouth with my hand and prevented myself from smiling and laughing like a pyscho.
I'm too happy.
"Dinner's ready!" I heard mom holler from downstairs.
Ella and I quickly went down, following the wonderful aroma right into the dining room.
Just as Daniel put the last plate on the table, Ella squealed and hugged me and mom.
The butthead is amazing.
I looked at the dishes he prepared and I swallowed hard. It looked and smelled amazing. I bet it tasted amazing too.
"Let's eat." Daniel said.
We sat down on the table, mom adjacent to Ella and me adjacent to Daniel.
Mom and Ella began eating already. Me, I was still looking at Daniel. I just still can't believe he made this. Maybe mom made this or he just ordered this and he's just taking credit?
When he glanced at me, he probably didn't expect I was already looking at him, so when our eyes met, he choked on his food and coughed a bit before chugging down a glass of water.
I hid a smile. He's an idiot.
"It's so good!" Ella yelled with a full mouth. Mom was nodding her head quickly. "Oh God. This is so good."
Curious, I sliced a portion of my beef and brought it to my mouth. After chewing it for a bit, I took the liberty of eating some mashed potato along with it.
I had to stop my eyes from rolling upwards.
"How is it?" Mom asked. It seemed like they were all anticipating my feedback.
Without much thought, I swallowed my food and smiled. "I think I'm falling in love."
I heard a choking sound but it was concealed by my mom's and my best friend's squeals.
"True! True!" Ella chirped. "Go ahead and fall in love with Daniel, Tina!"
It was my turn to choke on my food.
"I didn't mean it like that! It was just an expression." I became quickly defensive. They just giggled like the chipmunks they were.
I risked a glance at Daniel, but he looked like he was trying his best to block out our voices and concentrate on his food.
His ears were bright red.
"Where'd you learn to cook like this Daniel?" Mom asked, changing the topic and hopefully the atmosphere too. "From London or from your dad?"
He cleared his throat before he replied. I think he was trying his best not to look at me. I don't know. Was he ignoring me on purpose?
Did mom tell him something she wasn't supposed to?
"I just saw this dish in a cooking show once. Tried making it today. It turned out alright."
Silence enveloped the room. We were all staring at him in either awe or disbelief. He noticed the silence and looked confused with our reactions.
"Seriously, are you a genius or what?" Ella said, stuffing her mouth with what's left in her plate. I stared at the butthead some more.
He's so weird.
But who cares. The food was amazing. It had just the right amount of spice, the texture melted in my mouth and the flavor was heavenly.
"Peyton's here," Ella said, glancing down on her phone. She gave me and mom a hug before she grabbed her bag. "Thanks for dinner. See you tomorrow!"
I watched as she ran down the stairs and jumped outside to where her older sister was waiting. She waved again before she rode the car, Peyton honking before they left.
I helped mom wash the dishes after Ella left. Daniel was still here, unfortunately, and he said wasn't leaving until his dad arrived.
But I guess I can forgive him. He made some awesome food today. My palate is satisfied.
When I was done with my chore, I walked to the living room and found Daniel quietly scanning his phone on the couch.
Maybe he's reading his comics or his manga again or something.
I sat down beside him and gave a big sigh. He slowly lowered his phone and looked at me.
"You're a great cook." I said honestly. I wasn't going to deny that.
But I was debating whether this kind of flattery will get into his butt of a head or not.
"As expected of me, right?" He grinned playfully, wagging his brows at that. I scoffed before laughing.
I knew it.
"Whatever. Cook for us again sometime."
He looked at me for a bit before replying. "You mean cook for you?"
I made a face. Why can't he talk to me without all the teasing? Or flirting, if this is what it is.
"Yeah, whatever." I snorted.
I thought the conversation was over, but his eyes still haven't left my face. That made me a bit suspicious there. Was he planning on attacking again?
His phone lit up, signalling that he just received a text message. I looked at his screen and then looked away to give him his privacy.
But when his wallpaper and lockscreen registered in my brain, I looked again, grabbing his wrist on the process.
"You pervert!" I yelled.
It was my picture from earlier! Ella must've sent it to him before she deleted it! That traitor of a best friend!
He was laughing as I fought him on the couch. He was having so much fun wasn't he, this butthole! The picture he used was the worst one too! The one where I was wearing that black bikini.
This... this motherfather!
"Daniel, give it!" I whined, pushing him on the couch and trapping his body with my legs. He was holding the phone over his head and I was trying my best to reach it.
"This is a very compromising position we got ourselves into, Poopy." He said, outstretching his arm so I'd have an even harder time reaching it.
I thought of another idea. I was planning to get off the couch and take the phone but he prevented me from doing that by grabbing the hand supporting my weight.
"Ugh!" I yelled, but at the same time laughed at this ridiculous situation. I gave up reaching for his phone and smacked his chest. Hard. "Delete that, you pervert."
He was still lying down, and I was sitting on his stomach. Maybe if I bounce hard enough he'll throw up all the food he just ate and die.
"No way." He said with a huge grin. "Poopy's hot here. I'll be the only one who gets to see it."
I rolled my eyes. "And who gave you that authority?"
He quickly sat up, making me slide off him. He grabbed my arm before I could fall off from the couch. "You."
I withdrew my arm and punched his shoulder. I want to be mad at him. Be mad at him. Be very mad at him. "Shut up and delete that."
He grinned at me, looking into my eyes again. He looked quite happy today. Was he having that much fun teasing me?
"Never." He replied before sticking his tongue out.
I groaned as I hit him multiple times but he either kept blocking my attacks or just received it.
He was laughing so much, it was contagious.
"We're here!" I heard dad's voice. I quickly stood up from the couch and so did Daniel.
Wow, we were so fast. And guilty.
He and Uncle John walked into the living room and smiled when they saw us.
"Hey you two." Uncle John sent us a meaningful grin. I saw Daniel make a face at his dad.
Mom came out of the kitchen when she heard their voices, and she greeted them warmly like the usual.
Their friendship was awesome.
It seemed like their conversation was gonna take longer than expected, so Daniel and I stepped outside to the front porch to wait for them.
It was quite chilly tonight, so I rubbed my hands on my arms to somehow warm myself up.
Daniel poked my shoulder and when I turned around to look at him, his arms were open as well as his coat. He was telling me to go to him and share the coat.
I stuck my tongue out like a kid. "You wish."
"C'mon." He laughed. I laughed too.
What? No, don't laugh you idiot. He still has that embarrassing picture of you as his wallpaper and lockscreen.
It seemed like he had a genius brain, but somehow, he never did understand what the word 'no' implied.
He caught me from behind and wrapped the coat over the two of us. I felt like my heart went up my throat. What if our parents saw us?
I smacked myself.
That's what I'm getting worried of?
"Oh," Daniel said. He was right behind me, his chin on top of my head and his arms around my shoulders. I was trapped. "You're not resisting."
"Shut up." I mumbled. "I'm tired and cold. This isn't not resisting. This is called being lazy."
He chuckled when I made that lame excuse. Again, I laughed too. Well wasn't I so responsive tonight? Maybe because it was getting late and my brain wasn't functioning well?
After a few seconds of comfortable silence, he spoke.
"About that blue handkerchief."
I felt my pulse getting fast. No no no. No way he's going there.
"Shhhut up." I shivered.
I could feel the vibrations from his chest on my back as he laughed. "I can't believe you kept it. After all these years."
Oh my God I can't breathe. He's the last person I want to have this conversation with. Make him shut up!
What excuse should I make? Should I play dumb? But wait, he knew I was so upset about losing it at school.
He sighed as he twirled me around so he could face me. I was looking down at our feet but I could feel him smiling.
It felt like a real smile this time, and not just a teasing one. I can't breathe.
"And you kept my coat too?"
That was it. My knees gave in. I hated being so weak when I got too nervous. The cold weather didn't do anything to help either.
He held my shoulders firmly. He chuckled as he looked down, and a giggle escaped from my lips.
My brain can't keep up.
What was happening?
When I was slowly regaining my strength, I tried standing up on my own again.
This is so awkward. Why did he have to ask what he already knew? Why was he so confident? He could've kept quiet about it like he usually did.
I felt his cold fingers touch my chin and gently held my face up so I could look at him. Our faces were so close together, and I wonder why I didn't mind.
Be mad at him. Hate him.
My heart was beating so fast, so loud, I felt like I was gonna go deaf. My knees were shaking, and my lids were getting heavier by the second.
I felt like I was under a spell.
Only silence surrounded us as he leaned forward and pressed his lips against mine. They were warm and gentle.
It was a quick kiss. When he pulled away, he smiled at me innocently. "Five."
Then he pecked my lips one more time. "Six."
I was too stunned to react or even complain. When we heard our parents' voices and footsteps nearing the door behind us, Daniel and I stepped away from each other and hurried to the furthest sides of the porch.
Oh right, like that wasn't so obvious of us.
"Ohh youth." My mom sighed, followed by a knowing giggle.
"Well, we're going ahead. Good night." Uncle John smiled at my parents and then at me.
"Yeah..." I smiled as well. Then I saw Daniel giving my parents a brief nod, and he smiled at me before following after his dad. I clutched my chest unknowingly. "Good night."
My parents went inside and I stayed on the porch a little longer, still wondering what happened today.
I thought I was mad at him?
Wasn't I supposed to be mad at him?
There were so many reasons to be mad at him right now. Starting from this morning until...
I traced my bottom lip with my fingertips and looked at my feet again. Why am I not mad?
What just happened?
What did he just do to me?