Beyond the Ocean's Depths (Not an Average Shifter Romance)

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Chapter 29: Coincident

TOBIE

I’d spent half of Saturday writing up the official internship terms and parental/guardian authorization form so I could email it to both the Hudson’s and Rhonda (I didn’t have Torin’s email address).

I printed out my own copy of the form and signed it on Anne’s behalf, putting it with my stuff for Monday morning.

Anne had patiently let me work, doing her own thing all morning - that meant watching Star Wars and drawing comics. So, I told her the rest of the day was hers and that we could do whatever she wanted.

We instantly decided lunch would be at her favorite chain sandwich shop on the beach and went to change out of our lounging clothes and freshened up a bit for a girl’s day out. Once downstairs again Anne suggested, “Hey, how about we go bowling this evening? There’s this place on the other side of town that’s supposed to be fun, and they do pizza!”

“Okay! We haven’t went bowling in a long time!” I replied excitedly. I loved bowling, though I wasn’t really any good. Ever since Anne was big enough to carry a bowling ball, I’d taken her at least once a month in Cincinnati, so this would be fun - like old times.

After lunch we went to the mall and got Anne a new pair of shoes since she was complaining that hers were getting too small, then window shopped for a while. Anne wanted to try the pizza at the bowling alley, so we weren’t in a hurry to get there until closer to supper.

Once there, we rented our shoes and Anne started inputting our names in the computerized scoreboard while I went to order our pizza and drinks. Taking the numbered flag back to our table just above our lane so the server would know where to deliver our food, I went to go find a suitable bowling ball. I passed Anne on her way back to our lane with her own ball, then heard her call out with surprised excitement, “Rainie!”

“Please let Rhonda be her ride,” I instantly thought almost aloud as I turned around and waved to the smiling girl. I was always happy to see Rainie, though anxious about who she was with, and I didn’t see anyone with her at the moment.

“I can’t believe you’re here!” Rainie said exaggeratedly to Anne, and they both giggled.

“Yeah, what a coincidence! We’re on lane six,” Anne explained, pointing towards our table.

Rainie looked sad as she said that they were on lane two.

“I think the lane next to ours is open, let’s go see if you can change lanes!” Came Anne’s suggestion, and they both rushed over to the front desk.

“Please let Rhonda be here,” I prayed with all my heart and soul - I did not want to have to spend the next couple of hours with her dad.

I set my ball in the chute and nonchalantly glanced around as I sat down to change my shoes. I still didn’t see anyone I recognized and thought maybe Rainie came with someone else completely.

But as soon as I stood up, my line of sight landed on the girls who were dragging over Torin Waters; he looked as frightened as I felt.

“Uh, I thought we were on lane two, back that way?” Torin sounded almost panicked, as he tried to change directions.

“No, Dad, I had them change our lane so we could bowl with Anne and Tobie. We’re lane five now!”

I was tempted to give him the cold shoulder and go with the “I’m-not-talking-to-you” routine, but then I figured that’s what he’d probably want. And I didn’t want to come off like the childish one, so I decided that he would just have to deal with the real ME, talking and all.

“Oh, you girls didn’t have to do that,” he practically begged for a way out as they arrived at the table.

Looking him in the eye, I glared and said, “What are you afraid that Anne and I will beat you guys?”

Where’d that come from?! I internally smacked myself upside the head, since I knew neither I nor Anne were good bowlers. Guys with muscular arms like Torin’s were usually the really good bowlers!

He apparently wasn’t expecting a challenge either, and cocked his head, then met my gaze full on, as the girls “ooh’d” in fun, apparently not understanding that the tension between us was real.

He didn’t miss a beat, “No, I just didn’t think you wanted to go home feeling like losers.”

While Anne and Rainie teased each other about competing, Torin’s blood seemed to boil the longer I held my ground, and I flashed him a giant smile as I quickly turned away, getting ready to start this game.

Truth be told, I managed to outdo Anne in the game by about 20 points, and Rainie by 10. But Torin got away with a whopping 130 points in comparison to my 95. But the first round was never my best, so I wasn’t too worried yet. Now I was warmed up. Our pizza arrived just as the final tally popped up, and Rainie gave her dad a high five for winning this round.

Anne and I were good sportsmen about it and congratulated them before heading to the restroom to wash up before eating. Rainie had already went back to the table before Anne and I finished, and Anne commented, “It’s sure fun playing with Rainie and her dad!”

I nodded, thinking it hadn’t been all bad, though I didn’t like the tension with Torin. While I tried to act as though it were friendly competition, there was definitely an undercurrent of something else that I didn’t like.

As we dried our hands, Anne ventured out of the blue, “What do you think of Rainie’s dad? Do you think he’s cute? Like, do you like him?”

It wasn’t unheard of for her to ask such questions about random guys - one’s we didn’t know or weren’t actually interacting with, so I was taken by surprise. I tried to act nonchalant, not wanting to cause a problem with the kids, but I knew Anne would press the issue if I didn’t lay it on the line, “He’s very good looking, when he’s not looking at me; otherwise, he’s got a rude attitude that isn’t cute at all.”

Then, to my chagrin, she matter-of-factly pats me on the shoulder and proclaims, “You know, Mom, sometimes a boy will treat a girl that way when he really likes her.”

“Hmph! Any guy over fifteen years old who acts that way needs to grow up. Not that that’s cute at any age. Though I highly doubt that’s his problem!”

I ended that conversation right there, and Anne and I made it back to the table, where Torin and Rainie had already put paper plates out for everyone. I was, of course, conveniently seated across from him. The girls kept chatting while they ate, while Torin and I just ate. I hated eating with tension in the air and found myself swallowing down my pizza like I was starving just to get it done and over with. It was my version of stress-eating.

While most stress-eaters just eat to eat when they’re stressed, I tend to not necessarily eat more, just a hundred times faster than usual. Now, not chewing your food properly leads to improper digestion and stomach issues, which is only enhanced further by the acid that builds up in your stomach during times of stress. So, Voilà - Tobie’s Stress-Eating.

Taking a gulp of my soda in an attempt to get the last bite I’d taken down my throat, I realized that I had ate these two slices way too fast. “God Tobie, eating like that is only going to make you gain weight again!” I admonished myself as I took a deep breath through my nose trying not to belch now that my stomach was full of air along with the food.

“Excuse me,” I murmured as I got up from the table and made my way back to the restroom. I didn’t need to burp after all but took a moment to do some deep breathing. I’d made a habit of doing deep breathing exercises when I felt stressed out during and after the divorce. But I hadn’t felt like that in a long time, and it made me angry that that man out there should make me feel so uptight.

A few deep breathes later, I went back out with a settled stomach and a fresh attitude. Torin Waters was NOT going to stress me out, nor make me stress-eat. I wasn’t going to gain an ounce of weight because of him or any other negative person ever again!

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