Where I Go
Author's note: Many kids don't read because they can't relate to the story so they get bored. However, with Zack... Show full author's note »
Chapter SixWe’re driving down the road to go pick up Kayla, and Mom is singing along to some old country song on the radio. I’m pretty sure she’s making up half the words in the verses because they don’t make any sense at all. Then she belts out the chorus for the entire world to hear. Thank God the windows are closed. I wouldn’t want them all to have to suffer this much. My ears may be permanently damaged. I’d never tell her that though.
We pull into Kayla’s driveway, the front door flies open, and a woman comes running towards the SUV. As soon as Mom gets out, she throws her arms around her. Then they both laugh and start talking in that weird girl-talk language that I don’t understand. Then she turns to me.
“This must be Zack. He’s gotten so big!”
“Zack, you remember Donna, right? She and I used to work together.”
Mom’s been working in the same doctor’s office since before I was born. Donna could have found a new job when I was a baby for all I know. Have I ever even met this woman? Who is she, and what’s she doing at Kayla’s house?
She invites us inside where there are pictures of Kayla and her siblings hanging on the living room walls. My mom knows Kayla’s mom already. Great. They’ll be setting up play dates in no time. I sit down on the couch, and they sit down on either side of me when there is clearly another chair to sit in just five feet away. They just lean over and talk around me like I’m not even there, so I pretend I’m not. However, one little excited comment from Donna brings me right back.
“I can’t believe our babies are going on their first date together!”
What? Date? Who said anything about a date? This is not a date.
“I know,” Mom replies, “they grow up so fast.”
No! We’re just two friends going to dinner and a movie. It’s not a date.
Then Kayla walks down the stairs slowly and quietly, maybe hoping to sneak past the moms. She’s wearing a skirt and a blouse and her usual converse sneakers have been replaced by fancy open- toed shoes with heels. She’s wearing lipstick, and her hair is curled. Mom gasps when Kayla steps on a creaky stair. “Oh, Donna, your daughter looks so beautiful.”
I barely recognize her.
Donna whips a digital camera out of her pocket. “Okay, get together, you two. I need to get a picture.”
I get up and stand next to Kayla.
“Oh, come on, now. Pinch in a little closer. Like you like each other.” She pulls us together until our arms are touching and puts my hand in her daughter’s. “Much better.”
“That is so precious. Can you email those pictures to me? This is just one of those memories you want to cherish forever,” Mom says as her eyes well up with tears.
“Don’t you cry! You’re gonna’ make me cry!”
Donna runs to get a box of tissues from the kitchen, and that’s when Kayla and I decide to make our escape. We slip out the front door and into the back seat of the car. We’re both too mortified by what just happened to speak. I completely forget to ask Kayla why nobody told me I was going on a date tonight.
A few minutes later we pull into the parking lot of Stanley’s Steakhouse. When we walk in, there are only two tables open, and they’re on opposite sides of the restaurant. Mom gives me forty dollars and tells us to have fun as she follows a waitress to the back corner. Another waitress comes to get Kayla and me. She’s about seventeen and has layered black hair and a nose ring. She stares down at us from behind her pad of paper and says in monotone, “Welcome to Stanley’s Steakhouse. Our specials today are the beef sirloin and the barbeque baby back ribs. The soup of the day is French onion. May I take your order?”
I order an orange soda, a twelve ounce steak, and waffle fries topped with cheese and bacon bits. Kayla orders a Caesar salad and a water. She says she’ll eat popcorn and candy at the movies anyway so there’s no need for a big dinner. Her dinner in fact was very small. I don’t think it could’ve even passed as a side salad with its three croutons. My steak, however, was a hot, juicy slice of heaven in my mouth. The cheese fries were good but could not compare with the sweet and tangy burst of flavor in every bite of steak. When the waitress brings the hot fudge sundae I ordered for dessert, Kayla’s eyes bulge and I can see her mouth start to water. I tell her I’ll let her have a bite, but then she keeps coming back for another taste until she’s eaten half of my whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles, and even the cherry on top!
After I pay the bill, we meet Mom and Donna out in front of the restaurant. We drive to the movie theater and go our separate ways after leaving the ticket counter. They’re going to see some movie with a sad love story that is bound to make them cry. Why they would pay to have someone make them cry is beyond me. That’s why we’re going to see Warp Speed.
We sit down near the back of the theater right in the middle of our row. The movie’s been in theaters for three weeks now, so I don’t think many more people will come in. I’ve got my Sour Patch Kids, and she’s got her M&Ms. The large Mountain Dew with two straws is in the cup holder between us, and the bucket of extra buttery popcorn is on Kayla’s lap. The previews begin just as we finish organizing our snacks. The first one looks pretty funny. I can’t really tell what it’s going to be about, but a guy gets whacked in the face with a frying pan. That is some classic cartoon humor brought to life. I love it! We agree that we both want to see it when it comes out in October. The rest don’t look like they’re going to be worth the $8.50 for the ticket, even if it is Mom’s money. The movie starts and the ten other people in the theater go quiet.
A black BMW races around an Orlando street corner fishtailing into a lamp post, but it’s indestructible. It keeps on driving without a scratch as the red corvette behind it crashes through the window of the office building on the other side of the street as it swerves to avoid an oncoming 18-wheeler.
I lean over to take a sip of the Mountain Dew without taking my eyes off the screen. Apparently, Kayla was thinking the same thing. During a two car, high speed, head-on collision the left side of my forehead smacks into hers. I’m not doing that again.
The BMW turns onto the highway to head for the Kennedy Space Center where the driver and his partner will be launched in a rocket to complete their mission and save the galaxy from the evil space ninjas.
I keep trying to grab popcorn from the bucket, but it’s like she’s watching me. Every time I stick my hand in, she does too. As the rocket takes off, she grabs my hand. Her fingers are intertwined in mine. My right arm isn’t long enough to reach across my body and into the popcorn bucket, though. Great. Now I can’t have any.
The rocket zooms past Alpha Centauri when it is bombarded by an army of sleek, black ninja starships. They take over the ship threatening to cast all of the crew members into space if they do not become followers of the Ninja King.
She won’t let go of my hand! This is making it very difficult to eat my Sour Patch Kids. I have to pour them straight into my mouth from the bag. I reach the bottom where there is only sugar. I know I won’t be able to sleep later, but I decide to eat it anyway. That was a mistake. It spilled all over my face, and one particularly large grain fell into my eye. It began to water and burn so badly that I had to run to the bathroom to wash it out.
Fifteen minutes later, I come back and sit down. Zephyr Phoenix is staring intensely at the Ninja King. Kayla is giving me a similar intense stare. Even though she's not holding a ray gun, it’s still kind of scaring me. Why is she looking at me like that? This is very uncomfortable. Now she’s slowly leaning toward me. What's she doing? This is really distracting. I'm trying to watch a ninja battle here. When her face is just inches from mine, she comes right at me and kisses me on the lips. I can feel the lipstick residue rubbing off all over my mouth. It reminds me of my grandma's. With her it's usually covering my cheeks and forehead, though.
She pulls away and smiles, but I don't smile back. The Ninja King just fell off the edge of the space station in slow motion. I missed the most intense ninja battle of the century! I sit back in my seat with my arms crossed. She asks what's wrong, but I just want to watch the rest of the movie so, I don't bother explaining it to her.
When the movie is over, we stand outside the theater in silence until our moms come out ten minutes later. On the way to Kayla's house, neither of us says a word while Mom and Donna talk and laugh. Kayla opens the car door on her side and steps down onto her driveway.
“Zack,” Mom says, “you should've opened her door for her.”
“That's okay, Mrs. Allen. I think I can handle it,” Kayla replies. She closes her door and starts walking toward her house.
Mom turns back to look at me. “Well, aren’t you going to walk her to the door?”
“Why? It’s like fifty feet away?”
“Zackary Michael Allen, you get out of this car and walk that girl to her front door! Do you hear me?”
I get out and run after her so that we can walk the last three steps together. Then I just stand with her on the doorstep. I don't know what I'm supposed to do.
“Umm… well, I had a great time tonight. We should do this again sometime.” It's what they say in the movies in these kinds of situations. I figure if it works for all those guys, then it'll work for me.
She agrees with me, but she doesn't go inside yet. It's like she's waiting for something. What do I do now? Am I supposed to kiss her? No, I can’t. Mom’s watching us. That’s weird. A hug maybe? No, that’s not what you do after a date that wasn’t supposed to be a date in the first place. That never happens on TV. They always kiss the girl, but their moms are never waiting for them in the car.
And I turn and walk away without looking back.