Adventure of a Lifetime
Part XII: The Way Home
Still holding her hand, I dragged Charlie out and away from the Restaurant and my mom’s SUV. Across the street there was a small park and I headed that way.
“What was that about?” Charlie asked.
“My mom couldn’t resist acting like a mother hen, and I just can’t stand it anymore…” I said, my fist all balled up.
I could see the worry in Charlie’s face and I forced myself to calm down a notch. “I’m so sorry.” I said, taking her hands in mines.
“She shouldn’t have threatened you.”
“It’s okay, I know it’s because she care about you.” Charlie said.
“No, it’s so not okay!” I screamed, just feeling the anger flare up inside me. Immediately I felt bad for yelling at her… “Sorry, sorry. I’m just so fucking angry. She does this all the time; whenever I brought a friend home, she’d invariably scare them away in a misguided attempt to protect me… And it’s just so frustrating; I’m a big girl, I can protect myself from idiots…”
In my mom’s mind, I was still that awkward and terrified eight years old who’d just began transitioning who needed to be sheltered from the harshness of the world…
“I’m sorry.” She said, wrapping her arms around me. I did the same, resting my head against her shoulder. Part of me wanted to scream out in anger, part of my just wanted to cry. Instead my body settled for an all pervasive numbness.
When I let go, I was more emotionally exhausted than anything else.
“But she doesn’t scare me, I’m here to stay.” Charlie said.
“Thank you.” Was all I could say. Charlie was the one person I couldn’t lose, in the few days we’d known each others, she’d became so important to me… I wanted to be with her forever.
I raised my head and gave her my best attempt at a smile. In that moment, our eyes caught each other and we lost ourselves in each other’s eyes. Her big bright brown eyes just shone with compassing and care.
And at that moment, I could help but feel like a current passed between us, sending butterflies in my stomach.
“How about we go home?” I asked, the magic of the moment dispelling.
“Sure.” She answered.
I looked around and saw that my mom’s SUV was gone; she’d elected to respect my wish to be alone.
“So in hindsight, saying no to getting a lift wasn’t the best of ideas.” I said, with a bit of a forced laughter.
“It’s okay, I’ll just call my dad. He can pick us up.” Charlie said.
“Mind if we get some snacks first?” She asked.
She reached out and took my hand, lacing her fingers with mine, a little gesture that just made me so happy for some reason. She guided us toward a store of some sort of that she knew.
The walk however was somewhat ruined by my chromed leg electing to crap out on me; not properly responding to my mental commands. It’d been wonky ever since PE class but now it was borderline broken…
“Are you okay? You’re walking a bit weird.” Charlie
“Yeah.” She sighed. “I’m due my weekly calibration on my leg. Well, I was due two days ago but I’ve kinda been busy.”
“Oh. Well, there’s a mech on campus, I can go there with you if you want.” She offered.
“That’d be really nice.” I said after a moment. Of everything about me, my legs was one of the things I was really insecure about… But I trusted Charlie enough to let he be there.
The walk to the store was technically short, but it felt much longer for me. Once we came in to the 24/7 mom & pop corner store, I stayed by the door, leaning against a wall while Charlie did her shopping. To my surprise, she started picking everything she could and throwing them in a shopping basket.
“Are you going to eat all of that?” I asked, examining the mountain of snacks she’d selected.
“No, I’m getting some for everyone.”
“Good, because I don’t want you to explode.” I said, breathing a sigh of relief.
“Hey, I’m a growing girl, I need all of the food.”
I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle.
Charlie paid for her things, the total being more than my monthly allowance, and put it inside one massive bag.
We went out and settled by the curb while Charlie called her dad.
“He’s coming.” She said, hanging up. I nodded and she then scrounged around in her bag blindly. I could see that it was mostly filled with candies.
“Want some white chocolate?” She offered, reading the label of the bar she’d fished from her bag.
“Sure.” I said. “You really love sweets do you?”
“Yup.” She said breaking a few pieces off and giving it to me. She’d been lucky enough to get one of the few sweets I really loved.
“Considering you just had a huge ass lobster and a steak that’s impressive.” I said, omitting the oysters, crab cake, calamari and gelato we’d also had…
“As I said, I’m a growing girl.”
“I dunno, you don’t seem to have grown that much.” I teased her, putting my hand on top of her head and moving it toward me. Her head only reached about the same level as my chin.
“Just wait, I’ll catch up to all of you soon enough.”
“Keep dreaming pipsqueak.” I said sticking my tongue out.
“That’s it, you’re now on my vendetta list.” She said seriously.
“No! What can I ever do to be forgiven?”
“I can think of a few things…” She said, thoughtfully.
“I’m not telling you.” she replied smugly.
“That’s not fair!”
It was her turn to stick her tongue out at me.
“You’ll have to stick around to learn.”
“That, I can do.”
A few minutes later, Ian pulled over in his car; a perfectly mundane blue hatchback which did not look like anything a superhero should have been driving. He and Charlie exchanged a few words and she opened the front door for me before sitting in the back.
In the backseat next to her, I could see a primary school aged kid securely attached in a booster seat. It didn’t take a genius to guess that it was Jason, Charlie’s little brother. He looked rather adorable, wearing thick pajamas with some cartoon characters on it under his coat. His hair was about two inches long and stuck out in all directors.
“Hello Mist-” I said but stopped myself. “Just Ian.”
“We’re halfway there.” Ian said with a laugh. “A few letters fewer and you’re good.”
I felt a little sheepish at struggling to be casual around him. I mean he was a world renowned hero for Pete’s sake!
“Oh, Caroline meet Jason.” Charlie said, pulling me out of my embarrassment.
“Hey, little guy.” I said, with a wave.
“I’m not little…” He answered grumpily.
His reaction surprised me and I look at Charlie for an answer. She just dismissively wave her hand. I guess I could see why she’d called him a brat…
I turned my attention to the road, although in the back I could hear the two argue about snacks.
“So, how did dinner go?” Ian asked.
“It was alright. We went to Harborside. I’m surprise you weren’t there.”
“I got some Thai delivered, busy evening with Ravenhold stuff.”
“It was really good.” I said. “Charlie recommended the Halibut, saying it’s your favorite.”
“That and the salmon are the best entree on the menu.”
“I guess I’ll try that next time. If there’s a next time, it’s a bit above my allowance.”
“I’ll take you again.” Charlie offered.
“So, how are you adjusting to Ravenhold?” Ian asked as he drove, keeping his eyes on the road at all time.
“Well, I guess. Although the physical classes are a little more demanding than I expected.”
“They sure are. Speaking of which, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about the training center’s bathroom mysteriously exploding during your combat class would you?”
I felt a weight form in my stomach.
“I’m in trouble, am I?”
“I’m sure I can let the director to let it slide. Just don’t do it again?”
I nodded vigorously.
“I’ll also arrange for some barrels of water or something so you can practice without causing a few thousand dollars worth of damage.”
“That’d be very appreciated.” I said sheepishly.
There were a few awkward minutes of silence. Before Ian spoke up again.
“I forgot to ask, are you okay with Nibbles being there? I mean I kind of imposed him on you.”
“Oh it’s cool, I love rabbits. Although I’m a bit scared about the antlers being a danger if he decide to attack something.”
“Nibbles doesn’t really attack anything, he’s a sweetheart if a bit of a dummy. More than once he was running about, missed a turn and got his antlers stuck on something. Or when he accidentally gets his lunch impaled on them and then spends the next five minutes trying to get his mouth to the food. Also; he severely overestimate what he can and cannot walk under.”
“Let’s just say that he is not a credit to his species in the smarts department.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the mental images.
“Well, here we are.” Ian said, stopping before the gate of Ravenhold. “You girls have a good night.”
“Goodnight dad.” Charlie said getting out. I did the same.
“Thank you for the ride-” I stopped myself from saying an honorific. “- Ian.”
“Yes, finally; you got it right Caroline. I’m going to be expecting perfection from now on.”
I nodded and he slowly drove off.
“He must think I’m a dummy.” I mumbled.
“Nah, he likes you. Are you going to be okay walking home?”
“I dunno. It’s going to be a pain.”
“Guess I better carry you then.”
Before I could answer, she swept me off my feet and held me in a bridal carry.
“See? I’m strong for a pipsqueak.” She declared with pride.
“That you are.” I said, putting my arms around her neck for stability.
“Ready to get home?”
I nodded and forward she went.