Part II: Cute Things
My dad, Jason and I moved through the crowd and reached Caroline and her folks. Like many others, they had yet to disperse and find a corner for themselves, just standing there and using sign language to communicate, which I didn’t understand. They saw us and my dad said something in sign language.
“You know how to sign?” Caroline asked, visibly surprised.
“Just a little.” Ian answered with a smile. “I used to date a guy who was deaf a few years back, he gave me the name. Thought me some basics. If I’d known you did, I would’ve signed to you earlier.”
I didn’t remember much about Dad’s relationship with Alejandro, having been there for a few months just before Jason had been born. They talked about it for a second and I zoned out.
“Hello again Colleen.” I said after a moment, making myself noticed.
“Charlie. Good to see you again.” She said. Her tone was nice and inviting but I still remembered the ‘I will crush you speech’ well. To my surprise, she didn’t seem too focused on me… Had Caroline not told her mom about us?
“Colleen, this is my dad Ian. Ian this is Caroline’s mom Colleen.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Dad answered. “I’ve heard quite a lot about you.”
“Likewise on both parts.”
I could feel a little something going on between them as they shook hands and smiled. Whether that was parental complicity or something else, I didn’t know…
“And the little guy hiding behind me is Jason. He’s shier than usual.” Jason practically hid behind dad’s legs. Doing the whole innocent kid routine. Caroline signed something to her mom.
“Hey, I’m Jenna.” The mystery girl introduced herself as the others kept talking, giving me a big smile.
She and Caroline looked pretty similar, both with a strong athletic build and a slightly unconventional appearance. Where Caroline had gone for the long white hair, Jenna had short tousled brown hair and also piercings on her lip, brow ,and many more on her ears. She rocked ripped jeans and a band tee. Needless to say, she was kind of hot…
“Didn’t know Caroline had a sister.” I said. In the past month, I hadn’t heard of her…
“She’s technically my niece, but since we’re the same age we’re more like sisters.”
“Oh. I’m Charlie.”
“Friend of Caroline?” She asked. Did she really not know?
“Yeah, uh, we’re roommates.”
“That’s nice, gotta say, I love your shirt.” She said, looking me up and biting her lip. My Blue Moon shirt was kind of nice, but I was a hundred percent sure she was just flirting with me.
“How have you been Caroline?” Caroline’s grandma asked her.
“I’ve been well…” She went quiet for a second. “Mom? Gramp, Gran? There’s something I wanted to tell you.”
“What is it peanut?” Her mom asked.
“Well…” Before I could think or react, she took my hand. “Charlie and I… We’re dating.” She quickly kissed my cheek and I stood there frozen. I couldn’t help but notice Jenna looked disappointed at the news…
“When did that happen?” Jenna asked.
“About three weeks ago?” Caroline answered, uncertain.
“Oh, faster than I thought it would then.” Colleen said.
“Faster than you thought?”
“I can spot a queer girl with a crush from a mile away. And this girl couldn’t be more obvious even if she was wrapped in the pride flag.”
“Guilty as charged.” I answered, raising my hands.
Before anymore on that subject could be said, Caroline’s phone beeped an alarm.
“Oh crap, dinner!” She yelled.
Without so much as a second of hesitation, she ran to the kitchen and checked the oven. We all followed her.
“Everything alright?” Her grandfather asked.
“Yes and no. We made dinner for sixteen and we’re like triple that now. We’re fine on brisket, thank god Allen wanted leftovers, but we’re going to need a lot more sides.”
“I sense a mission for the Campbell clan.” Jenna declared. “I’m up for it.”
“Everyone up for helping?”
We all agreed to it. Apparently the whole Campbell clan were all cooking masters so Dad and I got relegated to peeling vegetables while they did actual work and Jason endeared himself to Caroline’s grandma by pretending to be nice, he was sneaky like that. After a few minutes Caroline left us to check on everyone, asking about food allergies and stuff. My contribution was halted when Ahti and their clutch-mate came running toward me.
“Charlie, Charlie!” They called out.
“I’m here.” I said, getting on the other side of the counter.
The two of them stood completely naked save for Ahti who wore the polka-dotted bikini bottom Caroline had bought them. My gaze turned to Kulaat… She was cute. And I don’t mean in the adorable kind of way, I mean in the ‘I would totally want to snuggle her if it wasn’t for Caroline’ kind of cute. She had bright orange skin, her face was dotted by tiny round dots akin to freckles around her big flat nose, she had big bright green eyes and her belly had a light grey tone. I kind of smiled absently without realizing.
Kulaat muttered something, their tone worried, to Ahti in Ibariat and they answered back in the same language. She looked back at me then at her clutchmate and back at me again, all the while frowning, before staring weirdly. Was there something stuck in my braces?
“Everything okay?” I asked.
“Yes. Can we have some pudding?” Ahti said.
I went to my room and retrieved a cup from my personal stash. After I’d first introduced them to it, Ahti had become almost addicted to the stuff for some reason.
“Here you go.”
I gave it to them and they dug in, Kulaat a little reluctant until she tasted the butterscotchy goodness, then letting out a series of happy wuns. I just watched them for a moment, taken in by their happiness until I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and saw Caroline.
“Ahti needed a pudding delivery.”
“Why don’t you just give them in bulk?” She whispered.
“Remember when Ahti got sick?” She whispered back.
“Ate a whole twelve pack in one sitting. Almost did it again next time I tried that, I had to stop them.” Self control was definitely not one of Ahti’s virtues.
“Ready to get back to work?”
“Oh uh, sure.”
We took a few steps toward the kitchen before I spoke again. “So… You hadn’t told you mom you and I were dating?”
“No, it’s not like I was ashamed or anything, I was a little too jittery to say it over the phone or text.”
“Oh okay. She seems to have taken it well. To be fair, she did say I could date you, just that she’d break me if I hurt you. It was very supervillainy the way she’d said it.”
She stopped and turned toward me. “When was that?”
“Remember when we went to dinner?”
“Saw through me in like a second.” She said with a nervous chuckle. “Said something about having been that girl.”
“My mom’s bi. She’s dated or seen casually a few women since I was little and before I was born. Always been open about it.”
I nodded at the information. We went back to work and soon enough we had a gigantic dinner ready. In hindsight calling for takeout would’ve been easier, but if Caroline’s family were any way like she was when it came to food, they might have lynched me if I’d dared propose such heresy.