Phoenix awoke with excitement in her heart. Between spending time with her family, learning she had a grandmother and plans to implement her mother’s advice, she was downright giddy. In general, she was a happy child, but few moments like those excited her to the point of perpetually grinning.
She could hear her father showering and thought it would be nice to make breakfast for them. Besides, if she wanted to be married to Kaiden, she needed to get a jump on the cooking skill. The refrigerator was a sad sight. The bottle of ketchup, milk, a pack of hot dogs, and a few pieces of fruit huddled together to keep each other company in the vast emptiness of their frigid home. Phoenix only hoped the fruit was in better condition than last night’s lettuce.
John came out of the bathroom as she was chopping apples. “Good morning.”
He chuckled. “What are you doing there?”
“I’m making us breakfast!”
“No, no, no. I take care of you. You’re my guest when you’re here.”
“But I just thought–”
He gently swatted her leg and took her place at the counter. She laughed and sat at the table while he commenced to make her the best breakfast he could put together: a juicy hot dog. It wasn’t what she wanted, but she appreciated the sentiment behind it. He had the nasty salad. Waste not, want not, she presumed.
Phoenix recognized that her time with her father was short and she shouldn’t spend all of it on her friends. Usually, when she did, she chose Sundays as she would be leaving him that day anyway. That weekend, however, she opted for dear old dad. Besides, she didn’t want to have that conversation with Kaiden face-to-face.
“How do I know if a guy likes me?”
He looked surprised and had that my-baby’s-all-growed-up look on his face. “Oh. Well…a young man who is interested in you will show you he’s interested.”
He let out a soft sigh and peered into the bowl of sad salad as if he regretted something. “He’ll pursue you.”
Hearing him say that reminded her of the story her mother told earlier in the week. It made her sad, and she wasn’t quite sure how she was supposed to feel about it. On top of that, the case she was trying to build in favor of Kaiden crumbled before she got a chance to make it. Still, she needed to explore all avenues before speaking to him.
“What if he’s shy?”
“Hmmm.” He finished chewing the mushy bit in his mouth. “Well, even a shy guy has his own ways to show you he likes you. He’ll look at you a lot. Especially when you’re not looking. He might act nervous around you. Or, if he’s really shy he may even ignore you and act like he’s not interested.”
“Ugh! Why do you guys have to make it so complicated?”
John laughed. “We’re not nearly as complicated as you are. We’ll never understand you!”
All John’s answers disappointed Phoenix. Kaiden didn’t really match any of those descriptions, but she didn’t give up hope. Maybe he was different. Maybe he wasn’t ready to show her how he felt yet.
Once they were done eating, Phoenix attempted to be helpful again. “Can I at least wash the dishes?”
John sighed. “If you insist.”
She collected their plates and headed to the sink feeling optimistic about the conversation she and her beloved would have. Her mother was right. Once she laid all her cards on the table, there would be no choice but for Kaiden to choose her. Afterall, why would he go for Breanne? She was snobbish, rude, and weird as all plum. Sure, sometimes Phoenix couldn’t control her temper, but she was never rude to anyone. She was certainly the right person for him.
John had moved to the sofa while she washed dishes. Seeing him sitting there alone reminded of her last night’s news.
She joined him. “Why didn’t you tell us about grandma?”
He avoided eye contact and seemed to be frozen
He sighed. “Phoenix, my love,” he still couldn’t look at her, “there are things about our family…your mother and I…they’re too painful. Tim and Susie lived through some of it. Other parts they don’t know. You’re the only one untainted by…by this. I’d rather you remain that way, but…if you must know, it should come from your mother.”
Phoenix sighed. “Well…I guess I should get dressed. Excuse me.”
For a brief moment, she sat with questions about the new information about her family. But, feelings of excitement and nerves quickly pushed those thoughts away and she thought about what she would say to Kaiden.
“Good morning, Kaiden! How are you?”
“Oh…hi, Phoenix. What’s up?”
“Oh, nothing. Just hanging with my dad.”
“Good. I hope you guys have fun.”
Some kind of way Phoenix felt like she was losing control and quickly changed gears. “Oh! I forgot to tell you. I made the cheerleading squad! You may hold your applause, hee hee.”
“That’s great, Phoenix! Congrats.”
“Thanks, Kaiden.” She was stalling and needed to get to the point before either she lost her nerve or he grew tired of the conversation. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“Do you think you could ever, like, be interested in me?”
A long sigh passed through her ear. Her body tensed, preparing for his response.
“You’re cool, Phoenix. I like hanging out with you.”
Her hopes spiked.
“I’m interested in you as a friend.”
Her shoulders slumped. It felt like someone had punched her in the gut.
“And, well, I guess you didn’t know this, but I’m with Breanne now.”
“Y-yeah. I guess I didn’t get a chance to tell you.”
What rubbish! “Oh…no, it’s ok. I-I get it. That’s…good. That’s good for you. I gotta go. My dad’s calling me. I’ll see ya later, ok?”