“Where’re here.” I said, turning to Mackenzie. “It’s not much, but it’s my home.”
“It looks pretty cozy.” She commented, removing her boots, coat, hat and scarf, hanging them by the hooks on the door.
“My mom shouldn’t be back for a while. Do you want some tea, coffee or anything like that?” I offered, wanting to be a good host.
“Tea would be great.” She answered with a nice big smile.
I went into the kitchen, which wasn’t very big, there wasn't all that much counter space and the kitchen table took most of the available space, making things a little cluttered. She sat down in one of the chairs and I put water to the fire in a small pot.
“Who did the paintings?” Mackenzie asked, looking at the little over a half dozen canvas that were spread around the kitchen and adjacent living room. Many of them were abstract or surreal in nature.
“My mom, mostly. I tried to pick up painting, but she wasn’t very encouraging.”
“Well, I really like her brushes and how she mixes colors.”
“Do you paint too?”
“Yeah, although I almost exclusively do landscapes, I think it’s more relaxing that way.”
“I think that’s pretty cool.”
“What about you, anything you do in your free time?”
“Not really…” I mumbled, knowing my own boringness. “I guess I read a lot and I’ve written some, but I’m really not good at it. Plus I always give up before completing anything…”
“I’m sure you’re just being modest, what do you like to write? Original fiction? Fan fiction?”
“Mostly fan fiction…” I admitted, feeling a bit of shame, people rarely reacted well to fan fiction, it was like a dumb waste of time to them. “But I really don’t commit to anything. Like it goes with whatever I’m reading at the time…”
“I’d love to read some one day.” She declared.
“Do you want black or green tea?” I asked her, derailing the conversation away from how lame I was. I didn’t want her to know what I was really interested in when it came to fiction.
“Black please. A spoon of sugar and a bit of lactose free milk if you have some, otherwise, skip the milk. I’m lactose intolerant and you do not want to be in the same room as me after I ingested lactose.” She said with a chuckle as I opened the box of tea and prepared it, also setting down a few cookies for her on the saucer in a fan around the cup. I put it down in front of her and sat on the other side of the table.
“Thanks.” She brought her cup up to her nose and smelled it. “Smells great.”
I didn’t know what to answer so I just chewed on my nails.
“So, Do you live alone with your mom?”
“Most of the time. My parents are still together but my dad works as a trucker so he’s not here often. We keep in touch by phone and email though.”
“I have kind of a long distance relationship with my parents too. My dad was a little stubborn and didn’t want to leave the community. So now I’m living in a center.”
I wish I didn’t have to live with my mom. I thought.
“Do you miss your parents?”
“All the time, but here I can get all the support and care I need. We keep almost daily contact so it’s not that bad.” She said. “I really don’t want to be a bad guest but do you have something to eat? I’m starving.”
“I don’t know if there’s anything ready in the fridge… Let me check?”
I opened the fridge and took inventory, there wasn’t much, half a pot of mac n cheese she couldn’t eat without getting sick, some leftover chinese takeout from a week prior that I doubted was still edible, lots of condiment but nothing to eat them with. There were three egg left in the dozen and some precooked sausages.
The state of the fridge created a tightness in my chest, it was embarrassing to be so under equipped.
“I can make you an omelette, Is that okay with you?” I offered, knowing the alternative were toasts, cereals or instant ramen… You could at least pretend eggs were an actual dinner.
“That’ll be perfect. Thanks Paige.”
I got busy. Cooking was pretty anathema to me or my mom, my dad was the best cook in the house but he was rarely there. My mom and I mostly subsisted on takeout and instant just add milk foods accompanied by easy to cook things. Still, an omelette was within my capacity. For good measure, I cut a few sausages and added them to the pan.
“Do you mind if I ask you something personal?” Kenzie asked.
“Have you ever thought about joining the guardians program? With your ability, you’d make a kickass hero, I’m sure.”
“Pretty much like all divergent kids, I wanted to join, but my mom had other plans for me and didn't want me to be in danger. We had a huge fight about it, my dad didn’t say much so I don’t know if he agreed or disagreed with my mom. Pretty much the only place I use my ability is accidentally in gym class, and that’s when I can participate. Not much I can do when anything thrown at me or anyone who bump into me causes me to armor up.” I said, flipping the omelette.
Pretty much every kid wanted to join the Guardians program, to become super heroes, fight supervillains. Once upon a time, it was just a matter of making a costume and punching criminals, but since an all-out war between capes had turned Detroit into a smoldering ruin, it was no longer seen as appropriate. Now the Government ran the super hero business and teens under sixteen needed parental consent to join the program.
My mom hadn’t been keen on the idea, it was very clear to anyone who paid attention that the turnover rates were high. It was a very dangerous business, supervillains played for keeps and there were even worse things out there that would kill you.
I put her dinner in a plate and served it to her with a fork, sitting back down.
“You’re not eating?” She asked me, digging into her food. “It’s really good.”
“I’m a bit nauseous.”
I was a little relieved she liked it. At least I hadn't screwed up. I just watched her, taking in her features; her big cutesy nose and her large round dark eyes hiding behind her rimless glasses. She looked at me and I started staring at the floor and the slightly yellowed ceramic tiles.
“Are you okay, Paige?”
“I’m just a little nervous.” I confessed. “I don’t get a lot of guests. I… I don’t have a lot of friends.” It was an overstatement, I didn’t have any. I hadn’t since my I’d gained my abilities and alienated everyone...
I was also totally checking you out and I hope you didn’t notice. That was better left unsaid.
“You want to watch TV or something?” I asked, it was weak, but she bit. “You can finish eating in the living room.”
“Sure, that sounds nice.” She took her plate and joined me in the living room. TV meant less talk and less chance that I would do or say something stupid.
I sat down on the old not so comfortable sofa, leaving her the much better armchair. She didn’t take it, instead sitting right next to me. I gave her the remote, letting her choose what she wanted.
“There’s a documentary on glassworking, want to watch that? I’m a sucker for learning how things work and are made.” She confessed.
“That sounds nice.” I said. She could have put nothing but static and I would have been okay with it. Just doing something with someone was enough for me.
So we just watched a two hour documentary explaining the ins and outs of glassworking, the different techniques and whatnot. It wasn’t exactly something I cared about, but it was interesting in it’s own right and nice to look at. Mackenzie on her end was watching and listening like her life depended on it.
“I’m home.” My mom said as she came into the apartment.
“Hey mom.” I yelled back from the living room. “You’re early.”
“It was a slow day, Pete told me to go home.” I could hear her dropping her keys and handbag on the table. She worked not too far, waiting tables at a restaurant. She came into the living room and saw Mackenzie.
My mom and I didn't look all that similar, I had her small nose but she had lighter brown hair and slimmer, sharper features compared to my dark hair and rounder face.
“This is Mackenzie she’s my… Classmate.” I’d hesitated half a second, considering saying friend, I didn’t know if that applied, we’d only known each other for two hours.
“Hello Ms. Paige’s mom.” Mackenzie said, making me smile.
“Please, call me Natasha.” My mom said. She wasn’t a big fan of the Ms. Flores appellation “It’s nice to see you socializing for once. I’m pleasantly surprised, Paige. Well, I’ll leave you two to what you were doing.” She left us alone in the living room.
“Sorry for that.” I said. “She thinks I need to get out more and make friends. Or at least get a boyfriend.”
“Ah, Mothers.” Mackenzie said. “Is she like that often?”
I shrugged. “I guess she thinks I’m lonely. I since haven't really brought anyone over in a year.”
“Are you? It’s okay if you don’t want to answer, I mean we barely know each other...”
“I don’t know. Maybe?”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” She put a hand on my shoulder and lightly rubbed it, giving me a little comfort. She put another documentary, this time on big cats and we watched that.
“Well, It's getting a little late and I better go, I’ve got homeworks and stuff to take care of.” She said, getting up and stretching her arms and legs. We’d been sitting for three hours, watching TV together. At one point, she’d taken out her phone and sent a text.
I escorted her to the door and she spontaneously gave me a hug. “Thanks for the save earlier and the hangout, I don’t get out much either so it was a nice experience. I’ll see you at school tomorrow? If you need someone to talk, just ask.” Her hand brushed mine and she held to of my fingers for a moment. “Also, next time, dinner’s on me.”
I couldn’t help but notice how nice she smelled and the softness of her skin...
“Definitely…” I answered, feeling a little flustered. “See you tomorrow.”
“Take care of yourself Paige.”