"They were beautiful, Mom!" I gushed on our way back to the house. "I didn't know they put them up so early!"
"The Chases always put their lights up early," Evelyn said. "They're an older couple so they do what they can. I'm surprised they had so many lit up."
"Is that their career?" I asked, drinking the last of my hot chocolate.
"No, they're both retired," Artemis answered. "They do it for fun. They don't have any kids so it's a way to enjoy watching little kids."
"What was your favorite part?" Evelyn asked, glancing at me through the rearview mirror.
I wanted to say the picture I took with Artemis but instead said, "It's a tie between the Santa Claus with his reindeer and that huge Christmas tree they have at the end. Mom, I'm totally taking you when we have the day off together and it's officially open!"
She grinned at me as Evelyn pulled into the driveway. I followed them in.
"Here," I said, holding out my hand to Artemis.
I laughed. "The mug. I'm going to wash them."
"Oh. You don't have to. We have a dishwasher."
My eyes lit up as I followed him. "A dishwasher? Is it like the big ones at the coffee shop? I've used those but I hear they come-"
I stopped talking but Artemis didn't seem bothered by my lack of knowledge. He took the mugs and rinsed them out. To the left of the sink was a black metal door that he pulled down. It was much small than the ones in the coffee shop but it still looked like it could hold a lot of dishes.
I yawned. "I think I'm going to go to bed. Thanks for...."
I tried to put it into words but he just smiled.
"I had fun, too. Good night."
I went up the stairs with my mom. I could definitely tell why it was so easy for girls to fall for Artemis. Especially when he smiled like that.
"Did you have fun?" my mom asked, following me into my room and shutting the door.
"Yeah," I said with a smile, getting the envelope out. "I really like this picture."
There was a picture frame on the desk; one of the generic ones from WalMart with two children on a swing. I was glad to see that it was the perfect size and I put it in there. I stepped back and my mom put her arm around me.
"What did you and Evelyn talk about?" I asked as I got out of my jeans.
They were wet on the bottom of the legs so I draped them over the desk chair. I put on a pair of flannel pajama pants and a tank top. I got into bed and my mom sat beside me.
"Just how she's going to help me," she answered, tucking me in.
"You keep saying that but you won't tell me what you mean," I frowned. Then she started to cry. "Mom, what's wrong?"
She sniffled and finished tucking me in. "I didn't think I'd ever get to do this again." I smiled and she kissed my forehead. "Good night, Dee."
"Good night, Mom."
I woke up around 7:30. My circadian rhythm was still used to having to get up at the crack of dawn. I yawned and put on a bra before going downstairs, shivering a little. I opened the fridge door and got out some eggs and milk. I had done a little baking at the shop and knew enough to make French toast. I hummed as I got out some bread.
No one showed up until I was already working on the eggs. The French toast was simmering in the frying pan.
"Good morning," Evelyn yawned and I jumped.
"I hope it's okay that I made breakfast," I said quickly.
She laughed. "Of course it is. This is your house now, too."
I blushed but continued cooking. I threw some sausages into another pan. By the time everything was done, my mom and Artemis had wandered downstairs.
"Well, I have to get to work," Evelyn said when we were done eating. "Would you like me to drop you off at the restaurant, Janine?"
My mom nodded. "That would be great. Just let me get into my uniform."
"Where's your office?" I asked, taking the plates into the kitchen.
I rinsed them off but, before I could start hand washing them, Artemis quickly took them. He put them in the dishwasher and winked at me.
"It's about fifteen minutes away," Evelyn answered.
She had her phone out and was scrolling through something. I had always wondered what it would be like to have a phone like that.
Artemis bent under the sink and showed me a strange square that was filled with an orange gel.
"This goes in the tray here," he explained, pointing to a small tray inside the dishwasher door. "You put it in, close the lid, and press 'smart wash' and it does the work for you."
"Wow," I said, truly impressed.
"Well, we'll see you two later," my mom said, coming down in her waitress' uniform.
I hugged her around the middle. "Have a good day, Mom."
"You, too, sweetheart," she said and followed Evelyn out into the cold air.
"So, before we start vegging, I want to set something up for you," he said and beckoned me to the couch.
A laptop was plugged in and waiting for us. I sat on the cushion closest to the arm rest and leaned against it. Artemis sat next to me, lifting the laptop and rested half on his leg, half on mine. He double clicked on a circle with red, green, yellow, and blue. In a bar, he typed in: www.facebook.com and waited.
I tilted my head. "Social networking," I read.
"Yep," he said. "It's a site where you can go and share information with your friends, play games, and look at funny pictures."
"Artemis," I whispered, "I only have one friend and that's Larry."
"Not true," he said lightly. "You also have me and my mom."
I turned a little pink as he clicked create account then hesitated.
"Hmm. I guess we need to make an email account for you first."
I had no idea what he was talking about so I let him do whatever he wanted. He went to yet another site, this one called Gmail, and created a new email address with my first and last name.
"My last name only has one 't'," I said, pointing when I saw he spelled it 'Scoutt'.
"Oh. I knew that," he said quickly, getting rid of the extra 't'. "I was just making sure you were paying attention."
I laughed. We went back to the Facebook site and put in the email. He hummed as he worked. He had a pleasant voice. Already deep, when he hummed it somehow got deeper. While I told him my birthday and other information, I studied him out of the corner of my eye. When he was typing, his face was focused and serious. His fingers moved fast; he had obviously grown up around computers.
He double clicked on an icon that looked like a tiny folder and another thing popped up that had many pictures on it. He selected the one that Bart and Mildred had taken of us.
"Do you want me to crop it?" he asked.
"What does that mean?"
He showed me. "I can do it so it's just you."
I shrugged, my face feeling hot. "I like the picture just as it is."
"Good. Because so do I," he said, smiling at me briefly.
Then he went into a blue bar with a magnifying glass. He typed his name in and selected a result.
"Shit," he said as I started laughing. "I forgot about that picture."
It was him wrapping his arms seductively around a Ronald McDonald, making a kissing face at it.
"Oh, shut up," he grumbled. He was really red in the face and clicked 'Add friend'. Then his phone made a pop noise. "There you go," he said. "You have your first friend."
I smiled at him. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. So, what kind of movies are we watching today?"
"Hmm," I thought, tapping my chin. "Action."
"Perfect, he said, lowering the lid of the laptop. "We have, like, a million action movies. It was my father's favorite genre."
He put in a movie titled 'Die Hard' and ordered pizza. I soon learned that there was a whole series following this movie and we settled in, putting our feet up on the coffee table, eating a crap load of pizza, and watched the movie.
After putting in the third one, he brought a blanket. It was relatively small so we had to sit closer and I started to wonder if he had picked that one on purpose.