I fell asleep quickly but was woken up a few hours later by Nathaniel. I blinked my eyes and rubbed them.
"Where's the fire?" I mumbled and he laughed.
"No fire but it's time for breakfast."
We were stopped outside of an IHOP and I sighed.
"Dad," I complained. "We don't have time for a sit down restaurant."
"This man wants pancakes," he said and got out.
I sighed and went to unbuckle my seatbelt but it was already gone. I looked around, confused, as a blanket fell off of me.
"You looked uncomfortable," Nathaniel shrugged as he got out.
I stared after him. He had done something nice for me? I frowned but got out, yawning and stretching. I hadn't slept at all the night before. Competitions always made me nervous and I didn't want to mess this one up. Matt's obsessive behavior had rubbed off on me.
"Four please," my father said and the hostess happily led us to a booth.
"I am not sitting by him," Matt said when Nathaniel and my father sat across from each other.
"Grow up," Nathaniel snapped but I sat beside him, wanting to keep things civil.
.... I think.
"Big, fattening breakfast," my father said and Nathaniel and I laughed.
"Pancakes," I yawned. "Yes. Pancakes and coffee," I mumbled, my eyes closing. "Pancakes, coffee, eggs, turkey, Thanksgiving...."
"Oi, wake up," Nathaniel said, shoving me. "Your coffee is here."
My eyes shot open and I looked down.
"Coffee!" I said happily. "How'd you know I wanted coffee?"
He rolled his eyes and passed me some creamer.
"Did you sleep at all last night?" my father asked.
"You know the answer to that question."
He shook his head with a smile on his face. I drank my coffee quickly and refilled the mug, adding more creamer. I browsed through the menu, finally deciding on my usual.
"What can I get for ya?" the waiter asked. He was a young man about our age and looked attractive. "How about we start with the pretty lady here?"
I looked at Matt. "You heard the man." He glared at me while the others laughed. "I'll have the chocolate chip pancakes with scrambled eggs and sausage, please."
The waiter wrote it down and winked at me. I sighed and closed my menu while everyone else put in their order. I handed him my menu and he held my hand in place. I snatched it back and he winked again as he walked away.
"Can we go one place where the waiter doesn't try to hit on me?" I grumbled angrily.
My father laughed. "Your mother had the same problem. Every date we went on and had a male waiter, he would flirt. Finally we came up with a plan. Every time it would happen, we'd stage a loud conversation about her multiple STDs."
Nathaniel and I snorted into our coffee.
"You didn't," I said, grinning.
"We did," he said, also grinning. "It was her idea."
I smiled sadly and leaned forward on my elbows. "Did you propose to her in a restaurant?"
"Nah. I did it in the park where we had our first kiss."
"Aww!" I cooed but Nathaniel and Matt grunted. "Shut up, you two. It's romantic."
"Where would you want to be proposed to?" my father asked and I pursed my lips in thought.
My father and I didn't talk about marriage very often. My mother had died before I started my period and that had been hard enough on him. Only recently did he start getting more comfortable talking about love with me.
"Probably somewhere that was special to the man and I," I said. "It doesn't necessarily have to be where we had our first kiss." Our food arrived and I cut up my pancakes. "He would definitely have to have at least one red rose, though, or I would be severely disappointed."
My father smiled.
"You women and romance," Matt spat. "Can we please change the subject?"
"Just get your phone out like you did while we were loading up," Nathaniel snapped.
"Easy," my father interrupted before it could get worse.
I didn't know why Nathaniel didn't like Matt but, every time Matt was an asshole, which was often, he would grip whatever he was holding and step in. It was like he either didn't think I could speak up or he was defending me.
I frowned at my pancakes. No. He wouldn't defend me. He hated me. Didn't he?
"You're Nathaniel Banker!" our waiter said suddenly and Nathaniel sighed wearily.
"Yes, yes I am," he said, turning to his breakfast pointedly.
"Man, I watched you fall. That was bad."
"We're trying to eat in peace," I said, glaring at him.
"Seriously, though," the waiter pressed. "Where did you disappear to?"
"He's the shit scooper at the Turner Ranch," Matt said snidely.
"No he's not," I snapped. "Stop being a dick." I glared at the waiter again. "Can you just leave us alone, please? I want to enjoy my pancakes."
"Can I speak with your manager please?" my father said calmly.
The waiter turned red. "I don't think that's-"
"Your manager, please."
The waiter sighed and walked off. I glared at Matt but he just smiled and ate a large bite of pancakes. I'm never riding with this asshole again.
The manager was mortified.
"He didn't," he gasped. "I told him to leave you alone." He glared at where the water was hovering nearby. "I'm very sorry. I'll waive your bill and serve you for the remainder of your meal."
"Thank you," my father said happily and went back to his breakfast.
"Thanks," Nathaniel muttered to my dad.
"You're welcome. Eat your eggs before they get cold."
We didn't speak for the rest of the meal. Matt had gotten his phone out again and I tried not to snap at him. It would be three hours when he had to drive and I wasn't looking forward to it. He drove like a maniac and didn't have much restraint even if the trailer was hitched to the truck. Part of me wanted to offer to drive the rest of the way but that wasn't a wise idea.
We all got back into the truck. Nathaniel was still looking upset about the restaurant so I passed him my phone. He looked confused.
"Dr. Mack's number is in there," I said with a smile. "Give her a call and check up on Little Bit."
He smiled a little and scrolled through my contacts until he found her.