Chapter Twenty-three

(Haylee’s Point of View)

This morning, I awoke at 9:00. Dan’s birthday today! The night before, Chris and I have worked hard to set up all of the decorations, at the same time trying not to wake Dan. That didn’t turn out to be a big problem, though, since he was relatively a heavy sleeper.

Quietly, I hopped out of bed, getting in the shower. I swear, if Dan wakes up, the surprise will be ruined! I thought with dismay.

Once I was done in the shower, my hair down and straightened, Chris was sitting on the couch, his phone out; it looked like he had already showered.

“Chris, I could have let you shower first.” I said, realizing that I had been a bit of a shower hog.

“No, it’s fine.” He responded. “You want to wake Dan now?”

“Yep. The movie starts at one, so that should give us plenty of time.” I walked into Dan’s room, sitting on the floor near the side of the bed.

“Dan…” I called softly. “Dan…” I started playing with his hair, hoping that would wake him.

He shifted, not opening his eyes. “Haylee, just because it’s my birthday doesn’t mean that you have to get me up at 6:00 in the morning.” He mumbled.

“Actually, it’s 9:30.” Chris corrected him.

“Hey, wake up.” I started again, poking at his nose.

“Alright, fine, I’m up.” He said, but as soon as his eyes opened, I covered them up with my hand.

“Hey.”

“We have a surprise for you. Don’t look.” I said, still keeping my hand over his eyes as he got out of bed. We guided him into the main room, where I took my hand off, revealing all of me and Chris’s hard work.

“Surprise!” We both chorused together.

I saw his smile turn into a grin. “Wow, guys. That’s wicked! When did you do all this?”

“I think it was about 1:00 this morning that you finally fell asleep, so that would be about when we started.” I said matter-of-factly.

“Well, thank you much. I appreciate all of the time you put into this.”

“No big deal.” I started. “Alright, what do you think? Cake or presents first?”

“You got me cake, too?” Dan looked surprised.

“Of course, silly! What’s a good birthday without cake?”

He shrugged. “Well, in that case, I think we’ll do presents first.” With that, we sat down, Chris bringing in a huge box with wrapping paper on it.

“Geez, Chris! You don’t go halfway on anything, do you?” Dan exclaimed.

“Just open it.” Chris smiled back. Dan ripped the wrapping paper off, revealing a big box.

“Oh, just what I wanted!” Dan teased.

“Here, you need a knife?”

“Nah, I think I have one somewhere around here.” He mumbled, rummaging around underneath his bed.

“Found it.” Dan said, pulling out a pocket knife.

“Look out everyone, Dan’s got a knife!” I joked.

Opening the box, he pulled out a keyboard set.

“Oh, now the camper will never be quiet!” Dan laughed, setting the keyboard up on its stands.

“Thank you, Chris!” He smiled.

“I won’t set it all up now; I have a feeling we’re not done yet.” He said, eyeing me up.

“Oh, I’m giving you my present later.” I said, standing up to cut three slices of cake.

“Oh. Well.” Dan continued, “Cake for breakfast?”

“Absolutely. Your birthday only happens once a year.” I started, handing him and Chris piece, then cutting myself a small sliver.

As we started munching on cake, Dan said, “Chris, how on earth did you hide a whole keyboard from me this whole road trip?”

“Oh, I have my ways.” He responded mysteriously.

We finished, then helped Dan set up the keyboard, which took no time at all.

“Well?” I looked at him expectantly.

“Well what?”

“Play something for us!” He found the first key to Daniel in the Den, slowly finding the others as well. Soon enough, he had the first verse down.

“And you haven’t ever played that on a keyboard before?” I asked, surprised.

“No.” Dan blushed.

“Impressive.” I began. “Now sing for us!”

He looked at me as if I were crazy. “Are you kidding? I can’t sing!”

“Oh yeah, and that’s why you got a job at The Virgin Records. Just do it!”

“Fine.” Dan began, singing all the way up to the second chorus. I smiled the whole time, seeing him glancing at me nervously.

“You’re a natural musician.” I complimented him after he was done. Before he could reply, I checked the time; it was already noon. “Oh! Dan, hurry up and get ready. We have to leave here by 12:30!”

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll find out soon enough. Now get in the shower, and don’t take too long.” He shrugged, and we started to clean up. It was about 12:25 by the time he was ready, and the main room was cleaned.

“See? No problem. Now tell me where we’re going.” Dan said.

“You’ll find out. Come on, get in the car.” I said, putting my shoes on.

“Isn’t Chris coming?” Dan asked, glancing at Chris.

“Nope, just the two of us.” I answered with a smile.

I saw his eyes widen a bit in surprise. “Okay.” He shrugged eventually. Getting in the car with me driving, I set the GPS for the location of the movie theater.

“Haylee, you’re driving me mad. Just tell me where we’re headed.”

“Just be patient.” I responded, glancing at Dan.

It took about twenty minutes to get there, for there was some slow traffic getting in the way. When we arrived at the movie theaters, Dan grinned.

“So what movie are we seeing?”

“Take a guess.”

He thought for a while. “Pacific Rim?”

“You got it, boss.” I smiled.

“Well I didn’t bring any money!” He said as we got out of the car.

“That was definitely the plan.” I continued. “You’re not going to pay for anything today.”

“Haylee,” He began.

“Dan,” I returned.

By the time we got our tickets, it was about five till.

“What size popcorn do you want? I asked, looking at the sizes.

“You’re not buying me a popcorn. I’ll share one with you, but that’s it.”

I sighed. “Fine. Does a medium sound good?”

“Fine with me.” We got in the theater and found our seats just as the movie began. I was a bit embarrassed to begin munching on our popcorn, making sure to take one kernel at a time, but also making sure that my hand didn’t touch his on accident. That was the worst possible thing that could happen.

Overall, the movie was great, and, luckily, Dan and I didn’t have anything embarrassing happen between us. Afterwards, we got in the car, but didn’t go back to the camper.

“Alright, now where are you taking me?”

“Somewhere.”

“Oh that helps out massively.”

“I bet.” It took about five minutes to get to the lookout; I hadn’t planned this before hand, but the improvising was working out.

“A lookout?” Dan asked as I parked the car.

“And a forest trail.” We got out, walking over to the fence and looking at the scenery.

“I hope you’re not afraid of heights.” I laughed.

“Nah, I’ve jumped out of a plane before. This is nothing.”

“Oh, yeah. What’s that like?”

“It gets boring after a while. You really don’t feel like you’re falling, because of the air pressure and all…”

“Yeah, I can see that. I’ve bungy jumped before, but that’s about it.”

“Oh? What’s that like?”

“I imagine it would be a lot more exciting than skydiving by your description. Your feet are tied up, and when they push you off the platform, your face starts hurtling towards the ground, and you can’t breath. All of the sudden, you jerk upwards, then start bouncing upside down. It’s really fun.”

He laughed. “Sounds like it. You want to take a walk?” He said, gesturing towards the forest trail.

“Sure.” With that, we began, the smell of summer flooding my senses. We walked for a while, Dan making sure to keep his distance. I wasn't sure if I was glad of his respect or not. Just then, a small, blurred shape raced across my path. With a squeak of surprise, I jumped, nearly landing on Dan. My knees buckled, but he caught me.

“You okay?” He said, holding back a smile.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I said, standing up straight, nonchalantly fixing my hair.

“You’ve been really jumpy lately.” Dan observed.

I pushed my bangs out of my face. “Yeah, it’s been a little crazy this past six days. I can only handle so much adventure, you know.”

“Heh. Is this the biggest adventure you’ve ever had?”

“Other than meeting you, then probably.”

This made his smile grow bigger. I could see that his eyes were turning light blue, rimmed with a dark navy. Nope. Not happening.

“Come on.” I said, beckoning with my hand. “We don’t want to leave Chris alone for too long.”

“Alright.” We walked back, finding our way to the campsite. We found Chris there, watching TV.

“Hey, guys. How’d it go?” He said, raising his eyebrows.

I glanced at Dan uncertainly. “It went great. I decided to take Dan to the lookout place that we passed on our way here.”

“Oh, that’s cool. How’d that go?”

“Well, other than Haylee nearly landing on me, I think it went pretty well.”

“Umm, we don’t need to mention that.” I intervened quickly.

“Oh I think we do.” Chris said, his attention intensifying.

Before I could stop him, Dan told the story about how I was scared out of my wits by something as tiny as a little creature. I pretended to be offended, but really, I was inwardly laughing along with them. This was when I started to wonder if I wanted to know Dan as more than a friend, just as he did me. I guess I do like him more than a friend. I just have to wait for the right moment to tell him. Until then, I’ll keep him guessing.

“Haylee. Hello? You there?” Dan was waving his hand in front of my face.

“What? Oh yeah, I’m here.” I said, focusing my eyes again.

“Chris just asked if you wanted to go out for dinner, since we had already missed lunch.” Dan caught me up.

“Oh, that sounds great! Where would we go?” I asked.

“Well, Dan hasn’t made up his mind yet.” Chris said, looking expectantly at Dan.

“It doesn't matter to me.”

“Well, you better make up your mind, because you get to choose.” Chris finished.

Dan thought for a moment. “How about Olive Garden? I heard that place is pretty wicked.”

“Alrighty. Olive Garden it is.” I said, opening my laptop to find the location. By the time we had everything set, it was time to go. We all dressed into our best clothes, which was just a little over casual.

“Hopefully it’s not a formal kind of restaurant.” I said, studying myself in the mirror.

“Yeah, I don’t think it is, though.” Dan came up behind me. If you’re expecting some kind of move, then you’re not getting one, I thought.

“Okay, we all ready to go?” Chris asked, coming out of his room.

“Yep, I think we’re all good.” I said, slipping my shoes on.

“Who wants to drive?” Dan asked, walking out to the car.

Both Chris and I looked at each other.

“I think Chris should drive.” I suggested.

He shrugged. “Okay.” We found our way to the restaurant by 6:00, but had to wait for a table for about ten minutes. Dan and I had an interesting conversation while we waited, with Chris being just a witness.

“Oh yeah, did you hear that blue cheese is actually mold?” I had said.

“Yeah, I did hear about that. It tastes so good though!”

“I like it best on steak.”

“Oh, that’s weird.”

“Well, what do you like blue cheese on?”

“Breaded chicken.”

“There’s not much of a difference!”

“Yeah, chicken is way different from steak.” Dan laughed.

Just then, our beeper went off. “Okay. Whatever you say, Dan.” I said as we handed the timer to a waitress. She lead us back to a table where our menus were placed.

“Hi, I’m Jackalyn, and I’ll be your waitress for tonight. Can I start you guys off with some drinks?” She said, pulling out a notepad and pen. Chris and Dan both ordered pop, while I got water.

“Water?” Dan asked once she had left.

“Yeah, why not?”

“Well, it doesn’t fit your personality.”

I was confused. “What?”

“Water is so…” He searched for the right words. “...Drab, for a person like you.” He finished.

I wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. “Ummm. Okay? Thanks, I guess.”

He just smiled at me, making my heart skip a beat. That doesn’t usually happen, I thought. Pushing it aside, Jackalyn appeared with our drinks, and we started to look at the menu. I decided to have the shrimp alfredo, while Chris got the Tour of Italy, and Dan got the steak gorgonzola.

We talked until our food came, but this time about normal things, like the Grand Canyon. When my plate was set in front of me, I was beginning to regret ordering something with noodles included. Noodles plus cute guys plus a fancy restaurant just don’t mix. And with Dan sitting next to me and Chris sitting diagonal from me, I decided to eat slow, and not finish my meal. Leftovers will taste decent. I thought, and continued to eat.

Once everyone was done, Chris and I both pitching in on the paycheck, while Dan insisted that he take care of the tip. We left, me being the only one carrying a box; both Dan and Chris had finished their meals.

We went to the camper, but I felt as if I needed a walk.

“I think I need to walk off that meal. Anyone else?” Both boys agreed, and we set off on the path that we had taken the first day we got here. The sun had already set, and the moon was half full. We sat on a rock and pointed out the big dipper and the North star; Dan even pointed out some satellites. After a while, it started to get cold, which caused me to shiver.

“Here.” Dan said, taking off his gray hoodie and wrapping it around my shoulders.

“Thanks.” I replied, smiling at him. I was greatful that it was a clear night, but even more greatful that Chris was giving us our space, for he didn’t even seem to notice us. After a while of gazing upward, I scooted closer to Dan, resting my head on his shoulder. He was warm, and we snuggled closer.

I wish this moment could last forever.

The End

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