"That movie was-"
Both stared at each other for a pregnant second before quickly backpedaling.
"You, uh, go first."
Snap sighed. He looked down to his empty place mat and furrowed his brow. Where was Rudy?
Penny blushed. It was never like this before.
"I was just, um, saying how…'nice' that movie was." And it was. But that was it.
Tucking a few loose strands of hair behind her ear, Penny expectantly looked back to her friend- no, that wasn't right. Boyfriend.
Snap just stared. He had nothing else to say. Which was odd, because normally he wouldn't shut up. Penny felt her face heat even further and she was forced to look away. It was quiet for a few seconds before she heard Snap finally speak up.
"Penny, you know, we don't have to act like this is-"
"Bon appétit!" Snap started at the interruption. Both he and Penny snapped their heads towards the kitchen swinging doors. They flapped open and shut in the wake of a very animated Rudy. "Dinner is served! One plate of real world spaghetti for the real world madam," down slams a bowl, brimful with angel hair pasta slathered in tomato sauce and laden with meat balls (most of the sauce remained on the pasta, though a few splashes landed on Penny's shirt), "and one plate of %100 pure, grade-A White Lightening spaghetti for the chalk sir!" With a quick, theatrical wave beneath Snap's face, Rudy slapped the second bowl onto the placemat. He stepped back and clapped his hands together in an over-enthusiastic manner that made both Penny and Snap flinch. The boy was clearly proud of his handiwork. "Alright, eat up, suckers!"
Penny and Snap shared a weary glance. A few seconds passed before they both turned back to their friend. Rudy stood at attention, his clasped hands and wide grin persisting as he eyed the two.
"Uh, okay. Rudy. This isn't gonna work." Snap looked like he wanted to pinch his nose, had he possessed one.
"What? You haven't even tasted my spaghetti yet." Rudy slumped his shoulders and slouched so despondently that he spun around in place. Complete with a little heel kick.
"Whoa, whoa, no need to throw a hissy fit, Bucko. I'm not talking about the food, I'm-"
"You're not talking about Penny, are you! You guys haven't even been dating a week yet! I'm not letting you give up on this relationship already!" Rudy fervently shook his head. Penny rolled her eyes and sat back in her chair, getting comfortable.
"I mean it's your first official date!"
"Just try the spaghetti!"
Sighing, Penny stood up. Rudy, who was currently attempting to airplane a forkful of spaghetti into his friends closed mouth, turned to look at his other friend in surprise.
"What, you're leaving?"
"No! I'm escorting you out!" Without another word, Penny grabbed Rudy by his elbow and pushed him back into the kitchen. "We appreciate your effort, but your presence is smothering us." Rudy stumbled out of sight past the saloon doors.
"Oh. Well why didn't you say so." He called. Penny ignored him. She turned back to Snap and smiled.
"He's worse than my mother."
"You don't have a mother."
"It was a joke."
Penny raised a single brow.
"Y'know. Cause?" Snap moved his hands in a self-indicating gesture. Penny raised the other brow.
"I'm Jewish! He's like a Jewish mother. What with the matchmaking and all."
"Wait, you're Jewish?" Penny thought back to the past few years she'd known Snap. Not once had she ever recalled him mentioning being Jewish, or any other religion for that matter.
"I mean, I always thought I was." Snap said, nonchalantly poking at his plate of spaghetti.
"What?" Penny leaned forward, capturing her boyfriend's attention again. "That doesn't make any sense. Do you even know what being Jewish means, Snap?"
"Uh, yeah Penny. Of course I do, seeing as I am Jewish." The chalk-boy dug his fork into the pasta and brought it up to eye level, twirling the plume of soppy noodles around in apparent disinterest. This only made Penny more determined. "Rudy drew me Jewish." He said, as if discussing the weather.
"Seeing as Rudy is Greek Orthodox, I highly doubt he would specifically designate you as Jewish in his design. Especially as an eight year old."
"Hey, hey!" That finally seemed to catch him. "What's wrong with being Jewish?! You trying to say kids don't think Jews are cool? An eight year old would. An eight year old did! I'm not just a Jew, I'm a hero Jew!"
"Wait- you're supposed to be a super hero? Ugh, never mind, that doesn't matter; I saw you eat an entire plate of bacon yesterday! By yourself!"
Penny face palmed.
"Snap. Judaism is a religion. One that dictates that its conservative, practicing followers cannot eat certain 'unclean' animals." Penny stressed each word by elongating the 's', a habit she had when annoyed.
"Wait, really?" Snap dropped his fork, letting the spaghetti splatter back down onto the plate. He didn't seem to notice the red stains on his 'cape'. "It's not just talking a certain way?"
"What?!" Penny let out in a guffaw. All of her previous irritation gone in an instant. It was Snap's turn.
"What's so funny, huh?" He asked, crossing his arms and scooting back into his seat. Snap, for all of his ego, didn't like the insinuation that he was dumb. It was something he had become increasingly sensitive about the closer he got to Penny.
Penny's response was to shake her head in a way Snap could only describe as endearingly condescending.
"That's not how it works. Being Jewish has nothing to do with regional dialects, and besides, even if we're talking about accents, you've clearly got a New Jersey accent."
"New Jersey?" Snap looked lost, and for a moment, Penny wanted to do nothing more reach across their little makeshift Lady and the Tramp styled barrel-table (something Rudy had insisted on setting up, for the sake of ambiance) and squeeze him. But she held off. If not just to tease him a bit more.
"I used to think it was a New York accent, sometimes vacillating between a Bronx, Long Island, and even Brooklyn type inflection, but no, it's definitely New Jersey."
"It's supposed to be Boston." A third voice startled the couple, eliciting an immediate 'Rudy!' from both. "Alright, alright, I'm leaving for good. I just forgot my chalk." Rudy peeked his head through the kitchen doors once more, wearing an impish grin. "Seriously though, I wanted Snap to be from Boston. I just didn't know how to distinguish it from any other upstate accents when I was little. They all sound the same." And with that, the artist-chef-matchmaker was gone.
Penny and Snap waited a few tense moments, and then relaxed.
"Huh. So I'm not Jewish?"
"My whole life has been a lie."
"I mean you could be Jewish if you wanted to be. You get to choose what religion you are."
"Yeah. I think I do. I like telling people that. Also, I have no idea what a Boston is. It doesn't sound as cool."
Once again, silence filled the room. For some reason, Penny and Snap felt awkward. Funny how the simple addition of a lit candle and a checkered tablecloth could really stifle the mood. Worse yet was the quiet Bosa Nova playing in the background. Penny coughed. Snap looked around. His eyes landed on the boom box sitting in the corner of the room. It was barley visible in the dark, only the light pouring in from the kitchen illuminated the top of its handle. Without warning, Snap stood from his seat and walked over to the device, delivering a swift kick. The CD skipped to a stop, and the radio buzzed to life. An unidentifiable, but distinguishably punk song began to play, one that Snap seemed satisfied with.
"There, that's better." Pleased, the chalk boy sauntered over back to his seat and plopped down. He gave Penny a smile. "Something about that elevator music Rudy put on was making me nervous."
"Me too. I don't know where he got his basis for a romantic night out, but wherever it was must've been cheesy."
"He watches too many Disney movies."
Penny looked down to her meal. She hadn't touched it yet, and despite playing around with his own plate, neither had Snap.
"Are you hungry?" she asked. Snap shook his head. "Me neither. I only agreed to eat because Rudy said we should. Why did we let him plan this for us in the first place?"
"You're asking me." Snap answered, twirling his fork around his fingers with one hand, supporting his chin with the other.
"He'll be heartbroken if we don't eat his spaghetti."
"I'm Jewish; we can't eat spaghetti."
Penny rolled her eyes. Snap did the same, but without pupils it was hard to tell. Suddenly he sat upright.
"Why don't we dump the spaghetti and bust this joint? Go do something fun instead?"
"I'd like that."
With a boombox in one hand and a Latina in the other, Snap White sped down the rolling streets of Chalkzone City on a skateboard. With the (temporarily) setting sun falling behind their backs, the couple glided into the dark of Night Zone.
All was well, and pretty rad, that is, until Snap hit a rock. He went sailing, face first, into the pavement. Penny followed in a head over heel tumble. Last came the boombox, which shattered upon impact into several large chunks of plastic.
Penny groaned as she pushed herself up from the sidewalk. She gave herself a quick once over, relieved to find that any and all scrapes were nothing but colorful streaks of chalk dust. Then she looked over to Snap. Or rather, she looked up, and followed the two foot long blue skidmark that led to her boyfriend.
Snap let out a muffled sound. His face had broken his fall and carried the weight and momentum of his upright body as it hung in the air. With a thump, everything came crashing back down to earth. He lay sprawled out with his arms and legs splayed at his sides.
Another muffled mumble. Penny walked over to his side and looked down at him.
"Snap, are you okay?"
Snap finally managed to look up at Penny. She cringed at the sight; his normally blue and white face was purple and red.
"No worse for the wear. Sorry about that, buckette." Penny reached down and helped the chalk-boy up. She shot a glance back to their skateboard, now missing a wheel.
"It's okay. We can just walk from here. Mind actually telling me what you had planned?"
Snap picked the board up and groaned at the busted axel. He could always ask Rudy to draw him a new one. Preferably a motorized one that could steer itself. Or maybe a bike. Actually, a car. And a license. Yeah, that's what he'd ask for.
"Whelp, the surprise will be ruined, but I might as well." Snap turned to his girlfriend with a spilt-milk grin. "We're gonna go exploriating!" he cried, throwing his hands up as if it were a surprise party. His bravado died down after a few moments of quiet from Penny. "Well, whaddya think?"
"Without Rudy?" Penny asked.
"Duh! We always go with Rudy. Hell, I've hung with Rudy solo more than I have with you, and I'm pretty sure the odds stack up the same from your end, am I right?"
"And this is a," Snap paused to rub the back of his neck, and Penny couldn't help but notice the slight tinge of pink coloring his cheeks despite his mask. Of course, it could've been a scrape, "well, you know. This is a date. So of course we're gonna be alone! And I know you hated that movie as much as I did." Penny had to nod at this. Rudy found a little drive in, a 'historical' (in Chalkzone, historical could mean literally- a place of historical significance, or it could mean that an angsty 13 year old who just learned about retro and vintage Tumblr picture blogs or about British history in school might draw sprawling Vaudeville dance halls and dilapidated castles with towering spires) theater that reeked of art house films, stale popcorn, and sentient oversized glasses with handle bar mustaches attached. Needless to say the film didn't keep either of their attention. "If we kept following his little setup, we'd wind up feeding each other grapes. So; movie's out, neither of us are hungry, so what's left to do in Chalkzone?"
"A lot of things, actually-"
"Exactly! And we're gonna go do them, and have fun! So let's go!" Snap grabbed Penny's hand and tugged her forward. She resisted.
"Wait, so you don't have anything planned, as of yet?"
"No, but who needs plans? There's tons of things to do, you said so yourself. We just have to look."
Penny made a non-committal sound and followed. He did have a point. Given that Rudy promised to make all the arrangements, it would make sense that Snap didn't have any plans set, so Penny couldn't really complain about that. The two walked off, leaving behind the busted skateboard and broken boom box.
Despite the much slower pace and lack of action or excitement, Snap found himself enjoying the walk. Penny as well; she rarely held hands with anyone, let alone someone she liked as much as Snap.
"Do you think Rudy's feelings will be hurt that we left him without saying anything?"
"Naw, he'll understand. 'Sides, how many times have you guys ditched me?"
Penny looked down.
"Don't apologize. You two used to be all over each other, who could blame you?"
At this, Penny stopped. Snap was yanked backwards by the force, and turned to give Penny a confused look.
"What's the holdup?"
"You think we used to foster an attraction towards each other?" she asked.
"Uh, well, yeah. Of course. It was obvious Rudy had a massive crush on you when he first brought you into Chalkzone. And you'd always play along with it."
"Snap, we never viewed our relationship as anything more than platonic."
"We're just friends."
"Well I know that now! But back then. Like when I first met you. You and I didn't get along too great."
Penny smiled at the memory.
"You were such a heel. So stubborn and cocky."
"Hey, hey! You weren't any better, Miss steal my man. You'd hog Rudy up all day, and all you ever wanted to do was study grass blades or 'observe' paint drying."
Penny crossed her arms.
"There is nothing wrong with pursuing my scientific exploits. Considering that I'd never even imagined anything like Chalkzone could exist, I think my reaction was perfectly natural. I think furthering my understanding of the world around me is much more admirable than 'exploriating' for cheap thrills."
"Pfft. You're a nerd." Snap teased. "But that's what I like about you. And for your information, buckette, exploriating is not about cheap thrills. I'm learning about just as much junk as your are staring through a microscope, and I'm having more fun doing it."
"Alright then. Prove it."
"Prove it? How?"
"Let's make a bet. I will abstain from all forms of data collecting if you can prove to that what you do holds quantitative weight."
"Set up an experiment. Make it however wacky as you want, so long as it follows the scientific method. I'll even help you. And this can be our adventure."
"I dunno. That sounds kinda boring."
"If that's the way you want it, I can always start analyzing some Night Zone soil samples."
"No, no. No need. Let's get adventuring."
Rudy checked his watch. He looked up, biting his lip in an attempt to veil a goofy, buck toothed grin, despite the fact that there was no one around to see it. He swung his legs. Looked to the wall clock. His hands fidgeted beneath his legs, producing a thin sheen of perspiration that finally caused one to slip from the edge of the bed he sat on. Rudy stumbled forward, catching himself with his other hand.
"Okay, that's it. I can't wait any longer." It's not like he had anything else to do, anyone else to see, or anywhere else to go. His two best friends were finally dating! He had to go check up on them, make sure no one needed a refill of spaghetti.
Rudy lumbered down Snap's stairs. Sitting alone in the dark had made him feel a little bit dumb and awkward. While both of those things were fairly normal for Rudy, he liked to think that he had a little more social sense than when he was, say eight years old. He tripped on the last step, falling forward only to brace himself a conveniently placed end table. The vase on top wobbled precariously, but Rudy was quick. His graceful, Chuck Taylor clad feet caught on the floor, rubber tips on chalk-wood, and Rudy swung around the end table, letting out a panicked yelp as he shot forward. The vase tipped this way, then that, and finally, with one last fateful sway, it dropped.
"Oof!" Onto Rudy's back, and rolled onto the floor.
"Huh, well that was lucky." Rudy muttered. He pushed himself up off his stomach and looked back to his legs, which felt like they were a mile away. Rudy's most recent growth spurt left him lanky and unbalanced, therefore awkward. More awkward. But, he shrugged it off. He was good at not letting the little things get to him.
Standing upright, Rudy dusted his jeans and shirt off. He suddenly realized that he may have an audience, and bolted his head upright, ready to blush at any sarcastic comments Snap had.
But there was nothing. Rudy ventured a peek through the kitchen. As far as he could tell, the table was empty.
He tiptoed into the kitchen, getting a better view through the double doors. Sure enough, the room was empty, the candle had gone out, and two plates of spaghetti sat unmolested.
Rudy hung his head in defeat. He limped over to the table and plopped down into what was Penny's seat, and poked at the spaghetti. He pushed the noodles around with his fork, finally funneling some up into the prongs, and then brought it to his mouth. Cold, but tasty. As he munched, he risked a glance up toward Snap's intended plate. He quirked a brow, his mouth still full of real-world spaghetti. Without warning, Rudy reached over with his fork and scoop up some of the chalk-pasta, and then stuffed the load into his mouth. He immediately spit the contents, both real and chalk, out all over Snap's dining room as he coughed and spluttered.
Join us next chapter, where Snap experiments with safe science, Rudy enjoys some self stimulation, and Penny buys barrier contraceptives.