One Year Later………

Awakening: Second Stage

Chapter One

Complications


Friday

"The way her fair falls behind her head as her gaze darts between the blackboard and her notebook. That look she gives me whenever I agree to help her act out a scene from a play. Those cute noises she makes when she laughs. Those times she calls me up right when I'm about to fall asleep. The foods I've endured for her! The foods she's endured for me! Those quiet times when she's sits quietly, reading, and then she looks at me with those eyes; beckons me to scramble over and have a moment with her, a moment we can make last forever. She makes me laugh, she makes me cry, she makes me sigh…hey, am I becoming a poet? Oh, I'm sorry. Tino here, but I guess you figured that out already! Care to guess what today is? Huh? Give up? It's anniversary day. Yep, Tish and me managed to hold it together for a whole year. Probably because we've tried to keep things moving at a very lax pace. That, and we've been trying to keep it a secret from Carver and Lor, so that made us keep a low profile. So, anyway, we decided we want to spend this weekend together. Um, kind of alone. So this is what we've been dreading. The day we finally tell the guys about us. I thought we'd drop the bomb on them when we go out for some pizza. Heh, heh. Wish us luck!"

"You say something, T?" asked Carver, who sidled up beside his good friend.

"Man, Carver, those new shoes of yours give you some serious stealth!" Tino half-jumped, surprised to see Carver appear before him.

"You really think so? Maybe I should look into becoming a spy! Oh yeah, I can see it now..."

"You're going to be involved in matters of national security? That's just downright scary! That's like...me becoming a starting pitcher for the Yankees."

"A long shot?"

"A big mistake. Besides, I thought your dream is to design shoes for a living."

"I was thinking that could be like my part-time job. Y'know, a little supplemental income."

Tino laughed. "Yeah? Our first jobs are probably going to be working at the Snack Shack or something."

"Uh-uh. No way, not me. The Coolness will never forgive that kind of betrayal! I'm gonna try to get in at the mall. Now Lor, she would look good down at the Snack Shack."

"I don't really think that would be her kind of thing. Besides, I really need to work at the Snack Shack. I deserve a respite from Mom's cooking!"

"I hadn't even thought of that. You're right, Tino, the Snack Shack is definitely for you!"

"Snack Shack?" Lor wondered aloud.

"Lor!" Both boys shouted at once.

"That's what they call me. What's up with you?"

"I didn't hear you come up, that's all." Carver grinned.

"Me either." Tino mentioned. "Of course, I didn't notice Carver coming either."

"Gee, I feel so special." Lor rolled her eyes. "Where would I be without my friends?"

"Hey now, you know we didn't mean it like that!" moaned Carver.

"Yeah, but it's more fun to milk things like that. Guys hate being in the doghouse. Of course, you could make it up to me with some pizza."

"Of course." Tino smirked.

"Where's Tish?"

"I dunno. Haven't seen her since lunch."

"Maybe she got held up."

Carver didn't agree. "Tish may be a brain, but she's usually just as anxious to get out of here as we are."

"Sorry I'm late!" The girl in question shouted from behind as she ran up.

"Man!" Tino called. "You guys are all coming out of the woodwork today."

"Sorry. I got into a bit of a debate. Can you believe there's actually people out there who think that Aeschylus is better than Sophocles? It's insane!"

Lor's eyes narrowed when she looked at Tish. "Um, yeah. Crazy." Carver just shook his head. "So, pizza?"

"I could go for a slice."

"Me too." Tino agreed.

"Well, I do have some math homework I should get out of the way." Carver added.

"What say we all go home, get rid of our homework, then meet for pizza at four. That enough time for everyone?"

"I guess I could make myself a snack." Lor decided.

"Great." Carver smiled. "Let's roll with it."

"Tino?" Tish asked. "I might stop by in a bit to work on our lab report, if you're up to it."

"Sure." Tonitini smiled in reply. "See you in a bit!"

Half an hour later, Tino was flopped out on his bed with an issue of Captain Dreadnought spread out in front of  him. "Yep, so here we are, Age 13, still lookin' good! As you can tell, we really haven't changed that much. Except for the being able to officially call ourselves teenagers. Plus, now we can get into PG-13 movies with out school ID cards. Yeah, things have been going pretty well. It's hard to believe how close we are to high school. They handed out our course selection sheets earlier this week, but I haven't figured out what I want to take yet. The only stuff I know for sure is the stuff they force me to take. Plus I have to sit down with the guys and figure all this out. If we're going to take any of the same classes, it wouldn't be very cool if we signed up for different timeslots. I did check with Tish on the phone earlier in the week. We decided to take some classes together but to make sure we were apart for the really important ones. We'd just end up distracting each other too much. Considerate of each other, aren't we?"

"Tino, your shadow is here!" a familiar maternal voice echoed up the stairs. The sound of soft footsteps pattered up the stairs, followed by a knock at the door to his room.

"Come!" Tino called, flipping his comic book shut and placing it in a stack. He reached under the bed to find his lab notebook. "Hey, Tish! Wow, you got here early."

"I thought you might like to get a jumpstart on the weekend."

"The battle plans?"

"Yup. I still haven't quite thought of how we're going to tell them. Maybe we should just call it off." She hesitated.

"Tempting. But it's getting a little impractical. They're just going to have to cope with it. Besides, maybe we're making a bigger deal out of this than it really is. I mean, we've been an item for a year now, Tish, and we haven't treated our friends any differently. We haven't blown them off to just spend time with each other even once. This will be the first time, but we've got a right to. It's our anniversary!"

"A whole year." Tish smiled. "It really doesn't feel like a year has gone by. Not just with us, I mean...I can remember like when I was still seven, and now we're thirteen and it's like an entirely different world."

"You're right. But I'm glad you're my friend, Tish. And my significant other too. You're really great at being both."

"That's what friends are for." She smiled back. "All right, let's get this lab thing out of the way so we can enjoy our weekend."

"No, OUR weekend."

"Nice try, bub." The mysterious pizza server said through a faux gray mustache. "I caught you red handed with a craving for pepperoni and onions." The server stared Tino down as though he were the next Unabomber. "I'm going to have to write you a ticket."

"For how much?"

"For a large pepperoni and onion pizza, of course."

"Hey! I don't have a craving for pepperoni!" Tish yelled.

"Keep it up and I'll have to haul you in, little lady!" Furiously the man scribbled onto a pad, ripping the paper off and passing it to his partner. "Book 'em" he said as they both walked away.

"Ok." Lor stared after them. "That was pretty creepy."

"Way past." Carver agreed, as the four friends lounged around their favorite table. The Bahia Bay Pizza Department seemed unusually quiet, and the jail cells lining the walls were empty, which made Tino more comfortable.

"So, what's up for the weekend guys?" Lor wondered aloud, never knowing she had just asked the $64,000,000 question.

"Funny you should mention that." Tino smiled. "There's something I need to talk to you guys about."

"We need to talk to you about." Tish corrected.

"What's up?" Carver asked. "You two stumble across a big event going on this weekend."

"Well, you might say that." Tish hesitated.

"But it's kind of exclusive." Tino added.

"Whoa, stop everything." Lor interrupted. "Does this have anything to do with me putting on a dress?"

"No."

"Okay then." Her eyes passed back and forth across her three friends. "What?"

Tino sighed. "This isn't getting us anywhere."

"Well tell us what's going on!" Carver answered.

"It's not that simple!" Tish felt frustrated.

"What's not simple?"

Tino took a deep breath, holding it for nearly thirty seconds before letting go. He sighed, then stood up and explained the situation as best he could. "We've got an anniversary to celebrate."

"What anniversary?" Asked Lor.

"Ours." Tish tried to emphasize, taking hold of Tino's arm.

"You and Tino? This is the anniversary of when you first met?"

"Not exactly."

"So....." Carver began.

Tino breathed in and just let the truth out. "One year ago today Tish and I started dating."

"Technically tomorrow." Tish corrected. "Today would be the anniversary of the first time we kissed."

Lor and Carver stared at them as though Tino and Tish had just beamed down and announced they were visitors from the planet Flaflooga."

"We kept it a secret from you guys all this time because we weren't sure how you would take it, and because we wanted to keep things slow." Tino explained. "But this being our anniversary and all, Tish and I really want to spend it by ourselves. We've been planning it for two months now."

Lor's mouth remained agape, Carver managed to blink and swallow. "Whoa." Descartes managed to get out.

"Um, yeah." Tish tried to support Tino's news. "I hope you're not too weirded out."

"So you two have been together for a whole year?"

"Yes."

"And you're just telling us now?"

"Yup." Tino replied.

"I don't believe it. I mean, I believe it, it's just...I can't believe we never noticed."

"We tried to keep a low profile."

"I never saw it coming at all! Did you Lor? Lor?" Carver took hold of Lor's shoulders and shook her a bit. "Lor, you still in there?"

"Huh? Lor blinked several times, like she was coming out of a trance. "Did you ever suspect they were a couple?"

"Huh? No. Why would I?"

"I don't know, I just can't believe none of us noticed."

"We're good." Tish shrugged.

"I'm kind of confused." Lor struggled. " I think it's going to take time for this to sink in."

"I'm sorry." Tino looked at the floor. "We should've told you sooner, but I figured you guys would just make fun of us all the time."

"Yeah." Carver grinned. "We probably would. In fact, I think we still will, after this all sinks in."

"Um, look." Tino felt sheepish as a pizza was placed in front of them. Slowly he grabbed a piece and bit deep into it. Tish followed suit, but she had to stop to pick pieces of pepperoni off. "I'm sorry about all this, really. It just seemed like there was never a good time to tell you guys. Look, I promise this doesn't change anything. We're not going to start blowing you guys off all the time to be alone. We're better friends than that. It's just that, you know..."

"No, no. It's cool. It's your anniversary. You two should go out and have a good time. Really."

"What about Lor?" She looks a little shaky.

"She'll get past it, man, it's no big."

"I hope you're right." Tino took twenty dollars out of his wallet and put it on the table. "Take that, it should cover the pizza and leave you guys some mad money. I promise next weekend we'll be back to normal."

"You don't have to do that, T."

"We want to." Tish smiled. "Tino and I have been saving for this weekend for two months, and we wanted to give you guys a little something since we knew this would be hard."

Carver looked at the bill on the table before relenting and putting it in his own pocket. "Okay, if that's what you want."

"We'd better get out of here." Tish smiled hesitantly. "We, uh, don't want to bother you too much."

"And you've got lots of stuff planned." Carver winked. "Don't worry about it, I'll take care of Lor."

"Thanks Carver. You're a good friend." Tino felt elated that Carver understood.

"So are you two. Have a good time, tell me about it on Monday, okay?"

"We will!" Tish called, slipping out the door with Tino. "Tell Lor everything is okay when she gets back to normal!"

"Count on it!" Carver reassured them, helping himself to some pizza. As he ate and looked over Lor, who seemed lost in her thoughts, he felt oddly philosophical. "Tino and Tish, huh?" He wondered aloud. "I never saw it coming, but now that I see it, I wonder how I ever could've missed it. Couldn't have happened to nicer people." Both Carver and Lor sat in the restaurant for a long time, one contemplating the future of his friends, the other pondering her own.

I was pleased with the way this comes out, it was fun, funny, and poignant all at the same time. The next step in the adventure has officially begun, everyone. I think that fans of this pairing will enjoy what's coming up, while those who are big fans of Lor will have other happenings to be just as excited about. We'll see what goes on with them both in the next installment. Until next time, keep reading!

Lord Malachite

5/30/03

5:41 PM, EST

E-mail:ranger_writer@yahoo.com

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