After just one week's worth of airing NerdSmashers, it was clear Baljeet's stock was on the rise at school. Random people he'd never met before now greeted him in the halls. A fledgling NerdSmashers fan club had started up and Baljeet found himself being followed a few times every day by a small group representing them. And then there were the Post-It note fan messages left on his locker door. Early in the week there had been maybe two or three. It now being Friday, his locker door was practically wallpapered in Post-It notes of all colors. It had been enough attention that Baljeet made the decision to retain Buford's services once again as his "Angry Wall of Meat" in case anyone got too carried away with their fandom of the show. Payment was made in the form of splitting his secret admirer's treats with Buford, which proved to be more than enough motivation for the massive bully.
"So if you've got me for security, what're fanboy and Ginger doin' to protect themselves," Buford asked as he chowed down on his share of the treat for the day, which were once again cupcakes.
"Irving I am not so concerned about," Baljeet told him. "He mentioned something about ninja training from his older brother, but I am skeptical of that."
"You want me to keep an eye on him just in case?"
"No, I do not think that will be necessary."
"How about Ginger?"
Baljeet thought for a moment about how Ginger might be handling her own newfound fame at school.
"She is a former Fireside Girl so I know she is capable," he mused. "But all the same, I am sure she has been drawing much more attention than either Irving or I. She is quite pretty, after all."
"Heh, say no more. I'll check up on her for ya."
Baljeet nodded as he stopped outside a classroom door. "Thanks, Buford. Well, this is my Geometry classroom."
"Just gimme a buzz when you need me again, dude," Buford told him, giving him a quick fist bump before heading off again. He decided to go looking for Ginger just for the heck of it. It didn't take much searching to find her, as she was at her locker talking on her cell phone to someone in what was clearly a foreign language.
"Onee-san ni wa kankei nai deshou," she said, sounding annoyed. "Un, dai suki desu kedo…mada jishin ga nain desu. Mou…onee-san kara kikitakunai wa yo. Ara, mou konna jikan? Gomen, onee-san, mou sugu jugyou ga hajimarimasu. Ato de hanashimashou. Un. Bai bai."
She flipped the phone closed and muttered to herself some more in Japanese before realizing that Buford was standing behind her. Despite Baljeet's assurances, he still unnerved her a great deal. She did her best to hide her nervousness as she turned to face him.
"Hey Buford," she said, trying to sound casual. "Something up?"
"Just checkin' up on ya is all," he told her. "Who was on the phone?"
"Oh, that was just my older sister Stacy. She's such a pain, I swear. She tries to give me advice about stuff she has no business trying to give advice on."
As she talked, Ginger tried to grab her things from her locker for her next class without looking. It proved to be a costly mistake as she fumbled her books and spilled half the contents of her locker onto the floor. She stifled a curse in Japanese as she quickly started picking things up. Buford instinctively stooped down to help, but stopped as he spotted something. It was a small notepad of lavender-colored paper; very familiar-looking lavender-colored paper. He picked it up and held onto it while Ginger reassembled her locker.
"Sorry about that," she said, still feeling jittery. "I'm usually not such a klutz. Um…something's missing still, though. Where's…"
"You lookin' for this," Buford asked, holding up the notepad. Ginger's eyes went wide as she quickly snatched the pad from him, put it into her locker, and slammed the door shut. That was the last bit of proof Buford needed.
"So it's you, huh," he asked, folding his arms. "Guess that figures. Explains why they put you in the show too."
"Y-y-you're not going to get mad, are you," Ginger asked, positively terrified now.
"Cool your jets already, I ain't gonna do nothin' to you or 'Jeet."
Ginger just about passed out as she leaned back against her locker. Suddenly a huge chunk of her worries just dissolved and she felt a level of relief she hadn't experienced in a long time. Perhaps she could relax a little bit about the whole deal now.
"So when are you gonna tell him?"
And just like that the tension came right back.
"Um…when the time is right…" she said quietly, not making eye contact with him.
Buford rolled his eyes and shook his head at her. "What're ya waitin' for, an engraved invitation?"
"I just want us to be able to be together without worrying what everyone in school thinks about it. Thanks to the TV show things have come a long way, but…I'm still not sure I'm ready just yet."
Buford felt like he wanted to punch something, but he refrained. "You're drivin' him crazy, you know. On top of still having his secret admirer, he's takin' a liking to you anyway."
"What? Baljeet…likes me?"
"Ain't no doubt about it. I came down here to check on ya 'cuz he asked me to, for cryin' out loud."
"Baljeet asked you to check up on me?"
"You guys are all more popular these days thanks to that show. He wanted to make sure any fans or whatever weren't buggin' ya."
"Wow. I had no idea…thank you, Buford."
"Hey, you wanna thank me? Go tell nerd boy the truth."
"I…that is…maybe I…" Ginger could only fumble with words as she tried to make up her mind on what to do.
Buford clenched his fists briefly, but exhaled and released them. He looked directly at Ginger then. "Look, I'm gonna make this real simple. I'm givin' you 'till the end of the day to tell him yourself. If ya don't, I'm tellin' him. One way or another, this sneakin' around stuff's gonna end today, you got it?"
Ginger swallowed hard as she processed Buford's ultimatum. So many parts of her were still not ready for this, but in spite of all those parts screaming at her to put it off the only part she listened to was the one telling her exactly the same thing Buford had; it was time.
"I got it, Buford," she told him, slowly smiling as she grew steadily more confident in her decision. "You won't have to do it. I'll tell him."
Buford looked at her with a scrutinizing eye for a few moments before finally cracking a smile at her.
"You and him are gonna be just fine," he told her. "You look good together, and I can tell ya both like each other."
"I can't speak for Baljeet, but I do care about him a lot. More than I can possibly say in words."
"You gonna take good care of him? He's important to me too, ya know."
"I know. He's your nerd right?"
"No. Well, yes, but that ain't all he is. He's also…my best friend."
For the first time, Ginger could see what Baljeet had meant when he said Buford wasn't all bad. In fact, he was quite the stalwart friend to the Indian boy who she so dearly cared about.
"I promise, Buford, I will always take good care of him," she told him with a smile.
Buford smiled back at her and nodded. "You're okay in my book, missy. Anyone ever bugs you, you call me. I'll set 'em straight."
"I'll keep that in mind. Thanks. Anyway, I'm seriously late for class now."
"Need someone to help you get there?"
"I should be okay, thanks."
Ginger finally collected her books properly from her locker and began walking towards her next class, but stopped and looked back at Buford for a moment.
"By the way," she told him. "You should look Milly up sometime."
"Anderson," Buford said, saying the girl's last name as if it were a question. "Why's that?"
"Why do you think?"
Ginger winked at him briefly before she turned down the hall to rush to her class. Buford puzzled for a minute as he walked off in the opposite direction wondering what she'd meant. When it finally dawned on him what she'd been implying, his face turned as red as a tomato. He immediately began heading for the shower rooms at the gymnasium at a brisk pace. A cold shower was suddenly sounding like a really good idea to him.
Baljeet gripped the note tightly in his hand as he waited just outside the school. The autumn air was cool and crisp, but he was far too preoccupied to register whether it was cold at all. Today was the first time he'd gotten two letters from his admirer, and apparently it would also be the last time that would happen. The letter expressly told him to wait until after the buses had left for the day, and that it was time for them to finally meet face-to-face. So here he was, alone outside the school simply waiting. The buses were all long gone and only a few other people were wandering about the campus.
He felt a perfect half-and-half mixture of excitement and anxiety. Isabella and Gretchen had never found out who it was, and he'd been so busy with other activities as well as school work that he'd had little to no time to try and figure it out any more himself. As his mind and heart began to race, he didn't even register the person walking up behind him until she spoke.
"Waiting for someone," a voice asked him from behind, breaking the seemingly interminable silence. Baljeet startled a bit, but relaxed when he saw it was Ginger.
"Oh, heh, yes," he said, trying to quell his nerves. "I am supposed to meet someone here anytime now."
"Someone you know?"
"Not yet, but soon I hope. Remember when I showed you the letters from that secret admirer?"
Ginger nodded. "Oh yeah. So you're finally meeting her today?"
"I hope so. I have so much I want to tell her, but especially about how much that first letter she left for me meant to me. I still read it every day. Would you like to hear it?"
Baljeet fished in his bag for his collection of letters and produced the first letter from the batch, looking it over again as if it were a treasured possession. He unfolded it, cleared his throat, and began reading.
"No matter what," he said as he began to read it aloud.
"Know that I will always take care of you," Ginger said, interrupting him. Baljeet felt his entire world stop as he fixated on Ginger, who stood before him with her eyes closed and her hands folded in front of her as she continued to recite the contents of the letter by heart.
"Please enjoy the cookies, I made them myself. I will try to have something new for you later this week. Love, Ginger Hirano."
Baljeet was suddenly aware that his jaw had gone slightly slack and he quickly closed his mouth, though he still couldn't take his eyes off of her. He honestly didn't know what he was more surprised at: Ginger's confession or his own obliviousness to what now seemed obvious.
"This might seem like it's coming out of the blue to you," she said in a quivering voice as she opened her eyes again. "But this is a moment I've been dreaming about for years."
"But…why me," Baljeet asked. "That is the one thing I have not been able to understand through all of this. Why me? I am not what most teenage girls look for in a boyfriend."
"Maybe not, but you're what I've been looking for," Ginger told him, walking slowly towards him as she continued. "Most girls want the cute boys or the bad boys or the adventurous boys…not me. I don't just want a fling or a romance with someone who's got all the complexity of cardboard. I've always wanted to be with someone who was smart, responsible, and who had a future he was planning for and working towards. I've wanted to be with someone who was stable. I want someone like that because I know I could trust them with my heart. So from that perspective, you are the most wonderful and attractive young man in the entire Tri-State Area to me…and I like- no, that's not right."
Ginger closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and looked directly into Baljeet's eyes as she stood right in front of him.
"I love you, Baljeet," she told him. "From the bottom of my heart."
Despite feeling overwhelmed by the weight of Ginger's feelings for him, Baljeet reached for her. Their hands touched first, fingers lacing together as they pulled close enough together that their foreheads touched.
"I can only hope I'm always worthy of such a beautiful gift as your love, Ginger," Baljeet told her quietly. "And I can only hope the feelings I have for you are at least equal to what you feel for me."
"I don't think you'll have anything to worry about," Ginger replied.
Their first kiss was brief, as if they were both testing waters that they still weren't sure would be all that welcoming. Their second kiss lingered slightly, once they felt more comfortable and accustomed to the feeling. Their third kiss went on and on and on as they both now immersed themselves in the new sensations it brought them.
Having been too preoccupied with her own date that weekend, which had been fantastic like all her other dates with Phineas, Isabella didn't know how well things had gone between Baljeet and Ginger. All she had heard was from Ginger midday on Saturday that they had met each other's families and were going out on their first date that night. It now being lunchtime Monday, her curiosity was at an absolute peak. As she and Phineas neared the lunch table they saw Baljeet sitting alone, as usual, only instead of poring over a textbook he was looking through what looked like a tour book of Danville.
"Hey Baljeet," Isabella said, setting her tray down. "Whatcha doin'?"
"Oh, hi Isabella," Baljeet said, setting the book down for a moment. "And Phineas. I was just doing some reading on restaurants and sights around town. I need ideas for date locations."
"I guess the date went well, then," Phineas stated, happy for his friend.
"To say the least," Baljeet said, smiling genuinely as he thought of Ginger again. "We didn't do much, just dinner and a movie. I understand that's the standard for first dates."
Isabella blinked a few times. Something was different, but she couldn't place what.
"Believe me, we've been to plenty of movies so far," Phineas told him. "If I were you I'd start keeping an eye on movie trailers to find stuff you guys will like."
"I'm way ahead of you," Baljeet replied. "I spent a fair bit of Sunday night on the Internet watching movie trailers online. By the way, there's a new Space Adventure coming out next summer."
"I know, I saw that last week," Phineas said excitedly. "It's gonna be awesome!"
"You know I'm going," Baljeet replied, also excited.
Suddenly it dawned on Isabella. "Baljeet, you're…using contractions in your speech?"
"Yeah, I guess I am now," Baljeet said, blushing a little. "I don't know why I didn't do it sooner. Maybe I was just stuck on being so formal all the time. I think to an extent it reinforced my nerd image. I'm still a nerd, don't get me wrong, but now that I have Ginger with me…everything just seems so much easier now. I'm actually quite relaxed now."
"I think that's fantastic," Isabella told him. "You two really make a cute couple. If you need help with ideas for where to go this weekend, just let us know. We've got a ton of places we can recommend."
"Oh, I'm not planning for this weekend. We already have that set."
"Aha, so you're planning next weekend's date, then," Phineas said, nodding.
"No, we have that planned as well."
"Baljeet, how far ahead are you guys planning?"
"Well, right now we're working on August of next year. Actually, Ginger is doing the scheduling and organization. I'm just brainstorming ideas. She's really something else when it comes to planning and organization, you know? We planned out a lot of our future dates on our first date. It was quite the evening, let me tell you."
Isabella and Phineas gave each other a look of sheer disbelief, but decided rather than fight what was a decidedly losing battle to simply let Baljeet and Ginger do things however they saw fit. After all, love did come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. One of those forms was bound to be perfectly organized and scheduled in a day planner somewhere so as to keep such an adorable couple perfectly happy together.
I did way more research for this fic than I've ever done for a fic before. For those curious, no I am not Indian and I do not speak Hindi. The bits in the first chapter I looked up before I wrote them. According to one of the reviews I received for the fic, apparently I got things right so yea me!
Also, just to confirm, NerdSmashers is indeed based on Discovery Channel's series MythBusters, which is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Science can indeed be entertaining! Especially when explosions are involved. :D
As for Ginger's Japanese here, and again for those curious, no I am not Japanese. However, I do speak Japanese quite well. I minored in the language in college and spent a year living in Tokyo. Here's a quick translation of what she said to Stacy:
"This is none of your business, sis. Yes, I do love him but...I still have no confidence. Oh I really don't want to hear this coming from you. Uh oh, it's getting late. Sorry, sis, class is gonna start soon. We'll talk later. Yeah. Bye-bye."
Before anyone asks, I likely will not be doing a separate story for Buford and Milly. Rather, I'll probably cover that bit as part of my summertime fic project, Summer of Love. Why Milly, though, and not the usual standby of Adyson? Let's just say a recent story by a fellow P&F author that I read and thoroughly enjoyed has given me a different inspiration for Miss Sweetwater's romantic future. To said author I will only say: you know who you are, you know precisely which story I'm talking about, and it is on like Donkey Kong.
Thank you to all of the wonderful readers and reviewers who've been leaving their praise and thoughts for this story so far, it has been a fantastic source of encouragement for my writing for this series. I hope the ending here is up to your expectations. And, of course, thank you to any and all future readers for your time and patronage. I hope you have enjoyed reading this story even half as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope you check out and enjoy my other stories as well. ^_^