"Thanks for showing up." grumbled Rachael to the boy who had just thrown himself hurriedly into the chair across from hers. "Thought you'd forgotten we had a date."
"Me?" panted Nigel, managing to throw a grin on his face. "Never. Just... lost track of time."
"That seems to be happening a lot recently." sighed Rachael, stirring her soda with the straw.
"I'm here aren't I?" asked Nigel, adjusting his sunglasses on his finally-grown-back brown buzz cut hair.
"So what's your excuse this time?" asked Rachael, her hands now fiddling with the hem of her purple shirt. "You're at least forty minutes late. I was about to leave."
"Classified information." said Nigel mysteriously. "TND and all that."
"Nigel." said Rachael dangerously. "I'm second in command to the TND President. Nothing is classified for me, especially since I'm your girlfriend!"
"Relax." said Nigel holding up his hands defensively. "I was just making a joke. Maurice gave us a mission, and I couldn't say no."
"Couldn't or wouldn't?"
Nigel hesitated for a second too long.
"Perfect Nigel." growled Rachael. "Just perfect. Glad to see what your priorities are."
"Uh-huh." said Nigel absentmindedly as he glanced at the cell phone in his hand. "Listen, I just got a text from Maurice. Apparently..."
"Go ahead." sighed Rachael. "You won't be able to pay attention to me anyway if your mind's on the TND."
"Thanks." said Nigel with a grin as he pushed himself out of his chair. After a quick kiss on her forehead, Nigel bolted from the restaurant without looking back.
"Men." grumbled Rachael as she poked her fork into the salad she had ordered. "Unreliable. Stupid. Insensitive creeps."
With a growl she speared a piece of lettuce and shoved it in her mouth, chewing with all her might.
"Are you okay, miss?"
Rachael looked up in surprise, her eyes connecting with a pair of sympathetic blue ones.
"Chad?" asked Rachael, swallowing her mouthful of salad so quickly she almost choked. "What are you doing here? I thought you'd moved!"
"Rachael?" asked Chad, clad in a red shirt and black apron, a grin forming on his face. "I totally didn't recognize you. How are you?"
"I've been better." admitted Rachael. "Do you work here?"
"Started last week." said Chad proudly. "I came back for college. Got an apartment in the city."
"That's awesome." said Rachael, a smile playing on the corner of her lips.
"What're you doing here alone?" asked Chad curiously. "You waiting for someone?"
"Who knows." grumbled Rachael. Chad raised an eyebrow in confusion. "I was waiting for Nigel Uno, but he's already come and gone."
"Are you two dating?" asked Chad, looking around furtively before easing himself into the seat across from Rachael.
"At the moment." shrugged Rachael. "Who were you looking for?"
"My boss." said Chad. "Technically I'm still supposed to be working. Hey, I get done in a half hour. After my shift's over, d'you wanna go to the malt shop or something and catch up? Or do you have to wait for Nigel?"
"I'd love to." said Rachael firmly. Chad grinned delightedly.
"Awesome." said Chad as he pushed himself to his feet. "I'll meet you at the front doors."
Rachael smiled and waved goodbye to Chad as he left. She picked up her fork and resumed eating her salad much less violently. Once finished, Rachael stood and collected her things, placing the money for the food and a little extra for a tip on the table. As she threaded her way through the tables towards the door, her eyes landed on Chad. Chad looked up and met her gaze, giving her a grin and a wink. Rachael smiled back.
Ominous black rain clouds had gathered in the sky, replacing the earlier glow from the summer sun. Rachael stood underneath the restaurant's awning, her arms crossed over her chest as she tried to conserve body heat, wishing all the while she had been smart enough to wear a jacket. By the time Chad exited the restaurant, Rachael was shivering.
"You okay?" asked Chad as Rachael looked enviously at his worn blue jacket.
"I d-didn't bring a c-coat." admitted Rachael, her teeth chattering.
"You can wear mine." offered Chad, pulling his arms out of the sleeves. Rachael started to protest, but before she could form the words Chad had draped his coat over her shoulders; the warmth effectively cutting short her protest.
"Thanks." said Rachael with a smile, sliding her arms into the jacket.
"No problem." said Chad with a grin. "So, how does the malt shop sound?"
Rachael opened her mouth to agree, but was cut off by a very angry voice from behind.
"Get away from my girlfriend!" Rachael's mouth opened in shock as she watched a very peeved Nigel stomp up towards the twosome.
"Listen to me..." growled Nigel to Chad, stopping short when he realized who Rachael's companion was "...Chad? What are you doing here?"
"Hey Nigel." said Chad with a wave. "How're you?"
"I've been better." grumbled Nigel. "What are you two doing?"
"We're going to the malt shop." said Rachael calmly. Nigel's eyes darkened. "Just to catch up!" she added hastily.
"Rachael." said Nigel sternly. "I know you're mad at me, but don't you think planning a date with another guy just to get back at me is taking it a little too far?"
"It's not a date, Nigel." said Rachael wearily. "Just two friends getting a shake. What's so wrong with that?"
"Nothing." huffed Nigel, crossing his arms across his chest. "Unless the 'friend' is the boy you crushed on for four years!"
"Nigel!" yelped Rachael her fist slamming into his arm. "I told you that in confidence! You promised not to tell anyone. Besides that crush ended three years ago, a full two freaking years before we even started dating! If, of course, that is what we're doing, because most of the time our dates end up with you leaving to do whatever the hell you feel like!"
"Um," said Chad awkwardly, his gaze flickering between the two. "Do you... um...do you want me to leave?"
Nigel and Rachael ignored him.
"I'm not perfect Rachael!" yelled Nigel angrily. "Sorry I couldn't live up to your expectations."
"My expectations?" screeched Rachael, her face red, eyes narrowed angrily. "All I ask is that my boyfriend actually shows up to our dates. Is that really so much to ask for?"
"And you decided the best way to show your disproval is by planning a date with another guy behind my back?"
"It's not a date!" insisted Rachael, her hand curled into fists. "We're just catching up."
"Right." snorted Nigel. "If you say so."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Look, man." said Chad peaceably, stepping in between the feuding couple. "Rachael told me you two were dating. I just wanted to catch up with an old friend. You can come too if you want."
"Thanks, but no thanks." huffed Nigel. "Wouldn't want to interrupt your date."
"IT'S NOT A DATE." exploded Rachael, the sky crackling ominously above her.
"Sure looks like one to me!" said Nigel.
"It's two friends talking." insisted Rachael. "Chad even invited you to come with."
"Sure." snorted Nigel. "That'll happen."
"You're really being a jerk right now." said Rachael angrily. "I'm leaving. I'm sick of this conversation. Hell, right now I'm pretty sick of you."
Nigel clenched his jaw as he watched Rachael walk away.
"Then maybe we shouldn't go out anymore!"
Rachael skidded to a stop, and turned around to glare at Nigel.
"Maybe you're right." said Rachael emotionlessly. "C'mon Chad."
And with that, she turned on her heel and stomped away, leaving Nigel with his mouth open in shock.
"Rachael..." mumbled Nigel, all anger gone. "What the hell did I just do?"
"You screwed up man." said Chad sympathetically, walking backwards in order to address Nigel and follow Rachael at the same time. "Screwed up."
Chad turned and jogged in the direction Rachael had fled, as Nigel collapsed heavily into a nearby bench, his head buried in his hands.
"Could this day get any worse?" growled Nigel to himself.
The first few raindrops began to fall.
Codename KND (c) Mr. Warburton