The Knife Thrower
"And that's a wrap!" Mrs. Benson said, clapping her hands together. "Great rehearsal everyone. I'm sure we'll bring down the house tomorrow night. If you have a mic turn it into Chuck back there behind the sound board, and remember, silent auction at six, curtain by seven - sharp!"
The actors and musicians started to pack up their equipment and passed Chuck as they trickled out the back door. Chuck busily unplugged cables so he could lock the sound board away for the night.
He felt a tap on the shoulder.
He turned and she was standing there; Becky, with her sparkling blue eyes and toothy half smile that seemed to make his heart pound. She was in the same white ruffled shirt he had seen her in that first time, her costume, he guessed, but this time her blonde hair fell, cascading over her shoulders and loose around her face. It made her look older, he decided, and softer, more approachable. Or maybe that was because he had started to get to know her a little better. Their short outing to the park a few days before had started to peel back the first layers to this mystery that was Becky Franco.
"Here," she repeated, thrusting a headset towards him.
"Oh, thanks." He took it.
"And this one," she took the battery pack from her waist and handed it to him, took head set from behind her ear, and then started to snake the cord out from under her shirt.
Chuck felt his face get hot and immediately turned, though in the shadows of the theater she probably couldn't even see.
"Uh, thanks." He took the last of the microphone from her. "Good job tonight, by the way."
Now it was Becky's turn to look away. "Thanks."
"That one your dad does, with the doves, that's pretty cool."
"No it's not," she said honestly, "but thanks anyway."
"Sure," he said turning back to his sound board, wanting to say more, but not knowing what to say.
"I liked the strobe light in that dance group number," she said.
"Thanks. Morgan was running the lighting."
"But you helped set it up."
Chuck shrugged. "It's just plugs and stuff."
Just then, the theater doors opened and a sandy haired, middle aged man stepped into the doorway.
He looked around for a second, spotted Chuck and walked over to him.
"Chuck! Are you ready to go?"
Chuck looked up to see his father. "Almost, dad. Just let me pack away this last mic and I'll be done. I'm not sure what Morgan is doing."
"Morgan!" Chuck's dad called out.
"Almost done, Mr. B.," a voice called back from across the theater. "Just have to unplug the extension cord in the bathroom."
"Well, Chuck, guess I'll see you tomorrow," Becky said as she turned to leave.
"Becky. Hey. Wait," Chuck called after her.
She looked back to him.
"Do you want to come and have pizza at my place? Morgan and I haven't had dinner yet and I'm sure my dad won't mind." He turned to his dad. "Will you dad?"
Chuck's dad smiled. "Of course not. But introduce me to your new friend first."
"Oh. Right. Dad, this is Becky Franco. Becky, this is my dad, Stephen Bartowski."
"You can call me Steve," Stephen said as he thrust out his hand.
Becky smiled shyly, but took the proffered hand and gave it a firm shake. "Nice to meet you."
Chuck rocked a forward on his feet. "So, pizza?"
"Yeah, I have to ask my dad," she said tentatively.
Stephen pointed to the magician packing the last of his gear on the stage. "Is that him? I'll go introduce myself."
And before she could say anything more, Chuck's dad had jogged down the aisle towards her father. It was decided.
Chuck opened the door to his dad's old Ford Maverick and tripped the front seat and slid it forward to gain access to the back. He made a 'ladies first' gesture that made Becky smile shyly as she climbed into the back seat. "Oh, thanks, Chuck," Morgan said as he quickly scrambled in after her. Chuck growled as he slid the front seat back into place, a little harder than he intended as it hit into Morgan's knees, and climbed in the front seat.
As they pulled up to his house, Chuck wondered what the small white rambler looked like through Becky's eyes. She had traveled all over the country, and suddenly the over grown yard, and the scattered basketballs and empty drink cups embarrassed him. Ellie, his older sister, had taken over most of the house work when his mother left but it was Chuck's job to take care of the yard. He hadn't gotten around to mowing for awhile, and the bushes hadn't been trimmed at all this season. At least he knew the inside of the house was going to be somewhat clean. Ellie was really busy with school but still she managed to take care of things.
Chuck was again thwarted at the door opening, as his dad let Becky out of the car on his side and ushered her up the walk. "Make yourself at home, Becky," he said as they entered the house and made their way to the kitchen. "There are sodas in the fridge."
"Awesome!" Morgan exclaimed and made a bee-line to the refrigerator and yanked it opened. "Chuck, Coke," he said, tossing a can to Chuck. "And Becky?"
"Rootbeer," she and Chuck said at the same time. Chuck laughed, and she smiled looking away from him to the floor.
"…uh…right," and he grabbed another can and swung back his arm to toss it. Chuck's quick negative head shake stopped Morgan mid swing; he took the few steps forward and handed the can to her. "Here ya go."
Stephen picked up the phone. "What do we want on our pizza?"
"Everything! Like you even have to ask, Mr. B!" Morgan answered enthusiastically.
Stephen turned to his son. "Chuck?"
Chuck shrugged. "Everything's fine with me. "
"Becky?" Stephen turned to her.
"That's fine, Mr. Bartowski. Thank you."
"One supreme with everything it is," Stephen said and he dialed the phone.
Morgan rubbed his hands together. "I can't wait. And my mom said I could stay 'til ten, "Morgan looked at his large calculator watch, "that gives me almost two whole hours to kick your butt on the Sega."
"Sounds good," Chuck agreed. "If, that's okay with you, Becky. Unless you want to do something else?"
"No, Sega sounds fine. I haven't played much, so you'll have to show me what to do."
"Great," Chuck said. "Finally Morgan might have a chance to beat someone," Chuck said, giving his friend a little shove.
"Oh that's it, Chuckles. You are so going down!" Morgan shoved him back.
"Says you," Chuck responded in his face.
"Lead the way, my friend," Morgan said, gesturing towards the living room. "Lead the way to your doom!"
"Don't mind if I do," Chuck said. He grabbed Becky's hand and pulled her down the hallway, and Morgan followed right after.
He hadn't really thought about it when he did it. Reaching for Becky's hand was the most natural thing in the world. She never had been to his house before; she didn't know where they were going; obviously, he'd need to show her. Not that his house was big enough to get lost in or anything. But he was just being a good host. Yes, that was it, a good host, showing his guest the way to the living room. But now that they were there, and his guiding hand was no longer needed, he found that he didn't really want to drop the small warm hand that he held in his. Though he didn't dare meet her eyes, he kept holding onto her hand, and she didn't pull it away. Morgan pulled out the console and the controllers from under the television. It wasn't until Morgan thrust the controller to Chuck that he regretfully let go of Becky's hand. He looked at her then, and she looked at him back. He thought he saw a little disappointment there, behind her blue eyes, when he had dropped her hand, but she was so unreadable that he wasn't sure.
"Do you want to go first?" he said, offering the controller to her.
"I'll just watch, for now," she said and turned to sit on the couch.
The controller didn't quite reach the couch and Morgan had already taken the banana chair, so Chuck regretfully took a spot on the floor, wishing he could sit closer to his guest.
After multiple rounds of Street Battle Chuck had only won once. Morgan whooped that he was on a roll, but Chuck didn't care, because he was too busy sneaking peeks at Becky and watching her in his peripheral vision. She was just a puzzle he couldn't quite figure out. She seemed truly interested in the game, watching attentively, and when things got particularly exciting he noticed she bit the corner of her lip absentmindedly. "Okay," he said, turning to her, "your turn."
"No, Chuck, I don't…"
"Yes, you do. It will be fine. Morgan will take it easy on you."
"Right-o," he said, giving her a little salute.
He held out the controller to her and she looked at him a moment, considering, and then shrugged one shoulder and cocked her head to the side. "Okay."
She left her spot on the couch and knelt down beside Chuck on the floor. "First you have to choose a character," Chuck said clicking a few buttons on the controller.
She looked up at the pixilated characters on the screen. "There aren't very many girl choices are there?"
"No, sorry," Chuck said sheepishly.
"You basically get to choose if you want to have blonde hair or brown hair," Morgan added.
"Okay, that should be easy enough. How do I select?"
Chuck pointed to the button and Becky pushed it. "There."
"Now you have to name your character," Chuck explained.
"What do I name her?"
"Whatever you want," Chuck answered.
"I'm always Obi-Wan," Morgan declared.
"Obee who?" Becky asked.
"Never mind," Chuck said. "Just choose anything."
"What's your character's name?" she asked Chuck.
"Lately I've been playing Walker," Chuck said.
"Walker?" Becky asked.
"Yeah, because I play the cowboy character, so I thought Walker was a good name." She still looked at him, confused.
"You know, like Walker, Texas Ranger?" Morgan added, hopping to prompt some recognition.
When she still didn't understand Chuck said, "It's a TV show. Wow, you don't watch a lot of TV do you."
"Sorry, not really," Becky said.
"He's this tough marshal who always goes around kicking people's butt and bringing bad guys to justice. That kind of thing."
"Hey, always thought that blonde girl," Morgan said pointing to the character Becky had selected on the screen," looked like Walker's girlfriend, Alex. You could name your character Alex, Becky."
Becky wrinkled her nose. "I don't think so."
"Well how about the actress, what was her name..?" Morgan asked "…Stephanie? Sherrie? Sammie?"
Becky's eyes widened at this last name, but she didn't say anything.
"Sarah?" Chuck asked. "Sarah Wilson?"
"I don't think that's right," Morgan said.
"Sarah's good," Becky said quickly.
"Nawh, that's too boring," Morgan said, "You need something more kick butt, like Silver Falcon, or a Chun-Li."
"I don't know, I kind of like Sarah," Chuck said.
Becky smiled. "You think so?"
Chuck looked at her with a critical eye. She was thin, that was true, but there was something strong about her, her personality, or something behind her eyes, those eyes that had seen so much more of the world than Chuck had, that made her seem strong. "It suits you," he finally said.
Becky nodded and Chuck showed her how to move the thumbstick up and down to select the letters to spell the name.
"Now," Chuck said, "You move the stick to go forward and back. This button is for kick, punch, and the button on bottom is for jump. Got it?"
She pointed to the buttons in turn, "Kick, punch, jump. Got it."
"Okay, Becky, I'll take it easy on you the first," Morgan said, starting the game.
As the music played and the words "Fight!" appeared on the screen, Becky fumbled with the controller.
Morgan's character punched Becky's to the ground.
"Punch!" Chuck prompted. "Kick!" "Punch!"
"I'm trying," Becky said, frantically pushing at all the buttons.
Morgan's character flattened Becky's character again.
"Duck, when he does that!" Chuck said.
"Duck?" Becky said, "You never showed me how to duck."
"Oh, I didn't," Chuck exclaimed. He reached around her back and pointed to the buttons. "Push that one and that one at the same time."
Becky's character was hit again. "Which ones?"
Chuck leaned closer and put his right hand over hers on the controller. "See, when Morgan's guy does that spin kick, you have to duck," he pushed his fingers down over hers, pushing the buttons and causing her character to duck just in time. "or you're going to get knocked out."
"Like this?" she asked, pushing the buttons.
"Yeah, but it takes timing. You see when his character shifts his weight back like that? Then you know." He paused just a second before pressing his fingers down on hers again, pushing the buttons, and causing her character to duck. A few more presses of Chuck's fingers and Morgan's character was on the ground.
"Oh," she said, turning to look up at him. It was then that Chuck became aware of his arm wrapped around her, the warmth of her hand under his, and her face just inches from hers. He looked into her blue eyes and swallowed. He was sure she could see his adam's apple bobbing nervously.
"Got ya!" Morgan exclaimed excitedly, as the video game music played the victory music. Chuck looked up to see Morgan's character strutted and flexed on the screen.
"Looks like I lost," Becky said.
"Uh, yeah," Chuck said, letting go of her hand and leaning away.
Becky looked at him for a second more, her face a mask, and then turned back to the TV screen. "Another go, Morgan? I deserve another shot. I'm just learning ya' know."
"Alright then," Morgan said, not noticing anything that had passed between his friend and this new girl. "The little lady wants another go at the master! Let the games begin."
A/N: Thanks go to angelinthecrowd who gave this a once over for me. ( a/n Five years later angelinthecrowd is living it up across the globe. It's amazing where life will take us)