November 9, 2022 AD. Half-Plate Burgers, California, USA, Earth
“Hide” hissed Cam to Ella and Dinah. They looked puzzled, but before Cam had time to explain, Cindi reached them. “Oh, hi there, Cindi,” Cam said with very forced cheerfulness. “What a coincidence to meet you here.”
“Hey Cam,” she answered. “I thought I’d come say hi. You’re looking good.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Eh? I just mean you look healthy. Have you put on muscle?” She only just seemed to notice Ella and Dinah. “Oh, hi there. I’m Cindi. Nice to meet you both.” Ella and Dinah both introduced themselves.
Dinah asked Cam “who is this girl?”
Incredibly stressed, Cam answered “we were in political science class together.”
Cindi laughed. “Don’t be modest.” She turned to Dinah and Ella. “Cam and I went out a few times after we met in class. Nothing too serious.” Turning back to Cam, she said “by the way, I haven’t seen you in class in a while. Is everything all right?”
“I just dropped the class,” he muttered.
“Not to avoid seeing me, I hope? Ha, just kidding. Sorry, that was a bad joke.” That was exactly the reason Cam had dropped the class, but obviously he wasn’t going to say that. Cindi didn’t seem to notice his discomfort. She addressed Ella and Dinah once again. “By the way, how do you both know Cam?”
“What, because it’s such a surprise to see me in the company of girls?” Cam spat.
Cindi looked confused. “No? What are you talking about?” Cam hid his burning face by stuffing an overly large bite of hamburger into it. He immediately choked on it. Ella slammed him on the back as he coughed.
It was Dinah who answered Cindi’s question. With a ferocious look on her face, she said “we spend time in Cam’s room every single week.”
Cindi said “ah…”
“Don’t make it sound weird!” Cam snapped, still coughing up bits of hamburger. Ella, apparently not reading the room in the slightest, now interjected to explain D&M to Cindi. She looked interested by the explanation. “Wow, that sounds so fun! Say, Cam, I know this sounds weird, but do you think I could try it out sometime?”
“Sure, maybe” Cam said in a tiny voice. I want to die, he thought. Whatever god of romance I offended to end up in this situation, I’m sorry!
At this point, the other two girls who had been sitting with Cindi approached the table. With sudden horror, Cam recognized them: Jia, a girl he had asked out repeatedly in high school but been rejected every time, and her sister Makoto, who Cam had also asked out, also unsuccessfully. Jia said “Cindi, you coming back or what?” She then noticed Cam. “Oh. Hi.”
Ella elbowed Cam in the side. “You also know this chick?” At the same time, Cindi had asked Jia the same question about him. Jia answered for them both when she explained. As she was explaining, Makoto also approached. She chimed in that she had a similar history with Cam.
Cindi laughed. “What are the odds?”
Cam felt like all eyes were on him. He finally made a run for it. “Bathroom,” he said as he practically sprinted out of the situation. He sat in the men’s room for several minutes, trying to collect his breath and hoping that Cindi would leave while he was gone.
He must have sat in the bathroom longer than he realized, because somebody banged on the door. Through the door, he heard Ella’s voice. “Cam, are you in there?” He hastily exited to see Ella, looking worried. “Upset stomach?” she asked as Cam scanned the fast-food restaurant behind her. Cindi and the other two were gone.
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Yeah. Something tonight just didn’t agree with me.”
“If was your burger, don’t worry. I ate the rest of it.”
“That seems pretty appropriate for how this night has gone,” he said. He returned to the booth with Ella. Dinah was still eating, so he sat back down. He didn’t want to talk at first, but eventually he felt obligated to explain that he was not happy to have run into those three all at once.
“Why’s that?” Ella said. “Cindi seemed nice enough.”
“Because, you know, it’s awkward. We used to date, but we don’t anymore, so…”
“So it’s awkward,” he finished lamely. “Also, I think she stopped liking me for a while before she broke up with me, so that makes it worse.”
Ella shook her head. “This is too complicated. Honestly, this is why I hate romantic comedies. If everyone was just said how they feel right away, everything would be simpler. If I every fell for a guy, I’d tell him right away. Right, Dinah?”
Dinah responded by taking her last bite of hamburger while glaring at Cam. Ella noticed the glare. “What’s wrong with you, Dinah? Don’t tell me. Your burger is bad too?”
“It’s nothing,” Dinah said in a voice that clearly indicated that it was not nothing. She fixed Cam with another glare. “You dated all three of those girls before?”
“And you like Annette?”
Dinah said in a very small voice “you’re the worst, Cam.” She started eating fries. Cam also reached for the fries, wishing more and more that he had just stayed in the bathroom. After a minute of silence, Dinah said “we-we’re still doing tutoring tomorrow at the normal time, r-right?”
“Yes, so far as I know,” Cam answered. Remarkably, Dinah was blushing. Why would she be embarrassed about that? He wondered.
“I get it!” Ella burst out. “You named the goblin boss that we fought back then ‘Sin-Dee’ because it sounds like Cindi!” She laughed. “The only reason you’d do that is if you still have feelings for her! No wonder you were so embarrassed when she spotted you.”
“No, I—she—don’t get the wrong—” Cam sputtered. If Dinah’s glare had been dangerous before, now it was lethal. Cam leaped up. “Bathroom again!” He sprinted in the toilet direction at full speed.