Chapter 5:

When The Levee Breaks

Don't Miss The Target♥

The morning of the second day of a summer trip is usually a slow one. Most participants would still be recovering from staying up too late as some would completely oversleep, some would wake at a reasonable hour but would choose to go back to sleep again, and if there was alcohol involved, there would be a few nursing a hangover, but that one was not happening here.Bookmark here

Of course, there would still be early risers. These early risers are the ones who would be waking up everyone else, not by pulling them out of bed, but by making the smell of coffee linger in the air whether they intend it to or not. Those who were just snoozing may want to get up and join in, too, once they sense someone is already having breakfast.Bookmark here

That doesn’t work with deep sleepers though.Bookmark here

In our case, I was not sure who the early risers were exactly, but I was one of those woken up by the smell of instant coffee. The first three people up before me were Fran, Beth and Charlie. The two girls sat beside each other at the table in the kitchen and were chatting in whispers. Charlie was leaning on the counter silently sipping on his cup.Bookmark here

I greeted them good morning and the two girls greeted back. Charlie did not notice me as he seemed to be deep in thought.Bookmark here

I would have been more than happy to leave him alone due to the awkwardness that resulted from last night, but I wanted coffee. The two girls told me the hot water was in the kettle, which was on the stove. Charlie was standing beside it, so ignoring him was not an option.Bookmark here

“Mornin’” I tried greeting him again.Bookmark here

“Yeah”, he responded. At least he acknowledged me this time, but he went back deep into his mind.Bookmark here

I made my instant coffee and went to join the two girls at the table.Bookmark here

Breakfast was nothing fancy. It was just the leftovers from last night, biscuits, bread and different spreads. But they were laid out in the table and we were free to pick however we wanted our morning meal, so I guess you could technically say it was a buffet.Bookmark here

Nothing was freshly cooked though. There was not much point preparing a warm meal for everyone when we know we have different waking times. So if we want something cooked, we would have to make them for ourselves.Bookmark here

In theory, at least.Bookmark here

In practice, if you manned the stove, you could be asked to do more than your share. Like when I decided I wanted to be fancy and fix myself some egg salad sandwich because the ingredients were there. Beth and Fran were curious on what I was going to cook and when I told them, they asked for some. Bookmark here

I did not mind though. I was going to cook all the same.Bookmark here

Feeling generous, I asked Charlie if he wanted some, too, and he said yes. So now I was making eggs for four.Bookmark here

But then Eric came. “You’re cooking eggs? I want two sunny side up.”Bookmark here

I tried explaining to him that I was doing something different and if he wanted sunny side up eggs, he would have to cook it himself.Bookmark here

“Just think of it as repaying a favor”, he smugly countered, pertaining to the events from last night.Bookmark here

That forced me to cook for him because I did not want to risk him reneging on his promise to not reveal himself to Fran’s parents yet.Bookmark here

Dana soon followed and the room’s air suddenly felt tense. Not by her mere presence though, but because we were nervous she and Charlie might start something again.Bookmark here

Going back a bit to last night, their quarrel did not end when Beth and I brought the two back into the house. Once they were inside, they started fighting again in front of everyone. We did not even know what they were arguing about since they were just throwing random insults at each other.Bookmark here

“Your second toe is longer than your big toe!”Bookmark here

“You talk funny!”Bookmark here

“You’re a sloppy eater for a girl!”Bookmark here

“You have so many vegetables you dislike, what are you? A kid?!”Bookmark here

“Your hair makes you look like your dad!”Bookmark here

“You always have nose hair sticking out!”Bookmark here

They calmed down after a while, but the room had become awkward. A tense atmosphere lingered even when we tried playing some games to uplift the mood.Bookmark here

Questions were asked in whispers on what caused it. Beth and I only saw them start fighting so we did not know. Everyone who was in the house with them said there was nothing wrong between the couple before they headed out for a walk, so they did not know either. In the end, it was a mystery.Bookmark here

Morning came and it was still unresolved, but the two did not seem to be interested in continuing their quarrel. Instead, when Dana entered the kitchen and saw me frying up Eric’s order, she just asked for some scrambled eggs for herself. Charlie was in her line of sight as he was beside me, but she seemed to have ignored him. Bookmark here

Dana arrived at the table without incident. I could sense some sighs of relief from the table behind me. Bookmark here

Once she found out what I had made for everyone but Eric though, she changed up her order, so I did not have to cook more since I already prepared plenty. The six of us then peacefully had breakfast.Bookmark here

Of course, since we were missing a couple people, some could not help but comment about their absence. Tabitha especially since she was not really known for sleeping in. But for someone who can be strict, she had some gaps in her discipline.Bookmark here

For the day, we had planned to go back to play some more at the beach at nine o’clock. By 8:30, the two were still sleeping, so the rest of us decided to pull them out of bed. Bookmark here

Well, Arty was easy to wake. Tabitha was stubbornly clinging to her bed sheet. Beth got annoyed, pulled me to the side of Tabitha’s futon, and told me to pick the sleepyhead up. Tabitha got up quick this time.Bookmark here

This time around, Dana’s sister was joining us at the beach. She was sporting a simple but sexy two piece bikini. I only managed to take a glance before I got forced to look the other way by both Tabitha and Dana, but that was enough to excite the imagination.Bookmark here

I wondered if all college girls were like Dana’s sister. I got excited for college just thinking about it.Bookmark here

Anyway, we had hoped that the fun could make the quarreling couple reconcile, but they were, well, they were not ignoring each other, but they did not seem enthusiastic when they were together. There was not much we could do when they were like that, so we decided to leave the issue alone for the moment.Bookmark here

Meanwhile, I was also busy dragging Arty to wherever Tabitha was. Thankfully, the girls were no longer avoiding and excluding me like they did yesterday afternoon, so I could join them in whatever they were doing. Well, except when they were playing in the water still, but I at least managed to create opportunities for the two to interact with each other.Bookmark here

The plan for lunch was the same as the day before. We were going to send someone out to buy, not meat this time, but seafood. I thought that since Arty and Tabitha had gotten a bit friendlier I could nominate them for the duty again, but she outright refused.Bookmark here

Well, the refusal was not so much about going with Arty, but for being the one assigned to the task again.Bookmark here

“Let someone else take a turn”, she said.Bookmark here

The rest were in agreement. We decided on a vote on who to send for shopping, and we all chose Eric and Fran.Bookmark here

“Newlyweds shopping together!” Beth teased as the new couple went on their errand red-faced.Bookmark here

By lunch, our seating arrangement was also similar to the day before. We were all sitting in a circle while I was positioned in a way where none of the girls were in my line of sight. Except, of course, Dana’s sister had joined us.Bookmark here

“What’s up with him?” she asked once we started eating. I could only assume based on the following conversation that she was pertaining to me who was sitting at a weird angle.Bookmark here

Beth was quick to give a misleading answer. “Oh, his girlfriend gets really jealous when he looks at other girls in swimsuits.”Bookmark here

“Beth!” Tabitha interjected. “You know that’s not the reason!”Bookmark here

“You’re not convincing anyone when you’re picking food for him two days in a row.”Bookmark here

Usually that would be the start of some bickering between Tabitha and Beth, but Dana’s sister continued with the conversation she had started which probably stopped the two. “Probably” because I was still not allowed to look their way and see their faces.Bookmark here

“Huh, I figured you two were lovers”, Dana’s sister commented.Bookmark here

“Wait, he’s not my boyfriend”, Tabitha said correcting her.Bookmark here

“Really? I had been observing all of you and you two seem to be the closest pair.”Bookmark here

Apparently, Dana’s sister liked people watching.Bookmark here

She continued. “You two seem to be able to approach each other easily as if it’s natural for you two to be together. You’re not too flirty, but you’re comfortable talking to each other. Plus considering what you’re doing now, I would say you two are almost at the level of husband and wife.”Bookmark here

The girls jeered once Dana’s sister finished her short speech.Bookmark here

“Wait... no... I... this isn’t...” Tabitha sounded flustered after hearing Dana’s sisters observations. I was not sure what face she was making since I was still not allowed to look their way.Bookmark here

I have noticed Arty deep in thought again though. If I did not know any better, I would just think he had a habit of daydreaming during lunch with a rowdy crowd. But, this is the third time I have seen him go quiet, and each time, the conversation was about me and Tabitha.Bookmark here

I was thinking he may be having some misunderstanding over the teasing. I was afraid that it could lead him to giving up, which would be bad for me and my mission, but I could not exactly ask him about it so I could correct whatever misunderstanding he was having. Or rather, I know he would not be telling me what he was thinking like the last two times. So, I decided to make a comment in hopes of steering the conversation to another direction.Bookmark here

“She feels more like a mom than a wife though”, I declared. Even though Tabitha was actually stricter on me than my actual mother.Bookmark here

I heard something snap as soon as I said it, but I was not sure what it was as the sound came from behind me. Next thing I knew, a plate was dropped in front of me containing crabs, scallops and oysters, but only their shells, plus a couple of fish heads – the inedible parts. Tabitha was picking my food because I was not allowed to look elsewhere. The plate was what she was serving me.Bookmark here

I was afraid of protesting because I could feel a very ominous aura behind me. I did not need to look, but I was sensing she was majorly pissed at my comment.Bookmark here

I regretted dropping that line when I have not gotten my food yet. Although, I did get to eat once the girls were done and have left to clean up.Bookmark here

In the afternoon, Tabitha started excluding me in on the fun again.Bookmark here

“Aren’t you too old to be clinging to your mommy?” she asked me with a scary smile on her face when I, along with Arty, tried joining her and the other girls for a walk.Bookmark here

The silver lining is they brought Arty with them, so that was an opportunity for him to get closer to Tabitha. It still hurts to be excluded though.Bookmark here

So for the second afternoon in a row, I was on guard duty to look after our stuff. Although I was not completely alone this time as Beth chose to join in me in staring at the open sea.Bookmark here

“Aren’t you going to go have fun with the others?” I asked her.Bookmark here

“I will, but there’s something I wanna do first.”Bookmark here

“And that is?”Bookmark here

“I want to pick up our talk from yesterday. I was going to do it last night, but you know what happened with Charlie and Dana.”Bookmark here

“The thing about you testing the waters and stuff?”Bookmark here

“Yes, that.”Bookmark here

“So have you found the truth you were looking for?”Bookmark here

“No, but I decided I don’t care anymore.”Bookmark here

Her answer surprised me a bit so I was not able to say anything.Bookmark here

“Actually, I’ve been getting annoyed at you two so I decided I will just be upfront”, she continued with a smile and a hint of irritation. “Assuming what the two of you keep saying is the truth. No, even if what you two are saying isn’t the truth, I’m going to go all in.”Bookmark here

“So regardless whether Tabitha and I are actually dating, you’re going to confess?”Bookmark here

Beth’s eyes widened out of surprise. She turned a bit red and meekly said “So you’re not as dense as you seem.”Bookmark here

Was that really necessary, I thought.Bookmark here

Well, maybe I have a bit of denseness in me, but she had been dropping hints that will make you think about the other person so they were not so subtle that any normal guy would start noticing them at some point. She was skillful with her hints like that. But, she was always dressing it as jokes that it was hard to confront it because one of its possibilities will leave you looking like a fool. I tended not to address them because it was too much of a headache to think about. It was only from our talk the day before that gave me confirmation of what really lay behind all those teasing because whenever this girl is joking, she will always state it at the end. That time, she had not indicated she was joking after saying her piece.Bookmark here

However, I already knew what answer I was going to give her.Bookmark here

“It’s flattering, but...”Bookmark here

“Stop!” she exclaimed with her hand held in front of me. “I know what you’re going to say, but unfortunately for you, I’m not going to take no for an answer.”Bookmark here

“Huh?” What she said confused me. “If I’m not consenting, then we can’t really be called lovers, no?”Bookmark here

Returning to her usual manner of speaking, she said “But I’m not really asking for that. At least, not yet because I know you’re just going to reject me.”Bookmark here

“Then, what is it you want exactly?”Bookmark here

“What I want is to be your girlfriend.”Bookmark here

“Like I said, it’s flattering...”Bookmark here

She cut me off again before I could complete what I was going to say. “But I’m not asking you to be my boyfriend yet.”Bookmark here

That made me stop to think for a moment. I should probably have just said no again, but curiosity got the better of me. I asked her “How does that work?”Bookmark here

“I’m going to start acting like your girlfriend so you can experience firsthand what you’re getting if you have me as a lover. I’m not expecting you to do boyfriend stuff yet, but in doing this, hopefully one day you’d feel like acting the part.”Bookmark here

Basically, she was offering me a test trial. “You risk losing a lot without gaining anything with that.”Bookmark here

“I’m aware”, she replied sounding like she was raring for a fight. “I told you, didn’t I? I’m going all in.”Bookmark here

“Even still, the answer is no.”Bookmark here

“And like I said, I won’t take no for an answer. Besides, I was not making a request. That was a declaration!”Bookmark here

“You know the saying ‘it takes two to tango’? You can’t exactly act like my girlfriend if I’m not willing to go on dates and do other stuff with you.”Bookmark here

“It’s a test run anyway, so of course most of the things I will be doing with you are sneak peeks.”Bookmark here

“But what if I start ignoring you?”Bookmark here

“Then I’ll keep bugging you until you stop.”Bookmark here

“What if I start avoiding you?”Bookmark here

“I know where you live.”Bookmark here

“What if I stopped talking to you?”Bookmark here

“I’m sure you won’t”, she said with confidence. “Besides, I know you’re not the type to do the things you’ve mentioned.”Bookmark here

I think my heart skipped a bit with her statement. If my heart was easily moved by her high level of trust for me, I would probably have take here as my girlfriend then and there. But...Bookmark here

“What if I tell you I will never become interested in you?”Bookmark here

She answered with a tease. “Why? Are you gay?” Bookmark here

“Wha-? No! I’m a teenage boy interested in girls. I thought we were being serious here?”Bookmark here

“Then, are you finally going to admit you’re together with Tabby?”Bookmark here

“We’re not.”Bookmark here

“Or at least in love with her?”Bookmark here

“...”Bookmark here

“Is that a yes?” she cheekily asked.Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

“If your heart has not been filled by anyone yet, then I don’t believe you when you say ‘never’”, she declared. “You said so yourself, didn’t you? You don’t know what future you will be thinking.”Bookmark here

“But that was regarding Tabitha.”Bookmark here

“Oh, so you’re open to a relationship only with Tabby in the future”, she quickly countered. “Does that mean you really do have feelings for her? Is that why you’re not opening up to me?”Bookmark here

At that point, I was already cornered. It felt like Beth had prepared a roadblock for every avenue I could sneak out of her proposal, and it was working. I conceded. “Alright, I get it. You can do what you want.”Bookmark here

She turned away from me for a moment and seemed to have done a small fist pump.Bookmark here

“Just let me ask a few questions”, I continued.Bookmark here

“Go ahead”, she replied cheerfully.Bookmark here

“Why me? And I’m not buying that thing about me being the last guy available in this trip.”Bookmark here

She laughed out of embarrassment first before answering “So you caught on to that one, too.”Bookmark here

“You’ve been ‘testing the waters’ even before the trip”, I explained to her. Bookmark here

“True”, she agreed and continued to laugh to hide her embarrassment.Bookmark here

“Also, I’m pretty sure you have no lack of suitors to choose from.” A bubbly girl like her was certain to turn a few heads.Bookmark here

“That’s also true and I even dated some of them”, she replied. “But, I’ll let you in on an old secret of mine: I had a crush on you in grade school.”Bookmark here

“Past tense? What’s that got to do with the present?”
Bookmark here

“Don’t be impatient, I’ll get there”, she said still laughing but now more out of cheer. She probably took my sarcasm as a joke. “But it’s true I had a crush on you in grade school, although I thought back then like everyone else that you and Tabby belonged to each other so I never made a move.”Bookmark here

I certainly remember all the teasing then.Bookmark here

“In middle school, I started dating guys more good looking than you.”Bookmark here

“Well, sorry about my looks”, I commented as I wondered if I should tell Beth to never mind the whole thing.Bookmark here

Beth went to a different middle school, by the way, so I had no way of confirming whether her claims were true. It was still annoying to be told that though.Bookmark here

“Ah ha ha, don’t worry that’s not a slight at you”, she tried assuring me. “I mean, they were good looking, sure, but that was it; they lacked the personality I was looking for. When I dated them, I hoped they had a little bit of yours when you were a kid.”Bookmark here

“But even I am not the same as I was back then.”Bookmark here

“True, nowadays you seem more grumpy, but you’re still as sociable and outgoing as you were back then.”Bookmark here

“I don’t think I’m that sociable and outgoing anymore though?” which was my actual thought. Lately, I preferred holing up in my room to play video games rather than going out to play with others like I did when I was younger.Bookmark here

“You don’t need to be humble”, she humorously commented. “Even if you believe that, most people would think you are when they see you at school socializing with different people every day.”Bookmark here

She was referring to me hanging around the school hallways, which gave me opportunities to regularly talk to old friends and even meet some new ones, but that was not because I was being sociable though. I could not exactly tell the real reason to Beth, especially since I felt that she will try to dig deeper, so I did not try to give it an explanation.Bookmark here

“Also, this past month is proof you’re outgoing”, she continued. “The rest of us were satisfied waiting out the day of the trip, but you invited us to study as a group before the tests, and you even organized that movie marathon, not to mention you shamelessly volunteering yourself for this trip and was one of the most enthusiastic in organizing it.”Bookmark here

Again, I could not give the real reason.Bookmark here

“When we started talking again this year, it felt like rekindling an old love, you know?” she shyly continued. “I see you laughing with other people and I had to gather my courage just so I could force my in join the fun with you, just like in grade school.”Bookmark here

That I would not know the feeling as it was completely hers alone.Bookmark here

“Satisfied with my answer?” she asked, signaling the end of her piece. Then she added “Us girls aren’t just looking for a pretty face, you know?”Bookmark here

Rather than being satisfied, I started feeling bad that she became interested in me because of a notion created by circumstances contrary to her impressions of me. Without giving specifics, I asked “What if things aren’t as you thought they were though? What if your impression of me is actually wrong?”Bookmark here

She paused for a moment to think of her answer.Bookmark here

“I don’t know”, she said laughing. “I haven’t thought that far. I know the image of you in my head will be different from the actual you, but your actions speak louder to me.”Bookmark here

Basically, she’s dead set on me regardless.Bookmark here

“One last question”, I stated. “What if Tabitha and I are actually going out in secret? Aren’t you afraid of being hated?”Bookmark here

I half expected her to give a joke answer, but that question seemed to have taken her by surprise as it took the smile she was wearing off her face. But at least I know she was serious when she resolutely said “I don’t mind being hated. That’s what it means to bet everything after all.”Bookmark here

I thought she was cool in saying that. Anyone else would fall in love with her with that line, but still I could not be moved.Bookmark here

“Just don’t hit me no matter the result”, I told her.Bookmark here

Beth went back to her usual cheerful self and promised me “Don’t worry, I won’t”.Bookmark here

“So, what are you gonna do now?” I asked her, half bracing myself for something that could be embarrassing when done out in the open. But it was not like I was going to simply go along with it, you hear?
Bookmark here

“I think I’ll start by cooling off for now”, she said as she stood up from the mat. “I don’t have enough mental energy left after this,” she continued before heading for the water.Bookmark here

I was not looking forward to it, but I was expecting her to start with her thing as soon as I gave up the argument, but the rest of the afternoon went by without incident.Bookmark here

When we called it a day, we did not hit the road back home immediately. Instead, we stopped by at Dana’s relatives to thank them and say goodbye.
Bookmark here

The drive home was uneventful mostly because more than half of us were asleep. It was still just five o’clock, but everyone seemed tired out from all the fun we had. The only people awake was me, who was just quietly sitting in the back row staring blankly at the passing scenery, and Dana and her sister who were in the front of the car and chatting with each other.Bookmark here

They did not show it during the day, and the others seem to have forgotten about it as they were distracted by the beach, but Dana and Charlie have not reconciled yet. I was hoping their spat was not caused by the love laser pointer, but my gut was saying that was the case.Bookmark here

Once I got home, I sent an email to Aphrodite asking what the effects of shooting a laser to the hearts of two people who were already lovers. I got a reply almost immediately, but it was an invite for a video chat.Bookmark here

“You have not shot the laser at a pair of lovers, have you?” Aphrodite suspiciously asked as soon as the call connected.Bookmark here

“N-no” I nervously answered. Technically, that was the truth because it was not me who fired the laser, but it was still my device that did. “I was just curious.”Bookmark here

“Very well, then I shall answer.”Bookmark here

Thankfully, the gods did not seem all-knowing. Or at least, this goddess was not, so my half-truth was not exposed.Bookmark here

It would be a pain to relay Aphrodite’s explanation especially with her way of talking, so let me go about it in my own words.Bookmark here

Basically, the laser pointer acts as a booster for feelings of love. It amplifies two people’s affections for each other based on their current love level. This is why it does not work on people with no interest towards each other because the additional “love power” they receive could only be zero. Zero times anything equals to zero – that was basic math.Bookmark here

What this meant for lovers though, since their feelings for each other were already high to begin with, it would cause their love levels to overflow. The effects of their emotions overflowing would either trigger uncontrollable lust or unreasonable anger.Bookmark here

I was thankful it was not the former since that would have been a very awkward night for everyone.Bookmark here

Afterwards, however, it always results in a breakup. Because their feelings had overflown, some of the original contents had made its way out of the container, leaving a smaller amount of love for each other. Kind of like how you pour a carbonated soda in a glass too fast, it overflows, and now it’s only filled halfway because too much bubbles had formed and pushed some of the contents out. The result of this is apathy between the pair, they simply will stop being interested with each other.Bookmark here

Hearing about the second symptom, I was convinced that the laser pointer did have an effect on Charlie and Dana. First they had the unreasonable anger which made them fight. Then they started acting like they were air to each other, though that could still just be a continuation of the first symptom so I guess that probably still needs a bit more investigating.Bookmark here

Saving the relationship was possible if someone intervened. The fix could even be as simple as shooting both at their chests again if the overflow did not leave their love level below a certain amount. Although, the problem was that there was no way of knowing if that was the case, so like getting two people together as a cupid, I had to get them to reconcile the old-fashioned way.Bookmark here

Once the explanations were done, Aphrodite had one last thing to say to me before cutting the call. “If you had caused some mishap between lovers with your device, it would do you best to have had it mended before I discover it.”Bookmark here

It seemed like she was suspecting me. Again, I was thankful she was not all-knowing because, otherwise, I might have lost a precious body part as punishment during that conversation.Bookmark here

Still, she was a goddess. She must have some way of knowing. Like how she knew I was praying for a video card back in spring which put me in this mess in the first place. Well, crying about that now wouldn’t help, and praying certainly won’t do no good. So before she does find out, I had to move quick to fix Charlie and Dana’s relationship.Bookmark here

Luckily, I knew that the two worked part-time at the same family restaurant. Unlike what I was doing with Arty and Tabitha, I did not need to invite them to go and do whatever. It was just a matter of knowing when their shifts were. Bookmark here

The following day, I immediately staked out their workplace. Unfortunately, neither had shifts for the whole day, so I wasted a trip. Worse, was that I asked for an advance on my allowance because I was afraid just ordering water would get me kicked out of the establishment. Luckily, it was not a complete waste as one of the waitresses was nice enough to tell me they report back to work the next afternoon, thus I made a trip again when they were in.Bookmark here

Surprisingly, I found Fran and Eric there. I went to tease them.Bookmark here

“A date already? You two work fast. When’s the wedding?”Bookmark here

Fran was surprised to see me. Eric did not look too happy, likely because I was disturbing their quality time. I was not planning to stay long to be a third wheel though, so after I make small talk I would be on my way to a different table.Bookmark here

“What are you doing here?” he asked.Bookmark here

“The air-con in my house broke, so I’m just here to chill.” That was the excuse I came up with when either Charlie or Dana asked me. I did not think I would be using it on someone else. “What are you guys doing here? Just got back from the movies or something?”Bookmark here

“Actually, no”, Fran replied somewhat with a grave tone. “I came to talk to Dana.” Bookmark here

My ears perked up. I felt what she was going to say was something that would be of great interest to me.Bookmark here

“We were talking yesterday and she said she wanted advice with her relationship with Charlie.”Bookmark here

At this point, I sat down at the opposite end of the table where the couple were sitting, much to Eric’s annoyance. He was looking at me like I was dog poop that he accidentally stepped on, but I just ignored him.Bookmark here

“Go on”, I told Fran.Bookmark here

“I think she’s thinking about breaking up with Charlie.”Bookmark here

“Do you know why?”Bookmark here

“She hasn’t told me yet, but it probably has something to do with their fight during the trip.”Bookmark here

Eric, sounding impatient, cut in to ask “Why are you interested in Dana and Charlie anyway?”Bookmark here

I decided to tell them the broken air-con was just an excuse to come to their workplace and that I also wanted to help with Charlie and Dana’s relationship. Of course, I omitted the part where the cause was Beth pointing a magical laser pointer at the two being the cause of it all and that I would be in great peril if a certain goddess finds out. They would not find it believable anyway.Bookmark here

“You sure do like to meddle on people’s relationships”, Eric commented with a hint of snark. “First you’re trying to help Arty get together with Tabitha, then you meddled with us, and now you’re trying to do it with Charlie and Dana.”Bookmark here

“Eh? Wait, what?” Fran sounded confused by Eric’s statement.Bookmark here

“Hey now, I didn’t meddle much with you two”, I replied to Eric.Bookmark here

“What? Arty and Tabitha?” Fran continued her addled monologue in the background as tensions rose between Eric and I.Bookmark here

“Oh, then how do you explain the fact that I can’t hang out at my girlfriend’s place just yet?”Bookmark here

“Wasn’t the scrambled eggs payment for the favor? It was tasty, wasn’t it?”Bookmark here

“I ordered sunny side up, but it wasn’t even runny so it was more of a fried egg.”Bookmark here

“Hey!” Fran finally interrupted to ask the thing that was just troubling her. “What do you guys mean about Arty and Tabitha?”Bookmark here

“Haven’t you noticed?” Eric answered her. “Arty has got a crush on Tabitha.”Bookmark here

“I haven’t noticed...” Bookmark here

“And this guy is helping him get close to her”, he continued as he pointed at me.Bookmark here

“Huh? But I thought you and Tabitha were lovers and were only keeping it secret from everyone?”Bookmark here

“That’s what everyone says, but we’re just two good childhood friends, really”, I replied.Bookmark here

“Then Arty?”Bookmark here

“I can’t blame you for not noticing, he’s barely made a move himself”, I explained. “But enough about them, Charlie and Dana is more important right now.”Bookmark here

“Well, I won’t know much else until I talk to Dana later”, Fran said, still seemingly shocked by the previous conversation.Bookmark here

“What about Charlie? Has he said anything?” I asked the two. I look at Eric in particular since he was the closest to the guy out of the pair.Bookmark here

“I haven’t heard anything from him”, he replied. “Haven’t you talked to him yet?”Bookmark here

“He’s not replying to my messages that’s why I came here”, I said. “Where is he anyway? Isn’t he in?”Bookmark here

I scanned the restaurant’s floor. While I easily spotted Dana cleaning up a table on the other side of the store, I could not find Charlie.Bookmark here

“He’s working in the kitchen so you won’t be able to see him”, Eric explained. “But, the two get out of work at the same time, so if you want to talk to him, then that would be the best time.”Bookmark here

“When’s that though?”Bookmark here

“Around four o’clock, so not for another twenty minutes”, Fran replied.Bookmark here

“Okay, so I guess the plan is you two talk to Dana and ask her what’s going on with their relationship, I will ask Charlie, and we’ll compare notes later.”Bookmark here

“Wait, when did we ever say we’ll cooperate with you?” Eric asked sternly.Bookmark here

“Don’t you two want Charlie and Dana to make up?”Bookmark here

“I do”, Fran replied. She hesitated a bit before continuing. “But if Dana really wants to break up then I won’t stop her.”Bookmark here

“That’s fine”, I said. It was not like a break up is the end. They could still get back together afterwards. It would make bringing them together for whatever reason harder, but it was not impossible. “I just need information. I just need to know what’s going on between the two.”Bookmark here

Thankfully, Fran agreed to cooperate. Eric was silent though, but Fran’s cooperation was all I needed for the task so I did not press him for an answer. I was sure he would not be part of the conversation between Fran and Dana anyway.Bookmark here

Afterwards, I excused myself from the couple to wait for Charlie at the back of the restaurant where the employee entrance was. Dana and Fran was going to have their talk in the restaurant, so when I spotted Charlie, I invited him somewhere else.Bookmark here

I took him to a nearby arcade because that was the only place where two guys can go on short notice without being weird. I thought having an activity in front of us would make a good setting to have him talk about stuff, so I invited him to play co-op in a shooting game.Bookmark here

But as soon as the opening scene of the game started, and before I could begin with the questions, he stated “Dana and I had broken up”.Bookmark here

My only thought that time was “That was quick”.Bookmark here

“Can I ask why?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know, I guess the feeling’s just not there anymore.”Bookmark here

With that, I pretty much knew it was the second stage of the laser’s effect – apathy.Bookmark here

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