Chapter 14:

You Missed A Spot Over There

I Know It Might Be Wrong, But...

Steven is an early riser. With or without morning practice to attend to, he would usually be awake by some time around six in the morning. As long as he went to bed at his usual time, that is.

He is not especially strict with his waking time, though. He still affords himself to sleep in for maybe five or ten minutes, fifteen at most, whenever he feels his bed was especially comfortable that morning. He was not strict because waking at six is not a rule he made for himself; it was just how his body worked. But, because it was how his body had worked, he had a hard time going back to sleep past that fifteen-minute cutoff so he would be up by that time whether he wanted to or not.

For today, however, there was no sleeping in. In fact, he aimed to wake earlier than usual as there was something he wanted to do, something that he thought he would have accomplished within his regular schedule but met with failure as he had not considered the circumstances more. Getting out of bed early is one of the lessons learned from his previous mistake as he looked to try again on this new day.

His mother, who is also another early riser, was not even up yet when he left for school. Generally, she would be awake just before six, a bit earlier than Steven, so she could prepare breakfast for the family. It was only five-thirty when Steven walked out the front door with a peanut butter sandwich, which he made himself to eat on the go, in hand.

His destination, though, was not the school. At least, not yet. Morning practice for his basketball club is still more than an hour away. Also, his commute only takes twenty minutes and he was aware that the gates will not be open yet once he gets there. There was some other place he wanted - no, he had to go to this early in the morning before heading for school.

Another lesson he had learned from the previous failure is to inform his intentions to the related party earlier. Just before setting off, he sent a message saying he was coming for a visit. After a while, he had not gotten a reply, nor was the chat application showing that the message had been seen, so he tried calling.

His first call, he heard a few rings before the call was dropped. The next attempt, he only got one ring. The third time, the call could no longer be connected. The person he was trying to call had turned their phone off.

He thought he was being avoided again, never mind that he was calling at an unreasonable hour.

On the other side though, the person he was trying to reach mistook the calls for an alarm. They did not even bother looking at the screen and swiped with impunity just so the noise would stop and they could go back to sleep. After the second time, they got annoyed because it was still too early and turned their phone off.

Regardless, Steven pushes on. He could still ring their doorbell. Luckily for him, there was someone to answer the door for him, and it's the very person he wanted to meet: Stacy’s mom.

"Oh my, good morning, mister boyfriend", she greeted as soon as she saw he was the one by the door.

He was lucky, indeed, he thought, catching her still awake. But, what he did not know was she had Mondays off from working at the bar, so on Tuesdays, she would normally be up in the morning as she had slept for the night.

Either way, while today so far has been a day of practicing the lessons learned from past mistakes, there is still one thing he is unable to change with himself. Like the first couple of times of meeting the person in front of him, he immediately got nervous.

He still managed to greet good morning back, though meekly.

Whatever happened to the confidence he had the week before? Well, the overthinking he has been doing over the weekend on what he could do to clear up the misunderstanding of him being Stacy’s boyfriend did not help. He thought he also had to explain why he went there in the first place, which was making him nervous. He was not ready for a confession yet, even if indirect.

Due to this, there was a brief pause until Stacy’s mom invited him in. Of course, she was under the assumption he was there to pick up Stacy for school.

"Come in", she said. "I'll wake Stacy up for you. But, is there something happening at school for you two to show up early for? She hasn't told me anything."

"Oh no, nothing of the sort so you don't have to wake her up", Steven replied as he stepped into the apartment. Then, he got tongue-tied trying to explain his presence there. "Actually, I'm…"

Stacy’s mom was one to jump into conclusions though. Not waiting for Steven to finish his sentence, she wrongly finished it for him. "I know, you're here to make breakfast for her!"

Before he could deny it, he was already being ushered to the kitchen.

"What a sweet boy my girl found", Stacy’s mom proudly commented as she led Steven a few steps towards the kitchen counter. "None of the boys I dated in high school ever cooked breakfast for me so I'm kind of jealous, too."

"Then, I'll cook for you", Steven reflexively stated. He meant that for Stacy’s mom to be impressed at him romantically.

"Oh my, how very nice of you", she replied. But, of course, as he had not communicated that part, and the misunderstandings have yet to be cleared, she was only impressed as a parent would to a person romantically interested in her child. She only thought she was an afterthought, but she did not mind.

Nonetheless, Steven decided to go with the flow. In his mind, it was a chance to impress. But, there was just one problem. The flow had led him to a situation where he had to cook.

He did not know how to cook. He knew how to chop things up thanks to home economics classes, but they were always a group effort and he was never the one to do the actual cooking. At best, he can make a toast and put together a sandwich. He can also pour milk into cereal, but anything else, he was clueless in the kitchen.

Based on his experience the last time he had breakfast at Stacy’s place, he had the impression that the only sort of breakfast he could come up with would not fly as everything was cooked. Consequently, he had frozen up due to the pressure.

"Nervous?" Stacy's mom quipped, seeing Steven's state.

Steven managed to make eye contact, but only gave a wry smile as he was unable to offer the explanation of him being unskilled in the art of cooking. Not because he was tongue-tied again, though, but because Stacy’s mom was quicker to jump to his rescue.

"Then, I'll help. I was about to make breakfast anyway. Also, this way, you can also learn a bit about how Stacy likes her food."

Even though Steven wanted to react to the last bit, he kept quiet. He was quick to realize it was a good opportunity for him to do something together with his crush, so there was no way he was going to turn away the offer of help.

The activity, however, was not going smoothly. He was only cooking eggs, but his best batch came out a little burnt. That was also after a handful of failures.

Stacy’s mom was patient with Steven along the way, which he was thankful for. The experience has also raised his affection for her. But, it has not made him any more courageous in finally correcting the misunderstanding she had of his relationship with her daughter.

Coincidentally, when they finished cooking, Stacy had come out of the bedroom to prepare for the day.

"Good morning", she greeted the people in the kitchen, visibly half asleep.

The pair in the kitchen greeted her back.

Then, Stacy jumped back when she realized there was one more person in her house than usual at this time of the day. She recognized them, of course, especially her mom, obviously, but she was surprised at the presence of Steven.

"What are you doing here?!" she frantically asked him with a flushed face as she adjusted the shirt she was wearing as it exposed her shoulder. Like the day before, she is embarrassed to be seen just after getting out of bed, hence her reaction.

Steven was not the one to answer her question though. Her mom excitedly replied, "Why, he's come over to cook you breakfast".

"Huh? Breakfast? Me? Why?"

Totally confused by the answer, Stacy could only muster one-word sentences for her reaction.

"You should know why, you silly girl. Now, wash your face so we can eat."

Stacy was still unable to process the situation, but she heeded her mom regardless and went into the bathroom.

Steven, seeing the conversation between Stacy and her mom, felt he should say something. At this rate, he thought, he would go nowhere with his romantic pursuit. But, as he was gathering up his courage, Stacy’s mom asked him to help her set up the table, and so he procrastinated with his resolution.

He would start to think about it again soon though.

After Stacy had washed her face, grabbed a hoodie to wear so Steven would not see the grungy loose shirt she was wearing, and tied her unbrushed hair to a ponytail so the bed hair would not be obvious, the three sat down to eat. As soon as she saw what was on her plate, she made a complaint about the state of the eggs.

"Don't be like that. Your boyfriend really did his best to make that", Stacy’s mom reacted.

"At least it doesn't look like there are eggshells in it", Stacy said, making further observations. "How's the taste?"

"I believe you should be the one doing the honors of tasting it first", her mom playfully answered.

"Ehh?" Stacy grumbled. She could not believe they did not do a taste test before serving it and thought she was being goaded into having a bite of what Steven had prepared. Regardless, she proceeded to pick a piece to eat anyway.

She takes a bite, but before she could make a comment about the taste, Steven grabbed her and her mom's attention.

"Ma'am", he loudly said. "I'm not sure how to say this, but I'm actually not Stacy’s boyfriend."

He had finally mustered the courage to fix the misunderstanding. He built it up while Stacy and her mom were talking about the food as he could no longer take hearing he was Stacy’s boyfriend. However, he had only resolved to make his real confession after being asked why he was not Stacy’s boyfriend.

"Is that true?" Stacy's mom asked, surprised but calm.

Meanwhile, Stacy looked like she was about to panic. Her ruse was about to be uncovered and she was thinking how to salvage the situation depending on her mom's reaction.

But, for better or for worse, the reaction was not what either of them expected.

Stacy’s mom lit up and continued "So you haven't asked Stacy to go steady with you yet? Don't worry, you already have my blessing!"

Steven tried to protest that she was wrong, but he could not cut into the barrage of compliments about him to convince Stacy to go steady with him right away.

Stacy, though, was wondering if her mom was simply dense.