About a week after dealing with Nai-bu’s parents, we still hadn’t figured out where to go on a date. Despite how I’ve already managed to make time for Nai-bu, my streaming schedule can be demanding, and streaming in the evening while Nai-bu works in the morning made our overlap minimal. Admittedly the real problem was agreeing on where we would want to both go.
The biggest challenge was my problem with crowds. I had a hard enough time with the reunion, though it didn’t help that eyes were on me. Jason’s show wasn’t as bad, but being in the park always felt nostalgic and leaves huge areas to stare at and imagine myself in. Even the time walking Kyle to the gas station was fine because walking around a neighborhood is typically a mostly empty affair. Dates, though, take place in downtowns or at venues, right? It was hard finding an option that would be empty enough to not overwhelm me.
In the meantime, Nai-bu was coming over more frequently. Since she had the spare house key I didn’t mind her letting herself in, but it started to feel like she was making up excuses to come over. She mentioned her job hunt and wanting to apply to places nearby, but never talked about any interviews or calls she was getting. She would also ask me if I had plans for dinner, as if she didn’t know it's either jerky or whatever I feel like ordering in. She seemed to get excited about cooking dinner, but it would also be an excuse for her to clean.
It started simple. She’d clean up the kitchen because she was using it, even if it was my mess. Then she started cleaning the living room and even asking if she could use the vacuum while I was streaming. Soon enough the living room and kitchen were looking clean and I would feel bad making any mess. It wasn’t enough to make me not make a mess, but I would still think about how hard Nai-bu was working on cleaning up after me. I should be able to do it myself!
Of course, not everything was easy. I trusted her to sort my mail, because Dale covered most of the bills without needing to look at them, so I doubted there was anything to worry about. It really came down to looking at the dining room that became an issue.
“What are all of those boxes for anyway? Did they need to go to the basement?” Nai-bu would ask, trying to peek, but also wanting my permission beforehand.
“Probably witch stuff. I don’t really know where Mama wanted to put them, but they’ve been here since she left.” I couldn’t do magic, at least not the type Mama does, so I never really paid any mind to it.
“Why don’t we see if there is room in the basement then? Then we could eat in here sometime!” She sounded really excited, but I couldn’t get it.
“Jason is the only other person I would expect to come over for dinner, and we just eat at the table in the kitchen if that happens.” I don’t even remember a time where Mama had guests eating in the dining room.
Nai-bu looked discouraged when I said that. It was nice that she wanted to have people come over here, but I don’t know if I’m ready for that. I don’t want to raise her hopes so quickly. I’m still getting used to having someone come over so often and for so long. It was weird not being alone.
Another topic Nai-bu would try to bring up was the upstairs in my house. The second level had Mama’s bedroom, Mama’s study, and another bathroom. I didn’t want to go up there without her home, and I didn’t want anyone else to mess with her stuff. I’m sure it was dusty up there, but it was hard to acknowledge how long she had been gone. I had no idea when she’d be back, and I didn’t want her to feel unwelcome in her own home.
“You’re sure you don’t even want to clean up a little up there? I heard it was bad to leave faucets unused for long periods of time.” Nai-bu sounded concerned. “Or what if there’s a leaky roof and you don’t catch it?”
“It’ll be okay. I really want to leave it alone.” I said, a bit wistful. “Please promise you won’t go up there.”
“I won’t. It’s okay.” She tried to be comforting, but it just left us both uncomfortable.
In order to distract Nai-bu from cleaning, or asking about the sad things in my home, I would make her play games with me. It was mostly an excuse to try out older games I hadn’t played in a while. I wasn’t much of a retro gaming collector, but I had a hard time selling old gaming stuff even when support was dropped. Nai-bu would sometimes get overwhelmed, but it felt nice helping her get better at games. It honestly was cute to watch her struggle and start to figure something out, then follow my tips.
Distracting her from cleaning just brought us to talking about the date we wanted to plan.
“Why don’t we just go shopping? Like at the mall?” Nai-bu suggested.
“Do people still do that? I’ve only ever bought my own clothes online.” Mama pretty much picked whatever she wanted me to wear as a kid.
“Yeah! And it could be good practice being around people!” It seemed like Nai-bu already had the idea locked in. “And maybe I could pick something out for you to wear…”
Not the most glamorous first date idea, but it sounded good. Yeah. Going to the mall and shopping for clothes. The more I thought about it the better it sounded, and Nai-bu looked like she couldn’t contain herself at the prospect. I just hope I’m not a drag in public.