We we’re outnumbered. Two hundred adults to two hundred fifty children. You’d think that extra fifty children wouldn’t be much. But they got the best of us. Even lost my rose earrings.
I think they planned ahead. They all made trouble.
Sixty minutes later we finally settled the children with a sweet lullaby that they all knew and loved. Let it go. Of course.
But while the children we’re squeaky clean from the pool party after their fun food fight. I and one hundred ninety nine other staff were covered in spaghetti sauce.
Poke. Poke. Pause. I ignored. Poke. Poke. Pause.
I turned around to face my annoyance. “Oh it’s you.” I blushed we we’re so close. I could smell his cologne.
“You have sauce on your hair.” He says. How about everywhere mister genius. “Here.” I was too distracted with his face that I didn’t notice he was giving me a hand towel.
“I know I’m handsome but here,” he raised the towel to where my eyes were, “Oh.” was all I said before I took the black hand towel.
I helplessly and miserably failed at wiping the sauce with the amazingly smelling towel. I looked closely at it and it had an embroidery, gold to be exact. I looked closer.
“Finally,” I whispered, I know. “What?” He asked. I jumped holding onto the cloth I thought he left already.
“Sorry I was just getting frustrated I can’t see where all the sauce went.” Smooth Scar.
Moving even closer he takes the towel from me slightly grazing his soft fingers on mine. “Let me.” He said.
The only thing I could do was stand. Like a deer caught in headlights. He wiped some on my hair, my arms and the dreaded part.
He slightly turned so he could face me properly, me meaning, my face. I blinked. He smirked but continued anyway. I wish I could see his eyes. Those shades are starting to annoy me.
It was probably done less than five minutes but he was taking his damn time wiping my face. Then for some reason he stopped midway and suddenly stepped away and just left.
I was just, confused wasn’t the word. But those thoughts had to be put on hold because the song was finished and the children came running back to their mentors.
“Hey Scar,” she looks at me, “oh you got cleaned up nicely.” Why thanks. “Did you enjoy the song Francine?” I asked and she nods her head up and down with a beautiful smile.
She was about to say something but then looks up and says, “who’s your friend?” I was confused so I followed her eyes only to be met by the mesmerizing blue eyes hidden behind those shades.
“Oh.” Again, speechless. Get a grip, “so who is he?” Francine pushed, and that brought me out, “he’s umm…” I stop for a second to think but he sits down to face Francine on her level.
Let me tell you a handsome boy beside a child? Adorableness that is lethal. My heart will drop like shit.
“My name is Chase,” he said his voice finally less aggressive. “What’s your name?” He asked sweetly. SWEETLY?
What you on about about Scarlett?
“Her name is Francine and she’s?” I ask her to continue, “I’m five,” she was so happy telling everyone her age with her hands too.
She laughs and takes my hand and Chase too. Giggling as she tried to pull us both her cute and tiny body.
It was time for gifts. Chase looked so uncomfortable but there was a smile on his face. Maybe he was almost enjoying it.
My back straightened. Did I just…
Again, not having time to react properly as they announced the count down to giving the gifts. As they count from ten I take the gift and ponder if I should let Chase do the honors.
Smiling at watching him interact with Francine, I knew the answer. I cleared my throat. He turns his head slightly. His eyes directly looking at mine with no hesitation. I take a breath.
He lifts an eyebrow, “yeah?” he asks while I gesture to the gift asking him if he wants to give it. He closes his eyes and the side of lips raises for a second into a distant smile. “Sure.”
I pass it to him, again, our fingers touch, gee, why do I have to be so sensitive? Francine jumps happily as…”3…2…1!”
Francine with a smile turns to me but I point at Chase and her smile widens. “Gimme some love Chase!” She shouts cutely, if screams we’re ever adorable. He laughs at her actions.
“Okay, okay,” He kneels down in front of her and his eyes look at me for a second. “Promise me something first?” He asks her, “anything!” was her response.
He pinches her cheeks, “don’t let anyone take away your pretty smile, alright?” That was just the sweetest thing. She nods and claps a yes.
Like I didn’t need my heart to die more he adds, “pinky swear?” He brings out his pinkie finger and so does Francine and they made the promise official.
Chase gives her the gift, bows a thank you and runs to her friends. “Your own kind is your kryptonite I see.” I kid.
His face makes a puzzling look, “You’re a child she’s a child…” I explain with hand gestures and then laugh when his eyes dead panned but his lips smirked.
He didn’t say anything which was weird since he always had a snarky retort. “well, thank you anyway, for the towel and this.” I point out to Francine.
Turning away from me to look at Francine and putting his hands on his pockets. “The honors mine.”
We have this long silence where it wasn’t awkward as we both watch the children’s faces filled with happiness and laughter. They’ve opened their gifts and showed it off to their friends.
The manager was talking but I couldn’t hear her, I was too focused on the boy beside me. The way he softly smiles when Francine does something cute or how he would laugh a little when she would tell someone her age, again and again.
He suddenly slowly but hesitantly scratches the back of his head, “ummm, do I have to…” Not hearing the announces, he was stopped mid way as Francine runs to us and embraces us.
“THANK YOU! I LOVE IT!” I must have zoned out on the hug thing before they leave. Awkwardly in between Francine and Chase, I tried to smile, really, I tried. But I could feel the warmth of his arm and I could feel it too much it was weird.
I slowly let go of Francine but she still continues to hug Chase. Now he looked the definition of awkward. Guess he doesn’t like hugs.
His mouth was open in shock, still, so stiff like he saw something he shouldn’t. His left arm around Francine and his right, where I was, lay stiffly on his side. While, oblivious Francine had her arms around his neck and kept saying thank you and smiling.
I laughed, it was too cute. My laughter seemed to have brought him out and started to move away from Francine but she had a grip on her hug so he couldn’t get away.
He stared at me and mouthed, ‘help’ I shook my head and his eyes widened for a second. Was that fear?
My laughter died out and I tap on Francine’s shoulders and she turns to me, “Come on time to say goodbye.” She pouts but let’s go. I could see Chase exaggeratedly exhale. I smile again. “Too late to ask if I had to hug her.” I agreed.
Time went by fast as the last batch of children left. I almost had tears saying goodbye. Attachment issues.
“You just met them Miss Crest,” someone said and I recognized shortly as Mr. Reed. We both walked in the hall passing by the managers, who by the way, eyed both of us.
Small school owner. The manager’s voice rang in my head. “Well I love children and I hate goodbyes.” Was my reply. Un-bothered queen right here.
“I’ll see you at the ball tomorrow then?” Mr. Reed asks who was not looking at me, by the way, but at Chase who was helping.
“Ms. Crest am I hallucinating or my son is actually cleaning right now?” I laughed at his comment. “Beats me sir, I think I’m hallucinating too.” We laughed together and continued staring at Chase.
As if he could hear us from a far he turns to us and stares. We both stop laughing and smiled at him instead. He walks to us but before he throws the bag of trash he had on the bin.
“Hey son,” Mr. Reed acknowledge and he nods at him but turns to me. “Thank you for joining,” his dad adds and I nod in agreement.
He shrugs and suddenly grabs my wrist, “what are you doing!” I shout. He grabs another eco bag and picks up trash, “stop laughing around and start picking up trash isn’t that what you’re good at?” Well hello King Moody.
I just laughed and started cleaning. Everyone helped and made the place shiny and clean as it was before. At the end as we sat in front of the center stage, Mr. Reed among the other fathers and mothers gave their gratitude to their children. I felt awkward being there, I was neither a child or a company staff. I was no one here though that didn’t affect me.
Yet as I stood beside Chase, I felt my confidence grow stronger. As if he was there telling me, You aren’t nobody. The thought surprised me.
Crazy talk. “I’m going to see all of you tomorrow at the ball, alright?” Mr. Reed announces probably really just talking to Chase.
When the program ended and I was walking out to the bus station. Mr. Reed asked me once more if I was attending the ball. “Yes I will.” I answered with a nervous smile. He smiled as well and bid me safe travels home.
And maybe it was my hallucination from exhaustion but behind Mr. Reed a few feet away stood Chase. Who smiled a little when he heard my answer.
Dammit I still don’t have a dress!!!
Guess who was listening to Bellyache by Billie Eilish the whole time while writing this chapter? Yup, on repeat. That is me.