By 4:30, I was all ready to go. My hair and makeup were done, and I had decided to wear a button-down blouse along with a coffee-colored A-line skirt. But I wasn’t sure if my outfit was right for tonight, and I wanted it to be perfect. Liana still wasn’t back to advise me, so I decided to give her a call.
The strange thing was that I couldn’t find my phone. I knew I had it this morning, right before I had gone jogging. It should have been in the pocket of my gym pants, but it wasn’t.
Frantically, I searched my entire room, and then headed to the living room, dismantling it in my haste. After a good half hour of searching, I knew I had to forget about finding it until I came back from dinner. I had to get going if I was going to be on time to Darryl’s place.
And Liana still wasn’t back for me to tell her verbally that I wasn’t going to be at home for dinner. I grabbed a piece of scrap paper and wrote, “Went to Darryl’s for dinner.”
Then I headed out, and it was only when I was halfway to Darryl’s place that it occurred to me that I should have told Liana to tell Khit when he came by not to go near The Grill House tonight.
Well, I would just have to borrow Darryl’s phone when I got to his place.
Darryl opened the door as soon as I pressed the doorbell. He probably had been looking through his peephole for me.
“You look nice,” he said.
I replied with a thank you as I looked around the place. The apartment wasn’t overly messy, but I could tell it had been haphazardly cleaned, probably only a few hours before I’d arrived. I could smell the lingering scents of week-old pizzas and take-out. There was also a lone sock missing its mate sprawled in the middle of the living room, which had probably dropped out of the laundry pile as someone had transferred his clothes from the dryer.
Darryl saw me eyeing it and sheepishly ran to grab it. “Sorry, don’t know how I missed that.” He shoved the sock under the couch. “I’ll deal with it later. Anyway, I’m making spaghetti and salad for us. So just sit right here, and I’ll do all the work. All you have to do is talk to me.”
“Well, how’s life?” I asked, for lack of a better conversation starter.
He lifted his head from chopping onions. “Good. Busy, but good. Work’s been taking up most of my life, or I would have called you up a lot sooner. We should have done this a long time ago.”
“That’s OK,” I said. “It’s understandable.”
We addled in idle chatter, catching up on our lives since we had last seen each other. He had a lab job, cleaning dishware and setting up equipment for lab classes. Not a very interesting job in my opinion, but at least he was doing something with his time, unlike me.
I had nothing much to tell him. Even though so much had happened between Khit, me, and the yaojing world, nothing significant that I could actually reveal had occurred in my life. I ate, slept, went for a jog, maybe read a book or two. But what had I actually done? If I were to die right now, I would have done nothing with my life to contribute to the future of society.
But instead of unveiling these self-critical thoughts, I told Darryl that my summer had been relaxing and highly enjoyable.
Which really wasn’t a lie. I had enjoyed Khit’s company, despite learning that the yaojing might come to kill me any day now.
And speaking of Khit…I still had to warn him!
I looked at my watch. 5:30 sharp. Khit should be at my apartment.
I asked to borrow Darryl’s phone, telling him I had lost mine and hadn’t told Liana where I’d be. “I just need to make sure she saw my note.”
As if my words had triggered an alarm, a phone began to play the Star Wars theme. Darryl was such a nerd.
He pulled it out of his pocket and glanced at the caller ID.
“Looks like she beat you to it,” he grinned.
I took the phone from him as he proceeded to focus his attention on dinner. Then I walked to the far corner of the living room before answering.
“Caren, where are you?” Liana’s frantic voice startled me.
“Didn’t you read my note?” I assumed she had, since she’d known to call Darryl. “I’m eating dinner at Darryl’s place.”
She immediately calmed down. “You don’t know how relieved I am. Khit really freaked me out.”
Khit? An immediate sense of dread took a hold of me.
“He came looking for you,” Liana said. “Said he had some dream that you were hurt and just wanted extra assurance that you were all right.”
“Is he still there? Let me talk to him.”
“He just left. When I said you went out to eat with Darryl, he asked me if you had gone to The Grill House. I told him I didn’t know, and he ran out without even saying goodbye. Poor guy seems so paranoid for your safety.”
Oh no! Khit was going to The Grill House.
Instantly, I knew what Scyther was plotting. He had probably convinced Khit that I was in danger at The Grill House, the same restaurant where the yaojing were having their reunion. If Khit went there, he’d see Julia, and their curse would forever remain a curse.
“Thanks Liana. I’ll see you later.” Without waiting for a goodbye, I hung up the phone. I had to beat Khit to the restaurant.
I hoped Darryl wouldn’t be offended, but I had no time to explain.
“Darryl,” I called to him. He looked up at me.
“Is everything all right?”
“There’s been an emergency, and I have to leave. No time to explain.” I was already pulling on my high-heeled boots as I said this. “We’ll have to catch up some other time. I’m so sorry.”
I didn’t even wait to be escorted out the door, didn’t even hear his reply. All I knew was that I had to stop Khit from entering that restaurant and seeing his mother.