“We’re free, big-bro-by-seconds!”
“And we look good. Watch out, ladies,” Shilah added with a smouldering grin. Recently sparkled into childhood, the pair was anxious to explore the town (and cause mayhem, of course). They were in luck — Hale had a day off work for the first time in as long as anyone could remember. He gathered up the family and headed over to the community park, built from the ground up by their long since passed grandparents.
The older siblings took a little longer in getting there (“What? You think I wake up looking this good? Ha!” Aleka interjected), but better late than never. Hani and Ailani were subtle in their entrance, but Aleka turned heads everywhere she went. Her party personality and natural flirtatious attitude made her a total babe magnet (though she wasn’t opposed to the occasional football player).
Thankfully Hale had the boys to distract him; watching his baby girl flirt (and be flirted with) would’ve been torture. Sure, he wanted grandkids someday…someday, not today. He submersed himself in his designated roll as sea monster, completely oblivious to Aleka’s romantic escapades.
Akoni, the “forgotten child,” shook her head in disbelief. Sure, when they want to go to the park, we go to the park. When they want him to play sea monster, he starts flailing his arms around. I’ve been asking for him to play sea monster for weeks and he’s “too busy” or “too stressed” or whatever. Stupid boys.
Her bitterness only grew when Hale ran up to Shilah, pulled him off the ship, and gave him a big hug. I’ve only gotten like, what? One hug? Ever! She’d done everything she could think of to get his attention. At first she thought if she dressed tomboyish, she would be his favorite because she’d be “the boy he always wanted.” When that didn’t work, she even braided back all of her beautiful curly hair. Nope, nothing. Not even a, “I like the new hairstyle, Akoni!” And now he had two actual boys. She sighed, trying to push the topic out of her mind.
On the other side of the park, Hani ran into an old friend from school, Rowan. He was quite a bit older than her; he graduated soon after she started high school, but she was glad to see a somewhat familiar face nonetheless.
“So, you’re still in the area then? Are you working, or…?”
“You remember those lame field trips we used to take to the science lab when we were kids? Well, I guess my grades were kind of impressive, because I got a payed internship there straight out of high school! It’s pretty fun, actually, and it pays the bills. What about you? Where do you work?”
“Err…actually, I’m…still in school,” she admitted shyly. Plum. He’s so much older and…mature…she realized suddenly and felt a bit embarrassed. “But that’s so cool!” she changed the topic quickly. “I loved those trips — I’m actually pretty into that science stuff. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m building a rocketship for my senior year science project.” She couldn’t help but smile proudly at her own accomplishment; she was already two levels into her ship, and after the weekend, it should be fully functional.
“Maybe…you could stop by my place and take a look at it sometime,” she added hesitantly. “You know, for scientific purposes,” she added quickly, as to not be so obvious. Ugh, crushes are so high school, she groaned inwardly. But she couldn’t help but acknowledge the butterflies in her stomach when she thought of him…and herself…in space…ahhh.
“That’s…impressive!” Rowan exclaimed. He was taken aback a bit; he wasn’t expecting Hani to be so…mature. He remembered the mouthy kid in obnoxious flower glasses, and now he was facing a very grown up woman. Sure, the age difference was a bit awkward, but he couldn’t help but think about the possibilities. “Sure, I’m free on the weekends. Call me?”
Tired from his pirate adventure, Shilah sat down across from an old man at the chess table. He wasn’t sure how he felt about old people; both sets of his grandparents passed away before he was even born. He looked the man up and down, the finally asked, “What’s it feel like to be old?”
The man burst out in a hearty laugh. “Sonny, don’t take your youth for granted. That’s all I’ve got to tell ya. Now, are we gonna play chess or stare at each other all day?”
Satisfied with his answer, Shilah moved a pawn. Little did he know, that one move was the beginning of an epic chess match.
After winning his very first game of chess ever, he puffed up his chest with confidence. “I’m pretty good at this, huh?” he asked the old man.
“That you are, sonny boy. That you are.” He patted Shilah on the back, then started walking down to the trolley stop.
“Wait! Where are you going?” Shilah demanded.
“Elders’ night at the Solar Flare! Drinks are half-price for anyone with grey hair. Being old isn’t all bad!” he yelled over his shoulder, then walked out of sight, his hearty laugh echoing in Shilah’s ears.
Figuring she had nothing better to do, Akoni played him next. “Look bro,” she started, “Don’t be upset when I destroy you, okay? I’ve just been doing this a lot longer.” She couldn’t believe her eyes when Shilah had her king cornered in just a few moves. “You totally cheated!” she accused, thinking of no other logical explanation for her defeat.
“Don’t be upset, okay?” Shilah said mockingly.
She immediately ran over to their dad, telling him all about Shilah’s antics and demanding he do something about it. Hale smirked as he took a seat across from his youngest son. He raised an eyebrow, silently challenging him to make the first move.
For the longest time, they were neck and neck. There was no clear winner, and with each move, it only got more confusing. They had begun to draw quite the crowd; some were declaring Shilah a chess prodigy, others were waiting for what they knew was inevitable — the Taylor sneak attack. He’d finally figured out her “strategy,” or more accurately, “anti-strategy” — she made the most random moves she could without sacrificing her king and queen just to confuse her opponent, then got her knight in just the right position to take out her opponent’s king. No one suspected the knight.
Little did Hale know, it wasn’t the sneak attack that threw Shilah off his game. He was completely distracted by the beautiful teenager walking his direction. “I call playing winner,” she announced as she approached the table. He could’ve swore she was flirting with him (Akoni snorted; everyone knew teenagers didn’t like kids), but he wasn’t able to confirm, as Hale easily won the game and decided it was time to go home.
“Aw, c’mon! Laaame,” she called after him as he followed his family out of the park.
Shilah sighed deeply. I’ll be back for you… he promised silently.
The family arrived home just in time for dinner; Arielle was making spaghetti. “Mmm, spaghetti!” Shilah exclaimed, having already completely forgotten the girl at the park.
Stupid boys, Akoni glared at her brother.