October 31, 2008
“Explain to me again why you’re not cleaning house this afternoon?” Frank said, angrily. Friday afternoons had traditionally been the day Dakotah cleaned the house, so his mother wouldn’t have to do anything while she was off weekends.
“I’ve already explained it to you and mom a couple of nights ago.” Dakotah said tolerantly. “I’m going to a Halloween party this evening.”
“You? A party? “Frank laughed, mockingly. “What kind of wacko loser would invite you to their party?”
“Hannah’s not a loser. She’s a friend of Ely’s, and she’s a student at Michigan. The school is sponsoring it.”
“Oh? College party, eh? Well, if you get drunk, and thrown in jail, don’t expect us to bail your ass out!”
“It’s for people under 21, so there’s no alcohol.” Dakotah said, his patience rapidly waning. “I don’t drink, anyway.”
“What the hell’s the point of going to a party if there’s no booze?” Frank shouted, incredulously. “A geek like you is not going to get laid, anyway, so you should be getting drunk! Put some hair on your shrunken chest!”
“Whatever. I have to go get ready. I’ll clean house tomorrow.” Dakotah turned to go upstairs.
“Instead of partying, you need to be looking for a job, you bum!” Frank sneered.
Dakotah turned and faced Frank. The sedentary lifestyle Frank had been living the past couple of years was not treating him well. The powerful barrel-chested body he once had become bloated and flabby. Still, he wasn’t someone Dakotah wanted to tussle with.
“Frank, I’ve put applications in at every convenience store, gas station, and restaurant that were taking them, plus I’ve registered at the employment office. I honestly don’t know what else I could do.”
“Well, things are tight, and we can’t keep feeding you forever. You’re going to have to either pull your own weight, or find someplace else to live.”
Dakotah shook his head, and walked up the stairs to his room without saying a word. The month or so since his mother had been laid off had been stressful at times for them; the unemployment checks that his mother was getting were nowhere near what she was making on the assembly line. However, this had not slowed down the amount of beer, movie rentals, and lottery tickets that Frank purchased with his disability checks.
Entering his room, Dakotah went to his closet, and retrieved the costume he was to wear to the party. Actually, it wasn’t a costume at all, but a suit with a dark blue jacket, and brown dress slacks. They were originally his grandfather’s; Elizabeth thought it a good idea for him to have dress clothes in case he had a job interview, so she gave him a blue suit, and a brown one, as well. There were also several ties, one of which was a bright red one, and he chose that to go with the suit.
To portray the character Koizumi Itsuki, his jacket had to have the school crest on the lapel; Ely was in charge of this, having to go to a cosplay store in Ann Arbor to get one. She was to pick him up at 3:30, and go back to her place while she finished getting ready, also to fine tune his costume, if needed. Dakotah checked the clock; it was 3:15, so he quickly finished getting dressed, and made his way to the front porch, where he would wait on her. Since the altercation with Frank a month ago, Ely had stopped honking her horn when she arrived.
Stepping out on the porch, Dakotah noticed the wind had picked up, blowing leaves from the big maples next door, and piling them up against the hedges in their front yard. “Oh well, more work for me!” he thought. It was quite the warm wind, unseasonably so. He surmised it would be a good night for trick-or-treating; it didn’t really matter at their household, as their lights were always off on Halloween night.
A sense of dread began to creep up on Dakotah as he waited; although he was used to being around people in a church setting, being at a party was another matter entirely. He figured that a good percentage, if not most, of the people there would be unfriendly to him.
He wasn’t sure about Hannah, either. Even though Ely had repeatedly vouched for her character, they had never met, nor had they ever spoke on the phone. Dakotah felt this was odd; “Perhaps a friend of a friend is not my friend?” he thought.
On schedule, Ely pulled up, beckoning Dakotah to get in. Once he was buckled in she quickly accelerated out into the street.
“In a hurry, are we?” Dakotah said, becoming a bit nervous.
“Well, I have to get a shower, do my hair and makeup, get my costume on, get your costume ready- ah, from what decade did those clothes come from, anyway?”
“70s, 80s, who knows? It’s okay, isn’t it?” Dakotah said, unsure.
“No!” Ely said, forcefully. “We can get away with the pants, but the jacket has to go! Fortunately, I picked up a proper North High jacket at the cosplay shop.”
“Isn’t that kind of expensive?”
“Twenty dollars is all, and it’s worth every penny! Can’t have you going there, and being judged Ultimate Fail!”
“Ultimate Fail? What does that mean? It doesn’t sound very good.”
“They are having a contest for the best costume.” Ely replied. “Winner gets 500 dollars, but the one with the worst costume is judged Ultimate Fail, gets a joke prize of some sort, and is generally humiliated by everyone.”
Dakotah thought for a minute. “Should we even be going to this? It doesn’t sound like very much fun. Watching someone being embarrassed isn’t something I want to be a part of.”
“I promise if things go bad, we’ll leave.” Ely said assuredly. “I don’t like a zoo atmosphere any more than you do, trust me.”
“What about Hannah? Would you leave her there, if she didn’t want to leave?”
“I’m sure she would leave, too. She understands how I feel about such things.”
Dakotah paused for another moment. “Am I being paranoid in thinking Hannah is purposely avoiding me? You’d think we would have at least one conversation over the phone by now.”
“Yes, you’re being paranoid.” Ely said, irritated. “Look, once you two get to know each other, you’ll be best buds. She has a lot of Andre in her, I think.”
“You think so?” Dakotah said, slightly relieved. “Maybe I am being paranoid.” he thought.
“So, are you excited about the big party?” Rev. Daniels asked.
“More apprehensive than anything, Alan.” Dakotah replied. “I’m not too much on being in crowds.”
“You always seem fine to me.”
“”Being at New Hope is different than at a party with a bunch of college students.” Dakotah said, frowning. “I tend to get messed with by someone.”
“Well at least you’re not there alone this time. Ely will be there, as well as Hannah.”
“What’s your opinion of Hannah?” Dakotah asked, eager to hear what the pastor had to say.
“She seems to be a nice girl. I’ve only met her a couple of times. I’ve asked her to visit New Hope some Sunday, but she has not taken me up on the offer.”
“I’ve never so much as spoken to her.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “I feel uneasy about her feelings toward me. Am I being paranoid?”
“I could see why you think that. Time will tell, as it always does.”
“Well? What do you think?” came a voice from the hallway.
“Wow, Ely. That’s pretty cool! You dyed your hair, and everything!” Rev. Daniels said, impressed.
“Whoa.” Dakotah said, simply. Ely wore a blue and white sailor style school uniform, with a brown sweater and matching brown stockings. Her red hair had been transformed to a purple-gray color, and she wore round spectacles.
“Is that a wig?” Dakotah asked, incredulously.
“Nope! I dyed it!” Don’t worry, it’s just temporary! I bought a bottle for you, too, Dak!”
“Wait, what?” Dakotah exclaimed, panicking. “Why do I have to dye my hair?”
“Because Koizumi has dark brown hair, and you don’t!” Ely said, grinning.
“Do I have to? Really?” Dakotah whined. He looked at Rev. Daniels for support, but he just shrugged his shoulders, and smiled.
“Sometimes, you just have to go along with what the ladies want.” Rev. Daniels said. “Wait until you get married. This isn’t anything!”
Ely gave her father an odd look.
Dakotah took a deep sigh. “How do I put this on, anyway?”
“You’d better let me do it.” Ely said, handing Dakotah a trash bag with a hole in the bottom. “Here, put this on.”
“Can I wear this to the party?” Dakotah said, putting on the trash bag.
“Sure, but once we get there, we don’t know each other!” Ely laughed.
Ely quickly made work of coloring Dakotah’s hair from a light sandy color to a dark brown, parting it in the middle with a curved lock of hair between the eyes.
Dakotah immediately began blowing the lock away from his eyes. “This is a pain in the butt!” he fussed.
“Leave it there! It’s part of “the look”! “ Ely fussed back.
“What look is that?” Dakotah protested. “The look of a kewpie doll?
Rev. Daniels began to laugh out loud. “That’s it Dakotah, you could go as a kewpie doll!”
“You’re not helping, dad!” Ely shouted, frustrated.
“Okay, Dak, we’d better let the little lady finish.” Rev. Daniels said, still chuckling.
Dakotah sighed. “She sure is stressing out over a stupid costume party.” he thought.
Soon, Dakotah was prepped out to Ely’s specifications. She brought out a DVD with the Haruhi characters on the cover, and showed it to her father.
“See, doesn’t Dakotah look like Koizumi?” Ely asked.
“Dakotah has a pretty good getup, but yours is the best by far!” Rev. Daniels said, smiling.
“Really? You think so?” Ely said, surprised.
“You should be a lock on the best costume prize.” Dakotah added.
Ely looked at the clock. “Wow, we’re right on time. We’d better get going!”
“I’d better use the facilities before we leave.” Dakotah said. “Ann Arbor is over an hour away.”
“Well, hurry up,” Ely said, irritated. “and don’t mess anything up!”
After Dakotah left the room, Rev. Daniels took Ely’s hands, and held them in his. “Kiddo, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this high strung. You okay?”
Ely shook her head. “I think so. I don’t know.”
“Fretting over Hannah and Dakotah meeting for the first time?”
“Kinda. I’m not sure if they are compatible. Hannah’s personality is so strong, and Dakotah’s is the opposite.”
“I think Dakotah has a lot of personality.” Rev. Daniels countered. “He’s also a lot stronger inside than you think.”
“I don’t know. Hannah can be a bit much, if you’re not used to her. Dakotah’s default mode is to go hide.”
Rev. Daniels gave a wry smile. “I’m not sure about that. You never can tell, he could meet a girl there.”
“Yeah, right.” Ely laughed.
“Oh? You don’t think it’s possible for Dakotah to find someone else?”
“Well, I guess anything’s possible, but I don’t see it happening.”
“Why, because you’re convinced he has eyes only for you?”
“It’s not my fault he’s in love with me.” Ely said pointedly, all the while trying to keep her volume down, so Dakotah wouldn’t hear her.
“Have you ever told him it would be in his best interest to find someone else?”
“The subject hasn’t come up, no.”
“Why wouldn’t it? You’re not doing him any favors by stringing him along; as well as you or Hannah, for that matter.”
“But he has no life outside of New Hope, and working with me on my Japanese. I’m sort of the center of his life.”
“”Ely, I love him at church, and he’s a great guy here. However, my concern is that you like this arrangement, too.”
“I love Dak. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“No, you don’t understand. Do you realize what you two look like when you’re together?”
Ely became a little self-conscious. “No, not really. I figure that we’re a couple of friends, just hanging out.”
“Not exactly. The way you two interact, gazing into each other’s’ eyes while conversing, the way each of you watch the other while they move about the room, remind me of newlyweds.”
“No way.” Ely gasped.
“Yep. Here’s something you don’t know. You two have the couple thing down so well, that a couple of girls from church assume that Dak is taken, and haven’t approached him.”
“Rebecca Jennings, for one.”
“Well, that’s not happening! She’s too young!”
“Is she? She’ll be 17 next week. That’s what, 2 ½ years younger than him? Not that big of a stretch, if you ask me.”
“Besides, she’s the type that would dump him in an instant if someone better came along.”
“Really? The Jennings have been coming to church for about six or seven years, and Rebecca’s always been a nice, polite girl. She doesn’t strike me as the type that goes through a lot of boys.”
“Trust me, she’s no good, dad. Who’s the other one?”
“Vanessa Blan.” Rev. Daniels said, smiling, waiting for the reaction he knew would come.
“WHAT?” Ely yelled, clasping her hand over her mouth, realizing she was loud enough for Dakotah to hear her from anywhere in the house.
“I assume she’s not too young, since she turned 20 back in September. Anything else you want to add about her personality? Think carefully, since I’ve known the Blans for about 15 years.”
Ely looked down, anxious. She had known Vanessa as far back as she could remember, and until a couple of years ago, regarded her as a big sister, albeit one that was tall, blonde, and very good looking
“No.” Ely said, shaking her head in disbelief. “Are you sure? Sure, she’s friendly to him, but she’s like that to everyone.”
“Well, she told me that you were very lucky to find a guy like Dakotah, that she wished she had that kind of luck. What do you think?”
Ely realized she was jealous of Vanessa, and it troubled her. “I don’t know.” she said, downtrodden.
Rev. Daniels leaned over and held his daughter’s hands into his own. “Sweetie, I don’t know if you’ve realized it yet, but from where I sit, you’re carrying on two relationships.”
“Do you think so?” Ely said, sadly.
“Think about it. No, you may have not so much as kissed him, but emotionally, you two are intertwined. If the couples that come in for marriage counseling were as committed to each other as you two, my life would be a whole lot easier! But seriously, for your sake, for Hannah’s sake, and especially for Dakotah’s sake, you have to figure out who you want. You can no longer have it both ways.”
Ely began to weep. “But I can’t leave Dakotah like that! He has no one!”
“Ely, I’m not saying walk out of his life totally. You can still be his best friend, even. Bring him over for your Japanese studies, if he wants. However, if you are committed to Hannah – you are committed to Hannah, right?”
“Yes. I love her.”
“Okay. What you have to do is set boundaries between you two. First, you have to understand, since you are committed to Hannah, that you have to push him away, and not to give him hope that someday, if he stays patient, you’ll come around, and choose him instead. Second, after you break his heart, and you will break his heart, you’ll have to pick him up, dust him off, and make him understand that he is not as pathetic as he thinks he is, that there are plenty of girls out there that would be happy as his girlfriend. If he doesn’t believe you, have Vanessa talk to him! Finally, I’m giving you this chance to fix it yourself. If you need my help, just point him my way, and I’ll point him in the right direction. Now, do you understand all this?”
“I think so. I’m not sure if I can tell him tonight, though. I don’t know what to say, or how to say it, yet.”
“That’s fine, as long as you do it soon. This is really for the best for all three of you.”
Ely took a deep breath, exhaled, and hugged her father. “I love you.” she said, teary-eyed.
“Love you.” Rev. Daniels replied, hugging her tightly. “Speaking of Dakotah, where is he? Is he still in the bathroom?”
At that moment, Dakotah entered the room! “Oy!” Dakotah said loudly, as he exhaled. “Ever since mom’s been laid off, she’s been experimenting in the kitchen. Lunch was a Norwegian – Mexican curry with brown rice!”
“And you ate that?” Ely said, making a face.
“Yeah, it wasn’t too bad, but it sure cleaned me out!” he said laughing, as the other two joined in.
The first minutes of the trip were eerily quiet. Dakotah instantly knew as he entered the living room, something was off. He noticed Ely had been crying, and he felt that he was the topic of discussion. Rather than inquiring about their conversation, he felt better to make a joke about his mother’s cooking, and his resulting gastric issues, instead. The vibe in the room lightened, and Rev. Daniels gave his usual speech about being careful, and having fun.
However, the mood in the car remained somber, as Ely, who usually was quite talkative and cheerful, had been silent for the entire trip thus far.
As they turned onto Grange Hall Road, Dakotah decided to force the issue.
“Hey, you OK?” Dakotah asked. “Did you and your dad get into an argument?”
Ely exhaled. “More of a discussion, I guess.”
“Was it about the party, Hannah, me, or all of the above?”
“Look, can we talk about that later?” Ely said, irritated. “I-I just want to go to the party, and have a good time, that’s all!”
“Gomenasai.” Dakotah said sadly. “Are we pretty much on schedule?”
“Yeah, I think so. Hope we don’t run into any traffic jams going into Ann Arbor.”
“I really do think you’re going to win the contest!” Dakotah said exuberantly, trying to bring his friend out of whatever melancholy she was feeling.
“Probably not, but thank you.” Ely said, showing a faint smile.
“I hope they have good food there.” Dakotah said, keeping the conversation flowing. “I’m getting hungry!”
“Dak, if a girl at the party asked you to dance, would you go with her?” Ely asked, wistfully.
“Why would a girl ask me to dance?” Dakotah said, confused. “Hannah has someone set up for me?”
“No, no, no, she wouldn’t do that, and I wouldn’t let her if she did.”
“I don’t know. I doubt that anyone would ask, so your question is irrelevant.”
“You may be surprised, especially one that’s slicked up to look like Koizumi! Girls like guys in cosplay!”
“I’ll probably be picked on as an otaku geek loser.” Dakotah countered, sullen. “Why are you trying to get rid of me? So you can have more time with Hannah? Don’t worry, I’ll disappear into the background. You won’t even notice I’m gone.”
“Dakotah, you frustrate me so much, sometimes!” Ely said, angrily. “Your life isn’t The World vs Dakotah Lennon! I know you’ve had it rough, and I know your home life sucks, but there are a lot of people who love you! I love you! Why? Sometimes I wonder, but the truth is, you’re a great guy! Heck, even Vanessa Blan and Becky Jennings want to go out with y-!”
Ely caught herself from finishing the sentence, but it was too late. She glanced over, and saw Dakotah looking down, and shaking his head.
“Vanessa? Becky? No. It’s not like you to make things up-“
“This isn’t coming from me, baka, this is coming from Dad! Are you going to call him a liar, too?” She reached into a cubby and shoved him her phone. “Call him! Call him, and tell him he’s a liar! If you’re that stupid, you deserve to be alone!” She began to cry.
“Ah, Ely, you’re going 70 miles an hour.”
“Damn you, you’re going to either get me a ticket, or us killed!” Ely shouted, applying the brakes. It was the first time Dakotah ever heard her swear.
“I’m sorry, but it’s rather hard to believe.” Dakotah explained, trying to grasp what she had just said. “They’ve both been nice to me, but neither of them has given any indication that they are the least bit interested in me. Is your dad sure of this?”
“From his point of view, and I guess everyone else’s, we are a couple.” Ely sighed, regaining her composure. “Vanessa even said I was a lucky girl to have you, and wished she was that lucky.”
Dakotah thought for a moment. “She probably meant that she wished she had a good relationship with a nice guy, not necessarily me.”
“I don’t know, dad seemed pretty convinced she liked you.”
“I’ll remain skeptical, for now. So, what evidence does he have about Becky’s desire to go out with me?”
“Why are you asking about Becky?” Ely said, crossly. “Are you interested in her now?”
“I’m just curious as to why, me, the World’s Most Pathetic Geek Loser, would have two cute girls suddenly interested in me. What’s with the attitude when I mentioned Becky? You don’t like her? This is also news to me.”
“The girl you know in church is not the girl I know in school.” Ely said, grimacing. “Becky does whatever she can to manipulate people so she can get whatever she wants.” I’ve seen her break up relationships, put best friends against one another, and demean people, just so she could either move up the social ladder, or get a boy she liked.”
Dakotah shook his head. “Have you talked to your dad about this? Maybe he could talk to the Jennings, and help her get straightened out.”
“If her behavior was bad at New Hope, then Dad intervening would be a no-brainer, but at school, I don’t have any clout. I’m not sure if her parents would be receptive to me calling her out. Either way, the idea of you going out on a date with her makes me cringe.”
“Does the idea of me going out on a date with Vanessa make you cringe?”
Dakotah expected Ely to get mad, but instead, she began to tear up.
“Dakotah, if we were in an actual romantic relationship, and Vanessa asked you out, would you dump me for her?”
“Never.” Dakotah said firmly.
“I mean, she’s better looking, taller, she’s got big-“
“Stop it, you’re being silly!” Dakotah protested. “Look, not that it matters, since you’ve already made your choice, and it isn’t me, but if we were together, all of the Vanessas and Beckys of the world could not tempt me from your side!” Dakotah looked down, sadly. “In my heart, you are irreplaceable. I know that anyone I meet in the future will not come close to how I feel about you, but what choice do I have?” He wiped away a tear.
Ely sighed heavily. “Whoever is wise enough to take you for their own, and cherish you for who you are, will be a lucky girl indeed.”
“I wonder if they’ll have games like bobbing for apples there.” Dakotah said, desperately changing the subject.
“You’d never win. Your nose is too big.” Ely laughed, poking him in the ribs.
“You’d get first place, because your mouth could hold two!” Dakotah retorted, smiling. He hoped the rest of the night would pass smoother.
It was dark by the time they made it to their destination, a recreational center on the campus, but Ely, with her prior knowledge of the area, navigated easily to the proper parking lot. There were plenty of students milling about the entrance, and music could be heard blaring from inside.
Ely pulled Dakotah close by her side. “Are you okay?” she asked, sensing him tensing up.
“I’ll be alright. It’ll be over in a few hours.”
“Try to make the best of it, and have some fun, okay?” She cooed, trying to comfort him. “This can’t be worse than Andre’s funeral, can it?”
“I wasn’t a target at Andre’s funeral.” Dakotah said, nervously.
“You’re not a target here.” Ely countered, slightly irritated. “Look, there’s all kinds of supervision and security here, making sure nothing bad happens to anyone. That’s the whole purpose of having this party in the first place, so students can go somewhere safe.”
“Maybe so, but school was supposed to be safe, too.” Dakotah muttered.
Ely checked her phone. “Oh, good, Hannah’s already here!”
Dakotah gritted his teeth as they entered the rec center. Thriller was blasting over the PA, as several young adults attempted to gyrate on the dance floor. Several more were milling around the concession area to the right of the dance stage, while the rest of the students were hanging out here and there. Dakotah estimated that there were several hundred, maybe even a thousand, guests. “Nope, not in my comfort zone.” he thought.
Ely grabbed Dakotah by the arm, and drug him through the crowd. “C’mon, she’s near the dance floor!” she yelled above the din.
Soon they came upon a small group of people, one of which was wearing a blue and white sailor-type school uniform, with orange-yellow ribbons in her hair.
“Hannah.” Dakotah thought. He instinctively numbed his emotions.
“Ely! Or Yuki, that is!” Hannah shouted exuberantly. “You look awesome!”
Both Ely and Hannah leaned toward each other, and kissed each other lightly on the lips. Dakotah groaned internally.
“You look incredible, Han, er, Haruhi!” Ely gushed. Dakotah noted that Hannah didn’t particularly look that much like Haruhi Suzumiya. Instead of dying her hair to match the character, as Dakotah and Ely had done, her hair remained light brown, with blonde highlights, not the dark brown hair that Haruhi had. She was also about forty pounds overweight, although since she had an endomorphic body, and was about five feet, seven inches tall, she didn’t look obese. All in all, she was about thirty pounds heavier than Dakotah. He took a deep breath.
“Han, this is Dakotah.” Ely said, pointing toward Dakotah.
Dakotah had thought about what to say long before this moment; taking another deep breath, then stood straight, and with arms at his side, he bowed slightly, eyes closed.
“Konbanwa, Haruhi-san! Watashi wa saishūtekini o ai dekite totemo ureshīdesu.” Dakotah smiled weakly.
Hannah stared at Dakotah for a few seconds without saying a word, then looked at Ely.
Ely laughed. “Dakotah doesn’t know you don’t understand any Japanese. I think he said “I’m very happy to meet you, or something like that. I didn’t know he was going to do that, or I would have told him in advance! “
“Actually, I said I’m very happy to finally meet you!” Dakotah laughed.
Hannah remained expressionless, and didn’t say a word. The DJ selected a slow song, and seeing her chance, grabbed Dakotah by the wrist, and proceeded to drag him onto the dance floor.
“What are you doing?” Ely protested.
Don’t worry, I got this.” Hannah said firmly. “Go get yourself a cookie, or something.”
Ely stared at them, slack jawed. “Go get something to drink, or something.” Hannah ordered. “Dakotah and I are going to have a little talk.”
“Ah, Hannah, I can’t dance.” Dakotah said, trying to keep his composure. “And you should be nicer to Ely. You were being rude-“
“She’ll be okay.” Hannah interjected, cutting Dakotah off. “Just move with me, and don’t step on my feet.”
“Try not to step on mine, and we’ll be just fine.” Dakotah snapped.
“Whatever. I don’t why you’re wasting your time with Ely.”
Dakotah was taken aback for a second, but gathered himself quickly. “Why do you think I’m wasting my time with Ely? She needs my help to achieve her dreams.”
“She doesn’t need you, period. She was just fine before your pathetic self came into her life.”
“Tell me, Hannah.” Dakotah said, snarkily. “What have you done to help her achieve her goals? Kissing her isn’t going to help her learn Japanese.”
“A geek like you wouldn’t understand.” Hannah shot back, anger flashing in her brown eyes. “I’ve shown her the real world, the possibilities that she can achieve. See the faculty over there? Those are the heads of the Asian Studies department. I’m going to introduce her to them, in order for her to get an upper hand when it comes to admissions.”
Dakotah wanted to push her away, but Hannah was holding him tight against her, and he didn’t want to create a scene in front of Ely, who was obviously watching them. “And helping her become proficient in Japanese before college isn’t giving her an upper hand?”
“Okay, okay.” Hannah, said, softening her stance. “Look, you may truly be a nice guy. Who knows? However, I’ve seen dozens of guys like you tell a girl they love them, only to drag them down, and prevent them from achieving their life’s desires.”
“First, as far as I know, there’s no guy on this Earth like me. Second, I didn’t come here to battle you, I came here to be your friend. I’ve had to come to accept the reality of the past few months that I don’t stand a chance with her. I love her. I love her with all my heart, and if the only way I can stay in her life is to be Friend A, then it’ll have to do.”
“That’s exactly why you have to walk away. There’s no room for both of us in her life. And no, I don’t want to be your friend. You are not an ally, you are the competition. Oh, look, the song’s ending. I guess I should thank you for not stepping on my feet.”
“Likewise. I’m not giving up and going away, though.”
“Go ahead. Find out the hard way you have no future with her. When she’s living in Japan, and you’re living in a basement somewhere, you’ll be just a distant memory.”
“No, it’ll be you who’ll be a distant memory. She’ll see through whatever spell you have on her, and you’ll be gone.” Dakotah thought to himself.
As Hannah and Dakotah made it to Ely, he could see Ely’s face filled with apprehension. He wanted to tell her that everything was okay, if for no other reason that he didn’t want his discussion with Hannah to ruin Ely’s night. However, before he could speak, Hannah grabbed Ely’s hand, and started leading her away.
“Come on, there’s the dean to the Asian Studies department! You have to go meet her!” Hannah cried, towing Ely along behind. Ely tried to turn back to look for Dakotah, but she was unable to, as it was difficult for her to keep her balance while being led through the crowd.
Dakotah looked about; he was thirsty, and a bit hungry, but the concession area now had a long line there, and he hated being in line. He guessed that the next course of action would be to go find a bathroom, and maybe by the time he was done, the concession line would be much shorter.
He started walking along the wall of the rec center, deftly maneuvering around the partiers, recalling old skills he learned in school. It took a while, but he finally found the restrooms. Apprehension began to creep up his spine.
“Why did I come here?” he thought. “Well, I guess there’s no doubt what Hannah’s feelings are.” He remembered Hannah’s words, and he became despondent.
Exiting the restroom, he found a water fountain. Glad that he now didn’t have to stand in line at the concession area, he quenched his thirst. Worst came to worst, he could eat when he got home, whenever that would be.
Dakotah now began to look about for Ely. She was nowhere to be seen. Avoiding eye contact with everyone, he slowly began to make his way back to the dance floor area, where he saw her last.
“Hey, dude!” shouted a male voice. Without looking up, and hoping it wasn’t directed to him, he kept moving.
“Dude! Hey, dude! Wait up!”
Dakotah froze, and slowly turned around, uneasy. In front of him was a young man about his height and build, wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and glasses. Dakotah stared at him blankly, not knowing what to say.
“Kyon, right? Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya?”
“Ah, n-no.” Dakotah stuttered. “Actually, it’s Koizumi.”
“Huh? Koizumi? Why? Koizumi is an asswipe! Nobody likes him!”
Dakotah is taken aback a bit, and started to become more nervous. “Um, it wasn’t my choice. My friend wanted me to be Koizumi.”
“Oh, yeah? Did he want to be Kyon? Where is he?”
“Actually, my friend is a she. She’s dressed as-“
“Whoa!” The young man said, interrupting Dakotah. “She wanted to be Kyon? I’ve heard about love theories between Kyon and Koizumi, but this is taking it to another level!”
“No, no, no, she’s dressed as Yuki Nagato! It’s a long story…..”
The guy shook his head. “Dude, if I were you, I’d pull my shirt tail out, loosen my tie, and mess my hair up some. You’d rule as Kyon!”
Dakotah looked about for Ely and Hannah, but they were still out of sight. “No point in pleasing them now.” he thought. He proceeded to do as the guy suggested. “How’s this?” he asked the young man.
“Awesome! Dude, you rock!”
Dakotah hoped that he was right.
“By the way, my name’s Jeff.” the young man said, reaching his hand out to Dakotah.
Hesitantly, Dakotah shook his hand. “Dakotah.”
“Uh, yeah.” Dakotah said, looking down, embarrassed.
“Extreme name!” Jeff exclaimed, grinning. “Did your folks name you after the truck, or the state?”
“You’re mocking me, aren’t you?” Dakotah muttered, darting his eyes about to see if Jeff had any cohorts.
“Oh, no, man! My bad, I didn’t mean to offend you!” Jeff said, apologetically. “I have a bad habit of saying silly crap. You cool?”
“That’s okay.” Dakotah replied, exhaling.
“So what was it?”
“What was what?
“What you were named after?”
“I honestly don’t know. It’s spelled with an “H” at the end.”
Jeff paused, rolling his eyes, visualizing the spelling in his head. “Cool. That’s really cool.”
“Really? I always hated my name.”
“Dakotah is a smooth name. You should have a name like Jeff. Definitely not smooth!”
“Jeff’s not so bad.”
“Seriously? Everyone’s named Jeff, or John, or something.”
“I’m not named either of those.”
“Oh yeah, rub it in, Mr. Elite name!” Jeff deadpanned. Both Dakotah and Jeff began to laugh loudly. For the first time all day, Dakotah began to relax.
“Kyon!” shouted a chubby guy wearing a blue Starfleet uniform, and sporting pointy ears. “Awesome!”
“Ah, Spock?” Dakotah said, unsure.
“Hey, Rick!” Jeff said, excitedly. “This is Dakotah, with an “H”! Dakotah, this is my roommate, Rick!”
“Dakotah? Your name is almost as cool as your costume! Kyon is inspired, dude!”
“Ah, thanks, Rick!” Dakotah said, becoming a little more at ease. “Nice Spock.”
Rick laughed. “It’s an okay getup. Who ever heard of a fat Spock? It’s almost as bad as a fat Haruhi!”
“Fat Haruhi? Does he mean Hannah?” Dakotah thought, curious.
“Hey, Rick.” Dakotah asked, gaining confidence by the minute. “Did this ‘Fat Haruhi’ have a Yuki Nagato with her?”
“Are they with you?” Rick asked, incredulous. “Yuki is smokin’, dude!”
“Well, they were. They sorta took off, and left me.” Dakotah said, sadly.
“Made you dress up as Koizumi, and dumped you?” Jeff said. “Harsh.”
“Koizumi? Wait, what?” Rick asked, confused.
“The ladies had him made up as the esper, dude. Fortunately, I made the suggestion that he would be a boss Kyon, and he agreed. Scored major points, if you ask me.”
“Agreed. Kyon good, asswipe bad.” Rick said, laughing. “So, what happened, Dak-man? Did they find some studlies?”
“Ahhh, it’s not like that. They are sorta ‘together’, if you know what I mean.” Dakotah said, pointing his index fingers at each other.
“Oh. LGBT.” Rick said. Dakotah nodded.
“Sucks.” Jeff said, shaking his head. Looking quizzically at Dakotah, he pointed at him, and asked “You?”
“No, no, no, no.” Dakotah said quickly, shaking his head, and crisscrossing his hands quickly. I’m just a friend of Ely’s, the girl who’s dressed as Yuki.”
“Yeah? Ever make a move on her?” asked Jeff, smiling.
“No, as much as I’d like to.” Dakotah said, looking down. “I respect her too much.”
“You know what we have here?” Rick said, pointing at Dakotah. “A virgin with honor!”
Dakotah’s face reddened.
“That’s okay, Dakotah with an ‘h’.” Jeff said, quickly. We’re virgins without honor!” Both Rick and Jeff both began laughing loudly, with Rick starting to snort.
Dakotah was unsure whether to hang out with Jeff and Rick, or escape. They seemed harmless enough, but they weren’t exactly his type, either.
“Hey, Dak-man.” Rick asked, catching his breath. What are you studying here, anyway? Haven’t seen you around campus.”
Dakotah looked down, and took a deep breath. “Um, I’m not in school right now. I don’t have the money for tuition and stuff. I’m trying to find a job right now, but it’s hard where I live, with the economy. Hannah, er, Haruhi, got Ely and me tickets to this party.” Dakotah wanted to go home, even if it meant walking all the way.
“That sucks.” Jeff said, sympathetically. “You ever tried school loans? You don’t have to pay them off until you graduate. That’s how I made it here.”
“I don’t like the idea of getting into debt. The borrower is a slave to the lender, you know.” Dakotah replied matter-of-factly.
“That’s true.” Rick said, nodding his head. “I know of guys that are over 100K in debt, and all they have is a 30K job. That would suck.”
“Yeah, but how long would he be working in order to cash flow his way through school?” Jeff countered.
“Good point.” Rick agreed. “You wouldn’t be able to get your Met degree until you were 30, dude!
A light came on in Dakotah’s head. “Jeff, are you a meteorology student?”
“Yeah, both of us are!” Jeff said, enthusiastically. “Why?”
“Oh, I was thinking about becoming a meteorologist, someday.” Dakotah said, feeling a little vulnerable. He hadn’t thought much of his career path in the past few months.
“Seriously? That’s awesome, Dak-man!” Rick shouted enthusiastically. “It’s a great field to get into! So much depends on the weather, and climate, you know?”
“Yeah, with AGW, the whole world is going to be radically changed, and they’ll need mets and climatologists to figure out what’s going to happen.” Jeff chimed in.
“AGW?” Dakotah asked.
“Anthropogenic Global Warming.” Rick said, confidently. You know, manmade climate change.”
“Rick knows his stuff on climate change.” Jeff said, praising his friend. “He’s helped out on research studies that resulted in scientific papers being published!.”
“The world as we know it is coming to an end.” Rick said, with a hint of sadness. Polar ice melting, sea level rising, jungles becoming desert, all because of the greenhouse gasses mankind has released into the atmosphere in the past 200 years. Deforestation hasn’t helped either.”
“I don’t know about that.” Dakotah said self-assuredly.
“Oh, really?” Rick asked, surprised.
“Denier.” Jeff whispered in Rick’s ear.
“Do you think the world isn’t warming?” Rick asked, becoming a little defensive.
“Oh, if scientists say it’s warming, then who am I to say they’re wrong?” Dakotah said, looking straight at the two students. “However, God is in control, and He will decide what happens here on Earth.”
“You don’t think mankind has messed up the climate? Jeff asked, expecting an emotionally charged answer.
“Mankind has always messed up, from the first days.” Dakotah said, voice unwavering. “I feel that God is ultimately calling the shots. All He has to do, if He wants, is to turn down the wick on the sun a hair, and we’d be fine. Or, He could turn the sun up a hair, and we’d all roast. I’m not saying that we should throw up our hands and say “Oh, it’s in God’s hands, we’re all going to die anyway, just keep on polluting.” God appointed mankind as stewards of the Earth, and I think we have a responsibility in taking care of it. If we are responsible, I think we’ll reap His blessings, and He’ll take care of us in return.”
Jeff and Rick looked at Dakotah, stunned. A low “Whoa.” was all they could muster.
“Of course, this could be the beginnings of the Tribulations.” Dakotah continued, smiling. “If the world wasn’t someday coming to an end, and Jesus wasn’t coming back to herald a new Heaven and a new Earth, Christianity would be rather pointless, wouldn’t it?” he said with a wink.
Rick and Jeff were speechless.
“Anyway, Jeff, what are you going to do when you graduate?” Dakotah asked, still smiling.
“Oh. Oh yeah, I’d like to work for the National Hurricane Center.” Jeff replied, snapping to. Someday, I’d like to ride with the Hurricane Hunters, and fly into storms. That would be the ultimate!”
“Jeff’s pretty hardcore when it comes to tracking tropical cyclones.” Rick said. “He stays up all night sometimes, checking the latest satellite images and dropsonde readings. He even has his own blog!”
“Oh I remember when Ike, was it, passed near here last month.” Dakotah said. “That was a little eerie!”
“The Atlantic season’s not over, yet.” Jeff said, projecting a serious side not shown before. “There could be something popping up in the southern Caribbean in the next couple of weeks.”
“I hope it’s not too bad.” Dakotah said. “People have suffered enough this year, already.”
“Agreed.” Jeff said. “What are you wanting to concentrate on when you get to school, Dakotah?”
“Snow.” Dakotah said. I like snow. I want to figure out where snowstorms are going, and how much snow they dump.”
“Good luck with that, when the Earth warms up!” Rick laughed. Dakotah and Jeff joined in the merriment.
“I wonder where the girls are?” Dakotah said, wanting to find Ely.
“Hey, let’s all of us look for them!” Jeff said. “I want to see the smokin’ Yuki and the fat Haruhi!”
“”Trust me, you don’t want to see the fat Haruhi.” Rick laughed.
“Surely she wouldn’t win Ultimate Fail, would she?” Dakotah said, slightly concerned, not for her sake, but for Ely’s.
“No, they’ve done away with the UF prize.” Rick said. “People felt that it was taunting, and shouldn’t be allowed.”
“Of course, in most years, I’ve heard that that UF winners or losers, whatever, tried to take the prize.” Jeff said. “Remember Leo?”
“Yeah, Leo ruled!” Won it four years in a row! The last year was off the charts! Probably the real reason they killed the prize.”
“What did he dress as?” Dakotah asked, unsure if he wanted to hear the answer.
“A veterinarian.” Rick said, grinning.
“Why did he win? That doesn’t sound so bad.” Dakotah said, confused.
“He took a ride in a pickup truck to the nearest cow pasture, and rolled around in fresh patties until he was covered.” Jeff said, barely containing himself. “He said he just treated a cow with colic, and he hadn’t had the chance to clean up! Awesome!”
“I see.” was all Dakotah would say, trying hard not to visualize Leo. Looking ahead, he spotted Ely and Hannah, waiting in line at the concession area.
Before Dakotah could say anything, Jeff saw them, too. “Nagato!” he yelled.
Ely turned slowly, confused and a little embarrassed. She was soon surrounded by an admiring Jeff and Rick, with Dakotah bringing up the rear.
“You were right!” Jeff said, very excitedly. “This has to be both the coolest and hottest Yuki ever!”
“Ma’am.” Rick said, bowing. You are the ne plus ultra of costuming!”
Ely’s face reddened. “Th-thank you, I guess.” She said, meekly.
Hannah stepped in between Ely and the two met students. “Alright, you losers, you confessed your love to her, now back off!”
“Whoa!” Rick shouted, stepping back a step. “I was just complimenting her on her costume!”
Ely saw Dakotah standing behind Jeff, and noticed his costume alteration. Pushing Jeff aside, she poked her finger in Dakotah’s chest. “What the heck? I can’t believe you would do this, after I worked so hard!” she yelled.
Jeff took out his phone. “Hey, let me get your picture! Kyon and Yuki, the awesomest couple of Halloween!”
“I don’t think so!” Hannah shouted, knocking Jeff’s phone from his hand. It landed on the floor with a crack, the battery cover and battery skidding across the floor.
“My new phone!” Jeff screamed, picking the pieces off the floor. “Hey, the screen is broke! You owe me a new phone!”
“Should’ve gotten insurance, loser.” Hannah said with a shrug.
Rick grabbed Hannah by the arm, spinning her around. “You broke it, you should at least pay for fixing it! What’s with you, anyway?”
Hannah used both hands, and pushed Rick away. “What are going to do, use a Vulcan Death Grip? I’m not afraid of a fat Spock!”
“I’d rather be a fat Spock, than a fat Haruhi!” Rick shot back, flipping off Hannah in the process.
Enraged, Hannah lunged toward Rick, and started swinging with both fists clenched, managing a solid blow to Rick’s jaw. Rick staggered and fell down, managing to grab Hannah, and drag her down on top of him. This was fine with Hannah, as she continued to pummel him as she sat straddled across his midsection. Jeff pushed Hannah off of Rick, only to be pushed himself by Ely. Feet became entangled, and as a result, Rick, Jeff, Hannah and Ely were sprawled on the floor. Dakotah, stunned by the proceedings for a few seconds, made his way over to Ely, and helped her up.
A hand grabbed Dakotah by the arm. He turned to see a large man with even larger muscles staring down at him. “All right, let’s go! Get up! You’ve had your fun!” the man shouted.
“We’re getting kicked out?” asked Rick, defiantly.
“Now.” The man said, staring down Rick, and pointing at the doors.
“This sucks!” Jeff yelled angrily. “You crazy bitch, this is all your fault!” he yelled at Hannah.
Hannah lunged at Jeff, but was grabbed by the security guard and stopped cold. “Back down, people!” the guard barked, holding his hand up in front of Jeff’s face. “Campus police has been notified of the incident. Any further trouble from any of you will result in possible arrest and jail, not to mention possible suspension or expulsion from school.”
Ely gasped. Dakotah shook his head. Hannah, Rick, and Jeff swore under their breath.
The group exited the rec center, and began to go their separate ways; Rick and Jeff began to walk to their dorm, while Hannah and Dakotah escorted Ely to her car.
“Good luck, Dakotah with an “h”!” Jeff yelled, waving.
“”You too, guys!” Dakotah yelled back as he waved. Ely stared at Dakotah, as Hannah scowled. Rick and Jeff were soon out of sight.
As they reached Ely’s car, Hannah turned in front of Dakotah, facing him.
“Thanks to you, our night was ruined!” Hannah said, sharply. “You purposely messed up the outfit, and you brought those geeks over, which resulted in us getting kicked out before the judging!”
“I’m sorry.” Dakotah apologized. “I didn’t know-“
“What if the Asian Studies faculty saw her getting kicked out, now that I introduced her to them? What if that causes her to not be accepted in school?”
“I’m sure that I’ll be fine.” Ely said, trying to make the best of things.
“This is what happens when you associate yourself with losers!” Hannah yelled, pointing her finger at Dakotah. “They’ll just pull you down to their level!”
“Dakotah is not a loser, Hannah.” Ely said firmly. Dakotah remained silent, staring at the ground.
“Whatever. I can’t convince you otherwise. You’ll just have to learn for yourself, the hard way.” Hannah sneered. “Go on. Take him home. Call me when you get home, okay?”
Ely and Hannah embraced for a few seconds, and kissed, while Dakotah got in the car and buckled up, ignoring them.
Pulling out onto the street, Ely waved while Dakotah stared straight ahead.
“Sometimes you make it really hard for me to defend you.” Ely said, scornfully.
Dakotah snapped his head around, and stared at Ely, incredulous. “What the heck did I do to deserve that? I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“Explain to me how you did anything right! You messed your costume up, on purpose, then you brought those fanboys over, resulting in us getting tossed out of the building! I hope the Asian Studies dean doesn’t remember me when I apply there!”
“First of all, you have been hypersensitive all evening! I can’t see anyone living up to your standards! Secondly, wasn’t those guys reaction to you what you wanted? Finally, if anyone is going to be lowered to another level, Hannah would be the one pulling you down!”
‘Hannah is not to blame! She’s just being protective!”
“Protective, like a pit bull?”
“Jerk! That’s my girlfriend you’re talking about!”
“Sorry to be you! You know, in all the years that I’ve known Frank, I never realized he had a daughter!”
Without saying a word, Ely pulled the car over in a parking lot, unbuckled her seat belt, and slapped Dakotah across the face as hard as she could.
Tearing up, partly from pain from the blow, but mostly from the situation itself, Dakotah unbuckled his seat belt, stepped out of the car, and began to walk.
“Hey! What are you doing?” Ely yelled.
Dakotah stopped, and faced Ely. “Isn’t it obvious, baka? I’m walking home.”
“Well, baka, it’s 55 miles to home, and it’s 9PM!”
“So? It’s not like I have to be anywhere. I’m a NEET loser, remember?” Dakotah turned, and began walking again.
“Suit yourself! It’s not like anyone would miss you!” Ely got in the car and sped off, leaving Dakotah in a cloud of dust.
Dakotah chuckled, derisively. “I didn’t think she’d leave.” However, he didn’t believe that she would be gone long either. “She’ll probably come looking for me in a few minutes, expecting me to beg for forgiveness, and a ride home. But first, she has to find me!”
Dakotah took a right at the first side street, then a left at the next street parallel to the main road. He began to pick up the pace; although he didn’t walk as much as he did during school, he was still in prime shape. He figured by the time Ely turned around and came back, he would be about a mile up the road on the parallel street. Of course, there was the slight possibility she went home, but he believed that if she cared about him in the least, she would be back.
He hoped that he was right.
The parallel street came to and end after ten minutes of brisk walking; he turned left again, toward the main road. Reaching the main road, he began to walk north again, toward home, keeping an eye for both Ely, and any potential trouble.
Looking behind him, he noticed a slow moving car coming up the road, but at about a half mile away, he wasn’t sure if it was Ely. He continued, checking for places to run to in case of trouble. After about ten minutes, the car was now about a quarter mile away. He thought he heard someone from the car yelling something.
Dakotah stopped. He finally recognized the headlight pattern on the car as being the same as Ely’s Corolla. He decided to wait for her; there was always the slight possibility that if he kept up the game of cat and mouse, she may give up, if it became too late.
At about 200 yards, she finally saw him, pulled up to where he was standing, stopped, and got out of the car.
Ely was visibly shaken when she reached Dakotah. “Where have you been? When I didn’t see you, I thought you may have been hit by a car, and left for dead!”
“I took a detour.” Dakotah said, calmly, though inside, all he wanted to do was take her into his arms. “I had a feeling you were coming back, so I disappeared for a bit.”
Anger flashed into her eyes. “Why? Why did you put me through this? I was so scared that something happened to you!”
“Because I wanted to make sure you actually missed me, instead of pitying me.” Dakotah replied, firmly.
“Pity you? It wasn’t out of pity.” Ely snapped. “It just wouldn’t be right to leave you out here alone, so far from home, though part of me thinks you deserve it.”
“Oh, I deserve walking 55 miles home? For all the atrocities I committed tonight?”
“You ruined everything! Can’t you see that?”
Dakotah took a deep breath, and clenched his teeth. “Fine. Show me everything that I erred on.”
“First, you messed up your costume, on purpose!”
“You do know there is no more Ultimate Fail contests, don’t you?”
“No, I didn’t know that. Hannah said-“
“Rick and Jeff, or the fanboys as you call them, told me not only that it was abolished, but why it was abolished. Hannah’s a sophomore, so this should be common knowledge to her.”
“So, what if it was? You still messed up your costume!”
“You made a big stink about Ultimate Fail when you saw my original getup. That means, at least to me, that Hannah knew that there was no Ultimate Fail, and she told you about it in order to create a stir. I could’ve worn Grandpa’s old suit, and been just fine!”
“No, you wouldn’t!” Ely said, becoming frustrated. “You would’ve embarrassed me in front of Hannah!”
“Hannah couldn’t care less what I was wearing! Did she say how good I looked after you put in all that hard work?”
“I don’t remember.” Ely said, becoming pensive. “Things were a bit of a blur.”
“You want to know what was said during our dance?”
“Y-Yeah.” Ely replied, becoming unsure.
“She told me in no uncertain terms to buzz off, and leave you alone, for good. She also told me that she and I would never be friends. It seems that I am the competition.”
“I think she’s just being insecure. She’s usually really nice, though a little hyper sometimes.”
“She wasn’t being too nice when she was beating the crap out of Rick!”
“That’s another thing. You brought those losers with you!”
“Those losers were meteorology students! If you had listened to them for a few minutes, you would’ve realized they were very accomplished, and hardworking! They had as much right to be there as we did, probably more so!”
“They called her fat! What was she supposed to do?”
“She broke Jeff’s phone, and called Rick fat, first, remember?”
“Well, she was trying to protect us.”
“Maybe she was trying to protect you. She had me in cahoots with the other two. All I was trying to do was to find you. Rick just wanted to show Jeff your amazing costume. Jeff must’ve agreed, since he wanted to take our picture, with me as Kyon, not Koizumi. To tell you the truth, I liked being Kyon better, and shouldn’t that have been my choice from the beginning?”
Ely sighed. “Let’s just go home. My head hurts.”
“Agreed. We’ll sort out what happened tonight later.”
They got into the car and buckled up. As Ely started the car, Dakotah looked upward, and exhaled.
“My head is pounding, too.” he thought.
The ride home was mostly in silence; this was fine with Dakotah, as he had much to ponder. “I wonder what Ely sees in Hannah, anyway?” he thought to himself. Hannah’s violent, and her personality blows. Opposites attract, maybe?”
“Speaking of opposites, Vanessa Blan? As far as I know, the only thing that I’ve impressed her with is my Bible knowledge. She’s nice, though, at least on the surface. Ely seems to vouch for her character, but then again, she vouched for Hannah, too. Ugh!”
Finally, the stress of the evening, along with the drone of the car, and the darkness, caught up with Dakotah, and he nodded off. Ely took notice, and sighed.
“I’m sorry, my friend. You didn’t deserve this.” she thought.
Dakotah woke up as he made into town; he was more than ready to get home, get a shower, and go to bed. Even the prospect of cleaning house tomorrow appealed to him!
He looked over, and saw Ely. She looked exhausted to him. “I’m sorry, I should’ve kept you better company.”
“That’s okay.” Ely replied, softly. “ I’ wasn’t sleepy. I’ve had a lot to think about.”
“Understood.” As they turned onto Dakotah’s street, he noticed something amiss. Parked in front of his house was his grandmother Elizabeth’s car.
“I don’t like this.” Dakotah said, feeling dread. Ely said nothing.
As they pulled in behind Elizabeth’s car, he saw Elizabeth and Frank in the front yard, arguing. There appeared to be trash bags and boxes of stuff next to Frank. Sylvia was on the front porch, crying.
“What’s going on?” Dakotah yelled.
“I’ll tell you what’s going on, you degenerate!” Frank bellowed. “Your ass is getting kicked out of the house!”
Dakotah felt the blood drain out of his face. “What? You can’t be serious! Mom! Why are you doing this? This is your house, too! Tell him he can’t do this!”
“I can do whatever the hell I want!” Frank sneered. “You’re 19, and my name is on the deed!”
“Mom!” Dakotah wailed, his voice cracking. Sylvia turned, and crying, went into the house.
Dakotah looked at Elizabeth and Ely, in shock. “That’s alright, you’ll always have a place to stay with me.” Elizabeth said, soothingly.
“Dad would take you in a heartbeat, too!” Ely chimed in.
“Talking isn’t going to get your crap out of my yard!” Frank shouted, full of himself. “If you don’t pack up and leave, I’m going to haul it off to the dump!”
“Go to hell, Frank!” Dakotah screamed, full of fury, fists clenched. He began to stride toward Frank. Ely grabbed him from behind, trying to stop his progress.
“Oh? You want a piece of me?” Frank laughed. “Heh! Bring it! It’ll make my night!”
Dakotah tried to extricate himself from Ely, but she was holding him with everything she had. “Let me go!” He yelled at Ely.
“No! You’ll get killed!” Ely screamed.
Frank started to walk toward Dakotah, kicking a bag of clothes out of the way as he walked. He was about ten feet from them when Elizabeth stepped in between Dakotah and Frank.
“Stay out of this, old-“ Frank was unable to finish his sentence, as at that moment, Elizabeth took a large can of bear spray out of her purse, and sprayed Frank directly in the face. Frank immediately fell to the ground, writhing and screaming in pain.
“Not too tough now, are you?” Elizabeth yelled near Frank’s ear. “Let me tell you something, you bastard! You’re damned lucky I didn’t bring my .44 with me, or I’d blow your bloody head off! You are a worthless pile of excrement! I hope someday you get everything you deserve!”
Staggering, and howling, Frank felt his way up the porch steps, and into the house. Elizabeth turned to Dakotah. “What were you thinking? He would’ve pounded you into the ground, and he would’ve enjoyed every moment of it! Ely saved your neck just now!”
Dakotah took a deep breath, and exhaled. “Sorry, grandma. I just lost it a minute ago, I guess.” He turned to Ely “Arrigato.”
“Ie, ie.” <You’re welcome.> Ely said, smiling a little. “I guess we’d better get this stuff loaded up!”
“I’m glad you came along, dear.” Elizabeth said to her namesake. “We can get all of his stuff in one trip.”
The three made quick work on loading their cars; Dakotah had a few sets of clothes, a TV and a DVD player, and a few other odds and ends.
Suddenly, Frank reappeared on the porch. “Hey, you almost forgot your stupid picture!” He threw the picture like a frisbee, crashing at Dakotah’s feet. Shattered glass flew everywhere; fortunately, Dakotah was not cut.
Dakotah carefully picked up the photo of Andre and himself. The photo was ruined, causing Dakotah to weep.
“It’s okay.” Ely said, trying to comfort him. “I can always make another copy. I have the original on my backup hard drive.”
“Let’s just go.” Dakotah said, dropping the picture onto the ground.
Dakotah, Elizabeth, and Ely unpacked Dakotah’s clothes and things into his father’s old room. Afterward, they congregated into the dining room, Elizabeth preparing glasses of iced tea and cookies for them.
Without warning, Elizabeth fainted, spilling tea and cookies onto the floor.
“Grandma!” Dakotah shouted, rushing to her aid, with Ely close behind. “Ely, call 911!”
“On it!” Ely replied, fumbling for her phone.
“Stop! Don’t!” Elizabeth said, half conscious.
“What? You can’t be serious!” Dakotah cried, shaking.
“You need to go to the hospital, and get checked out!” Ely agreed.
“No, no, I’ll be alright in a minute. My blood sugar must be a tad low. It happens, sometimes.” She started nibbling on a cookie. “With all of the excitement, I guess I didn’t realize it until it was too late.”
“Well, you almost gave me a heart attack.” Dakotah said, sighing in relief. “I didn’t know you were diabetic.”
“I have a touch of it.” Elizabeth replied, smiling a little. “I keep it in check with my diet.”
“Maybe you need to go to the doctor for a checkup?” Ely said.
“No, I’ll be okay. Every once in a while, I’ll get a minor dizzy spell, but this is the first time I actually passed out. I’ll just remember that if I ever have to tangle with Frank again!”
They all laughed, and began to clean up the mess. “There is something I wanted to ask you, Elizabeth.” Ely said. “Where did you get that massive can of pepper spray, and why do you carry it in your purse?”
“Well dear, it’s actually bear spray. It’s an old habit I carried over from teaching at inner city schools. If a hiker can stop a thousand pound grizzly with it, my odds were pretty good with a troublemaking juvenile delinquent. Worked pretty good on Frank, too, didn’t it?”
“No doubt!” Ely said, laughing. She checked her phone. “I guess I’d better be going. I actually don’t have to be home yet, but all the excitement of the evening has me wore out!”
“Be careful going home, dear.” Elizabeth said, giving Ely a hug. “Thanks for your help.”
“Glad to be of help. Dak, would you walk me to my car?”
“Sure.” Dakotah answered, thinking that it was odd that she would ask him. He usually did that automatically, without her asking.
“Some night, huh?” Ely said as they reached her car.
“Well, if we never met, you’d be in Ann Arbor collecting your prize for best costume about now.”
“Maybe.” Ely said, smiling a little.
“Sorry to be so much trouble.” Dakotah said, forcing a small smile.
Ely wrapped her arms around Dakotah, and held him tightly. Dakotah did likewise, breathing in deeply the scent of her hair.
“You’re worth every bit of trouble, and then some. “ Ely said, misty-eyed. “You’re my best friend, and I love you very much.”
“Knowing you is the best thing that ever happened to me.” Dakotah said, eyes also moistening. “Oh, here, before I forget.” He said, taking his North High blazer off. “You’ll probably be taking this back tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah. It was fun dressing up, but I’m ready to get into regular clothes, and getting this dye out of my hair. It’s stinks.”
“Oh, that was the dye that smelled like that?” Dakotah said, and began to laugh loudly.
Ely, also laughing, slugged him in the arm. “Jerk! You know my hair normally don’t stink!”
“Ow!” Dakotah yelped, recoiling in pain. For a petite girl, Ely packed quite a wallop. “Save your punches for Hannah, so you can keep her in line!”
“I don’t have to keep her in line! You, on the other hand, is a full time job! Now go in there, and check on your grandma!”
“Yes, ma’am!” Dakotah shouted, saluting her. “See you Sunday?”
“Hey, wait! Hearing you say that, you could’ve dressed up as Sarah Palin!”
“Get in there before I get your grandmother’s gun, you idiot!”
“Okay, okay, I’m going! Call me tomorrow!”
“Okay!” Ely ended any further ramblings by Dakotah by getting in the car, and pulling away, waving at Dakotah as she left.
Dakotah watched her until she turned down the street, then he rushed in the house. Elizabeth had already cleaned up, and changed into her bedclothes and robe.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked.
“I’m fine now.” She replied, smiling. “I must’ve given you quite the fright.”
“Don’t you think you should see the doctor, to make sure everything is okay?”
I passed my physical with flying colors two months ago.” Elizabeth said, reassuringly. “I know what happened, so I can prevent it from happening again. Having said that, how are you doing?”
“Honestly, I’m numb. I haven’t even started to process what happened tonight, or where this takes me.”
“You’ll always have a home here, Dakotah, no matter what.” Elizabeth said, hugging him. “We’ll talk about going forward tomorrow. Right now, I’m all tuckered out from today’s excitement. I think I’ll go to bed.”
“Grandma, can I ask you something?”
“Anything, Dak. What is it?”
“Do you really have a .44, and would you have used it on Frank?”
“Maybe.” She said with a wink. ”Do you really think any jury would convict a 70 year old retired schoolteacher?”
“I sure wouldn’t !” Dakotah said, laughing. I think I’ll get cleaned up, and go to bed, too.” He hugged Elizabeth tightly. “Goodnight, grandma. I love you.”
“Goodnight, Dakotah. I love you too! Would you like pancakes for breakfast tomorrow, or bacon and eggs?”
“Oh, wow, it’s hard to choose!”
“How about both? You could use a little filling out!“
Dakotah laughed. “Awesome! “
Dakotah showered, dressed, and made it to the spare bedroom. Exhausted, he flopped, face first, into the bed. However, sleep eluded him, as his mind began to churn.
“Why, mom? Why?” he said to himself, as he began to sob.