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Coalite – Chapter 7

“Do you have any plans?” Val asked her when she stopped into the shop one afternoon.

Lenny shrugged as she wiped her hands on her apron. She gestured to the shop before looking down at the boxes by her feet. “Restocking the shelves today,” Lenny said. “I swear we’ve been getting more people in here ever since classes ended.”

“Heat exhaustion? Sunburn? Dehydration?” Val asked.

Lenny pursed her lips and removed some vanilla beans from a glass jar. “Er a bit of those and a lot more people asking for hangover cures plus heartbreak ones.”

“Ouch. So much for summer lovin’,” Val winced. She looked around the shop and put her hands in her pockets.

“But seriously, are you free tonight?” Val asked.

“So far, why?”

“I kinda want to grab dinner at that new Asian fusion restaurant,” Val admitted. “See, my sister got an invite but she hates Asian food because its too spicy in her mind, so she’s letting me hijack it with a friend.”

“Sure, I’m off in,” Lenny trailed off as she checked her watch, “20 minutes.”

“You could go now dearie,” Gran called from the back. “I think I’m good here.”

Lenny walked to the back room and stuck her head in. “Are you sure Gran? I don’t wanna run out on you when its Stock Day.”

Gran stopped mashing together the concoction she was making in the mortar and put down the pestle. She smiled at Lenny and waved hi to Val on the other side of the curtain. “I think you’ve done enough for the day, thank you for being so helpful. Besides, its been a while since you two have hung out, right?”

“3 weeks,” Val chimed in. “Actually…scratch that – it’s really 3 1/2 weeks.”

Gran nodded and wiped her hands with a towel. “That settles it – you girls need some fun time together.”

“Do you want me to bring you something back?” Lenny offered as she untied her apron. She hung it up on a hook and kissed Gran on the cheek.

“No I’ll be fine, but thank you Lenny dear,” Gran said as she gave Lenny a quick hug. “If you girls want to sleep over, you’re more than welcome to do so.”

“Are you psychic Ms. Avionnet, ’cause that’s what I thinking!” Val called out as she leaned over the counter.

Gran laughed and insisted that Val call her Laila or Gran. “I feel so old whenever I hear ‘Ms. Avionnet’,” Gran said. “Sounds like a fun night.”

“Thanks Gran,” Lenny said as she grabbed her bag. “I can let you know when we get to the restaurant safely.”

“You wanna split the egg rolls?” Val asked as she stared at the menu.

Lenny nodded and thanked the waiter who served her the house made iced tea. She returned her gaze to the menu and she scanned it, trying to decide what she wanted to eat. The Fusion Korean BBQ Sliders sounded amazing and so did the Dragon Tempura Noodles.

“Ready to order?” the waiter asked as he produced a pen from his apron.

Val looked up from her menu and met Lenny’s eyes.

“You order first,” Lenny told her.

“Mmkay I’ll have the Orange Chicken Rice Salad,” Val began as she closed her menu. “For a starter, we’ll split the Pho-Tastic Pork Egg Rolls.”

“Got it,” the waiter murmured as he scribbled that down. He accepted Val’s menu from her and turned to Lenny. “And for you miss?”

“Which do you prefer?” Lenny asked as she pointed out both items that she was debating between.

The waiter stared thoughtfully at Lenny and pointed to the sliders. “You look like a girl who likes heat so I’d go with that. The noodles are good but they need a little more kick to them.”

“Sounds good,” Lenny said as she handed him the menu.

The waiter scribbled down her order and asked if he could get her anything else. Lenny shook her head no and thanked him.

“Okay, so I’ve got the Orange Chicken Rice Salad over here,” the waiter said as he gestured to Val. “And I’ve got The Fusion Korean BBQ Sliders for the blue eyed beauty over here. And you’re splitting the egg rolls. Did you want those egg rolls first?”

“Yes,” Val said with a smile.

“I’ll go get that order in then,” the waiter said. He shot Lenny a smile before putting away his notepad and pen in his apron and leaving with their menus.

Val grinned widely at Lenny and Lenny made a face.

“Don’t. Start.” Lenny warned.

“He said you were a ‘blue eyed beauty’ Lenny!” Val gushed. “He’s not that bad looking – dark haired, cute dimples, and those arms!”

“Yeah he’s good looking,” Lenny admitted. “But he’s probably saying that to get a good tip. Didn’t he compliment the girls at that table in the corner too?”

“I heard him say, ‘Good evening Ladies, you look nice tonight’ but nothing like what he said to you!”

“Cut it out,” Lenny grumbled. “I only came for the food, not to flirt.”

Val groaned as she leaned back in her seat. “C’mon Lenny, you’re killing me! You’re pretty and yet you won’t even try! …Hang on are you…a lesbian? Cause if you are, I’m totes cool with that and I know tons of girls who –”

“Nope,” Lenny cut her off. “If you haven’t noticed Val, I haven’t had much luck in the female friend department, save for you and maybe a few others from my classes. I just don’t care.”

Val opened her mouth to protest but was interrupted by the arrival of the egg rolls and a plate of skewers.

“Uh the skewers aren’t ours,” Lenny spoke up.

The waitress who brought them over smiled as she explained that they were compliments of the house.

“Thanks!” Val said as she moved her appetizer plate closer to her. She cast a glance toward the kitchens and noticed that their waiter was looking in their direction. She looked at Lenny, who was digging into the egg rolls and ignoring Val.

“A free appetizer?” Val said.

“You’re reading too much into it,” Lenny groaned. She bit into the egg roll and chewed it to avoid talking to Val about their waiter. As she chewed, her brow furrowed as she tried to remember something – for some reason, the waiter reminded her of someone but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

“Mmm these are good!” Val said as she tried a skewer. “You gonna have one? And you better say yes – can’t eat these all by myself, you know?”

Lenny shot her a smile and took a skewer, biting into the chicken and veggies tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. “These are good.”

“Told you so,” Val said with a smug smile. She took a sip of her water and glanced over at the kitchens to see that they were coming back with the food. “That was super fast! I’ll make sure to note that in my review – love when restaurants get the food to you quickly!”

“Cool,” Lenny murmured as the waitress arrived with their plates.

“I’ve got the salad over here,” the waitress said as she plunked the salad in front of Val. “And here’s your sliders. Can I get you ladies anything else?”

“Nope I think we’re good,” Val said. “Thanks! And the skewers are fantastic by the way.”

“Glad to hear that,” the waitress said. “You still working on those?”

“Umm…” Val stalled.

“Yes and we can take the rest to go for later, right?” Lenny asked.

“Absolutely,” the waitress replied. “Please enjoy your meals.”

Val stabbed a piece of chicken with her fork and ate it, closing her eyes and relaxing her shoulders.

“It’s that good?”

“Len it’s ahhhmazing!” Val said.

Lenny cut a slider in half before taking a bite, the juice sloshing out of the meat. “This is good too.”

“How’s everything tasting ladies?” the waiter asked as he came up.

“Very good!” Val said.

“Great, glad to hear that,” the waiter said. He looked over at Lenny and studied her carefully. “Sorry, but uh, you remind me of someone I used to know. It was, man, years ago, but we used to live a few houses down from each other.”

Lenny put down her slider and wiped her mouth with her napkin as she looked up at the waiter. She squinted as she studied his features, trying to remember where she had seen him before.

“Um was it someone else maybe?” Lenny offered. “Because I didn’t live here the whole time.”

“It was in New York,” the waiter offered. “See I knew someone when I was really little and she looked a lot like you. She used to hate being called by her real name so I tried to come up with a nickname and she started going by that from that point.”

A tingle went down Lenny’s spine and she looked up at the boy’s almond-shaped eyes. That beauty mark on his cheek was it…

“Chance?” Lenny asked as she stared at their waiter. “Chance Sasin is that you?”

“Lenny A it is you!” Chance exclaimed. “Oh man, I mean, how, how long has it been?!”

“Uh…I think 14–15 years?” Lenny offered. “We’re were in grade school from what I can remember. What are you doing here?”

Chance drew himself up and grinned. “Guess who made it into Duke?”

“Hey! I knew you’d make it!” Lenny said she applauded. “How’s your family doing?”

Chance rubbed the back of his neck and shrugged. “Um well uh, Mom’s okay – her health’s kinda all over the place ’cause she had a cancer scare a few years back and she’s been trying to recover after intense chemo sessions. Dad…well, uh he’s gone. Left a couple years after you moved.”

Lenny’s face fell at the news and she reached out to touch Chance’s arm. “I’m really sorry Chance,” she said. “Your mom? Is anyone–”

“Yeah Gramps moved in after Dad left to help,” Chance added. “He’s doing well but I think he’s getting a little worn, you know, with being 82 and all.” He glanced over at their dishes and quickly apologized for taking up too much time talking.

“No need to apologize!” Val said. “I’m so happy that you guys reunited.”

Chance shot Val a smile before excusing himself to go attend to the other tables. Val looked at Lenny and took a sip of water.

“Who knew?” Val said. “So uh, I guess he’s not boyfriend material, huh?”

“Val,” Lenny scolded as she nudged her friend across the table. “Chance and I were buddies in school. He used to come dressed in a sweater vest, collared shirt, and pressed pants instead of jeans and t-shirts and everyone made fun of him. I think I loaned him a t-shirt or two ’cause I bought from the boys section a lot. We used to scare our moms by climbing high places and trying to outdo each other.”

“Mmhmm and he got cute over the years,” Val hummed. “Puberty was kind to him I’ll say.”

“Why? You wanna date him?”

Val shook her head and ate more of her salad. “Don’t get me wrong – he’s cute but I think it would be a bit much for me to date an old friend of yours…especially if he could become “the one” for you!”

Lenny shook her head and finished eating her sliders. She glanced over at the appetizers remaining and asked a passing waiter for a box for the rest.

Val put her fork down and sighed contentedly. “That was amazing. I will definitely come back here again.”

“Same – thanks for inviting me,” Lenny said.

Chance returned with the boxes and the bill. Val pulled out her card and Lenny handed some crumpled bills over.

“You wanna split?” Chance confirmed as he took both forms of payment.

“Yes please,” Val replied.

“Keep the change Chance,” Lenny said.

Chance did a double take and smiled before heading off to ring up the total. He returned after a minute or two and handed Val her copy of the check and her card before giving Lenny her receipt.

“Great seeing you again Lenny,” he said. “Don’t be a stranger – come by here and say hi. Or if you’re not busy, we should hang this summer.”

“Sounds good,” Lenny said. She fished out her phone and asked for his number. Chance took the phone from her, typed it in, and hit the Save button.

“Great, looking forward to hanging out again soon,” Chance said as he started piling up the plates. He looked over at Val. “Sorry I didn’t get your name.”

“Val, nice to meet you Chance,” Val said as she shook hands with him. “Good luck with your studies! I’ll probably see you around here – I’m definitely gonna want to come back because the food was fantastic!”

“Cool, I’ll let the chef know,” Chance said as he picked up the plates. “Missed you Lenny.”

“Missed you too,” Lenny said before Chance left with the plates.

Val put her napkin down on the table and stood up. “I’m gonna run to the bathroom before we go. You need to use it?”

“No I’m good for now,” Lenny said. “I’ll wait outside.”

Val walked to the far right of the restaurant while Lenny headed for the door. She heard her phone vibrate and she pulled it out.

So you’ve got a boyfriend and you didn’t tell me? I’m hurt Lenny baby. ;P


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