By JD Rockel
Ella was rummaging through the kitchen cupboards when Rosa emerged from the hallway. She was dressed and ready for the day. “Come on, Dad. Let’s go,” she called over her shoulder.
“I’m coming, Rosa. I’ll be there in a minute,” was the distant and muffled reply.
“Rosa are you shopping for anything in particular,” Renata asked, just to pass time.
“No, Mom. We don’t need a reason to shop, do we? WE ARE WOMEN.”
That got Renata laughing. She had been rather reserved thinking about Jerry coming over.
“OK, I’m ready,” Tony said. Lee and Sofie followed along behind him as he emerged from the hallway.
“Dad! Are you seriously wearing THAT?” Rosa cried. “That shirt hasn’t been in style for a century.”
“I’m sorry; I’m fashion challenged. Come and show me what would be acceptable.”
Ella took the opportunity of their absence to check the snack status with her mom. “Mom, I just thought, do we have any microwave popcorn? And what about sodas? I didn’t think to look.”
“I’m your mom, remember? We are fully stocked on snacks and drinks.”
“Thank you so much. I’m a little nervous.”
“Understandable. This is a first for you. I think you are doing great, and I know you will continue to do great when he gets here. Do you have an estimated time of arrival?”
“Yup, 10:30. We are planning to be done by 3:00 to be safe.”
“I think you two are crazy to be worried about your dad and Rosa meeting Jerry. But it’s your plan and I won’t interfere.”
“Thanks. I just think everyone will feel better if we do it this way for the first time.”
The twins were hovering around and listening in. “Will we ever meet Jerry, or is he a secret?” Lee asked.
“You will certainly get to meet him,” Ella replied. “I just want him to be more comfortable with me and Mom before he meets the clan.”
Rosa and Tony came back down the hall. “Mom, am I right? This shirt is much more acceptable for being seen in public.”
“I’m sorry Tony, but Rosa’s right. You can rest assured that they will let you in the mall now.”
Ella was just curious. “What mall are you going to, Rosa?”
“Mayfair first. Then Brookfield Square before coming home.”
“Sounds like fun. Are you going to leave Dad in the food court, so you don’t lose him?”
All the women laughed. Tony looked like a lost puppy.
“OK, Daddy, let’s go. Will you give me the keys please?”
“Yes, dear. Come on, kids. Pray for me, Ren.”
Off they went. It was 10:00 exactly.
The next thirty minutes flew by. Ella checked the fridge for sodas at least four times. “Mom, where are the potato chips you got?”
“In the cabinet we normally use.”
“Did you get just plain chips or flavored one’s too? Anything else? What about corn chips or tortilla chips?”
“I remembered you saying that Jerry likes barbecue, so I got one bag of barbecue chips. I got both corn and tortilla chips and four other snacks. I also made puppy chow for you.”
“OK. Thanks.” Ella was breathing hard and felt frazzled.
“Slow deep breaths, Ella. I know you are nervous. Slow deep breaths really help. Go sit down until he shows up.”
“I can’t, Mom. I’m too wound up. Did you get toasted rice and corn squares to make your special mix?”
“If I made puppy chow, then I must have gotten the toasted squares. But to answer your question, yes I made the party mix too. I have a good idea; why don’t you wait on the front stoop?”
“That’s an awesome idea, Mom. Thanks.” She ran past the family room and out the front door.
Ella didn’t have to wait long for Jerry to arrive. She ran to the end of the driveway as he rolled in.
“Easy ride, Jerr?”
“Yup, no problems at all. Should I leave my bike in the driveway?”
“Just move it off to the side in case Mom has to take one of us to the hospital. We haven’t completely ruled out your psychopathic tendencies.”
“Enough of that talk for today. Now come here and kiss me.”
“That was rather demanding. Try again, please.”
“Will you please come here and kiss me?”
“Of course. You didn’t have to ask.”
Ella ran the last few steps over to Jerry and melted into his arms as their lips met.
Once their lips parted Jerry asked, “You don’t think your mom is looking out the window, do you?”
“I think she’s done this herself. So, I’m not too concerned. Let’s go inside.”
Ella led the way inside and went straight to her mom in the kitchen. Renata had been waiting there, trying to look busy so she wouldn’t miss meeting Jerry as soon as he arrived.
“Mom, this is Jerry, my friend from school.”
“Hello, Jerry. I’m so glad you came over.”
“Hello, Mrs. DeLuca. I’m glad to meet you, too.”
“Wow, I’m afraid hearing Mrs. DeLuca makes me feel rather old. I appreciate your respect, though.”
“I didn’t really know how I should address you. Maybe I could call you EM.”
“Yeah, for Ella’s Mom.”
“I think that could work. The house is yours. Just don’t go hiding anywhere.”
“Oh, Mom. We’ll be good. Can I at least give Jerry a quick tour, so he knows where the bathrooms and such are?”
“Come on Jerr.” Ella grabbed his hand and took him down the bedroom hallway.
Upon arriving back at the kitchen, she said, “Other than the basement and garage, that’s the house. Seriously, we live in the kitchen and family room.”
“Works for me,” Jerry replied. Ella had avoided her bedroom to hide the fact she had a sister. She hoped Jerry wouldn’t be too curious and ask questions. She still was not completely sure why she felt she needed to hide her sister’s existence. But this was good enough for now.
“So, I have my movies picked out, how about you?” Ella asked.
Jerry had tossed his bag of videos on the sofa when he had walked in. Jerry walked over and picked up the bag. “I have my two right here in the bag. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” he said with a wink.
Ella had placed her movies on the table that connected the two sofas into the L shape. She picked them up and said, “OK, my two choices are Legally Blonde and My Best Friend’s Wedding.” She held up the two DVD cases.
“I like Julia Roberts,” Jerry responded. Who stars in Legally Blonde?
“Reese Witherspoon,” Ella responded.
“I’m not too familiar with her. Wait, she was in Rendition, wasn’t she?”
“You’ve got me there. I haven’t seen that movie.”
“OK, wanna see mine?”
“Of course, silly. That was the deal.”
“Right. And the winners are…” Jerry pulled the two out of the bag as though he was performing a magic trick. “Lost in Translation and True Lies.”
“Really? Those are your choices?”
“I had so many choices, but I didn’t want to choose something you couldn’t stand like The Matrix, anything Star Trek or Terminator. You get the idea. Most of my movies are Sci Fi.”
“I get it. I guess I had the same problem. My list had 50 First Dates, Sleepless in Seattle and 40-Year-Old Virgin on it.”
“No Titanic?” Jerry laughed out loud. “OK, are we starting with yours or mine? I think I should get to choose which one of yours we watch and vice versa.”
“Deal, you pick first,” Ella said with a giggle in her voice.
“I get it, you want to be asleep when my movie plays. Hmm, how about My Best Friend’s Wedding. Like I said, I like Julia Roberts.”
“Done. I’ll put it in the player. Mom? Can you pull the snacks out for us to choose from?”
Renata began to scurry about.
The flat screen and DVD player started up, a process that still seemed to take far longer than it should. “Come on Jerr, let’s choose some snacks and drinks.”
Jerry followed Ella up the two steps from the family room to the kitchen. Renata had grabbed all the bags she bought and put them up on the counter. Ella got to her first and Renata whispered, “It’s fun being a mom today, sweetheart.”
Ella smiled and gave her mom a side hug. As they were discussing the choices of chips and homemade snacks, Liam appeared from down the hall.
“What’s happening?” he said.
I forgot all about Liam. Please, please God, don’t let him be stupid.
“Liam, this is my friend Jerry from school.” Ella tried to be as calm and nice as possible. She didn’t want Jerry to see her as easily provoked.
“Hey, Jerry. I’m the younger brother. Did Ella tell you about her parking practice in the car?”
“As a matter of fact, I did, Liam. We are just getting ready to chill with some movies. You are NOT invited to join us.”
“Chill indeed, sis. I’ll stay out of your way. Nice to meet you Jerry. Maybe we can talk sometime when we’re alone. I’ve got lots of stories about Ella.”
“LIAM! Mom, will you please make him stop?”
“I was just about to,” Renata said jumping between them. “Liam, I suspect you were out of the loop on Jerry’s visit. For that I apologize as I’m sure Ella does too. I’m confident you will be nice and let them have their space without making a list of stories to tell Jerry later.”
“You know I’m just jerking your chain, Ella. I’m sorry. Don’t worry, Jerry, she’s really nice. What snacks can I take with me?”
Ella closed her eyes and took a deep breath. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 “Jerry, what snack do you want least. I’m sure Liam will be happy to take that bag.”
“How about the plain potato chips,” Jerry replied with a crooked smile. “Is that acceptable, Liam? And by the way, nice to meet you too.”
Liam grabbed the bag of chips and got a soda out of the fridge. He returned to his room without another word.
“I’m sorry about that, Jerry,” Ella apologized.
“NBD Ella. I don’t have a younger brother or sister. It was kinda fun to watch that.”
They looked through the snacks and chose the puppy chow and grabbed root beer from the fridge. The DVD had been playing the opening theme music over and over for some time now. The two of them plopped down on the sofa and Ella pressed play. Renata quietly sat down at the small table in the corner and began to putter around with some scrap booking. Ella suspected she would remain as a fly on the wall to monitor their interaction.
The next hour was a mix of silence, some hand holding, occasional comments on the acting and plot line and a good dose of laughter. Unfortunately, there was also a good dose of cell phone interruptions too. Jerry had a great deal of trouble keeping his attention on the film and on Ella.
Bleep ding. Ella had enough. “Don’t you dare check your phone, Jerry Weston.” This was the first time Ella had used Jerry’s last name this way. She stopped the video.
“What’s wrong? I’m just checking TokSpace.”
“And who do you expect to be hearing from? I thought I was the focus of your attention now.”
“You are but you know how it is, if you miss some hurtful comment about yourself you can’t fight back unless you do it right away.”
Trying very hard to calm down and stay in control, Ella took a slow deep breath and said in a deliberate, low tone of voice, “Jerr, do you see me checking my cell phone? Have you even heard it go off since you arrived?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“That’s because my phone is in my room. My focus is on you. Now I don’t expect you to park your phone at the door, though that might be a good idea, but I do expect you to silence it and trust that you can live without checking it for the few hours you are with me.”
Jerry had a deer in the headlights look with his jaw hanging limp.
“I… I… I’m sorry, Ella. I really am. I’m going to silence it right now.”
Ella watched as Jerry lit up his phone one last time and turned off the sound.
“Jerr, you can keep the vibrate on, so you know if your dad calls you. I’m not a tyrant.”
“Thanks. I was completely insensitive. You are the first girl I have wanted to spend time with, and I blew it at my first opportunity.”
“And I’m sorry if I shocked you with my harsh comments. This was very important to me. If our relationship going to last for any length of time, we need to be open and honest with each other. Agreed?”
“Yes, I agree. And again, I am so sorry for being such a fool. You are the best thing that has happened to me and to think we met on the first day of high school.”
“I feel the same way, Jerry. Now let’s learn from the past and move forward.” Ella leaned over, gave Jerry a kiss and started up the movie again.
Ella glanced over towards the kitchen table when she sunk back into the sofa. She saw her mom’s eyes, big as saucers, just over the island counter. Ella turned back towards the movie and smiled to herself. She felt proud that she had controlled herself. Hopefully her mom felt the same way.
They made it through the rest of the movie without incident. Indeed, their banter and laughing resumed.
They both needed a break after the first movie finished. Jerry excused himself to use the bathroom first. Ella got up and stretched. Looking over the kitchen island, she made eye contact with her mom.
Renata was beaming. “That was quite the mature way you dealt with Jerry’s cell phone, Ella.”
Ella smiled and walked over to lean on the counter. “Thanks Mom. I’m so glad it turned out the way it did. I had my moments of fear that it would explode and never see him again.”
“Well let’s agree that God was on your side today.”
Jerry returned and said, “Your turn if you need it, Ella.”
Jerry stepped down into the living room and picked up his two movies. “Well it’s your turn to choose the movie,” Jerry said, waving his two movies.
“OK. Well Lost in Translation is probably more of a chick flick. It wouldn’t be fair to make you endure another one. So, let’s see what True Lies is about.”
“Awesome, here you go. You’re the best, Beautiful.”
“Go look for the next snack,” Ella said with a glint in her eye. She took the DVD and loaded it into the player.
“Ella, would you prefer corn chips, party mix or these fake onion rings?”
“Ooh, I love the onion rings. But I would die eating half a bag of them. Bring them and the party mix please.”
“And what about a drink?”
“Is there orange soda in there?”
“Ding, ding, ding, you are a winner.”
Jerry brought the two snacks and two bottles of orange soda back to the sofa. He handed Ella the soda and positioned the snacks on their laps. Ella and Jerry locked eyes and moved in for a kiss. Ella wondered if her mom was watching. But as she told Jerry outside, she must have done it too.
Ella started the movie. As the movie progressed, she was intrigued by the deception of Harold Tasker, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the loneliness of Helen Tasker, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. When Harold’s daughter stole money from him and rode off on her boyfriend’s motorcycle Ella asked, “Jerr? Would you keep a secret like that from me?”
Jerry looked over at Ella, his jaw slack again. “Please pause the movie,” he said.
Ella paused the movie and Jerry continued, “I just want to be clear about the question. Do you want to know if I would keep a secret if I was a spy like Harold?”
“No, I would expect that. Would you keep a secret that would potentially cause such pain in my life?”
“No, no. I wouldn’t do that.”
“So, if you spent time romantically with another girl, you would tell me so I wouldn’t find out on TokSpace?”
“Whoa, that’s deep. OK, assuming I was seduced into a one-time romantic encounter, I would definitely tell you.”
“OK, that’s a good answer.” And Ella started up the video again.
Jerry looked a bit scared after that encounter. Ella thought that was good. She didn’t want him to be flippant about something so potentially damaging to their relationship.
Soon after Ella has started the video, Jerry asked, “Could you pause the video one more time please?”
“Sure, Jerr, what is it?”
“I want to be very clear. The way I feel about you, I would not cheat on you. I don’t ever want to be in the middle of a hypothetical confrontation like you suggested. I promise I will do everything I can to keep our relationship rooted in honesty and trust.”
“Ooo, that was hot, Jerr. You just won me over into a full trust scenario.”
“Good. Well, you will see that Harold Tasker tries to do the same for Helen. If you are ready, you can start the video again.”
“You know, it just occurred to me that your dad might be a secret agent. His first name is Harold too.”
Ella started the video and then pulled Jerry over to give him a longer than quick kiss. She felt a bit sinister kissing Jerry that much with her mom at the kitchen table. She didn’t peek to see if her mom was watching this time. This relationship was proving to be a lot of fun.
When the movie was done Ella turned to Jerry and said, “That was wonderful! Action, drama, humor, suspense, and romance all wrapped up together. Even a happy ending.”
“I’m glad you liked it. I’m sure we will find many things we like in common.”
“Probably not Star Trek, but who knows.”
Ella looked at the time and said, “My dad will probably be coming home soon. I think it best you leave. I’ll walk you to your bike.”
They got up from the sofa and Jerry said, “Thank you for the snacks Mrs. EM. You made some great choices.”
“Jerry, I’m so glad you could come today. Maybe next time you can meet Tony. He knows your father. You may have some other things in common.”
“Sounds good. Thanks again and say bye to Liam for me too.”
Ella ushered him out of the house wanting to avoid a goodbye encounter with Liam. As long as Jerry leaves before Rosa gets back, all will be well she thought.
“I really enjoyed your company, Ella. This was a great idea. Maybe sometime soon we can watch videos at my place while my dad watches us.”
Jerry laughed and Ella got the connection. She joined in.
“Mostly Jerry, I’m looking forward to Thursday. I can’t imagine what you have come up with for us. And now that we have this trust relationship, I feel much more at ease.”
“No worries, Beautiful. As with all surprises you may be surprised at first, but you will understand quickly.”
“Surprised by surprises? What? Whatever. I do trust you, Jerry. DON’T break that trust, OK?”
“Absolutely. I will see you Monday. Bye, my beauty.”
“Bye, sweetheart.” Ella waved goodbye. She had surprised herself by saying ‘sweetheart’. Did she really mean it? This was happening quickly, but everything was falling into place wonderfully. Even the argument during the video went well. Was it really an argument, though? No, it was more of a discussion. And Jerry even clarified what he meant. This doesn’t happen, even in the movies. What a wonderful day.
Ella watched Jerry disappear around a corner. As she began to turn back towards the house, she saw Rosa driving the car down their street from the other direction. That was close, but it worked out perfectly. Maybe God was on her side. This would certainly give her something to think about as she fell asleep tonight.