“Love is a game that two can play and both win.”
— Eva Gabor
Katie’s mother had given her $20, and that had seemed like way too much, until she saw the prices on the menu. The numbers swam under her eyes, and she had to blink and look away . . . to Robbie’s face.
He, too, was frowning at the menu, and Katie felt her heart skip a little when she pondered his round, freckled face and carefully smoothed hair. He was even wearing a button-up shirt. Katie was very glad she had decided to wear her second-best Sunday dress for their “date.”
“A proper date,” she’d told her mother the other day. “Not a play date. A real one.”
“Oh, I see,” her mother had said, smiling in a way that Katie didn’t quite understand. “So you like like Robbie?”
Katie had flounced her hair back dramatically, like on TV. “Yes, and he likes me. We want to go on a date together, like grown-ups do.”
Her mother had nodded, her eyes full of amusement. “I’ll talk to his mother, then.”
So, there Katie and Robbie were, at a little outdoor cafe in the mall. Both their mothers had promised that they would leave them alone to go shopping (but would still be nearby, just in case).
The waitress came over. “Are you ready to order?” She was also smiling that funny smile, Katie noticed.
Putting on her most authoritative voice, Katie said, “We need a minute, please.”
Robbie’s mouth went slightly agape as she said this, and he only nodded enthusiastically when the waitress looked at him. When she had disappeared back into the main part of the restaurant, he leaned over the table.
“How much money do you got?” he whispered.
“Twenty,” Katie said, also whispering. “What about you?”
He reached a hand into his back pocket, pulling out a crinkled ten and a five. “Fifteen. My mom was gonna give me more, but I said no, because . . . ” His ears went pink, and he didn’t continue.
Katie wanted to pat his hand, but that seemed much too daring. “It’s okay. I think we have enough together for something. We can share.”
Robbie brightened at that and sat back in his chair. “Like . . . a dessert?”
She had kind of hoped for something more sophisticated, like a salad or a club sandwich, but everything on the menu seemed frightfully expensive, and she wasn’t at all sure how tips were supposed to work either. Katie flipped to the dessert section.
“Chocolate lava cake?” she suggested. It was the only thing that had chocolate, which she knew Robbie loved, and sure enough, his eyes went wide and he grinned, and Katie had to look away to hide her blush.
After the waitress had taken their order, they attempted to make small talk — discussing the weather and how their families were doing — but those topics were exhausted quickly (and Katie had never realized how boring grown-up conversations were), and so they just sat in silence and looked everywhere but at each other.
When at last the lava cake arrived, it looked nothing like the picture.
“It doesn’t look like the picture,” Robbie whispered, poking at it with his fork. “Where is the lava?”
“I think you have to cut it,” Katie said, taking up her knife. She sliced into it. And “lava” did ooze out, but it wasn’t smooth and syrupy, it was thick and a little chunky.
She and Robbie exchanged glances, but there was no ordering anything new. Katie braved the first bite. It wasn’t bad, exactly, but nor was it good.
“It’s dark chocolate,” she said, her voice thick. “Yum.”
Her lack of excitement made Robbie’s eyebrows knit together, but he took a bite anyway. He chewed it for a bit, with an odd look on his face. Then:
“Very dark,” he said carefully.
They both just kinda picked at the dessert after that (the cake part was good).
Katie’s elation over her first date had severely abated, and she now felt embarrassed and miserable.
What a rotten idea, she thought. A lunch date, pfft! I bet Robbie hates me now . . .
She felt even more sure of that when Robbie suddenly stood up. Her stomach knotted, and she felt the beginnings of tears in her eyes, and . . .
Robbie sat down in the extra chair right next to her.
“Do you want to go to my house after this? We can play Mario Kart. I know you like that game.” He smiled at her — and took her hand in his. It was sticky, but also soft and strong.
Katie stared at him, her brain working to process this wonderful moment.
“Oh yes, please!” she blurted, her grinning face very warm and her heart so full.
And that’s what they did.
I think the tricky thing about writing “kid” stories is being simple without being simplistic.
This story was inspired by a prompt found in this book: Write the Story