Dating Around

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Natalia determines that
our best bet for
the double date will be
this Friday -
Eddie's birthday is Wednesday,
and she says that she
has something going on
all day Saturday.
When she texts Seth
to confirm, he says that
his schedule is clear
for that day, too.
"He probably doesn't have
anything to fill
his schedule to begin with,"
Natalia laughs over the phone
on Tuesday night,
"besides practices,
of course.
But boys are like sheep -
they'll do anything you ask
if you're willing to
prod them a bit.
He's no different, Matty -
you'll see."

Uncle Greg and his family
had stayed in town
after Thanksgiving.
They, along with Aunt Margo,
all cram into our
little house on Wednesday
to celebrate Eddie's tenth birthday,
and he seems thrilled.
His cake is a big
chocolate-frosted marble cake -
his favorite, as we
hear multiple times
before Mom turns out the lights
and lights the candles on top.
After he opens his presents,
he and the little kids
run to his room to play,
while the rest of the adults
sit around the living room
and talk.

Aunt Tina starts up
a conversation with
Mom and Aunt Margo,
and Uncle Greg with Dad;
Eunice chatters animatedly with
with thirteen-year-old Eliza,
while Thias remains firmly invested
in his phone, which
vibrates insistently
every other second
as he types out messages
across its screen.
I have a feeling
that he's texting Sara -
but the moody expression
on his face warns me
that it's not a happy conversation.

At some point,
I wander out to the back porch,
tired of how stuffy
the air inside is
and of listening in on
uninteresting conversations that
I'm not a part of.
Our back porch is
one of those enclosed ones
that's more like a sunroom
than an open-air porch -
but it's still cold enough
that I grab my jacket
on the way out.

It had started snowing
for the first time
earlier this morning;
sitting on one of the deck chairs
near the windows, I
watch it come down in tiny flakes.
Eddie and the little cousins
had wanted to go out
and play in it earlier,
but Aunt Tina had put
her foot down on account
of them not having their snow gear.
Instead, Eddie had made peace
by telling his cousins
about his huge lego stash,
and away they had gone.
Eddie's really good at that -
being the mediator,
that is, and finding
peaceful solutions to problems.
Mom says that someday
he'll become a diplomat
or a lawyer or something
since he's so good at solving issues.

Of course, that line of thought
leads me back to Natalia,
as that's her dad's occupation,
as well as the impending double date
coming up on Friday.
I haven't even
talked to Mom and Dad
about it yet;
Euni knows only from
that one conversation in
the cafeteria before Thanksgiving,
and Thias hasn't really
been talking to anyone much lately,
let alone me.

For a second, I let
that thought distract me.
What could possibly be
going on with Thias?
And why hasn't he
brought Sara home recently?
She usually comes over
for dinner fairly often -
a couple times a month,
at the very least -
so something must be
seriously wrong
if she hasn't shown up
in an entire two months...

I'm distracted from my wondering
all of a sudden
as the porch door swings open,
revealing the familiar figure of
my older cousin.
"What're you doing
out here, Matty?"
Addie asks, looking
a little worried.
Why, I have
no idea.
"You just walked out
so suddenly -
Aunt Mari and Uncle Aaron
were worried that
something was wrong."

That's my parents for you -
always worrying when something
perfectly ordinary happens.
"It was stuffy in there,"
I tell Addie,
"and it looks so pretty
outside right now.
I hope it snows
on Christmas."

She smiles knowingly
and, with a small sigh,
comes to sit on the
Adirondack chair beside me.
Like me and Thias,
Addie isn't the most
outgoing person
in her family.
She's become a lot more
outspoken as she's gotten older,
but I remember how shy
she used to be
when I was little.
And like me, she often
gets overwhelmed by such
large company as all the family
here for Eddie's party.
How she and outspoken Euni
are so close, I'll
never know.

"What's on your mind?"
Addie asks after
a few moments of silence.
It surprises me a little
how perceptive she is -
but then again,
Dad always says that
quiet people tend to be
the most observant and attentive.
I think he was
quoting something, though.

"Not much,"
I tell her.
The snow swirls around
outside the window in
mini tornados;
I hope it doesn't turn into
a blizzard or something.
I unconsciously continue -
and then I startle
in my seat, wondering
how in the world
I had let that out.
"She has this
double date thing planned
for this Friday,"
I hurriedly add,
trying to rescue the situation.
"She set me up with
some boy from school,
and then she and her boyfriend
are coming with, too."

"That sounds like
a lot of fun."
Addie's sarcastic tone
doesn't match the
intended excitement
in her words, though.
I almost laugh -
that's exactly how I
would respond if I were her,
knowing Natalia and all.
"What guy is she
dating now?"

The question catches me
a little off guard.
"His name is Manny,"
I tell her, frowning.
"He's a senior.
Why, do you
know him too?"

"No, no,"
she laughs,
"I'm just wondering.
She dated around a lot
when she lived in Vermont -
I guess I was wondering
if she still does now."

That would explain why
I had seen her with
some other guy
on top of the bleachers
near the beginning of
the school year.
"I've never understood
people who do that,"
I say to no one
in particular.
"Doesn't it defeat the purpose
of dating if you go out
with a new person
every other week?"

"That's Natalia for you,"
Addie laughs.
"She's not really serious
about much of anything -
relationships included.
She gets bored of them,
and then they're gone.
Someone else will step up
to take his place in
a matter of days, because
that's what happens with
pretty and popular people.
And then the vicious cycle
repeats itself."

She sounds a little bitter
about that particular subject,
so I try and change it.
"So why is she
so obsessed with the idea
of going on a double date?"
I wonder aloud.
"You would think that
she'd be able to find
plenty of people willing
to go along with her
with that logic."

Addie gives me
a strange look at that,
one that makes me wonder
for a moment
if I had said something wrong.
"Dating around doesn't
make friends,"
she says softly,
almost too quietly for
me to hear her clearly.
"It only loses them,
more often than not.
And Natalia has lost
far more friends than
I could ever hope to count."


Due to popular demand, here's more of Addie c: She wasn't even a planned character but I'm starting to really love her. She's gonna have a bit more significance later on though - I'm slowly beginning to plan that out...

If you guys liked this chapter, I'd love if you would vote and leave me some feedback! It would be very much appreciated! c:

Also, now that we're starting to learn a bit more about Natalia, what is your opinion on her? Is she just another pretty blonde airhead, or something else entirely? (I honestly just love her to death, though - it's so much fun developing her character, oml;;;)

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