11. Another Saturday Night

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Now, how I wish I had someone to talk to. I'm in an awful way - Sam Cooke

6:55 p.m. Saturday, September 25, 2021

Holy mother of all that's on heaven and earth. Despite trying to avoid him, he's here. THE GUY. Offering to carry the hot cocoas. And meet her aunt? Dammit. This is bad. Really bad. Perhaps he wants to tell Aunt Chele about Phoenix's pathetic flirting earlier? He'll probably suggest that she be locked up in her room until she's 45. And how did he know about her brother and sister? This is definitely not good. No matter how you look at it.

But, like before, he's charming. Kind. Reaching out to take two hot chocolates, he nods at her to lead the way.

Biting her lip, Phoenix picks up the other two drinks, desperately looking towards Lee, hoping for some miracle that will exonerate her. Seeing no salvation, she walks in the direction of her family, trying not to stumble and spill the liquid from the cups. It must be what Marie Antoinette felt heading to the guillotine, like they studied in World History.

Passing Aly, she sees her friend's eyes widen, and Phoenix looks away, wishing she'd filled her bestie in on the situation. But Trent is sitting with Aly, so there's no way she can signal for a rescue without Trent getting involved too. Feeling like she's headed for the blanket of doom, she guides THE GUY around the fire.

When they get closer, Patrick's eyes widen and he jumps up from where he'd been tickling Paige. Approaching them quickly, he bypasses Phoenix and takes a drink from THE GUY.

"Hey, Harry! I thought you weren't coming tonight," Patrick asks, and Phoenix is stunned. Her brother knows THE GUY's name? He knows THE GUY? How? From where? How had this happened?

"I finished my work," THE GUY -- no, Harry -- replies. "And I couldn't think of any family I wanted to spend time with besides yours."

Her brother is....blushing? What in the world is going on?

"Dude, it's so cool that you want to hang with me - us." Then he smacks his forehead. "Sorry, man. I haven't introduced you. This is my sister, Phoenix," and he gestures towards her, holding his hand out. Nervously, she smiles, unsure what to do.

"Yes, I've met Phoenix."

"Oh! Then this is my other sister, Paige," and he points to the younger girl sitting on the blanket.

"I've met Paige too," Harry smiles, and Phoenix is astounded. How? When?

"Then you probably already know our aunt, too."

For the first time since invading the Moore family space, Harry shuffles his feet. "Actually, no. I'd love to meet her, though. Where is she?"

Phoenix glances around, for the first time realizing that Aunt Chele is not nearby. Having been distracted by THE GUY, the teenager hadn't noticed that the baker had disappeared.

==========

6:57 p.m. Saturday, September 25, 2021

"Mark, are you sure you need my help for this?" Michele questions her ex-boyfriend as he grasps her hand, leading her away from the festivities.

"You're the only one I could think of," he calls the words back to her from three paces ahead, tugging her behind him.

Rolling her eyes, Michele attempts to stay calm. He drags her all the way past Hairy Styles Salon and the Double Take, slowing only when they are on the premises of the Town Pump gas station. Looking back at her, he bites his lip. Gosh darnit. What has he got planned? That's his nervous look. Michele knows it too well.

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