Chapter 23

"Now it's official," I smiled and stood up. She stood up and wiped the sand off her body. I put my shirt on and looked at the sunset.


"I'm ready for dinner. How about you?" She asked as she pulled on her shorts.


"Yeah," I agreed. I took her hand in mine and led her to the car.


"So, what are we going to get? Pizza, a nice dinner in a romantic restaurant or a cheap burger from McDonald's?"


"None of the above. I was actually thinking something spicy."


"Spicy?" She looked at me.


"Mmmhm."


"I don't eat spice. Whenever I try, I always end up crying and downing a pitcher of water."


"I might want to see that actually," I laughed.


"Seriously?!"


"Yes, so in that case, we're going to my favorite restaurant. You'll love it."


"Are you sure?"


"I'm positive," I said as I began driving to the restaurant.


VII


"Hello, Michael. I see you're joining us again," the hostess, Brianna, smiled from behind the podium.


"Hey, Brianna. You already know this is my favorite restaurant," I smiled.


"I know. You've told me plenty of times," she laughed. "Table for two?"


"Yes, ma'am."


"Follow me," she said and grabbed two menus.


"Michael," Shayla tapped me. "I'm cold and very wet. Do you think they can turn on the heat?"


"I'll ask. Brianna?"


"Yeah?" She placed the menus on the table.


"Is it possible for you to turn up the heat? We're kind of wet because we just came from the beach."


"Sure thing. What will you all have to drink?"


"I'll have a lemonade," Shayla said as she looked at the menu.


"I'll just have a water," I told her.


"Cool. I'll be right back with your drinks and I'll have the heat turned up while I'm back there," she smiled and went about her way.


"So, what do you recommend I try? And enchilada or the quesadilla?" Shayla asked me, rubbing her arms.


"Neither. How about the spicy Mexican pizza? It's my favorite. Plus, it's enough for us to share."


"How spicy is it?"


"Let's just say you're going to need a pitcher of water sitting beside you," I teased.


"Michael, you're trying to kill me... I just told you, I don't like spicy," she laughed. "I don't think I want to try it..." she bit her lip.


"Oh, come on. It's not too bad."


"I'll try it on one condition," she looked at me.


"And what's that?"


"You give me two snickers and we go to Disneyland before I leave."


"Deal, if you eat half of the pizza."


Her eyes grew wide in horror, "a whole half?!"


"Yup. Trust me, by the time you eat the third slice you'll have gotten used to it," I shrugged.


"Oh my gosh... Okay. Let's do it, but if I throw up, you owe me two snickers, that Disneyland trip and a shopping trip at the Thrift Store."


"Deal let's shake on it," I held out my hand. She grabbed it and shook it. "I doubt you'll throw up though."


"I'm pretty sure I will since you're challenging me to eat half. Are you eating the other half?"


"Of course."


She sighed, "oh gosh. I just know my stomach is going to be upset with me after this," she groaned and rubbed her stomach.


"Shayla, I don't want you to throw up. It's not even that hot. They just put medium salsa on there."


"Any hot sauce?"


"If you want some, I can slap some on."


"No, thanks," she shook her head.


Brianna walked back with our drinks, "here's your lemonade," she placed the cup in front of Shayla. "And your water. Are you two ready to order?"


"Yup. We'll just have one Mexican pizza."


"Small, medium or large?"


"Large."


"Um," Shayla put her hand up. "How many slices does a large have?"


"Eight," Brianna said.


"What about a medium?"


"Six."


"Michael, let's get a medium."


"That's too small. I'm a grown man! And I need my essentials, girl!"


"Fine," Shayla shook her head. "Large it is."


"Are you sure?" Brianna laughed.


"Positive," Shayla and I said in unison.


"Alrighty, I'll be back with your pizza," Brianna smiled as she went about her way.


Shayla looked at a strand of hair, "I think I'm going to straighten this tomorrow. Does LaToya or your mom have a hot comb or something?"


"Yeah, but I like your hair curly. I love the way your hair coils and the little ringlets... Why don't you want to keep it like that?"


"Well, I need to wash it anyway because of the beach. Plus, you've never even seen it straight to make that judgment. When it's straight, you can see more of the red."


"Red? You've got red hair in that head of yours?"


"Yeah," she shrugged as she continued to look at the strand.


"Where did it come from in terms of your bloodline, if you don't mind me asking.


"My great grandmother was Choctaw Native American."


"Wow! This is on your mom or dad's side?"


"My dad's. My mom has some as well, but it's distant. Her family is rooted in Kentucky. My dad's family is rooted in Alabama. I don't really know the story, but my great-granddaddy married a Choctaw woman named Karter and here I am," she smiled. I'm sure she enjoys talking about her ancestry.


"Who do you think you're more like? Your mother or your father?"


"Well, let's see, my father is stern yet loving and my mother is the sweetest person you've ever met... I would have to say I'm a lot like the both of them. I'm literally my mother's carbon copy. And the only time I'm really like my dad is when I get extremely upset, but that's rare, so you'll never see that side."


"I can definitely see more of your mother."


"That's what a lot of people say," she laughed. "But compared to my mom in some ways, people consider me boring and my mom is fun. My dad is really fun too. He loves to travel and explore. I'm exactly like him in my own terms of fun."


"I can see that, and I love it," I smiled.


"Thanks. Who do you think you're more like?"


"Everyone says I'm a lot like my mom. I would have to agree."


"I can definitely see that. You're nothing like Joseph."


"I'm sure I have a bit of him in me, but it doesn't come out unless it has too," I shrugged.


"Didn't you break your nose?"


"Yeah... During rehearsal for The Wiz."


"Did it hurt?"


"You think it didn't?" I cringed at the memory. "It hurt a lot."


"I'm sorry to hear that. I'm glad you were able to fix it... Did you have fun during The Wiz? That's one of my favorite films."


"Oh, yeah. I had a lot of fun. I got to work with my friend Diana Ross... It was really fun."


"You're a great actor. Bump all the haters. I think you did great."


"Thanks... I do believe I could have done better though..."


"Don't be so hard on yourself. It was believable, and I loved your performance."


"Thanks," I smiled nervously.


Brianna walked over to us with our pizza in hand, "here's your pizza. Enjoy!" She said as she placed the pizza in the center of the table.


"Um, could you bring me a pitcher of water? I have a feeling I'm going to need it..." Shayla asked.


"Sure," Brianna laughed and went to get it.


I rubbed my hands together, "are you ready to dig in?"


"Not until I get my water," she gave me a look.


"Calm down," I laughed as I went to pick up a slice. "It's not spicy, Shayla."


"You eat it a lot. Spicy is not really a friend of mine..."


I took a bite of the slice, "mmm, nice and spicy. Do you want a bite?"


She backed away, "no, thank you."


"If you say so," I continued to eat.


Brianna came back and placed the pitcher beside Shayla, "do you need anything else?"


"No, thank you," Shayla shook her head as she stared at the pizza in mental preparation.


"Enjoy your meal!" Brianna left.


Shayla poured some water into her cup, "if I cry, you owe me," she said as she grabbed a slice.


"You'll be alright," I waved her off as I continued to eat.


"Hmm," she took a bite. "This isn't half bad."


"Just wait. It'll hit you when you least expect it," I teased, sitting back in my chair to witness what was about to happen.


"I don't know what you're talking about, Michael. This is actually good," she nodded. I continued to watch and wait until it finally hit her. Suddenly, her eyes grew in horror, "Holy macaroni!" She gasped, dropping the slice in exchange for her water. "This is hot!" She managed to get out in between gulps of water. Two actually tears rolled down her cheeks as she continued to down the water. "Oh my gosh! I am never eating that again!" She sniffed.


"Are you okay?" I laughed.


She sniffed, "I'm okay... But you owe me two snickers and a trip to Disneyland."


"That's fine," I laughed. "This was all the entertainment I need! Do you need some more water? Your eyes are still pretty watery there."


"Remind me to never allow you to pick my meal ever again," she managed to laugh despite the fire in her mouth.

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