Through the Paper Wall, page 12
Copyright Heidi Nicole Bird 2012
“Your Dad says you love to surf,” Jessica continued, trying to keep her tone positive. “Surfing is one of my favorite things to do.”
“You can’t surf here,” Jesse said matter-of-factly.
“No,” Jessica said slowly, “but I do travel sometimes. It is part of my job.”
Jesse wanted to ask what Jessica’s job was, but he didn’t want to make it look like he was enjoying this, so he didn’t. He just stared back at Jessica without responding. Jessica’s smile began to falter, but Dad had heard enough.
“Jessica is a humanitarian,” Dad said from the stove. “She works for the Red Cross. So whenever there is a hurricane or something she usually ends up going there to help people.”
“Oh,” Jesse said with a slight nod. That was the very last thing he had expected. He had wanted Jessica to be someone he couldn’t like, but she was turning out to be not very bad at all. He wasn’t going to give in though.
Jessica looked slightly embarrassed. In an effort to lessen the tenseness of the situation she plunged into a story about one time when she had gone to Hawaii to help the people there and how after everything had been cleared up they had found some time to enjoy the warm water and play a bit.
Jesse was saved from finding some way to respond without giving away how interesting he found the story by Dad announcing that dinner was ready. Jessica clapped her hands like a little girl at a birthday party as Dad gallantly brought the pot and its steaming contents over to the table and placed it on a hot pad.
As Dad put the stuff down Jesse leaned over and looked into the pot. It smelled wonderful and it actually looked great. What sort of a joke was this?
“It looks wonderful,” Jessica said, and she reached over and squeezed Dad’s hand, which made Jesse’s stomach churn. “What is it?”
Dad grinned broadly as he sat down.
“It’s called gumbo,” he said. “It’s a type of Cajun food, you know, like what they eat in New Orleans.”
“Ooh,” Jessica crooned, looking excited. Dad grabbed a ladle and started dishing up bowls for everyone then he brought over a glass pitcher of iced lemonade and a small bottle of hot sauce. Once everything was ready he said a prayer over the food and then said “everybody dig in!”
Jesse watched the other two for a minute, then grabbed his spoon and shoved a spoonful of gumbo into his mouth. To his immense surprise a burst of flavor met his tongue and he felt himself yielding to its delicious flavor. He reached over and grabbed the hot sauce, shook the bottle of few times over his gumbo, mixed it in with his spoon, then took another bite. Without realizing it a small smile spread over his face.
“This is delicious!” Jessica said, beaming at Dad. “See, even Jesse likes it.” She nodded towards Jesse who dropped his smile quickly, kicking himself under the table for letting his guard down.
“It’s pretty good I guess,” Jesse said. Dad and Jessica gave each other a knowing look then went back to their food.
They ate in silence for a few minutes. Jesse quickly finished his food then waited politely for Jessica and Dad.
“Hey Jesse,” Dad said as he laid his spoon down on the table. “Jessica and I are going to work on the living room and try to set up the TV and everything. You can help if you want, or you can do your own thing.”
“Okay,” Jesse said, relieved. “I’ll just be downstairs going through my stuff.”
Dad nodded and Jessica waved as Jesse turned and tried not to run down the stairs. As soon as he reached the bottom he sighed. He had been worried that he’d be stuck with Dad and Jessica all night, but he was glad that Dad had released him. It was clear that Dad and Jessica would like some time alone. After all, they had practically been dating through a webcam for three months now and now they were actually together in person. It made Jesse sick just thinking about it. It was gross.