Card Challenge: Day 68
Card Day 68: A twister spinning in the palm of a hand.
“I think you should know that I’m…special.” Penelope swirled her straw through her drink, not quite making eye contact with her dinner guest.
He smiled and reach across the table to twine his fingers with hers. “Trust me, that is one thing I definitely know about you. You are so special to me, more than any—“
She yanked her hand away suddenly, irritation painted in her eyes. “No, I don’t mean like that. I mean—“ she trailed off at that. Her eyes were bright, yet pricked conspicuously with distress. They raced along the room as she wrung her hands distractedly. Finally, she gathered in a deep breath, and poured out her confession. “I mean I have special powers.”
Frank laughed, and she watched his head fly back, mouth wide, unintentionally mocking her. As he calmed, he made quick note that she, on the other hand, was not enjoying the joke of her own creation. He studied her face, scouring it for any glimmer of humor. She could never play a joke this straight-faced.
“Penny,” he said, still smiling, “that’s a good one. But you can lay off now. You got me.”
“I’m not joking, Frank.” She seemed to be deeply invested in the cheap carpeting of the restaurant, and his discomfort was growing.
“Come on, it’s not funny. You got me, now stop.”
When her eyes met his, he wished instead she had kept glaring at the carpet. There was fierce anger and frustration burning in her eyes, and he was close enough to feel the heat wash over him. “I said it wasn’t a joke,” she hissed. “I’m as serious as I’ve ever been in my life. But I know you bought a ring last week, and so I can’t put this off any longer. I’m different.”
Frank was floundering. He had known her for years, more than long enough to understand the subtlety of her jokes as well as the depths of her sincerity. This was not a joke. He could peer into every crevice of her expression, but there was not a single ounce of humor. She was terrible at drawing something out this long; in their years together, she had never carried out a joke more than a minute or so before her façade cracked into giggles. It was sobering, because she was completely serious. “Have you, I mean, do you think it would be good to talk to someone about this?”
“I’m talking to you about it right now.”
“No,” his nerves left him feeling a thousand miles away from the quaint diner table. “Not me. Have you maybe told a…professional about this?”
She grew steely, then softened. “I’m not crazy, Frank. I know it sounds that way, but I’m not. It’s a genetic thing that runs in my family, so if you’re considering marrying me, you should know.”
“Wait, how did you know about the ring? Does that mean you’re psychic?”
Penelope rolled her eyes. At least she had him buying in on the “special powers” thing for the moment. “No, you left the receipt in your wallet. I saw it the other night when I got your card for the takeout.” He appeared a bit deflated, again concerned. “But that does not mean I don’t have other gifts.”
“Penelope, you know I love you, but you have to understand that this is all a bit much. If this is a joke—“
“For the last time, it’s not a joke.” Her voice peaked high enough this time to draw stares from the nearby tables, and her face burned red in response. “I can control the weather.”
Frank snorted, pushing back a bit from the table. “Seriously, Penny? You think I’m going to buy that? We just had our picnic rained out, but you can control the weather?”
He could see her trying to stay calm and keep herself together, waging an internal battle and losing. Her words were strained, barely contained, when she finally did speak. “Yes, our picnic was rained out. Do you have any idea how much energy it takes to redirect a seasonal storm front for a few hours?”
He withered under her fiery gaze. “I mean, no, I don’t know that. But come on, you can’t expect me to believe this? It’s crazy, Penny!”
“So, now I’m crazy.”
“No, you are not crazy. This story is. I guess it was supposed to be a joke, but I don’t think either of us is laughing. Let’s drop it and enjoy our dinner.” Frank buried his face into the menu as if it would protect him from the dangerous glare in her eyes.
“You aren’t going to believe me without proof, are you?”
Frank reached his limit. He snapped the menu closed and pressed it into the table. “Would you?” he responded sharply, this time not shying from her angry gaze.
“Fine, but we leave and get pizza on the way home once I’m done.”
“Whatever you say, Penelope. You can have all the pizza you want, but I chose this place for a reason. I’ll get it to go, but I’m having dinner.” He dove back into the menu, steaming.
Unfortunately, this meant he missed the subtle transformation crashing over Penelope. She closed her eyes halfway, leaving them unfocused and moving rapidly behind her lids. Her breathing slowed to steady, deep breaths that came in regular but prolonged gaps. She left her hands folded in her lap, fingers curled tightly together, and her knuckles steadily turned white at the prolonged pressure. Steadily, her breath slowed and deepened, and then a tiny puff of fog preceded from her lips with each breath.
Had Frank looked, her would have noticed that her skin seemed to grey, as did her usually vibrant brown hair. It was as if someone drained the color from the room, in fact, but she was the focus of the disruption. Perhaps Frank noticed the food looked less appetizing in the menu pictures, but he never moved his eyes to look at her. It was not until he lifted his hand to call over a server that he realized something was wrong.
The air of the restaurant hung heavy and wet around him, even though the fans overhead had never stopped spinning. It was sticky in there with all the heat and humidity of a July afternoon. Frank’s eyes widened, staring at his changed girlfriend as she continued in her trance, the mist from her lips rising to the ceiling. The clatter of the restaurant died down, people beginning to notice the change. However, it was as if they all moved through water, heads moving sluggishly and eyes glancing dumbly about. Sounds were muted and echoing dully, the sounds of the kitchen having slowed in tempo even as the servers were caught in the same doldrums.
Penelope was faded, distant, but consuming. He could not pull his eyes away because, as dim as she was, she still pulsed with a power that defied everything he had ever thought. Mesmerized, he watched as a cloud steadily formed among the rafters of the restaurant, grey and foreboding.
When it began to rain inside, she seemed to snap from the trance, and the world rubber banded back into place with sudden activity. People scurried, throwing napkins and menus over their heads to protect from the rain. Frank sat entranced on his own, while Penelope slumped in her seat. She opened her eyes, heavy with fatigue, long enough to give him a pointed and charged glance.
“Believe me now?”
The restaurant had exploded into chaos around them, people pouring around their table and towards the exit. Waiters and waitresses stumbled about, trying to get people out safely while looking around in muted shock. There was no hole in the ceiling, no ring of the fire alarms. This was not the sprinkler system, and it had no cause. Eventually, the newspapers would claim it was due to an interaction between air conditioning, humid external conditions, and smoke from the kitchen.
But Frank knew the truth “Yeah, I’m converted. Let’s get you that pizza, my special woman.”
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.