Don't Hex with Texas
Otherwise, we could watch Bollywood musicals with my mom or crime dramas with your dad, or I guess we could find an empty motel room and watch HBO.”
We’d actually had some cool slumber parties doing that when we were kids, but the idea wasn’t as thrilling now as it had been back then. “Okay, you win. Dinner and a movie it is.” Plus, being out and about would help me spot any additional magical weirdness that might ensue. It was almost like I was getting to be part of the investigation.
Nita bounced off the bench. “Cool! Now we just have to get some groceries and take them home to Mom, and then I’m free.”
“I could wait here for you.” I wanted to talk to Sam some more, and the wizard seemed to be most active at this time of day.
She shook her head vigorously while she grabbed my arm and tugged me off the bench. “No, I need you with me so I can escape. If you’re with me already, Mom won’t be able to come up with an excuse for me to stay in.”
We picked up the groceries, then rode in Nita’s ancient Escort to the little house behind the motel where the Patels lived. Mrs. Patel greeted me with her usual combination of warmth and suspicion. I always got the feeling that she liked me but didn’t quite trust me not to get her daughter in trouble—
never mind that it was almost always the other way around. Moving a mile a minute, Nita dashed through the kitchen, putting away the groceries she’d bought and chattering nonstop about our plans so that her mother couldn’t get a word in edgewise to object. When we were back outside in the car, I was out of breath just from watching her performance.
The café on the town square was practically full when we got there—not that there were too many tables to begin with. Dean and Sherri were there, seated front and center. I gave them a wave as we headed to our own table but didn’t stop to talk. “I still can’t believe he married her,” Nita said when we sat down. “He was so hot, he could have had anyone.”
“Nita, he’s my brother.”
“So? He’s still hot, and I’m not related to him. Okay, so he’s a bit of a jerk, and I could have thrown myself at him naked and he wouldn’t have noticed, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like looking at him.”
She craned ever so slightly in her seat to get a better view.
“Between this and your Tom Cruise thing, I really think you need to get out more.”
“Thank you! I’ve been saying that for ages.”
She reluctantly ordered the vegetable plate, saying that her dad was bound to get a report if she ordered pot roast and was seen eating it in public. I ordered the pot roast, with plans to sneak her a piece or two. We chatted about her latest scheme for updating the motel while we waited for our meals, and our food was served before she could get sidetracked into talking about my love life. We were enjoying lemon pie for dessert when a commotion arose from one of the front tables. I cringed when I realized Dean and Sherri were at it again.
“I swear to God, Dean Chandler, you have got a hole in your pocket!” Sherri shouted. Every head in the room turned to watch the fight.
“You get a paycheck, too. Why do I have to be the one to buy your dinner?”
“Because I buy the groceries and pay the bills—since you can’t be bothered. And because you forgot my birthday. Again. You owe me a dinner.”
“Sherri, this is not the time. I don’t have any cash on me, so just pay the damn check.”
She threw a few bills on the table, then stalked out of the restaurant. He sat back down after she’d left and asked the waitress for another cup of coffee. As soon as the show was over, all the spectators turned to look at me, as if to see my reaction. I shrugged and rolled my eyes. “Hey, who knew we were going to get dinner and a show,” I quipped to Nita. “No need to see a movie now.”
“You’re not getting out of the movie that easily.”
The theater was a relic from the past—no stadium seating, digital projection, or surround sound. It was the same theater where my parents had watched a double feature of Westerns for a dime on Saturday afternoons when they were kids, and it hadn’t changed much since then. About the only difference was the ticket prices, which were still a real bargain compared to movie theaters in New York. Here, I could afford to buy snacks after buying a movie ticket. Nita and I bought popcorn and candy, then looked for two adjacent seats in the theater that weren’t broken or with springs coming through the worn velvet. There were about ten other people in the auditorium by the time the movie started. (Of course, the tallest one sat right in front of me.) I zoned out and ate my snacks, barely paying any attention to the movie, which seemed to mostly involve a lot of running around and stuff blowing up. The sound system was as vintage as the theater, but they made up for it by cranking up the volume to the point that my whole body vibrated. Nita was engrossed in the film, I was sure. But then I turned to look at her and was surprised to see her sound asleep. She must have been working long hours lately, I thought. But then the head of the tall guy in front of me drooped forward. A loud snore came from the row behind me. It wasn’t the best movie ever, but it wasn’t an insomnia cure, either.