IoM: Before the Ides_Vinifera 7

Considering toys didn’t exist in Sector 10 and this moment was his first encounter with a toy store, Crys questioned why age mattered. Technically, however, he was too old to play in a toy store. A hint of anger boiled in the pit of his gut. He focused intently to remain calm.

The Official that awaited Crys’ response suddenly looked beyond him; behind him, so to speak. Out of curiosity Crys looked over his shoulder, in the same direction the short Official gazed. Whatever the Official saw, Crys did not. He turned back and found the Officials staring at each other. An eerie nuance built in the atmosphere, as if they could speak telepathically to one another. When their exchanged look was finished, they stared at Crys.

“Your file says you’re from Sector 10,” the taller Official said, reading info from the tech-pad. 

He looked at Crys. “Your child-like amazement in a toy store makes sense now.”

“You won’t be issued a warning, but we’re giving you a warning… understood?” The shorter Official said. 

The taller one politely said, “Have a good day.” 

In unison the patrolling pair left Mickey’s Toy Shop.

“Sophia!” Crys called out, but heard no response.

He searched the store aisle by aisle, looking for her. Seconds were creeping into long minutes. Crys worried Sophia abandoned him. Panic coerced his heart to flutter. Then Crys felt a small, harmless pressure hit his back followed by another and another. Each pressured shot cooled and expanded. Crys twirled around and there Sophia was, pointing her Warf at him. Crys flung his hands in the air, raising his arms high.

“I surrender,” Crys stated as a smile lit up his face.

A huge wave of relief struck him. Sophia hadn’t left him behind. He wondered if she wanted to get him into trouble. If so, he found that intoxicating. He was clueless as to why, but he didn’t bother to flood his mind with meandering questions.

Sophia placed the Warf gun mid-level on a shelf full of stuffed animals, extremely out of place. She took Crys by the hand, and a warmth rose up in his core. He’d never held a woman’s hand.  Pulling Crys along, they left the toy store and continued window shopping- like adults in a mature fashion.

Lunchtime arrived, and back to Ned’s Diner they went. They were seated at the same corner booth they had earlier that day. Instead of playing the people-watcher game, they actually engaged in real conversation. Anything they talked about was infused with laughter and gusto. Time slipped away from them, by the end of their table talk, dinner was only a few hours away. 

Leaving the restaurant, Sophia again demanded to pay. The intimidation she fed Crys made it easy for him to comply. Maybe his complicity was more from his eagerness to please her. She wanted to pay and Crys desired to give in- for Sophia’s sake.

As they left the diner, Sophia asked Crys, “Do you know how you can make it up to me?”

Defensively, Crys questioned, “Make what up to you?”

“Buying breakfast and dinner- well lunch- I mean. You didn’t even try to insist on paying for your own lunch like you did at breakfast.”

“You denied me the opportunity to insist!” Crys argued, pretending to be insulted rather poorly.

  “Oh-haw,” Sophia casually said, as she playfully slapped him in the arm. 

Crys pointed at Sophia and playfully whined, “You did too!” like he was a six year old boy in a childish debate.  

“Admit it!” he requested, poking her.

“Okay,” She confessed reflexively, grabbing Crys’ poking finger.

She released his finger as she stood before him on the walkway. Crys noticed they managed to walk over to the grocery store.

“I’ll admit it,” Sophia continued to say as she pulled her folded up tote bag out of her back pocket. “I’ve had a hidden agenda since I first saw you this morning.”

“In the park?!” Crys questioned in unbelief, somehow knowing the park held some importance in their connection, but like a word on the tip of his tongue, he couldn’t exactly recall why or how the park was relevant.

She shook her head.

 “In the hallway, silly.” She giggled.

That was right. They met for the first time in the hallway this morning. 

Thrilled of what awaited him, without the slightest idea what she could possibly want or need from him, Crys courageously asked, “What is your agenda exactly?”

Crys grinned giddily,  awaiting her response. The words that moved off her lips took Crys by surprise. He had not had the chance yet to dream about the words she spoke to him. Unconditionally, he was all in with Sophia’s agenda. The rest of the afternoon required preparation. Crys needed the proper gear and he had to get the facts- all the facts. Crys had to give Sophia of a detailed briefing on his entire life since his first memory.

He reported for duty at 1800 hours. Crys hardly recognized his own reflection. His long wavy, black hair was cut down to a fade. The back and sides of his hair were only stubble while an inch worth sat on top of his head. Facially, for once since he was fully mature, he was clean-shaven. He wore attire called a suit, which was a three-layered outfit: a long-sleeved, black buttonless dress shirt with a constantly popped collar,  slate-gray dress pants with a crease, and a thin, slate-gray lapel two-button vest. Sophia said he had to wear black dress shoes too. Wearing regular clothing felt stranger than wearing a one piece suit.

In his head, he constantly reviewed the information he needed to know for tonight. Sophia specifically said this task was sink or swim. Crys’ stomach flopped with anxiety and his hands quaked from fear. Sophia said it was okay if he appeared nervous at first. Naturally, the situation would be nerve-racking for anyone, but there was nothing natural about this situation.  

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