Chapter 5: Mark and Bryce (part 2)

Mark parked his car at The Fresh Start. "Wait," he said as Bryce reached for the door. "Let me get that. I want to do this right."

Bryce smiled and allowed him to open the car door for her. He escorted her inside with a broad smile on his face. She, too, was smiling.

Just a little.

Theora followed Edison and Martinez into the scumball arena. She sighed at the jostling and elbowing. Whatever was it all about. Their seats were specified on their tickets. It wasn't as if they were going to get a better seat if they got into the stadium first.

"You really think Bryce will be alright?" she asked, raising her voice just a little over the noise of the crowd.

"She'll be fine, Theora," Edison told her. "She's having dinner at the place where your brother works. If there's trouble, he'll call us."

"You're right," Theora decided as they took their seats. But the nagging worry did not leave her completely.

The electronic menu popped up at Bryce's and Mark's table.

"Welcome to the Fresh Start," a female voice said, cheerful. "Would you like to start off with a soft drink or would you like to see our selection of specials?"

Mark looked at Bryce. "Which would you like?"

"The specials is fine," Bryce replied.

"We'll hear the specials," Mark agreed.

"Very good, sir," the machine said. It slid back into the table to be replaced by a larger two sided screen which brought up a series of images accompanied by a list of ingredients and the price of each item.

"Anything you like or shall we just go to the main menu?" Mark asked.

"I think the main menu," Bryce replied. "Some of this looks good, but it's so expensive."

"Main menu," Mark told the screen.

The main menu had several choices and it took them five minutes to scroll through all of them.

"The bison burger with rashers and onions sounds good to me," Bryce decided.

"Two bison burgers with rashers and onions," Mark ordered. "You want regular fries or cheese fries?"

"Can we make that chilli cheese fries?"

"We'd like an appetizer of chilli cheese fries," Mark told the electric menu. "And two ginger beers."

Bryce raised an eyebrow.

"You have to have their ginger beer," Mark said. "It's got a real good bite to it."

"Why not," Bryce shrugged.

While they were waiting, Mark brought up the tabletop jukebox. He touched his credit tube to it and selected an old song from the 1980s. It wasn't quite a love song, but in many ways, it was so much better.

"No pain," Mark sang along with the jukebox. "No loss. No tears…"

Bryce smiled as she let the lyrics wash over her. Mark wasn't the best singer. But somehow she didn't mind that.

The chilli cheese fries arrived in the middle of the second chorus.

"Well, it beats having rotten fruit thrown at you," Bryce said as Mark served her and then himself.

"I agree," Mark said, stuffing a forkful of fries into his mouth, then quickly reaching for the ice water (their root beers hadn't arrived yet.) "Careful. Hot."

Bryce had been a girl long enough to learn to eat like a lady. She took a delicate bite of her own fries, followed by a swig of root beer. "Sheesh, Mark! I thought you meant the temperature! Wow!"

"Too much to handle, eh?" Mark asked her.

Bryce saw the challenge in his eyes.

"Not on your life," she replied, taking another forkful of the fries.

Mark did likewise.

By the time their bison burgers arrived, both were sweating and laughing at how hot the chilli on the fries had been.

In time… we'll be dancing through the streets of light…

The song ended and the jukebox slid back into the table.

"I'm really having a great time," Mark said, happily.

"So am I," Bryce agreed as she bit into her bison burger, laughing as the sauces and juices dribbled down her chin.

There was just no way to be ladylike while eating a bison burger.

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