Chapter 12: Dinner

Abigail Stevens looked out the kitchen window for the seventh time. Her son was a bit late getting home. He would definitely be getting scolded. Already she'd had to throw out the asparagus which had gotten mushy from being kept warm too long.

The rickshaw surprised her when it pulled up, as did the girl sitting alongside Jake holding a bag of groceries in her lap.

~I didn't know he had a girlfriend,~ she thought. ~I wonder how long he's been sneaking…"

The rest of the thought was startled away when the girl climbed down from the rickshaw, revealing her swollen belly for the first time.

~Jake, if that's yours you are in deep trouble.~

Bryce followed Jake inside.

"Sorry I'm late, mum," Jake apologized. "I picked up a stray kitty on the way home."

Bryce rolled her eyes and offered a hand. "Bryce Lynch."

Mrs. Stevens did not take Bryce's hand. Instead, she went back to the stove and began straining the rice. "How long have you been dating my son?"

"For about twenty five minutes if you count grocery shopping as a date," Bryce replied, joining her in the kitchen and beginning to unpack the groceries and put the cold things into the fridge.

"Jake can take care of those," Mrs. Stevens told her. "Why don't you make yourself comfortable until dinner."

"I'd rather help," Bryce told her. "If you don't mind, that is."

Mrs. Stevens smiled a little more warmly at this. "Very well. You can help me put the food on the table. Everything's pretty much all set to go."

"It looks and smells wonderful," Bryce told her. "Oh, and its my fault we're a little late. We had to stop off at Control for a couple of minutes to tell Theora I wouldn't be home for supper."

"Don't blame yourself, dear," Mrs. Stevens told her. "I'm sure my son dallied at the meat counter. He likes the girl who works there."

"I could tell," Bryce smiled. "I'm sorry."

"For what, dear?"

"For making you uncomfortable." Bryce explained as they set the food on the table "Let's face it, I'm only here because Cheviot … your father I mean… insisted that your son begin courting me."

"You know my father?"

"I work for him," Bryce explained. "I'm the network's Head of Research and Development."

"Sit here," Abigail Stevens told Bryce, offering her a chair at the table near the head, "I'd like to talk with you some more during dinner. Jake, tell your sister and brother it's time for dinner. They're in their rooms doing their homework… or probably more likely playing video games."

Jake got up from the sofa where he'd been watching Missile Mike and headed upstairs to the bedrooms.

"Abby," he said opening the first door. "It's supper time. And we have a guest, so wash up first."

"Yes, sir!" Abby said, jumping to her feet and saluting her brother with a goofy grin.

Abby was nine years old. A tomboy, she loved playing the Missile Mike handheld game, and saw herself as a budding soldier. She had short blond hair, light brown eyes and was dressed in a camo jumpsuit that was part of the Missile Mike clothing line that had been popular that year.

"Hup hup hup," Jake told her as he left her room.

Jake opened the door to his brother's room. "Arthur. It's dinner time."

Arthur Stevens, who was fourteen, tossed his homework aside, got to his feet and with a simple "Yup" strolled past his brother and down the stairs. His hair was bright green this week (it had been purple last week) and he was wearing a t-shirt that said "Know Future" with the K and W crossed out.

"Wash your hands," his mother said.

Arthur walked back upstairs washed his hands, then returned to the dining room.

"Who are you?" he asked Bryce.

"Introductions in a minute," Mrs. Stevens said. "Just sit down for now."

"I'm Max Headroom's mother," Bryce whispered.

"Max Headroom is wicked cool," Arthur told her. "How'd you make him?"

"Well I hooked Edison Carter up to my computer and downloaded his memory into the system."

"Neat," Arthur decided. He didn't really understand it too well. But it sounded cool just the same.

The rest of the family joined them. They were passing around the food when Cheviot arrived.

"I see you made it, Bryce," he said. "Excellent. How are you getting along with the rest of the family?"

"Quite well," Bryce said.

"Good," Cheviot said, taking a mouthful of rice. He finished and had a sip of juice. "I've decided that given how far along you are we should plan for the wedding in no more than a week."


"No buts," Cheviot told them. "I know both of you very well and I suspect you'll make a great couple if you give each other a chance."

"Wow, Jake," Arthur said. "Just think! You get to be Max Headroom's step-dad!"

"So we're gonna have Max Headroom in our family?" Abby asked, stepping out of her military character for a moment. "Wicked!"

After dinner, Jake walked Bryce back to Theora's house. It was only two blocks away and the journey was spent in an awkward silence.

When they got there, Jake finally spoke. "You don't have to marry me if you don't want to."

Bryce smiled at him. "I know. But maybe I do."

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