It was three thirty-two in the afternoon, and Zee was sneaking out of the house to go on an adventure with a boy. Well, she wasn’t really sneaking, exactly, but it felt like it.
“Hey, I’m going skating!” she called out over her shoulder, pausing before leaving the house.
“Be back at dinnertime and take your phone!” came her dad’s reply.
She stepped into her garage and hit the button on the wall for the automated door to start trudging open while she grabbed her longboard (so what she told her dad wouldn’t be a lie- even if she ended up tossing it in one of the dense bushes lining the house). Then, she stepped out into the sun and punched in the code for the garage door to close with more force than should have been necessary to make the little buttons work.
“Dude, you longboard?” came a voice from behind her, making her jump and whirl around to find Jacob standing there, a board of his own under his arm.
“Um, yeah... Wait, you longboard?” she asked, surprised. She hadn’t pegged him for a longboarding type. But, then again, judging by the blatant tone of surprise, he hadn’t pegged her as one either.
“Yeah,” he said. “How did we not know this?”
Zee shrugged. “I don’t know...you would think we would have talked about it or seen the other ride by or something.”
“Yeah,” Jacob said. “Weird. So, shall we go, then?”
“I suppose,” Z said. “It’d be pretty boring just standing in my driveway all afternoon.”
“True,” Jacob said with a mischievous half smile. “Good thing that’s not what we’re doing, then.”
Z raised an eyebrow. “And what we are doing is...”
“Being adventurous,” Jacob said extending his free arm outwards. “Doing whatever we want to. But it has to be unusual, exciting, and or hazardous to officially be an adventure, or so says the definition.”
“Okay, sounds fun,” Z said with a nod, wondering what that meant literally. “But I think we should make it even more official.”
Jacob took a step towards her. “Oh? And how do we do that?”
She took a step closer too, so they were just the tiniest smidge closer to each other than they would be in a natural conversation. “Easy,” she said, looking up at him. “We make it a game.”
He smiled. “I’m listening.’
“How about...” Zee thought for a second. “...Truth or Dare: Adventure Edition.”
Jacob shrugged. “How do you play?”
“We decide somewhere to go or something to do, and then use a series of truths and dares to make it as ‘unusual, exciting, and or hazardous’ as we possibly can,” she explained.
“Perfect!” He grinned. “Did you just make that up?”
“Yep,” she said. “Off the top of my head. I even have a nickname for it.”
“TODAE,” she said.
“‘Today’?” he asked, puzzled. “Why ‘today’?”
“No, not ‘today’, ‘TODAE’. T.O.D.A.E. TODAE. It’s an acronym.”
“If it were an acronym you should have pronounced each letter individually,” Jacob said with a smirk.
Zee laughed, shaking her head. “I, unlike you, pronounced them entirely as capital letters, which are typically accepted in written form equivalent to as if they were separated by periods. And if something is acceptable in writing, it’s acceptable in spoken form too.”
He smiled. “Okay, fair enough.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s entirely fair.”
He laughed. “Okay, maybe we should go now.”
“Yeah, probably,” Z agreed. “Where is our first ever game of TODAE going to take place?”
“Wherever you like,” Jacob said. “But I suggest the park.”
“Race you,” Zee said, hopping on her longboard and gaining speed off the slope of her driveway.
“Hey” Jacob said, following and kicking to catch up. “Unfair!” he said passing her.
She grinned, her hair flying into her eyes as pavement and suburbia whizzed by them, side by side. She kicked, hard, and gracefully carved back and forth across the entire street in a graceful dance that was not only fun and cool-looking, but also cut in front of Jacob.
Unfortunately, two could play at this game.
Jacob kicked and turned opposite her, blue t-shirt rippling in the wind, so their paths formed figure eights after each close, adrenaline-filled intersection where they almost, an probably should have, crashed, collided, died, but didn’t, miraculously, and before they knew it, they were both skidding easily to a stop in the familiar park’s small parking lot, Zee just barely in front of Jacob, winning the race.
“Wow, you’re good,” he said, staring at her with a small smile.
"So are you," she replied, smiling back as something inside her knotted up. She'd missed him. “I won, though.”
“You had a head start!” Jacob protested.
She laughed. “You caught up, though, and you didn’t pass me.” He looked like he wanted to argue but couldn’t, and she laughed. “As a prize, I’ll ask the first question to start our adventure. Truth or dare?”
Jacob scrutinized her. “Dare,” he said, a little bit tentatively.
“Okay...” Zee said, looking around at the colorful playground, basketball courts, and field, fading into trees, all deserted. “I dare you to climb onto the playground without using any structure intended to get you on or off of it to do so. So no stairs of slides or anything.”
Jacob shrugged, kicked his longboard into the grass, and walked around the playground. When he got to a narrow blue bridge with horizontal, yellow bars running across it as railing, he used them like monkey bars to pull himself up and over, onto the bridge. Zee walked over, looking up.
“Ow,” he said, shaking his hands out. “Your turn, truth or dare.”
“Um,” she thought for a second. Jacob raised an eyebrow. “Dare,” she said, figuring it was more adventurous, and that was really what the game was about.
“I dare you to come join me on this bridge without touching anything blue,” Jacob said, folding his arms.
Zee sighed. All the floor pieces were blue. She started by climbing a red ladder to her left. From the top of that, she stepped onto the bottom rung of the yellow railing and slid across, climbed sideways over the rock wall, back onto the railing, then around sime twists and turns to the bridge, where she sat on top of the railing, putting her legs on the opposite side, to avoid touching the ground. “Here I am,” she said, holding out her hands as a gesture before quickly grabbing the bar she was sitting on to prevent herself from falling. “May I stand now?”
“Yes,” Jacob said, laughing. “You may stand. Actually I think we should ditch the playground before we hurt ourselves. Nice grammar, by the way.”
“Thank you,” she said sincerely, pretending like he wasn’t completely making fun of her as they made their way down the stairs off the play equipment and started across the pebbles. “Truth or dare?”
“I’ll mix it up,” he said. “Truth.”
“Oh, okay, now I have to think of a question to further the adventure-ish-ness of this park visit, um...” Zee squeezed her eyes shut, thinking.
“‘Adventure-ish-ness?’” Jacob laughed.
“Shut up, you aren’t helping,” Zee said, opening one eye to glare at him. He just laughed again. “Okay, I got it,” she said, opening her eyes.
“Well?” Jacob said immediately, cutting her off.
She glared at him, with both eyes this time. “Shh!”
“Librarian much?” Jacob asked, apparently unable to help himself as he burst into laughter at his own joke. Zee’s glare intensified. It’s impressive that the lenses of her glasses didn’t intensify the intensified glare to the point where Jacob fried like an ant or something. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, what’s your question?”
“Is your refridgerator running?” Zee asked, grinning.
Jacob stopped walking, leaving them standing in the grass between the playground and the basketball. “Did you seriously just ask that?” he asked in amused disbelief.
“What can I say? I’m going for the ‘unusual’ route,” she shrugged, desperately trying to hide the laughs that were desperately trying to escape. “You still have to answer it, though, and truthfully.”
“Seriously? You use Truth or Dare as a way to trick me into falling for a joke?” he asked, indignant. “That’s just not fair.”
“Manipulative? Yes. Clever? Yes. Funny? Yes. Unusual? Yes. Fair? Eh...debatable. Now, to repeat the question, is your refridgerator running?” She put her hands on her hips and stared him down.
He glared back, before saying “Yes” in the most monotone, defeated, and yet attitudinal voice Zee had ever heard come out of his mouth. Not that she spent a lot of time thinking about his mouth.
A few little laughs escaped. “Well, you’d better catch it then!” she said, before breaking down into slightly hysterical laughter.
Jacob sighed, but a corner of his mouth was raised in a small smile watching Zee laugh. “Truth or dare,” he said, beginning to walk towards the trees again when she was done laughing.
“Dare,” she said, not wanting Jacob to do to her what she’d done to him (in this context, the ‘Golden Rule’ she’d heard so much about in elementary school didn’t seem relevant).
“I dare you to...climb that tree,” he said, pointing to Zee’s favorite tree.
“Good choice,” she said, walking over to it. She scaled it easily and gracefully, the fruit of many years’ worth of practice showing as she disappeared into the foliage. “It’s my favorite tree.”
Jacob looked up, but she’d vanished completely, as if there was a portal to some fantastical world hidden in the tree somewhere and she’d stepped through it. “I can see why,” he said, scanning for a trace of her, but he couldn’t find one.
“Oh? Why’s that?” her voice traveled back.
“It makes you invisible,” Jacob said. “You like the idea of being invisible.”
Inside her leafy world of foliage, his insight hit Zee as interesting, because it was such a succinct, basic statement, but it was true. “Well, seems like you have me all figured out.”
Jacob laughed. She could see a sliver of his face through the leaves, but she knew he couldn’t see her. “No, I don’t,” he said. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, “Actually, you’re probably the most confusing person I know.”
“Oh?” she asked, momentarily wishing she could see the expression on his face. She didn’t move though. “Why’s that?”
There was a pause, and Zee presumed he was thinking. “Well, you like the idea of being invisible, but you’re never actually invisible. You’re not even slightly transparent,” Jacob said thoughtfully. “You couldn’t be invisible if you tried and you think that’s a bad thing.”
“That’s very poetic and all, but it is a bad thing,” Zee said. “If I were invisible, I’d be left alone. Do you realize how much that would improve my life?”
“Maybe in some ways,” Jacob said. “But you also wouldn’t have any friends, so you’d be lonely.”
She rearranged herself within the tree, perching herself on a lower branch with her back in Jacob’s direction, still concealed by the foliage.“Lonely could be an improvement.”
She heard Jacob sigh. “Maybe for you, but it’d affect other people too.”
“You underestimate the impact you have on people.”
“Maybe,” she said, in doubt.
“You do,” he insisted. “Take Gabriella and Pete for example.They never would have gotten together if it weren’t for you.”
“You don’t know that.”
He was quiet for a minute, then he spoke, a little softer. “It’d affect me.”
The uncontrollable butterflies escaped from Zee’s appendix as she almost fell out of the tree. “It would?”
She smiled and fell backwards intentionally. “Maybe I only want to be selectively invisible,” she said, hanging upside down by the knees, looking directly into his warm eyes.
He smiled. “That could work.”
She smiled too.
Later, they were walking home, longboards under arms, when Jacob stopped and scowled.
“What?” Zee asked.
“I just realized that instead of saying ‘yes’ when you asked if my refrigerator was running I could have said, ‘No, it’s in the kitchen’ instead.”
“Wow,” she said. “Look at that. You foiled my entire plan, just a half an hour too late.”
“What can I say? My genius works outside the restrictions of time.”
“Time doesn’t exist,” Zee argued. “Humans just made it up to add ‘order’ to their lives, effectively restricting everything.”
“Maybe, but by making it up, humans brought it into existence.”
“That doesn’t make it a tangible thing.”
“Well, thought isn’t a tangible thing, but that doesn’t mean thoughts aren’t real.”
They argued this all the way until they had to split ways, then continued in texting until they both fell asleep, at that point arguing about the reliability of ebay and the likelihood of receiving a bobcat in a box instead of an office chair and the customer review you should leave behind in that situation.