"Right. So, you guys would never believe it."
Yet the two boys listened attentively.
"Tied 7 - 7. And so Coach sends me to right midfield, okay? We got, like, one minute left. So the ball is finally out, and everyone's totally freaking out, you know? Number 63—you know, Tony—steals the ball from this dude on the other team. And he passes it to me, right? 'Cause I'm open and he's about to get trampled."
Vixen relayed the events like a storyteller, hand-motions and all. Although one might have requested that she slowed down a little bit.
"So I got the ball, and I'm running down the field. I gotta clear shot, alright? And so I'm 'bout to kick into the goal, and then this guy moves right in my way! So I'm all wigging out 'cause I got no idea what to do, and he's just standing there. But then in like a split second I notice his legs are way too spread out. So I line the kick juuuust right, and BAM!"
The girl clamped her hands together, startling her two friends. "Right through his legs, man!" she yelled. "And then I run right around him before he can see what's happened. So I'm on my way to make a goal, when I see the exact same guy right next to me! And he's, like, really fast too. I'm thinking I gotta lose him real quick, 'cause I'm almost at the goal. So I force myself to go even faster! Like, straight into hyperspeed, man! And before he knew it we had scored, and he was eating my dust!"
Vixen plopped back in her chair, eyes closed in bliss. "It was just the greatest feeling, guys," she sighed. "You had to be there to get it."
The boys smiled. "Hey, that's awesome!" Bernard praised. "We're happy for you, Vix."
"Yeah, we gotta go to one of your games sometime!" Leveret mentioned. "I'd love to see you kick butt!"
Vixen opened her eyes, which beamed a joy unlike any other. "Wait, really?" she spoke, almost astonished. "You guys would watch a soccer game?" She chuckled under her breath. "Sorry, but you two are the least sporty people I know."
Leveret shrugged. "But we'd be seeing you," he said with a grin. "So it would be worth it, right?"
Vixen wanted more than ever to hide it, but her face shone such a stupid smile. But as she realized there was no use trying to hide it, she let it shine.
"Aww, Lev," she teased, as she playfully grabbed his arm, and leaned her head atop his shoulder. "You're so sweet! Even when you're trying to be all fly and stuff."
Leveret wished with all his being that it wouldn't show, but his cheeks immediately blushed poppy red. And Vixen most certainly noticed.
"Oh look! He's blushing again!" she announced. She made a flipping-motion over her shoulder, despite her black hair being held up in a bun, "Just can't resist a compliment from a pretty girl, can you?"
Leveret panicked, as he lifted a palm to his face. Surely enough, his skin was warm at the touch. This was so embarrassing. He didn't blush often, but when he did it was such a bright red that anyone a mile away could see it. And that anyone would make sure that he knew it, as if he couldn't already feel the burn on his face. Again, it wasn't commonplace for him to blush. It was a rarity, because only one person could make him do it...
But Bernard did not see it. He didn't catch a glimpse of his friend's red face, nor notice his look of terror, silently begging for help. He was glancing behind himself, over toward the bathrooms. As he had been doing for half an hour now.
"Bernard, she's fine," Vixen sighed. "I promise she's fine."
Bernard turned back at the table, finally eyeing Leveret's poppy cheeks. But he still payed no heed. "I know," he said. "I'm just worrying. That's my job."
He nervously chuckled at his own joke, although no one else joined in. "There's no need to worry," Vixen said. "Pazi's a big-girl. She'll come back when she's ready."
Bernard shook his head. "No, she's not," he opposed. "She's six. She's my little sister, and she's upset. I have every right to be worried."
Vixen found it best not to argue, so she stayed silent.
"Dude, worrying isn't gonna make it better," Leveret chimed in. "It's only stressing you out. If you wanna fix it, then go talk to her."
Once again, Bernard shook his head. "She's mad at me," he said. "If I try to talk to her she'll just get madder."
Leveret said no more. This was certainly an impasse.
"Well," Vixen spoke, straightening her posture, "I could try and talk to her."
Bernard and Leveret looked at each other.
"You know," she continued, "'girl-talk' and stuff."
Contrary to history, Bernard actually nodded. "Yeah, that might actually be best," he admitted. "Do you mind, Vix?"
His friend smiled. "Not at all," she said, as she rose from her seat and pushed it back in.
"Yeah, you guys have fun," Leveret wished, "talking about whatever you girls talk about."
Vixen turned back to her friend, not even wielding her usual fist, as the boy had braced himself for. "We plot the demise of our debtors," she uttered, in a deep monotone. "Better be nicer to me, boy."
And with that she sauntered away, leaving the shocked and slightly terrified Leveret at the table.
Bernard laughed. "She's kidding, Lev," he reminded.
His friend looked at him, astonishment still upon his face. "Dude, I'm not so sure," he half-laughed. "Just her face, the way she said it. Man, she's terrifying when she needs to be."
Bernard smirked. "Yeah, but you love her anyway."
Leveret whipped his gaze back at him, eyes wide. "Dude!" he yell-whispered. "Don't say that!"
"C'mon, she's across the restaurant," Bernard defended. "She can't hear me."
Leveret leaned back in his chair, glancing over at the restrooms. "Yeah, I know," he admitted. "I just panicked."
Bernard sighed. "You know, you should just tell her," he said.
Yet again, Leveret's wide eyes pierced through him. "What are you, crazy?!" he shouted. "I can't do that!"
"Why not?" Bernard questioned. "You like her, don't you?"
"Well, yeah, but—"
"Then you need to tell her!"
Leveret searched left and right, as if to make sure nobody was listening in. He leaned forward on the table. "What if she doesn't like me back though?" he asked. "You know, like, 'like-like'? Then things between us'll be weird. She'll think of me differently."
Bernard paused a moment, but then shrugged. "I don't know," was his valuable advice. "But if you don't say something, she'll never know. And you won't know if she likes you back."
He leaned forward as well, closer to his love-stricken friend. "You know, maybe she's thinking the same thing too," he proposed.
Leveret tilted his head. "What?"
"What if she likes you too," Bernard reiterated, "but she's worried about what you'll think?"
Leveret stayed silent as he dozed off into space, thinking this over thoroughly. He hadn't thought about it like that.
"Maybe," he muttered. He then awoke from his trance, and looked back at his friend. "How about...when she gets back?" he suggested.
Bernard wore a sudden shock. "Are you sure?" he asked. "So soon? You don't wanna think about it for a while?"
Leveret remained quiet a moment, but in the end shook his head. "Nope," he said. "If I'm gonna tell her, what's the difference between now and later?" He shrugged, as if answering his own question. "Might as well, you know?"
Bernard smiled brightly. He really did hope that it would work out. He knew how much Leveret liked Vixen. Although with that said, some would say that they were like oil and vinegar. They wouldn't mix even if they tried. But that was nearly valid. They argued and fought every second of the day, any moment they could find the time to bicker. If Vixen said, "Black," Leveret would say, "White." Yet somehow through all of it they remained friends, the best of friends in fact. And that spoke for at least something. Opposites do attract, Bernard supposed. Yes, as different and stubborn as they were, the two felt perfect for each other. A sacred mystery of the universe love truly was; not even Bernard understood it. But he acknowledged it, and accepted that it simply was.
"Alright, dude," he said. "Remember, I'll be here for moral support, okay?"
Leveret reclined and laughed. "Good," he put. "Cause I think I'll need a lot of it!"
"Yo, Pazi?" Vixen called. The greeting echoed throughout the room, bouncing off and about the white tile. No response came, however. The stalls were full, but even the girl could tell that Pazi was in none of them.
A woman standing near the sinks eyed her, as she held her own child's hand. "You looking for someone, sweetie?" she asked.
Vixen turned to the lady across the room. "Yeah," she said. "A blonde little girl with a yellow dress?"
The lady sadly shook her head. "I'm sorry, I haven't seen her," she responded. "I'll keep an eye out though, alright?"
Vixen nodded. "Thank you," she said, and left the room. She stood by the women's room entrance, scratching her head in bafflement. Her breath began to pick up speed as well.
She couldn't find Pazi.
Vixen could have sworn that she would be over here. Perhaps sitting in the corner, or hiding in one of the stalls. But she was nowhere to be found. Vixen was beyond scared. She had promised Bernard that Pazi would be okay, but now she wasn't so sure. The little girl had certainly not left the area, as neither her nor Leveret had noticed her leaving. And honestly, as much as had she had pestered Bernard about being paranoid, the two of them had been checking just as often, if not even more often. Vixen turned around and peeked into the dining hall, spying her two friends chatting away at their table. They didn't see her, loitering about without a child in tow.
But where in the world could she have been? There was no other place for Pazi to hide. Other than the storage closet (or she guessed it was a storage closet) and the men's restroom.
Vixen cringed at the thought. She couldn't have gone in the men's. Why would she? Although that fact didn't matter. It was the next logical place for her to be in.
But...she really didn't want to go in there.
But she was doing this for Bernard. He was her best friend, and he was in quite the pickle. It was her job to get him out of it. Even if it meant being stared down and goggled at by fathers and their toddlers. And she really was about to do it, before a suit walked out of it.
A furry yellow suit.
Vixen just about had a heart attack. It was one of the animatronics again. She placed a hand on her chest, as if to keep it from combusting. And the animatronic noticed it. It turned to her and saw the terror on her face, and took a step backwards.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" it apologized. "Didn't mean to scare ya!"
Once the girl had slowed her breathing, she opened her eyes to look at the robotic animal. She was a bit confused, as she didn't remember them being able to talk. Until she saw that it wasn't a robot at all. It was only a man, dressed in one of the animal suits. The headpiece had been removed and placed under his arm, exposing the tired and sweaty employee.
"Oh, th—that's okay," Vixen stuttered, slowly gathering her bearings. "I—I—I just have a thing with a—animatronics."
The man smiled. "Freak you out, huh?" he asked, and the girl nodded vigorously. "Yeah, I feel ya," he said, as he moved away from the men's room entrance. "They kinda freak me out too."
Vixen knitted her brow. "Th—then why do you work here?" she questioned, as she grew calmer and calmer. "And...dress as one?"
The man chuckled. "It's one of the only jobs I can find," he answered with a shrug. "That and the nightguard shift. You kinda get used to them after a while honestly."
Vixen understood. Perhaps if she were forced to work with the wired monstrosities every day and night she would find them slightly less unnerving. She was nearly jealous of the employee.
But then the girl remembered what she was supposed to be doing. The mission she had been sent to accomplish, and the new one she needed to carry out. "Hey, um, can I ask you something quick?" Vixen requested.
The employee kept his smile. "Yeah, sure," he said.
"Have you seen a little girl walking around?" she asked.
And there the man's smile suddenly disappeared, but Vixen didn't think to find it odd. "Uh, well, you might have to be a little more specific," he tensely stated. "There are, like, a hundred little kids running around."
Vixen scratched her head as she wracked her memory. "Um, she's about this tall," she placed her hand horizontally at her waist, "she's got bright blonde hair, and she's wearing a yellow dress." The employee stared downward, his joyful demeanor having vanished. "Was she maybe hiding in the men's restrooms?" she continued. "I was about to check in there actually."
The man in the suit stayed quiet for a few seconds, and this Vixen did find a bit strange. But after a while he looked back and her. "Actually, now that I think about it," he spoke, "I do remember seeing a little girl."
Vixen's eyes brightened.
"She was really upset," he expanded. "I think she said her brother made her mad."
She brought her hands to her mouth. "That's her!" she exclaimed. "Oh thank God! Do you know where she is?"
The man' previous trance was but history, as if it had never happened. He wore a wide smile that seemed ever so cheery. Maybe even too cheery. "Yeah, I think so," he said. "Last time I saw her she was in there."
The employee gestured behind him, toward the unmarked door, the one that Vixen had guessed to lead to a closet. The girl wasn't exactly ecstatic anymore; something felt wrong.
"In there?" she questioned, while a nagging unsettlement tugged at her mind.
The man continued to point, as he nodded his head. "Yeah," he assured. "She was in there crying. She looked really upset, so I just let her stay there."
Vixen didn't know what, or even why. Something just was up. She tried to convince herself that she was only being overly cautious. But nevertheless a feeling in her gut didn't trust him, even with his sincere smile and jovial tone. Yet Vixen was aware that her gut wasn't the most reliable of sources. It leaned and wavered whichever way it wished, whether her situation be petty or monumental. After all, her gut had always told her that animatronics were somehow demon-possessed, and now she was known far and wide as the girl with the Freddy-phobia. Her gut had sometimes cost her soccer games, giving her advice on what to do, no matter how sage or idiotic. Her gut had even kept her from sharing her mind with others, what she thought or how she felt. People had donned upon Vixen the reputation of outgoing and eccentric; however, they never realized how much she actually kept to herself. Like with Leveret, for example. Vixen really liked him, though no one would think to guess so. She had never told anyone, and no one ever suspected. Not even he. Why? Because her gut, that was why! Anytime she had gotten close to telling him how she felt, she immediately backed out. What if he didn't feel the same way? From then on things between them would be different. They would no longer be just best friends; they would be a one-sided relationship. So she had convinced herself that there was no use, that someone like him would never like someone like her.
But now she needed to take a stand, against this turmoil that her lower abdomen had caused her for so long. Vixen wouldn't listen to it anymore. In fact, she would oppose it. Show her gut who ruled her life, and not let it ruin anything else.
"Could I please go in there?" she asked the employee. "I'd like to talk to her a sec."
The man moved closer to the door, and grasped the knob in his furry hand. "Certainly," he permitted, twisting the metal device to the left, and swinging the door open. "Go ahead."
Vixen grinned reluctantly, as her stomach churned in discomfort. But she scolded it, and walked through the doorway, into a dimly lit room. "Pazi?" the child called once more, for the last time.
And once inside, she nearly screamed.
But the man wouldn't allow that.
And he closed the door behind him.