Dragon Fire Chapter 3
The Girls' Intentions
It has been over a week since Kyle got hired, and despite the entertaining start, the tension has been so thick that a knife would be blunted trying to cut through all of its layers. Even Randy was feeling it. The only conversations that were had were instructions from Randy and commands from Dale. There’s still plenty to figure out about Dale, but Kyle has figured out enough to know that he doesn’t really seem to have a gentle approach to anything. He got to experience his angry side on the first day, and there hasn’t been any outbursts since.
The tension wasn’t just between Dale and the girls. Serenity, Opal and Allie seemed to be wearier of each other than Dale was of them. Kyle was ever curious, they all somehow knew Dale and Randy, but didn’t know each other. At least not entirely, Opal seemed to know of Serenity, and Allie of them both. As they continued to work, the mailman had arrived. Dale rummaged through the letters, until he stopped at one that grabbed his attention. He opened it, and after looking through it, called Randy over to do the same. Randy then spoke up to everyone. He tried to have a cheery tone, but the aforementioned tension seemed to suck out the charisma from it.
“Alrighty guys and gals, Dale and I need to go take care of some bureaucracy down at town hall. Dale needs to sign some stuff, and I need to make sure he doesn’t destroy anything. All of you go take a break, there’s food on the other side of the bar. Opal! Make some tea for everyone! I think that will be splendid.”
They set off, and the tension in the room no longer would blunt a knife; it would outright break it. The girls were all avoiding eye contact, and Kyle might as well have been a ghost to them. Serenity had a look of mistrust when glaring at the other two, almost as if she expected either of them to attack at any moment. Allie seemed to always be in her own little world while working, but now she held a look of worry, like a small child going in for a shot at the doctor. Opal tried to maintain a look of elegance and poise, but Kyle could practically see the nervous sweat drops forming on her forehead. No one seemed to move. Eventually, Kyle’s discomfort got the better of him.
“So, what kind of tea should we have?” Fear and nervousness straining his vocal cords, his voice cracked while pronouncing tea. As humiliated as he felt, his aura of awkwardness seemed to dissolve the tension like cotton candy being dropped in a river. Finally, Allie giggled. This caused Serenity to smirk, and Opal tried her hardest to keep her composure before she too broke into a laugh. Serenity chimed in first.
“I suppose anything will do.”
“Oh! How about something fruity?” Allie said as she raised her hand and jumped up and down. Kyle’s voice might have cracked, but he wondered if Allie’s age had hit a second digit yet. Opal spoke up as she made her way to the bar.
“I’ll take a look at what is available right now.” The others made their way to the bar as well. Kyle sat at one end of the bar, and he couldn’t help but notice Serenity sitting on the opposite end, and Allie sitting in the middle, putting as much distance between everyone as they can. Kyle could feel the tension building back up; he had no intention of drowning in that feeling again. He looked over the bar, and pointed the food out. Thinking back, he noticed Dale bringing the food in, but with how tense everything had been it didn’t even cross his mind that it may have been for others, despite how much he got. They all grabbed the closed plastic trays, and opened them up. Some noodles and chicken from the Chinese takeout joint located in the same strip mall. This was nothing special, but to Kyle’s surprise and confusion, the girls all seemed to have a little bit of a smile and look of nostalgia while looking at the food.
“No doubt Dale’s idea.” Serenity spoke up in a soft, somber tone.
“He’d always just get the simplest thing.” Allie was next to chime in. Opal, who was hard at working making the tea, set out some cups, and began to pour into Kyle’s cup first, sharing her own thoughts.
“No doubt he got it for all of us.” She moved onto Allie’s cup.
“Is it his way of trying to reconcile with you all?” Kyle asked, still baffled at this strange sense of nostalgia that is washing over three strangers brought on by some low rate mall food.
“No,” Opal continued, “Dale has this way of doing things that others would consider kind, but he would do them without a thought of trying to show kindness. We’re his workers, so he should feed us from time to time.” She moved on to Serenity’s cup, “At the same time, he could say some of the most horrible things, but with no intention or expectation that it would hurt you. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t known him. To him, it’s just the way things should be done.” Opal finished pouring and moved on to her own cup.
“So, Opal…” Serenity spoke up, the judgmental, prodding tone in those mere two words instantly reignited the tension. “What exactly are you to Dale?” Opal stopped pouring, paused for a second, and continued.
“I was…a friend.”
“A friend, huh…?”
“Yes. But that was some time ago…” Every time these girls spoke of the past, the melancholy in their voice was unmistakable.
“Sounds like there may have been something more than friendship…” Serenity’s catty behavior was clearly looking for a fight, but hidden behind just enough subtlety to feign deniability. “Dale certainly didn’t seem too happy to see you.”
“Are you sure you’re one to talk?” Opal’s annoyance broke through her otherwise calm demeanor, with a defying judgmental look in her eyes to match Serenity’s voice. Serenity must have picked up on it, as her smirk quickly faded. “You might not know me Serenity, but I know who you are. It’s awfully brazen of you to show your face here, much less try and judge me, don’t you think?” The anger was quick to show on Serenity’s face, but she seemed to have no response to give. Allie chimed in to break the tension. Or make it worse, Kyle couldn’t tell with her.
“Well that’s not fair,” she was holding her tea close to her face, almost as if ready to hide behind it. “Dale’s told me of you too, Opal. You both hurt him.” Opal’s face turned to anger as well, as she turned towards Allie, who let out a little whimper and shifted her body back ever so slightly. Serenity decided to take a shot at Allie now.
“I’m sorry, who are you again?” Serenity’s jab at Allie seemed to fly right over her head, who seemed to think it was a genuine question.
“Oh, I’m Allie! I was friends with Dale for a while, but then we kind of lost touch. I saw the advertisement for the store, and I couldn’t believe he actually got it open! I mean I could believe it, since I knew Dale could do it, but I couldn’t believe it! You know?!” Both Opal and Serenity were a bit taken aback at the bouncy nature of her response, as Allie turned into a black hole that sucked away the atmosphere that was building up. Kyle, forgetting himself once again, had to ask a question nagging at him.
“You kind of lost touch?”
“Yeah, things just sort of happened I guess, and we went our own separate ways for about a year.” Kyle’s confusion grew.
“Then….why did he yell at you to shut up last week? That wasn’t anger you hold for someone you casually lose touch with.” The question caught Allie off guard. Indeed, the two other girls seemed to not have thought of that. Allie looked confused, as she moved her eyes from Kyle to her tea cup, like she hoped to find an answer in the dark green liquid. The question seemed to upset her, as she struggled for an answer.
“I’m….not actually sure.” She turned her head towards the other two girls. “I know that you two had some history with Dale, and it’s not my place to judge. But I never had a falling out with him. We just ended up stopping talking. To be honest, I didn’t even come here looking to work. I just wanted to say hi to Dale again. But after he screamed at me, that’s when I made up my mind to work here instead so I can figure out why.” As she spoke the last sentence, tears began forming around her eyes, causing the other three to feel the weight of her emotions. Serenity let out a long, heaving sigh.
“So all you want to do is just be friends with Dale again?”
“Yes, of course. I mean I think.”
Opal and serenity both spoke in unison, “You think?”
“Yes, well…I knew that Dale had…feelings…for me back then.” Neither of the other two girls seemed to like hearing that. “But I was not able to return those feelings back. Now, I haven’t decided yet, but I may want to pick up where we left off, and see if I can return them now!” Opal’s face was hard to read, but Serenity was like a book; and she wasn’t too pleased on hearing that.
“Well, that makes things a bit awkward. You were right earlier. I did hurt him bad. It sounds like both of you know that. But it’s been almost 10 years now. I’m not the same person I was. And I can’t believe how much Dale has grown, too.” She closed her eyes and took a sip of tea. When she opened them again, there was no more anger or annoyance in them. All Kyle could see was sorrow. “I’m here to fix the wrongs of our past, and see if we can pick up where we left off.”
“Where you left off?” Kyle asked. She turned to look at him.
“I was his first girlfriend.”
“Ah ha! I knew at least one of you had to be!” All three turned to look at him. Serenity got her annoyed face back, Opal had a look of annoyed confusion, while Allie just smiled and tilted her head.
“Excuse me, little boy, but who are you again?” Through the entire time they’ve been working together, today was the first time any of them had actually exchanged any words. And Kyle felt like he blew it. While Kyle was fresh out of high school, it was clear to him everyone was older, he just wasn’t sure by how much.
“Just what is your relationship to Dale, anyway?” Opal inquired.
“Oh, I never knew him before this job.” Kyle was not sure what he said to cause it, but all the girls had their own expression of shock. Serenity’s eyes bulged out of her head, Opal spilled the tea she was about to sip, and Allie covered her mouth with both hands. “…What?”
“I thought you already knew Dale and Randy…” Opal’s face began to turn red as she turned away from him.
Serenity put her hands on the side of her head as she looked down in dismay. “I was only saying all that stuff because I assumed like the other two that you would’ve known!” Their unwillingness to engage with him all this time is starting to make sense now.
“We were so mean to you! Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” Allie buried her head in her hands, “I just thought you were as angry at me as Dale was!” Kyle stared for a minute at all of their forms of self-humiliation, until he busted out laughing. It seemed to drive the girls deeper into their self-loathing.
“Randy was right,” Kyle spoke in between taking breaths in between words, “This place really is entertaining to work in!” To Kyle’s surprise, all three of their personalities seemed to unify in that moment, as they all made a fist, rose it up just below their chin, and slightly shook it, bellowing out “Randy…”
Opal pointed out the food was getting cold, so they all took some time to start eating. Not a word was said, but Kyle could feel the pressure of the conversation weighing on everyone’s shoulders. Kyle still didn’t know a thing, but he didn’t get the impression that they were in any way bad people. Allie sounds like she had some huge misunderstanding with Dale. Serenity seems to have done something bad, but it was a long time ago and she wants to make amends. And Opal…
“Hey wait a minute, Opal why are you here?” The words escaped his mouth faster than his brain could realize the stupidity of speaking them. Time itself seemed to have frozen, as everyone – Kyle included – was shocked by the brazenness of it all. “I’m sorry, that was dumb…it just sort of slipped out.”
“No,” Opal began to regain her composure as she so frequently seemed to do, “It’s alright. I too was…friends with Dale.”
“Yes…” Kyle could sense more behind those words, and Serenity could too, as she decided to prod some more.
“It sounds like there was more than just a friendship with how you’re speaking. It’s not fair that you know my story with Dale but I don’t know yours.”
Opal let out a sigh. “Like Allie, Dale….he also had feelings for me.” There was a pause after that, as if Opal’s throat was caught and couldn’t utter out more. Kyle had an inclination as to what was left unsaid.
“And what about you? How did you feel about him?”
“That’s a bit of a dumb question,” Serenity chimed in. It almost seemed like she was defending Opal. “If she had feelings for him as well, don’t you think they would have been more than just friends?” Serenity turned from Kyle to Opal just in time to see her looking away, almost ashamed. “Oh…” she continued, confusion mixed with regret, “I’m sorry, I just assumed that…I mean that’s what happens when two people like each other, right? Unless he confessed, and you blew him off?” Opal looked away even further, the tension was visibly building on her shoulders.
“No,” Allie spoke up, almost as if to save Opal from having to say it herself, “They remained friends for a few years even after Dale confessed.” Allie got up, walked over to Opal, and put both hands on her shoulders as if they had been friends for years. Opal looked into her eyes, struggling to hold back the tears. There was clearly more than what was said, but Kyle had enough self awareness at the moment to not speak up again. “Dale explained it to me, what happened between you two. And I understand. You both made some mistakes, but that don’t mean you were wrong.”
“Yes, I was…” she turned her gaze away from Allie. Without a word, Allie hugged Opal, and both stood there for a few seconds. Serenity felt that she needed to say her peace.
“Alright, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I just want to know, Opal, what do you intend to do while working here?” Opal turned her head towards Serenity to reply.
“To apologize and make amends.”
“No, I mean besides that. I want to get back together with Dale. Allie doesn’t seem like she’s decided which one she wants. What about you?” The question seemed to surprise Opal, as if the thought never even crossed her mind.
“I…I don’t know.”
“It’s not a difficult question. Do you want to go back to being friends, or something more?”
“I said I don’t know. I don’t even think Dale wants any of us around. This was Randy’s decision, and Dale would’ve fired us if he could. He just hired us for his own games.”
“I don’t think that’s the case,” Kyle interjected. The three looked at him in confusion. “After you guys were asked to leave the store on the first day, I remained in there, remember?” From there, the three took their seats as Kyle explained the conversation he witnessed on that day. It wasn’t a long explanation, but he could see the girl’s stress over everything leaving their faces.
“I see,” started Opal, “So he needs some closure as well…”
“I knew I hurt him after our relationship, but to think he kept getting hurt by all of us…” Serenity was even more remorseful now than before.
“At least we know it’s not for nothing,” Allie had an excited pitch to her otherwise mousy voice, as she stood up, both hands in fists in front of her. “Knowing this, I’m sure of it now! I’ll be able to get back together with Dale!”
“Back together?” Serenity asked with a raised brow, “It sounds like you guys were never together to begin with. It sounds like I’ve been the only person who has been with Dale in that way.” Saying those last words with a smirk, she was clearly trying to get underneath the other girl’s skins with her innuendo, and it seemed to be working.
“Now hold on a minute,” Opal barked back, “You’ve already had your chance! Let someone who hasn’t…uhm….you know…” Opal’s composure began to break, and Serenity smelled blood in the water.
“Oh?” She began, leaning closer towards Opal, “Hasn’t what, exactly? What are you thinking of doing with him, Ms. I don’t know what I want to be with him?” Opal’s face was turning beet red, as Allie tried to take charge of the conversation.
“Hey, what about me?!”
“What ABOUT you?” Serenity cut her off. Kyle began to feel like a giddy fly on the wall, as he munched down on his noodles. “You can’t seem to remember if you want to be friends again or be something more.”
“Oh yeah…” Allie looked off in the distance, giving a blank stare. Kyle watched Serenity’s eyes as they went down from Allie’s face to her modest chest. From there, she glanced over to Opal’s chest, Kyle’s eyes following suit, to her proportionally fitting size. Opal noticed Serenity staring, and slowly covered up. Serenity smirked as she reached up high and gave a big heaving stretch. No one was in doubt all she was really doing was trying to show off her noticeably larger chest size.
“Well girls, I suppose we’ll just have to use whatever ‘assets’ we have at our disposal to win Dale’s attention.” Serenity took a deep breath in, puffing her chest out even more. Kyle wondered if he should say something, they clearly forgot of his existence again.
“Now wait a minute,” Opal began, face turning ever redder, “Dale cares a lot more than merely some woman’s appearance!”
“Maybe at first,” Serenity replied, “But you don’t know what Dale can get like after he gets in certain…moods…” Opal seemed to find a way to grow even redder as her eyes shifted to the side and she softly muttered.
“Well…” Immediately Serenity’s eyes went wide as she stood up, slamming the table with both hands.
“DALE WOULD NEVER TOUCH A WOMAN HE’S NOT IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH!”
“I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS, IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK!”
“What are you guys talking about…?” Allie broke the embarrassing shouting match. Both looked over in confused surprise. “Dale has touched me lots of times, and we were never in a relationship.” Both girls got up from their seats and made a beeline for Allie, who became momentarily frightened. Serenity, followed by Opal, began to badger her.
“He did not!”
“A cute thing like you probably doesn’t even know what we’re talking about!”
“What do you mean?!” Allie was frantic at this point, almost crying as she was grabbed by the shoulders and shaken by them both, “We hugged all the time!” And just like that, the shaking stopped. Opal and Serenity stared at her, dumbfounded. Then, they slowly broke out into a laugh. Allie continued to be confused. Kyle, the invisible ghost that he turned into, didn’t know how much more his heart could take.