Original Work: You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home, Chapter 12, Part 2
Chapter 12, Part 2
Finally, we reached the ground again and the carnie opened the rather flimsy looking lock that held our door closed. It was all I could do to keep from flinging myself out of the cart in my excitement to be back on terra firma but I managed to keep my cool (for once) and climb out of the car like a normal human being. My legs were a little shaky as I took Joshua’s hand and followed him back toward the entrance of the amusement park, which seemed to be just as busy now as it had been when we’d arrived.
“So that’s one more thing I didn’t know about you.” Joshua remarked, though his tone wasn’t teasing. “You’re afraid of heights.”
My cheeks went red with embarrassment and I was glad for the sporadic lighting. “I’m so sorry.” I mumbled. “You must think I’m a total flake. I completely ruined that.” I wanted to hide my face in my hands. Some job I was doing at being Emilia now. She probably wouldn’t have even wasted her breath on teasing me about this one.
“No, you didn’t ruin it.” Joshua assured me. “We still saw everything, didn’t we? Besides, I think it’s pretty awesome.”
I looked at him in confusion. “That I’m afraid of heights?”
Joshua laughed. “No, that you felt comfortable enough to completely be yourself around me. I feel like the old Emilia never would have let herself be so vulnerable, you always seemed so tough, like you were trying to keep everyone at a distance.”
Well, I wasn’t entirely sure if Old/Real Emilia was afraid of heights, but I did think that he had a point, I doubted she would have reacted the way I did. It would have just been one more thing that the press could print about her, something that could somehow be used as ammunition. I think I was starting to get the hang of how things worked around here.
“Call it what you want but I still say embarrassing.” I remarked, shaking my head. “We should probably just never mention it again.”
Joshua laughed but agreed. We’d left the park and were back on the beach, walking close to the surf that rolled up onto the sand. I pulled off my shoes, somehow managed to balance holding them and my tiger and Joshua’s hand. The water was cold as it moved over my toes, leaving sand sticky to my skin when the water washed back out again.
The sounds of the park eventually began to fade behind us, though the lights were still visible in the darkness, like a huge beacon that was visible from anywhere on the beach. But the beach was just as populated further down; people had miniature grills set up in front of their towels or had started larger bon fires that people were gathering around. There were even a few picnic tables set up at intervals along the beach, though most of them seemed empty now.
After we’d walked a little while longer, Joshua questioned, “Hungry yet?”
Almost simultaneously, I could smell the tell-tale smells of grease and grilling and realized that I’d gotten over my sugar high and my stomach was rumbling for something real. There was a shack set up a few feet in front of us and in the lights perched on the corners of the structure I could see that someone had painted Joey’s Beach Grille on what looked like a piece of driftwood and that Joey’s Beach Grille didn’t seem to be hurting for business. There was a pretty decent line outside the small restaurant, people waiting for the turn to stand at the window and place their orders. It didn’t look like more than two people were working, but they didn’t seem to have any problem keeping up with the orders, slapping the food into baskets and sending people on their way.
“Would it be un-Californian of me if I said I was starving?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
Joshua smiled and shook his head. “No, because I am too. This place, I swear, has the best hamburgers in California. And I know it’s not Antonio’s-”
“This is fine.” I interrupted quickly. “Way better than Antonio’s.” I assured him. “I love hamburgers.”
We found a picnic table, which I was charged with guarding while Joshua went and got in line, promising to bring back the best hamburgers in all of California. As I waited, I tried to take stock of the day so far. Sure, it had been a little rocky when I’d first run into Joshua but he seemed to have quickly gotten over Emilia’s antics from the night before and my apparent split personality. Running from the paparazzi, walking on the beach, going to a beach-front amusement park, Joshua with his arm around me multiple times throughout the day, freak-out on the Ferris wheel, dinner beside the water. Just as I suspected: best day of my life. Jordan was going to have a complete meltdown when I told her about this. Of course, I was supposed to have called her multiple times already, as she was assuring me in her text messages, but she was going to forgive me when she heard this story.
Finally, Joshua returned, somehow balancing the two baskets of food and our drinks in Styrofoam cups. “Were you a server in a former life?” I joked as I stood up to help him set the baskets and cups onto the picnic table.
“Just keeping my career options open.” Joshua also deposited napkins, straws and salt packets on the table, just as any good server would. “Prepare to have your mind blown.” Joshua sat down on the bench beside me; normally it would have bothered me that he chose to sit beside me when there was a whole other side that was waiting for occupation but instead of being bothered I was glad, because this felt so much more comfortable.
Like I’ve said before, I’m from the South and in the South we really enjoy our meat products. But I did have to admit, this was one of the best burgers I’d ever tasted, aside from Beverly’s secret recipe involving oatmeal (I’m sworn to secrecy on the rest). Joshua looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “Am I right or am I right?” I nodded to indicate that both cases were true.
Clearly the day at the amusement park had left us both with ravenous because we spent the next several minutes just eating and staring out at the beach and surf, barely illuminated by the lights from Joey’s Beach Grille.
“So, you love tigers, you hate heights, we’re starting to cover the basics of Emilia Thompson.” Joshua remarked suddenly and I looked over at him. “Though I think it’s time we resumed our game.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Oh really? I’m starting to get the feeling that you’re actually trying to get to know me.” I teased.
Joshua smiled. “Is that such a bad thing?”
I shrugged, taking a bite of my hamburger. Swallowing, I pointed out, “Most people think they already know me.” Which was true, when they saw me, they saw Emilia and everyone had their opinions of her. It was good to know, at least, that Joshua’s opinion seemed to be changing.
“I know that feeling.” He assured me. “But that is the point of the game, remember, to really get to know each other.”
Things would be so much less complicated if I could just drop the act and really let Joshua get to know me; I’d finally get to stop mentally running around in circles and just get to think for myself. I must’ve had a look of hesitation on my face because Joshua leaned in closer. “C’mon, Emilia, let me pick your brain.” He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.
What the heck, it was just a game, right? “Well, the people who really know me call me Scout.” I knew that Schapelle and Linda would’ve had a panic attack if they’d heard my confession. They would have been focused on doing damage control like they were Lindsay Lohan’s publicists. This little off-handed comment could have blown the whole plan out of the water. So maybe I was being selfish, I admit it, but I just really wanted Joshua to stop calling me by my sister’s name. I just really wanted to hear how my name sounded on his lips.
I wasn’t disappointed. “Scout.” Joshua repeated, nodding as though he was trying to digest valuable information. “Interesting.”
“It’s a nickname.” Instantly, I felt like an idiot. Duh, it was a nickname. I needed to go back to filtering my thoughts.
Joshua smirked. “I’m just trying to figure out how you get Scout from Emilia.”
This is why I should just listen to Schapelle and do as I was told like Good Scout always did. Now I had to come up with an answer to that very merited question. “Well, my dad’s favorite book was To Kill a Mockingbird and he wanted to name me Scout but my mom wasn’t too keen on that idea. But he always used it as a private nickname.”
Again, Joshua smiled. I was glad that everything I said seemed to have that effect on him because he had such a nice smile. “Scout. I like it. Your dad has great taste in books.” And he was smart too. “I’ve never really heard you talk about your dad. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone mention him.” There was the hint of a question in his voice but Joshua was trying not to pry.
Dad please forgive me. “Yeah, he…he died. When I was young.”
Joshua frowned and automatically reached out to take my hand. Maybe my dad would feel like he hadn’t died in vein. “I’m really sorry, it was stupid of me to bring up.” He looked like he was trying to find something else to say but he just grimaced and repeated, “I’m sorry.”
He looked genuinely distressed over the fake death of my father. “It’s okay, it happened a long time ago.”
“Do you still miss him?”
Here was a question I could answer truthfully. “Yeah, I miss him a lot. I think about him every day.” And I keep making mental notes to call him and Beverly and the rest of my family but that would require a lot of explaining.
Joshua exhaled slowly. “Man, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I lost my dad, we’re super close. But at least you have your mom, right?” He paused, then quickly shook his head. “I didn’t mean that as callus as it sounded, I only meant-”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” I interrupted quickly, feeling guilty about making him feel guilty about something that hadn’t even happened. “But sometimes I feel like I don’t even know my mom.” I couldn’t be completely truthful with Joshua but it was good to be able to admit some of the things I’d been feeling. As much as I wanted to (yeah, I admit it) I couldn’t exactly talk to Emilia. I couldn’t talk to Linda or Schapelle and if I talked to my dad he might suggest I come home and I might agree. But with Joshua, I felt like he’d know exactly what I was talking about and even though it was only the first time we’d spent any real time together I felt like bearing it all. My secrets, that is.
“Like she only sees what she wants to see.” Joshua remarked knowingly.
In more ways than you know. “That’s it exactly.” I said, a huge smile breaking across my face. “It’s like you know what I’m thinking.”
Joshua nodded. “Adverse effect of the question game.”