***Note: This is an unedited FIRST DRAFT of this story. You can also read it on Wattpad HERE.
Get caught up with Chapter 1 HERE:
I don’t know what I had expected at Comic-Con, but and endless sea of vendors and people dressed up as superheroes, TV characters, and other famous personalities wasn’t it. Sure, Dayton had warned me, but this was more than I expected and was a little intimidating. It was like the first time I went to Vegas. My mom had referred to it as Disney World for adults, and she hadn’t been wrong. Vegas was larger than life and I had a hard time grasping everything going on.
Comic-Con felt the same way to me. As I pushed my way through the entrance, my eyes had to be wide, and I knew my jaw fell open a time or two as I was swept away into a fantasy world, far, far away. The hum of voices and the smell of stale book pages filled the large arena that held the convention. To my left were the whole team from The Incredibles. Mom, Dad, and the kids, too. To my right stood Superman and Supergirl. I couldn’t help smiling at the sweet looks on their faces as they stood arm-in-arm. Up ahead, down the first aisle walked many more characters I didn’t recognize.
I wasn’t a big fantasy or comic book person, but I loved Spiderman. Ever since I was super little, I remembered looking forward to Saturday mornings with Dad. It was always impossible to get alone time with either of my parent, since they both worked full time and had to split their time between six of us children in the house. For me, Iris, and Ivory, alone time was tougher, being triplets, we were always together – except Saturday mornings.
I was born with two left feet, so Mom would take Iris and Ivory to dance classes while Dad and I would sit in front of the TV, watching Spiderman and eating a bowl of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch together. Dad had seen them all before, but he never spoiled the plot twist for me. Those days were some of my favorite childhood memories.
Pushing my way through the crowd, I turned down an aisle of authors displaying various fantasy books when a giant banner of Spiderman caught my attention over a few rows. I pushed my way in that direction, maneuvering around a bare-chested man covered in green body paint. I made it over a row, but then got stuck behind a row of at least six people dressed as some multi-color space rangers. This was impossible! I spun around, jetting forward, but plowed smack into someone else. My heart raced, but when I looked up to see a familiar face, the world around me slowed down.
“Ivy. I saw you from over there,” He pointed many aisles away. “I’m happy you came.” The smile on his face was awkwardly large, compared to his slender frame, yet charming in its own way.
“I’m glad I bumped into you. I thought I’d be able to stop in, find what I wanted, and leave, but it appears that I’m a little overwhelmed.” My eyes focused on the large star printed on Dayton’s t-shirt. “Captain America fan?”
He laughed. “Here I thought the only superhero you knew was Spiderman.”
“Okay, you got me. I might have watched a few Marvel movies from time to time.”
“I’m impressed you knew they both were Marvel.” His smile reappeared, but it was much less awkward this time. “Are you here to check out the Spiderman items?” Dayton motioned to where I had eyed the giant banner.
“Yeah, but I can’t seem to get there. I didn’t expect it to be so crowded.”
“You came on opening night. Everyone has to get here before all the good stuff is gone. Here, follow me.”
After giving a grateful nod, Dayton began to weave through the crowd. He kept checking over his shoulder to make sure I was following and I stayed close—but not close enough. A woman dressed up as a character from an X-men movie cut me off, separating Dayton and I.
It was like Dayton could tell we were separated, because before I could call his name, he reached a hand around the woman for me to take. As someone else bumped into me, I stopped any sort of hesitation and took his hand. He pulled me through a gap and kept me close beside him as we transversed the maze of people to the giant Spiderman banner. Holding his hand was odd, I knew he only took mine as a friendly gesture, but I felt an odd tingling sensation in my core like I had in middle-school when I would accidentally bump hands with my crush while grabbing a piece of chalk or lunch tray.
When we stopped in a less crowded area, I let go of Dayton’s hand and he immediately shoved his in his jeans pockets. “So what brought you here?” I asked, feeling the need to make small talk.
“Nothing in particular…just the whole environment.” He looked around with wide, blue eyes. “When I’m here, I feel…happy. It brings back memories of my childhood when life was much simpler. Plus, I was hoping to run into a few people I knew.” He nodded towards me.
I laughed. “With this many people around, you’re bound to know someone.”
We stepped in front of a large table filled with various superhero memorabilia, Dayton pointed to a glass display cabinet behind the exhibitor where a Spiderman action figure sat. From where I stood, it seemed to match the one I got my father exactly.
“Looks just like the one you showed me earlier this week,” Dayton said.
“Yeah, and I need another one. That’s why I’m here.”
“Another one? Why?”
“It’s a long story.” I flagged over the exhibitor who was dressed as Spiderman. When I was sure he saw me, I shoved my hand in my pocket.
“So…” Dayton said. “Want to start with that long story now?”
“I guess it’s not long. It’s just that the one I have went missing.”
“Went missing? Like stolen or just misplaced?”
I stared at the Spiderman in the case. “Yeah, one of them. I’m not sure. I had it one moment, and the next it was gone. My entire family was at my house when it disappeared, and I don’t want to believe someone took it, but I’m out of choices.”
Spiderman approached us from behind the counter. “What can I help you with?”
“Could you tell us how much that costs?” Dayton motioned to the action figure.
“It’s a steal.” Spiderman said from beneath his mask. “Only fifteen hundred.”
Fifteen hundred dollars?
I choked on my saliva. Dayton looked my way, and I’m sure my eyes were bulging out. “Um…thanks, but it’s not in my price range.” I turned away, almost embarrassed I even asked the price. I should have known.
Dayton was right besides me. “We can negotiate We may get twenty percent or more off.”
“Even if we get it for fifty-percent off, that’s not enough.” I began to push myself through the crowd, getting as far away from that table as possible.
“There might be more here for a better price,” Dayton said from right behind me.
“No, that’s about what they cost. I was lucky with the one I found. I think I’m going to head home.” My chest felt like it was constricting with the crowd of people around me. It seemed like I couldn’t get enough air.
“Already?” Dayton asked. “Have you seen the Disney section yet? The tribute to Star Wars?”
I shook my head, trying to locate the door, but it was too far away. “This was only going to be a quick stop before dinner.”
“Well, they have dinner here, too. Wanna share an enormous donut from the Simpson’s stand? I have one every year.”
“Is the food area less crowded than this?” Another costumed woman stepped in front of me, making me trapped in the center of an aisle. “If you get me out of here, I’ll share a giant donut.” I spun around to see Dayton’s smile. “I mean, I’d be foolish to pass up a donut.”
“Deal.” Dayton held out his hand for me to take.
I hesitated a moment, then turned back towards the crowd. My lungs seemed paralyzed. I needed to get out of here. As I slipped my hand into Dayton’s I could breathe once again.
“Great.” Dayton’s warms fingers wrapped around mine, and he led me towards one of the walls of the arena. “Some tricks I learned are it’s easier to get around on the path around the perimeter. The aisles get crowded.”
“I can see that,” I said, holding tightly onto his hand.
“One of my favorite things to do here is to have a snack and simply watch who passes by. I start tallying who the favorite superhero is for the year. I think Wonder Woman may win this year, which is sad because it’s mostly men at this show.”
I laughed as I looked around. “There sure are a lot of men dressed up as the Princess of the Amazon.”
Dayton stopped and looked over his shoulder at me. “I thought you just watched Marvel movies?”
“What? Wonder Woman’s not Marvel?”
Dayton laughed and shook his head.
“That wasn’t a joke,” I teased.
That awkward smile reappeared on Dayton’s mouth as turned and led me to the back of the building where there appeared to be some snacks. Right before the Simpson’s Donut Stand appeared, Dayton stopped, waiting for a small parade of superheroes to pass. I bumped into him, then righted myself by putting my free hand against his bicep.
His eyes glanced down at my hand on his arm, and it was that moment I felt my cheeks heat. I had overstepped my boundaries, feeling the muscle beneath his shirt.
I had been alone for too long. My Dream Droid couldn’t come fast enough. “Oh, sorry.” I dropped both hands and took a half-step back.
“Of what?” He asked with a knowing smile before taking my hand again and leading me to an empty table of the food court.
The rest of the evening was quite fun, when I wasn’t depressed about the cost of a replacement gift for my dad. I found myself smiling and talking all about our Christmas traditions with Dayton. He told me about some of the traditions his family used to have, which made my family’s Parade of Presents seem mild. Like their long-line of gag gifts. One year, his aunt got a vase from his cousin…and it was filled with rabbit beaners! My family didn’t go that far.
“So, why’d you stop with the gag gifts?” I asked after laughing at some of his examples. “It sounds like a lot of fun.”
“It stopped after Mom and Dad passed away.”
All of a sudden, all the fun I was having came crashing down. I had forgotten about that he said his parents were gone. “I’m sorry,” I said.
“You don’t have to be. It was twenty years ago or so already. They died in a car crash when I was still a teenager. My aunt and uncle took me in, but they ended up getting a divorce a few years before I graduated college. All the Christmas festivities stopped at that point.”
“Well, I have enough stories to keep you busy all night!” And just like that, the fun we were having returned.
After our second pink-frosted donut, Dayton led me easily across the arena. It appeared the crowds were already thinning. It must have taken us quite a while to eat our donuts, but we did a lot of chatting. We said our goodbyes in the parking lot.
“Well, I’ll see you in a few days. We have another meeting on Monday.” Dayton said.
Yes. Monday. One more step to my perfect companion. “I can hardly wait.”
Dayton gave me an excited smile that quickly disappeared when he oddly shook my hand in a business like fashion.
Laying in bed that night with Sharky’s head across my stomach, thoughts of my day replayed in my head. Of the giant donuts Dayton and I shared, of us giving up on counting all the Wonder Women at the convention and switching to only tallying cross-dressing Wonder Women, and of the feeling of happiness that consumed me.
Maybe I was missing a friend in my life. Sure, I had my siblings and the rest of my family, but a friend was something a little different. Someone with different interests that opened your eyes up to new experiences. It was nice…
Then my thoughts switched to the fifteen-hundred dollars they wanted for the Spiderman toy. That was a lot of money. What if whoever took my gift figured out what it was worth and sold it? Or, even worse, what if the comic book store realized they made a mistake and took it back?
I was exhausted and those thoughts were absurd, but perhaps they weren’t that far-fetched. I read about such thing in the newspaper from time to time.
But I didn’t want to think about that—at least not so near to Christmas. It was appalling if someone did those things.
I pushed Sharky off my stomach, rolled on my side, and fell fast asleep.
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