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always pay attention in the kitchen folks

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Cooper had done a lot of growing in the time he had spent with Oliver and his family. He had learned what being a real Otto means, and took every opportunity to show everyone that he wanted to change. 


This part included being told he had to get a part-time job, like literally every other teenager in America. Well, any teenager that didn’t live in West Port. Actually, when Cooper thought about it, he couldn’t tell you any other kid he knew that had a job of any kind. 


Cooper. Was. Stoked. 


He really enjoyed bussing tables, and having another opportunity to prove to Katie that he was committed to their simple way of life? He couldn’t be happier. 


So, two weeks after he started at Auntie Anne’s in the West Port Mall, Cooper practically skipped through the front door, excited to show off his first (admittedly pretty small) pay check. 


As he made his way into the kitchen, Cooper noticed Katie, bustling around trying to make dinner, with Taylor and Oliver at the table working on homework. 


“Hola amigos! Guess who just got paid!” Cooper announced, holding the piece of paper up in triumph. 


“That’s great Cooper. Now can you make yourself useful and help clear the table.” Katie shouted from the stove, preoccupied with burning the spaghetti sauce on the stovetop. 

“Congrats dude. Any plans on spending it?” Oliver asked, closing the textbook he was reading and giving his best friend his undivided attention. 


“Actually, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the movies with me? Tonight?” Cooper replied, looking everywhere but at Oliver.  


“Yeah dude! I’d love to. I’ll have to pick out something to wear. Wanna give me a hand?” Oliver replied, packing up his homework and heading towards the basement, Cooper in tow.


“Make sure you wear something with big pockets! Load up on snacks before you go!” Katie said as the boys left, then giving her burnt attempt at dinner a scowl before scraping it into the trash and grabbing a pizza menu. 



A few nights later, Katie was back in the kitchen, working on yet another meal that would ultimately go unappreciated by her family. Who got into motherhood for the notoriety, anyway? 


As she was filling a pot with water at the sink, she could hear footsteps walking into the kitchen.


“Once you walk in here, you’re helping with dinner. So make your choice and make it now.” Katie said, transferring the pot to the stove. 


“Uh, sure. I don’t mind.” came the reply. 


“Oh, Cooper. Right choice. Here, I’m going to have you chop onions.” Katie got out the cutting board, knife, and onions, placing them on the counter in front of the boy. “Let me know when you’re done.” 


“Sure. Um, do you mind if I ask you for some advice?” The teen replied, beginning to cut the vegetable. 


“Shoot.” Katie replied, focused on the meal in front of her. 


“Well, I was hoping you could help me with, uh, something, um, Oliver related?” Cooper began, a lack of self confidence in his voice that Katie didn’t recognize. She stopped stirring for a moment, pondering what he could need her advice on. Cooper knew her son better than she ever dreamed to. How could she help? Unless…


“Uh, yeah Coop. No problem. What’s on your mind?” She replied casually, focus now leaving the food completely. 


“Well, the other night, I asked him to go with me to the movies, and we had a really great time, but he hasn’t, like, mentioned it again? I’m just wondering what I did wrong.” Cooper explained, a red tinge coming to his face. 


“Uh, why would he mention you two seeing a movie? Don’t you two do that kind of thing all the time?” Katie answered, confused. 


“Well, the thing is, I kinda asked him as in a, well, a, um. As a date.” the boy said, the last part of his sentence nothing but a whisper. 


“Oh honey. Did you tell Oliver that it was a date? Like, did you use that word?” 


“Well, no. But I thought it was implied. I mean, I did pay for everything and we went to see a scary movie. Isn’t that typical date stuff?” 


Katie tried (and failed) to stifle a giggle. If you asked her, she would deny it, but Cooper had really wormed his way into her heart, and she found his particular brand of naiveté to be endearing. 


“Cooper. Don’t you typically pay for everything? Isn’t that like, the dynamic between you two?” 


“Oh,” Cooper replied, “I didn’t think about that.” 


“I think you should try again, but this time, make it crystal clear that you’re asking Oliver on a date. I love my kids, but they’re not bright. You’ll really need to spell it out for him.” Katie explained, shaking her head slightly. 


“But what if he says no? What if it’s weird and he doesn’t want to be my friend? What if he asks me to- OWWW!” Cooper shouted, dropping the knife and grabbing his hand. 


“HOLY SHIT! WHAT HAPPENED??” Katie yelled, rushing towards the teen and seeing blood pour from his hand. She quickly wrapped a tea towel around the injury and dragged Cooper out the door and to the van.


“I-I wasn’t looking and I-I-I…I THINK I CHOPPED MY FINGER OFF!” Cooper screamed, adrenaline keeping him from actually feeling the pain from the injury. 


Katie rushed the two of them to West Port Memorial Hospital, where they ran through the emergency room and were rushed in to see a doctor. 



Turns out, Cooper didn’t cut his finger off, but he did slice pretty deeply into his fingertip. The doctor had to stitch the appendage back together, and wrapped the injury in gauze. The entire time, Katie was panicking. 


“Seriously, I’m fine. The doctor said there would only be a small scar. I should have been watching what I was doing.” Cooper reassured her, sitting in the hospital bed, waiting to be discharged. 


“I know, I just feel terrible. Are you sure you’re okay?” Katie replied, guilt all over her face. 


“Estoy bien. Just dizzy from the pain meds.” He replied, giving her one of his award-winning smiles. He did seem a little out of it. Maybe she should ask the doc for a few to take home…for Cooper obviously. 


Before Katie could fret anymore, she could hear a commotion outside of their room. Suddenly, Oliver burst into the room, Greg following behind. 


“What. Happened.” Oliver asked, looking at his mother. “What did you do?” 


“Excuse me. I didn’t do anything. Cooper was helping with dinner, and he slipped with the knife.” Katie said defensively. 


Ignoring Katie, Oliver began berated his friend with questions, concern covered his face, as he approached the hospital bed.


“Dude, are you okay? What happened? How’s your hand? What did the doctors say? Did they-“


“Do you want to go on a date with me?” Cooper answered, then quickly covered his mouth. These pain pills were no joke. He didn’t even realize he had said anything until after the words came out. 


Oliver stood in silence, mouth hanging open slightly while his brain tried to catch up with what had just happened. After a few seconds (that felt like hours), Oliver’s face softened and he replied, 


“Uh. Sure dude. I’d really like that. Now, could you answer my questions please.” 


Cooper beamed at the other boy while he rhymed off what the doctors had told him. 


On the other side of the room, Katie cracked the biggest smile she had ever had, and pumped her fist in the air.