Trent jumped up and down in front of the mirror. “Alright. You can do this,” he said to his reflection. He stopped jumping to examine himself. His khakis were nicely creased, and his new flannel shirt was freshly ironed. Mandy had told him that she would wear the pale blue dress he liked so well today, and he had decided to buy a shirt to match it.
“Spiffy,” he said as he ran his fingers through his shaggy blonde hair.
A knock on his dorm door startled him. “Who’s there?” He called, voice shaking. No one answered. Instead, the lock rattled for a minute, then the doorknob turned slowly. Trent braced himself, ready to fight off whoever was breaking in and tell Mandy about his heroic actions.
He stopped himself as the culprit stepped into the room. Trent examined him, blue Converse high-tops, gray cargo pants, a maroon t-shirt under a dark blue button-down shirt, topped off with a matching gray trench coat and fedora. Bright brown eyes sparkled with old mischievousness, and light brown hair sprayed out from beneath the hat.
“Jared.” Trent sighed and dropped his fists. “What are you doing here? More importantly: why are you breaking into my dorm? And why in the name of sanity are you wearing a trench coat? It’s not even raining! You look like some 1950s movie private investigator.”
Jared stuck a pipe in his mouth.
“And since when do you smoke a pipe?” Trent shook his head.
“Oh no, I don’t smoke a pipe, I just use it as a prop because, well, pipes are cool. As for your other questions, I’m going undercover so they can’t find me. Mind if I crash here for a bit?”
“Wait, what? So who can’t find you?”
Jared leaned in close, “The CIA.”
“Um, aren’t you working for the CIA?”
“Yes, but I’ve uncovered something they didn’t want me to see, now they’re out to get me.”
Trent rolled his eyes, “I’m sure if the CIA were out to get you, they would have gotten you already.”
“You see,” Jared settled himself on his brother’s thrifted couch, “I know their tactics, so there is no possible way for them to get me because I know them better then they know themselves.”
“That’s...that’s not how that works.” Trent walked to his kitchenette and opened the fridge, determined not to let this new complication shake his resolve. It was happening today.
Jared propped his feet up on the cheap coffee table. “Aren’t you going to ask what I discovered?”
Trent dipped into the refrigerator, spying some salsa towards the back. “Not really,” he called back. “I want to have deniability if they come knocking on my door.”
He added under his breath, “Besides, your crazy theories give me anxiety.”
“Suit yourself, but this information could change the whole of American society.”
Everything was quiet for a bit. Too quiet, Trent thought. “You okay in there?” He peeked his head around the corner. Jared had flipped the couch over and was examining it with a magnifying glass.
“What are you doing?” Trent exclaimed.
“Checking for bugs.”
“There are no bugs in my dorm! Put the couch back before my roommate comes back and sees you messing stuff up!”
“Okay, okay.” Jared lowered the couch to its original position and sat back down. “So... What are you going to do today?”
Trent got flustered, “I, um, I...I have plans.”
“Well, I’m going out with Mandy.”
“Oh cool! I’ll come with you!”
“Well, actually, I-”
“Great! Where are we going?”
“No, I don’t-” Trent tried to protest, but Jared was already opening the door. “Never mind,” he mumbled and opened the door. “We’re going to the park.”
“Oh, which one?” Jared’s enthusiasm was evident.
“The one across from the ziplining place.” Trent gritted his teeth.
“I wouldn’t go ziplining if I were you. The CIA might cut the wires.”
Trent rolled his eyes. “Only you Jared. Of course, it’s you.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Nothing, get in the car.”
“WAIT! Let me check for a car bomb!” Jared sprinted to the driver’s side and popped the hood of his brother’s Camry. Trent stood by helplessly, unsure how to contain his brother. He ducked his head and waved half-heartedly to his neighbors as they passed by, eyes wide in confusion.
“Jared! Please!” Trent was quickly losing his composure. “I need to get to there on time! And you are going to make me late! So please get in the car!” He took a deep breath and swallowed hard; it had been quite a while since he had yelled like that. And of course, the last time he could remember yelling like that, was at Jared the last time he had visited.
“Okay, okay,” Jared closed the hood and held up his hands defensively. “I’m just trying to make sure we don’t get killed on the way to your date.”
“It’s more than just a date,” Trent mumbled as he turned the key in the ignition.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing.” He shifted into reverse and backed out of his parking spot.
They jolted to a stop as Trent slammed his foot onto the brake and shifted back into park. He jumped out of the sedan and ran to the back of his vehicle. “Oh God, oh God, oh God, please no.” His hands flew to his head and he sank to his knees. The driver’s side of the trunk was crushed.
A young man stepped out of the offensive truck. “Oh man, I’m really sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”
Trent ignored him, all sorts of words and thoughts running through his head, the most prevalent of which was, “I need to get there on time.” He stood and yelled to Jared, “Take care of this!” and rushed off, the wind at his heels.
The park was three miles away, but Trent was a fast runner, and it was mostly downhill. He veered off the sidewalk as a couple walked past with their dog. The dog nipped at Trent and caused him to trip and fall in a pile of muddy leaves. The woman gasped, and the man tried to help Trent up, “Thank you,” he mumbled as he started running again. He couldn’t be late, not today.
Finally, he made it. He glanced at his watch. Three minutes to spare. Trent looked around, trying to spot Mandy’s pale blue dress and golden curls. He saw her sitting on a bench not too far away and began to jog over towards her. Just as he opened his mouth to call her name he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned and yelped as a large German Shepherd barreled into him. Trent did a half-flip and landed hard on a root. He groaned.
“Oh! I’m so sorry!” A young woman ran up and grabbed the German Shepherd's leash. “No, Derek!” She wagged a finger at the dog. He wagged his tail in answer. “Are you okay?” She turned back to Trent who was still lying on the ground.
Trent managed to shake his head. He opened his mouth and took a deep breath of air to refill his lungs. “I need to get over there.” He pointed to where Mandy was sitting and reading, oblivious to what had happened.
“Um, okay.” The young woman helped Trent stand up and he limped over to Mandy.
“Yes?” She looked up at him with shining blue eyes that widened in surprise. “Trent! What happened to you?”
“Never mind, it’s not important.”
“Are you sure? Are you okay?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine Mandy. I just,” he hesitated. “I wanted to ask you something.”
“As long as you’re sure you’re okay.” Her tone was wary, but he ignored her statement and knelt in front of her, gasping in pain.
“No! No, I’m fine! This is important!”
Mandy sat back and determined to let him say whatever he needed to say. After he finished though, she was going to take him to the hospital to get checked out.
“Mandy, I have loved you ever since we were kids walking to school together. This past year has shown me just how much I love you and I think it’s time I told you. So,” he shifted awkwardly and grabbed the ring from his back pocket. “I’m telling you now. There could never be anyone for me but you, Amanda Straussberg. Will you marry me?”
Mandy had sat very still throughout Trent’s speech and as he asked her that fateful question she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what her answer was. “Yes. I will. I could never see myself with anyone but you. I love you, Trent.” She had told herself for years that she wouldn’t cry when this moment came, but she could feel the tears pricking at her eyes. Impulsively, she leaned forward and kissed Trent. It was a sweet, pure, innocent kiss full of love and admiration in which she could taste their future together. She pulled back and whispered, “I would love to be your wife.”
Trent stared, dumbfounded. “Really? You know I’m poor right? We’re both freshmen struggling to hold down jobs and keep up in our classes. And you really want to marry me?”
Mandy giggled and Trent felt his heart begin to flutter with the sound. “Of course, silly! We’ll get through together; that’s what marriage is about.”
Trent was still in shock, but he stood and looked around at the handful of people who had stopped to watch. “She said yes!”
The people cheered and offered their congratulations before moving about their business. Trent sat next Mandy on the bench and slipped the ring onto her dainty hand. “We’re really doing this, huh?”
Mandy giggled again and nodded. “Now, will you tell me what happened to you?”
“Someone crashed into the back of my car, and I had to run all the way here. I tripped.” He gestured to the mud covering his clothes.
“Wait, what? Were you able to take care of it?”
“Oh, I left Jared to handle it so I could get here on time.” Their eyes widened.
“Jared!” They both exclaimed and ran back to Trent’s apartment complex, arriving just in time to see Trent’s sedan being towed off and Jared talking to the driver who had hit the car.
“What’s going on?”
“I was just telling Steve here about what really happened on 9/11.”
“Yeah,” Steve nodded. “He makes some pretty good points.”
“See?” Jared crossed his arms and smiled smugly. “The truth will be told and heard by those willing to believe in something other than the governments lies.”
“Uh-hu.” Trent nodded.
“I know you’re just trying to patronize me, but deep down, you believe at least 54% of what I tell you. Now, what happened? You look like you were in a mud-slinging competition.”
Trent and Mandy locked eyes, then they both smiled at Jared. Jared’s smug smile turned into a huge grin.
“Really?” he asked.
“Really.” Trent nodded.
“Oh, this is great! This calls for a celebration! I know just the place!”
“But, Jared, you don’t live here. How do you know where to go?”
“Oh little brother, the CIA taught me many tricks which I cannot disclose.”
Trent rolled his eyes.
“It’s kind of snazzy though so you should maybe, y’know. Clean yourself up.”
“Yeah, right. I’ll be back out in a few minutes.” Trent ran to his door, then turned and ran back to Mandy. He kissed her again. “I’m so glad you said yes.”