Endless Summer Book 1 Act 2 Chapter 7: Pies Make Peace (Choices: Stories You Play)

A/N: Hey, everyone, I’m back! Sorry for the delay but it took me a while to figure out what day to post these recaps on until I decided to stick with Sunday. Anyway, after that disastrous fight in the last chapter, Raj enlists Jasmine’s help to get the group to make up. What is he planning and, whatever it is, will it bring peace to the contest winners or make things worse?

Hey guys, I’m back with more about my trip to La Huerta. Don’t know why I’m even addressing anyone since, right now, I’m the only reader. Anyway, after that disaster yesterday, I woke up in my room the next morning. Todd lied curled up next to me, gently kneading my side with his paws. Diego knocked lightly on my door and then poked his head in asking if I was ready for breakfast. I told him that I was ready for breakfast, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to deal with anymore fighting. Then I asked Diego if he thought that things were going to be cool in there. I reminded him that the fight from yesterday was pretty heated. Diego insisted that people fight all the time and asked how anyone could stay mad in a paradise like this.

Really tempted fate with those words, Diego.

I got a flash of my parent’s two story house with a pool in the backyard. Yet, despite that, they always managed to stay angry at each other. Maybe it won’t be like that here. At least, I hope not.

I stepped into the restaurant to find a heavy, angry silence hanging over the room. The only things on the buffet table were cold bagels and dry cereal. The usual jokes, banter, smiles and laughs… all gone. Half of the group, the ones who goofed off on the beach, sat at one table while the other half, the ones who explored the resort, glared at them from another! Diego admitted that he was wrong about them getting along today. Jake stood up to get himself a helping, cutting right in front of me! Sean demanded to know where Jake thought he was going as he stood up to block his path. Jake told Sean that he was getting himself another bagel, calling him Sergeant Buzzkill, and asked Sean if he had a problem with that. Sean reminded Jake that not everyone’s gotten a bagel yet. Then he told Jake that, since he’s not big on contributing to the team, the least he could do was wait until everyone else has had a turn! Jake demanded to know if Sean was the breakfast police and told Sean to get out of his way. Sean ordered Jake to sit his @$$ down and things were getting only slightly less intense than they were yesterday. Only, this time, I didn’t have the energy to get mad and stayed out of it. Don’t look at me like that, I can’t function without coffee. I leaned over to Diego and whispered that I’m just going to stay out of this one. Diego said that it was a good call and that there was no need to get between a rock and a hard place. I asked Diego which one was which. Jake tried to push past Sean but Sean blocked his path, bumping him in the chest. Sean told Jake that this was the last warning, sit down or this gets ugly. Like it hasn’t already gotten ugly in the first place. Jake countered that Sean had no idea how ugly he could get and called Sean a pretty boy. Sean demanded to know what Jake was going to do, sucker punch him again. Jake said that, now that Sean mentions it, then shot a sudden jab at Sean’s face, but Sean was ready this time and weaved to the side. With a roar, Sean lunged forward and tackled Jake! The two slammed into the breakfast table and knocked it over as they grappled! Raj shouted, “snapaloosa,” as Sean winded up for a punch when Todd jumped forward, growling! Todd let out a fierce growl, and a jagged icicle bursted out of the floor, just a few feet from Sean and Jake! Everyone turned to stare at the cute little fox that broke up the fight, Diego letting out a “whoa.” Sean shoved Jake away and turned to walk off. Jake told Sean that this ain’t over. Sean counted that, if Jake wants to sit around and brood, he can be his guest. Sean said that he was off to find a working radio. Then Sean turned around and strode out of the room. Jake went the other way, kicking a chair out of his way as he walked out. Diego admitted that this definitely could’ve gone better. I said that maybe I should’ve stepped in after all, but the last thing I want to do is pick a side. Everyone else settled down and ate in a tense, awkward silence. I realized that I lost my appetite and headed out to the pool to get some fresh air.

As soon as I headed out, Raj came bounding my way to ask if we could talk! Then he said that he’s not going to mince words but he’s worried about our group. According to Raj, if we keep up this whole feud, we’re never going to get off this island. Raj insisted that we need to come together and he thinks that he might know how to do it, but he’s going to need my help.

Sure, Raj, whatever you need.

I told Raj that I was listening. Raj said that it’s going to sound crazy, but we need to throw a feast. I asked him if he really said that we should throw a feast. Raj explained that his grandmother had this saying, “Words make war, but pies make peace.” I told Raj that it was genius. Raj asked if I really thought so, saying that most people just stare at him confused when he says it. I asked Raj how many times he’s been in this situation. Raj said that there was this one time at Chi Sigma Alpha, and in his a capella group, and junior prom which, according to him, was a doozy. Raj then summed it up by pointing out that he’s got a lot of experience bringing folks together, and there’s nothing that does the job like good food, strong drinks and a lot of laughs. I told Raj that I was sold and asked him what the plan was. Raj insisted that he handle the cooking. He explained that he was poking around the kitchen earlier, and there was a lot of good stuff in there. I asked Raj what he needed me for. Raj responded by asking me what was the most important thing for a feast. I asked Raj if the most important thing was a community coming together in unity and support. Raj said that I was wrong and the true answer is booze, really really good booze! Can’t argue with that. Raj said that he needed me to hit up all the bars in this resort and make sure the party tonight is stocked. I asked Raj if we had a bunch of stuff down here already. Raj told me that we’ve managed to put a surprisingly big dent in the beer supply but, more importantly, we can’t just serve your average pool bar swill at this feast! According to Raj, we need the good stuff, the gold label, the creme de la creme… literally. Raj wanted a bottle of Creme De La Creme. I asked Raj if he was really sending me on a scavenger hunt of all the bars in the resort to get some special booze for him. Raj said that he knew he could count on me and told me to listen up. Raj explained that he had a few drinks in mind that he wanted to make, but he’s going to need some specific ingredients. According to Raj, the drinks need to be Creme De La Creme, a bottle of McLellyn’s Whiskey and a bottle of Armand de Fleur champagne. Then he asked me if I got all that. I told Raj that I got it. Raj wished me luck and told me that the fate of the party is on my shoulders. Yeah, that doesn’t put any pressure on me.

I stepped into the hotel hallway and headed to the elevator when someone else popped up alongside me! It turned out to be Zahra who said that she heard I was going on a bar crawl. I asked Zahra if she was eavesdropping on me and Raj. Zahra insisted that what I call “eavesdropping,” she calls “conveniently overhearing while she’s hiding in a corner.”

Yeah, that’s what eavesdropping means.

Then Zahra told me that she was in. I asked Zahra if she really was. Zahra insisted that she’s a pretty experienced drinker and she’s got one h*ll of a discerning palate. Zahra said that if I wanted this to just be some run-of-the-mill frat party beer run, then I can be her guest but, if I want to come back with the best of the best, she’s my gal. Just then, Craig rounded the corner in front of me and asked what this was he heard about a beer run. I asked if there was anyone on this island NOT eavesdropping on people! Craig insisted that I was going to need someone to carry all those bottles, someone big and strong. Great, just let me know where I can find him. Zahra got mad and said that she called going with me first. Craig argued that he called it second and everyone knows first is the worst, second is the best. Third is the one with the hairy chin chest. Hey, someone had to finish that rhyme. Anyway, Zahra asked Craig who knows that. I told everyone to back up a minute. Then I asked Craig and Zahra if they were just trying to get drunk. Craig said that I got it. Then he held out his fist for a bump, but Zahra just slapped his hand. She told Craig that he really needed to learn to read tone and yes, we’re just trying to get drunk. Zahra claimed that it’s hot, we’re stuck on this island and we’re all probably going to get eaten by a sabertooth tiger. She asked Craig if he could blame us. Can’t argue with that logic. So I let Zahra and Craig tag along. Zahra and Craig were about to protest, but I told them that it was either both of them or none of them. They looked at each other and sighed. Zahra said that she’d do it, but she still gets first sip. Craig insisted that he gets to drink the most. I smiled and said that they’re getting along already. Then I told them to come on, we need to stay focused and make sure to get Raj the drinks he needs. We walked through the hotel with Todd trailing happily after us and reached the ballroom’s big double doors. I threw them open only to find myself standing on a rickety catwalk over a pool of bubbling magma! I screamed and jerked back! Through the smoke and wavering heat in front of me, I could almost make out the shape of a man on the far end of the catwalk, a man wearing a lion mask! I wanted to ask what was going on but couldn’t get the words out! The man turned to look at me, head cocked to the side.

Suddenly, with a flash of light, I was back in the hotel… in the ballroom… with Zahra and Craig! I immediately asked what that was supposed to be. Zahra asked me what I was talking about. Craig told me that I totally spaced out for a second. I tried to explain what I saw. That, for a minute, I was in a lava pit with a bridge over it. Zahra and Craig just stared at me like I was crazy. I shook my head and turned back to the room. I told them that I just got lost in my own thoughts and said that we should go find that alcohol. Craig pointed out the obvious, that the ballroom doesn’t look like a bar. I told Craig that I guessed he hadn’t been to many fancy weddings and explained to him that rich couples go all out on nice wine and champagne. Zahra said that I know what’s up and then told Craig that the two of us came here on the first day and found the good stuff. Craig insisted that, where he’s from, the only thing they serve at weddings is cheap beer and moonshine. Zahra asked if Craig actually drank moonshine out of a jug labeled XXX, or if that was just a stereotype. I told Craig and Zahra to stay on target and reminded them that Raj wanted a champagne called Armand de Fleur. Zahra bragged about how she’s heard of that and gave Raj credit for knowing his alcohol. Craig told us that he thought he saw a couple of bottles of it down in the bar fridge. He cracked the fridge open and grabbed a pair of bottles, tucking them into his backpack. I told them that we should check the fridge next, but Zahra interrupted me. According to her, it’s not a bar crawl unless you’re actually drinking. I told Zahra that I don’t recall saying this was a bar crawl. Before I could finish, Zahra popped open a champagne bottle from a table and took a sip, joking that it tasted like horrific wealth disparity. Craig grabbed a bottle as well and took a swig. According to him, it just tasted like champagne and he didn’t see the big deal. Zahra explained that the big deal was that it’s one of the finest, most flavorful champagnes in the world. Then she called Craig a philistine. Craig accused Zahra of being racist and told her that his family’s from Taiwan. Yep, he missed the point by a mile. Zahra ignored Craig and asked me if I’m going to drink. I know I shouldn’t but, after everything that’s happened, I could use a distraction. So I told Zahra to count me in. I opened my own bottle and the three of us raised our drinks up in a toast. Craig called out “Cheers.” I took a good, long swig. It was sweet and bubbly, with just a hint of pear and a lingering taste of honey. Wow, I’m that good at tasting flavors? Maybe, when we get back home, I should join a wine club. Still, the taste was amazing, like real wow! Craig shouted, “Another! Another!” A few drinks later, I told everyone that I was definitely feeling that. Then suggested that we check out the next bar on our list.

I walked through the hotel feeling a little light-headed but stable enough to walk when we came to a thick double door. A sign hung on the wall nearby that said “Club Skullkid.” I guess the skullkids from Kokiri forest all went to La Huerta and made their own nightclub. Craig wanted to know what the h*ll that was. He threw open the doors to reveal a dazzling high-end nightclub! At least I got the night club part right. Craig cheered and said that no one told him this was a nightclub. He asked why we weren’t tearing this place down every night. Zahra remarked that it was because she could think of no worse way to spend her time than listening to cr@ppy EDM while watching his sweaty @$$ fumble around. Craig accused Zahra of being jealous because, according to him, she doesn’t have his moves. Then Craig did a little dance and, in all honesty, it wasn’t really impressive. Yeah, Zahra’s just seething with jealously. Zahra went to check out the DJ booth. She asked if this was supposed to be retro night, because all this equipment was from the mid-90s, as well as all the music. I reminded them that we needed to check out the bar and said that this place should have a ton of cocktail suppliers. Zahra slid over the bar and started rifling through bottles. She said that we had blackberry liqueur, absinthe (honestly didn’t know that was legal), hot chili vodka. I reminded Zahra that we’re looking for Creme de la Creme. Zahra told me that they had two bottles of that right there! Craig read the back, which said that it was a premiere flavored liqueur, with hints of chocolate, vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon. Then he popped the bottle open and took a big chug. Craig told us that it was sweet and creamy. According to Zahra, you’re meant to mix a tiny bit of it into a cocktail, not chug it like cheap beer and called Craig an ape. Craig got mad and asked where the warning label was for that. Zahra told Craig to give the bottle to her and said that she’d show him how it’s done. Then she deftly swung around the bar, mixing together a bunch of different drinks and, with a flourish, slid a tall glass of multicolored alcohol into Craig’s big hand. He took a sip and said that it was amazing. Zahra claimed that it better be, because there’s only six shots in there. I remarked that there was no way I was keeping the two of them sober during all of this. Zahra said that there was no chance in h*ll and asked if I wanted one. I sighed and told them that I’ll have one. After all, you only live once but I don’t want to be so drunk that I can’t enjoy Raj’s party. Craig shouted out, “YOLO!” and bragged about how he had that tattooed on his butt. Yeah, TMI Craig, T M I. Zahra remarked that we all remember that. Guys, seriously TMI! Then Zahra whipped up a cocktail for me and slid it my way. I took a sip and told her that it was delicious and incredibly strong! Zahra smiled and said that I was all right which I thanked her for. I told them to come on, because we’ve got more booze to get. Craig said that he’ll come after he finishes this cocktail and the one after that.

An hour later, the three of us huddled up in the hotel hallway. Yes, it took that long for Craig to finish his cocktails. We gathered a few bags full of alcohol for the feast. Craig asked if one of the island’s mysteries is that everything is spinning, or if that was just him. Zahra laughed, saying that Craig was drunk, as drunk as a guy who’s always drunk and is like “Hey! Look at me! I’m drunk!” I giggled and said that he’s not the only one. Then Zahra quieted down and said that she’s pretty drunk too, isn’t she? I can’t remember exactly what I was trying to say. Mainly because I was having trouble getting words out. Hey, I’ve never been drunk before! Don’t judge me! Okay, I have been drunk but, for some reason, it felt like this was my first true experience with alcohol. Anyway, Craig told Zahra that he thinks I’m feeling it. I reminded them that we hit every bar in this resort, at least I thought we did, and we did get a lot of alcohol but we never found that McLellyn’s Whiskey. Zahra told me that there was actually one more bar. I asked Zahra if there really was. Zahra said that she saw it when she was going over the hotel blueprints, something called the V.I.P. Lounge.

If there’s a V.I.P. Lounge, we are so checking it out.

Craig admitted that he didn’t see anything about that in the brochure. Zahra remarked that it’s because Craig’s not a V.I.P, unless it stands for Vomiting… Idiot… Poo-head. She was drunk, it was the best she could come up with. Craig shot back that it was a sick burn and she really got him with that one. Zahra told Craig to just shut up and follow her. Then she led us through the halls until we came to a big locked door. Zahra examined the keypad and flicked out her knife. She mocked about it being a simple one-source keypad authentication and claimed that it was like they wanted her to break in. I asked Zahra if she was sure that this was the best idea. Craig said that it’s the V.I.P. lounge, and we know they’ve got the best shizz in there. Zahra remarked that the drunker he gets, the more he sounds like his old self. Zahra asked if he remembered that freshmen year when he… when they… Then Zahra caught herself, and the smile faded from her face as she quickly said, “Nevermind.” Meanwhile, I was thinking that, if we go to the lounge, I might find more of the ingredients Raj asked for and it’d be a chance to learn more about Zahra and Craig’s history. I said that I was in, we can check out the V.I.P. Lounge. Zahra shouted, “H!ll yeah!” Craig made a war cry about how we needed to break down this door. Trust me, it was much cooler when he said it. Craig rammed the door with his shoulder. Surprisingly, it didn’t budge. Zahra signed and pried open the keypad panel, examining the wires. Then she told me to keep Craig occupied for a few minutes while she worked her skills on those wires. I asked Zahra if she was sure that she should be doing that drunk. Zahra asked me what was the worst thing that could happen, she tripped the wrong wire and 10,000 volts of electricity surged through her body, leaving us idiots screaming at the charred husk that is her corpse? I asked Craig if she was kidding because I couldn’t tell if she was kidding. Craig admitted that he could never tell with her. Zahra squinted, intensely focusing on the wires. A single sweatdrop streaked down her forehead. Then she narrated what she was doing, saying that she needed to put red to green, needed to watch the beaker and then she clipped two wires together with a spark! The doors slid open! Zahra told us to slap her @$$ and call her Snape, because she just worked some magic! Craig and I starred at her. Zahra got defensive and told us that, if we tell anyone she said that, she’ll kill us both.

The three of us strolled into the gorgeous V.I.P. lounge. Dazzling lights sparkled in the ceiling, while a beautiful water feature bubbled in the center. Behind the bar, in a glass display case, sat an incredible selection of high-end alcohol. I told Zahra that this was a good call and said that it was totally worth it. Zahra pointed out that it’s called the V.I.P. Lounge, of course it was worth it. Then she told us to let her see what she can make us. Zahra took two steps towards the bar, tripped over a chair, and flopped onto a couch. She said that, on second thought, she’s just going to lie here for a while. Then asked if someone could sorta just pour a drink into her mouth, that’d be great. Yeah, good luck with that. Craig looked through the alcohol, saying that he wanted to see what they’ve got and that he found some nice-@$$ vodka, a crystal ball full of gin, and down in the fridge a cheese tray. He practically celebrated the cheese tray. I reminded Craig that he has no idea how old that is and maybe he should wait and, before I could finish, Craig ate half the tray. Then he did a Homer Simpson impression by going, “Mmmmmm, cheese.” Zahra told me not to bother and said that Craig’s a human garbage disposal. She talked about how one time, freshmen year, he ate a candy bar he’d dropped in a public hot tub. Seriously, ewww! Craig insisted that, since the water was hot, that meant it was sterile. Zahra demanded to know who taught Craig science. I laughed and then asked if they knew each other freshman year. The mood in the room instantly changed. Zahra and Craig glanced at each other, uneasily. They both hesitated to answer my question. I asked if they were a couple. Craig insisted that they weren’t and said that it was a totally crazy thing to say. Zahra told Craig not to have a hernia, admitted that they hooked up a few times and then asked me what the big deal was. Craig told Zahra that he thought she didn’t want to tell people about that. Zahra said that sometimes she just doesn’t have the energy to lie about it. I admitted that I had a hard time picturing the two of them together. Zahra explained that they were different people back then, just two dorky freshmen with no idea what to do, stuck in the same hall. Craig walked over and sat down next to Zahra. He handed her a glass of scotch on the rocks and clinked his with hers. Craig asked if she remembered that she had blonde hair, how she always wore it in a ponytail, over that nerdy pony sweater. Zahra told Craig that he was a dork. Reminded him that he had glasses and a bowlcut and all he ever wanted to talk about was World of Warcraft. Craig smiled and said that it wasn’t like she didn’t totally make a character just so they could read Scholomance together. Zahra admitted that she forgot all about that, and talked about how they wasted so many hours together. Then she said that his stupid football team started winning, and he and Sean became kings of the school. Zahra claimed that, after that, all Craig wanted to do was go to frat parties with perky little cheerleaders. Craig told Zahra that she could’ve come with him, but all she wanted to do was hang out with those creepy hackers in the CS department. Zahra claimed that at least they listened to her, they got what she had to say. Then she let out a long sigh. She asked Craig if he thought that their Warcraft characters still existed, just waiting around on some dusty server remembering the good times. Craig said that they were probably pretty lonely. The two of them sat in a long emotional silence. Finally, Zahra got up and rubbed at her eyes with the back of her hand. She said that the sun’s setting and we should probably get back to Raj. Craig agreed that it was time to go. I told them to hang on a sec, we needed to at least see if we could find that whiskey Raj wanted. I walked over to the shelf and browsed it and found the McLellyn’s. I would’ve been happier about it but, after hearing about Craig and Zahra’s history, I felt a little down. I started to put it into my bag when I noticed something strange on the bar. I noted that it was weird and Craig asked me what I was talking about. I showed him the glass of whiskey.

That whiskey looks way too recent.

Then I pointed out that everything else in this room was all neatly put away but there’s one glass of half-drunk whiskey still on the bar. I said that it was like someone was here after it closed just to have a drink by themselves. Todd growled at it, teeth bared. Whatever scent he picked up from that glass, he obviously doesn’t think it’s a friend. Zahra joked that maybe it was a ghost but I pointed out that there was a little piece of paper next to it. It said “Project Hermes activation codes. Utilizes satellite uplink at the L.H.O.”

Don’t know what that means but it’s got to be important.

After that, it was just a bunch of random numbers and letters. I asked Zahra and Craig if they had any idea what that meant. Zahra said that she had no idea and reminded us that we needed to get out of here before it gets all sentimental in here again.

I took the bags of alcohol, split off from Zahra and Craig and headed to the resort’s kitchen where Raj was bustling about. He talked about Kahlua pork on the grill, fries on the fryer, oysters ready to go (think I’ll be avoiding those), and samosas stuffed and spiced (that I’ll be pigging out on). Raj bragged about how he outdid himself this time. Todd scampered around, greedily licking scraps up off the floor. I told Todd to slow down, reminding him that he doesn’t want to get sick before the feast. Raj was happy to see that I’m back and asked if I found the good stuff. I set down the bags and Raj went through them, happy that I found everything he asked for. I told Raj that I took my job as booze brigadier very seriously. Raj said that he knew he could count on me and then smelled my breath, asking if I sampled the goods on my way back. I admitted that I might have had a sip, or two, or three and then burst into giggles. I pointed out that it looks like he’s got things pretty handled down there. Raj admitted that it wasn’t just him. I looked across the kitchen and spotted Quinn. Raj said that she offered to help him out and that she’s an amazing cook! Quinn humbly insisted that she’s just been following instructions and that the feast was all Raj. Raj said that he’s going to check out how the setup’s looking and he’ll be back in a bit. He started to go and then stopped by the door. He asked me if I was keeping track of all the crazy stuff on this island. I admitted that I was. Raj said that it might not be a big deal, but he found this one weird thing in the kitchen. He explained that all the other frying pans were normal, but this one had a symbol on it.

Maybe it’s a magic pan. Yeah, that sounded way less stupid in my head.

Raj told me that he doesn’t know why but something about that symbol really stood out to him. That it felt important for some weird reason, like it’s calling out to him. Then Raj asked me if he sounded crazy. I joked that he did, but everything about this island was crazy. Like how it has some hold over me, but I didn’t tell Raj that. Raj said that if I saw anything else like that, I should let him know. I promised that I would. Raj left and I turned to Quinn, asking her how it was going. She told me that it was great and we just had dessert left. Quinn asked if I wanted to stick around and help her cook, because she could always use another pair of hands. I told Quinn that she can count me in and she admitted that she was hoping I would say that and immediately got to work stirring the dough.

The future pastry chef herself!

I sidled up next to Quinn at the counter, which was covered in fifty perfectly fluffy cupcakes. I asked if she was sure we had enough cupcakes there. Then joked that, at this rate, we only got four apiece and she should know that I’m a six-cupcake gal. Quinn giggled claiming that she always said that there’s only two certain truths in the world, we’re all going to die and you can never have too many cupcakes. I asked if this was a good-news, bad-news scenario, which Quinn said was exactly right. Then she told me that the most important part of baking any cupcakes. I interrupted by asking her if it was the eating. Then Quinn changed it to the second most important part, the frosting. She asked me what I thought we should go with. I suggested chocolate and said that other flavors are good, but there’s nothing better than a good chocolate cupcake. Quinn said that, in that case, I’m in luck because this place is stocked with the most decadent and also most delicious chocolate frosting she’s ever tasted. She opened a fridge and took out two jars of frosting. The two of us got to work frosting the cupcakes. I asked Quinn if she baked a lot. She told me that she used to when she was younger. She said that her mom and her were home a lot, so they used to spend the whole day in the kitchen, whipping up pies and souffles and these gigantic trays of cupcakes. Then she talked about how her dad would come home from work and pretend like he was so flustered every time. He’d say, “Darn it, you two! Where’s my steak and potatoes! A man can’t live on cupcakes alone!” Though, according to Quinn, as soon as they weren’t looking he’d stuff himself silly. I told Quinn that her childhood sounds pretty great. Then I told her about how my mom and I used to bake cookies together when I was a kid. Quinn asked me if my dad would come home and joke like hers did. I felt a little crestfallen and told her the truth, my dad didn’t. Instead, he made these remarks about how, if we kept baking like this we weren’t going to fit through the front door and let out a laugh. What I didn’t tell Quinn was how serious my dad would sound and how my mom and I would throw the cookies away out of shame. Quinn said that it sounded like we had similar childhoods and I just let out a melancholy, “Yeah.” Honestly, her childhood sounds more like a perfect 50s sitcom while mine was more of a stepford household. Honestly, I feel a little jealous. Anyway, I finished frosting my half and turned to Quinn with a smile. I asked her if the frosting assistant got a free sample. Quinn smiled saying that, since I helped with the cupcakes, I can have one. I took a bite of the cupcake and it is delish! The chocolate frosting melted on my tongue and the cupcake itself was fluffy and warm, sweet without being overpowering. I told her that it might have been the best cupcake I have ever eaten! Quinn jokingly bragged that it was definitely the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten. I said that I wish we had internet here, because I would totally make a blog post about her cupcakes, even give it a five-star review. Quinn told me that, when she was a kid, she always dreamed of opening her own bakery. She said that it was going to be called For Goodness Cake, and she’d serve nothing but cupcakes. I asked Quinn if she would personally bake every single one. Quinn said that she would for me. Then she finished her cupcake and turned to me, thanking me for helping her and saying that it was fun. I told Quinn that it was and pulled her in for a long, tender hug. Quinn asked me what that was for. I said that it was for her being her. I admitted that I don’t know what it is but, whenever I’m with her, I just have a good time jealousy issues aside but I’m not going to tell her about.

Yep, Diego’s a great friend but it’s nice to have another girl to talk to.

Quinn hugged me right back and said that it was the same for her, that I’m a good friend.

A little while later, I strolled outside to the pool area to find it all set up for the night. A festive playlist blasted out of the speakers. Torches flickered pretty ambient light and on a long dining table sat an incredible feast! I’m talking totally wow! The smells hit me at once, sizzling roast pork, savory sauces, juicy fruits, sweet desserts! I begged to eat it, all of it! Raj bounded over to me, a big grin on his face. He said that he can’t throw a ball or fly a plane, but I better believe he can cook a mean feast. Oh, I believe it. Once again, I begged Raj to let me eat. Then I headed to the table which only had three seats left. I sat down next to Grace who greeted me with a smile. Soon enough, everyone in my group was seated. The slackers sat on one side and the doers on the other. At one end of the table, the tensions seemed to be thawing. Grace said that the coconut shrimp was sublime. Michelle agreed, adding that Raj really outdid himself. Unfortunately, at the other end, the mood was still hostile. Sean demanded that Jake pass the fries. Jake told Sean that he’s the big jock, so he can grab them himself. Just then, Raj came up to the table with a big tray of drinks in a variety of glasses! He fluttered around, placing one in every person’s hand. Aleister asked what was happening here. Raj explained that he brought every single person a signature drink, one that he thinks is just right for them! Then told everyone that I found all the ingredients. Zahra said that I found them with a little help from some friends. Craig asked if we could drink now and said that he wanted to drink. Zahra asked Craig how he could still want to drink, when it was taking every ounce of willpower she had not to yuke on the floor. Raj told us that we can drink in a sec, but first he wants to make a toast. He said that, right now, we’re sitting at this table, and every single one of us is holding a completely different drink and that’s not just because he likes mixing up cocktails, it’s also a pretty good metaphor. Raj went into a speech about how, when you look at us from a distance, we all look pretty different. He said that, on the surface, we are, jocks and nerds, hackers and bullies. Yeah, this was definitely sounding like something out of The Breakfast Club. Anyway, Raj said that we’d think none of us have anything in common. Craig asked who the bully was. Raj ignored him, saying that it was just the surface, just the glass because, deep inside, these drinks all have a lot in common, they’re delicious, they’re full of alcohol and they were all made for one very important purpose: to bring us together again. Raj said that we all want to get off this island, we all want to get back to our homes, our families, our lives, but we’re never going to accomplish that unless we can overcome our superficial differences and work together as a group. Raj summed it up by saying that everyone here has a role to play, some of us are natural leaders, confident and assertive, others are rebels who test the boundaries and find new solutions. Then Raj said that some of us are quiet, studying the way the world works and others are loud and strong, keeping us all safe, and some of us are insanely cute blue foxes with crazy ice powers. That last one would be Todd. Raj finished up the speech by saying that, if we keep fighting, if we keep focusing on our differences, we’re going to tear each other apart but, if we come together, if we focus on what we have in common, we can figure this mystery out, we can get off this island and we can go home with a memory of the most amazing adventure we ever had. Then Raj asked us what we say to that, if we can come together for a toast. The table was quiet, then Sean raised his glass toward Jake and said it was to coming together. Jake stared at him and then raised his own, clicking it and saying that it was to getting back home. I raised my glass and said that I toast to Raj, which Raj thanked me for. We all raised our glasses together and drank.

We’re getting along again and we owe it all to Raj.

Sean thanked Raj for putting us together and said that we needed it. Jake agreed that this was nice. As for me, I remembered that file I found on Raj. How it said that he had a high IQ and whoever wrote it said that it must have been a fluke. Yet, seeing Raj bring us all together like this. I think there’s much more to him than meets the eye. With minutes, the feast was roaring underway! Everyone was laughing, grinning, telling stories and jokes and soon enough, people started discussing their day! Jake asked Shooter (Sean) if there was any luck in radioing for help. Sean told Jake that there wasn’t, every radio signal he tried just brought back static like we were trapped in some kind of communication bubble. Grace said that it’s clear that the island was cut off from traditional communication channels and we needed something more sophisticated. Aleister explained that he and Grace believed that a satellite uplink could be a strong enough signal to get through the interference. I asked Aleister if he said something about a satellite uplink. I told him that I saw a note about that earlier today in the V.I.P. Lounge and that it said there was a satellite uplink at some place called L.H.O. Lila repeated the initials and said that it stood for La Huerta Observatory. She claimed that it made sense, because the Observatory is a state-of-the-art facility with direct contact to Mr. Rourke’s satellite relay but we still don’t know where the Observatory is. Jake asked if this would be a good time to mention that, when he was jet-skiing, he saw a big domed building with a giant telescope. He said that it was maybe seven miles north of here, up high on the slopes of the volcano. We all stared at each other in stunned silence. Diego said that he thinks we just figured out what we needed to do. I looked out at the volcano in the distance, tall and ominous and, in my mind, I once again saw the boiling sea of magma from my vision. For one second, I had the strangest, strongest feeling that something, no someone, was out there in the jungle… watching me. And on that scary note, I’ll have to end this post.

A/N: Looks like the contest winners have finally gotten over their differences! How long will this last? Let me know your thoughts and, if you want to request your own recap, you can do so in the comments, send me an email, or friend me on Discord at suburbantimewaster#8733.



Final Thoughts

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