195 Picking Up Kelly
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“There he is.” The guy at the electronics store said when Arnold came into the store.

“How did you know?” Kelly asked. “It's been months since we've been here.”

“You kind of match.” The guy said with a smile. Both Arnold and Kelly were dressed up for a date. “I've got all ten systems built, so I hope you've got a nice big truck or something.”

“Oh, damn.” Kelly said and then sighed. “There's no way we're getting all of this packed into Pam's car. It's a good size; but, these boxes are huge.”

“Do you have delivery?” Arnold asked.

“No, sorry dude.” The guy said. “I'd offer to take it myself but I've only got a small two seater.”

“We can take one, maybe two.” Arnold said. “Can I come back tomorrow to get the rest?”

“If you pay for them, you can do whatever you want with them.” The guy said.

Arnold took out his new debit card and showed him.

“Right this way.” The guy said as he picked up the long list of price stickers and Arnold followed him to the front of the store.

“I thought I told you to call me before just showing up with a private purchase?” The young woman at the counter said when the guy walked behind the counter and Arnold stood in front.

“Aww, come on, baby. You know I wouldn't bother you if it wasn't important.” The guy said with a grin and the girl huffed as she held her hand out.

“Just give it to me.” She said and motioned to the list of stickers.

“Hey, we're at work.” The guy said. “I don't mind meeting you later...”

“Eww.” The girl said and snapped the list from him, then gave it a cursory glance. “What is this, a wet dream?”

“You wish.” The guy said and stood there as she scanned each thing in.

The total increased and increased, then increased some more... and the girl's eyes kept darting to him and then to Arnold. She almost couldn't breathe when she reached the end of the list and stuttered as she tried to speak the total. Arnold wagged the debit card at her and she nodded, set it up, then he swiped his card through the little machine.

“I've got a few extra things, too.” The guy said and dug behind the counter. He ignored the girl's protests and put two posters, a stack of newsletters, and two flyers on the counter. He tore off the receipt from the machine and handed it to Arnold. “Your ex-girlfriend is going to put these at the new place when it's up and running, so everyone will know you got the equipment from us.”

“Okay.” Arnold said and took the receipt. He picked up the items and walked to the back of the store, put them on top of the closest box, and lifted it. Kelly grabbed the monitor and the VR headset and walked ahead of him and used her back to hold the door open. Arnold opened the trunk of Pam's car and it was pretty spacious.

They managed to fit two of the computer bases inside the trunk and two of the monitors, then one VR headset. They piled the other helmet, two of the full dive helmets, the two printers, keyboards, mice, and speakers into the backseat.

“You were right, we can't take more than two of them.” Kelly said and Arnold nodded. They went back inside and helped the guy put the rest of them into a storage area and marked 'sold' on them after wrapping the whole pile with plastic to ensure no one took anything.

“I'll be back tomorrow night.” Arnold said.

“Not a problem, fella.” The guy said. “You just bought a crapload of electronics from the store and agreed to some free advertising in exchange. I don't mind waiting.”

Arnold nodded and he and Kelly left the store. They hopped into the car and drove away from the store and back towards the college.

“I hope you're not angry.” Kelly said. “He wasn't happy about giving me the discount until I came up with advertising for him.”

Arnold glanced at her and then looked back at the road. “That was smart.”

Kelly let out a relieved sigh. “He only wanted to give me one or two machines at the discount and then charge full price for the rest. I knew that would destroy our budget, especially if Heather designs us something good.” She relaxed in the seat. “He practically jumped at the chance when I said we didn't need the brand new helmets.”

“They aren't new?” Arnold asked and she chuckled.

“They're two months old.” Kelly said. “Remember what I said about them being almost the same, just the design was slightly different?” She asked and he nodded. “The new versions will be out in a couple months for Christmas.”

“So, you got the discount on his old stock and he gets free advertising.” Arnold said, catching on immediately.

“You got it.” Kelly smiled. “I think we both made out great on the deal and no one could ask for anything better than that.”

Arnold nodded and they drove on in silence for a little while.

“Are you going to rent something to get the rest?” Kelly asked, curious.

“No. Dalla has a van.” Arnold said.

Kelly remembered seeing a van in that first parking space. “She won't mind you taking it, or is she driving?”

“She won't mind and she might drive. It depends on if she's busy.” Arnold said.

“Why wouldn't she be busy?” Kelly asked.

“Ida doesn't need as much mothering when she's relaxing in the dorm room. After Dalla makes supper, she isn't really needed.”

“Does she clean?”

“Yes. She is a maid.”

“She doesn't really dress like one.” Kelly commented.

“Ida doesn't want her to stand out at school.” Arnold said. “Dalla said she doesn't care if people know she is Ida's personal maid. She puts the uniform on during the weekends and doesn't leave the dorm.”

“Do you like seeing her wear it?” Kelly asked and kicked herself mentally for asking a stupid question.

“I haven't been at the dorm on the weekends since school started.” Arnold said.

“You've gone home every weekend?” Kelly asked, surprised. “What about homework?”

“I do it before I leave.” Arnold said.

“But... isn't it...” Kelly wasn't sure how to ask him if he had difficulty with it or why he didn't have difficulty with it. She was getting by; but, the course load was pretty heavy.

“I spread my classes out to give myself off classes in between.” Arnold said. “I do the work then if I can't finish it in class.”

“That... was really smart.” Kelly said. “I wish I had thought of that.”

“I'm on a full scholarship and I can take as long as I want to complete the program.” Arnold said.

Kelly nodded and regretted that she hadn't done the same thing.

“You can change your course load when the fall term ends.” Arnold said.

Kelly looked at him in surprise. “You can? Really?”

Arnold nodded. “Our sociology teacher also works at the registrar's office.”

“Well, that's convenient.” Kelly said with a chuckle. “Do I want to know how you know that?”

“She handled my enrolment personally when they didn't believe my grade point average.”

“Oh, I can definitely believe that!” Kelly chuckled. “I bet she was shocked it was true and not faked.”

Arnold nodded. “That's what she said. She thought I had somehow entered a false number into their system and it was too ridiculous of a number to be believable.”

Kelly snorted and then laughed. “That sounds about right.” She said. “It's suspicious for anyone that doesn't know you personally, that's for sure.”

They fell silent again for a while.

“Do you want to stop for something to eat?” Kelly asked. “I haven't eaten anything since lunch.”

“Okay.” Arnold said. “Search for one on your phone.”

Kelly nodded and did so. She told him the directions and he and took the next off ramp, drove for several minutes, then stopped at what looked like a nice restaurant. They got out of the car and Arnold locked it up, set the alarm, and they went inside.

“Reservations?” The man at the little podium asked.

“No.” Arnold said before Kelly could say anything. “Do we need to step out and call to make them and come right back in?”

The man chuckled. “No, we accept walk in customers.” He said and stepped out from behind the podium. “Right this way.”

They followed the man into the dining room and it was mostly empty.

“Monday nights are slow, so even if you had shown up without a suit jacket, we would have provided you with one.” The man said and sat them at a nice table. “What would you like to drink?”

“We're driving back to the college, so nothing alcoholic.” Kelly said. “Water or soda.”

“Do you have root beer?” Arnold asked.

“I will check.” He said. “I will return with the menus.”

“I doubt they have root beer.” Kelly whispered when the man walked away. “This looks like a more upscale restaurant.”

“We can find somewhere else.” Arnold suggested.

“No, this should be fine.” Kelly said. “I haven't been to any that were this nice before.”

The man came back with the menus and a slightly sad face. “No root beer, I'm afraid.”

“Just cola is fine.” Kelly said and accepted the menu. “If it's not too rude to ask, why are you serving drinks?”

The man chuckled. “I take up the slack when I'm not busy.”

Several of the people at other tables stood up as they prepared to leave.

“...and now I must go.” He walked away towards them.

Kelly looked at her menu and admired the professionalism of the host and the high quality menu. “Some of these look delicious.” She said and read everything that was available. She was a bit surprised that it was just the names and no actual prices. It must be expensive if they won't even tell you how much it is.

“I'm getting the Pasta Primavera with Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Mini-Peppers as an appetizer.” Arnold said and closed the menu.

Kelly blinked her eyes for a moment at the quick decision that people usually mulled over as they chatted about the food available. It took her another few minutes to decide on a variety seafood platter. She had chosen just in time as the man came back with their drinks.

“Are you ready to order?” The man asked and Arnold and Kelly nodded. “I'll send the waiter over.”

Kelly stopped herself before she said thank you and only smiled and nodded again. That was close. She thought and looked at Arnold. She wasn't sure what he would do if she said those words.

The waiter came over and took their order, told them an estimate of how long it would take, then left to go to the kitchen. He was back out with a big plastic pan and cleaned off the other table.

Kelly talked about Arnold's plans for the computer lab and he repeated that they would need to be fully tested. He knew she wanted to try the full dive system and having several people go along to try the game would make it that much better for her. Neither of them had tried it before, so it was going to be a new experience for the both of them. They lost track of time as they talked and their food seemed to show up out of nowhere.

“I almost forgot we were waiting to eat.” Kelly said with a laugh. “I was having fun talking to you.”

“Me, too.” Arnold said and added some pepper and a sprinkle of salt on the pasta.

Kelly was only slightly surprised that he said that, then she realized he said that he had fun talking to her, too. He had fun just talking to me. She thought and felt happy about it.

They ate their meals and picked at Arnold's appetizer. They were surprisingly tasty, even though the appetizer was usually served first. The host noticed them and started to walk over and ask them something, then he turned and went to the kitchen instead. He came back out, his face both sad and apologetic, and came over to them.

“I am very sorry that you were not served properly.” The man said. “Thankfully, the appetizer was fresh and took longer, because the chef hasn't made that dish in several weeks.”

“It's all right.” Kelly said. “They're very good.”

“Thank you for the kind words.” The host smiled. “You should have had them ten minutes before being served the main meal, so there will be no charge for them.”

Kelly was a little surprised by the offer and she smiled. “That's very nice of you. Thank you.” She saw Arnold give her a look and she almost laughed.

“You are quite welcome.” The host said and bowed a little. “Enjoy the rest of your meal.”

Kelly watched him walk away for a second and then turned her head to say something to Arnold about not reacting when someone near him said thank you. Instead, his lips met hers and she let out a little moan before she could stop herself.

Arnold held the kiss for four seconds and then broke it, ignored Kelly's shocked face, and kept eating as if nothing happened. Kelly stared at him for several moments, hoping that he would kiss her again, then she let out a sigh and kept eating, too.

They finished their meals and declined dessert, then the host brought over the bill in a small folding leather pouch and handed it to Arnold. He checked it, dug out several bills out of his pocket, tucked them inside and handed it back.

The host saw what he did and couldn't quite hide his surprise. “It was very nice having you as guests tonight.” He said, his voice a slightly higher pitch, and he led them to the door. “Goodnight.”

When the well dressed couple left through the door, he opened the small leather folder and counted the four one hundred dollar bills. He shook his head at the massive difference between the actual meal price and the tip he had left. He had seen the man do it, so it wasn't a mistake, either.

So much for giving him the appetizer for free. The host thought with a smile.