The next morning, showered and dressed in her school uniform, Astrid found her parents in the breakfast room eating waffles. Her father got up from the table and intercepted her with a big embrace. He was a tall, handsome man, with just a touch of grey hair at his temples.
“Astrid, I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed you,” he said.
“Same here,” she replied. “But I had a great time in Cartagena.”
“I bet you did. Fortunately you had no trouble on your trip.” He spoke with emphasis and nodded his head conspiratorially toward Mrs. Maxxim.”
“Nothing, as long as you consider air-to-air missiles and sharks nothing,” said Mrs. Maxxim, setting a plate down at the table for her daughter.
Kate Maxxim was a tall, blond woman. Though it was still early, she was already dressed in a sharp blue business suit, her hair and makeup looking like something out of a fashion magazine.
“I’m not really hungry, Mom.”
“Eat one waffle,” her mother ordered.
Astrid ate quickly as her father filled her in on the production of several new products, the most important of which, as far as the girl inventor was concerned, were the components for her undersea dome. Before she knew it, she had finished her waffle.
“All right, got to go,” she called back as she dashed out of the room.
“Learn stuff!” called her father.
If her mother said anything, it was lost in the sound of her rushing out the front door.
At the point where their two yards joined, Toby waited for her. As always, he was neatly dressed, and his hair was brushed with his brown bangs hanging down lazily above his eyes. His backpack was on the ground by his feet as he adjusted his tie.
“Back to the salt mine,” he said. “I was just getting used to going without a tie.”
“Here, let me,” said Astrid, sliding the tie’s knot into just the right position. “I kind of like wearing a tie.”
“Well, girls look better in them than boys do.”
“I suspect you think girls look better in just about everything,” she said.
“I do,” he agreed. “I really do.”
“Come on, Romeo. We’re going to be late.”
“You know that’s actually a misnomer,” he said, as they walked the carefully cultivated sidewalk, shaded by overhanging trees. “Romeo wasn’t smooth at all. He was kind of goofy, really.”
“See? And you thought you wouldn’t like Renaissance Literature.”
“Oh, I like Shakespeare.” He stopped, and placing one hand on his chest, lifted the other into the air. “But soft. What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Astrid is the sun. Arise fair sun and kill the envious moon, already sick and pale with grief that thou her maid art far more fair than she.”
“You better not have been looking in my window,” she said with a sly smile.
“Don’t be silly. Your room doesn’t even have a window. Besides, you’re supposed to be more impressed.”
“Oh, should I swoon?” Astrid placed the back of her hand over her forehead. “Oh Romeo, Romeo. Where for art thou Romeo? What’s the next line?”
“I didn’t memorize the girl parts.”
“Seriously,” said Toby, suddenly looking nervous. “Wouldst thou venture forth with me unto the Junior Prom?”
“That’s still more than a month away,” Astrid pointed out.
“You told me not to wait until the last minute.”
“I did, didn’t I? Of course I will go to the Prom with you.”
“Thanks,” said Toby, suddenly not nervous at all.