Chapter 11: Missing Lunch
Dawn and her mom and aunt spent quite some time in Rico’s room, chatting with him and Duncan (until Duncan’s family arrived). To Dawn’s relief and pleasure, her mom seemed to like Rico well enough. She wished her dad was there too, but hopefully he would get a chance to meet Rico before the weekend was over. Her mom kept checking her phone to see if her dad had called, but whatever the business call had been, it was evidently long and important.
“So when is your family coming?” Dawn finally asked Rico, resting her hand lightly on his. She wanted to lean fully against him, but suspected that her mother would disapprove of that.
“Oh, not until much later,” he said. “They’re busy, you know. I’m supposed to meet them at the front gate at 5:30.”
“Why don’t you come to lunch with us, then?” her mom asked. She looked at Dawn for approval. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
“I thought you wanted to wait for Dad,” Dawn said, though she, too, was quite hungry.
Her mom sighed. “Well, I guess he’s really busy. When we get outside I’ll try to call him. But if he’s too busy to call or answer his phone, I guess he’s too busy to eat.”
“We can get some extra food for him,” Aunt Pru said. She stood up and stretched. “It’s a buffet-style thing, right?”
Dawn started to say that actually, there were different food stations, some of which were prepared in front of you, but then she remembered that there was a special lunch event. The information about Parents’ Weekend had, indeed, said that it was buffet-style. “Yeah. Want to come?” she asked Rico.
He nodded. “I may as well.” They stood up, Dawn slipped her shoes back on, and off they went.
Her mom dialed as soon as they’d gotten out of the building, and held the phone to her ear as they walked up towards the field at the north of campus. They were nearly there when she finally closed it and shook her head. “No answer.”
“Oh well,” said Aunt Pru with a shrug. “His loss.”
There were enough people in line that they couldn’t see any of the food at the table as they approached, but they didn’t have to wait too long, thankfully. They’d already wasted enough time. Dawn’s stomach was growling and she felt a little lightheaded. When they reached the food, she grabbed a roll and started to eat it right away, hoping to quell her hunger enough that she could eat at a reasonable pace.
They were fairly quiet through lunch—most of them were focused on eating. Apparently they’d arrived just in time, too, because only a few minutes after they sat down, the workers serving and refilling the dishes started to pack it all up. “I guess Dad is missing the food entirely,” Dawn said.
“Until dinner, at least,” her mom agreed.
“He could stand to lose a few pounds,” Aunt Pru said. Dawn and her mom giggled.
“Even if he's not sorry to have missed this, my mom will be,” said Rico, wiping his fingers on a napkin. “This fried chicken is almost exactly like hers. And her recipe is a total secret, so she’ll be suspicious.”
“Oh no, the school is stealing recipes?” Dawn asked playfully. “I’ll look for my dad’s parsley spaghetti at dinner, then.”
“Hey!” said her mom. “What about my corn casserole?”
“Sorry to tell you, Mom, but that one’s not exactly a secret. I think they serve it every Friday.”
“Hey, I really like the Friday corn casserole,” said Rico. Dawn’s mom smiled appreciatively and turned back to her food. Dawn gave Rico a wink, and he grinned at her.
They finished their meal, cleaned up, and started slowly back toward the dorm. Aunt Pru gave a burp and patted her stomach. “I might have eaten too much,” she joked.
Dawn’s mom yawned. “Me too. I’m kind of sleepy. Dawn, would it be all right if I took a nap in your bed?”
“Sure,” said Dawn, seeing an opportunity. “I don’t know if Naomi and her family are going to be there, but if the room is empty, that’s fine with me.”
“I’d rather walk around to get my digestive system going,” said Aunt Pru.
They went back into the building. Rico went back to his room, and Dawn returned to her room to find that, as usual, Naomi was nowhere about. She helped her mom get settled into her bed, and she and Aunt Pru headed back down and outside.
“So now that we’re finally alone,” said Aunt Pru, “you have to tell me!” She turned eagerly to Dawn, an excited smile on her face. “Did it work?”