Neal made himself comfortable on the couch and folded his legs underneath him. He had a sly smile on his face and his eyes sparkled with a bit of delight as he stared first at Elizabeth and then at his scrabble tiles.
The young lady shifted uncomfortably in her chair, took another sip of coffee and sighed. She stared at her scrabble tiles with a furrowed brow and poked one with her finger to move two tiles together. After a moment of serious silence, she groaned with dissatisfaction, and finally looked up from her tiles. She stared at her opponent for a moment.
“I’m going to beat you this time,” she stated with newfound determination.
Neal sat with phone in hand and bit his knuckle as was his habit when trying to wait patiently for her to take her turn. His eyes still smiled at her.
“Gue harus menang (I have to win)” She pushed her tiles around with her finger again.
“I mean, it’s just not fair,” Elizabeth twirled her hair in aggravation, “You can’t always win, Neal!”
A long grin stretched across his wide face, “Well, apparently…” he shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows.
Elizabeth glared at him for a moment, “Oh, shut up.”
The grin was still there and she couldn’t help smiling back.
“Come on Lizzy, just plaaaayyy.” He shifted in his seat and placed his phone on the table.
“Ok, ok,” with a groan she placed three tiles down on the board, “There, that’s…how many points is that?”
Neal leaned forward and pointed at the tiles while he counted. “Duabelas.”
“Only twelve!” Elizabeth shook her head then rested it on the table. “I’m gonna lose.”
Neal couldn’t help but laugh at her; his laughter was warm and low. For a brief moment he almost wished she could win this one time. They had gone through this same scenario so many times, and with the same outcome: she always lost. He ran his fingers through his black styled hair and stared at the tiles on the board. The brief moment disappeared. Neal saw the perfect play. It was gonna be fun to tease her when she lost yet again.
“Your turn, Neal.”
“I know, crazy.”
Lizzy took another sip of coffee as she drew three new tiles from the pile and found herself humming the song that echoed through the Starbucks.
“I can’t feel my face when I’m with you…” she sang the words aloud without even thinking about whether anyone else could hear her or not.
“…but I love it,” Neal’s voice finished the melody, “…ya I love it.” He bobbed his head a bit as they both sang the next line together, and continued dancing as he placed a single tile on the board.
“Ummm…” he calculated for a moment, “thirty-one points.”
Lizzy stopped mid hum, “What?!” She stared at the tile until Neal thought her eyes would pop out. “But…”
The grin returned.
“But you…wait a minute,” she eyed the two letter word he’d made in suspicion, “What does Q-I mean? Is that a real word?”
“Yes, crazy, it’s a word”
“Are you sure?”
“Lizzy, it’s a word.”
“Ok, smarty pants, what does it mean?”
The blank expression on his face said it all.
“Ha! Lu nggak tahu ya (you don’t know),” she pointed a finger in his direction, “so how do you know it’s a real word?”
Neal let out a short exasperated sigh of disapproval and ran his fingers through his hair again, “Cause it’s a word!”
“Hm..” She folded her arms across her chest and tried to raise one eyebrow in disbelief. She looked a bit like a teacher who suspected their student of some form of mischief. “I’m gonna look it up.”
“Seriously?” He deadpanned.
“Yes,” she grabbed her phone and started typing.
Neal picked up his phone too but casually browsed through his Facebook while waiting for the verdict. He knew the verdict would fall in his favor; he’d spent time looking at scrabble websites and how to best play the letters Q and Z. But he let her search anyway. Lizzy could be incredibly stubborn sometimes. It just made teasing her when he was right all the more enjoyable.
Neal glanced up at her serious, confused face and started singing the new song that had begun playing through the coffee shop, “Sugar, yes please, won’t you come and pour it down on me.” His voice squeaked as he tried to sing the high notes. He successfully broke her concentration for a moment and Lizzy shook her head with a smile; a smile that quickly melted into shock.
“So? What does it say?” He’d paused his karaoke session.
“Q-I is a word?? For real?”
Neal groaned over-dramatically, “Yes, crazy, I told you!”
Lizzy frowned, set her phone down and sighed in submission, “Fine.” She took a bite of Neal’s brownie.
“It’s your turn, Lizzy.” He looked back at his phone ready for a long wait and took a sip of Lizzy’s coffee.
She stared at her tiles deep in thought, then to the scrabble board.
“Aw man…for real?” her eyes flit back and forth several times.
“Apa? (what)” Neal looked up at her.
“Kenapa sih (Why)? Why does this always happen to me?” She looked over every square inch of the scrabble board.
“Somehow this is your fault,” Lizzy’s eyes shot up for a moment to give him a disapproving look, then back down to the scrabble board.
“Whaaaaat?” he pronounced the “t” at the end with emphasis and set down his phone.
“I have like three amazing words, and no where to put them.”
“Well, you could just put them…” Neal paused for a moment and Lizzy saw the playful glint in his eyes.
“On your face!” Lizzy said the words before he could get them out and laughed in mock triumph. He laughed back at her; the playfulness was still in his eyes, “I was gonna say, up your nose.”
They forgot for a moment that they were in a public place and laughed louder and harder than their silliness merited. But it didn’t matter what anyone else thought because it made all the sense in the world to them.
“Ok Lizzy, plaaaay.”
“Ok, ok, ok…all I need is….”
The timing was perfect, the song Sugar was still playing over the loudspeakers, “…a little love and little sympathy…” Lizzy sang the words at Neal with a smile. He sighed and shook his head.
Lizzy stuck her tongue out at him, picked up three tiles and placed them on the board. “There, that’s as good as it gets.”
“Oh ya? That’s better than I thought it would be.”
“Ya, except I’ve got like a hundred more points than you.” Neal couldn’t help himself, it was just too much fun teasing her.
Lizzy frowned over-dramatically, folded her arms and leaned back in her chair. She looked a bit like a moody teenager. Her bangs fell down across her eyes and she blew them away in exasperation.
Neal’s grin seemed to get wider than it had before, and that mischievous glint re-appeared in his eyes. “So, are you sure you’re a native English speaker?”
Lizzy’s mouth dropped open, “Yes!” But her gaping mouth of shock quickly turned into laughter. “Astagaaaa, (oh my gosh) this is so stupid,” she said between laughs, “How does this always happen? How can you always win?”
Neal shrugged his shoulders and stuck his bottom lip out as though genuinely confused, “Maybe I’m just better at English than you?”
“Eh?” Lizzy sat up. She felt a bit like punching him on the arm but he was too far away, “English isn’t even your first language, crazy!”
“I knooowww” Neal laughed; he was having way too much fun.
She stuck her tongue out at him again.
He leaned forward, “And what’s your job again?” He rested his elbows on the table and raised his eyebrows up and down to provoke her.
Lizzy tried to glare at him, but the truth of the situation was too ridiculous for her to be actually upset. “I’m an….” she mumbled the rest under her breath.
“Lu udah tahu, sih (Oh, you already know).”
“Are you sure you know what it is?”
Lizzy couldn’t contain her laughter, she and Neal laughed like school kids and thoroughly disrupted the others in the Starbucks.
“Yes, I’m sure!”
“I’m an English teacher,” she mumbled. Lizzy covered her face with her hands in embarrassment, but she was still smiling, “who can’t beat my Indonesian friend at Scrabble.” She shook her head in disbelief.
Neal sipped her coffee again and shrugged his shoulders, “Well, it could be worse.”
Lizzy moved her hands away from her face; she and Neal made eye contact for a brief moment and they both knew what the other was thinking. “You’re face!” they said simultaneously.