A/N: This is a short story I wrote for my creative writing class. It was inspired by my love of Chinese food. Enjoy!
"Here's your order," Alex said as he placed the brown paper bag of Chinese goodness in front of me.
I could already feel my mouth watering as the imaginary tastes of hot wonton soup and scrumptious lo mein noodles entered my mouth. I stared at the Container of Wonders mindlessly, and slowly reached out for it in a zombie-like way.
"I even added extra fortune cookies in," Alex added with a smile. "Just for you."
I couldn't help but smile back. "Gee, does everyone around here know about my fortune cookie obsession?"
"No," Alex said. "But I happen to notice when you read your fortune every week because you usually make some sort of loud grunting or squealing noise, which I am pretty sure was not caused by the food."
He had a point there.
"Well, I'd better go," Alex added. "My dad wants me to do some deliveries for him tonight. Enjoy your food. And your fortune."
"Right," I said. "Thanks."
Because I was only doing takeout that night, I had to walk straight home with my food, which sucked, because I was hungry enough to eat a room full of sesame chicken. As I pushed the door to the restaurant open, though, I couldn't stop myself. I had to read my fortune.
I had always believed in fortune cookies. Ever since I received the message, "Good luck is right around the corner" five years ago, my fortunes had come true. Right after I left the Chinese restaurant that night long ago, I'd stumbled upon a dog that I recognized from a "Missing" poster I'd seen and was consequently rewarded $500 for returning it. If that wasn't good luck, I don't know what was.
Now, at age sixteen, I still treasured my fortunes like they were my own children, because they always come true, whether they tell me I'll get a good grade or that it will be sunny the next day.
I quickly plopped down on a nearby bench and opened the brown bag. I reached in for a fortune cookie, and spent some time choosing one. Alex hadn't been lying – he'd given me maybe ten fortune cookies. Unfortunately, according to the Unofficial Rules of Opening Fortune Cookies, I could only open one. So I picked one at random and slowly tore the plastic packaging off. I wasted no time cracking the smooth, brown cookie open and pulling out the tiny slip of paper. Then I brought it close to my face and read the message.
The person who loves you may be closer than you think.
This could only mean one thing. Sam White was going to fall deeply and madly in love with me.
After five minutes of jumping up and down like a maniac – and probably also making weird noises, as Alex had noticed I tended to do – I came to the conclusion that finally, finally, my greatest dream was about to come true.
I'd totally had a crush on Sam White since the 3rd grade, when I dropped my popsicle in the sandbox and started crying, and he, the heroic 4th grader, helped me clean up and get another one. And for every year after that, he'd been my savior, doing everything from giving me a bandaid to giving me a ride home. Not to mention that he was not bad to look at, either. In short, he was absolutely perfect. And he was going to fall in love with me.
Why else would the fortune cookie have said, "The person who loves you may be closer than you think"? What available guy could be closer to me than my very own next door neighbor?
I was in such an unbelievably good mood the next day that all I could do was stare out the window and smile. I couldn't wait for lunch, which was the only time I ever saw Sam. Maybe I could conveniently bump into him again today. Or maybe I was supposed to just sit back and let destiny unfold as it was meant to. Yes, that sounded like a better idea. I didn't want to anger fate.
I jumped in my seat as a crumpled up piece of paper suddenly hit me in the head. I angrily looked up to see that the perpetrator was none other than my irritating lab partner, Will. The stupid teacher had assigned us to be together since the beginning of the year, and my life had been hell ever since. He always glared or smirked at me, made fun of my lab grade being one point lower than his, and wouldn't answer my academically based questions so that I could stupidly ask them to the teacher and look like an idiot.
"Ms. Schwartz is going to murder us when she realizes we haven't started the lab yet," he said. "Now are you going to start participating, or am I going to have to throw more paper?"
"Fine, let's do the lab," I grumbled.
And so we proceeded to pour some weird purple concoction into a beaker and observed it for the next fifteen minutes. It was not exciting stuff, so I zoned out again. I turned the clock, ready to count down the minutes until lunch.
I knew I shouldn't have gone against fate. But I did. I intervened and changed everything. I stood behind Sam White in the cafeteria line on purpose.
"Oh, hey, Emma," he said when he spotted me, giving me a killer smile.
"…Hi…" I said, attempting to smile but failing miserably – I looked more like I was having a seizure or something.
"How are things going?" he asked.
"Uh, good," I said. "Nothing much has been happening, you know, but things have been okay. Um, how about you?"
"Same here," he said, and then went on to pay for his food. "Well, it was nice running into you."
He started to walk to a table, leaving me alone. I was a still a bit star struck from our encounter, but that didn't keep me from seeing what happened next. Sam White sat down at a table next to Lacey Andrews, the resident Ms. Perfect of our school, meaning she had it all – good grades, good looks, popularity, athletic ability, et cetera. I'd never known her and Sam were friends. I never knew they'd even met before. Then it hit me that they must have. Otherwise, they probably wouldn't have been holding hands.
I stood in shock, unable to move any part of my body. All of the air rushed out of me. This could only mean two things – one, the only way I could win Sam was through being The Other Woman and causing drama, or two, Sam and I were now not allowed to be together because I had intervened with fate. Why did I have to stand behind him in line on purpose? Why?
"Why are you just standing here?"
I turned to see Will, standing there looking both befuddled and annoying at the same time… and maybe even a little concerned? No, he couldn't possibly be concerned. I merely stared at him blankly, wondering why he was even asking.
"Actually, never mind," he said. "I don't want to know. But you're blocking the cookies. Could you get out of the way?"
I didn't even say anything. I merely shuffled away, wondering why my fortune cookies had abandoned me.
Even though Sam White and Lacey Andrews dating was the biggest news around the school, I had been the last one to know about it. Everywhere I went, people seemed to be chatting about how adorable they were together, and blah, blah, blah. I just wanted people to shut up. It was like fate was rubbing my blunder in my face. It was too bad fate was invisible; otherwise, I might have smacked it with a large stick at that point.
I managed to get through the day and went home, where I warmed up some left over Chinese food and sat in front of the television. Then, the phone rang. I needed a distraction from my misery, so I went to answer it.
"Hello?" I answered glumly.
"Is this Emma?" an obnoxious voice replied.
"Oh, my God," I said. "Will? Why are you calling my house?"
"Because I'm a stalker," he said sarcastically. "No, actually, I happened to notice my Chemistry text book was missing, and because we have a test tomorrow, I need one. So I wanted to know if I could photocopy Chapter Five from your book."
"Why mine?" I asked grumpily. "Why don't you ask one of your friends? Why ask the person you throw paper at?"
"Because," he said matter-of-factly, "you are the biggest procrastinator in our class, and will therefore not even pick up your book to study for approximately two hours. Therefore, it is logical to take your book and deprive you of a necessary resource than to take one belonging to someone else less irritating who actually needs it."
"You really planned that all out?" I asked, raising my eyebrows.
"Can I please just come over and borrow your book for an hour? It's not that big of a deal."
So it was a done deal. There was no reason for me to say no. If Will defaced my book, he would have to pay for it, anyways. As I went to get my textbook, a disturbing thought occurred to me.
What if Sam isn't the person who loves me at all? What if it's… Will?
It was a crazy week. I spent it trying to figure out what was going on with Will. What if he really did like me, and all of that annoying stuff he did was just a cover? What was I supposed to do? I mean, I absolutely hated him. There was only one solution. I had to eat Chinese food.
"You don't usually come on weekdays," Alex observed as I noisily pushed the door to the Chinese restaurant open.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," I answered. "In other news, you are insane. Why did you give me so many fortune cookies? I ended up choosing the one that made my life a living hell. Now, I'm worried this guy I hate is obsessed with me!"
"Why?" Alex asked, eyebrows raised. "What fortune did you get?"
"The person who loves you is closer than you think."
"Yeah," I said. "I wish I'd gotten, 'You will pass your next Chemistry exam' instead. But what can you do? Those stupid cookies are calling all of the shots."
Alex smiled. "Then why don't you get another fortune cookie? Maybe the message from the other one will be explained by the next one. That's happened to me before. Maybe it will work for you."
So I accepted another fortune cookie from him, tore the packaging open, and cracked open the soft shell. It read, 'When searching for something, you will find it in the last place you look'. In narrowed my eyes. Well, duh.
"Sorry, but that didn't really give me any hints," I said. "But thanks for trying to help."
"No problem," he said. "Oh, hey, I've been meaning to tell you. There's another Chinese restaurant that opened up across town. It's a buffet, actually, and I've heard the food is really good. In fact, I heard they have homemade fortune cookies and personalized fortunes. It sounded like your kind of thing, so I thought we should check it out some time."
"Isn't telling me this betraying your dad?" I asked. "I mean, he owns this place, so they're his competition."
Alex shrugged. "If he doesn't know, he can't care. So what do you say? Do you want to go some time this weekend?"
I shrugged. "Why not? It's not like I have anything better to do."
"Great," said Alex. "Is Saturday good for you? I can pick you up around six."
It didn't even occur to me that Alex had asked me out until I had left the Chinese restaurant with food in hand. My fortune had been right. What I had been searching for really was in the last place I had looked.
Never again would I doubt the great power of the fortune cookie.