A wide-eyed girl enters the Wendy's nearest her residence to use the Wireless Web connection. Two workers greet her, and one of them takes her order. The other offers a balloon with a coupon for a free Frosty inside. "It's the last one," he says in a voice that suggests he is offering a great treasure. He adds, "Uh, we just finished popping all the other extra ones."
She accepts the balloon politely and ties its string around her wrist, sincerely excited about this new treasure. She hides her childish delight and offers a very business-like, "Thank you."
After receiving her food, she sits first at a secluded table. Failing to find a power outlet for her Laptop, she switches tables, then plugs in, opens up, and turns on the Computer.
From her new table she notices a middle-aged couple. They appear as though they were each once far more physically attractive, but time has begun to take its toll on their appearances. Still, they quietly speak to one another. Then, they turn to fondly make fun of their sons who are running around the restaurant like hooligans, playing with the Wendy's coupon-balloons they also received. The middle-aged couple shares a soft, weary smile. Their beauty shows through the shared look, falters, then subsides, and the woman rests her head on her husband's shoulder.
The girl studies them for awhile then shifts her attention to her left, where she sees a young man and a young woman. One of the men has been staring the wide-eyed girl's way and continues to do so. The girl becomes uncomfortable when she sees the expression on his face. She gives a glare expressing that she does not desire his attention. She is about to look away when her eyes are stopped by the young woman's, presumably this man's "beloved". The woman has noticed her "beloved" is distracted (likely, again). She appears to be upset, but only for a moment. The young woman turns away and dons a blank face. The girl turns her attention away, too, and begins trying to connect to the Wireless Web.
After repeatedly failing to connect, she asks her Computer to diagnose the problem. It tells her to restart it or to move somewhere else in case of interference from other Users. She finds and clicks the restart button and continues to survey the dining room as she waits for her Laptop to reboot.
Her eyes rest on a group of teenagers -- three girls and a guy. They are waiting in line for their food, chattering eagerly. They talk about school and about the things they have been told about religion. Eventually they begin to discuss relationships. The wide-eyed girl tunes them out, but not before the youngest girl of the group begins to study her curiously.
Still, the wide-eyed girl has found a nearby table to observe. A couple, perhaps in their late 50's, occupies it, and they are sitting across from one another. They are discussing responsibilities and concerns and seem a bit bored and slightly irritated, though too worn-out to bother dealing with whatever is irritating them. The girl wants to approach them to ask a question, but she resists the urge. The woman, catching the girl's stare, gives a practiced smile. The girl reciprocates.
The girl's attention is stolen away next by a man in his early 60's, wearing tattered clothing and briskly walking her way. She has seen him before but cannot recall when and where. The smile on his face is friendly, almost child-like as he asks, "How ya doin' tonight, sweetie?"
A smile springs to the girl's face, and she replies, "I'm doing pretty well! Thanks! How are you?"
Having already walked past her, he remarks, "I'm great! Just happy to have something to eat!"
Drawn to his alive demeanor and faint familiarity, she cranes her neck and twists her spine slightly to turn and see him plop down in a seat at the table she had originally chosen. She finds herself wanting to sit with him and engage in conversation.
The girl pauses, remembering her brother's words in regards to her wish to have a similar conversation in the past. "Not everyone is as nice as you."
The girl ponders the words and finishes forming a once half-formed conclusion: she shouldn't solely live by the words of those she respects, she must form her own views, make her own calls. Besides, she isn't entirely sure she wants to be nice in the way that most people define nice. But, by the time the girl reaches this conclusion, the tattered man does not seem to see her anymore. He begins to talk to himself, happy as a clam.
She slowly turns back around to see that her Laptop is now on again and awaiting her password. She types in "YouAreCherished," presses "Enter," and zones out as she awaits the welcome screen.
"POP!" A balloon's explosion, caused by one of the playing little boys, has snapped the girl out of her daze. The middle-aged parents try to stifle their own chuckles as they chide their child. The other couple near them, the two in their late 50's, are seated a few feet away from the boy who popped the balloon. They complain about the noise, then return to their discussion. The girl's question comes to mind again and insists on being asked. Knowing she likely will not see this 50-something couple again, she stands up...And sits back down. A female employee passes, appearing discouraged. The girl feels as though she should offer an encouraging smile but decides against it. After a few further seconds of thought, the wide-eyed girl swallows her shyness, smiles at the worker, and rises once more to approach the couple's table. They glance up at her, puzzled. "I have sort of a weird question," says the girl.
"All right," says the man.
"You two are married, right?"
The woman replies, almost defensively, "No, but we've been in a committed relationship for nearly 14 years." The woman appears prepared to argue with the girl about the morality of their relationship and seems to wonder how in the world the girl could have known about it. Her face demands to know, "Who put you up to this?" It seems to be an argument the couple has often had with others, and it seems that they are sick of having it. Fortunately, that is not what the girl has approached them to discuss, and of course, the girl knows absolutely nothing about this couple or their relationship.
Nervously, the girl presents her question. "Okay...well...Is it worth it? I mean...No one ever stays together these days, and you two have, so I guess I'm just wondering. Has it been worth it?" The balloon string around the girl's wrist has come untied, and the balloon floats to the ceiling. The girl does not notice as she awaits an answer. Unexpectedly, a knot develops in her throat and tears are gathering in her eyes. She swallows the tears, irritated that she frequently finds herself getting emotional at the most inconvenient times. The wide-eyed girl often feels that she comes off as, and perhaps is, little more than a fragile basket case, out of touch with the reality that is so naturally accepted by the others.
The woman gives the semblance of a smile and states, "Well, if you want to stay together, it's worth it." She turns her attention back to the man, clearly uncomfortable.
"Oh, okay...just wondering...Thanks!" The girl returns to her seat, and the couple gathers their belongings, gets up, and heads for the door.
As she passes the girl, the woman says to the man, "I'm sorry. It's just too noisy in here." He deliberately nods and replies, "Yeah, and it's getting late anyway." In less than a minute, they're out the door.
The girl thinks she sees something in the dark outside the window, is bothered by the half-sight, but realizes, with frustration, that she is mistaken. She turns her thoughts back indoors to see the little boys run to retreive her forgotten balloon. They are shouting and laughing as they capture it victoriously.
Feeling embarrassed about the impulsively instigated exchange and slightly dejected after the loss of her balloon, the wide-eyed girl tries once more to connect to the Wireless Web. After another failed connection, her Laptop tells her again to either move elsewhere or restart. She whines, "Stupid Computer. I can never get anything --"
Her complaints are interrupted by the teenage boy loudly and playfully asking, "Who do you like now?!"
One of the girls from the group of four teenagers, the girl he asked, begins blushing and retorts, "Ha! I'm not telling you!"
He repeats his question several times and prods the two other girls to join in. One girl giggles and joins in immediately. But the other, the youngest girl hesitates for a moment. She looks to the wide-eyed girl as if pondering something she believes only the wide-eyed girl would understand. The two girls mirror one another's gazes for a moment...but the attention of the youngest girl is abruptly pulled back to her group. She giggles and joins excitedly in the chant:
"Who do you like now? Who do you like now? Who do you like now? Who do you like now? Who do you like now?"