I was surprised yet again by our room when I entered the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce with my parents and Aaliyah. “Oh. We even get the same table again,” said mother as I gazed around in wonder. This time our dining area was shared with a large number of other tables, tables which seemed to be levitating slightly above their “leg”. The tabletop was a top-like, steel frame which supported glass surfaces over and around it. Plainly visible inside each “top” appeared to be a galaxy in motion, though I couldn’t name any of them. Even after my parents and Aaliyah had sat, I remained standing and staring around the room. The ceiling was covered in a moving, vivid display of the universe, illuminating the room with a soft light. More than ever, I felt like the restaurant was justly named. The place was breathtakingly beautiful, and I felt a pang of sorrow as I wondered if Regina — my lost friend who had taken me here my first time — ever saw this gorgeous room. This vibrant universe with its countless hues would surely have lit her face; her gorgeous smile captivating me enough to forget for a moment the wonder in which I stood. I was extremely fortunate to have known her.
My reverie was broken as Aaliyah, standing on a chair, tugged at my sleeve. When she had my attention, she motioned for me to come closer with her finger, and then brushed a tear from my cheek when I did. I hadn’t even realized I cried, but I was more surprised by the revelation that I wasn’t sad precisely. I missed my friend, but the moment of remembrance mixed with the total awe I had for my surroundings, sweetening the experience. “Dear, are you alright?” asked mother. She and father both looked a tad worried, so I told them “Yes. I was just thinking how Regina would have loved seeing this. She took me here on Prom night, but the restaurant looked more regal back then, not like the surreal heaven it is now.” My parents glanced at one another. Then father said, “We were there, son, though not at your table. This is exactly how I remember it.” I sat next to Aaliyah and started explaining how Regina had gotten us a private room fit for royalty. Then I told them how Jarod and I were graced with an entirely different experience our second time eating here. My parents took in my descriptions with obvious surprise. I knew they trusted me not to over-embellish my account, but father appeared confused as he looked around and said, “I don’t understand how they manage their space so well. The building doesn’t seem nearly large enough for so many grand rooms. Perhaps their kitchen is underground.”
Being so distracted by the beauty around me, I took a while to realize father was eating between comments about the building’s architecture. Since Carl had left after seating us, the food and drinks must have been awaiting us. Father was eating some sort of small, stuffed bird dish, mother was working on a salad that I didn’t recognize, and Aaliyah had an enormous slice of a deep dish pizza decorated by its toppings. On my plate sat what appeared to be rice with large chunks of chicken and some sort of green garnish I hadn’t seen before. I was fairly certain that I was right about the chicken as I bit into it, but the flavor was different than I had tried before. Beyond rice and chicken, I couldn’t name with any certainty what I was eating, but the taste was exquisite. As I ate, I told my parents about how excitedly Jarod had eaten mac and cheese on both occasions we came here together. Then I went on to say, “Though I’ve obviously failed him as a friend where food is concerned, Marco seems to be doing a fair job at helping him try new things. That man is truly an amazing chef, though I still miss mother’s cooking at times. Still, you should come by for dinner when you have time. Just tell my secretary when you’re free.”
Mother smiled and looked over at Aaliyah who was grinning enormously, with pizza sauce covering her chin. “You’ve got a little something just there.” I told her while pointing at my chin. “I got something on your chin, boss-man, sir!?” she exclaimed enthusiastically while wiping her own with her napkin. Father laughed and I smiled at the silly girl. “You could always just use a fork.” I suggested as she lifted her enormous slice of pizza for another bite. Mid-motion, she turned to look at me in shock, and said, “But it’s PIZZA, boss-man, sir. Eating it with a fork is blasphemous! You’d ruin the fun!” Demonstrating her point, she took another enormous bite of pizza, returning sauce to her chin as the cheese stretched, broke, and slapped down under her mouth. “Oh, let her be, James. She’s not hurting anyone,” said mother, much to my surprise. Even father, who was the main stickler for propriety throughout my childhood, didn’t protest. I told them “Aaliyah continuously looks out for me through scheduling, running my finances, and countless other things. The least I can do is help her manage life’s most difficult problems, such as eating without getting covered in her food.”
Father laughed and told me “I suppose that is only fair, especially when you’re trying to be a good babysitter.” Mother, smiling as well, said, “Babysitting was so different when I was your age, James. There wasn’t so much technology, and twelve-year-olds who had a single doctorate would have made the newspaper. I still have trouble wrapping my head around the idea of you having multiple, dear.” The last part was said as mother smiled at Aaliyah. There could be no doubt that my parents adored her. “The little princess truly has peerless talent,” said Carl as he refilled her glass. I hadn’t even noticed he had returned until he spoke. He continued, saying, “My restaurant wouldn’t be what it is this day without her.” Father, looking surprised again, asked “What do you mean?” Carl gave him a smile and started explaining how Aaliyah wrote the software and designed the hardware for all of the electronics, which Aaliyah had mentioned in less detail before. Despite this, I was amazed to hear that Aaliyah also had a hand in the design of the building itself. “But I had heard of this restaurant when I was a small child.” stated father. “That doesn’t surprise me, but the occasional remodel helps keep things competitive when people are expecting more each year. Who would want to stay in this room forever?” he explained.
“I would,” I said without a moment’s thought. Realizing I had spoken aloud, I added “Looking into the vast reaches of space as they’re displayed here is peaceful and inspiring. With how everything is always in motion, how can I not want to see what comes next? I don’t know how long the cycle is before things repeat, but I have trouble believing I could catch everything that transpires up there in a lifetime.” Carl looked confused as he inquired “Cycles? Do you mean the planets rotating? Their moons? I suppose there are a number of others up there. Not really how I tend to think of it.” I looked to Aaliyah, finding her smiling up at Carl. Noticing me, she turned her head and said, “I designed it to age at a heightened rate, not repeat. It’s based loosely off what I know of astronomy, though I crammed things a bit closer together than they are and changed proportions a bit. Seeing more of it at once is neater, don’t you think?” What didn’t the tiny girl know about? She probably learned the name of every star while studying to create it. I somehow missed Carl changing out my plate for another course as I was staring upward once more, but I found that everyone had something new in front of them. Despite how odd his attire was, Carl was very adept as a waiter as well as a business owner.
Part way through dessert, I received a text from Ai or Mai, I didn’t know which, about a karaoke event which they really wanted to attend. I was quite impressed that anything could draw them away from Ancient Tribes of Earth, which took up the majority of their week from what I had seen. I asked my parents if they were interested in going, since they attended such things occasionally. Mother said karaoke sounded like fun. Though I could see father starting to form an excuse not to go, he ended up saying he’d go after Aaliyah exclaimed “Oh my gosh! Karaoke!? You’re the bestest, boss-man, sir!” We finished our dessert while discussing possible songs to sing. Despite Aaliyah asking Carl when he was taking her meal coupons, he declined to join us, saying that he had other customers who needed his attention. We all thanked him for the wonderful company and magnificent food, and then headed to my car. I crawled in the back with Aaliyah after father gladly accepted my offer to let him drive. He made a show of asking Mila to bring up directions in a horrible, but funny, Bond impression. Then we were on our way to meet up with the others while Aaliyah literally bounced in her seat beside me. Spending time with my parents again was absolutely fabulous, and I was glad that the night wasn’t over.