Disclaimer: I do not own the Tri-State Area Convention Center. Or this fictitious awards ceremony. Or anything associated with Phineas and Ferb.
Chapter 9 – Beauty and A Breakdown?
The drive to the ceremony was largely uneventful, if only for the fact that Coltrane was sitting between Baljeet and Ginger, robbing him of any opportunity to embarrass himself again. Stacy and her mom were preoccupied with some discussion that he couldn't hear, so he was content with looking out the window, watching the other cars pass by.
He could almost feel her gaze on him, even though he didn't dare take a chance to return the stare. If Coltrane was purposefully blocking her, he didn't know it.
But he was still doing a very good job all the same.
"Alright, guys, we're almost here."
Wait a minute.
Baljeet craned his neck to see the convention center come into view. He had been there before for the Sci-Fi Convention not too long ago, but the large amount of grown-ups in suits was a stark contrast to the costumed kids he was accustomed to. There was already a group lined up at the door, which Mrs. Hirano drove up to, where a valet was waiting for her.
"Lance!" She clearly knew who he was. "What do they have you out here for? Aren't you usually at downtown?"
"They needed all hands on deck, Doctor," the young man replied. "We have more VIPs than expected coming out tonight."
"Well, that makes me feel better," Mrs. Hirano said, rolling her eyes. "Give me a minute to get the posse out."
"Very well, Doctor."
As the five of them made their way out of the car, Baljeet walked around to the woman's side, followed closely by Coltrane and Ginger. Stacy was close to her mom as they headed into the center.
Inside was even more crowded. Several men and women were gathered in the lobby, making small talk. Baljeet was only able to recognize a couple of them as being clients of his mother. A few of the couples were walking around arm in arm, dressed to the nines.
"I...did not think there would be that many people here."
"Well, this is the greater medical community from all across the Tri-State area. And there are more people being honored other than myself, so they had to make enough room here," Mrs. Hirano explained. "Or did Ginger not tell you that?" she added with a smirk.
Baljeet said nothing, instead continuing to gaze around the lobby.
"Stacy, I'm going to find someone who has an itinerary. I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere."
As she headed off, Coltrane leaned into his girlfriend. "You recognize anybody here?"
"Absolutely not. Although I thought I saw another kid running around as we walked in. It looked like one of Ginger's friends."
At the mention of her name, Baljeet looked over to the younger Hirano, whose eyes were darting around at all of the people. He walked over to her just as she seemingly finished a conversation with herself.
"...Like that one time."
"Are you OK?"
Ginger's eyes went to Baljeet, not moving her head. "There was one time...where we had to dress up for a Fireside Girls ceremony. Nice clothes and all. It wasn't anywhere as formal as this, though."
He looked down at her white knuckles. "Your hands are shaking. You're nervous."
"Of course I am." Ginger's voice quivered slightly. "It's a little different when you're not the center of attention. I just don't want to do something stupid and embarrass Mom. I probably look like a horrible mess."
"Ginger, you look the exact opposite of a horrible mess. You're...wonderfully tidy."
"...You have a weird way of trying to make me feel better."
"Listen, you are the one that invited me. And I am somewhat used to this. It is nothing to worry about."
She looked away from him. "Technically, you invited you. I didn't want you to feel like you were forced. You're here because of me."
Aaand there were the nerves again.
Baljeet felt his face get red. "I am here because I want to, Ginger. Besides," he added, looking up at Stacy and Coltrane, "this is an opportunity we will probably not be able to get to experience for quite some time. We'll meet a few people, get fed, listen to a couple of speeches, and knowing you, probably get a few job offers."
Ginger giggled nervously. "Little too young, right?"
"No, probably not."
She felt an elbow gently poke her in the ribs, and she turned to see Baljeet offering his arm.
"If indeed you still are, there is no point in being alone. We can be nervous together."
"Ginger, I am saying this as your friend and keep in mind that it is me who is saying this: I believe we are both thinking too much."
She smiled as she looped her arm through his. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Well, is this the Hirano posse?"
Both Ginger and Baljeet looked up to see a portly man walk up to them, his cane clacking on the floor. "I'd recognize a Hirano anywhere. You've got your mother's looks, the both of you."
"I'm glad I gave them something, Robert."
"Ahh, Naomi!" The man turned to see Dr. Hirano right behind him, a paper in her hands. "Always able to sneak around this old guy! You should go to ninja school!"
"Flunked out of it, unfortunately," she laughed, giving him a hug. "Robert, I don't think I've properly introduced my family. This is my oldest daughter Stacy with her boyfriend Coltrane, and this is my youngest daughter Ginger with her friend Baljeet. Kids, this is Robert Goulding, my boss at the hospital."
"A pleasure to meet you all!" Robert exclaimed with a wave of his cane, which Baljeet had to duck. "Naomi speaks very highly of each of you. I expect great things in the future from you kids. Not to mention you, son."
The Indian boy was confused. "Why me, sir?"
"Because I've worked with your mom on numerous project, Mr. Tjinder. She has a great brain between her shoulders and always tells wonders of your schoolwork. You could probably join our medical team right now and outpace a quarter of my staff!"
"That is very flattering, sir. But I do believe I need a little bit more education."
"Of course! Don't want to rush these things, do we?" Robert spied Ginger's arm on his and winked. "Although it seems there's at least one idea you've scurried along at a fast pace, if I don't say so myself!"
"As much as I would love to talk further," Mrs. Hirano said, cutting him off, "I believe the dinner is about to start. Don't you have a speech to make?"
"Oh dear, I suppose I do! Best to be off! Congratulations again, Doctor! I'll see you in the gala!" Robert scurried off, almost bowling over another couple before disappearing into the crowd.
Coltrane snorted, barely able to contain himself. "That's your boss?"
"Yes," the woman said simply. "You'll have to forgive him; he gets sort of excitable at these events. Robert is a really kind gentlemen, though." She waved them forward. "Come on, they're filing everyone into the ballroom now."
As they made their way to the entrance, Baljeet noticed that a certain someone was still looking at him.
"Not. A. Word."
Coltrane's smile only became wider. "I didn't say a single thing."
Now Stacy was the one elbowing. "Leave him alone, Coltrane. We have to give them at least a little break."
Baljeet could feel Ginger's hand tighten around his arm. Evidently their words were not lost on her.
"You know," he said, turning to her, "If they were to suddenly find themselves glued together tomorrow, and thus you would be able to earn your "Stuck Together" patch, I would be all for assisting you in that endeavor."
Ginger chuckled. "I've had to live with it for a while. You don't really get used to it. Besides...I don't think I have enough glue."
"Party of five, ma'am?"
Baljeet saw that they had stopped in front of a podium, where another sharply dressed man was talking to Dr. Hirano.
The man appeared to cross something off of his notebook, then motioned into the ballroom. "You will want to head to your right. You'll be seated near the front stage."
"Thank you, sir."
Baljeet turned to Ginger. "And here comes the free food part. We are through the first part. See? Nothing happened. Except for the eventual congregation of Stacy and Coltrane. Shall we go in?"
Ginger smiled, her arm still with his. "Let's."
With that, they walked in behind the others. It was lucky he was busy paying attention to where they were going, because if Baljeet had looked at her again, he would've noticed her quickly glanced at her other hand, the writing almost impossible for her to make out.