The restaurant was already crowded when Alex and Richie got there, even though it had only opened twenty minutes earlier. "Frickin' office drones," Richie muttered as they waited by the front counter. "It's almost noon, so naturally they all gotta go out for lunch at once."
Alex held up two fingers to the waiter currently approaching them, meanwhile grinning at Richie. "Hey, that hurts. I'm one of those office drones you apparently hate so much."
"Telecommuters don't count. When's the last time you saw the inside of your office?"
By now they were seated at a table near the door to the kitchen. Behind Richie was a family with two screaming babies and an unruly toddler. Behind Alex were a couple of teenage kids currently sharing a milkshake. Alex hooked a thumb over one shoulder at them. "Is it just me, or does the redhead look like me as a kid?"
Richie snickered. "Been nice knowin' you, buddy. Ancient wisdom has it that seeing your doppelganger means you're about five minutes from death."
"Convenient for you. You always did want my PS3."
Behind Alex, the teenage couple stood up, the boy unsuccessfully trying to rush around and pull out the girl's chair before she could rise. In the process, he smacked into Alex's elbow. The water glass that Alex had just picked up went flying.
"Sorry, mister," the boy said quickly to Alex, before hurrying after his girlfriend.
Richie turned to watch them leave. "Man, you're right," he said. "She looks just like you did in middle school." He turned back to Alex, then blinked at the shocked expression on his friend's face. "Hey. Yo. Anyone home in there, man?"
Alex's face broke into a wide grin. "Oh, wow. Wow."
"Did you know," Alex went on, leaning in towards the table, "there is nothing awesomer than having someone call me 'mister'?"
"Ahh, of course." Richie raised his water glass in a toast. "Congratulations. You just passed."
Their waiter emerged from the kitchen, pen poised over a pad of paper. He smiled at Alex, who had been born Maria Inez, and said, "Ready to order, sir...?"
Richie stifled a laugh at the goony smile on Alex's face.