I washed up quickly in the bathroom and put on my best shirt, my red and white striped one, the one that Jimmy said makes me look like a gay sailor. My mom told me that it looked nice on me though, and I figured the opinion of a girl, even one as old and uncool as my mom, was probably more valid than Jimmy’s. And I wanted this other girl to like it too.
I rushed downstairs, equally worried that my parents were embarrassing me, and worried that if I took too long in the bathroom she’d think that I was doing something weird in there. I was relieved when I neared the dining room and heard lighthearted laughter from everyone.
Lizzy was still a bit shy and reserved, but my parents did a great job of coaxing out answers about herself. We learned that she used to play volleyball at her old school, and she was one of the best setters they ever had even though she was the shortest on the team. She talked about going on long bike rides with her friends, biking to the small local zoo and trying to sneak marshmallows to the giraffes and bananas to the monkeys.
The more I learned about her, the deeper my crush was becoming. She even played video games too! Golden Eye, Mario Kart, even Oregon Trail, I couldn’t believe how much we had in common.
As best I could, I would slip in things about myself into the conversation that I hoped would impress her. My karate, my drawings. I may have exaggerated my skills in Golden Eye too, hoping to cajole her into staying after dinner and maybe playing a few rounds with me. I barely touched my food, I was happy just being in her company.
Soon enough, Lizzy didn’t take much coaxing, she was freely speaking about herself and where she was from. She moved to Villa Park for her dad’s work. He was an engineer and inventor, and he was starting an entry level position at the Fermilab in Batavia. After a little more conversation, we learned that he was in fact her adoptive father, as she was from Korea and the family who took her in were from Germany. I made a mental note of this, already trying to think of a plan to deter Jimmy from thinking that they were Nazis.
Dessert came out next, since it was a special occasion with our guest over. Moose-tracks ice cream! This night, in my opinion, couldn’t get any better. I quickly polished off one bowl and headed towards the kitchen to dole out another, when the doorbell rang. I paused in mid-step, looking towards the door. We weren’t expecting any other company tonight.
I looked at my dad, who seemed frozen in time for a moment as well, a whopping spoonful of ice cream hung paused in the air, just below the bushy bristles of his mustache. My mom and dad exchanged a look, a look that confirmed to me that neither of them knew who it was either.
Since I was already up, I headed to the door. I glanced in the peephole and swallowed nervously. It was a burly police officer, fist raised to knock on the door in case the bell didn’t work. I turned to look at my dad for advice. “It’s the police,” I said. Dad nodded, set his spoon down without first eating its contents, and pushed back his chair. He smiled reassuringly at me and put a hand on my shoulder as he pushed politely past me and opened the door just as it was being tapped on.
As my dad opened the door, the whole picture came into view. Standing beside the officer, face red and looking down at his shoes, was Jimmy. My stomach dropped.
“Good evening sir,” the officer began, “I’m sorry to interrupt your meal.” Jimmy tried to rush past the officer, to retreat into our home, but he put a heavy hand on his shoulder, halting his progress. “This young man was causing chaos down at the animal shelter. I tried to take him to his house, but his mother wasn’t home and he won’t tell the truth about where his dad is.”
“I told you the truth!”
A stern, silent look from my dad silenced Jimmy’s protests, who went back to looking down at his shoes, his face fuming. “Anyway,” continued the police officer, “he said that he stays here sometimes so I brought him by. Is any of this ringing true?”
My dad nodded, half of his mustache arching up into a sage half-smile as he thanked the officer for bringing Jimmy over safely, and assuring him that Jimmy’s parents would be contacted about the issue. Once the officer was satisfied that everything was under control, he said his goodbyes and turned to leave. Before leaving the stoop, he fixed Jimmy once more with a hard, stern stare and told him to stay away from the shelter until the issue is resolved, or charges may be pressed. With that warning looming darkly overhead, the officer left and Jimmy was allowed into the house.
“Mr. B, you don’t understand,” Jimmy began, but my dad put up a flat palm, effectively silencing him. My dad paused a moment, his hand returning to his side, then reaching up to stroke his chin thoughtfully, finger tap-tap-tapping against the right side of his glorious mustache.
“We can talk about this later,” my dad said, “we have a dinner guest over and we don’t want to be rude.”
Jimmy looked up in surprise, noticing for the first time that Lizzy was sitting at the table. More precisely, I could tell from the way that he stiffened up, he noticed that Lizzy was sitting in his chair. He visibly blanched, but said nothing.
My mom offered to get Jimmy a plate of food, but he shook his head. His face was red, tears were beginning to well up in the corners of his eyes, a few spilling out and cutting two wet paths down his sullen face. “Mrs. B, if you’ll just let me explain. I swear I’m not doing anything wrong and - ” Once again, one of my parents shushed the explanation and tried to just be kind instead. Jimmy wasn’t having it.
After wiping his eyes and straightening up, Jimmy said thank you to my parents for letting him come in, and then he turned and disappeared up the stairs, presumably on the way to my room. Shortly, I excused myself from the table and ran to my room, opening the door and seeing just what I had expected: my window was wide open and my blankets were missing from my bed.
I ran over to the window and looked down. There was no sign of Jimmy. There was, however, a pile of sheets on the ground, sloppily tied into a rope. A rope which, based on its position on the ground outside next to a few broken tree branches, must not have worked too well. I could almost see the indentation on the ground from Jimmy’s butt hitting it.
I sighed. I turned to leave my room, ready to go outside to retrieve and then wash my sheets, when I saw Lizzy standing in the doorway, a concerned look on her face. After I told her what happened, I decided this was as good a time as any to explain to her exactly who Jimmy is.