Mom nearly jumped out of her six inch heels. “Samuel Jones, what is that cat doing in our house?”
I sat beside the referred to kitten, my back to mom. The kitten ignored the entrance of the new human being and continued lapping its milk. The thing had been drinking for a while now. How much milk was too much for a kitten?
Dad walked into the kitchen moments later, dropping the car keys onto the counter with a clatter.
I stroked the kitten’s bony back. It didn’t respond. “Mhmm.” I mumbled, hoping the upward inflection at the end of my indistinguishable word would tell mother I had no idea.
I actually had every idea. My swollen lower lip just hurt too much to get the words out.
“Son, look at your mother when she’s talking to you.” Dad said.
I sighed through my nose a little too strongly and it throbbed. Ouch.
I faced my parents.
The first thing out of my mother’s mouth was not, “What happened?” Or “Are you ok?” I don’t have a mom like that.
She said, “Get in the car. You’re getting stitches.”
I brought my hand to my forehead, trying to hide the cut without touching it.
“It’s not that bad. It looked way worse with all the blood.” I said.
Whoops. That wasn’t what I should have said. Both my parents stiffened, and I could almost see them flip their mental emergency mode switch. Before I knew it, Dad had practically carried me to the car.
Mom slid into the back seat beside me, her face a stony calm that would make an EMT jealous. She buckled my seatbelt for me, though I don’t know why. Apparently when you hurt one part of you, it’s assumed the rest of you no longer works.
Dad revved the car and we bumped over the curb onto the street.
“What about the cat?” My voice came out a little mumbled. I pressed my palms against the window as we turned the corner. My house disappeared.
“What did you do?” Mom asked.
That cat better not run away while we were gone. I’d sacrificed my face for that stupid animal.
“All I wanted was some Cheetos.” I said. My heart was somewhere underneath my feet, heavier than a bowling ball filled with steel. All of the nights events hovered on the edges of my mind, but I didn’t bother looking at them. Too much drama for a school night.
My mother’s stare itched the back of my head so I shifted enough to catch a glimpse of her reflection in the car window. The street lights shone in full tilt, shining their dim lights off the wet streets.
“Sam, you left for the store for four items and came back with a small vermin and mild head trauma.”
I fingered my cut, brushing over its raised edges.
“You know my friend James? I hate him.” And this time when I said it, I sort of meant it.
“Start from the beginning.”
No, I didn’t run into Brittney at the store. Then why did I come home with a kitten and a half a pint less blood? Well, I blame James.
No, it’s my fault if we’re placing blame. But I still want to give James some sort of guilt, so it’s his fault too.
I take all that back. It started with my mom and an empty refrigerator.
It was a fine afternoon a few weeks after my glitter incident and I walked into the kitchen feeling like a proud, responsible sixteen year old. Sure, half the school had seen my sparklified picture and now called me glitter kid, but the novelty would wear off soon enough. Besides, I had a job interview all lined up for tomorrow (which would hopefully go better than the last) and everything in the house seemed to congratulate me.
The sun painted me a glorious sunset full of orange and red. The kitchen counter shimmered in my presence and the robins and mockingbirds sang my praise.
A thrilling episode of Sherlock awaited me in my room. I was completely and utterly alone, which made it all better. My mother and father had run off on one of those date night things, and my sister was out with her boy, so I was completely content with the silence.
Well, not completely. I was still fighting the depressing thought that I was a worthless bag of loneliness because everyone had a significant other but me, but that feeling could be solved with a bag of Cheetos.
I opened one of the new cabinets. No Cheetos. Ok, my heart wasn’t broken. I could survive this misfortune with a bowl or two of ice-cream.
I opened the freezer. Not a single spoonful of that sugary mana was to be found. I shut the door. Alright, I could recover.
I opened the fridge and the glass bottles of steak sauce clattered together. More empty space than food sat on the shelves. No matter how good of a cook I was, I couldn’t make a decent snack out of cream cheese and pasta sauce.
I switched between the cabinet and the fridge a few times, hoping by some miracle of the heavens that a bag of Cheetos or even just a sack of plain potato chips would magically appear.
It took at least five trips between the cabinet and the fridge before I noticed the yellow note pined to the fridge with a Eli picture magnet.
Sam, I know I told you five times already, but don’t forget to pick up the groceries at the store. Here’s the list (again):
I swear there was a cliff somewhere inside my chest because my heart suddenly jumped off it and plummeted to the ground. No! She couldn’t force me into town!
I may or may not have a slight fear of traffic. And other cars. And multiple lanes. And all the colors of the street lights, including green (cause you never know when it will turn to yellow).
I skimmed the rest of the note with fear seeping into my empty stomach.
We could survive without milk until mom went to the store, right?
I wouldn’t mind going without those.
We’d be fine without a dinner this week. Perhaps I could pretend I didn’t see the note. That would be lying. Perhaps I could just forget about the note.
Forget about it intentionally? Like that’s not as wrong as pretending I didn’t see it in the first place. I sighed. I had to find some legitimate excuse for staying. I couldn’t drive into town.
I was about to set down the note and resign myself to my mother’s wrath when I read the last sentence.
And while you’re out, pick up a snack for the family.
Oooh that woman was good. If I drove into town I would avoid mother’s anger AND get to choose the families snack. I glanced longingly down the hall toward my room. Did I have to brave the streets and evil green lights?
Sherlock wouldn’t be the same without Cheetos. And if I didn’t choose, mom would grab something lame like kale chips or humus. I ran a hand through my hair, then dragged it back down my face. I reeeeeeeally didn’t want to go.
A buzz vibrated the counter twice. I picked up my phone and turned it on. It was only some sort of YouTube notification about a channel I never watched. I should really unsub. I stared at the screen for a moment.
I had a phone.
I could ask James if he could take me to town.
I sent him a quick text and reminded him the glitter incident was his fault just in case he wanted to say no.
He answered a moment later. Like always, it took me a millennia to decipher his terrible spelling (how on earth did he pass second grade?), but I got the gist of it. He said he was already heading that direction with a couple friends and would pick me up on the way.
I panicked a little at that. Friends? What did he mean? Did he mean friends as in bros like Liam, or did he mean friends as in…gulp…girls?
James would be here in a few minutes. I decided to prepare for the worst and ran into the bathroom, brushed down my hair to a manageable level, threw on a gray sweatshirt that went with my sweatpants (I considered changing into jeans, but didn’t want to waste time trying to find a pair in my catastrophe of a room), and shoved a pair of sunglasses on my face.
A black Mustang pulled into my driveway and I stepped out the door. Then I realized it was almost night time and sun glasses were utterly unnecessary. The cool wintery air leaked through my jacket, begging me to grab a coat.
Too late now. Whoever was in the car would have seen me already. James sat in the driver’s seat, of course. He waved through the window and motioned toward the back.
I leaned over to see who was beside him. For a split second relief rushed over me as I realized the squareish face couldn’t be a girl.
I froze once I realized the person also had a shock of blond hair. And tan skin, despite it being less than thirty degrees outside.
For those who don’t already know who King is….
King is to me is as Darth Vader is to Luke Skywalker, as Loki is to the Avengers, as my face is to a mirror.
I was getting into the car with a psychopath.
Thanks for reading guys! Sam’s misadventures will be continued next week.
Gabrielle Pollack (A.K.A. The Great Rising Puzzlement)