Time alloted: 30 Minutes
“Aren’t you so handsome.”
“I am? My mom said I was adopted from a troll. Are you related to one? You’re handsome too.”
That’s how my conversation started with Jeremy, my new neighbour’s five year old son. I don’t exactly know how to respond to him. Do I tell him he wasn’t adopted? That he’s not a troll? Do I ask him if there were ever any handsome troll? And why on earth would his mother say that? A pertinent comment might end up offending someone.
“Well,” I pat the boy’s back as I scan the crowd, “Nobody’s going to believe in Santa forever.”
“Santa is married to the Easter Bunny. Most people think the Easter Bunny is a male, but it’s really female. Mom told me so.”
I am already walking away, homing in on my sister, standing alone beside the table with a cup in her hand looking at nothing. Of course there is nothing to look at in this welcoming party, which by the way, is held by my new neighbours themselves. They’re celebrating their arrival. Judging by their kid, they’re nothing short of peculiar. There are only three families from the neighborhood attending, including mine, those that have nothing better to do on a weekend and those that are drawn to the lure of free food.
Because I am grounded for stealing dad’s car, I have no choice but to be there. Emily doesn’t seem to be in a better position herself. She’s only got herself to blame for being here. I think I should cheer her up.
“Hey, look at that, Wilson’s here,” I say, nodding towards another neighbour of ours. No emotion registers on Emily’s face. My sister inherits my dad’s nerd disorder; symptoms include having a vacuous expression and an unfortunate obsessive compulsive disorder on things like the textures of a peanut or why a cellotape wouldn’t stick to the backside of a cellotape. Thank goodness I’m spared of this gene, and it is now my duty to save Emily from further harming herself because of this – defect.
“Wilson’s is so handsome today. He probably knew you were going to be here,” I say.
Unresponsive, Emily sips the punch in her cup, eyes glazed.
“Look at him. Such a dapper looking man. With his ample waist, his succulent cheeks…”
“Aren’t you supposed to be somewhere? Like your girlfriend’s house, exploiting her brother’s Nintendo Wii while she wallows in misery yearning for your coarse comfort?” Emily has reanimated.
“I can if I could. Her place is so… so… unreachable. So, distant. So, beyond. I need a car to get there.”
“Right.” Emily contemplates me through her thick nerdy glasses. “You have no means to travel to a house five blocks away?” Emily trains her gaze, which I follow, to my sandal-shod feet.
“Besides, I’m supposed to be doing my time until I can legally use the car again.” I draw myself to full height. A corner of Emily’s lips quirk.
“Not possible. With what you have done, you are forever barred dad said, until you can afford your own…”
“Hey, Wilson,” In my clutches is Wilson, snagged abruptly from having wandered into the vicinity.
“Tim,” Wilson says, hesitantly.
He must have heard about my drunken escapade around neighbourhood last Wednesday. I must restore my dignity in his eyes. “Emily here has been talking about your architectural endeavours and mentioned how, remarkable your visions are. Especially with regards to…” I am merely repeating what I heard Dad said to Wilson’s dad earlier, but I forget the rest of the line. Then I remember and say, “lines.”
“That’s very kind of you.” Wilson’s eyes gleam appreciatively at Emily.
Her expression is beautiful. Like a horrified face squashed against a see through mirror, Emily is obviously battling the demons of her diffidence, her adam’s apple scraping to climb out the well of her throat that has long kept her stupid and cynical. Come on Emily, wax something lyrical.
“Eryih…” The noise of a deflating balloon squeals out of Emily’s throat. Wilson’s gleam dissolves into bewilderment.
“Okay, Wilson,” I say, steering him away, “now tell me about the second hand car your dad had bought you.”