YA - Margie Senechal
I’ve avoided this day for the past month, but today my mom is forcing the issue. We are going to lunch with Omar come hell or high water. Which I’ve always thought is an odd expression for someone in the northwest to use. Do you know how much it rains here? High water isn’t that hard to come by. You should see the puddles on my way to school after a good pounding.
Mom’s at a critical juncture in this relationship. The get-to-know-my-son juncture. Everyone knows a relationship lives or dies with moments like this. Too bad it’s summer and I don’t have a homework alibi. Just for the record, I hate these moments.
Besides, I’m pretty sure he might be a terrorist. He’s a Croatian/Arab hybrid. The first time I heard him speak Russian, it kind of freaked me out. But then I realized he spoke at least five languages, even if he speaks them in low mumbles that are hard to understand. Mom says he’s cultured. I say he’s plotting something.
“Simon,” Mom calls down the hall. “If you make us any later…” There’s a definite threat in there somewhere.
“I’m ready.” I head her off before she can get creative and vindictive. Yes, in our home, they sometimes go hand in hand.
I glance out the window. Across the street, MAX—being Portland’s light rail system--is pulling out of the station. I have about a twenty minute window before the next one arrives.
Lunch at Melting Pot with Omar. Rather stay home than break bread (and dip it) with Mom’s gay/florist/terrorist boyfriend.
I wonder how many slashes I can attach to his name. The longer she dates him, the more I seem to come up with. Jury’s still out whether Omar is actually a terrorist but it does make good blogging and tweeting.
“Simon,” Mom’s yell borders on hysteria. Sounds like she got the tweet. “You’ve got to stop calling him a terrorist.”
I walk to the bathroom doorway where she is smothering her head in hair spray. I hold my breath as I pass. Don’t want to die of cancer before I reach seventeen. “I can’t help it if I think he’s a terrorist.” Although last week I was pretty sure he was KGB.
“What if he reads it? What’s he going to think?”
“Mom,” I search for just the right words to soothe her. “You’re assuming he can read more English than plutonium rich.”
Mom bites back a laugh. “He is not a terrorist.”
Notice she didn’t say he could read.
The doorbell rings and Mom flicks me away. “Get that.”
Even though it’s been drilled into me, I don’t check the peephole. Number one, I’d need a stool. Number two, it just looks out into a dark hall toward the elevator. And number three, my best bud, Raj, is probably covering the peekhole with his finger.
I open the door and immediately wish I’d taken the couple of minutes to pull over a chair. Two men in dark suits with dark glasses and even darker expressions stare down at me. Standing like twin sentries they block any view behind them.
“Hey,” I say, trying for casual. How fast can I shut the door if this goes bad?
In unison, they look down, way down, at me.
Okay, let’s just get it over with and deal with the mouse in the room. Me. At four-nine and 93 pounds on a good, sopping wet day, I am not intimidating.
“Simon Rook?” Man-in-black 1 lowers his glasses, peering over the rim at me. “Are you Simon Rook?”
Never admit to anything. “Who wants to know?”
MIB 2 flips through this small, wire-bound notebook. “Are you Simon Rook, age…” He scans the page with a frown. “Sixteen?”
This is my chance. I can tell them I’m somebody else, age twelve. Nobody ever believes I’m sixteen, so maybe it’s time to let the eternal youth gene do me a solid.
I start to shake my head in denial. After all, if they have my name, address, and age in a notebook, this can’t be good. Even if I don’t remember doing anything to warrant this kind of attention.
Mid head-shake, I’m interrupted by Mom’s voice ringing down the hall. “Who’s at the door, Simon?”
MIB 1 lifts his head and cleanly looks over mine. “Is that your mom?”
MIB 2 doesn’t wait for confirmation. He head signals his partner and they brush past me with an air of authority.
I hear the door close and locks set. There is no escape. Sweat tickles my neckline. I still have no idea of who they are, why they’re here, and what they want. But none of it feels right.
Mom’s heels click down the hall as she leaves her bedroom. I can track her by the sound of her heels. I’ve done it before, especially when I’ve been expecting trouble. She passes my room. “Hey, Si,” she says, unaware that we have unwanted visitors who probably have guns and warrants. “I can’t reach Omar so he must be in a dead zone.”
Good news: Looks like I’m getting out of an awkward lunch.
Bad news: We’ve been invaded by Men in Black.
MIB nudges me further into the background as he takes a step toward the hallway. “Lily?” he removes his Ray-Bans and hangs them between the buttons of his shirt. “Lily Rook?”
Mom rounds the corner, her hand flying up to her mouth. “Frank?”
Wait! Mom knows him? What the frak?
Mom moves in slow motion as if she’s slogging through quicksand. “What are you doing here?” Her voice, which earlier had been ordering me around like a platoon sergeant, now sounds weak and weary.
“There’s been an incident.” MIB 2, now known as Frank, says. “We have to get you two out of here.”
Who? What? And out of where?
“In-ci-dent?” Mom’s voice cracks into tiny pieces.
We’re still all standing in the hallway although it’s beginning to feel a little surreal, like time has stopped momentarily. Nobody moves or says anything as Mom seems to be frozen.
“Ma’am?” MIB 1 finally breaks the silence. “Maybe you should sit down.”
Uh-oh. They never tell you to sit down for good news. Whoever “they” are in this scenario.
“Simon?” Mom reaches out for me.
Given a purpose, I spring into action. “I’m here.” I sweep past Frank and slide in next to Mom. He arm clutches my shoulder. I am her lifeline. “Let’s sit down.” I man up and lead her to the couch. She feels frail and weightless as she clings to me.
Men in Black follow closely behind us.
Mom and I sit on the couch. It’s always been this way. Just me and Mom.
Frank sits down on the coffee table so he’s facing us. “You okay, Lily?” He pats her hand. “Do you need anything?” He doesn’t wait for an answer before turning to his partner. “Get them some water.”
MIB 1 scurries out of the room.
Frank squeezes her hand. “Lily, I have some bad news for you.”
I swallow all the sarcastic barbs begging to spill out of my mouth like projectile vomit.
Mom’s hand flies to her mouth as tears strangle her. “Wh-a-t?”
“There was an explosion at his shop.”
Do floral shops spontaneously combust? I need to Google that one.