I am SO not looking forward to tonight. My parents insisted on having that kid's family over for dinner. They didn't even ask me beforehand if that would be okay. And of course it's not. I mean, I haven't even gotten over my two best friends moving. How can they expect me to be nice and everything to some kid who just moved into the house that used to belong to my two best friends?! They just don't understand...
"So why'd you have to invite them over?!"
I stood at the kitchen counter slicing tomatoes for a taco salad as I argued for the gazillionth time with my mom over this...problem (although "problem" is pretty much an understatement).
"Honey, it's the neighborly thing to do," my mom calmly replied as she quickly shredded some cheese into the bowl.
"Mom, this is totally not a good idea. I mean, we don't even know these people! It's just like inviting some random family home for dinner after meeting them at the grocery store or something!"
"Their dad could have just gotten out of prison for murder or...or he could be a spy for some kidnapping agency!!! Do you have any idea how dangerous kidnapping is??!! We could be allowing a professional kidnapper into our home!" I paused for just a second as I racked my brain for anything that I could use to get my mom to take back her dinner invitation, no matter how illogical or irrational they happened to sound. "You know...Mom, did they accept your invitation to dinner rather quickly?"
"Well, yes. But honey-"
"Mom, don't you see?! This is totally a ploy to check out our house and see if there's anything worth stealing! Before they drag us off encased in duct tape! I really don't think-"
My mom stopped what she was doing and turned around to face me. "Allie," she began, placing a hand on my shoulder, "I really don't think there's anything to worry about. Their response was perfectly normal! Wouldn't you accept an invitation to dinner if you had just moved into a neighborhood and didn't know anyone yet?"
"Sure...I'd also be really quick to accept an invitation if I was looking for more victims," I responded.
Mom paused, and then said, "If this has anything to do with Zac and Lina, it needs to stop. There's nothing that you can do about it, and so you're just going to have to move on with life. You've got to-"
Just then, the doorbell rang. For a moment, I wasn't sure which was worse-a long lecture from my mom, or having to put up with the new neighbors for a whole evening. I decided I would prefer the lecture.
My mom put down her cheese grater, wiped her hands on a towel, and began to leave the kitchen. When she reached the doorway, she turned and looked straight at me. "Be nice, Allie," was all she said before she hurried for the door.
I scowled as I took my time finishing the tomatoes. No point in hurrying to meet some people whom you don't want to, I thought.
A couple minutes later, to my utter horror, my mom came back into the kitchen...with the Roscue family following her!
"Allie, thank you so much for finishing that. Why don't you take a break for a moment so they can meet you?"
I avoided my mom's accusatory stare as I wiped my hands on a towel and turned slowly to our guests.
"Allie, meet Mr. and Mrs. Roscue, and their son, Rhys." To the Roscue's she added, "This is my daughter Allie. I believe she's about the same age as Rhys!"
I nodded my acknowledgment and muttered a "hello" before turning back to the tomatoes. I could feel my mom's eyes boring into the back of my head as she casually told the Roscue's that my dad would be home shortly.
I finished the tomatoes just as my dad strode into the kitchen. "Hello, I'm Jim Lewis!" he greeted Mr. Roscue as he shook his hand. "You must be Darren Roscue!"
My scowl deepened as I listened to the pleasantries going on behind me. Before long, my mom noticed that dinner was ready, and suggested that everyone move into the dining room. Mrs. Roscue immediately offered her assistance, which my mom readily accepted. My dad escorted Mr. Roscue and the kid into the dining room as my mom and Mrs. Roscue and I carried the food into the room and placed it on the already set table.
Then came the next horror. Could this night get any worse?!
"Allie, why don't you and Rhys sit here on this side of the table so that you can get to know each other better," my mom suggested.
I knew better than to make a big scene in front of everyone, and so grudgingly did as she said. Of course, I scooted my chair as far away from him as possible without drawing any attention to myself.
My dad said the prayer, and the meal began. As I observed the Roscues out of the corners of my eyes, which I kept pretty steadily on my plate, I noticed how slow they were eating. Incredibly slow. Oh great, I thought, we'll be here forever!!
"So, how long have you lived in this neighborhood?"
It took me a couple seconds to realize that Rhys had directed the question at me. I slowly chewed my food before answering curtly, "Pretty long."
Rhys was silent for a couple of minutes before trying another question.
"Are there a lot of kids in the neighborhood?"
"Enough, I guess."
More silence. Then,
"Who used to live in our house before we moved in?"
Your house, huh? "People."
He laughed. Personally, I didn't really find this subject entertaining. "I kinda guessed that. What kind of people?"
I glanced up for a quick second to see him looking at me with that same quizzical look.
Eventually he gave up trying to start conversation, and I inwardly congratulated myself on squashing the unwanted communication. Instead, he entered into the adults' conversation over whether the Kindle Fire was better or the iPad. Of course, he showed off all of his tech knowledge, obviously trying to impress my parents. And it seemed to be working.
Finally, it seemed as if everyone had completed filling themselves. Eager to escape, I rose and offered, "Hey Mom, would it be okay if I cleared the table and did the dishes so you wouldn't have to and could just talk?"
My mom raised an eyebrow, but consented. And then,
"I'll help you!"
I turned to see that Rhys had risen from his chair as well.
"Thanks, but I can get it myself," I replied.
"Four hands are better than two," he insisted, flashing a smile, as he picked up my plate and his and left the room.
Inwardly grimacing, I picked up a dish and started to follow him out of the room. But as I passed my mom's chair, she reached out and took my arm.
"Hey, Allie, I was thinking, why don't you show Rhys around the neighborhood tomorrow after church? I'm sure he'd enjoy that."
"I sure would!" Rhys grinned, coming back into the dining room. "Would you mind?"
"Not at all!" I forced a thin smile onto my face and left the room. Oh great. Now I've got to show him around the neighborhood. Tomorrow. It'll be a complete waste of my very valuable time.Won't that be fun.