A smile spread across McKenzie’s face. Finally! She practically had to beg him to ask her out. They had been e-mailing for three months now. He said he liked to take things slow and get to know her. She was all for that, but now she was worried he was painfully shy or something. At least he was sweet. And he made her laugh in every letter he sent.
“Hey Kenz!” called her Mom as she entered the bedroom without knocking. McKenzie minimized the window and hoped the butterflies wouldn’t betray her. ”We’re leaving in a few minutes!”
“Okay,” McKenzie said, heading to the closet to get a pullover. It was royal blue, her favorite color, and one she usually saved for special occasions. “Are we going out to eat afterwards?”
“Wasn’t planning on it. Did you want to?”
“Whatever, just wondering.”
As her mom left the room, McKenzie smiled to herself. Jake had wanted to go to Biaggi’s and she didn’t want to tell her she had a date. Mom wasn’t against her dating, but she was afraid Mom would say no if she found out where she met him.
As she was putting on foundation (not too much), she felt herself shaking a bit. She wasn’t that nervous about meeting a stranger (and after all, three months of e-mails and she felt she knew him more than anyone), but she was going to meet his parents! Apparently, they needed to approve of her! He told her not to worry, that they’d probably just say hi and shake her hand. Still…
Securing the last earring, McKenzie noticed her Chloe Moretz poster was beginning to fall. Checking the scotch tape, she flattened out the corner again. Stepping back to check out her handy work, she nearly tripped over her stuffed walrus. She picked up Nigel and went to set him back on the bed. She paused, gave Nigel a once-over, and put him in her closet.
“Gussied up for a trip to CostCo?” her mom said as she put on her pea coat.
“I might run into someone from school!” McKenzie shuddered. She didn’t want to protest too much. “Besides, what’s wrong with looking nice?”
“Just giving you a hard time, kiddo.”
“Hey Mom, can I spend the night at Hannah’s?” Mom never said no, but McKenzie was nervous as hell.
“Just tell me one thing.”
“Help me clean the basement tomorrow?”
McKenzie smiled. “Sure, Mom.”
“And we start at ten sharp!” She winked. “I can drop you off after we’re done.”
“Thanks!” said McKenzie, exhaling as she turned around. “Just let me get my toothbrush.”
Jake had a date. He looked sharp, no doubt. Jake shifted his tie until it was straight. Then he patted down his cowlick one more time. It popped back up. He told himself he was too much a perfectionist. But he was still nervous. She’d be here in twenty minutes. Waiting was the worst part. Once she got here, he was confident his nerves would settle.
Ripping himself from the mirror, Jake entered the living room and stood by the bay window. The sun was setting, casting glorious shades of ochre and crimson across the sky. The serenity did nothing to relieve the tension. His lifted his right hand, trying to hold it still. It rattled like a mechanical mouse.
Even though Jake had hated his parents, he was still lonely. Dad was always in some other country on business, but he’d call every so often and call him “Sport.” Mom cared more about impressing her high-society friends, but she’d hug him. If she wasn’t always trashed, and if her hugs didn’t occasionally get a bit weird, he might miss her more. If nothing else, they left him the house.
Jake headed towards the basement. It seemed disrespectful to do so before a date, but the last thing he wanted was to appear flustered and clumsy. Even descending the steps lessened his anxiety. Reaching the bottom step, he took off his shoes and socks, placing them neatly together. Taking the final step, he felt cool dirt embrace his toes.
He saw what he was looking for on the workbench. As he crossed the room, he gazed at the east wall where he had erected a trophy case. All of his prizes were there, except the most recent. He was proud of the accomplishments he had worked so hard for since his parents were killed. He wondered if they’d be proud of him.
Reaching the workbench, Jake took the shovel and propped it up against the wall. The Ziploc bag was right where he left it. As he opened it an erection formed in his slacks. Carefully, Jake removed the cotton material and rested it against his cheek. Glancing at the trophy case, he noticed there wasn’t a trace of royal blue to be found. This was perfect.
Jake inhaled the scent of the material. Expecting another rush, what he felt instead hit him like a truck. She was perfect. Not a bitch like the others. While he hated her innocence, she had a spirit about her he had never seen. She seemed to approach life as if she could just brush away its inherent cruelty. She had even told him she cared about him. His sorrow spiraled into a crushing bout of self-loathing. He had let go his only chance to be happy.
After placing the material inside the bag, Jake opened the only drawer of the work bench and found the revolver. He kept it there in case the police ever paid him a visit. He never thought he’d want to use it before then. Almost unconsciously, he felt himself grabbing the gun and bringing it to his mouth. Cocking the hammer, Jake felt a tear running down his cheek.
The doorbell rang.
That beautiful sound jolted Jake out his self-pity. Placing the gun back in the drawer, a renewed sense of confidence practically burst out of him. He sealed the Ziploc bag, then scurried to the foot of the stairs, putting on his socks and shoes. As he looked up at the foyer, Jake straightened his tie once more. Tonight was a good night. Jake had a date.