Mandy had fallen into a dreamless sleep when she had gotten to the sanctuary of her own room. She was woken by a knocking at her door. She sat up quickly, trying to shake off the sleep fog. She looked at the clock. 4:30. Almost dinner time. She wondered if her parents knew she hadn’t been in school today. The knocking began again.
“Yeah?” Mandy called, clearing her throat from the sleepy goo that had made its home there as she snoozed. “You can come in.” Mandy’s door pushed open, revealing her mom standing there.
“Hey honey. Rough day? I came up earlier and saw you were asleep,” Mandy’s mom started.
“Um, yeah. Guess I was tired,” Mandy said, unsure of what to say.
“Well dinner’s almost done,” Mandy’s mom turned to go but stopped. “Oh, and your friend Lucas called earlier too. I told him you had fallen asleep and he said he’d just drop by later. Now don’t get flustered, but I kind of invited him to dinner,” Mandy’s mom grimaced sheepishly, clearly aware of the potential trouble she had gotten herself into.
“Mom!” Mandy screeched. Her mouth fell open and her hands dropped uselessly to her sides. “Why’d you do that?!”
“Now, Honey, calm down. Lucas is a nice kid, I didn’t see the harm in helping your friendship along. It’s nothing. So what if he eats dinner with us for one night? It’s not like you were serious with that Stephen kid. Right?”
“Mo-om,” Mandy moaned, turning the word into two syllables. “Sometimes you make me so mad I could scream. It’s not your business who I am or am not friends with. I’m not five anymore!” Mandy stormed past her mom and downstairs. She could smell enchiladas bubbling away in the oven, her favorite. She would bet her mom had mde them as a peace offering. She walked past her dad who happened to be passing through the room and started to fling open drawers, grabbing utensils to set the table. Mandy’s mom was hot on her heels.
“Now honey! Come on! Be reasonable,” Mandy’s mom began. Mandy slammed the silverware drawer shut with a thud, ingoring her mom’s comments. She began noisily throwing the forks and knives down on the table. Just then the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get that,” Mandy’s dad said too fast, obviously eager to get away from the angry kitchen. Mandy rolled her eyes and flopped down into her chair crossing her arms in front of her chest, waiting.
“There’s Lucas,” Mandy’s mom said softly to no one in particular.
“Oh really? I wouldn’t have guessed,” Mandy spat out sarcastically. “I mean, I might have guessed that if I had invited him to dinner, but I didn’t invite him to dinner. Oh that’s right, my mother invited him to dinner.”
Mandy’s dad walked back into the kitchen tailed by Lucas. Mandy’s mom gave Mandy a glance that said to behave with just a look. Then she quickly pasted on a smile. Mandy refused to be part of this. She didn’t even pretend to smile or even look up. She stared at the table in front of her until her mother’s chirpy voice called out, “Mandy, Lucas is here.”
Mandy bit the inside of her cheek, fuming at the way her evening was going. She felt her nostrils flare and thought this must be what it’s like to be one of those bulls tormented in Spain. She pictured her head with bull horns and her nose with a gold ring dangling from of it. The image pushed her towards an inexplicable peal of laughter, which she barely choked back. She was definitely losing it. “Hey Lucas,” she managed to say, trying to sound nonchalant.
“Hey Mandy,” Lucas greeted her. He moved towards the table, unsurely. “Can I sit with you?”
“Help yourself,” Mandy gestured to the seat across from her. The wooden legs scraped noisily across the linoleum floor. Mandy’s mom stood with her back towards them, fluffing up a pot of Spanish rice.
“I tried to call you earlier, but your mom said you were taking a nap.”
“I was,” Mandy said curtly, evilly eyeing her mother’s back.
“I didn’t see you at school today, just wondering where you had gotten off to,” Lucas said, eyeing her knowingly.
“What’s it to you, it’s not like we hang out nowadays,” Mandy said curtly. Mandy kept her arms crossed in front of her chest. Of all the days for her mother to do this to her. Lucas cleared his throat, sounding uncomfortable. His fingers drummed across the kitchen table. Mandy felt a slight twinge of triumph at the fact that she had at least succeeded in making this awkward for everyone if she was going to be forced into a situation she had not asked for. She looked up from the table to gauge Lucas’s face, and the triumphant feeling dissipated like it had never even been there at all. In a split second the feeling was replaced by sheer terror.
Lucas had cleared his throat not because he was feeling awkward and uncomfortable. He had been trying to get Mandy’s attention. He was scowling at Mandy, his eyes narrowed until all you could see was a slit of his flashing green eyes. His mouth was turned down in a sneer mixed up with a frown, his nose wrinkled in disgust. The hand that had been drumming continued to do so, while his free hand moved across the table. His finger was out and pointed down like a pencil, like he was drawing pictures mindlessly across the wood.
Mandy felt the blood rush out of her face as she sat up, dropping her arms from her chest and instead gripping the edges of her chair. Something was not right here, that much was clear from Lucas’s expression. She felt her mouth turn down in a frown. She watched Lucas’s hand with the extended finger gliding across the polished surface. All of a sudden she realized he was not aimlessly doodling. His finger was writing something over and over again, invisibly across the table. Long diagonal drag down, short diagonal drag up, short diagonal drag down, long diagonal drag up. W…long drag straight down. I…straight drag down, drag across the top. T…Half a circle. C…two long straight drags down connected by another drag across the middle. H. Mandy gasped audibly as things clicked into place in her head.
Mandy’s mother turned around. In the time she did Lucas impressively smoothed his face out like he didn’t even know how to look upset, much less sneer. Almost imperceptibly, he gave a half shake of his head in Mandy’s direction. Mandy swallowed noisily. “Everything ok?” Mandy’s mom asked looking from Lucas to Mandy.
“Yeah, I just need a drink,” Mandy said scraping her chair back so quickly it bumped into the wall behind her, leaving a small brown mark.
“Don’t forget your guest, Mandy. Lucas, what would you like? We have milk, apple juice, soda…” Mandy’s mom suggested.
“Soda would be fine,” Lucas practically purred as he smiled sweetly at Mandy’s mom and then at Mandy herself. Mandy swore she could feel the bile rising up in her throat. She turned the tap on at the kitchen sink and poured herself a glass of water, chugging it down and ignoring Lucas’s request for the moment. Once it was gone she turned to the fridge and looked for the soda. There were two 2 liters inside. One was aDiet Coke, which had been sitting there, opened, lonely, and untouched for the past couple of weeks. No one drank it besides Nana. Then there was a brand new bottle of Mountain Dew, fresh with its carbonated bubbles eager to quench a person’s thirst. She chose the Diet Coke, knowing it would be flat and unpleasant. She poured a glass in a chipped tumbler, not bothering with ice.
“Mandy, you should have gotten Lucas a glass,” Mandy’s mom said obviously embarrassed.
“That’s ok,” Lucas said quickly with a smile. “Tastes the same.”
Mandy looked unapologetically at Lucas and slid the soda down across the table towards him. She pushed it a little too hard and oops, wouldn’t you know it didn’t stop where it should have but tipped right off the edge of the table and onto Lucas’s lap. Now it was Mandy’s turn to sneer. She heard the sudden intake of her mother’s breath and she wiped the sneer off before her mother had time to turn around and catch her. She tried her best to look horrified. “Oh, geez, sorry Lucas! I’ll get you a towel,” Mandy said running from the room. She tried as best as she could to stifle the laugh that was threatening to explode. She grabbed a ratty old towel from the cupboard and came back into the kitchen to find her mother mopping up the mess as best she could with paper towels. Mandy flung the towel at Lucas and she could almost feel the heat of his anger radiating out of him.