Atlas cleared his throat and then, in a much quieter voice, he said, “I know it’s not like a real gift. I didn’t buy it or anything. But . . . I wanted to give you something. You know . . . for . . .”
He didn’t finish his sentence, so I nodded and tied the bag back up. “Do you think you can hold them for me until after school? I don’t have any room in my backpack.”
He grabbed the bag from me and then brought his backpack up to his lap and put the bag inside of it. He wrapped his arms around his backpack. “How old are you?” he asked.
The look in his eyes made him seem a little bit sad about my age, but I don’t know why.
“You’re in tenth grade?”
I nodded, but honestly couldn’t think of anything to say to him. I haven’t really had much interaction with a lot of guys. Especially seniors. When I’m nervous, I kind of just clam up.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be staying at that place,” he said, bringing his voice down again. “But if you ever need help with gardening or anything after school, it’s not like I have much going on there. Being as though I have no electricity.”
I laughed, and then wondered if I should have laughed at his self-deprecating comment.
We spent the rest of the bus ride talking about you, Ellen. When he made that comment about being bored, I asked him if he ever watched your show. He said he’d like to because he thinks you’re funny, but a TV would require electricity. Another comment I wasn’t sure if I should have laughed at.
I told him he could watch your show with me after school. I always record it on the DVR and watch it while I do my chores. I figured I could just keep the front door dead bolted, and if my parents got home early, I’d just have Atlas run out the back door.
I didn’t see him again until the ride home today. He didn’t sit by me this time because Katie got on the bus before him and sat next to me. I wanted to ask her to move, but then she’d think I had a crush on Atlas. Katie would have a field day with that one, so I just let her stay in my seat.
Atlas was at the front of the bus, so he got off before I did. He just kind of awkwardly stood there at the bus stop and waited for me to get off. When I did, he opened his backpack and handed me the bag of tools. He didn’t say anything about my invitation to watch TV from earlier this morning, so I just acted like it was a given.
“Come on,” I told him. He followed me inside and I locked the dead bolt. “If my parents come home early, run out the back door and don’t let them see you.”
He nodded. “Don’t worry. I will,” he said, with kind of a laugh.
I asked him if he wanted anything to drink and he said sure. I made us a snack and brought our drinks to the living room. I sat down on the couch and he sat down in my dad’s chair. I turned on your show and that’s about all that happened. We didn’t talk much, because I fast-forwarded through all the commercials. But I did notice he laughed at all the right times. I think good comedic timing is one of the most important things about a person’s personality. Every time he laughed at your jokes, it made me feel better about sneaking him into my house. I don’t know why. Maybe because if he’s actually someone I could be friends with, it’d make me feel less guilty.
He left right after your show was over. I wanted to ask him if he needed to use our shower again, but that would have cut it real close to time for my parents getting home. The last thing I wanted was for him to have to run out of the shower and across my backyard naked.
Then again, that’d be kind of hilarious and awesome.
Come on, woman. Reruns? A full week of reruns? I get that you need time off, but let me make a suggestion. Instead of recording one show a day, you should record two. That way you’ll get twice as much done in half the time, and we’d never have to sit through reruns.
I say “we” because I’m referring to Atlas and me. He’s become my regular Ellen-watching partner. I think he might love you as much as I do, but I’ll never tell him I write to you on a daily basis. That might seem a little too fan-girl.
He’s been living in that house for two weeks now. He’s taken a few more showers at my house and I give him food every time he visits. I even wash his clothes for him while he’s here after school. He keeps apologizing to me, like he’s a burden. But honestly, I love it. He keeps my mind off things and I actually look forward to spending time with him after school every day.
Dad got home late tonight, which means he went to the bar after work. Which means he’s probably going to instigate a fight with my mother. Which means he’ll probably do something stupid again.
I swear, sometimes I get so mad at her for staying with him. I know I’m only fifteen and probably don’t understand all the reasons she chooses to stay, but I refuse to let her use me as her excuse. I don’t care if she’s too poor to leave him and we’d have to move into a crappy apartment and eat ramen noodles until I graduate. That would be better than this.
I can hear him yelling at her right now. Sometimes when he gets like this, I walk into the living room, hoping it’ll calm him down. He doesn’t like to hit her when I’m in the room. Maybe I should go try that.
If I had access to a gun or knife right now, I’d kill him.
As soon as I walked into the living room, I saw him push her down. They were standing in the kitchen and she’d grabbed his arm, trying to calm him down, and he backhanded her and knocked her straight to the floor. I’m pretty sure he was about to kick her, but he saw me walk into the living room and he stopped. He muttered something under his breath to her and then walked to their bedroom and slammed the door.