New town, new school, new peers… I hate this part. I wish I could just fast forward a few weeks and by pass the very beginning. Imagine skipping the first days and the first impressions. It's not that I'm nervous. I fit in just fine. My father even calls me a chameleon. Guess I haven't had much choice. Because of my father's job, we move around a lot. So, I have no choice and lots of practice. I just wish I could skip the part where I have to answer all the questions directed at the new kid.
I wonder how my father handles it. Or, maybe it's different for adults. Maybe adults have not only developed a filter. They have also developed the necessary manners that keeps them from asking the new kid intrusive and awkward questions. Why can't people just mind their own business?
I glance over at my mother, passed out exhausted on the couch with an empty scotch glass next to her. Her blond hair, once so beautiful and shiny, lay in a messy heap on the pillow below her. Soundly, she sleeps even though there are boxes all around her to unpack, the refrigerator is empty of food, and there is someone at the door.
"Don't get up, mom. I got it."
I'm not being sarcastic and there is no vice in my voice. Despite all of my mother's lackings, I still love her. What I hold and feel is the true definition of unconditional love. It enables me to see past my mother's not so motherly behaviors. I don't pity myself. It is just the way it is. This is one of the cards I was dealt.
The bell rings again and I make my way to the front door. Outside, there's a whole family consisting of two adults and four children waiting for me. The oldest, a boy, looks about my age. Not bad looking. At least, I think he isn't bad looking. Those glasses, side combed hair, and Sunday fancy clothes make it hard to decide. He matches the rest of the family who all look like they are headed to a meeting with the school principle. My mother would sneer at the woman's plain and heavily starched white blouse with matching skirt. Her long brown hair, reaching far down her back, would also have raised one of my mother's well plucked eyebrows in a disapproving fashion.
They must be one of our new neighbors welcoming us to the neighborhood. Excitedly hopeful, I look down at the woman's hands.
'What? No dish or dessert!' I huff in my head.
What kind of greeting is this? Not even a plate of cookies? My empty stomach growls in irritation.
Stay pleasant and don't let them notice your annoyance, I tell myself before I open my mouth. "Can I help you?" I ask and I am pleased with myself because I sound sweet and sincere… at least to my ears.
The woman smiles and takes a step closer, too close for my comfort. "Is your father or mother available, dear?"
Dear… I've never liked being called that… it's associated with bad childhood memories.
I try to smile but I am too tired and hungry to pull it off genuinely. "No," I tell the woman who seems to be the spokes person for the entire family. All the other members, including the husband, stand wide eyed and quiet behind her. "My father is at work and my mother is resting. It's been a long and tiring day. Moving in."
I'm explaining myself and excusing my mother's state. Why do I do that? I don't owe them anything. They're stranger. They mean nothing. They didn't even bring cookies!
"Of course, dear," the woman says and I cringe.
She leans closer and tries to peek past me to catch a glimpse of the inside of our house. I hurry to step outside and close the door completely behind me. The boy looks down at his feet while fidgeting. He is probably embarrassed over his mother's behavior. I can relate.
"Well, perhaps you could pass on a message to your parents. We bring the word of God."
Oh no, not the word of God. Why couldn't they just have brought a plate of cookies? I guess I should have known. My father has moved us to a small bible belt town named Miracle and this is its consequence; Jesus people at your door step asking you to join their church.
"Ok," I respond uncaring and unemotional.
The woman blinks in surprise and glances over at her husband who finally decides to speak. "Dear child, welcome. I am Reverent Thomas Mill. This is my wife Beth and these are our children: Sarah, Johanna, Mary, and my oldest River."
He looks up as his father says his name and I meet his eyes unhindered. I've never been shy around boys. Irritated perhaps and bothered by their constant attention but never shy.
"Hello," I greet them all, uninterested and eager to end this so I can return inside and order a pizza.
"I would like to invite you to attend this Sunday's service. Our church is the largest in Miracle and I am sure you will soon make many friends there."
My hand has moved to the door handle. Soon, I will have to say it and I prefer a quick escape. I very seldom wish for my mother's presence but right now her sudden appearance would be greatly appreciated.
"You would make the right sort of friends there."
It's the boy who has spoken, for the first time, and I squint at him. What an odd thing to say to someone you have just met. To presume that I need help in finding the 'right' sort of friends, that's just rude. Isn't it?
"The right sort of friends," I repeat, challenging and staring him down.
Unafraid, he doesn't recoil. "Those who are on the right path," he further informs me without hesitation or restraint.
It sure sound like a lecture is coming my way and I am in no mood for it. "I… I sure appreciate this… this welcome and this invitation to your church but… my father works even on Sunday's and my mother hardly leaves the house without him."
'Unless she runs out of booze', I fill in inaudibly.
"So I don't think…" I finish and open my front door, showcasing that the conversation is over.
"You could come," the boy says, his brown eyes behind his glasses staring deep into mine. "We are holding the door open for you, the door which leads to heaven and God."
Staring right back at him, not afraid, I tell them the truth. "Sorry but I don't believe in God."
Slowly, I let the physical matter of the front door begin to separate them from me. The last thing I see as I let it shut completely, through the thin remaining opening, is the boy eyeing me with a concerned look on his face. Not allowing any of them to affect me, I pick up the phone and dial the number to the closest pizza shop.