Dad brought the truck around to the bike rack and Colin and I loaded the bikes into the back of it. We then got into the truck, Colin into the rear jump seat and me into the passenger seat. Dad drove the truck across the parking lot, pulled into a parking spot, and shut the truck off.
“Ok, boys. I want to know the truth. What’s going on? What really happened?”
I said, “I really don’t know. I was buying this perfume for Mom. Colin disappeared, I had no idea where he went until a security guard came looking for me.”
Dad turned to look at Colin in the back seat. “Is that true?”
“Well then, I want you to tell me what happened. Everything.”
Colin slowly and carefully repeated the story.
“So you didn’t realize the glasses were still on your head?”
Dad gazed out of the windshield at nothing in particular while he considered this. “I suppose I can see that. I’m always forgetting where I put my glasses and yes, sometimes they’ve been on my head the whole time...”
Everyone remained silent. Colin finally spoke up, very feebly:
“Can't we just go home? I want this day to end.”
Dad sighed. He turned to face Colin again, a strained look on his face.
“Now there’s a problem. I can’t take you home.”
Colin and I both said “What do you mean?”
“I was talking to Constable LeBlanc. Carmen already knows this, but he’s my next-door neighbour. He told me he talked to your parents...” and broke off. Colin and I both stared expectantly at him.
“This isn’t easy to say, but I have to say it. They don’t want you to come home.”
I gasped, but Colin didn’t react at all. Dad paused as if waiting for the news to sink in. “Colin?...”
“I know. I heard when he was talking to them on the phone. I told him this would happen.”
Dad turned to stare through the windshield again. I could tell he was trying to compose himself.
“Yeah, Constable LeBlanc told me about that. I was shocked that any parent could say that to their kid, but then he told me that you are adopted.”
“Yeah. So what now?”
“Well, for now, you’re coming home with us. You can stay in Kevin’s old bedroom.”
“You don’t have to do this. I don’t want to stay anyway...”
“You don’t have any choice. I signed papers so that you could be released into my custody. I agreed to take care of you, and I am responsible for you, so you’re coming home with us. If you don’t want to stay I can always go next door and talk to Constable Leblanc, and you’ll be carted off to Waterville. Understand?”
“What?!?” I exclaimed. “I didn’t do anything!”
“Oh, yes you did. You rode your bicycle to Dartmouth without telling anyone where you were going. You’re thirteen years old, too young to be riding that far, so you’re grounded. Your bicycle is going to be locked in the shed, and you’re not to leave the neighbourhood for the rest of Christmas break. That means no malls, and no lake. If I catch you or hear of you being outside of our neighbourhood I, personally, will kill you. And after I kill you your mother will revive your corpse and kill you again.”
I didn’t protest. I figured I was already pressing my luck.
“As for you”, he rounded on Colin, “Same thing. You’re grounded too. No bicycle and no leaving the neighbourhood. I know you’re not my son and you don’t have to listen. But as you’re not my son I also don’t have to keep you, so it goes both ways. If you want to stay, you’ll follow my rules. Do you understand me?”
“Good. And no smoking.”
“What? But I’m allowed to smoke!”
“You WERE allowed to smoke. I’m not your parent, but there is no way in hell I’m having a fifteen year old kid smoking in my house. None of my kids are allowed to smoke in the house, and you certainly aren’t going to be either. I can’t stop you from smoking outside, but you will not smoke in my house. Can you agree to that?”
“What do you mean?”
“What’s going to happen with Colin? What if his parents won’t take him back at all?”
“Constable LeBlanc said he was going to put me in touch with someone from child protective services. I guess they’ll figure something out. I’m sure they’ll contact his parents as well. For the time being, though, he’s staying with us.”
I felt a tinge of excitement for a moment. I looked at Colin and then quickly looked away as I remembered that I was still mad at him. Normally this would be the best thing ever – what kid wouldn’t be excited about his best friend moving in with him? It would be like one long sleepover! The memory of our wrestling match and the aftermath briefly entered my mind, too, but I drove it back out. Colin ruined all of that today. I was mad at him, and I was not going to think about that.
the truck again and started driving. “One more thing”, he said.
“What’s that?” both of us answered.
“Steer clear of your mother. She is pissed off at the two of you. Give me a chance to explain what happened, but stay out of her way until I do.”
He drove home without
another word. When we got home he made good on his promise: He
unloaded the bicycles, wheeled them over to the shed, and locked them
up inside. We went into the house and headed straight for the
basement while Dad went upstairs to talk to Mom. Colin was following
me past the rec-room and toward my bedroom. I stopped and pointed to
the door to Kevin’s old room, and said without looking at him
“That’s you over there”.
He started to say something. “Oh. Uh...”
I didn’t let him finish. I opened the door to my own room, went inside, and closed the door behind myself. I then went over to my stereo, plugged my headphones in, and noticed my brother’s Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith record was still on the turntable. Perfect. I dropped the needle, cranked the volume, and laid down on my bed staring at the ceiling. I needed to do some thinking, and this was how I did it. I was contemplating the day’s events and weighing whether I’d forgive Colin or not in my mind. I wanted to believe that it was an honest mistake, and I wanted to believe that I didn’t just get him off for a crime he had actually committed. He insisted that he hadn’t intended on stealing, and the video tape sure made it look like that was the case, but still, there was his history. He was a known thief.
As soon as that thought
entered my head I felt shame. I was supposed to be his friend and was
supposed to trust him, but here I was condemning him based on his
past, just like everyone else. I wanted to trust him. But the words
of that cop kept coming back too. “He will do it again, and he
might take you down with him”, he had said. I shuddered at the
As I laid there thinking I
eventually drifted off to sleep. I almost had a heart attack when my
bedroom door was flung open and my mother was standing there, looking
like a crazed woman. She marched over and yanked the headphones off
of my head.
“CARMEN!!! I’VE BEEN CALLING YOU FOR SUPPER! GET YOUR ASS OUT OF THAT BED AND GET UPSTAIRS!!!”
She then turned on her heels and marched off. I got up, turned off the stereo, and followed her. When I got upstairs Mark, Heather, and Mom were already sitting at the table eating. Colin was there too, picking at his plate. Dad, as usual, was sitting in the living room. He rarely sat at the dining room table. I went into the kitchen, loaded up a plate, brought it to the dining room, and sat down. I wasn’t really hungry, so I just kind of pushed my food around on my plate. Mom noticed.
“Eat”, she said. “Both of you”, she added with a glance at Colin.
I dutifully shovelled my food into my mouth, then sat there staring at my plate while everyone else ate. Finally I had enough. “Can I go now?”
She looked at me like she was about to argue, then shrugged her shoulders. I got up and so did Colin. Mom looked at both of us, then looked down and started eating again. I carried my plate to the kitchen, rinsed it off, and stuck it in the dishwasher. Colin mimicked my movements. I then turned and headed for the stairs. As I descended them I could hear Colin coming down behind me. I didn’t turn around. I went straight to my room.
I was about to close my door when Colin put his foot in the way. “I wanted to thank you”, he said. “For what you did at the mall.”
“You’re welcome. Your foot’s in the way of my door.”
“I know. I want to talk to you.”
“I have nothing to say to you.”
“That’s fine. I have plenty to say to you. Please, let me in.”
I thought about it for a moment, then released my grip on the door. “Fine. Whatever. Make it quick.” I walked over to my bed and sat down. He came into the room, closed the door, then walked over and sat next to me on the bed. Right next to me. His leg was touching mine.
He had cheek, I had to hand it to him. I was not interested in romance at the moment, though. I thought to myself ‘You’re going to pull this now? I don’t fucking think so.’ I pulled away.
“Talk”, I said.
“Well, like I said, I wanted to thank you for coming to my rescue at that mall. I was fucked. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
“Yeah, you already said that. I said you’re welcome.”
Colin fidgeted. “What else do you want from me?”
“I want the truth”, I said. “I want you to tell me the fucking truth. And even then I’m not sure I am going to believe you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that I trusted you Colin. I trusted you when nobody else would. Even after you told me about your past, even after everyone I know warned me against it, even after having everybody look at me as though I was a thief just because I was hanging around with you, I wanted to trust you, so I did. And it didn’t matter. Now you’ve gotten into trouble again. Now I know I can’t trust you, and I’m wondering whether I ever should have. And just having those thoughts breaks my heart, because I really wanted it to work between us. You were my best friend. And maybe...”
I broke off. I felt a lump forming in my throat. I wanted to say “Maybe it could have been more”, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it.
Colin sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I am your friend, and you can trust me. I did not mean to steal those sunglasses. I don’t know how I can prove that to you, and maybe I never can, but all I can do is tell you the truth. So here it is. Yes, I have been tempted many times to steal things. You have no idea how many times. You know how when you crave a cigarette you feel like nothing in the world would make you feel better? How It’s almost like a high when you finally get one? Well stealing is like that for me. I crave the thrill. I’m not going to lie – I also like having the stuff, but the thrill is the biggest part of it for me. Damned near every time I go somewhere I see something that tempts me. But I’m telling you the truth when I say this: I have never stolen anything since I told you that I would stop. I like you, Carmen. You’re the first person to ever give me a chance, even after finding out about my past. I loved having your trust. It gave me strength to resist the temptation to steal. And now I screwed that up, and I know that. It was a mistake, I didn’t mean to do it, but I did it. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t want to lose your friendship, but if you want to end it I’ll understand.”
I just sat there, staring ahead. I truly felt bad for him, but I didn’t want to be taken for a fool. Colin sighed again and stood up. He started heading for the door.
“I don’t want to end it.”
A broad smile came across his face. He walked back to the bed and sat down right next to me again, with his leg brushing mine again. This time I did not pull away.
“But this is your last chance. I’m telling you that right now. This is it. If you fuck up again we are finished. For good.”
“That’s fine by me. I won’t fuck up, I promise.”
He then placed his hand on my knee. And he left it there. What the hell was going on? I was both aroused and uncomfortable. I chose to go with “uncomfortable”, so I brushed his hand away, got up, flipped the record over, and dropped the needle. I needed some heavy metal therapy right now. When I sat back on the bed Colin made no attempt to get closer this time. For now that was fine by me. I wanted to get closer, but I wanted to trust him first. We sat there listening to side B of Defenders of the Faith, not saying a word to each other. Finally the album closer played, Colin got up, and exited the room. I just wanted to relax. I got undressed and went to bed.