“Come on,” Dylan Patterson whined. “Your parents won’t even be in town so they wouldn’t know whether you’re in the house or not!”
Jake Harris was only half listening to his friend while most of his focus was on the videogame he was playing.
“That won’t work,” Jake said as he punched buttons at rapid speed in order to not to get killed by the virtual enemy shooting at him. “They got Emma to babysit me. I wouldn’t doubt that they would tell her that I’m grounded and to not to let me out.”
Jake knew what his friend was thinking.
It was the exact same thing he thought when his parents told him Emma would be babysitting him during the Halloween weekend while they were up in North Hampton visiting a very ill Aunt Dawn.
At first, Jake was upset about needing a dumb girl to take care of him. He had argued with his parents, pleading with them to let him stay alone – that he could take care of himself.
But they had said no.
Then, they mentioned Emma and he changed his mind. His knees wobbled at the name; his heart had raced both with excitement and a bit of apprehension.
Emma Kinsey was one of the most popular high girls in town and she would be in his house!
He would be able to finally talk to her like he’d been wanted to do since he first saw her out on the school track. His gym teacher was having his class run laps and he’d spotted her practicing with her cheerleading squad for an upcoming football game.
Emma never seemed to noticed him or even knew he existed – and why would she? She was four years older than Jake, in junior year and, she was dating Landon Tremblay, the quarterback of the football team.
“You’re so lucky,” Dylan said.
Jake shrugged. “I guess. Whatever.”
They played their game in complete silence for several minutes, then Dylan spoke again. Dylan was one of the most talkative kids Jake knew. He just couldn’t stay quiet for like two seconds, which for Jake was alright but he himself was more reserved and quiet.
“When are your parents leaving?”
“They are leaving tomorrow and will be back Tuesday afternoon.”
“Dude,” Dylan said again. “We can’t forget about what we’ve planned! We’ve talked about this for weeks now!”
“I already told you that I can’t leave the house, D.”
“Look, all we have to do is sneak you out and be back before she even notices that you’re gone. You can fake a flu or something. But we can’t let Hunter and his friends get away with what they’ve been doing to us and the other children every single Halloween.”
Dylan’s avatar got blown up by an enemy and the boy didn’t reset the game. Instead, he turned to face Jake and with a serious face continued his rant, “We made a deal!”
“I know but things changed.”
“I think you’re just chickening out.”
Jake pressed the pause button and looked at his friend. He was feeling annoyed, not only because his best friend kept reminding him about how Hunter was going to be able to bully other kids in the neighbourhood out of their candy again, but also because he didn’t like to be called a chicken.
“Shut up, Dylan!” he snapped. “Don’t you think I want Hunter to pay for what he’s done to us every Halloween? Of course I do! But my parents are mad at me and I don’t want to make the situation worse!”
“Okay,” Dylan said. “Okay. I got it! I won’t say anything about that anymore.”
“Just…let’s keep playing ok?”
When Jake’s mother dropped him off at school the next day, Dylan approached him acting very excitedly about something.
“Did you hear the news?” Dylan asked after he and Jake waved goodbye at Mrs. Harris.
The woman smiled, waved back and then drove off.
Jake turned and walked towards the school entrance, Dylan right beside him.
“Heard about what?” said Jake.
“A fun house is being opened for Halloween week.” said Dylan.
“How’s that supposed to make me feel better, Dylan? I’m grounded…remember?”
Sometimes, Dylan spoke without thinking. That was another characteristic of his friend that he tolerated but, sometimes, it irritated Jake. Jake shook his head and continued towards the school.
Jake and Dylan turned to look at Hunter. He was standing in front of his locker, three of his friends stood next to him.
Jake sighed wearily. Every time Hunter addressed him it was either to embarrass him by either saying something cruel or some prank. That morning, Jake was not in the mood for either of those things. In fact, since he was grounded, his mood has been one of easily triggered irritability and annoyance.
“We heard mom and dad got you a babysitter!” Hunter yelled, making sure that everybody walking up and down the hall and those at their locker would hear and laugh. As usual, Hunter’s comment received a round of laughter from the other kids. “Does Jake need his diapers changed?”
Jake rolled his eyes, shook his head and moved down the hall as fast as possible.
Apparently, Emma had blabbed about her new gig at the Harris’ home. He’d been afraid of that happening – not because Emma meant to humiliate him (at least that’s what he hoped) – but because girls talked among each other. They even shared their gossip to their boyfriends. And even he knew that gossip was not foreign between the boys.
Great, he thought miserably. Now everyone knows Emma is babysitting me.
“Got, I hate that guy Hunter,” Dylan muttered. “I wish someone would take him down a notch – including his friends.”
“You know what?” Jake said, arriving at his locker. He unlocked the key control lock and opened the door to retrieve the textbooks for his next class which was math. “I agree with you on that. I think that someone should bring Hunter and his friends down a notch.”
He paused and looked at his friend knowingly. “And I think that we are that someone to do it.”
“Are you saying…?” Dylan asked trailing off.
Jake grinned and nodded.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
From upstairs in his room, Jake could hear the doorbell ring. His heart skipped a beat and, without even thinking about it, he shot to his feet. For a brief moment, Jake had the urge to run downstairs just to get a glimpse of her face even if he had to make a lame excuse.
No, on second thought, he couldn’t.
He would look like such a loser!
Instead, Jake paced in place up inside his room, anxiously thinking of a good reason to go downstairs. But he couldn’t come up with one until his mother shouted for him to come downstairs and meet Emma.
Yes! He pumped his fist in the air and hurried out the room, pausing for a second at the head of the stair to compose himself, slow his pace in order to look cool…nonchalant.
Both his parents were in the living room, seated on the couch holding hands. Emma sat on the loveseat opposite them. She looked so pretty! Her blond hair cascaded down to the small of her back, her pink lip-gloss and rosy cheeks made her look innocent and younger (an effect she probably didn’t want the make-up to have). Her eyes shifted from his parents to him and Jake was taken aback at how light blue they were. She smiled at him and dimples appeared on both cheeks.
Jake was paralyzed with awe. He didn’t know how to react – no, he couldn’t react. Right there he understood what other guys at school saw in her – why they stared at her every time she entered the room.
“Jake,” his mother said. “This is Emma Kinsey, your babysitter.”
“Hi, Jake,” Emma said waving at him.
Jake stood there as still as a statue in the doorway looking at her, speechless.
“Well, Jake,” his father said. “Won’t you say hi to her?”
Jake blinked his eyes as if waking up from a trance.
“Hi,” he mumbled timidly, lowering his eyes to his feet, not only because he felt uncomfortable every time Emma was near, but also because he was kind of upset with her for telling everyone about babysitting him for the weekend. If he looked at her, he was afraid that she might see it in his eyes and be offended by it or take it the wrong way. So he avoided making eye contact with her as much as possible or being too friendly.
“Hey,” he mumbled then looked at his father. “Can I go now?”
His father scowled but said nothing.
Jake took this to mean yes, so he turned and hurried out the room, stopping right outside on the hall and stood behind the wall and eavesdropped on the remaining conversation.
“Sorry about that,” he heard his mother said. “Jake’s been acting up lately and we don’t know why.”
“But I doubt that he would be much trouble,” his father quickly added. “He spends most of his free time playing with his video games up in his room.”
“I’m sure Jake won’t be a problem, Mr. Harris,” Emma said. “You can go on your trip and be assured that your son will be in great hands.”
“We’re sure he will be,” his mother said.
They went on to explain to Emma that Jake’s aunt, Catherine, would be stopping by in the mornings to make sure that he ate and to check up on the house during the weekend. Emma’s responsibility was to babysit Jake that night and Monday night since his aunt Catharine couldn’t be there because she had prior commitments she couldn’t decline.
“But she would come over if there’s an emergency,” his mother finished.
“That’s fine – I mean, I do live across from your house,” Emma pointed out.
Jake ran up the stairs as quietly as possible and into his room.
“Jake!” his mother shouted from downstairs. “We’re leaving, Jake!”
Jake shot to his feet and walked over to the head of the stairs and looked down at his mother.
“Won’t you say goodbye?” she asked.
Jake could see sadness in her eyes as she asked him the question. She feared that he wouldn’t forgive her and that she would lose his love.
Of course, Jake knew that that would never happen. He was upset with them for taking away one of his most favourite holidays just because he had a fight with one of the kids at school. The other kid had initiated it, provoking him by calling him names.
He walked down the stairs and muttered his goodbyes and hugged both his parents.
“Just don’t give Emma a hard time, ok?” his mother said after cupping his face in both hands.
Jake nodded and his mother planted a kiss on his forehead.
“Alright,” his father said picking up the two duffle bags off the ground and shouldering them. “We’ve got to go. And Emma…”
His turned to Emma, who was standing next to Jake, still smiling. “We forgot to mention this but Jake is grounded for a week. He’s not supposed to go out of this house and no trick or treating!”
“Catherine knows this also, so…” his mother added.
His father smiled at him and walked out of the house followed by his mother. They got in the car and drove away.
Jake and Emma stood on the porch, side by side watching them go until they disappeared in the distance.
“Well,” Emma said. “I guess my time starts now.”
“Okay,” Emma said as they both watched Jake’s parents’ car disappear down the road. “Let’s get one thing clear. I’m in charge and I need this gig. If you make my life miserable, I’ll tell everyone at school that you like going number one on your bed and, you know everyone will believe me.”
“You don’t have to be so mean, Emma,” Jake said. “You think that I wanted you here? That I wanted to be babysat?”
Jake went up to his room, grabbed his cell phone from on top of his desk. He had a text message alert.
Ur parents gone?
He texted back.
So….is Emma there with you now?
What’s the plan going to be for Halloween?
I’ll fake being sick, go up to my room where I would supposedly lay down for a couple of hours but that would just be a decoy in order for me to sneak out and join you at the funhouse.
Then, we’ll have our revenge.
Come over later and I’ll tell you.
Jake put down his phone and turned on his video game system. Now that his father had informed Emma about his punishment, he doubted that she would let him go out, and he didn’t want to give her a hard time for two reasons; the first reason being that he liked her and the second, he needed to play it cool until Monday came in order to not raise any suspicions.
After playing for an hour or so, Jake felt hungry. His stomach growled so violently that he had no option but to pause the game and go downstairs to the kitchen to fix himself a snack.
Emma was lying on her stomach on the couch talking on her cell phone. She was telling a friend how amazing Landon was at kissing. Apparently, from what Jake overheard, she went for a drive with the guy and they parked at one of the kissing spots, where they made out for like thirty minutes.
“He also invited me to the Christmas school dance,” she said as she flipped through the pages of Jake’s mom’s Vogue magazine.
Jake rolled his eyes. Unlike Dylan who was so blind to Emma’s beauty, he wasn’t that stupid. Yes, he admitted that Emma was pretty and, like all the other boys in his school, he had a crush on the girl. But he knew that she wasn’t a nice person whatsoever.
For starters, he didn’t like the way in which Emma spoke and treated Kelly, one of the girls in his class who wasn’t considered one of the popular kids. Kelly wore glasses and had a face full of zits. But she was smart, thoughtful and optimistic about life.
Unfortunately, the other kids at school couldn’t see her good traits and were always mean to her.
When he told Dylan what he thought about Emma and what he thought about Kelly, Dylan was taken aback about his honesty and asked him a very valid question.
“Why then have you never sat with Kelly during lunch?”
Jake started coming up with excuses in his mind that would justify him not sitting with the poor, lonely girl at the cafeteria but then stopped himself. He was afraid to be seen talking or interacting with Kelly because he didn’t want others to look down upon him more than they already were doing.
And Jake wasn’t proud of this.
Jake walked into the kitchen and made himself a ham and cheese sandwich.
Soon after, Emma walked into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of orange juice, and then sat at the kitchen table. She withdrew a makeup kit from her purse and started touching up her makeup, using a handheld mirror to spot herself.
Jake watched her do this while he bit into his sandwich.
“Do you have any homework?” she asked, glancing over at him.
“Yes,” said Jake.
“Then go upstairs and do that rather than stand there and stare at me, you pervert. Didn’t your parents teach you that it is impolite to stare at people?”
“You’re not that pretty with all that makeup on,” Jake snapped. “So don’t flatter yourself so much.”
Emma stared at him, her mouth speechless, like it was the first time any guy had ever insulted her before.
Jake finished his sandwich as he walked out of the kitchen, and took it with him upstairs. He smiled at how he’d been able to shut Emma up for once.
When he arrived in his room, he spotted Dylan climbing in through the window.