1: First Impressions
June 6th, 8 years old
I remember the day I first met Jack. That welcoming lopsided grin as he approached me. It was that kind of smile that warms people, makes you feel like you’re seeing an old friend, despite never meeting him. He had teeth missing, which was normal for our age, but something about it felt like he had lost them doing something reckless and exciting. His boyish face and clothes set you apart from the other kids. We were only eight, but we already knew who understood us and who didn’t. He knew even more than me, I think.
He held his hand out (which then had a band-aid on nearly every finger) and proudly announced, “Hi, I’m Jack.” I shook it, grinning back at him. You couldn’t help but smile back at Jack. He just had that sort of magic about him.
Then his father came from behind him. He was older than my dad, probably in his early forties. He had the same rough and tough look as Jack, stubble gracing his face, and his already greying hair slicked back haphazardly. His face didn’t match Jack’s though. While an ecstatic and energetic expression was on Jack’s face, his father’s was more towards frustrated and tired.
He placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder, an exasperated sigh leaving him. “Jacklynn, what have we talked about.”
Jack looked at the ground in surrender, but I could see the fury brewing behind his eyes.
“Don’t call me that.” Jack spat. “Mom told you to stop calling me that.”
His father sighed again, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Your mother doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
Jack stayed silent, staring at the cracked sidewalk, fists clenching and unclenching at his sides. I could tell he wanted to argue more, but he didn’t. Now I know why he didn’t. Seeing that Jack had let it go, his father turned his attention back to me.
“Hello, we’ve just moved in down the street and came to introduce ourselves. Can you go and get your mom?” He asked, his tone sweeter than when he talked to you. I didn’t like that. But I was only eight, so I simply nodded and ran inside to get Mom.
“Ma!” I shouted out the back door. Her head popped up from behind the flower bed, where she was likely weeding. “Visitors!”
She got up, walking towards me as she pulled the gloves off of her hands. “The new family down the street?” She asked hopefully. I nodded. Clapping her hands together, she smiled. “Great!”
We walked back to the front door, which I had left open on accident. They were still there, Jack’s dad with a tight grip on Jack’s shoulder.
“Hi!” He said with that fake enthusiasm I would learn to hate. “My daughter and I just moved in down the street and wanted to say hello. I’m Paul Evans and this is Jacklynn.”
Jack rolled his eyes at the word daughter but smiled at my mom nonetheless. Mom smiled back. Like I said, Jack had that effect. Pulling me closer to her, Mom said, “Well I’m Lila Montgomery, and this is my son Levi.”
“Lila and Levi. That’ll be easy to remember.” Paul joked. The adults started talking and I nodded to Jack, motioning to the upstairs. He nodded eagerly, a large smile on his face. We walked inside, our parents not even noticing. I took Jack up to my room and showed him around. He liked cars and Minecraft just like me and complimented a lot of the things in my room. We sat on the floor and sorted through my mini car models, seeing which of us knew the most about each of them.
“Jack?” I started. I saw his face light up when I continued to call him Jack.
“Why do you dress like a boy?” I asked. His face dropped.
“Cause I am a boy. My dad doesn’t believe me, but my mom does.”
“Oh. Okay.” I replied simply. He seemed relieved that I didn’t press further. Truthfully, I just hadn’t understood. If Jack was a boy, why wouldn’t his dad believe him? It made my head hurt, so I didn’t think about it, focusing on telling Jack about my green Jaguar E-Type.
There would be a lot of things about Jack’s dad I didn’t understand. I wouldn’t understand a lot of things people said and thought about Jack. I think in a sense I was lucky that way. I didn’t understand why people could hate, so it made me more open-minded to Jack when I grew older and learned about the world and the people in it.
But for now, I was just a kid learning about another kid. I think it made Jack happy that I didn’t ask questions, not for a while. I just accepted that Jack was Jack. I didn’t need to know more than that.
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