“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him ... And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.““ ~Luke 10:33-37 (The Parable of the Good Samaritan)
That night when I drove my siblings home, the ride was nearly silent for the first five minutes. Asher was sleeping deeply in the back, his small inhales and exhales binding my thoughts from wandering too far from the present. Pearl looked out the front window straight ahead. I kept looking over at her to make sure she was still alive.
Finally, she spoke. I almost didn’t catch what she said, it was so soft and unexpected.
“She told me that she wouldn’t miss it,” she said, turning to look at me with a pained expression on her face. “I saw what happened with you when she didn’t go to your stuff and you became upset. I told myself not to get too hopeful from watching you. I told myself not to even ask her.”
Pausing, she looked away and swallowed.
“It’s not your fault,” I said pathetically.
“Tin Tin, I told myself to expect she wouldn’t come. I made sure to keep that in mind all day but... I truly thought she’d show up. I was so excited to show her what I could do. I wanted her to be-- to be proud of me for once.”
The words tugged at my heart. I was speechless.
“Don’t tell her I was this upset okay?” Pearl choked out. I think she was crying again.
“But she needs to know how much this meant to you,” I started.
“No. She doesn’t. It’s just a game. I don’t know why you even care in the first place,” she interrupted.
“Okay,” I breathed, not saying anything more.
We went back to not speaking. The only sound in the car was Pearl’s sniffles and Asher’s steady breathing. The Broken-Hearted and the Innocent.
  
A day passed, and it was finally Saturday. I never did tell Mom about how Pearl felt and that she cried. Asher kept quiet too. He’s a good little man to tell things too; he doesn’t have the vocabulary or the peers to say anything.
Jimmy and Marcus invited me to go to the movies with them. They picked me up to go see an afternoon showing at the good movie theater about forty-five minutes away. It was an okay movie. Not that we really paid attention, Jimmy hates serious. They acted like everything was normal between us, like I hadn’t yelled at Ace or anything. Maybe they had forgotten about it.
When we were walking out of the theater it was around dinner time, and the three of us were starving. Marcus went to go get the car while Jimmy and I waited for him.
“Stupid chick flicks,” Jimmy groaned. I laughed.
“Yeah, it was pretty bad.”
“I saw at least ten girls crying, so dumb. He clearly didn’t love her from the beginning!”
“What makes me laugh is that you’re into debating about it,” I pointed out.
“Oh shut up.” He slapped me on the shoulder and I laughed. Then he reached into his back pocket for his phone and a shocked look spread across his face. “Awe dude.”
“What?” I asked.
“My phone. I think I left it in the theater.”
“Wanna go look for it?”
“Okay, so I’ll check Marcus’ car just to make sure I didn’t leave it in there from beforehand and you go inside to see if they found anything.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
I walked through the two sets of double glass doors and to the front desk. At least things seemed to be going back to the way they were pretty quickly. I knew that I had felt a little lonely when no one came to sit with me at the soccer game, it was truly nice not to be a loner.
“Excuse me,” I said to the cashier. She looked up with an expectant expression. “Have you found any phones? My friend lost his.”
“Let me check,” she said, turning to go to the back.
I leaned up against the counter. Hopefully they found it. Jimmy finally had the girl’s number that he liked and he seemed pretty psyched about talking to her. Drumming my fingers on the counter top, I heard a horn sound from the parking lot. I turned and saw Marcus driving his black convertible with Jimmy in the passenger seat.
He waved his phone in the air. I sighed with relief, then went out to the sidewalk by the car.
“You found your phone, huh?” I said, reaching for the handle. The locks clicked into place in the car and I pulled my hand away, looking at Marcus. “Dude, unlock the car.”
“No can do Tin Tin,” Marcus said with a turn of his head and a mischievous expression on his face. He drove the car a few feet and I walked along side of it.
“What are you doing?”
“Let’s just say Shelly wasn’t too happy about how you stood up to Ace on Thursday,” Jimmy stated, shrugging. “She told us to take care of it, so no ride home for you, Amble.”
“You guys,” I said, surprised, “we’re friends right? Just let me in the car and we can go grab something to eat. I’ll pay even!”
“Shelly pays more. Fifty each to leave you here. Better to have the skin off your back than the skin off our’s,” Marcus replied like it wasn’t a big deal.
“You’re cool with taking one for the team, right? Thanks buddy, see you Monday,” Jimmy said cooly, actually sounding ticked off and annoyed at me. As if it wasn’t weird enough that they were being so calm about it, now they sounded irritated.
“Wait! I literally live an hour away and that’s if I drive!” I called after them. Marcus waved from his open window then turned onto the highway. They disappeared from sight, as if leaving your best friend to walk home alone was an everyday thing for them.
  
I began my journey down the highway in immense annoyance. I called Grandma, Pearl, even my parents. All of them said that they couldn’t make it. Except Grandma-- I called her five times and she didn’t even pick up the phone. Then my phone died and just sat in my pocket like the useless thing it was.
What’s the point of having family if they won’t even come to pick you up? Not that I expected them to anyway. Grandma was really my only hope and she wouldn’t even pick up the phone. Pearl was at a friend’s house on the other side of town and couldn’t have drove here anyway. She doesn’t have her license.
Mom was at yet another job interview. Dad was at work and his receptionist told me he said that what he was doing was far more important that my problem right now. That really set me off.
I wanted to scream at someone. My own father didn’t care that his child was stranded in the middle of the highway! I could’ve gotten hit and died. I could’ve got lost. I could’ve make it home past my curfew because no one volunteered to come pick me up. Mom didn’t show up for Pearl and they aren’t willing to help me. How nice.
Forcing myself to take deep breaths, I attempted not to lose my head over this. What did I expect? A huge parade dedicated to picking up Tin Tin? I kicked at rocks hopelessly, keeping my gaze ahead. Cars flew past me, nobody caring that there was a seventeen year old kid on the side of the road.
Sometimes I’d stop and wave to the drivers to try and hitchhike, knowing it was stupid but doing it anyway. A few honked at me. One actually rolled down their window and told me to get lost. Someone threw a to-go cup from McDonalds at me and it busted at my feet, sending Coke all up the front of my jeans. When did the human race become so heartless?
At least the weather was decent.
My stomach growled. It had to be at least an hour since I left the theater. I wasn’t even halfway home. With soaked pants, the constant chill of air from passing cars, and a dead phone, I was more than ready for this to be over.
“I hate this,” I muttered as the sticky drink dried on my soaked pants and ankles.
Just when I was about to throw myself into the street to ride a car home, a rusty red truck with a dirty white stripe pulled to the side of the road in front of me. It seemed to be headed the way I came, but it didn’t matter.
The driver stepped out and slammed the door shut. I looked to the guy and recognized him quickly. Sawyer. Why was he, out of everyone who could’ve stopped, coming out of his car to pick me up? After everything that I did to Alivia, Sawyer was actually going to take me home.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
“Well look, it’s Tin Tin Amble,” he greeted me, walking over to me.
“Hey?” I said, sounding really unsure about myself. “What are you doing here?”
“You looked like you needed help. And Ma needed something from Walmart,” he answered, crossing his arms over his t-shirt.
“I do need some help actually,” I admitted.
Honestly, I was just so fed up with everyone being there for me then turning on me, that I didn’t want to interact with anyone. I just wanted to be angry at the world. No one else stopped though and Sawyer wasn’t that bad.
“Need a ride?” he suggested, pointing to his truck over his shoulder.
“Cool. I gotta go to the store first, but I’ll take you where you need to go after that,” he said, leading me back to the vehicle.
I got into the passenger side of the car and my eyes watered a bit. Saw dust seemed to be in the air and it smelled like pine needles, which wasn’t a bad thing. The faded red cushions were scratchy and torn in some places, revealing old yellow foam. A few of the holes were actually sewn up.
He turned off the radio as soon as we got in and I immediately wanted it to come back on. What if neither of us say anything the whole time like what happened when I took Alivia home?
The first few minutes of awkward silence proved me right. Traffic was backed up and we came to a near stop as we were going back into town. Sawyer puffed out his cheeks and ran a hand through his hair, then reached down to roll down the window. He literally had to turn the handle on his door for it to roll down.
“You can roll your’s down,” he said, gesturing toward the handle on my side of the truck, “if you’d like.”
Hesitantly, I reached down and cranked the handle to get some air flowing on my side of the vehicle. It squeaked a little when I turned it and then got stuck when it was only halfway down. He rested his elbow on the edge of the open window and scoffed a bit. I looked up to see him trying not to laugh at me.
I rolled my eyes and eventually managed to get the window all the way down. The car moved forward a bit, then stopped.
“Why were you on the side of the road?” he asked casually after a few more seconds of silence.
“Well, my friends left me at the movies without a ride,” I said bitterly. “Just because I stood up to the almighty Ace who rules everyone. They were each paid fifty dollars to leave me there.”
“That stinks,” he said.
“Yeah it’s whatever,” I mumbled, having trouble keeping my frustrations at bay.
“Hey, if they were paying me fifty dollars, I’d leave you there,” he joked lightheartedly. I shot him a look and his smile fell into a concerned expression. “I was just joking. What’s wrong?”
“So many people would’ve left me for less than that.”
“What are you talking about?” Sawyer asked as he started driving again, baffled by my statement.
“You don’t understand do you?” I lashed out harshly.
“Not the slightest,” he replied
“No one does,” I muttered.
“Hey,” he said. “What’s up with you? I know we don’t know each other, hardly at all, but I’d at least want to know why you’re so upset. Other than being abandon by your friends and stuff--“
“Sawyer, it’s so much more than that. You’d hate to know the story, nobody cares about it anyway,” I huffed.
“Well, I’d like to know. And I’m giving you a ride, I’d say you owe me some facts,” he pointed out.
Again we stopped at a stop light and waited for it to turn green. Sawyer said nothing as I prepared to explain myself. I didn’t really want to, and it honestly made me angrier how concerned and patient he was being with me. I realized I was acting like a pouting five year old. Just because I didn’t like what I got, I was being controversial about telling how I really ended up there.
I took a deep breath and then looked over at Sawyer as the light turned green.
“Sorry,” I blurted. His eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“Being a jerk,” I replied simply.
“Oh,” was his quiet response, driving on down the road, passing by multiple shops and fast food restaurants. He turned into Walmart’s parking lot and started looking for a space.
“My friends left me, like I said. But when I called my parents, they wouldn’t come pick me up. Basically said they had more important things to do than help me with my ‘teenager problems’. My sister can’t drive yet and my grandma wouldn’t pick up her phone. Then my phone died,” I elaborated, staring straight ahead, even as we were parking.
“I--” he started. I was starting to get all worked up over the situation again and I interrupted.
“No, just listen.” I didn’t look at him. Neither of us moved to get out. “My parents don’t show up for anything, okay? Nothing at all. I don’t think they’ve ever been to one of my cross country meets or my sister’s soccer games. Mom said she would go to her game and she didn’t show up. My sister even told her like, four times throughout the day and she still didn’t come! And do you know why? Last minute interview.
“My dad comes home and just yells at me for not doing something right or my mom for not having a job. I hardly see him and he hardly cares and yet he takes everything out on me! And Asher doesn’t have anyone there for him but me and Grandma. I have school and cross country and my friends, I can’t be a parent too,” I finished.
Sawyer was silent for several moments before he unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car, not saying a word. Perplexed, I followed.
  
I hurried to keep up with him throughout the store. He wouldn’t look at me, just kept his eyes trained on the cart and aisles in front of him. I didn’t ask for his thoughts. I was used to just taking things as they came, especially when it came to my dad’s outbursts of anger.
He had grabbed a loaf of bread, sugar, and a thing of strawberries when he finally spoke.
“I just realized how selfish I am,” he said. I must’ve shown how confused I felt because he went on. “I take my parents and family for granted. Hardly do I ever think about what it’s like for other kids without that privilege. I’m really sorry Tin Tin.”
“O-okay,” I stuttered, stunned by his response.
Usually when I brought up my parents or family to any of my other friends, they shrug it off and dance around the subject. Sawyer didn’t hesitate to come out and say his faults within himself.
“Hey, why don’t you come over for dinner at my house tonight?” he invited, grinning like we’ve been pals for weeks.
“Don’t you hate me?” I blurted without thinking.
“Only a little bit.”
  
The drive down was spent with my anger receding. I felt myself start to calm down a bit as we drove back to his house with no more traffic or drinks being thrown at me. He didn’t press me anymore about my family, which I was thankful for. He treated me like an equal. Most of the Seniors I knew looked at me like I was under them, but he didn’t talk down on me. I forgot he was older.
“So what’s for dinner tonight?” I asked as we turned into the hidden drive.
“Corn. Probably corn. Maybe it’ll be on the cob since we planted it late this year. Or maybe it’s some we already cut up and froze,” he answered, turning off the truck.
“Just corn?” I laughed.
“Yes, that’s it,” he chuckled, rolling his eyes playfully. He grabbed the bags of groceries before getting out. “I think we might be having rolls and meatloaf.”
We walked up to the door and I felt myself stop. I had to remind myself that this wasn’t my house, and was a little self conscious after that. Sawyer didn’t seem to notice.
“Ma! I’m home with your stuff!” he shouted, slipping off his shoes on the rug.
We stood in the kitchen where everything for the meal was laid out on the island in the middle. I glanced down the room and saw a long dining table set for four in front of open windows that revealed their yard. The smell of food engulfed me and I smiled. The sound of Sports Center came from somewhere in the next room.
Then it struck me: I felt like I was coming home for the first time.
I felt my face fall. Why couldn’t I come home to this? They may not have a top notch, fresh out of the catalog home, but at least it was one. I swallowed, trying to push down my revelation.
“Thanks honey,” Mrs. Olson said, coming into the kitchen.
She was really skinny, that was the first thing I noticed. Her red curls stuck in all directions from under a white bandana as she wiped her hands on her old blue jeans. Rising off her hands, she reached out to take the bag from Sawyer, noticing me.
“Well hello!” she said brightly to me, smiling warmly.
“Ma, this is Tin Tin, from school. He needed a ride and something to eat. Is it okay if he--” Sawyer started.
“Pan, how long have you lived in this house? You should know better than to ask me if it’s okay if someone can come over for dinner because the answer will always be--”
“Yes! The answer will forever and always be yes,” Mr. Olson bellowed joyously, finishing his wife’s sentence for her. He was tall and really muscular with brown, graying hair.
“Dad, this is Tin Tin,” Sawyer said again.
“Tin Tin huh?” he said, grabbing my hand and shaking it. “Good to have you, good to have you. Where’s Alvia? Alivia!” he said, getting distracted by the absence of his daughter.
“Come in!. Just have a seat wherever,” Mrs. Olson said, waving her oven mitt in the direction of the table. “Awe, I burned it,” I heard her mutter as she peeked in the oven.
Footsteps pounded from above and soon Alivia made an appearance in the wide doorway. She was grinning contently with dark smudges all over her face.
“Are we eating?” she asked.
“No, we’re just sitting around the table with plates so we can stare at them and think about eating,” Sawyer said sarcastically, throwing her a playful smile.
“Pan, why are you such a Senior?” she groaned, grabbing silverware from a drawer on the island.
“Last time I checked, Peter Pan was a lost boy who didn’t want to grow up, not a Senior,” he countered, sitting down in front of a window.
“He’s got you there,” Mr. Olson said, grabbing another plate and setting it down beside Sawyer’s spot, which I assumed was where I was suppose to sit. So I did.
“Peter Pan?” I asked him. He just laughed.
“Long story, eh Wendy?”
“I don’t wanna be Wendy,” Alivia said, turning to get a drink of water from the sink.
“Don’t make her be Wendy, Pan, then she’ll have to grow up,” Mrs. Olson vouched for her.
“Sorry Livvy,” Sawyer said, shrugging as the food was set on the table in front of us. The meatloaf was slightly burnt and I smiled a little. At least their mom was around to cook.
“Yeah yeah,” she mumbled, plopping down in the seat across from me. That’s when she first noticed I was in the room and she physically tensed. She locked stares with me at first, seeming surprised.
“Hi Alivia,” I said awkwardly.
“Hey,” she replied quietly, looking away.
Mr. and Mrs. Olson sat down and they said prayer, also something foreign to me. I didn’t speak against it, I just did what they did and went with it. I at least had to be respectful since they let me in on short notice.
“So Tin Tin,” Mr. Olson started between chews. “How are you?”
“Fine,” I said simply. He waited a beat before responding.
“Well, do you want his life story, Paul?” Mrs. Olson said, shaking her head.
“Okay, something shorter than a life story, but longer than fine,” he said, a grin playing across his face.
“Doing alright. Hanging in there,” I elaborated, a little amused.
“Good, good. Is your family well?”
I swallowed and looked at my plate. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sawyer shake his head slightly at his dad, but he didn’t seem to catch the hint. For a second, everything was silent.
“Yeah, they’re well... Mom’s, uh, trying to find a job and Dad is... He’s around, sometimes,” I managed, taking it slow and looking at the concerned man.
He just nodded and I turn back to my food, feeling like I exposed myself a little bit. I told a man a hardly knew more about my family life than Marcus and Jimmy, who I’ve known for years.
A silence fell over the table as we all continue eating the meal, which was really good. We did have corn, like Sawyer said, and meatloaf. I felt Alivia staring at me, but I didn’t look up.
“Tin Tin’s a really good photographer,” she said suddenly. I looked up at her and she had a softness being her eyes, in her smile that caused my palms to go sweaty. I grinned at her.
“Oh really?” Mrs. Olson said, sounding genuinely interested. “I wondered since you have a camera.”
I looked down at my chest and realized that I had it on. I wear it so often that it’s like the thing has become a part of me. Is it rude to wear cameras at the dinner table?
“Oh, sorry,” I said, taking it off. “I didn’t realize I had it on.”
“No, no, you’re okay, dear,” she laughed. “Maybe you and Alivia can exchange pictures. She likes to draw.”
“That’s cool,” I replied, looking at her. She smiled bigger, biting her lip to hold back a nervous laugh.
After we’re done eating, Alivia disappears upstairs and Mr. and Mrs. Olson go to the family room to watch TV. Sawyer and I were left in the kitchen.
“So what do you want to do?” he asked.
“What do you normally do?”
“Normally I’d go downstairs and do homework or whatever. We could go outside or something. I don’t know, it’s been a while since I’ve had anyone over,” he said.
“I thought you were Mr. Popular,” I joked as he made his way toward the door.
“Used to be,” he responded as we exited the house and walked down to the front lawn. “Want to throw baseball?”
“Sure. Do you play?”
“No, I can’t anymore..,” he said, letting his voice trail off as he went to a large storage building.
“Why not?” I asked when he came out with two mitts and a ball.
“I broke my hand a few times and got a bad concussion so the doctor won’t let me anymore,” he explained, tossing the ball in the air and then catching it again.
“That stinks,” I said, following him down to the flat piece of land in their front yard.
“It does. But I guess God just didn’t want me to,” he replied, the words sounding natural in his mouth. I looked over at him, a little taken aback by his sudden mention of God. “I like to think that He was protecting me from something worse.”
I just nodded. The words stuck with me as we tossed the baseball around. When it started to grow dark, he mentioned taking me home and I realized how comfortable I felt there. I wanted to protest, but I didn’t. The whole ride as he was driving me home consisted of Sawyer trying to talk to me and me not wanting to talk, becoming curt and short with my answers.
Of all the places he could’ve taken me, I didn’t want to go were I felt ignored. Sawyer wanted to come in so he could meet my family, but I didn’t let him. He gave me his number and told me to let him know if I needed anything.
“See you Monday!” he called from the truck as I began to open the door.
“See ya!” I called back.
Then I disappeared into a silent, empty house, and was never questioned about my whereabouts that day, sure that they all forgot I was even gone.