He’s not older than me by much, being only eleven and peers at me in the doorway of the house, and I almost think the door opened before I touched it.
“Hi, I’m Jay!”
“You’re my babysitter?” I demand.
“I’m not sure? Cuz I kinda met Kyle and he told me where he was babysitting only you aren’t a baby. Unless that’s a really good disguise?!”
“I’m seven,” I say firmly.
“Oh. I’m eleven,” he says proudly.
“I know,” I say and I wonder how I did. “Where is Kyle?”
“He’s having an adventure, but!” And Jay flings the word like a weapon, “he might not think so because of the giant snakes! Things don’t stop being adventures just cuz they’re scary, you know!”
I stare at him. He grins and even my mom and dad have never grinned at me like that. I step back and let him in despite everything I was told in class about strangers. He’s not a stranger.
“What do you and Kyle do, Asham?”
I never told him my name. I’m almost sure of that. “He lets me eat ice cream for supper.”
“Really?! I’m not allowed to and that’s pretty sad.”
“No, I – that wasn’t true,” I fumble.
“But you said it.” And he looks so hurt I fall back from it. “That’s really rude if you’re lying to a Jay.”
“I’m sorry. I just – I didn’t mean to –.”
“Oh. Okay,” and his grin is back like something I’ve done nothing to deserve.
Jay orders pizza for supper for us, eating two entire pizzas by himself and watching two movies with me. I think I head something outside for a second, like the dog next door, only nasty, but it stops a moment later and then the doorbell rings and I barely see Jay move.
“Hi,” he says.
The man who comes in looks at me, then the living room. He looks ordinary, like Dad, only his eyes aren’t ordinary at all. He looks about the room like mom looking for places where I’ve tried to hide toys. “Jay. Charlie told me you were babysitting.”
“Uh-huh! I’m really good at it,” Jay says happily. “But it would be better if we had adventures!”
“I imagine so, but Asham’s parents might not approve.”
“I’d take care of Asham. I’m good at taking care of things, Honcho.” Jay says.
“I know. But Charlie wants your help dealing with the army of frogs from last night. From when you were really good at looking after frogs.”
“Oh, okay,” and Jay is gone. Not fast, simply gone.
I rub my eyes and the man walks over. “You’re all right,” he says.
I nod. “Jay did a good job. We had pizza and –.”
“I know.” He smiles. “I’m glad things worked out. But talking to other people about Jay could get – complicated.”
Jay says words that are joy; his are warnings, quiet and firm. I nod.
“Is Kyle okay?” I blurt out.
“He’s fine. He might not remember tonight, however.” Honcho smiles. “You will, because Jay would be sad if you don’t. And sad if you try and hurt Kyle with this knowledge.”
I nod. Sometimes Kyle tells me to do things I don’t like, and maybe I would have said things. Now this Honcho knows I won’t. “What about mom and dad?” I ask.
“I’ll talk to them.”
I nod, and head upstairs, and I hear mom and dad come home later, but later still there is a knocking inside my head that wakes me up in strange ways. And Jay says hi, and we have adventures and I’m not sharing those with my diary ever.