The Caller at 11:00

“Meghan, can we stay up late?” Abigail asked me as I pulled her pajama shirt over her head.

“No, silly.” I answered.

“But why?” she whimpered.

“You know why.” I sighed. “Your bedtime is 8 o’clock.”

“Aw, but those are my parents’ rules,” she coaxed. “That doesn’t mean they’re your rules, too.”

“They most certainly are, Abby.” I was babysitting the best seven-year-old negotiator on the planet. She crawled into bed and I pulled up the covers over her head. “And that means no asking for snacks three times during the next ten minutes.”

She stuck out her bottom lip and I raised my eyebrows, which made her giggle, ruining her act.

“Goodnight.” I said as I closed the door.

“Goodnight, Meghan.”

I tiptoed back down the stairs to the living room. My school backpack was by the couch, so I sat down and pulled out my laptop. Might as well kill some time, I though. Her parents won’t be home till eleven.

I scrolled through my social media for a while, envying everyone who was out hiking or visiting the Grand Canyon while I was stuck here babysitting for my neighbour. When I had had enough of that, my SwankyDatez bookmark caught my eye. I glanced up the stairs, then logged in.

3 POSSIBLE MATCHES IN YOUR AREA.

I smiled, one of those smiles that doesn’t really have a reason behind it, it just comes anyway. There were three names: Kurt, Damon, and Hudson. I’ve always liked the name Damon. I clicked on his profile.

DAMON VANNORMAN, 21. LIKES CATS, DOGS, AND ANIMALS IN GENERAL. FAVORITE FOOD IS CHINESE, AND FAVORITE TV SHOW IS THE REAL JANITORS OF SOUTH FRESNO. LOOKING TO MEET A KIND GIRL WHO SHARES SOME COMMON INTERESTS.

Damn. Assuming the profile photo wasn’t doctored, he was CUTE. I smiled again, and said to myself, “Well, you’ve found one.”

I knew I probably shouldn’t have been doing this while I was babysitting, but who was going to know? I clicked on the direct message button.

Hey. I like all of those things, too!

I cringed as soon as I had sent it. That just seemed, CRINGEY. But the damage has already been done. Now, I just had to wait.

A few minutes passed. Then ten. Then fifteen. Even though he hadn’t said anything yet, it was beginning to seem like he didn’t like me. Maybe he just wasn’t online.

I don’t know why I cared so much, but I was ecstatic when he finally replied.

Really? That’s so cool!

Ooh. He thought I was cool. Now at least the conversation was started.

We talked for a while about The Real Janitors of South Fresno. About a half-hour in, he told me that he had recently moved to Radio Springs, a neighbourhood that was new to him, and that he didn’t have many friends. I, of course, was even more excited:

That’s where I live!

He seemed surprised and excited.

No way! That’s awesome!! Wyd right now?

Would he be weirded out if I told him that I babysit? I decided to take the chance.

Babysitting.

He took a long time to respond.

Oh. Are there many kids around?

I sighed. So he didn’t like kids. I knew I shouldn’t have said anything.

Yeah. The one I’m babysitting right now is a little devil. But don’t worry. As long as you don’t make eye contact, they can’t stare into your soul.

I chuckled at my own joke.

A little devil, huh?

I heard Abby stir from upstairs, so I waited until she went silent again to respond.

Yeah. Manipulative. Extremely manipulative.

He sounded apologetic when he said,

That sounds like it really sucks. Hey listen, can you tell me which houses have the kids so that I can avoid them on my way to school?

He’s in school? I thought to myself.

You’re in school? What grade?

A while later…

Twelfth grade.

By that point in time, I could seriously see myself with this guy.

Omg. That’s my grade! Maybe we go to the same school? And yes, three families have kids in this neighbourhood. You have this house, the Montenegros, the first house on Avenida Avenue. Then there’s the Roberts, who are to the right of the walking trail, and the Uries, in front of the water fountain by the gates. Avoid them and you’ll keep your sanity 😉

He responded,

Thanks. I owe you a big one lol. By the way, Clearview High School?

I almost passed out. Maybe it was meant to be.

YES!!! Oh my gosh. When do you start?

If we started at the same time, I would be so excited I would probably burst.

Tomorrow.

I wanted to ask him, “See you there?” in a super romantic way, but I couldn’t figure out any super romantic ways to say it. He followed it up with:

Are you still babysitting?

Well, he didn’t like it the first time…

No. I’m home now. That’s the last time I babysit that little devil.

He was taking a long time to reply. Maybe he secretly liked kids? But finally,

Lol. Hey, can I talk tomorrow? I haven’t seen the school yet, but meet me by wherever the main office is at 7:00. I have to go, my mom is home and we have to eat dinner.

That was fair enough, I guessed. At least tomorrow I would get to meet him face-to-face.

Sounds good.

He logged off. Not wanting to investigate any other guys, I logged off too. Man. I’m glad I decided to not listen to myself. I smiled a big smile, and felt really happy for the first time since I got my midterm grades back. I put my laptop down and turned on the Montenegros’ TV, because they allowed me to watch it when they were gone and Abby was asleep. The Real Janitors of South Fresno was on, which made me smile all over again.

I hadn’t been with anyone in a really long time. Mostly because every guy I meet that I want to have a “relationship” relationship with thinks about my looks before they get to know me. And now, I had just met a guy who didn’t care about my looks. He had seen my profile picture, and he still decided to talk to me. I wasn’t much of a looker when I had taken that photo, and I still wasn’t.

I watched TV for a while, until I heard a voice calling me from upstairs.

“Coming,” I said. When I reached the stairs: “What is it, Abby?”

She stood out in the hallway, looking in her room. “There’s a monster in my closet.”

I sighed. The “there’s no monster there” ritual never seemed to work with her, so I did what her mom instructed me to do. I went to the bathroom and grabbed a spray bottle filled with water that was labeled MONSTER REPELLANT.

“Here you go,” I said as a sprayed her clothes lightly, then closed the small door. “He can’t hurt you now.”

“Thanks.” She rubbed her eyes and crawled into bed, and I covered her up.

“Goodnight again.” I said, tapping her on the nose. She was too tired to smile, so I walked out and closed the door.

Back downstairs, I heard it. The thump.

“Abby?” I called up.

That was when I heard her scream. Really loudly.

“ABBY!” I ran back up the stairs and turned her doorknob, but it was locked. “Abby! Why did you lock the door?! What’s wrong?”

I pounded my fists on the door, but it wouldn’t budge. Not even a hard blow with my shoulder did the trick. I could hear her muffled cries, and that’s when my fluttering stomach knew there was someone else in there.

“Abby!” I screamed again, jiggling the door handle. The door flew open, and someone grabbed me by the hair and pulled me into her room.

The man standing there looked to be about thirty-five, but before I could make any other observations he whacked Abby in the side of the head with his fist. She struggled against him still, and he hit her again, harder. That did it. She collapsed to the ground.

“Man,” the guy stood there, looking down at her and breathing heavily. “You are a little devil, aren’t you?”

My fluttering stomach fell through to the floor.

He walked toward me with his swinging arm outstretched, and everything went dark.