When Amanda went back to school Monday, she looked for Nick in the lobby but didn’t see him.
“Hey, you.” Brian said when they met up for lunch. He looked stressed and tired from dealing with Nick all weekend.
“Wow, you look exhausted.” Amanda pointed out, closing her locker.
“Nick’s staying with us, but I guess my parents didn’t realize he’d be such a handful. He won’t go near my mother, he won’t look at my father and he spends most of his time in his bedroom closet crying. He won’t even eat, Amanda. My mom brought him cookies and he didn’t touch a single one. He went to bed hungry.” Brian explained. He continued on after that, telling her how Nick pushed him.
“You have to understand he is going through quite a bit, Brian. Think about it….he has never been away from home and your house is strange to him. Maybe he needs time to adjust.” she said, shrugging. Brian nodded and they headed for class.
“Okay, but we still can’t get him to eat anything more than a few nibbles or half of a sandwich. He refuses everything.”
“I don’t like this idea, but why don’t you try reverse psychology? When he won’t eat, tell him if he doesn’t he’ll be in trouble. Your mom has to put her foot down but not like HER.” Amanda suggested. Brian stared at her but nodded after a bit. He hadn’t thought of this before. That afternoon when he and Nick came home from school, his mother was already cooking supper.
“How was school today, honey?” Jackie asked. Before Brian could answer they heard the door to Nick’s room slam shut.
“It was okay. Nick and I didn’t see each other much…..he was in the library at lunch again.” he said, hopping up on the stool next to the counter.
“I wish we could get him to eat. He’s so thin.” Jackie said, peeling the carrots.
“Amanda suggested we use reverse psychology but I was thinking….if that doesn’t work, maybe let him help cook? He was used to doing all of the chores back home….and now he just sits up in his room moping.” Brian told her, as he ate an apple from the basket on the counter.
“I feel bad making him do anything. We don’t make you do chores, I don’t want him to think he’s being punished.” Jackie mused.
“It’s just a suggestion, Ma. I know you want things to work out just as much as me and Dad. Nick will be okay.”
Jackie smiled as she put together the roast chicken, she was really proud of her son for being so wise.
Nick sat up in his room, tipping his books out onto the bed and starting his homework. He knew Brian’s parents would want it finished before supper was ready, even though he wouldn’t get any of it….and his stomach was hurting. He had skipped lunch again although his body yelled at him, but Nick felt that he should still obey his mother. He wondered if he kept doing as he was supposed to….if he would be allowed to go back home. Brian’s family was nice, but Nick knew he’d never fit in. The house was too clean, and he felt useless without any cooking or cleaning to do.
Nick spent his free time writing more poems. He hummed melodies to himself as he wrote….hoping one day he could read them for Amanda, who he considered to be most of his inspiration. He sang a little bit of the tune whenever a line seemed completed. His voice wasn’t bad but Nick knew it needed work and he liked having a secret talent.
“Nick?” Brian’s voice came from the hallway. Nick shoved the notebook under his math book and pretended to study, laying on the bed with his feet up in the air behind him.
“Yeah?” he called back. Brian opened the door and came inside, smiling.
“Mom says dinner will be ready in an hour.” he said.
Nick frowned, that woman downstairs would never be his mother.
A little while later Nick finished his homework and wandered downstairs, smelling the garlic wafting from the kitchen. He felt his mouth water right away, Jackie was a great cook. Nick had never smelled anything so tempting.
“Hi,” she said sweetly, noticing him in the doorway. It was the first time he’d actually somewhat approached her since he moved into the house, and she treated him like he was a deer wandering through the yard….deciding to let him come to her. They were in silence for quite a while until Nick took a few steps into the kitchen.
“Th-that smells good.” he said. She turned around in surprise, he was standing near the table, looking at his feet.
“You like to cook? I can teach you.” Jackie offered. He smiled at her and stepped forward again.
“I kind of know how but I don’t know what that is you’re making.” he replied. He moved to the counter and saw two whole chickens in the pan, they werent ready yet but they smelled of garlic and butter. The stove was full of various pots and pans, all with water but not turned on yet.
“Garlic chicken. The chicken is ready to go back in the oven but you could help me with the vegetables if you like. You don’t have to.”
They looked at each other for a few minutes and Nick nodded, taking the carrots and beginning to peel them. He then peeled potatoes and helped cut them up. Jackie was pleased that she’d somewhat broken the barrier Nick had placed in front of himself.
“Did you help your mom cook back at home?” she asked softly when they had put the vegetables on the stove to start cooking.
“I cooked the meals but I never got to taste any of it.” he mumbled shyly.
“Well, sweetie….you won’t have to worry about that here. You are always welcome to help me do the cooking and you can also help eat it.” she told him. Nick managed a weak smile and he felt a bit relieved. He felt something while he helped Brian’s mother in the kitchen….a safe feeling that wasn’t there before.
Brian’s father came home from work just as supper was finished cooking at about six o’clock. Harold seemed surprised at Nick helping Brian setting the table, but he liked to see him trying to get along.
“Thank your son. He’s either going to be a fine police officer or a diplomat.” Jackie said, kissing him on the cheek.
Nick didn’t mind eating that night as he ignored his mother’s protests in the back of his mind. He felt somewhat at home and she couldn’t control him here.
At least he didn’t think she could anymore.