They'd began as enemies, but then Everett apologized when Michelle began to cry. He was a normal bratty six year old, who was curious to see what would happen when he put a frog in a girl's lunch box. He had a brother, no sisters, so he didn't know that it didn't take a lot to make some little girls cry. Michelle was only five at the time, and not particularly fond of 'nasty critters,' as she called them.
It was a nice warm spring day, so the kindergarten teacher allowed the kids to take their lunches out on the grass to eat. Everett didn't have a lunch, so he went out to play instead. He was too embarrassed to stay in the grade one classroom while the other kids ate. Sometimes his older brother Mike made a sandwich for him, but there was nothing in the house suitable for a lunch, just canned stuff. Most of his mother's pay cheque had been spent on beer again.
Everett didn't know what to do when Michelle cried, so he stood there looking at his feet. It didn't take too long for her tears to subside. When the frog jumped out of the lunch box, she wasn't upset anymore. She was a resilient little kid, if nothing else.
"I'm sorry Michelle. I didn't know you don't like frogs."
Michelle peered up at him through her damp eyelashes. She was over her fright, and she was curious why he was the only kid from his class out there.
"Did you eat already?"
He shook his head as his face went red. He didn't know what he would say if she asked why.
She opened the plastic container in her lunch box and took out half of her sandwich. She held it up to him but he hesitated, not only embarrassed, but shy as well.
"It's blueberry jam, my favourite. Won't you try it?" She urged.
He didn't know what blueberry jam might taste like. They rarely had extras like peanut butter or jam at home. He took a bite and smiled. Blueberry jam became his favourite, too. When Michell got home from school that day, she told her mom all about it.
Adelle, Michelle's mom, knew Everett's mother. She was nice enough, caring enough toward her two boys, but she drank. Adelle knew what Everett was going through; her father drank when she was little too. Eventually, he drank himself to death.
The next morning, Adelle made up two lunches. One went into her daughter's lunch box, and the other went into a brown paper bag with Everett's name printed on it. She told Michelle exactly how to give him the lunch without embarrassing him. She ran up to him while they were all standing in line to go into the school.
"You dropped your lunch Everett," she said as she handed it to him.
"Th ... thanks." He was startled, but he took it.
As soon as they got inside the school, he ran to the boys' room to see what was in it. There were two sandwiches, a cookie and an apple. He ate the apple immediately. He had a piece of toast for breakfast, but that was all, he was still hungry. He sat inside with the rest of the kids to eat his lunch that day.
Adelle always drove Michelle to school, so the next morning, she drove to Everett's house and sent Michelle to the door to get him. Everett was really surprised to see her when he answered her knock.
" Mommy wants you to ride to school with us."
This was not an invitation, or even a question. It was a statement of fact. Subtlety had not been embedded in her brain yet. He didn't know what to say, so he just nodded. He ran inside to tell Mike he was going to school, then he joined Michelle on the sidewalk.
She had to climb onto her booster seat in the back because she was too little for the regular seat belt. Luckily, Everett was big enough, and not required to have a booster by law. He climbed in beside her and clipped the seat belt for her, then he clipped his own. Adelle watched in the rear view mirror to see if the kids were belted in correctly - they were. She had two lunches on the passenger seat beside her. She turned around and handed them both to Everett.
"You can give Michelle hers when you get out, Everett." She commented.
He nodded, too shy even to say thank you. When he got to school he went to the boys' room and ate the orange he found in the bag. There had been no breakfast at all that morning.
This routine continued for the rest of the school year. Toward the beginning of June, Everett's mom Janet, was charged with drinking and driving. She was given the choice of attending the police rehab program, or go to jail for six months. She would lose her job as a waitress at the local diner, and her boys would go into foster care. She didn't want that. She truly loved her kids, and she didn't want to lose them, so she agreed to the program.
It was hard for Janet, but she was motivated to stop drinking. There was only a week left in the school year, when she came downstairs to make breakfast for the first time since Everett could remember. She was usually drunk before she went to bed, so she was too hung over to get up before the boys went to school. Her shift didn't start till noon. Mike was only nine, but he pretty much took care of Everett while his mom worked.
She stopped by the grocery store on the way home from work the day before. She was surprised how much food she could buy with what she used to spend on beer. She had only been sober for two weeks, but she was already seeing a difference in how far her pay cheque went. Everett was still eating a toasted waffle when Adelle's car pulled up.
Janet had no idea that Everett was picked up for school every day, he never mentioned it, and he swore Mike to secrecy. There was no need to keep it from her really, but she might start asking questions about how this routine began. Eventually, she would find out Michelle's mom was making breakfast and lunch for him, and he didn't want her to feel bad. After the first week, Michelle told Adelle about Everett running to the boys' room to eat some of his lunch. She saw him open the bag before he closed the door one day, and she guessed the rest. Adelle included breakfast sandwiches, or pop tarts in his lunch after that.
Adelle tooted the horn once to get Everette's attention. He usually sat on the front step to wait for them to arrive, but he wasn't there that morning. Janet looked out the window at the car in front of the house.
"Do you know who's honking the horn boys?"
Everett didn't say anything, so Mike jumped in for him.
"That's his ride to school, mom. You better get going Everett, you'll be late. "
Everett practically ran out the door.
Mike took a bus because his middle school was further away, so he had some time to make his lunch, since there was stuff for sandwiches for a change.
"Did you make a lunch for Everett?" Janet asked him.
He blushed. He didn't want to lie to his mom, yet he didn't want to break the promise to his brother, either. He started to stutter. He only did that when he tried to tell a fib. Janet picked up on that. She went over to him, and took his chin in her hand, to look into his eyes. He could never lie to her when she did that.
"What's going on Mike?" Why do you feel you have to lie to me?"
"Everett made me promise not to tell."
Mike didn't want to, but he told her everything.
The next morning, Janet made sure he had a well packed lunch to take with him. She gave him a letter to give to Adelle. In it, she thanked Michelle's mom for the lunches, and for picking up Everett. She apologized for not doing it herself, without going into detail. She wrote that she would be able to make the boys' lunch herself now. Adelle read it as soon as the kids got out. She went back to Everett's house. When Janet opened the door, Adelle smiled in greeting.
"I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Adelle, you saw me pick up Everett. My daughter Michelle is a friend of his."
"Come on in, I'm glad you came back." Janet said.
That was the beginning of a friendship which lasted the rest of their lives. Adelle gave encouragement and moral support as Janet waged her battle with the bottle. Michelle and Everett became inseparable. They were best friends all through grade school and High school. They did stuff together all the time, but they never really dated.
When Michelle was fourteen, she decided she wanted to experience her first kiss. They were sitting on a rock near the river, fishing when she leaned over and gave him a shy kiss on the mouth. He was so startled he pushed away from her, falling off the rock in the process.
"What did you do that for?' He blushed as he picked himself up off the grass.
She didn't have an answer, but she blushed too. Everyone assumed the two of them would end up together forever, but that one kiss proved something. Neither one felt any sparks. Eventually, they discovered why. Michelle was in love with Mike, whom she married after college. Everett was gay.