Chapter Six. Rossie
Al's yell jolted me out of my thoughts. "Rossie! Get a move on, girl! What do you think I'm keeping you here for? You can't be part of the furniture coz we have no furniture!"
"Sorry, Al," I whined as I tended to the fire.
"You've been in that silly dream world of yours all day, girl," he scolded me, his pale head flickering orange in the light of the fire. He looked into the blackened old pan in the heart of the fire, where nine sausages were sizzling, and tapped my shoulder.
"You haven't put on enough for the two of us, Ross! What's the matter with you?"
"There's plenty," I said. "You can have most of them. I'm not very hungry."
Aside from the crackling and hissing of the fire, it fell silent. Al didn't often fall silent. Then again, I didn't often turn down more food.
"Not very hungry?" he repeated as though I'd just casually said I was lesbian. "Girl, now you can't pretend something's not the matter with you!"
"Nothing's wrong," I insisted, pulling the pan from the fire and inspecting the sausages. "These are done, Al. Would you like some now?"
Al squatted next to me, took the pan and laid it between us on the floor. "I'll tell you what I'd like, Rossie, my girl. I'd like to tell you a story. It's a story about a boy who never expected much from life. All he wanted was a nice house, a wife, maybe some kids. He'd never wanted riches, or fast cars. Just a happy life."
I looked at the floor. I'd heard this story before, but I didn't like to interrupt Al when he was being kind.
"The story is also about a girl who wanted the same thing. But life just doesn't treat you fairly sometimes. And that boy and that girl are sitting in this room right now. The boy never got his house. He never got his wife. But the one thing he did get," said Al, reaching out and stroking my hair with his weathered hands, "Was a beautiful girl with all the hopes in the world."
I looked at him, unable to resist the caring look in his eyes.
"And if that boy thought that his little girl couldn't talk to him about anything in the world," he said, "then that boy has turned out to be much more of a failure than he thought."
I looked back at the floor. It was right here that I'd brought Jack back around. We'd sat here and talked for hours.
"I met someone yesterday," I muttered. "He stumbled in here by accident. And we got talking and -"
"Wait a second," said Al. "There was a boy here?"
I nodded. "His name is Jack, and he -"
"Rossie, hold on! Why didn't you tell me about this? He could have been a murderer! He could have tried to hurt you!"
"He couldn't have, Al! I was afraid at first that he could have been dangerous, but he was just a kid, he was harmless... He gave me this."
I held up my hand, where Jack's sparkly bracelet hung on my wrist. The red flicker of the fire danced over the silver chain. Al put his rough hand to it and looked at it closely.
"The... The cheek! Thinking you'd want a piece of tat like this!"
"No!" I gasped. "It's beautiful."
"It's an insult! A downright insult!" Al gripped the bracelet and pulled it. I gasped it pain as the clasp snapped against my arm, and a couple of silver links rained to the floor.
"Al, no," I cried as he stood up, facing the cracked window to the front of the building, and propeling his arm with force that could have thrown the moon the whole way to Pluto.
I watched with a sinking heart as the bracelet soared straight back out the window.
I thought of you Jack. I thought of how you'd left and didn't come back.
"I'm sorry you had to witness that, Rossie, love," said Al, dropping to his knees and pulling me into a tight hug that almost snapped my spine. "But I won't have anybody disgracing my family like that; especially not some boy you don't even know."
His words stung like a million tiny shards of glass in my heart, as I realized that I didn't know Jack. We'd talked so much and I'd learned so much about him that I felt like I'd known him forever. I'd also shared so much with him that I felt he knew me too. Al didn't understand. He loved me to death, but he didn't understand.