But it won't let you go.
So then you make up a story about it? Here's one of those times:
The doorbell chimes and I shoot up, snagging a hoodie on my way to the front door.
“There’s our pizza,” I muffle as I pull the extra shirt over my head. “You’re gonna love this.”
I scoop Beetje off my shoulder and settle her into my hood so she can sit in it like a sling. She scrambles up so she can see, and one of her small, pointy elbows pokes into my collar bone as she bats at my earring.
“Love is a strong word in your language, isn’t it?" She sounds unconvinced. "I’m ready to be impressed.”
My smile disappears as soon as I swing open the door.
“Roo,” my nemesis says, running a hand through his perfectly tousled hair and shuffling his feet. Flip-flops, ripped jeans, thin flannel shirt. Perfect for the warm evening. He pulls two tickets out of his back pocket and thumbs at the orange ’55 Chevy truck he’s been working on all summer. “Wanna go to the drive-in? They’re playing oldie-goldies tonight.”
Beetje hums into my ear with new-found conviction. “This is pizza? Definitely ready to be impressed.”
“This is not pizza, this is Jackson.”
Jack frowns and looks around. “Uh.”
I don’t even bother to explain. He won’t know what bimkins are.
He can’t see or hear Beetje, but that doesn’t keep her from climbing out of my hood and sprawling out on my shoulder. Vixen that she is, she says all throaty, “Come to me my sweet pizza. I want to eat you up and grow fat on you.”
Jack holds both palms out. “Look, Roo. I just wanted to apologize.”
“Roo? Why does he keep calling you this roo?”
“Rosa.” He ducks his head. “Can we just…”
“But everything’s been so awkward. I just want a new chance at having something normal with…”
“See that’s the thing, though,” I say, pushing my fists into my hoodie. Beetje sits up and it feels like she’s looking back and forth between Jack and me. “I’m not normal.”
“You’re not normal?” she asks, a hint of surprise in her tone.
“I know…” he starts.
“So stop trying to fit me into your little litter box,” I cut him off again. I really wish he would quit with the perfect-thing and just go away. All I wanted was some pizza.
“Litter box. Isn’t that the container your feline pet expels in?”
“It’s another way of saying shit box.”
I feel Beetje shake her head. “I still don’t comprehend.”
Jack scowls. “Yeah, I got it.”
“He puts you into a box?” Beetje sounds confused.
I understand where she’s coming from—I’m confused too, if for different reasons. I point to the bungalow next door. “Why don’t you ask Janey? She’s normal.”
“I would if I wanted to,” Jack says, his scowl turning to hurt, then to perfect calm. His shoulders slump. Nodding once, he tosses the tickets to my feet and turns.
I shut the door against the sound of his sandals slapping soft on the stone walkway, and lean into the wall. His engine revs once, twice. I hug my arms across my chest. And then he’s gone.
“Too bad,” Beetje says, sounding dejected. “No pizza. I was looking forward to love.”
I kick away from the wall and head back toward the kitchen. “Yeah, I was too.”