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The Runt

During the next few days I spent time doing chores and hanging out with Grace and Scott. Sometimes I would hang out with Jack if he was hanging out with them but I tried to always glare at him to make sure he knew that he was unwelcome.
One day about a week and a half after I had gotten to my grandparent’s house Grace and I were sitting in the tree house talking.
“How come you don’t like Jack?” asked Grace.
“I dunno. I mean he doesn’t like me and I don’t like him so we’re both happy not spending time together,” I said.
“Okay, but why don’t you like him?” repeated Grace.
I told her all about my day dreams of Jack being an angel and how when he didn’t come to greet me I was really upset and then neither of us were nice to each other.
Grace let out a short laugh.
“What’s so funny?” I asked slightly irritated. This wasn’t the first time that Grace had started laughing at my stupidity or ignorance in the last week. It made me feel so immature and stupid to have Grace laugh at me. Since she had found someone her age to hang out with she had been getting rapidly older, or so it seemed to me. Sometimes, when we weren’t hanging out with Jack, I was with the old Grace, the one who had been my friend forever despite our age difference, not the one who thought she was so cool and mature.
“It’s just kinda stupid to hate Jack just because he didn’t come and say hi to you when you first got here,” said Grace.
“Whatever,” I mumbled.
“There are so many reasons that Jack might not have said hello. One is that he might not have known you were here or, I mean really Lexi, imagine if you were in his position. You would be really upset and you probably wouldn’t wanna go say hi to Jack,” said Grace becoming serious.
“Jack loves you Lexi, he didn’t want you to think otherwise but you’re putting it upon yourself. You’re making yourself believe that he hates you and you’re hurting both of you by doing that. It would mean the world to Jack if you said sorry and started being nice to him.
“Lexi,” said Grace taking my hands in hers, “I know it’s hard already but you’re making it a lot harder than it has to be.”
I stared at Grace having many thoughts and feelings all at the same time. How dare she know my brother better than I do and tell me what I should do in our relationship. She was just a random girl that Jack met a week and a half ago, Jack had known me all my life yet he felt more comfortable telling Grace, and come to think of it, Trina, his thoughts then he did me. That’s not right, Grace wasn’t better than me so why did she get to talk with my brother about his feelings. On the other hand though I hated to admit it, she was right. I had given Jack a lot more grief than he had asked for. I hadn’t given him a chance before acting like a jerk.
“Fine. I’ll make a deal with you,” I said.
“Okay?” said Grace questioningly.
“I’ll – never mind,” I said wanting to tell Grace that I would be nice to Jack if she wasn’t all bratty around him but I decided against it.
“What were you gonna say,” asked Grace.
“Nothing, just forget it. I’ll try to be nice to Jack if he’s nice to me,” I said.
Grace smiled and hugged me, “thanks Lexi. Everything will work out, I’m sure of it.”
The next few days passed and I was nicer to Jack and I realized what I had been missing out on. Jack, though serious and polite, was also funny, mischievous and ready for anything. The two of us, became very close to each other but we always made sure to include Grace and Scott in everything.
One evening after dinner I was sitting in my room thinking. When I had walked past Jack’s room I had heard him Skyping his girlfriend. I wanted to know what other bad things Trina was saying about me so I turned around, walked back to my room and opened my closet door.
When I was about seven I dreamed of being a professional spy. My Popop had made a small door that led from my closet to the closet in Jack’s room so that I could pretend to spy on the person or people in that room. I had used the door for one summer and then completely forgotten about it, until now.
I walked to the back of the closet and opened the hatch. It was only two feet by two feet so I crawled through quietly. I made my way to the front of the closet so I could hear better. The door was slightly ajar and I could see Jack on the computer.
“I feel a lot closer to my sister now because she started being nice to me. It feels kind of like the old days,” said Jack.
“That’s great,” said Trina picking at her nails. She was obviously totally uninterested in anything Jack had to say.
“Okay so here’s the gossip for this week.” Trina started droning on about the couples in their grade and who had gone out on a date or broken up.
I could see that Jack was bored out of his mind.
“Jack. Desserts ready,” I called from the closet.
Jack whirled around and saw my face sticking out of the crack between the door and the wall then smiled. He turned back around, “Trina, I have to go and get dessert because my grandma would be offended if I didn’t.”
“Kaykay Jack, but we have talk again tomorrow. Love ya,’ said Trina blowing a kiss at Jack.
He smiled fakely said,
“Bye Trina,’ and ended the call.
Jack turned back around to face me.
“You can come out now. And if I may ask, what in the world are you doing? I mean thanks and all but…,” he said.
I opened the door and stood up making my way into Jacks room.
“It’s a long story,” I said.
“Long story short…?” Jack inquired.
“Long story short, Popop made it for me ‘cause I wanted to be a spy. Just now I was spying on you and Trina to see what bad things she had to say about me.”
Jack smiled, “First of all that is like the shortest story I’ve ever heard, and second, thanks.”
“You’re welcome. I could see you were getting bored. I don’t understand how you stand her,” I said plopping myself down on Jack’s bed.
Jack’s smile faded, “I don’t. She forces the relationship and I can’t do anything about it. She only likes me because it makes her popular.”
“Well then break up with her,” I said plainly.
“I…I don’t know how,” said Jack.
“It’s simple you Skype her and say ‘Hey Trina, I don’t think our relationship is working out and I don’t think we should be together any longer. I’m sorry it had to be this way but se la vie.’” I said. I desperately hoped that I had said the right things but truthfully I had no clue what I was talking about because I had never broken up with someone.
Jack looked at me, “could you write that down?”
I laughed, “c’mon, it’s not that hard. You should break up with her tomorrow, I’ll be here to help you if you forget what to say. She’ll probably cry but don’t give it a crap, she doesn’t care at all about you, she’s just acting and I’m sure within a two days she’ll have another boyfriend”
Jack looked unsure.
“Trust me Jack. Also you know it’s the right thing, because you have the better judgment. Please bro? For my sake?”
“Fine. Tomorrow evening I’ll call you in and then I’ll Skype her. Deal?”
“Deal,” I said, holding out my hand. We shook and I went to my room and fell asleep.

The next evening after dinner, I sat in my room reading a book.
Jack burst into the room.
“I did it!” He said. “I broke up with Trina!”
I got off my bed and ran to hug him.
“Jack, that’s great! Give me all the details.”
“Well I basically did what you told me to do and she said ‘fine!’ and then ended the call.”
“That’s amazing. We need to have a party,” I said.
Jack rolled his eyes, “Yeah right.”
“Well now I can sleep soundly tonight.” I said.
“Same here.” Jack looked at the book lying open on my lap. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you, I’m sorry.”
I yawned.
“It’s fine, I’m glad that’s over with.”
“Yeah, me too. I should probably go to bed. Good night,” said Jack walking out of my room.
“Great job and good night,” I called after him.
The next morning I woke up to the sun streaming through my window. I got out of bed and dressed myself than headed downstairs. I ate breakfast quickly and went to hang out in the barn with Scott. When I got there he was feeding the pigs.
“Hey Scott. What’s up?” I asked.
Scott looked at me. “The sky.”
“Hahahahaha, no,” I said.
Scott smiled, “nothing really just feeding the pigs. How ‘bout you?”
I sat down on a square of hay and watched Scott play with the piglets before answering.
“Well, Jack just dumped his girlfriend last night.”
Scott looked up in amazement. “Finally. He really doesn’t like her ya know and to make matters worse he really likes another girl,” said Scott looked surprised that he had just said that but he covered by quickly changing the subject.
“Oh Lexi, look at this piglet. He was the runt of the litter and his siblings are always mean to him.”
I stood up and walked over to look at the runt. All of the other piglets were suckling from their mother but this piglet was standing on top of his siblings trying to get to the milk.
“Aw, poor piglet,” I said bending down and petting the piglet on its back.
I stood up and walked out of the barn and into a shed next door. It was a small room that didn’t have any lights but it had a big window which let in a good amount of sun, enough so that you could see what you were doing. To my left were a sink and five cabinets that stood one above the other. On my right was a big refrigerator, a pile of crates and egg cartons. Straight ahead of me was a closet where kept all of our milking supplies. The barn and the shed were connected on the side with the refrigerator. My Popop had built the barn and then ten years later built the shed so the barn could be used solely for animals.
I opened the cabinet where we kept bottles to feed the calves and took one out. Grabbing a lid out of a drawer I walked over to the humongous refrigerator where we kept the milk from our cows before the fat was taken off. There were about twenty one gallon jugs filled with milk and I grabbed the closest one and set it on the counter making sure to close the fridge afterwards. I placed the bottle on the table and grabbed the heavy milk jug with both hands carefully pouring it into the bottle. After the bottle was filled I put the milk back in the fridge, screwed the cap onto the bottle and walked back to the barn.
Scott looked up from what he was doing which was milking one of the cows whose name was Beauty.
“You gonna be the piglets mother?”
“No. I just feel bad and don’t want it to die, that’s all.”
I bent down and picked up the piglet. Her coat was soft and fuzzy just like a stuffed animal and she squirmed in my hands. I grabbed a stool that was used for milking cows and sat on it placing the oinking piglet in my lap and holding the bottle of milk up to her snout. She immediately grabbed the top of the bottle in her mouth and started drinking noisily. I smiled,
“She’s adorable.”
“Well then you two complement each other perfectly,” said Scott, still milking.
“I have a… small piglet and I am not afraid to use her,” I said sarcastically.
“Oh, no, I’m so afraid,” said Scott in a high pitched voice. He looked over his shoulder and gave me a big smile.
We sat quietly with only the sound of the milk hitting the bucket to keep us from complete silence. I looked around the barn. In the rafters there was evidence of some sort of owl or bird that had made a nest there. The barn was big and smelled of cow manure and hay and whatever else made a barn smell like a barn. It had big wooden doors that slid and inside were stalls or pens for all of the animals. There were a few cabinets for buckets used to milk the cows but they were very small and almost unnoticeable. The only light in the barn was from the open doors and a skylight so it was very dark, especially in the winter, at least that’s what I was told.
“So,” I said after a few minutes, “you mentioned that Jack liked some other girl.”
“Yes I did,” said Scott.
“And?” I asked.
“Who is it?”
“That would be classified information,” said Scott.
“Scott, I’m his sister,” I said.
“All the more reason for you not to know,” said Scott mischievously.
“Scott, I’m serious.”
“So am I.”
I sighed, but would not give in that easily.
Scott grabbed the bucket of milk and rose from his stool. Then he walked out of the barn to put the milk in a container in the fridge. I sat with the piglet in my lap and watched her drink until Scott got back. When he did, I continued to bug him until he finally gave in.
“Okay, whatever I’ll tell you but you have to keep it a secret otherwise I’m dead.”
“I can do that,” I said eagerly.
“Jack likes Grace.”
I stared at him with my mouth hanging open.
Scott started to laugh and he came over and pushed my chin up.
“He’s all upset because he thinks that Grace just likes him as a friend and probably has a boyfriend,” said Scott dropping his hand to his side.
“Well he needs to think again,” I said remembering how Grace had talked about Jack when he came to breakfast on the first day of Graces stay.
“Are you serious?” Asked Scott.
Scott stared at me in awe.
“Should we tell them?” I asked.
“Na. Let them find out for themselves. It wouldn’t be as funny if we told them.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
We sat in silence for a while thinking.
“I’m gonna go hang out with Grace and Jack and we’ll see you at dinner,” I said. I placed the piglet back in her pen, and headed out of the barn to put the bottle back.
“See you at dinner,” Scott called after me.
When I reached the house I walked up to my room to get my cell phone. On the way I peeked into Jack’s room to see if Grace and Jack were there. They weren’t so I continued to my room to get my phone. I called Grace to find out where she was.
“Hey,” said Grace’s voice.
“Hola,” I said in the most American accent you can use to speak Spanish in.
Grace was the first to ask the question.
“Where were you? I called you like a million times but you never picked up?”
“I was in the barn with Scott. Where are you?” I asked.
“In the game room with Jack,” said Grace.
“Oh awesome. So I have to tell you something super important.”
“Okay, I’m ready.”
So, when I was in the barn with Scott he told me that Jack is—,”
“Umm, Lexi? Jack’s in the room right now and the phone is on speaker,” said Grace.
“Okay. I uh, was going to say wasn’t private or anything…” I lied thinking quickly of a cover.
“Yeah…? So what were you gonna say?” asked Grace after I had paused.
“I was going to say…” I took my time speaking so I could think.
“That Jack is good at,” my mind raced with possibilities of what to say that would be true.
“Lexi?”, asked Grace.
“Oh, sorry I just started day dreaming. Anyway uh, Jack is good at playing soccer and I know you love to play soccer so I thought maybe sometime we could play soccer with Scott.”
“Oh cool. Is that true Jack?” asked Grace.
“Uh, yeah.” I heard Jack speak from the other end of the phone. Thank god Grace had told me he was in the room, otherwise Scott and I would be dead.
“That’s awesome. Okay, I have an idea. We could like set up a whole soccer field in one of the fallow fields, and maybe we could get other people to play too. We totally need to talk about this with your grandparents. I’ll meet you in the kitchen, bye,” said Grace before she hung up.
“It was nice talking,” I muttered and then laughed. It was so like Grace to come up with a brilliant idea and then not listen to what other people thought about it. Well whatever, maybe it would be fun, if we could get enough people that is and if my grandparents said yes, which they probably wouldn’t.

I was met by Jack and Grace standing in the kitchen with my grandma and Julie walking around them like they were just chairs that had been misplaced. Grace was talking.
“…And so I thought it would be really fun if everyone played soccer before or after dinner. We could even turn it into a summer tradition. I mean there is definitely enough space,” she said.
“You know how Bill feels about messing with the fallow fields. Anyway, it is really up to him whether or not we do this so...” my Grandma was cut off by Grace who hugged her and said,
“Thank you! I’ll go see if it’s okay with Bill,” Grace rushed out of the room. Jack and I both followed and as we left I heard my grandma say to Julie, “Grace is so enthusiastic, it’s wonderful.”
Once we got outside Jack started yelling after Grace to stop running. Grace taunted him saying that he was so slow he couldn’t even beat a girl who was jogging. Suddenly Jack got a burst of speed and whipped past Grace. He stopped in front of her and she almost crashed into him. I caught up in time to hear Jack say,
“…my grandpa during dinner.”
Grace thought for a moment and then said between breathes,
“Yeah I guess you’re right, let’s wait ‘til dinner when he’s not stressed. Besides, I don’t even know where he is.”
“Whataya guys wanna do until dinner?” Asked Jack breathing almost regularly.
“I dunno,” I said taking a deep breath.
“Let’s go and…,” Grace trailed off still panting.
“Maybe we could bike into town,” I suggested.
“How far away is it?” Asked Jack.
“Like five miles,” I said.
“Well I dunno about you but I’d love to do that”, said Jack smiling. “The problem is I didn’t bring my bike.”
“We have like a gazillion here so you should be able to find one that fits.” I said realizing that I didn’t bring my bike either.
“I’ll go get my bike and you can find a bike for Jack. I’ll meet you in the garage,” said Grace, walking off towards her house.
“Follow me.” I said walking back towards the house.
“So how do you like it here so far?” I asked.
“It’s really different from L.A. but it’s nice and everything feels clean, uncontaminated, peaceful.”
“So you like it.” I said.
“Yeah, very much. I could imagine coming here every summer.”
We were quiet for a little while as we approached the house.
“Is mom’s boyfriend nice?” I asked out of the blue.
Jack looked at me, “What?”
“Is mom’s boyfriend nice?” I repeated.
“Yeah, he’s awesome. He obviously loves mom and cares about her and I think he likes me a lot too. He would be a great dad.” Jack’s eyes had started to water a little and he wiped them before he thought I had noticed.
“Ouch,” I said hurt by Jack’s comment about the great dad.
“What?” Asked Jack looking at me liked he really cared how I was feeling.
“Nothing,” I said.
“Well obviously something’s wrong. Most people don’t say ‘ouch’ when nothing’s wrong. So, what’s wrong?”
We arrived at the garage and I opened the door and went inside. It was dark and wet but it smelled good, like fresh dirt and something else I couldn’t name. I walked over to the corner which was where my grandparents kept all of the bikes they had accumulated over the years, from children, yard sales, grandchildren, friends, and workers. There were about seventeen bikes in all.
“Here’re the bikes,” I said pretending I hadn’t heard Jack ask me what was wrong.
Jack looked me straight in the eyes for a few seconds, searching for something. I looked down feeling slightly uncomfortable.
“Thanks,” he said moving bikes from their places to reach the ones closest to the wall.
“Mhm,” I said watching him.
“So which one’s yours?” Asked Jack after a little while.
“I left mine at home because I didn’t have enough time…” I trailed off not wanting to remember everything that had happened on that day.
“I understand,” said Jack, and at that moment I was glad that he understood so I didn’t have to think about things that I didn’t want to.
He pulled out a bike from the pile and got on it.
“I think this’ll work,” said Jack, “now I need a helmet.”
“They’re over there,” I said pointing to a big cabinet against the opposite wall.
“Thanks,” said Jack.
I walked over to the bike pile and just stood and looked at the bikes for a while. A bright blue one at the bottom of the pile caught my eye. One bike at a time I dug through the pile to get to that bike on the bottom.
“D’you want help with that?” Asked Grace from the garage door.
“Sure,” I said.
Grace bent down next to me and started pulling bikes away from the pile. Finally we arrived at the bottom and I pulled the bright blue bike out and stood it up on the floor.
“That’s pretty,” said Jack who had been standing and watching us dig through the pile for five minutes.
“Thanks.” I took my hand and wiped it down the side of the bike. When I took it off it was covered in dust. I quickly wiped down the whole bike then rubbed my hands together to get the dust off of them. Jack handed me a blue helmet.
“Here, try it on. It matches the bike.” I tried on the helmet and loosened it until it was the right size. Then I got on the bike. It fit me perfectly.
“Is everyone ready?” asked Grace. She walked over to her bike.
“Yup,” Jack and I said in unison. We looked at each other and smiled.
“Great. Let’s just stop by the house and tell your Grandma where we’re going so she doesn’t get worried.” Grace got on her bike and rode out of the garage to the porch. She hopped off her bike and ran inside.
“Be right back!” She yelled as the screen door slammed behind her.
I put my foot on the ground so my bike wouldn’t fall over.
“Have you heard anything from dad?” asked Jack.
I took a deep breath to try and hold back the tears that were rising to my eyes.
“No. Have you?” I said realizing that what I had just asked would sound really stupid. Of course Jack hadn’t heard anything from dad. He hadn’t heard anything from dad since he was seven. If anyone had heard from dad it would have been me.
Jack just smiled sadly.
“Oh,” I said.
Grace came outside and the screen door slammed behind her. She ran down the steps and got on her bike.
“Les go,” she said in some sort of weird accent.
“Okay,” I said I put my feet on the pedals and pushed down to give myself some speed.
We started down the driveway in a row with Jack in the middle.
“Your Grandma said we could get ice cream and she needs… wait one sec let me check.” Grace took one hand off the handlebars and reached into her pocket. She pulled out a small piece of paper and started to read.
“Milk, lemons, yeast, condensed milk, flour and she gave us extra money to buy lunch” said Grace. She slid the list into her pocket and put her hands back on the handle bars.
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