Meeting Lily Jenkins

I spied into Lily's bedroom from her slightly opened door. It was dark outside but the little girl was bathed in light from a small lamp on her bedside table. Lily's back faced me as she lied on the carpet. She silently read a book. Other old books lied on the carpet near her. They had titles like Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Othello. Her little hands and little fingers delicately pressed against the edge of a page just before she flicked it over and began reading the next page. Her petite and pale hands, so small and youthful, rested against the pages, against the wise and mature words of Shakespeare. Lily had positioned herself on the carpet in such a way as to maximize the amount of moonlight on the pages. The moonlight floated in through the bedroom window and illuminated strands of hair on the surface of her head. Her head was like a light bulb reflecting the moon's rays into golden clouds of light that hovered over her hair.

I stood where I was. Even though I never made a noise, Lily's head turned towards me suddenly as if I had made a noise. It was like she could sense me. Her beautiful face stared at me. I looked back at her. Her face had sadness all over it. Her moist eyes became apparent. She kept looking at me as if she wanted me to do something. I started to get anxious.

My eyes cut contact with hers and I walked away. A little while later I found Ella's room. She sat on her bed with a discman. Black wires extended out from both her ears, converged, and connected to the discman in her hands. Her head rocked back and forth rhythmically. When her eyes detected me, her fingers pulled out the earphones. She asked me why I took so long in the toilet.

I spoke. "You have a little sister?"

"Yeah." Ella smiled. "She's really, really weird. If she ever tries to annoy you, just ignore her. That's what everyone does to her anyway. She belongs in a nuthouse."

"What's wrong with her? Is something bothering her?"

"She's been strange ever since Dad died."

"Maybe she misses her father."

"She's just homesick. Our family moves around all the time and Lily doesn't like moving."

"Do you miss your father?"

"Not really. He was always working so I didn't really get to know him."

"Your father's death doesn't bother you?"

"No, I don't care. I'm glad he died." Ella didn't seem to like being questioned. "Do you like your father?"

"Sort of. Not really. But I respect him."

"You know, Keith, you're really tall."

I shrugged my shoulders. My mum often told me this. I always felt good when a girl told me I was tall. I didn't want to seem arrogant though. "I've seen taller people my age."

"Back in Sydney, when I was, like, seven or eight, there was this little boy in my class." Ella laughed. "I always used to, you now, push that kid around…'cos he was so small. And about ten years later, just before I left Sydney, I saw him again and he was really, really tall." Ella's eyes widened. "I was like, wow! I used to push this kid around and now he's really massive…"

"What does this tall boy do now?"

"I think he's in the police now…not sure. That'd make sense though because policeman are usually tall. Short people shouldn't work in the police."

"Hmm, perhaps."

What followed was a long and uncomfortable silence.

I walked over to the window. "I'd better be getting back."

"Alright, it's been nice talking to you. If you have any hot friends, tell 'em about me."

I climbed back out her window. Walking on the tree branch the second time around seemed a lot easier. I noticed that as I walked outside in the cold, the moon above started rising higher up into the sky. It was getting late and I was getting tired.

Back in my bedroom, the computer hummed in the corner. I never bothered to turn the machine off because it always took so long to load up. Since I didn't pay the electricity bills, I could afford to leave it on all the time. The moon was about to descend outside. Inside, the lights were off. The only source of light came from the computer monitor, which illuminated the Google webpage. The monitor seemed so white contrasted against the darkness all around it.

In my mind's eye I could see Lily's long, smooth dark brown hair. I took a mental image of her. Dressed in her pink pyjamas, she was lying in her room reading a book. I took the image and imagined how she'd look without any clothes on. I saw her smooth, thin, and pale body so fragile, fresh, and delicate.

I lied in bed staring up at the ceiling. Like a drug invading my bloodsteam a warm feeling took over my body. My mind could not hold any thought for too long, as all thoughts were overcome with emotions. I fell asleep when Lily's silky smooth and hairless body started to fade from my mind.

Mum woke me up the next day and told me to get ready for church. I had a shower, dressed up, and went downstairs to eat breakfast. Dad was at the kitchen table eating scrambled eggs with a fork in his left hand while his right hand tried to hold open a broadsheet newspaper.

My mum stood near the stove and prepared scrambled eggs for me. She looked at Dad fumbling with the large newspaper and started laughing. I sat down opposite my dad, keen on talking to him.

"Dad, can I talk to you about my birthday?"

"Go ahead." Instead of putting the newspaper aside, he kept reading.

"You know how I wanted to get an exercise machine? Well, I don't want that anymore."

"What would you like instead?"

"Maybe you can buy me a piano."

"Why would you want a piano?"

"My music teacher said I was really good. I want to practice on my own piano, maybe take private lessons."

"If you play too much piano…maybe you'll have no time for schoolwork."

"Playing piano is my schoolwork, Dad."

"But what for? Why do you want a piano? A piano is really expensive. It's a waste of money."

We heard knocking from the front door. It was odd because nobody ever visited us during the morning. Mum told me to go see who it was. I walked over to the front door slowly, adjusting my tie along the way. When I opened the front door, Nancy Jenkins stood there by the entrance of the house. Nancy was, in my opinion, plain ugly, as most mothers with children were. She had a bulging belly and unkempt blonde hair that reeked like the sewers. Judging by the appearance of her two children, she must have been attractive in her younger years. Something disastrous must have happened after childbirth.

"Is your mum home?" she asked. "I need to talk to her. It's an emergency."

I screamed out, "MUM!" and stood aside as Mum came from the kitchen still in her apron.

"I'm sorry to bother you," said Nancy, "but I really need some help. I've got a job interview this morning and originally I expected my two daughters to stay home, but at the last moment Ella told me she's going out with her boyfriend."

"Ah, young love. What do you expect?" Mum smiled. "How come you've got a job interview on a Sunday?"

"It's the company I work for. Workaholism is part of their corporate culture." Nancy smiled back weakly. "Anyway, no one's gonna be around to babysit Lily so I was wondering if you'd mind looking after her till I come back."

"Unfortunately we can't," said Mum. "It's Sunday and we're going to church. But Lily's free to come along if she wants."

"I don't think she'd want to go to church. She's a…uh…an Atheist."

"Oh, my God!" My mum's eyes widened. "Are you serious?"

I decided to enter the conversation. "Mum, while you and Dad go to church today, I could stay behind and look after her."

"That would be fantastic!" said Nancy.

Mum looked at me strangely, as if what I said was completely out of character. "Are you sure you know how to look after a child? You are far too young."

"I'm eighteen, Mum. I'm not a baby."

"Don't you want to go to church?"

"I want to try something new."

"I don't know…"

"Come on," said Nancy. "Lily would benefit from a male presence in the house, especially after her father died."

Mum breathed in deeply. "Alright, fair enough."

After my parents left, I walked into the Jenkins household five minutes later accompanied by Nancy. The front door of the house led into the living room where Lily was. The little girl sat on the sofa watching TV, flicking between Playschool and World News. Lily still wore the pink pyjamas she had on the night before. She glanced at me only briefly as I walked in but quickly looked back at the television. I was slightly disappointed because Lily didn't seem too happy meeting me. Nancy gave me a list of emergency phone numbers.

I lowered my voice almost to a whisper. "Lily doesn't seem too happy to see me."

"Oh, don't worry," said Nancy, also keeping her voice down. "She's like that because she's new to the neighbourhood and doesn't have any friends."

I walked to the sofa after Nancy left. I sat about a metre from Lily and wondered how I should introduce myself. She seemed glued to the television like a zombie.

"I'm Keith," I said, jerking out my right hand.

She flinched slightly when my hand flew in her direction. She looked inquisitively at my hand and hesitantly shook it afterwards. "My name's Lily…Lily Jenkins."

I watched anxiously as Lily turned her head back to the television. Her fingers were all over the remote control. She changed channels furiously, finally resting on a Pokémon show.

I thought of something to say, something to start the conversation. "You know, too much television's not good for you."

"That's not true." She shook her head.

"It's true," I said. "If you watch too much TV, you'll become very fat."

She looked at me. "Really?" With the remote control, she switched the TV off and stood up, walking to the stairway.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"I don't want to be fat. I'm going to play my computer."

"You have a computer in your room?"

Lily nodded for longer than usual. Her nods were slow and exaggerated. "Yep, and…and I have lots of games." After looking at me for a moment, she turned around and ran upstairs. I had a feeling she wanted me to follow her upstairs to her room, so I did just that.

Lily didn't allow me to enter her room with my shoes on. Although I'm eighteen, my mum still tied my shoelaces. Mum tied my shoelaces not because I was unable to do them myself but because I was lazy. This morning, Mum tied them too tight. I tried hard to take my shoes off before entering Lily's bedroom but couldn't undo the knot.

"I'll do that," said Lily, kneeling in front of me as I stood. "My mummy said I'm real good with knots." She undid my shoelaces in about ten seconds. Her scrawny yet rough fingers made the job easy.

Lily's bedroom was smaller than Ella's. Unlike Ella's pink walls, Lily's walls were plain white. Her room was about 3 metres in length, width, and height, giving the room a total volume of 27 metres cubed. Ella's room was far bigger—about 4.63 times bigger, I thought to myself.

Lily's room was messy. She had a bed on one corner; an unusable desk on another corner; a computer on the floor; and books, clothes, and white nylon rope all over the carpet. The books and clothes were mainly concentrated at the edges near the walls while the nylon rope was concentrated near her bed. The Shakespeare books I saw her read the other night were at the centre of the room on the carpet. One of the books, Othello, had many of its pages torn out. One of the pages was folded into an Origami paper crane that lied on the floor nearby. There were more books on the carpet near her bed. One book stood out—a biography of Harry Houdini. Perhaps Lily was fascinated with escape artists like Houdini. That would explain why she had so much rope in her bedroom.

While Lily booted up her computer, I sat down on her bed. My butt enjoyed the bed's springy softness. Lily got up and, feeling a lot chattier than when we initially met, told me she was going downstairs to get some chocolate from the fridge.

After Lily left, my eyes wandered around the room till it landed on a white piece of material near the little girl's pillow, just underneath the blankets. I was staring at her panties. Looking around at all the clothes in the room it became evident that whenever Lily changed clothes she simply threw her old clothes around the room, expecting someone else—most likely her mother—to pick them up later.

I stuffed the panties in my pockets just as Lily came in. She didn't look happy. All the happiness was drained from her face. Something must have happened to her while she left.

"What's wrong?" I asked. "Did something happen to you?"


Clearly, something was bothering her, so I persisted. "You can tell me and I'll fix the problem for you."

Lily stood silently for a few seconds before revealing to me her secret.