It all started when I came downstairs on a Tuesday morning that summer to find that Hobbes was dead.
"Oh my God!" I screamed upon stumbling upon the horrifying spectacle. "Oh my God!"
"What's wrong?" my mom asked, running in to the room with coffee in one hand and my baby brother in the other. "Are you okay?"
I shook my head and wordlessly pointed to the ground at the horrific display before me. My mother slowly walked forward and looked where I was pointing.
"Oh my God!" she cried.
My brother, unperturbed by the appearance of a dead creature on the ground, merely gurgled happily and began to hit my mother on the head with his bottle. She, however, was too distracted to notice.
"He must have jumped!" my mother said with disbelief. "He jumped right from the table to the floor!"
"You're saying he committed suicide?" I practically gasped. "Why would he commit suicide? I feed him every day! And he can't be lonely; he has Calvin to hang out with!"
My mother shrugged. "Maybe it was just his time."
We both stared at the floor in shock for several more moments as my brother continued to chatter nonsensically to himself.
"We should probably clean this up," my mother finally suggested.
"Yeah," I agreed sadly. "I guess so."
"At least Calvin's all right," she reminded me.
"Yeah," I repeated.
"I have to take Sammy to the doctor," my mother said, finally snapping out of her shock. "His appointment's in half an hour. You can handle things here, right?"
"Yeah," I said for the third time.
"And you're going to work soon, aren't you?"
"Honey, say something else besides 'yeah' so I know you're okay."
There was a pause.
"He was only a fish, Carrie," she reminded me as she set her coffee down and shifted Sammy from one arm to the other. "We can get a new one."
"I know," I said. "But I've had Calvin and Hobbes for almost two years! That's the longest any pet fish I've ever heard of has lived. I mean, Hayley's fish died after a month!"
"Well, she probably didn't take as good care of hers as you did," my mother said. "Now clean up the fish, get dressed, and eat something before you go. I'd really better take Sammy. Call me on my cell phone if you have a problem."
"Okay," I said reluctantly.
After my mother was gone, I knelt next to my suicidal fish and sighed. Maybe Hobbes had only been a pet, but it was always upsetting when someone died unexpectedly. I glanced up at the small fish bowl on the counter and saw that Calvin was still happily swimming around as if nothing had happened. I wondered how he could be so carefree when his best friend was lying dead on the floor.
It just goes to show me that I have some sort of mental defect. I mean, who else becomes depressed when their stupid pet fish dies?
"He just jumped right out of the bowl and onto the floor?" asked an incredulous Hayley.
"Yep," I said.
"How is it possible?" she cried. "Can a fish even jump that high?"
"I don't know," I said. "I only came in when he was already dead on the ground."
"Maybe it wasn't suicide!" exclaimed Hayley. "Maybe… it was murder!"
"Who would kill a fish?" I asked, wrinkling my nose.
"Hmm… Maybe that other fish?"
"Calvin's a goldfish. He does not have the ability to push another fish out of a fish bowl. I mean, it's impossible, considering the laws of physics."
"Hey, otherwise, Hobbes defied the laws of gravity anyways, by jumping out. Anything's possible."
"Carrie!" my boss Angelo shouted from the kitchen. "Get off the phone! The lunch rush is going to come in soon!"
"Sorry, I have to go," I said as I blushed from being yelled at once again. "It's about to get busy over here."
"Okay," Hayley said reluctantly. "Well, I'll talk to you later. Tell me if there are any developments in the Calvin and Hobbes case."
"Sure," I said. "Bye."
I hung up my cell phone and slipped it into my apron pocket. Now it was time for another hard day's work at Angelo's Pizza Parlor. I'd gotten this job in May when Angelo's wife Isabella, who was a client and friend of my mom's, happened to run into me while I was bringing something to my mom. My mom works at a health club where she's a personal trainer.
Anyways, Isabella had commented that her husband needed someone my age to be the cashier-slash-waitress at his restaurant and that the pay would be good. Considering that I had no plans for this summer, as I'm no social butterfly, I jumped at the opportunity to make some money. After all, I was running out of books to read both at home and at the library. I needed the cash to buy some more.
Thus, there I was at Angelo's. It was a good job, I guess. Since it was a family-owned-and-run business, not many people from my school came in here, thank God. Most of them were too busy eating at Pizza Hut down the street. Honestly, though, the pizza at Angelo's was ten times better. It had just the right mix of sauce and cheese, with chewy, thick crust. Oh yes, and Angelo was against excessive grease, so his pizza was actually healthier than most pizza around here. Truthfully, it was the only pizza I could eat, since I didn't even like pizza that much. Not to mention that we also offered homemade desserts. Angelo's niece Luisa made killer cookies and brownies.
I also liked the job because no one at Angelo's had ever felt the need to talk to me for an extensive period of time. I am somewhat shy and reserved around strangers, but luckily, Angelo and his family were ready to accept that. They seemed more intent on yelling at each other in Italian, anyways.
The door of the store jingled, and I got up off of the chair I'd been sitting on and went to see if it was a costumer I could help. However, when I peeked out from behind the wall separating my little hideout from the front of the store, I saw it wasn't just any costumer – it was a cute guy customer.
Immediately, my palms became sweaty and my face turned red. Me plus guys equals trouble. The last time I tried to serve two guys my age, I ended up spilling Pepsi all over them and their food. They never came back, to say the least. But what could I do? My co-worker Caterina – Angelo's thirty-year-old sister – was on maternity leave, so I couldn't send her to deal with him. I had to go up.
Nervously, I approached the guy. He was tall, maybe six feet, so he towered over my pitiful five five. I know five five is supposed to be an average height, but all of the girls at my school are at least five eight. It's probably because they wear high heels or something, but I always feel like a midget before them. The guy also had longish brown hair that was so unkempt it looked like he had just climbed out of bed – but what could you expect from a teenaged guy, anyways? Oh yeah, and I couldn't forget his friendly but somewhat mischievous green eyes. Green eyes that only sent me the following message – "Uh oh."
"Hey!" the guy said amiably while shooting me a killer smile, tugging on his t-shirt, which read, 'By reading this message, I have gained complete control of your mind for five seconds'. It was strangely appropriate.
"Uh, hi," I said. "Can I take your order?"
"Two slices of plain pizza, a breadstick, and a large Sprite," the guy said, still with that stupid grin on his face.
"For here or to go?" I asked.
"To go," he said.
"Okay," I said. "That will be six fifty."
The guy handed over a ten, which I hastily grabbed from him. I rapidly punched some random numbers into the cash register before grabbing three fifty in change to give back to him. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn't even sure how I was still operating. My heart was pounding very hard. I pretty much threw the change at the guy.
"Your food will be right out," I said hurriedly, and ran into the kitchen, where I informed Angelo of the order.
After obtaining the pizza and breadstick from Angelo and sticking them in a box before placing them in a take-out bag, I started getting the guy's Sprite. I managed not to spill anything, but I was kind of distracted, so I almost overfilled the cup. Luckily, I caught myself in time and pulled the drink out from under the machine. Then I put the lid on, put a straw in, and gave it to the guy.
"Thanks!" said the guy, and made a big gesture of putting a five dollar bill – a huge amount in the pizza business – into the tip jar. He then leaned over the counter and whispered, "Make sure to take the tip before your co-workers try to, because it's for you."
Then he strode out the door as if he were a god.
Oh my God. Some guy had just hit on me. I totally didn't get why guys felt the need to hit on me. I was not impressive. I mean, I had dark brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin, and a nondescript figure. I was basically the easiest person to lose in a crowd. I had only been hit on once before in my life, and it had consisted of a kid in my third grade class sending me a better valentine than he'd sent to all of the other girls in class. But since we had been in third grade, nothing had ever happened. I don't even remember which guy it was.
I couldn't stop myself from involuntarily shaking. I hardly noticed when Angelo came out from the kitchen with a suspicious glare on his face. He was watching the guy leave through our big front window.
"Hey," he said. "Isn't that the new kid working at Pizza Hut?"
"What?" I cried with alarm.
Angelo shouted something nonsensically in Italian before erupting in anger.
"We're being spied on!" he cried. "Carrie, from now on, you must be extra careful who you serve."
"I didn't know who he was!" I said defensively, still shocked at the revelation of the guy actually being an evil vessel from Pizza Hut.
Angelo shook his head. "They must feel threatened if they're sending boys over here to watch me! Well, if they think I'm competition, good. I am competition! We make better food over here than they do, anyways. Let them worry. If that boy ever comes back, Carrie, tell him we're watching him!"
Angelo stalked back into the kitchen, letting the door slam behind him.
I knew there was some wrong with me when I realized that the one guy who had ever really hit on me turned out to be an evil spy from Pizza Hut who was only buttering me up so I wouldn't suspect his true nature.