On my last post, lots of you said you probably wouldn’t be able to attend the AG Fan Meet-up 2015 because you don’t live near the stores. That doesn’t mean you can’t participate! Going to the same store was just another way we could meet each other. My mom probably won’t be able to take me to all the stores, but I’m going to attend anyway. Even if you can’t go to the stores, I’d love it if you would attend!
The house was impeccable, I’d reorganized the bookshelf three times, and my sisters had gone to a pet show their critters were in, so I didn’t even have animals to play with. This was a sensation I’d never had before: boredom. It was horrible, really. Just sitting there, in an empty house, with absolutely nothing to do because you’ve already done it.
I collapsed onto the couch by the front door with a sigh. There had to be something for me to do! Suddenly there was a knock on the door. I leaped up and raced to get it. My family was back! I wouldn’t have to be bored!
I threw the front door open, but instead of seeing my eight giggling sister, there stood only a woman.
“Hello, can I help you?” I asked.
“In fact, you can,” she replied, flipping open her purse.
The woman pulled a card from her bag and waved it at me. “Are you Caroline Abbott? Did you make this card?” she demanded.
I took one look at it and remembered that Molly, our resident computer nerd, had made the business cards for my babysitting job. We’d left them at the post office. This woman must have picked one up! Did she have a child for me to babysit?
“Yes, I’m Caroline,” I affirmed.
“Would you babysit my daughter?”
I ushered her inside, nodding enthusiastically. “I’d love to!” I exclaimed.
“I’m Violet Carter,” the woman said, shaking my hand. “I need to go to a meeting, so I’ll be back to pick my daughter up in three hours, OK? I’ll pay you twenty dollars.”
“I”m sure I’ll have a lovely time with your daughter,” I smiled. “But . . . where is she?”
Violet Carter stepped aside, and there stood a little girl with curly brown hair and stunning blue eyes. “This is Jillian.” Mrs. Carter put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder.
“Hello, Jillian,” I cooed, bending down so I was at the girl’s eye level. We were going to have so much fun! Jillian and I could mess around with Play-Doh, dress up as princesses, and even have a tea party! I could hardly wait for Mrs. Carter to leave so the fun could begin.
Violet planted a kiss on her daughter’s head, strode to the door, and called over her shoulder, “Take care of her, Caroline! I’ll be back in three hours!” And then she was gone.
I stared expectantly at Jillian, waiting. All my babysitting books said that now was when the children started to cry, to claw at the door, begging for their parents to come back. But the only emotion on Jillian’s face was disgust.
She crossed her arms and snorted, looking me over with her sharp ocean-blue eyes. “You dress weird,” she blurted.”It’s stinkin’ August, and you’re wearing pants and a cardigan!”
I was taken aback by the girl’s rudeness. “Jillian –” I began.
“Nobody calls me that!” she snapped. “It’s J, alright?”
I didn’t say anything, just fished two identical packs of flash cards out of the green bin of random stuff and plopped on the floor. “So.” I smiled at J, trying to stay optimistic even though none of my babysitting books explained what to do if your charge hated you. “We’re going to play a game.”
According to my books, most kids were shy when they were first dropped off, and a fun game was a great way to break the ice.
I patted the floor next to me and pursed my lips as J, groaning, trudged over to me.
J leaned against a pole and I spread out the flash cards, face down.
Once the cards were lined up, I asked, “You know how to play Memory, right?” J didn’t respond, and I took it to mean that she didn’t know and was too embarrassed to tell me. “I’ll go first, then,” I continued, “so you’ll know how to play.”
The girl just grunted and glared at me.
What was her problem? She’d looked so sweet, but as soon as her mother had left, she became nasty. I didn’t know what to do!
Pushing down my panic, I flipped over two cards. “A purple triangle and a green square,” I noted. I told J, “You’ve got to remember where the cards are, so when you turn up a matching one, you’ll be able to make a pair.” I turned my cards over.
For a few minutes, J glared at me and I just sat there, wondering why she wasn’t going. Finally I nudged her arm and said, “J, it’s your turn.” She didn’t acknowledge that I’d spoken. “Did you forget how to play?” I asked, patting her foot. “That’s OK, you just turn over two cards –“
J threw up her arms and shouted, “I’m not a baby, you know! I can play Memory, but it’s a stupid game. You’re a horrible babysitter who treats me like I’m three. I’m eight, for heaven’s sake, and I want to do something fun!”
Shocked, I stared at J, my mouth agape. She was eight? She looked much younger. Pushing the game of Memory away, I rose to my feet and took a few steps toward the girl, suddenly very serious.
I looked J in the eye, my expression quite grave. She stuck her chin out defiantly. “Jillian, I get that you’re frustrated, but the way you spoke to me was disrespectful and mean,” I rebuked. “You owe me an apology.” I hated having to criticize her, but someone needed to do it.
“Sorry, Caroline,” she murmured mockingly, and it was obvious she didn’t mean it. I decided to over look that.
“How about I read you a story?” I offered, moving on. “You go sit down on the couch and I’ll be over in a moment.”
Grudgingly, J stalked over to the couch, muttering about how I needed to change my attitude.
I squatted down in front of bookshelf and scanned the selection. The book needed to plunge you into the action immediately so Mrs. Carter’s daughter wouldn’t get bored, and it couldn’t be too long, either.
I picked Runaway Mice, a story about four mice friends that stow away on a school bus, perfect for young children. Before heading over to J, I darted into the kitchen and got a snack for the girl, a chocolate cookie with vanilla icing and pink sprinkles. I’d baked cookies with MJ the day before, and I thought that they turned out pretty well, considering that I’d accidentally put an extra tablespoon of vanilla in the icing.
I squeezed onto the couch next to J, and after handing her the cookie, flipped open the storybook.
“Runaway Mice,” I read. “Once upon a time, four mice, Odie, Nat, Lavender, and Misty, were eating cheese by the roadside. A hulking yellow school bus, loaded with chattering children, chugged down the road . . .”
J, gingerly sampling the cookie, constantly rolled her eyes. The story was obviously boring her, but I pressed on. If only I could get to chapter three, where things started to happen . . .
Cooking crumbs raining off her shirt, J sprang up and dashed to the bookshelf. She yanked a novel off of it and waved it at me. “I could read this to your uneducated face in one sitting!” she yelled at me. “You’re so boring!”
Uneducated . . . boring . . . Her insults rang in my ears and I resisted the urge to cry. This really wasn’t my day.
I got up and walked over to J, and before I could say anything, she whined, “Why can’t we do something I want?”
I put my hands on my hips. I was just about done with this girl! But I had one more trick up my sleeve. “Alright then. What would you like to do, J?”
She stared at me, stammering, “I — but — aren’t you –” and so forth. She obviously hadn’t been expecting me to say that!
After a while, she managed, “I want to use the computer.”
I slid the family laptop out onto the desk and helped J onto a chair. After I powered up the computer, she clicked around my sister’s personal files for awhile before she grew bored with that. She hacked Saige’s Pinterest (my fashion-obsessed sister had actually just left Pinterest open) and watched Youtube videos.
“I want to play a game!” she demanded after finishing her second Game Theory video.
I took the laptop from her and brought up the NASA website. They had cool games on there, and they were educational! That’s what I would call a win win, but my sisters would probably say I was “spooking school” into them.
Once J had played all the games on the NASA website, she wandered over to me. I had pulled the green bin of random junk away from the wall and was rifling through it. Nothing my babysitting books had told me worked on J Carter, so I figured it was time to think outside of the box, or in this case, outside of the book.
I flipped the bin upside down and everything in it tumbled out on the floor. J plucked a stuffed polar bear from the junk and smiled at it. It was the first time I’d seen her smile, and, not wanting to ruin the moment, I studied what had been living in the bin. There were dog toys, bags, sports equipment, etc. What could we do with this stuff?
I glanced up to see that J had a creative gleam in her eyes. What was she thinking?
J placed the green bin on its side and stuck the polar bear, a My Little Pony, a fabric butterfly and a toy fish inside. She set the purses around the open end of the bin like a wall, and arranged the other items in front of that.
“This is their base,” she explained, tapping the bin. “They’re hiding in there until it’s safe for them to come out. The rest of the stuff is a barrier to keep their enemy at bay.”
She reached into the toys’ base and took out the polar bear and the fish. Pointing at the butterfly and the pony, she announced, “Those are yours. Do you have another stuffed animal that can be the bad guy?”
Smiling because she’d finally gotten interested in something, I scrambled to my feet and raced up to the third floor, where my bed was. I grabbed my pink teddy bear and hurried back to J.
Things got better after that. J and I forged a relationship, and for the rest of the night, my little friend and I had fun together. She tried to teach me how to dance;
we doodled in a notebook, making comics;
and we played with dolls. It was the most fun I’d had in weeks!
When Violet Carter came to pick J up, I didn’t want her to go. We’d really bonded, and I hoped that I would be able to babysit J again.
J rushed to her mom and hugged her. “I’m so glad you’re here!” she exclaimed. “I can’t wait to leave.” J winked at me, but she was so confusing I couldn’t guess what that was supposed to mean.
Mrs. Carter looked at me quizzically, no doubt wondering what I’d done to her daughter while she was at her meeting.
As promised, Violet handed me a twenty dollar bill. I stuck it in my pocket. “I had a wonderful time with J — uh, Jillian,” I stuttered.
Mrs. Carter nodded cautiously, still eying me suspiciously. “Thank you for watching her, Caroline. We’ll be going now.”
I waved at the Carters as they exited my house.
I picked up some of their conversation as they headed to their car.
“It was horrible, Mom!” J cried. “Caroline was so mean, and I had to dance and draw and play with dolls, and it was terrible . . . When can I go again?”