Dad used the extra money (that he got from my mom, and the money he says is the part of they guys' income that doesn't go to a babysitter) for me to go to a nice private school. I've got friends, and I'm not centered into just one clique, and I've gone to sleepovers and birthday parties and been to movies with people, but my real life is at home. My real life is with Tom, Dad, Emmett, and Alex at "The Black Alley". I've never had a boyfriend. Emmett says he'd just about fall over dead if I came home and said I had a boyfriend. One time, I heard Dad quietly agree with him at breakfast, and I decided to set the record straight--to see if a boyfriend was an option in the future. Why? Well, because I figured it would be fun...and entertaining.
"I heard that," I pointed at him and raised my eyebrows. "But I need to know--for future reference purposes only," I said. "Are you all against me having a boyfriend?" Alex stopped playing his ukelele and looked across the room at Dad, who was looking at me.
"Well...I guess not..." he smiled his smile.
"Woah! Woah!" Emmett held his hands up. "You're not going to consult the Black Alley Council about it?" he dropped his voice to a whisper. "You know you can't make a big decision like that by yourself! You're her father!"
Tom and I rolled our eyes. Tom turned to me and held my gaze, "Evie [pronounced Ehv-ee] Amberlyn Nadíama Yvonne Ayara Ashton Sparks, what Emmett here is trying to say is..." Tom quickly moved over to Emmett and put his fingers around Emmett's mouth. Tom moved his fingers so it kind of looked like Emmett was talking...but not really.
"I just don't want my little girl to grow up so fast. Of course you can have a boyfriend--whenever you want! But you have to tell me first as soon as you get home, okay? I love you," Tom said in a deep voice. Emmett playfully pushed Tom off and gazed at me.
"Words right out of my mouth," he said gruffly. I gave him a hug and turned to look at Alex.
"Why you wan'ta ask me? I know nothing 'bout these things," and he began to play Cielito Lindo on his ukelele and he sang along, smiling at me.
"Well, that's settled then," Dad said. "You can have all the boyfriends you want, according to the Council here!" he rolled his eyes.
"Oh, boy!" I said cheerfully, rolling my eyes in response. I stuffed the rest of my toast in my mouth and traipsed around the room to give everyone a kiss on their stubbly cheeks. As I grabbed my backpack, Dad called out to me,
"Only one boy at a time, though!"
"Okay! Whatever!" I yelled back, rolling my eyes yet again. Today was a day for the eye-rolling and I hoped my eyes wouldn't get stuck like that, even if it wasn't permanent. I walked to the back door so I could take the trash out.
"You think that was a 'Yes, I will, father' or a 'No way on your life'?" I heard Emmett ask my dad as I tramped out. There was a pause, and then,
I've always believed that my Dad is the best thing that's ever happened to me. he believes I can take care of myself, and don't need nobody looking after me for too long. And this is a good thing, what with the kinds of things, and people, that go through his office. My dad's office is in a small, one-floored building in an alleyway in the back of a crowded city called L.A, which is especially crowded at night. His office is in the bad part of L.A. and opens at dusk, so the hours change as seasons do. It's called Black Alley.
Dad is a sort of a cop. He likes the changing of hours as the days get longer and shorter because "it adds character", he cherishes me more than he cherishes his job, which is saying a lot, and he loves to eat his hotdogs overloaded...without a bun. It gets hard to explain him more than that. My dad is considered an almost-odd, but very amazing person to most everyone he knows. For example, the people he directly works with questioned his bringing me with him to work when I was younger. And I've heard the story, and what he said, too many times to count...
"Look, she's only two, guys. She won't get in the way. And, yeah, I know it's not exactly the safest place for a kid to be, but I can't exactly leave her with Delialah and you know I don't trust her family. So," he said, looking at me "I've got no one else to keep her with, and I'm no good at hiring people," his buddies all chuckled at this point and even Dad smiled. "So a babysitter is totally out of question. This girl is gonna grow up in this place and we're all gonna take care of her, all right? And if someone doesn't agree to that, I'm totally willing to quit. I may not be able to hire people, but I started this place and I'm sure I can start something else." He stopped, looking at each of his companions.
Tom spoke up first, "Hey, man, we were never gonna kick you out. We were just worried about Miss Sha-la-la here," the other two nodded their approval. Alex multi-tasked and stifled a grin at Tom's new name for me.
They say my Dad looked as relieved as if someone had thrown a bucket of water on him and he had peed in his pants after holding it for four hours while standing beside a waterfall...well, only Emmett said that, but I got the idea.
"Sha-la-la?" Dad asked incredulously.
"Yeah," Tom smiled his toothy grin, "I figured the little darlin' here should have a nickname."
Tom was the one who has always taken to the inmates here. He even gives them nicknames! Sometimes they like the name and sometimes they don't, so it's a good thing they usually stay here for only a night. Tom says he gets that close to him because if he wasn't here, he would be one of them. I've always tried to imagine Tom as one of the criminals dragged in each night, but I couldn't. It just never seemed right. When I told him this, he just nodded [and said],
"So you see why that's so scary."
And I did. I still do. And, totally out of habit, I still try to put Tom's face on each person brought in. I can never see it.
They say that Dad immediately like the name, although he's never called me by it.
"She'll be fearless," Dad said, lifting me up and looking right at me. This part, they didn't have to tell me, I already remembered--but they don't know that. Emmett held his arms out and I was passed into his stony embrace.
"Ferocious," he said with a small, dorky snarl and purr. He made claws with his hands as he passed my giggling self to the waiting Alex. Alex pulled out his miniature sombrero hat that his abuelo had brought to him so many years before from Mexico. Tom and Emmett fell into guffaws of laughter at Alex's smirky grin and Dad smiled his great big smile that everyone loves. Apparently "Señor Alejandro" is a big joke to them, but they still refuse to tell me the story. Alex nuzzled my nose with his and sang,
"Sha-la-la. Tough as nails. Tough as nails. Duro como clavos. Duro como clavos. Sha-la-la." Everyone clapped, but I--even with my tiny hands--clapped the hardest.
Thus began my life with the only family I've ever known. And believe, me, it's the best family in the world.