The rest of us knew it was our cue to leave Todd and Mei-Ling to talk so we wondered away. Every so often, I'd glance back at them, curious as to this mystery fiance of Mei-Lings but Erik would turn me back around. When Nai'a's father arrived to drive us home, the good bye between Todd and Mei-Ling was as affectionate as ever. Erik, Nai'a and I exchanged looks in the car, waiting for Todd to say something -anything - but he wasn't talking.
"It's an arranged thing" Todd said without any prompting, as we drove back into town, "between the families but she hasn't agreed to it or anything." he added with conviction. And that was the last of the topic, he went back to not saying anything.
In the following weeks, Timothy started missing school a couple times a week. At first he said he was sick, then doctors appointments and then he stopped explaining. The last time Timothy had missed more than a couple days of school in a year he was six and had the chicken pox. Worried about him, I knew there was supposed to be a student council meeting so I headed for it, ready to wait until it was over in order to talk to him. But when I got to the classroom, it was empty.
I checked the date and time against the announcement on the bulletin board and frowned. Maybe it was somewhere else, I started for the gym which was the next most likely location I could figure. I crossed the football field on my way and saw Todd in the stands with Mei-Ling. "Hey guys?" I approached them and cleared my throat a couple times.
"Hmmm?" Todd asked, barely glancing my direction before resuming kissing Mei-Ling. Clearly her having an arranged fiance was not a damper on their relationship.
"Umm, have either of you seen Tim?" I asked, not even sure if I was expecting a response.
In a moment of reprieve they shook their head. "Why?" Todd asked, looking at me for the first time. Mei-Ling started nuzzling against his neck.
"I'm worried about him, I just want to see if he's alright." I explained.
"Try calling him?" he asked, he attention returning to Mei-Ling even as he asked.
"Yeah," they were back to making out and I rolled my eyes. "Thanks for your help." I figured he wasn't at school after all and made why way to the car, hoping I might find him at home.
I knocked on the door and waited. When I didn't get a response, I tried again and called out for him, "Hey Tim? You here?"
I thought I heard some sort of motion inside and on the third knock, the door actually clicked open on it's own. I peeked around the door and didn't see anyone. "Tim?" I said aloud.
Glancing around, I saw piles of clothes everywhere - some appeared to be clean and in various states of folding and others looked to be dirty. In the kitchen there was a small stack of dirty dishes and several bags of groceries needing to be put away. I saw Tim's backpack tossed on the couch as well.
"Tim?" I called out again, still surveying the room. I glanced up the stairs toward his room. "Hey Tim you up there?"
There wasn't an immediate response but a few moments later, Timothy came out of his parents room with a tray of food. He wasn't paying much attention to me as he quietly closed the door behind him and started to navigate the living room chaos - clearly familiar with the terrain.
"Tim." I said again, to get his attention.
"Oh Ginny!" he said in surprise, he almost dropped the tray when he saw me. But soon the surprise was replaced with embarrassment. "Um..." he look away from me and set the tray down on the arm of the couch.
"Tim, are you okay?" I tried hard to not look around the room again.
"What are you doing here Genevieve?" he asked, adopting my full name once again. He so rarely used nicknames that I knew my presence had flustered him.
"I was worried about you. You've been missing school and you never miss school." I explained.
"Well I'm fine thanks." he said, picking up the tray again and heading for the kitchen with it. I followed him and tried to help him put away the groceries but he whipped around toward me, "I'm fine, I've got it!" he snapped.
"I just want to help." I said but stepped back from him, hurt by his out lash.
After a moment of silence, he nodded. "I'm sorry..." he stifled a yawn and shook his head to clear it. "I'm just tired and moody I guess." When I didn't say anything, he seemed to be thinking and then took my hand and led me back to his dad's room. He opened the door very quietly and after we'd stepped inside he closed it again.
Mr. Kline was sitting in a chair in the corner staring straight ahead. He took no notice of us and barely even blinked while we were there. "He's been like this since right after..." he trailed off but I knew what he meant. "He barely eats and barely sleeps, never leaves the house..."
"But who...." I knew, even as I said it, who did everything now. Timothy had taken on every household chore - even the grocery shopping.
"I try but it's just....it's so much." he looked down at his feet for a minute and then back at his dad. He looked like he was ready to cry or pass out, or both.
"Come on." I said, taking his hand. The park was a few blocks away and we walked there in silence.
"We've gone through so much of the savings, he stopped going to work so there's nothing coming in really." Timothy said, leaning against the railing of the bridge.
"I started working nights at the theater and then am up doing homework and I feel like I barely have time to sleep..." he looked at me and I could see how much he'd been aged in the last few months. He has heavy circles under his eyes and just didn't look like a seventeen year old boy anymore.
"Tim...have you called family, or doctors?" I suggested quietly.
"I can't! If I can even get him to a doctor, they'd want to place him in a home and then where do I go? My nearest relative is in Egypt!" he sounded desperate. "If I can just make it until my birthday...then I'll be eighteen at least..."
I placed my hand over his. "You have to tell someone, he needs help - more help than just you can give him."
"Who am I supposed to tell?" he asked in frustration. "I don't even know how to get in touch with my uncle and as far as I know there is no one else."
I considered for a minute and then spoke up, "My dad, you can tell him. He can probably find out the contact information for your uncle too."
"I don't Ginny." he said, staring down at the water. Even as he did so, I could see his eyes drooping because he was so tired. He only protested a little as I dragged him back to my car, he insisted on checking on his dad once more before we drove to my house. My dad wasn't home yet so I was going over notes from the class he missed while we waited. "I don't know about this..." he said as the clocked neared 5PM.
"What if he gets worse Tim? You can't be there twenty-four-seven. What about school? Please tell him, tell someone at least..." I said, pacing the room.
"Tell someone what?" my dad asked, stepping into the room.
Timothy was anxious and I knew he wanted to unburden himself, it was too much for him to deal with alone, but he was terrified of what would happen next. Being adopted, the Klines were the only family he had and he'd already lost his mom this year - losing his dad would probably break him.
"Tim? You alright?" my dad asked when he didn't say anything. "Whatever it is, I'd like to help..." he knelt down in front of Timothy to look him in the eyes.
Timothy was shaking slightly as he looked at my dad, no doubt debating what to say and how much to say. But when Dad placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, he broke down and started telling everything in a rush of words - everything he'd been holding in for months.
"Shh, it's okay." Dad soothed him as the words finally stopped. He had to ask Timothy a few more questions for clarification. "I'll make some calls. I want you to stay here tonight okay."
"I have to go home, I have to check on him." Timothy protested, already trying to stand up.
"I'll take care of it Timothy. I promise." Dad reassured him and after repeating himself a few times, Timothy nodded. "I'm going to go make some calls, see if I can't track down that uncle of yours. Ginny, will you make up the guest room please."
"Of course." I said with a small smile. I touched Timothy's arm and was relieved that he didn't try to pull away from me. My dad nodded and then went down to his office.
I showed Timothy to the guest room after I'd made up the bed. "I can get one of Dad's t-shirts for you to sleep in if you want." I offered.
Timothy nodded. "Thank you Genevieve." he said tiredly.
"No problem." I said with a smile.
"I mean for checking on me...and for suggesting I tell someone. I don't know how....anyway thank you." Timothy gave me a very weak smile.
I nodded. "I'll go get that shirt." I said. "I'll be right back." But when I got back, Timothy had already crawled into bed and fallen asleep, his glasses laid askew on the side table and the lamp was still on.
"Sweet dreams Tim." I said as I reached for the lamp and turned it off. I closed the door quietly behind me and went downstairs. My dad was on the couch, a pile of papers with quickly scribbled notes were in front of him on the coffee table.
"How's Tim?" he asked, looking up from the notes.
"Asleep already." I said, sitting next to him on the couch. "Is he going to be okay Dad?"
"Tim?" he asked.
"Mr. Kline." I corrected him.
"I don't know sweetie, I just don't know." he said and put an arm around my shoulder. "I hope so, now that he can get some help."
I nodded and leaned back against his arm, feeling comforted by its presence. "Thank you Daddy." I whispered. "For helping."
"Anytime kiddo, anytime." he said.