Andrew walks around the store, trying to be invisible. He can feel the store clerk watching him and, when he risks a quick look at the clerk, sees the man is watching him suspiciously. The clerk looks like he is ready to confront him and accuse him of stealing something, even though he hasn’t done anything.
“I just want to keep warm without having to go back home and wait alone for Mom and Dad to come home,” he thinks, feeling dumb just thinking about it. “What’s there to be afraid of being home alone? There’s nothing there.”
Andrew is afraid someone might find out. “I’m too old for this kind of little kid scared of nothing stuff.”
The clerk’s suspicious stare is making him more nervous. He’s starting to feel panicky; scared of being caught even though he isn’t doing anything wrong.
He tries to pretend he’s shopping, hoping the clerk will leave him alone. He looks around him and grabs something off the shelf without looking at anything but the price tags below the items on the shelf. It has to be something he has enough money to pay for, and he doesn’t have very much. He has no idea what it is that he grabbed.
He’s only buying it to show that he’s not there to make trouble.
Andrew shuffles up to the counter, keeping his head down, and puts the object on the counter.
“Are you really going to buy that?” the clerk asks with a smirk. He still looks suspicions and is eying Andrew with a distrustful look, judging him either insane or a criminal, depending on his reaction to the question.
Andrew looks up at him with a nod, a flush creeping up his neck, and then looks down at the item in question. He stares at it in horror.
There, for all of the world to see, is a pink box. He feels like it is staring up at him in gleeful accusation, yelling to the store, “HE IS LYING!”
Andrew swallows, feeling suddenly sick with embarrassment, the red flush rising up his cheeks. He looks around quickly to see if anyone is looking.
The object pictured on the bright pink box looks similar to that bullet shaped lipstick candy, only longer and white.
Andrew doesn’t know what it’s used for, but the word Tampon glares up like an announcement and all he knows is that it’s something very private that boys are not supposed to know about and has to do with women and teen girls and puberty.
The package says it’s a mini pack just for the purse. He suffers a sudden flash of thought, envisioning having to explain to his mother why he bought it.
Andrew turns redder, his face burning with a flush of shame, and the clerk behind the counter laughs. His expression shows pain for the boy’s predicament and relief that he isn’t a shoplifter after all.
“Your mom sent you, didn’t she?”
“Yes,” Andrew mumbles, looking down and hoping no one sees him.
He pays for his unwanted purchase and makes a beeline for the exit, running halfway home before he slows down and starts looking for somewhere to ditch the little bag.
When Andrew gets home, the tampon box has been safely disposed of in a random trashcan along the way. He lets himself back in the house and goes back to playing video games.
He plays for the next hour, nervously listening for the noises from the basement that sent him fleeing from the house. The noises never repeat themselves, but that almost makes it worse because he can’t make himself stop expecting them.
Finally, his parents come home and he can put this day behind him.
THE LATCHKEY KIDS IS AVAILABLE ON KINDLE AND IN PAPERBACK ON AMAZON