I didn’t plan to get up for at least an hour. A nap, or whatever.
I heard Aaron come in. He is not hard to know when he comes home, always singing up the stairway.
I couldn’t make out the lyrics. He creaked to the top of the stairs and I knew that he was looking around at the top of the stairs to see if anyone was in the living room. There weren’t. Only me in my bed, still wearing my converse and jeans.
He came down the hall and peaked in.
I flipped around.
“What are you… oh, I’m sorry, were you sleeping?”
“Just napping. Not feeling too sick anymore, just wanted to rest. I saw Lincoln. Such a good movie. Saw it with Proctor.”
“Don’t you just want to be Lincoln now?”
“The way that Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed him, Lincoln, reminded me so much of my dad. His mannerisms.”
“Yeah, and your dad has the same soft voice. High pitch.”
“Yeah, and the way he slouches. Just, my dad isn’t political or quick to correct anyone when they’re wrong…”
“And he doesn’t tell stories out of nowhere,” he let out a signature, boisterous Aaron Delani laugh. Shrill, with a tone of disingenuousness that still has a way of remaining sincere.
He was wearing denims with holes in scattered places. His weekend jeans. And a denim jacket over his yellow hoodie, and a somewhat matching yellow beanie that was rolled back past his ears.
“No,” I said quietly. “My dad doesn’t tell many stories.” I smiled and reflected, staring up at the slats above, cradling Delani’s bed. “So,” I started. “You didn’t get your donut did you.”
“No. What the hell.”
“I know.” I said. “I know, I was pissed.”
“You? No… I was pissed!”
“I think I know who did it too.”
He looked at me blankly.
“Okay, so,” I said, knowing I had his attention. I didn’t want to reveal the answer just yet. I let suspense fill the room. “Last night, I left the box in the kitchen. Everybody knew it was my box. Nobody would have, or should have touched it.”
“Right,” he said.
“Right, so we were all watching a movie. ‘Jumanji,'” I said, looking at him in the eye. “Now, afterward I went into the kitchen to look through the donut box. And do you know what I found?
“Gone. Empty. Your donut stolen from right in front of me. In my own home.”
He laughed again, but softer, more concerned.
The Aaron Delani laugh bellowed into the room again.
“No no, it wasn’t him. After I saw that your donut was gone I walked into the living room. Slavin and Jared were still there. Everyone else had left. I announce to them that your donut was stolen and Slavin looks up at me and says that he might have a clue as to who took it. Go on, I told him, so he said that David, you know…”
“Yeah, wait, is he the guy in your writing group?”
He grunted. “I never liked that guy.”
“Well wait, hold on, we don’t know for sure that he did it.”
“I know. I’m just saying that when I met him I didn’t like him.”
“Fair enough. So anyway, Slavin says that David is notorious for stealing people’s wine. Like, he takes people’s wine without asking. Which, he did last night by taking Tommy’s. Tommy just looked at Slavin like a victim. I could tell he was pissed. He kept barraging David with remarks and questions, and at the time I had no idea. I was thinking of ways to stick up for him. But the whole time he’d freely poured himself a glass of Tommy’s wine, like he lives here. Anyway, Slavin said that at some point in the movie David got up and went into the kitchen. Normal, right? Nobody noticed. I didn’t notice. About five minutes later he comes out licking his fingers.” I emulated licking my fingers.
“But we don’t know for sure.”
“Right we don’t, but that’s what we’re going on.”
We both stared into space for another moment.
He pulled out his phone.
I stared vaguely at the grayish-blue painted wall. I was still covered. Plenty warm.
“I just,” I continued. “I never took him for that kind of person, you know? He’s always so damn polite. He’s a great conversationist, always super polite and gives people chances to speak. Like in the writing group he’s never domineering the conversation or preferring only to hear one side or anything. Just a normal, polite guy.”
“And he is. That’s what I remember when I first met him.”
“But the jerk stole a donut from me. Your donut! Who said he could do that? Why would he do that? I was taken completely aback. Caught off guard, you know? I’m not angry with him, just shocked.”
“Well I’m angry that I didn’t get my donut.”
“Me too, absolutely. Angry at the injustice and shocked at David. I still can’t believe it.”
Another moment passed.
“Well,” Delani said, “I need some caffeine. Going to the Night Owl and then gonna take some pictures, then off to Buena Park for a birthday party for my niece’s friend.”
“A birthday party for your niece’s friend?”
“Her parents are good friends of the family. It’s not weird. Trust me.
“Want to come? To the Night Owl for coffee, I mean?”
“Yeah, I ain’t getting any sleep any time soon.”
“Then you better get’cher ass up.” He laughed.
I threw the blanket away and stood up, straightening my pants and then reaching down for my belt on the floor. As I pulled it through the loops I thought about David again. I spoke out loud:
“It’s a good story you know? A guy I trusted, carpooled out to donuts with, sat in traffic, had a much less awkward conversation with than I thought I would. Found all of my good suspicions in his agreeableness to be confirmed. And then BAM, he steals a donut. The unexpected thief.”
Delani walked down the hall. It was four o’clock.
I followed and we ducked into the kitchen. The floors were bleach-white and the kitchen still looked like Marcella had just been by to clean. I looked at the donut box and flipped it open. Two half eaten donuts.
“Want the second half of mine? It was the same as yours, a umm…” I searched for the name of the donut, snapping my fingers and jogging my memory.
“Bavarian cream,” he said. “No, I’m good.”
I took a bite, the apparent cream from Bavaria bulging out as my jaw closed upon the baked dough. “You sure?” I mumbled.
He took the donut into his hand and closed his teeth over the donut. He set the remainder back in the box and stepped back. “Mmmmmm, God that’s so good.”
“Wish I could have given you your own. Sorry again.”
“Dude, it wasn’t your fault.” He looked at my red sweater. “You should get a jacket. It’s cold as a mutha-fugga out there.”
“Really? Even colder than in here? Even colder than the inside of the Whiting?”
He nodded, and I went into the hall and threw another coat on. It was denim, but a little different than Delani’s and I thought for a second about how it might look if we both wore denim.