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Stuck In the Middle With You

“Kris?!” Joe screamed as he held his chest with a shaky hand. “What are you doing here?” This was more than just a shock, it was a nightmare! How on Earth can a 7 year board a plane and not have anyone know about it?

“This bed doesn’t feel too good,” she grimaced at the well made mattress. “It’s too hard and the blanket is too soft. It’s like sleeping on a rock with nothing to cover you but a dead pigeon.”

Not hesitating to feel his throbbing headache, Joe quickly rushed over to the little girl and grabbed her by the arm and dragged her to the foot of the bed to look her right in the eye.

“Does your mother know you’re here?” he exasperatedly asks.

“Nope,” she bluntly answered with a pop at the end. “I stowed away in the plane with the rest of the baggage. No one knows of my secret mission!”

“Oh this can’t be happening,” he shook his head. This was crazy, even for Kris. “Do you have any idea what kind of trouble we’re both in? I gotta get you home. You can’t be here; your mother is probably having a nervous breakdown.”

“But we are already in serious trouble!” she exaggerated with her hand movements. “Social Services are after us! They set me up with that whole fire alarm thing! They know our secret.”
He gave a deep frown. “What are you talking about?” he asked, not understanding anything this girl yelled. “I have a secret with you that involve Social Services?”

“They know you are Superman and they’re after me to get to you!” Kris finally revealed. “Look, you said that you can do anything to save me right? Well I need some saving and so does mommy. I heard that Social Services might take me away from mommy one day, lock me up, get me to confess that I know you and then clone a million of us and make us do their laundry! I can’t let that happen, ok? And I am asking you nicely, superman, to save me.”

With those words, Kris had lost Joe completely. At that moment, he didn’t know if he should be scrambling her brain or his. Superman? Oh geez, why did he have to give in to a child’s imagination like that? He could have said he’s a cow and she’d believe him! He couldn’t save her from the government! They eat people like him for breakfast for goodness sakes! But…Social Services? Was this little girl’s extremities really so terrible that she could be put into a foster home? He gave a quick sigh and lifted Kris onto his lap.

“Ok, I gotta get you home” he said completely dismissing her rant. “Geez, I have to repack and get plane tickets back. What’s the number?”

“That’s it?” Kris asked with a moped. “No laser beams, busting into buildings, flying? What about Social Services?”

“One thing at a time, dear,” he mumbled as his mind tried to organize all thoughts rushing at him. “Geez, where is the PHONE!?”

“But I wanted to be your sidekick. Like Batman and Robin,” she excitedly replied, giving her bright smile as her lure.

“Together we could run those guys out of town!”

“What am I, a recruitment service?” Joe scowled. “Hurry up and pack, we’re going to the lobby.”

Upon arriving at the hotel lobby, Joe had already called ahead for a cab to the airport and one ticket back to Taiwan. Just one more phone call to her mother and they’d be heading out. As he dialed the phone, he couldn’t help mutter to himself, that if social services didn’t come before, they’d probably come now, if they knew exactly what this little girl was up to. He watched Kris crawl back into the bed with disappointment streaked across her face, pouting so hard, with her head pointed straight down.

“Your mother wasn’t home, so I left a message for her,” Joe explained to Kris. “Are you Ok?”

“Why aren’t you helping me with Social Services?” Kris bluntly asked as she looked at him with those round glistening orbs of hers. “Are you really Superman?”

Sighing lowly, Joe knelt down and gave a sheepish smile. “Kris, I don’t know if I can help you with Social Services or not but what’s the one thing I told you I would do for you?”

“You’d save me?” she reiterated for him.

“That’s right. If you ever need saving, I’ll be there for you. That promise still holds, whether or not I am Superman,” he explained.
Kris frowned a bit before cocking her head a bit to the side. “Ok. Does that make you Batman then?”

Joe only groaned at her response and rolled his eyes. Suddenly, as Joe turns over to see the time, he was stopped by the loud clanking on champagne bottles, matching Hawaiian shirts and two incorrigible voices.

“HEY!” Jiro and Mike shouted into Joe’s ears.

“Oh, geez,” Joe winced at the noisemaker.

“It was about time you got out of that room!” Mike chirped. “C’mon! There are no wives to bug us, no kids to keep an eye on; we’re free men, here. Oh, I feel like jumping off buildings. WHOO!!”

“C’mon, Joe,” Jiro slapped at his shoulder. “We’re going to catch the midnight matinee at the hotel. It’s a horror movie too! I hear movies are scarier when you don’t understand them.”

“I’m busy,” Joe lowly said as he pointed Kris out to the both of them.

“Hey, it’s a kid,” Mike yelped out of surprise. “Where’d she come from?”

“The plane; she stowed away,” Joe explained.

The two other men stared at themselves and then back at Kris. Dismay was written all across their face and without words they express their astonishment for a brief while before hooting and congratulating the little girl.

“That must have been awesome!” Mike laughed, giving her a high five.

“How’d you get passed security?” Jiro curiously asked as he knelt down.

“I know the airport like the back of my hand,” she answered bluntly. “My momma works there too with you guys in the baggage department.”

“Ah!” he nodded. “Nicely done; very smart.

“Don’t encourage her,” Joe socked Jiro on the arm, before shaking his head in defeat. “I can’t believe you guys are supporting her erratic behavior. I should have known better than to let you guy talk to her. Who knows, maybe after tonight we’ll go shoot down some cattle.”

“Calm down, Shirley,” Mike hissed. “It’s not like she’s a terrorist! Which reminds me; we need tighter security. Anyways, my name is Mike. What is your name little girl?”

“My name is Kris,” she smiled at him. “I know who you guys are; you’re Robbie’s dad and you’re dating Ms. Chen,” she added as she pointed over to Jiro.

“Oh, so YOU’RE her student, Kris!” Jiro laughed. “Oh I have heard about you! She’s talks about you a lot.”

“I bet,” she cheekily smiled.

“Yeah, and my Robbie’s been telling me about your little escapades, dear,” Mike interrupted. “You have quite a reputation at school.”

“Just like me,” Jiro continued to chuckle. “Oh you’re just as mischievous as I was in grade school, if not just slightly better behaved. I remember pulling a few pranks back in my day.”

Joe couldn’t believe what he was hearing; Mike was a father for goodness sake and Jiro had more sense than Mike. Why were they acting like what Kris had done, was just another run of the mill prank?

“Ok ‘bad influence number one and two’,” Joe quipped at Mike and Jiro. “She has a very long flight ahead of her to reflect on what’s she’s done tonight, by herself, so if you’ll excuse her, she needs to go to her cab.”

“Wait, you’re not coming with me?” Kris asked with puppy dog eyes and a pout that dragged to the floor.

“I can’t,” Joe explained to her gently. “I need to stay here till Monday.”

“But…” Kris tried to say.”

“You’re going to leave her all by herself to navigate back to Taiwan?!” Mike screamed at Joe. “That is so irresponsible of you.”

“I’m taking her to the airport, isn’t that enough?” Joe defended himself.

“That’s not enough,” Jiro butted in. “You need to go to Taiwan with her.”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this little girl stowed away in luggage to get here, so excuse me for overestimating her abilities,” he snapped.

“But,” Kris interrupted. “I don’t want to go back without you. You were the reason I came in the first place.” She stuck out her hand, wanting him to hold onto it.

“How can you resist the face?” Jiro pointed out her large pout. “She’s practically begging you to take her back.”

“I. Am. Still. Working!” Joe said in choppy sentences. “I can get fired for doing this!”

“I say it’s worth it,” Mike smugly answered. “Besides, Jiro and I will be fine coming back alone.”

“Please,” Kris pled with her small voice.

Joe peered into her sad eyes, realizing his weakness in them as he stayed in her gaze but this time he examined her face a bit longer than usual. It had an unusual innocence to it that almost struck him as familiar. The most appealing thing about her was that she smiled in her sleep; that wonderful, pure smile that seemed once again familiar. A bit too familiar.

“Do you really need me to go back with you?” he asked calmly.

Not saying a thing, she only nodded and stuck her hand out again for him. She wiggled her fingers, as if asking for his hand to be placed into her palm. Sighing in defeat, Joe took her small hand into his and gave a small smile.

“I’m going to get fired for this,” he muttered with that same smile on his face. “I hope you three are happy.” At that moment, they all nodded simultaneously. “I hope you know you’re going to pay for my rent.”

“Ok,” she smiled brightly.

 

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