Feeling empty and strange, I sat up and watched him roar off into the darkness.
“Who do you think would win a fight between Spiderman and Superman?” I asked Indy.
We were playing jacks on my driveway, sitting on the warm concrete. It was the beginning of summer break, and the days were long and hot.
Indy thought for a moment. She twisted her head toward the sun and bit her bottom lip, frowning a little as she contemplated what I’d asked her.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Spiderman, I guess.”
“Spiderman?” I repeated, astonished. “Why Spiderman?”
“Because Superman is from outer space.”
“So . . . Spiderman is from Earth.”
I rolled my eyes. “Annnnnnd . . .”
“Earth is his home planet. Superman is on a strange planet. Spiderman has more friends here.” She picked up the jacks and threw them up in the air.
I shrugged. “That’s crazy. Superman would win. He’s the man of steel. Spidey just throws his webs around.”
The sound of a motorcycle pulling into her driveway turned both of our heads. It wasn’t one of the Kings, and it took me a few minutes to work out who it was because it was a face I hadn’t seen in ages.
I looked at Indy and saw her back straighten. Her eyes narrowed and her dark brows pulled in as she watched him pull up to the garage and climb off his bike. He walked over to where we were sitting and bent down so he was eye level with her. I saw her clench her teeth and her nostrils quiver as she breathed through her nose.
“How’s my special girl?” he asked, wiping a lock of her hair away from her eyes. “You got a hug for your uncle?”
She didn’t want to hug him. I could tell. And so could he.
“What? I’ve been away for a year and you ain’t got no hug for me?” His voice was lighthearted, but there was a mean gleam in his eyes. I didn’t like Uncle Calvin.
Indy rose to her feet and he scooped her up in his arms and held her against him. He was bigger than before. Like he had grown even taller and wider while in the Army.
“That’s my girl,” he said, planting a kiss on her mouth.
I stood up.
“Hi, Uncle Calvin,” I said. I didn’t think it was right him kissing Indy like that. “Welcome home.”
He let Indy down and smiled at me.
“Hey, little dude.” He gave me his hand to shake. He had fat fingers with dirt under his nails. “You keeping my girl here out of trouble?”
“We’re playing jacks,” I said.
Calvin huffed. “Sounds like fun.” He stretched and yawned. “Well, I’m going inside for a beer with your mama, Indy. I think you should come in and spend some time with your family.”
“Okay. I will be in soon,” she said, scuffing her tennis shoe against the concrete.
When he disappeared inside, we resumed our game. But Indy’s mood had changed.
“I think Superman would beat Spiderman hands down,” I said, throwing the jacks up and letting them scatter on the concrete in front of me.
“I don’t care,” Indy said. “Superheroes are stupid.”
I looked up. “No, they’re not.”
“Yes, they are. They’re always getting into stupid situations. And the baddies are always coming up with dumb ideas.”
“Batman is not stupid.”
“Batman is the worst!” she said, deliberately trying to make me mad because she knew Batman was my favorite.
“You’re wrong!” I stood up. So did she.
“Everybody knows they’re stupid,” she snapped. “With their stupid capes and their stupid costumes. I think they’re the dumbest thing ever!”
Anger made my cheeks hot and my fingers curl into a fist.
“Because you’re a stupid girl—”
“And you’re a stupid boy—”
She made me so mad.
“I don’t know why we’re even friends sometimes,” I huffed.
“Neither do I.”
My eyes widened. “Well, maybe we shouldn’t be.”
Indy folded her arms across her chest. “What do you mean maybe?”
She turned away and stomped off. So, I picked up my jacks and shoved them into my jeans pocket before trudging off inside my house.
I spent the afternoon angry at her. I didn’t know why, but Indy was able to get me more worked up than anyone I knew. Even over dinner I was mad at her, stabbing at my carrots and peas with my fork, and gulping down my milk like I was mad as hell at it.
My mama was going over to Lady’s to play chess, but instead of going to play with Indy, I told mama I was tired and wanted to go to bed.
“You and Indy have a disagreement?” she asked, standing in the doorway of the bathroom as I brushed my teeth.
“No,” I mumbled through toothpaste foam.
But my mama was no fool. She raised an eyebrow at me and folded her arms as she said, “Cade Calley, I’ve known you your whole life. And the only time you don’t want to visit with Indy is when the two of you are fighting. I’ve seen you stay up hours after your bedtime just to see her when comes home from visiting her Grandma in Jacksonville.” She knelt down in front of me. “Is there something you want to tell me?”