Jimmy walked home from Anne's house with his head staring at his feet and his hands balled up and jammed in his pockets. He was also muttering up a storm. Anger was in his eyes, with each stomp of his foot on the ground he imagined he was stepping on his Grand Father's face. This brought him not even an ounce of joy or relief and he ended up abanding the practice after about twenty steps.
Sally came running up behind Jimmy, calling for him to wait up. He stopped and did so, even though he didn't really want to.
"Hey," Sally said while Jimmy just stared at his shoes and resumed walking in response. He wasn't mad at Sally, she had done nothing wrong, he was just too mad to talk to anyone right now. For the first time in his life, Jimmy wanted to take a bath and go to bed. It wasn't even dark out yet and it wouldn't be for a while but he didn't care.
Sally didn't feel that much like talking either, she was glad to be with Jimmy and away from the adults. The pair walked home in silence, each too weary and unready to discuss the events of the past few days. Jimmy did stop muttering, for the most part, that is. Sally took up sighing for a few blocks but stopped as she felt she was about to run out of them and wanted to be sure she had a few left for later, in case she needed them.
When they reached their homes, they parted ways without saying goodbye or making plans for the next day. Jimmy went into his house and walked right past his parents, who were sitting on the couch watching television. He never noticed until now how they never seemed to notice that he was gone when he went out on Society business, it also just occurred to him that they never asked him any questions about his worsening grades or how dirty he was. Ever. They still knew about the normal stuff he did. They noticed him in the mornings when he was getting ready to go to school and at dinner times and bedtimes but never when he came in from patrol.
"Huh," he thought while going up the steps, "it's like I'm invisible. I bet it's some kind of whammy." That was the last thought Jimmy would have the night. He showered and put himself to bed in a semi-awake, thought-free haze.
In the morning Jimmy woke up and got ready for school. He didn't have any intention of going to class today, but he didn't want his parents to have any reason to think he was planning on playing hookey. He was going to have a talk with his Grand Father.
Sally woke up feeling horrible both on the outside and inside and convinced her mom that she was sick. She waved to Jimmy from her front window, giving him the secret hand sign for "I'm having a sick day." They had worked out a rather complex set of hand signs and signals for communicating during monster fights and for talking about things they shouldn't be talking about when their parents were around. Jimmy acknowledged the signal with an approving nod. He walked down the street, towards his Grand Father's home. He didn't quite know what he was going to say yet, he was more concerned with controlling his anger. He knew he was right and he also knew that when you're right, you don't need to be loud.
The walk wasn't a long one and Jimmy took his time, neither rushing or lolly-gagging. He was eager to get this over with, but a bit nervous and scared at the same time. The desire to get this done with a quickly as possible made Jimmy want to walk fast, but his fear and the butterfiles in his stomach wanted him to take as long as possible, or wait until tomorrow even. The two desires smashed into each other, canceling each other out, which resulted in Jimmy adopting a moderate, almost leisurly pace.
Before he knew it but also not soon enough Jimmy had reached his destination and was nervously knocking on the front door of Gand Father's house.
"I've been expecting you," Grand Father said after he opened the door, "come in please."
Jimmy went into the house and Grand Father gestured towards the couch. On the coffee table, there were two steaming mugs of hot chocolate in front of the end coushins of the couch and a plate of non-boring cookies in front of the middle one. Jimmy sat and inspected the cookie plate, after several seconds he decided on a chocolate chip to start. He felt, and many agree, that when it comes to a cookie eating session, it's best to start with one of the classics. After a chocolate chip cookie or two, he might branch out into the peanut butter or one of the butter cookies with a cherry stuck to the middle of it, he had options and this early in the game he didn't really need a strategy, just an appreciation of cookies and an open mind.
The waiting treats and Grand Father's demeanor had a calming effect on Jimmy. He felt less mad and slightly relaxed, though no less right and he still felt things needed to change. For the first time, he felt like maybe Grand father felt that way too. Maybe they were on the same team after all.
Grand Father took his seat and eyed up his hot chocolate which he decided, based on the amount of steam rising from it, was still too hot to sip. He sighed in frustration, hot chocolate was one of his favorites. He loved it so much that he had to reserve it for special occasions or else he'd drink so much that people would start telling him that if he drank any more hot chocolate, he'd turn into a mug of it.
"There will be no more need for you and Sally to continue your patrols. We've been able to trace all the monster activity back to it's source. It seems someone or someones preformed a ritual around Halloween that had unintended consequences. In addition to turning all the kids into real monsters, it also weakened the biding spell that kept Freak Andy stuck in a jar, allowing him to eventually escape. As the binding grew weaker and weaker Freek Andy's evil aura began to leak out, attracting monsters to it like a moth to a light bulb. Now that Freak Andy is gone, monster problems should go back to normal levels, which is to say there shouldn't be any at all."
Jimmy finished his cookie and nodded in approval. He selected another, peanut butter this time, and waited for the rest of Grand Father's words.
Grand Father blew on his hot chocolate and continued, "We forgot that you and Sally were so young. I'm sorry for that, You were asked things no one has the right to expect from you, but time and time again you met or exceeded all of our expectations. You and Sally are true heroes and have every reason to be proud of yourselves."
"I know," Jimmy answered between bites. He was being honest. It felt good to have his efforts recognized. He noticed he wasn't angry at all anymore and took a sip of his drink.
They talked for three whole mugs of hot chocolate and two plates of cookies. Jimmy told Grand Father about everything that was bothering him. Grand Father listened and for the most part, agreed that Jimmy and Sally had been pushed a bit too far. He also did his best to explain how dire the situation was and that there really was no one else who could have taken care of things as well as Jimmy and Sally did. Jimmy did his best to understand, but he was mostly happy that this was all over. That was all he really wanted to hear and once he heard it, he sort of lost interest in the rest and focused mostly on the cookies.
When they were done talking, Jimmy felt better and was eager to get home and tell Sally the good news.
"One more thing before you go, we had a party planned to celebrate Sally's birthday and your arbitrairy marking of your annual solar cycle but our plans were inturrpted by Freek Andy's madness. The event has been rescheduled for this weekend. A car will be there for you at ten in the morning on Saturday. After the proceedings both you and Sally will be given the chance to retire from the Socieity, no one would blame you of you choose to do so."
Jimmy said nothing as he put a few cookies in his pocket for the walk home and shook his Grand Father's hand instead of saying goodbye. Grand Father nodded and patted Jimmy's shoulder. They had reached an understanding and nothing more needed to be said at the moment.