When I was younger, a large portion of my family lived together. My sister and I shared a room downstairs while my parents, grandmother, and aunt were all upstairs in their own rooms.
For a time, my uncle came down from Illinois to help with the family business and stayed with us, sleeping on the couch.
There was a routine he had since he consistently wore rings on all fingers, and at least three necklaces.
(He's quite the eccentric character who still to this day sports suspenders, a fedora, and clown shoes, purposefully.)
Upon return from work, my uncle would remove all of his jewelry, and place them on a small vanity backed against the wall at the end of the hallway.
I was known for taking things that weren't mine because they caught my eye, but I would always return them once bored, or asked to.
Another day passed, and my uncle returned from work. He removed his mass amounts of jewelry as usual, and I was watching the television in my parents' room awaiting their return.
My uncle went into the bathroom to shower, and I left the room for a glass of water. I came back from the kitchen, and all of a sudden I encountered a strange man standing over my uncle's jewelry.
He seemed somewhat familiar, but I'd never actually seen him before.
As soon as we made eye contact, a sense of dread washed over me. I dropped the glass with a lump in my throat, and tears fell unwillingly from in my eyes.
I saw the man take my uncle's rings. As soon as I blinked, he had disappeared. I couldn't breathe for what felt like an eternity, and there was a pain that spread from my back to my stomach.
I was unconscious for about a minute, but awoke on the ground near the water. The glass hadn't broken because I was small, but the water was everywhere.
Once I caught my breath, the first thing on my mind was to clean the water. Afterwards, I ran to the kitchen for "armor".
I retrieved an iron skillet as a shield, a metal spatula as my sword, and a sieve as my helmet. (I'm still unsure as to why I didn't think about choosing a knife.)
I checked every crevice, every secret hiding place I could think of, and swatted my spatula "bravely" over every corner I turned. Nothing. I couldn't find him anywhere.
By the time I had checked the entire house, my uncle was done showering. Of course, he immediately noticed his rings were missing.
I came back upstairs and was automatically interrogated as the only possible culprit.
He was so engrossed by the fact his jewelry was missing that he didn't even question why I was armed to the teeth in kitchenware.
I told him time and again I didn't do it, but he wouldn't believe me. We both waited impatiently for my parents' return.
Once they arrived, I was yelled at, persuaded, and scolded by my parents, my uncle (again), my aunt, and my grandmother about how stealing is bad.
I told them the story about the man who disappeared, but they wouldn't believe me. They said to describe him, and I said I had never seen him before but he seemed familiar.
I told them that he somewhat looked like my father, but different, and with a mustache. They were just as confused as I was. They sent me to bed, and we waited.
For days my family had assumed I was guilty, and in their minds I wasn't "coughing up the goods".
A couple more days passed and my grandmother had a heart-to-heart with me about my uncle's jewelry.
She said that some of those had been given to my uncle by my late grandfather who died of multiple cancers when my father was younger. I felt terrible and helpless.
I asked her if there was a picture of my grandfather, so I could try to form a connection with someone I'd never meet.
She found this tiny picture of just his face. Once she showed it to me, I snatched it out of her hand in victory. I had found the man who took my uncle's jewelry that day!
She didn't realize that my description of the man, fit her late husband perfectly. Once everyone returned from work, my grandmother and I explained the story again. Alas, it was in vain.
My parents, nor my uncle, believed us. It wasn't until two weeks had passed, and I had gone to work with my parents helping bus tables that I was acquitted of my crime.
I spent all day at the restaurant with my parents and uncle. It was a late night, and I had fallen asleep in the first booth near the cash register.
My uncle had gone on ahead of my parents and I to the house. When we arrived, all of the lights in the house were on, and we heard loud noises.
Apparently, my uncle's jewelry had been returned to the exact same place he had left them. Everyone was confused because I had spent all day with my parents helping out.
My grandmother was with a friend until after my uncle arrived, my aunt was still at work, and my sister had been visiting her biological father all weekend.
When all of them finished celebrating, it finally dawned on them. My parents, my grandmother, and my uncle all turned slowly towards me.
I simply smiled and said, "It wasn't me."