Five long weeks had passed since I decided to leave her. I tried to get my mourning done early, said my goodbyes, then aimed for time and distance from the memories.
When leaving a town, it’s possible to return. When driving somewhere, it’s possible to drive back. Time is just a sneaky form of distance. Like any other type of dimension, the bridge between now and then could be traversed in a single unintended moment.
Seeing Kahina was traversing the gulf of time. At one point it had been me in that bed, with her, like that. The pain I tried to leave behind was just as fresh.
I don’t know how long I laid there blubbering like a giant baby. Grown men shouldn’t cry, but it happens. In theory, my manhood was safe. No one else lived in these apartments, only a few people knew the combination to the front gate and they weren’t coming. Between those things, I should be fairly secure in my masculinity and allowed a good sob.
After having a personal moment I decided to get away. Knowing that it was possible to touch her again with only an ounce of concentration, but that he would be nearby made my gut clench, head spin, lungs seize up. Being close enough to sense her like this was torture.
Daniel had offered me a lifeline. A way out. I would take him up on that. It was that or straight move at least sixty miles away, more would be useful. Julianne was gone, Kahina wasn’t mine. Evan was hidden in the woods to the north. There had to be houses out some direction. Sadly in order to buy anything, I would need money or a Western Sector ID, and I didn’t have one of those.
Plan A, get out of town for awhile. I had to figure out how to get back to Bottom Pit. Hailing a cab when I couldn’t see would be impossible. I was pretty low on funds too. The phonebook might be a good start, except it’d be difficult to see anything. And I didn’t own a phonebook.
First, a stumble to Julianne’s Bar and Grill across the parking lot. Included obstacles were cars, jutting bumpers, people, everything. It was evening, and I think it was the weekend. Some of the louder regulars could be heard across the way.
I dried my face with a shirt that might be clean. Brushed back hair that was in need of a cut. Then slowly made my way across the pavement. Steps were misjudged. Curbs found unexpectedly. A fire hydrant six feet in the wrong direction. Behind me was easy. A trail of lit up objects displayed between myself and home. Ahead was a mystery.
Somehow I made it. Finding the bar’s wall was the best thing to happen to me all day. I trailed the brick siding gradually to the rear door. There I took a breath before knocking. Hopefully, this was the right location. It would be awkward if someone else answered. I think the building next door was a religious knick-knack store. The owner normally gave me a weird look every time I walked by.
The world around me had increased in visibility. No, visible was the wrong word. It was tangible. I could feel the nearby objects easier. Maybe getting this sort of feedback was always going on but I didn’t remember it. Maybe it was a survival method because I was blind. It didn’t go far, only a few feet, like existing in a weird bubble of space.
The door opened. I felt it fade back into the distance while a fuzzy figure stepped forward into the passage. Fuzzy was the only way to describe someone that couldn’t be felt perfectly due to muted senses.
“Jay?” The faint male voice answered.
“Charlie. Great.” My voice was rough from all the manly displays of emotion. “Let me in?”
“Sure.” I heard Charlie move with his trademark shuffle. “Are you okay?”
I placed one hand along the wall and guided myself down the hall to one of the back rooms. Charlie trailed behind. Being blind wasn’t something I could outright admit. At least it was easier to feel things from inside a familiar building. I frequented the bar enough that the perception of ownership wasn’t difficult to flip around. Hopefully, this was low key enough that Daniel wouldn’t have issues. Hunters could track my abilities? What nonsense. This wasn’t strength, wasn’t speed or fighting. It was a blind man trying to see.
“I’m fine. I need a phone book.” My lie came out smoothly enough.
“In the desk,” He responded.
“Which side? Things are blurry.” I pretended to be extremely hungover.
“Here.” Charlie moved past me and pulled out something from the desk. I would never have found it. This weight and razor thin pages went with a phonebook or a bible.
The accountant hung around. Either he worried about me, or he had more to say. My head was starting to hurt. I lined the phonebook up by its spine and pretended to go through it.
“You don’t seem okay,” Charlie said.
My teeth ground together before saying, “I am.”
“The phonebook’s upside down.” Hell. I tried to catch that by checking the spine. My arms itched a little and head felt fuzzy.
“Just light headed,” I said.
“Your hands are shaking.” The accountant responded in his whispering tone.
“You look sick.” Charlie kept commenting. Each statement increased in accuracy.
“Stop!” I shouted while trying not to shiver. Shame washed over me, Charlie had been nothing but nice to me. Hell. Please let me avoid having another breakdown here in front of a real human being.
“Who are you calling? It’s, is, it, a job?” The man sounded unfazed by my brief outburst.
“No. Sort of.” I guess Daniel had offered me a job of sorts. “An errand. I need to get out of town.” It was difficult to remember that the accountant was just concerned.
“Are you, you, you’re leaving again?” Came the accountant’s wispy voice.
My hands were sweating while trying to hold the phone book. The throbbing in my head had started growing worse. Every time I turned around it felt like something was out of whack with my body.
“Yeah. I’m not sure how long this time.” I tried to reassure him. We had talked about this earlier, my going away.
“Yeah. Will it be years again?” His voice was hurt.
“No, probably not.”
“Oh. That’s good.” Charlie always spoke slowly and simply. “When will you leave?”
“Today.” Or sooner if I knew how to get away from myself.
“Do you have time for a, a job?” The accountant’s question caught me off guard.
“That couples, the, the mother’s here with their son’s sports co, coa, jacket.” Charlie stuttered through the word. He might be a bit clammy, or sweating but my vision didn’t have that information.
“Right now?” I asked.
“They’ve been here every day, well, the mother has.” He took a breath and tried not to sound shaky. I tried to take a breath and not startle the poor guy. Charlie braved my presence where most humans detoured around me.“She’s, she is desperate. Police, they’re, they’re no good with missing kid reports.”
I sighed. It was money, two fifty would help me buy food where ever I ended up. My last trip along the countryside came with frequently empty pockets and a hungry belly. Money had been scarce. Survival came through odd jobs, manual labor, and more questionable methods of gathering cash.
“Alright.” If Charlie thought now was a good time, then now it was. My shirt was likely stained, hair a matted mess, eyes heavy with sleep and probably bloodshot. And the quiver of my hands. I couldn’t even hold onto the phonebook. “Do you, maybe need, need the bathroom first?”
“I guess.” There was a rather ripe smell that hadn’t been dulled by my manly displays of emotion or sightless status. “Can you find Bottom Pit’s number? Put it into my cell?”
“Yes,” Charlie mumbled.
The main restroom was a pool room and hallway over. Stumbling there went quicker than the parking lot crossing. My senses and range hadn’t improved any but I could tell the difference between water and bathroom tiles. I could almost feel the slight change in texture for some of the labels around the bathroom. Not enough to pick up the words. Memory helped me figure out which door was the male’s room. No one screamed so my guess must have been right.
Many details were too tiny or foreign. Being able to tell if my eyes were bloodshot was impossible. These clothes could be full of stains. I ran my fingers over the shirt trying to find any patches where blood had gone through. There may have been tiny spots that were missed.
Ten minutes later I was slightly cleaner, face washed, hair smoothed out a bit, clothing less smudged, and my nose was decidedly clearer than it had been. Well, it was clear for a whole thirty seconds. Close enough. I even tucked in my shirt. Then realized I had no belt on.
I exited the bathroom and slowly made my way over to the bar counter. Maybe a drink was in order. My shaking hands rattled against the counter top. I paused to try and figure out why controlling them was so hard. Was it cold in here? Was it hunger?
Oh. No. No, no, no. Hell.
Charlie brought me a jacket. He either noticed and thought I was cold, or it was to cover up blood spots on the shirt. My back wasn’t completely healed. The uneven ripples and tiny scabs kept catching on fabric and itched like mad.
I put the jacket on and held my hand out in front of me. Trying to keep it level. The shaking grew worse then more I focused. Hell. Had I really been drinking that much?
“Are you ready, to, to meet her, Jay?” Charlie asked.
“Sure.” I wasn’t but quick money might help all of us.
“Should, should I call you Jay, or something, one, else?” Charlie asked me. His tone was very hushed and wavered more than my hand.
“Jay’s fine.” I clasped the shaking hands together then took a deep breath. The smell had improved a little bit. A scent of copper hung along with faint brimstone. My stomach heaved once and I managed to restrain myself.
Charlie’s nod could be felt. He stepped out of the way. That dull bubble of tactile sight helped me stumble past other bar patrons then to a corner table. The way Charlie moved was interesting. Kept to walls, tables, chairs, like they were anchors. He practically clutched at the surfaces with one hand. It wasn’t instability because his legs and balance were fine. Was there an opposite to claustrophobia?
“Jay, this, this is Mrs. Richards.” Charlie’s voice held a tremor. It was hard for him to talk to new people.
“Is this him?” She asked.
I moved into range then sat down on the far side of her table. It was just enough to catch her shape. The woman’s body was heavyset and drooping. Her face felt puffy and slightly clammy. She had been crying recently. There was some sort of clothing in her hands. It was a jumble of thicker fabrics and embroidered letters. I couldn’t tell exactly what was on it.
“Yes. Jay is our, the, our, tracker.” The accountant stuttered through. His voice lifted towards the end with a shaky emotion of happiness.
“I heard you can find anything,” She responded.
“With a link. And if they’re alive.” I interrupted Charlie’s stutter. No use sugar coating things. I wasn’t a person willing to let some grieving mother build up hope. Too many family members had crashed on me over the years or turned violent in rage.
Mrs. Richards choked up for a moment then regained control. It was interesting feeling her body seize then slowly let out a breath. The edge of her skin and pulse could be felt through my tactile sight. Her tension didn’t vanish completely.
“If your child’s alive I can get a direction. If they’re near by I’ll get an exact location.” My upper range for specific tracking sat near sixty miles. Anything beyond that was a haze of white noise.
“You said five hundred right? I’ve got it ready, you can have it, just find my son.” She reached into her purse, one of those holds everything on the planet-sized ones, and pulled out bills of some sort. Mrs. Richards was shaking as bad as I was. Though our reasons differed.
“Charlie?” His thick fingers were gathering up bills. I felt paper being brushed around but couldn’t tell the difference between fives and fifties.
“It’s right.” He flipped through the bills a few times. Despite his inability to deal with people those fingers danced a different tune when handling money.
“Do you have something of his?” I reached out in hopes that the item she was rubbing to death belonged to little Timmy so and so.
“Can you really find him?” The woman’s breath came in short gasps while her nose threatened to whistle. “Are you sure?”
“I’ll need a link.” Why did people question me? I tried not to get upset with the worried mother.
“This isn’t a scam?” She slid over the jacket anyway.
“No.” I hated people doubting my abilities. Though Mrs. Richards might be within rights. I tried to clean up in the bathroom, but I probably looked a mess. Even looking her in the eyes to feel reassuring was impossible. We were probably better off without that anyway, people didn’t like looking at me.
“Are you blind?” She asked. Apparently my inability to focus had been noticed.
“No.” I ran my hands over the jacket, getting a distinct feel for it. Bumps and lettering ran along the back. The color lining felt frayed in spots.
“Tell me about him.” I prompted her.
“His name’s Cliff. We adopted him when he was four months old.” Her words started drifting in and out. I was trying to concentrate on forming a connection. It felt too easy to pull at the already established ones, easy to pull at the items I owned in my house, but out here it was harder.
“What sports is he into?” I asked.
“Running. Track mostly. He’s always loved to run.” Her sniffles faded for a moment. “Cliff just started pole vaults last year. His coach thinks he might be able to do state Olympics.”
Part of me was afraid to exercise my abilities, Daniel had warned me that anything above tracking might be dangerous. The problem was waking up the other part of my mind. It chatted up a storm back at Bottom Pit. Since that burnout event, the other self-had been nearly comatose. I forced the thought. Mine.
I frowned. Mrs. Richards kept on rambling in the background. Charlie had shuffled off somewhere. The rest of the bar was busy doing its own thing.
“He’s fourteen and just found out about the adoption. We hadn’t told him.” Mrs. Richards kept right on talking. Her words were a river of worries that sounded like every other mother to ask me for assistance tracking a runaway. “Milly, I mean my sister, said we should have told him when he was younger so it wouldn’t be a shock. How was I going to tell my little boy that he wasn’t mine? He was mine. I raised him.”
I sighed and tried to connect again. The attempt at spinning a thread of senses out across the distance failed. Nothing was happening. It wasn’t because he was dead, I couldn’t even get far enough in the process to tell. My brain felt like a car engine failing to turn over. The ignition just kept grinding away and refused to catch.
“Now he’s gone, has been gone, for two weeks! Two weeks! I’ve checked with his friends, asked their parents. No one’s seen him. There are a few calls on his phone, but the police say it gets turned off too quick to get a fix.”
She had given me the jacket. It was mine, for now, this moment. I owned it. The coat was too small for me. Cliff had narrow shoulders. There were worn patches inside from elbows brushing against the fabric. His arms probably were swallowed up by the length of these sleeves.
“How’d you find me?” I asked her to try and get more information. It was that or keep grinding my gears.
“An old friend of ours suggested you. She’s the same one who found Cliff for us, his god mother. We didn’t know what else to do.” Mrs. Richards said with an abrupt sniffle.
“What’s your friend’s name?”
“Muni,” She answered my question.
Half a breath caught in my lungs. Was Muni out and about? She used to work here based on clearly faulty memories. The black haired waitress slipped everyone’s mind. I stopped fiddling with the jacket and stared across at Mrs. Richards. My senses tried to find some sign of otherness.
The woman felt completely human.
“Muni said if anyone could find my son, you’d be able to.” The damned shaking never left her voice. It made me remember my own fingers and their inability to stay level. “She said maybe you could help sort him out. Your name came up out of the blue, in all the years we’ve known each other not once has she mentioned you, or this place.” Mrs. Richards lifted and gestured to something outside my range.
“I keep a low profile,” I said while trying to understand. She struck me the same way every other suburban mom did. Worried easily, slightly overweight, and otherwise useless to talk to.
“Did you find him?” She was looking at my hands. They had a slight tremor that was being covered up by keeping them against the table.
“No.” I said, then realized that sounded bad. “I can’t get a link. Here,” I reached out to Mrs. Richards. “Hold my hand. You’re his mother, it’ll help.”
If Muni was mixed up in this then there was a good chance the adopted child was a Hidden of some sort. Daniel had said I tracked down other races to bring them together. The lady in the garden alluded to the same thing. Roy and Daniel wanted to send me on a misson to find one. This was a good way to build up to it.
She took my hand. Her pulse and temperature felt like every other human I had run across. Mrs. Richards exhibited the same tremor of apprehension others did. It was a shiver of barely recognized fear. My presence intimidated normal people.
“Tell me more about him. Anything helps.” I said.
She thought for a moment, then words poured out. Favorite flavors of ice cream, fighting with him at bedtime, his first crush who was reportedly a little tart. The list went on. Each item feeding into a sense of the young man on the other end.
My other hand sat on the jacket as I concentrated. The complaints of my other mind were ignored while a connection formed.
Look around. Normal threads. Sanctuary, jumbles of lifeless colors. Incomplete Servant, a shimmer of rainbow hues. Dangerous Mate, dark, decaying, will ignore it.
Turn towards new thread. Small. Thin. Frail. Reinforce it. Tie in details as the Human Mother spills words.
Finally, we had progress of some sort. I hummed at her pauses or tried to respond by repeating interesting details. Cliff hated computers and played outside constantly. He ran everywhere because track only took up some of the time. Mrs. Richards tried to keep her descriptions positive, but I had a feeling he was a shy youngster.
Exhaustion washed over me. The tremors in my hands slowed. I wanted more sleep because my body was still recovering and I was pushing it. One simple enough job than I could take a train ride anywhere and pass out.
Cliff was fourteen and basically a child. Missing kids had always been a weakness of mine. It was difficult to imagine someone so young out there, lost, separated from those who cared for them. After running away returning home is a terrifying prospect. The looks of a disappointed family had ruined more than one reunion over the years.
I understood a lot of the fear that came from the thoughts of returning home. The apprehension so thick it paralyzed me. As a foster child, I also had my share of experience with running away. There was a faint memory of a father and son pair who were very strict.
“I’m getting something.” I managed to get out a sentence.
“What?” She asked.
Mrs. Richards tried to figure out what to say, then started in with more details. Cliff’s first day of school, terrible pictures that had to be retaken, or homework shredding episodes. She spoke of lunches that were left in his backpack for two days.
That was weird. It was like his face had two layers to it. The top layer felt like an old man. Cliff’s bottom layer felt like a younger boy. I shook my head. There had to be a sign of location around somewhere. The only thing I had to go off of so far was that Cliff was on a big metal bus.
I pushed past the exhaustion while growling. If Cliff’s mother noticed she was kind enough not to say.
A bus stop right outside a GreenLots to the east. That was something useful. The bus had just stopped there at a clear location.
I turned my head and asked, “What time is it?”
“Three fifteen,” Charlie answered quietly.
“Is there a stop outside GreenLots? It’s east about forty miles. Just off the freeway.”
“You found him?” Mrs. Richards asked while standing up. Our hands parted then the connection dropped into a misty thread.
“I think so.” I had tracked the connection using this jacket and Mrs. Richards. If the person on the other end wasn’t Cliff, and those double faces were weird, then Cliff was a figment of someone’s imagination. Muni was involved, and that impression certainly put this into the messy category.
Should I tell Daniel? No, he had enough to worry about. I doubt he actually went back to work for an evaluation with his boss or whatever excuse that was. The likely answer involved Daniel getting yelled at for being anywhere near me.
“I, I’ll look.” Charlie’s shuffling footsteps could be heard. Tables clinked as he leaned on them for support. Using my hearing and small range to divine what happened around me slowly became easier.
“Where is he?” Mrs. Richards sounded almost frantic. “Is he at that bus stop?”
“No,” I answered.
“He’s on the bus.”
“What?” She shouted. A few other bar room people shouted back, or maybe it was at the television. Faint sounds of a sportscaster could be heard.
“He’s on a bus,” I repeated myself. Why did people ask the same question twice? It was like they expected a different answer.
“Why would he be on a bus?” Mrs. Richards changed the words slightly.
A brief flare of anger got to me. The mostly calm center of my emotions burned a little while the urge to smack Cliff’s mom was suppressed. How did she expect me to understand why her son was on a bus? The woman had fourteen years on my four minutes.
“Is he safe?” She asked a more reasonable question.
“I believe so,” I answered.
“Anything else? Is he eating okay? Does he seem healthy?” Part of me wondered why she didn’t question the abilities. Then again trackers existed in myth as people who could hunt down others in various ways. All of them were probably inhuman and masquerading as normal people.
“I don’t know.” My words came out slowly. Our connection hadn’t been strong enough to pick up how the teen felt. He could have been running on fumes or full of tacos for all I knew.
“Can we get him?”
“Wait for Charlie,” I said.
We waited six long minutes where I had to endure a mother’s frantic questioning. She didn’t seem to understand that my brief connection hadn’t resulted in much. He was alive. He was on a bus. His face was weird. Charlie took seven minutes too long to get back with an answer. He had a printout of some sort.
“Mrs. Richards? Here’s the bus, I, I think.” He crinkled paper while trying to shove the document towards Cliff’s mother.
“What’s this?” She asked.
“Ah, a, well, the route. I printed it, it out.” Poor Charlie was getting flustered.
“Where’s the transfer station?” I asked.
“Yes, yes, here.” Charlie’s finger could be felt moving towards the table and poking on it. My blindness made the action pretty unhelpful.
“Do you want to drive there?” I turned towards Mrs. Richards. Parents of lost children always wanted to run off right away. For the money we had picked up, stopping to find the child in person would be simple enough.
“Yes!” She declared while jingling keys. “Now!”
“Charlie, will you be okay here?” My head tilted up towards the tall man’s head.
“Yes.” He paused and swayed for a moment. That motion normally meant a person was being indecisive.
“I’ll go with her.” I offered.
“Thank you, thank, thanks.” He nearly fled to the back room. I think being out front like this had been extremely trying for the poor man. His heart rate had been slowly climbing the longer he stood out here. There was a reason he stayed in the back room counting numbers.
Finding lost people wasn’t that difficult provided they were nearby. If he truly wanted to start up some sort of business venture again, we would need a new front person. We had gotten lucky with Cliff’s mom being referred here, but most runaways went to other cities. Up north about eight hours was another major hub. It had the highest percentage of homeless in the entire Sector.
“Let’s go! Come on!” Mrs. Richards kept rattling keys as she dashed out the door.
I tried to follow her at something resembling normal speeds, the woman nodded at the edge of my senses. A faint halo of her face lit up as air moved around.
“Do you know where to go?” I asked her.
“Sort of. This map will help. I’ll just turn on the GPS.” She responded. The prospect of hearing a digital voice giving orders didn’t thrill me. We made it through the front door and towards a car. It beeped when we got close.
“Do you mind if I sit in the back?”
“Why?” Her question hung for a moment. “It’s a mess.”
“I get motion sickness.” I tried to keep my answer vaguely truthful. Cars generally made me uncomfortable and being in the back seat helped.
“It’s a small price for your gift. Being able to find people. That’s rare, even for a bite victim.” She gushed. Most people assumed I survived an encounter with vampirism.
My shoulders went up with a shrug. The sound of a car door unlocking was followed by objects being brushed around. Tin crinkled as she gathered up a small pile then ran off somewhere.
“Everything has a price,” I muttered Bottom Pit’s second rule while trying to track her progress. I was paying, had been paying, and would continue to do so. My guts clenched again as I tried not to think of Kahina’s unintended betrayal.
We loaded into the vehicle and drove onward. Mrs. Richards chattered for a few minutes then finally seemed to realize I wasn’t a talker. It was a lesson many people picked up on eventually.
I held the jacket and tried to keep tabs on the connection. The only sensations coming through were fleeting senses of direction. The bus was headed our way but traveled a strange route. It passed down one street before going back up another in a slow crawl across town.
My eyes shut and consciousness started to drift. Car rides coupled with general exhaustion nearly put me to sleep. The rest was welcome.
Finally, she pulled along the side of a wide street. I sat up and looked around before realizing the automatic response was useless. Blind me couldn’t see anything that far away. Even Mrs. Richards’ face in the front seat was vague at best. Being away from my home made everything seem worse.
“Where is he?” She asked.
I looked around again then found Cliff through his jacket. Checking felt like pulling a sore muscle. There was enough to be confident when saying, “Close. I’ll go get him.”
“Shouldn’t I?” Mrs. Richards turned around to face me. Her arm swinging over then putting pressure on a chair cushion.
“He ran away, right?” I asked.
“Yes. I don’t know why. Everything was going well. His school was fine, he was happy. We were happy.” Parents of lost children often said the same things. They almost never mentioned how bad things really were. Something had gone wrong, either at home or at school or with his perception of the world.
“You won’t like this.”
“I should go get him!” She opened the door. My hand reached up to pull her jacket shoulder back. Mrs. Richards flopped back down and almost banged her head. “Why did you stop me?”
“He ran for a reason. Kids doing this normally twist all their emotions together. Seeing you will cause him to panic. People do stupid things when they panic.” Stupid normally involved attacking me because a normal human couldn’t stand my face. One person had actually run into oncoming traffic.
“How would you know?” She asked.
“I’ve done this before.” My breath sucked in for a lungful of air before sighing it out. “So, I know.”
“I’m his mother, he would be happy to see me.”
“Mrs. Richards.” She kept protesting. More words that hurt my head. Everything she said was getting harder to filter correctly. My senses started picking up the vibrations of her rambling and combined them with normal hearing to create a headache inducing double echo.
Being sober wasn’t helping. I tried to keep a solid grip on her shoulder. Not forceful, just solid. The line was thin and I probably misjudged it.
“Lady!” I nearly yelled, trying not to wince at the sound of my own voice assaulting me. Yelling was a very bad idea.
“What? You found him, you have your money, let me go get him!”
“I’ll get him. He’s scared and confused. A few days out here may have exposed him to things he wouldn’t like. You can’t just rush people like that. I’ll bring him back, you have to trust me.” I hated this speech. Hated that it was needed. When Julianne had handled my jobs this sort of case came up once in awhile. I had seen more than a few reunions blow up badly for all parties involved. Typically because there was a lot of barely repressed hurt.
She started in again. I shook her.
“Trust me. You’ll want to come in anyway, to watch from the sidelines, to do something because you’ve been helpless this whole time.” I couldn’t be making the correct kind of eye contact. Being blind was screwing me up.
“Do. Not. Interfere. You said he has a phone. We’ll call you when he’s ready.” I said. There was a moment of silence. I heard buses in the distance pull up. That strange compression of breaks and gears being lowered and raised. It was a familiar noise. Distinct.
“Are you sure?” She asked me.
“This isn’t some stupid scam is it? You and that man just vanish with my money?”
“No. You said Muni sent you, and she and I have a history.” I said. One past involved very mixed feelings. That featherhead had helped me keep Kahina alive, helped me stay hidden from the Order of Merlin, but she also stole away my memories somehow to do it.
“I’ll bring your boy home when he’s ready.”
“Do you promise?” A slight sniffle could be heard in her voice.
“Yes.” I nodded.
“Okay. I believe you.” She sounded deliberate with her wording. Maybe she knew it was best if someone else got Cliff.
I got out of the car. If Mrs. Richards was apprehensive it didn’t matter. If she followed me I would never know. All my effort was put into walking towards the buses. Tracking the slight pull of Cliff’s cord helped immensely. He was close, on a vehicle that lit up dimly to my tactile senses.
There was a whoosh of gears being lowered. The bus Cliff was on had shifted around to let me on. I must have looked more pitiful than I thought. The transit driver didn’t even ask for a fare. Hopefully I was in a free ride zone or I looked so blind that he didn’t care. A handicapped person wasn’t worth arguing over three dollars with.
I held both hands out to feel the rails. Slow awkward groping led me to the back of the bus. There I violated one of the cardinal rules of mass transportation. An empty seat was on the right. I sat down with more force than necessary on the left, next to Cliff.
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