I walk home in the rain, my feet throbbing, and grab my raincoat. It’s getting dark. I wonder how long the search party will look for her in this weather. It’s too late to find them now.
I am walking down Wessex with a pile of the posters I took from the detectives when Judah wheels himself in my path. I stare at him blankly before he hands me a pair of rain boots.
“They’re my mom’s,” he says. “She doesn’t use them.”
I take the boots. They are green with red cherries. I pull them on my bare feet without saying a word.
“Give me some.” He holds out his hand, and I slide a thick stack of posters between his fingers. We decide to hand out the flyers at Wal-Mart. Neither of us speaks. I’m not entirely sure Judah knows Nevaeh; he never had reason to run into her, but his face is drawn and pale. That’s how it is in the Bone. You are scared for yourself, mostly, but sometimes you are scared for someone else. As for me, I know what it is like to be a kid, and to be alone. When we run out of posters, we go home.
“We had to shove them at people,” I say. “It’s like no one wanted to look.”
“You have to understand something about the Bone,” Judah says. “Every bad thing that happens here reminds people of what they’re trying to forget. When you’re rich and you see stuff like this on TV, you hug your children and feel grateful it’s not you. When you’re from the Bone, you hug your children and pray you’re not next.”
I’m quiet for a long time, thinking about this. I’ve been sitting alone in a dark room with a box of Honey Buns for so long that it’s nice to talk.
“Why don’t they do something? Why don’t we do something? We could all leave here—every last one of us—and go look for something better.”
“It’s not that easy,” Judah says. “The Bone is in our marrow. It’s complacency and fear handed down from generation to generation.”
Judah stops at a food truck and studies the menu. I wait for him under the stubby metal awning of the bus top, trying to stay warm. The guys behind the window seem to know him. They step out of the truck to bring him his bag of food, which he sets on his lap when he wheels over to me.
“Dinner,” he says.
I sit awkwardly as he doles out tacos and chips onto napkins he puts on our laps. There are little cups of bright red salsa to go with everything, and a large fizzing cup of Coke. It’s the first time someone’s bought me dinner.
The rain is a fine mist tonight, but it’s not overly cold. If Nevaeh is outside—hurt or something—she won’t freeze. I hate that I’m thinking that.
“Where could she be?” I ask, gingerly picking up a chip. “This is a small town. Hardly any strangers even come through here.”
“Maybe she ran away,” Judah says. His mouth is full of taco. I can smell the cilantro and meat. “You know how little kids are around here. I used to want to run away once a week when I was her age. I probably would have if I had the legs to do it.”
I shake my head. “No, she’s not like that.”
“I know,” he says. “I’m just trying to make myself feel better.”
I nibble on the chip I’m holding, crunching it between my two front teeth like a gopher.
“Did you know her?”
He hesitates. “Yeah…” He licks the sour cream from the corner of his mouth and continues eating.
I try to think of all the ways he could have come in contact with Nevaeh and come up empty. Nevaeh didn’t live on Wessex; she lived on Thames Street, two down, one over. She went to school, she caught the bus to her grandma’s, she played on her street, but never wandered farther than the end of the block. How does a crippled, college-aged man know a second grade girl?
“Why aren’t you eating?” he asks.
Because I don’t want you to think I’m fat.
“Not that hungry, I guess.” I am so hungry.
He sets his taco down and stares at me. Pieces of lettuce tumble off his lap and onto the ground. “If you don’t eat, I’m not eating. And then you’ll be responsible for starving a cripple.”
I unwrap my taco, smiling a little.
“Where do you work?” I ask. We are finished eating, wrappers disposed, hands dusted on our pants. I step down from the curb and then turn back to help him over a patch of bad street—cracked and rippled. I know he takes classes in Seattle because three times a week his school sends a white van to pick him up. Though I don’t know what he’s studying.
“At my job,” he replies.
“Okay, smartass, what are you studying?”
I am surprised by his quick answer, when he’s been dodging the other for so long. Though something about him being a teacher fits. It’s glove-like, appropriate.
“Is that how you knew her? Know her…” I correct myself.
“Yes,” he says. And that’s all he says. And even though he bought me dinner, I have the urge to reach out and smack the back of his head. I’m a hypocrite, I realize. I don’t like intrusive questions either.
I feel as if I’ve known him for a very long time.
I SKIM TEN DOLLARS from the floorboards to buy myself a new pair of shoes from the Rag. I have seven work checks, made out in my name, and no bank account in which to deposit them. I need picture identification to open a bank account, and so far I haven’t even been able to find my birth certificate. I asked her for it once, and her eyes got bleary before she walked away without saying a word. I have a social security card, Margo Moon and a nine-digit number that tells the world I’m a valid American. Since I don’t have a photo ID, Sandy had to take my word for it when she hired me.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com