“Work,” I say, starting to walk again.
“Something keep you late?” he asks. His hands are moving quickly across the wheels of his chair to keep up.
“It was midnight when I saw you.”
“Oh … yeah. I was late.” I look out at the field across the street. The leaves on the trees are turning.
He’s quiet for a minute, then he says, “They found a body near the harbor this morning.”
“Whose?” I ask. My mouth feels dry. I try to keep my eyes on the road ahead of me, but everything is blurring in and out of focus.
“They don’t know yet. It’s on the news. Someone reported a fire in the woods near the harbor, so the police went out there to check it out, and there was a body.”
“Hmm,” I say. “Whose was it?”
“You just asked me that,” he says. “I told you they don’t know.”
‘Oh,” I say dumbly. I switch Mo to my other hip.
“Let me have him,” Judah says, holding out his arms.
“He doesn’t know you,” I say, squeezing Mo a little tighter.
“And you two are on a first name basis?” He wiggles his fingers impatiently. I reluctantly relinquish the baby to Judah’s arms. My arms are starting to get tired, and I’m not even to the end of Wessex yet.
“You can push me, and I can hold him. Doesn’t he have a stroller?”
“It’s broken,” I say. “The wheel…”
“Bring it over later, I’ll take a look.”
“Ugh, you’re so helpful it’s annoying,” I say.
Judah turns the baby around so they’re facing each other. I notice that Little Mo pulls his legs up instead of stiffening them when held under his arms.
“You don’t look like a Mo,’” he informs the baby. For the next forty minutes I listen to Judah discuss various name choices with the baby, who looks right through him. By the time we reach Wal-Mart, my arms are aching, and the baby is fussy. Judah has somehow renamed him Miles. “Mo Miles, Mo Miles,” he says, and I swear Mo gives him a little smile like he’s approving. Mo’s smiles are rare. I feel jealous.
“I think he needs formula,” I say. We make our way to the baby aisle. I grab diapers, formula, and a pack of bottles. When I turn around, Judah has a colorful toy in his hand; he’s moving it left to right, letting Mo follow it with his eyes. There is a brief moment where Mo lifts his fist as if to touch the toy, and my heart does a little jump.
“We’re getting that too,” I say.
“Your mom leave you some money?” he asks me when I pull a hundred dollar bill from my pocket.
“You could say that.”
“Here,” he says, holding out his hand for my Groceries & Shit bag. “He needs a bottle.”
I hold Mo while Judah makes him a bottle. Two scoops of formula, a bottle of Aquafina, then he shakes it and holds out his arms. I place Mo is his lap, and Judah sticks the bottle in his mouth. As I watch Mo eat, I wonder how Judah knew how to do that. I would have struggled to read the instructions for fifteen minutes, and probably would have dropped the whole container of powder on the ground. While I watch them, I hear Lyndee’s screams. I smell the smoke. I feel her blood. I killed a woman. I planned it all out, and I killed a woman, and here I am at Wal-Mart the next day with my hot cripple friend and the neighbor’s baby. I don’t know which person is the imposter. I am either Margo of the Bone, or this new thing, this murderer. Or maybe I’ve always been her, this vile, wicked person; she was just there, simmering beneath the surface, waiting for me to act on my impulses.
“How did you know how to do that?” I ask.
“You work with babies?”
“I work with children of all ages.”
“Where do you work anyway?”
“Are we friends now?” he asks. “Officially?”
“I guess so,” I say. “We see a lot of each other. We’re either friends at this point or we’re married.”
“Margo Grant,” he teases. “You can be Miles Grant,” he tells Mo. Mo pauses for a minute in his sucking to smile at Judah, while I blush profusely.
“Don’t you buy into his charm,” I tell Mo. “He’s a big flirt.”
The sun heats our shoulders with little mercy. I am wishing I had sunscreen for the baby when Judah suddenly decides to answer my question.
“I work at Barden’s School for the Disabled,” he says. “It’s also where I went to school. My mom got me a scholarship, somehow convinced them to put me on their bus schedule even though they have to drive all the way out here to this evil corner of the universe. When I graduated, they offered me a part-time job working with the after school kids and as a teacher’s aide.”
I glance down at the top of his head, impressed. It seems exactly like the sort of thing he should be doing. I am just about to say so when he says…
“I hated going there. I already felt so different, then I was forced to go to a school where everyone was different. And all I wanted to do was experience some normalcy.”
I think about my high school experience—the kids with their guarded, worn eyes. Wanting someone to notice you all the while praying no one does. The urgency to find likeness in your peers and knowing you never will. The desperate and clumsy attempts to dress, and speak, act and tolerate what is deemed acceptable. It was the most humiliating, desperately lonely four years of my life. And yet, had Judah’s body been whole, his legs undamaged by the tumor that stole his ability to walk, he would have stood tall, probably played football on the school’s team. Handsome and popular, he never would have been the kind of boy to exchange words with me. How lucky did that tumor make me? How blessed? To get to know a man like Judah Grant without the social barriers dictating our roles.
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