The following day I drive Judah back to the Bone. I can barely keep my hands from shaking as they grip the steering wheel in a death vice. I haven’t been back—not since I left. Too afraid to go; too afraid to stay. Now I am sick at the thought of seeing the eating house, and Sandy, and Delaney. I curse myself for agreeing to this and wonder if Judah has some ulterior motive in wanting me to go with him. What steadies me is Little Mo. Maybe Mo will let me have him for a little while. He’ll be so much bigger by now. Walking. I cheer at the thought and find my foot pressing a little harder on the accelerator. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll concentrate on Mo, and maybe I’ll have a little time to pop by Nevaeh’s grave. I heard that the city paid for a large angel statue to be placed next to her gravestone. It was a nice thing to do. I glance at Judah, suddenly feeling much better, and find him staring at me.
“What?” I ask.
“You should have seen your face. This entire time I thought I was watching a silent film.”
“Oh, shut it,” I say. But I can already feel the blush creeping up my neck. Way to act like a psycho, Margo.
“You were chewing on your lip and hunched over the steering wheel one minute, the next you were smiling to yourself, and then all of a sudden you’re frowning and rocking back and forth like a mad woman.”
“Nonsense,” I tell him. “But seriously, it’s like you just woke up after all this time and realized I’m not normal.”
“I guess I’ve been gone too long. But that’ll be different now that I’m coming back.”
I glance at him out of the corner of my eye, wondering if he thinks I’ll be driving back to the damn Bone every week to see him. Fat chance. I stick a slab of chocolate in my mouth to keep from bursting his bubble.
“My therapist told me you aren’t real,” I tell him.
He grins at me. “I’ve always been too good to be true, Margo.”
It’s the same as it’s always been. I keep my eyes fixated ahead, trying not to look at all the things that haven’t changed. I don’t see the wet paper cups lying in the gutters, or the smoke from the food trucks curling into the sky. I definitely don’t see the high school girls wearing mini skirts and hanging all over boys who will get them pregnant and leave shortly thereafter. Judah chats cheerfully next to me, but I don’t hear him. I turn down Wessex and pull into Delaney’s driveway. It takes all of five minutes for me to drop his bags off at the front door and help him into his chair.
“Come inside with me, Margo,” he says. “My mom would love to see you.”
I shake my head. “I have to head back,” I lie. Before he can say anything else, I’m back in the Jeep and backing out of his driveway. I don’t go to the eating house, even though I can feel it calling to me. I pull into Mo’s driveway. He must have been standing near the window, because as soon as he sees my car, he comes outside, his eyes narrowed. When he sees it’s me, his shoulders lose some of their tension.
“Well, well … look who’s back,” he says. He’s not smiling. My stomach does a little turn as I slam the door and walk up the drive.
“What you want, girl? You never been the drug type.”
I grin. “I came to see Little Mo, actually.”
He looks surprised. “Yeah, he’s in his cage. You can go in. Want to watch him for a bit. I have some business to take care of.”
“Sure,” I say. He doesn’t even go back inside the house. I watch from the open doorway as he drives off in his Lincoln. Mo has never invited me into his house. I suppose he’s desperate enough to let his former neighbor play babysitter to his motherless son. Little Mo is playing with a set of plastic keys as he sits in a stained pack-and-play in the living room. His face is smeared with chocolate, but other than that, he looks fine. When he sees me, he smiles. I can’t control the utter happiness I feel. We spend the afternoon together, and when he naps, I walk around the house and look in Mo’s drawers. I find tiny baggies of cocaine under the bed he shared with that child-beating whore, Vola. I empty them out one by one into the toilet, then I re-fill each bag with flour and replace them. When I drive out of the Bone, long after the sun has gone down, for once I feel refreshed. I haven’t thought about Leroy in hours. My mind is a clear sky.
A WEEK LATER, I drive to the Bone to pick up Judah and deliver him back to SeaTac airport.
“How was it?” I ask as we cruise onto the highway. The air is warm, and my hair is whipping around my face.
“Good. I’m ready to come back.”
“Great,” I say. But it’s not great. Judah going back to the Bone feels like a bad omen. If the Bone can call him back, what can it do to me?
“You don’t mean that,” he says. “You hate that I’m going back.”
We don’t say much after that, but when we cross the water into Seattle, he asks me something that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
“Did you do something bad? Is that why you don’t want to go back?”
“Why would you say that?” I narrowly miss hitting a car and swerve back into my lane. I press my foot against the accelerator.
“When I asked you about it in California, you ran. Didn’t even say goodbye.”
“There’s more than one reason I did that,” I say, thinking about Erin/Eryn/Eren.
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