Continued from Eleven, Eleven
"Do you know him?"
Jessica stares through the window at the boy in the interview room, as he sips chocolate milk through a straw from a small plastic jug they must have given him. She watches his eyes as they roam the walls. Is that you Chris? For a second she is afraid she said it out loud, but a quick glance at the detective assures her she was silent. The boy pushes the container of milk away from him, laying his head on the table.
"What are you going to do with him?" Jessica turns to face the detective.
"We are running his prints now. He has yet to speak to anyone since coming in, even the child psychologist could not get him to talk. We will try to find a parent or guardian."
"Can I talk to him?" she asks hopefully.
"No. We can't do do that Mrs. Hatcher. Only authorized personnel and family will get to see him. Don't worry, he will talk eventually and maybe he can shed some light on your husbands disappearance."
The weight of the moment settles on her shoulders and she looks back to the boy, hoping he can provide answers, only to find him standing at the window, staring at them.
"I thought he could not see us," she exclaims.
"He can't," unsettled, the officer steps around Jessica to the phone on the wall to call for the psychologist again.
The boy runs a finger down the window, leaving streaks and dots, and Jessica's heart races as she reads '11:11.'
The ride home smears across Jessica's mind, like fingers through paint, her thoughts and feelings a jumble. She did not want to leave, but they practically forced her out the door when she became hysterical about seeing the boy. They had to think she was crazy. Perhaps she was. Perhaps everything that had been happening with Chris these last couple years was a delusion. She could not understand what was happening.
The last time he had been gone six days, returning five years younger than when he left. They had to move, people would ask questions. The first two they explained away with dieting, good living, but he was looking too young now. Soon, maybe now she would have to pretend he was her son.
If only he had been at home, but he said he was close to finding a cure. If only the police had not been involved. If only he hadn't been impatient, trying the serum on himself, none of this would have happened. If only he had never tried to play God, seeking eternal youth. If. If. If.
Heart twisting, she pulls to the curb in front of a convenience store, all her hopes and fears spilling down her cheeks, through the fingers of the hands pressing into her face. The torment and questions that had been building explode out her with each ragged exhalation.
"No ma'am the boy has not talked. Like I told you the last couple times you called, we will call you if we find anything pertinent to the disappearance of you husband. Now please, let us do our job."
Jessica barely hears the sharp disconnect, cell phone still pressed to her ear as she stands at the island in the middle of the kitchen. Slowly lowering the phone from her ear, it clatters against the wood counter top breaking the trance. Glancing around the kitchen she tries remembering what she was doing.
Shuffling to the stairs, she takes minutes with each, as she ascends to their room. Pulling back the sheets, she slides, clothes and all, beneath them. Wrapping herself tight in a cocoon, seeking warmth, she only finds a cool reminder of Chris.
A thunderous crash splits the cocoon, spilling Jessica startled to the floor. Struggling to catch her breath against the pounding weight of her heart, she stretches her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Silence greets her ears first, then gentle thumps. Soft footsteps on the floor below.
Anxiousness about Chris overtakes caution and she nearly slides down the steps in her haste, grabbing the railing at the last moment to right herself. Rounding the corner into the living room, she scans the shadows, searching for what might have made the noise. A lamp, the one usually near the mirror, rolls back and forth slightly on the floor in the center of the room. Fear and confusion flood her, how did it get there?
"Chris," she calls weakly, hoping.
"Chris," she calls again, desperate.
"Here," a feeble voice answers.
Searching with her eyes, she finds the shadow in the corner chair by the window. Shafts of moonlight break through the clouds into the otherwise empty room, illuminating the lower half of his body. His legs are gaunt, knobby at the knees. Relief floods her, grace received in getting Chris back. She rushes across the room, falling to her knees at his feet, pressing her face into his chest, sobbing.
"Oh God. I thought you...," she gasps the words.
"Shhh...," his hand combs through her hair.
A rumbling wheeze erupts in her ear, from his chest, and she pulls back with a start. Raising her hand to his face, still shrouded in darkness, she runs her fingers along his cheeks. Harsh creases traverse his skin, lips puckering at his teeth. Reaching his scalp the hair is light and thin. He is old.
"Oh Chris," she pulls him to her, her kisses intense, yet light.
"We will get through this," his voice croaks against her cheek.
Her head slips into the hollow between his neck and shoulder and tears squeeze through eyes clench tight, trying to keep their reality at bay.
"This will be your bed. Like the social worker said, you will only be here a few days, but we want you to feel at home," Mrs. Guthrie stands at the foot of the bed in a small room within her home looking at the silent boy.
The social worker told her, when she dropped the boy, that they did not have a name on the boy and that he had been found dressed in men's clothing downtown. Unable to get an identification off of his fingerprints they were unsure what they were going to do. This is where Mrs. Guthrie came in, she provided respit for foster families and occasionally took in those children awaiting a placement.
Scuffing the toes of his shoes together, the boy looks at her, taking it all in.
Kneeling in from of him, Mrs Guthrie looks him in the eye, "I know you don't have any clothes. I pulled out some pjs for you and tomorrow we will go through some clothes i have set aside and find you some new things to wear."
A slow smile creeps into the boy's cheeks at her motherly charm, and Mrs. Guthrie hands him a plastic tub, "It's okay if you don't want to talk, but I would really like to know what to call you. This will be your tub, to keep things in and so no one will go in there maybe you can write you name on the side of it.
Taking the permanent marker from her, the boy sits on the bed, screwing his face in concentration, tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth as he writes on the side of the tub. Finishing he turns it around for her to see, happy to please her.
"Alright, Chris it is..."
This is a 10DOM Magpie Tale