“There’s at least fifty ways to forgive your mother,” said Stitches, “and I bet you haven’t tried a single one of them.” Below them, the number one bus released air and lowered its door to the curb.
Charlie let gravity pull him down the long flight of stairs and out onto California. He didn’t bother to say goodbye. Just past the corner grocer, he found the right square of air to stop and pull at where his barley colored hair used to be.
Stitches was trying to help, and Charlie knew it, but it didn’t mean that he wanted it. Any of it. Help required two parities, and Charlie didn’t want to play his part. Stitches knew most of the story, enough to know why galaxies grew between Charlie and his mother.
It was too late, anyway.
“He knows exactly why she should forgive me,” said Charlie.
“Excuse me?” asked a traffic cop. She ripped off a ticket printed from a gadget strapped to her wrist with Velcro and gave Charlie a long look. It wasn’t concern, it was an invitation.
“Talking to myself I guess, sorry.”
She had long slender fingers, and her nails were painted black. Her eyes were too kind for her line of work, the short lines at the corners of her eyes too forgiving for what came with it.
“No crime in that, but you weren’t talking, you were screaming. And when someone screams, it’s usually at someone other than themselves. Take it from me, I get screamed at all day long.”
Her smile caught the sun before it hit the sidewalk. Perfect teeth, parched tongue.
“Yea, I could imagine.” Charlie searched for a false laugh.
“Hey, at least I’m not pretending to talk to myself.”
Charlie dragged his palms across his chest and reached out a hand. “I’m Charlie.”
“Sorry?” Charlie stepped back and cocked his head, this time it was he who had a long look.
“I know. I know everything about you.”
“Is this some sort of joke?”
She stuck a ticket to the plastic windshield of a turquoise green Vespa parked between them.
“Hipsters think they can park anywhere at anytime, drives me crazy.”
“Wait a minute. Why do you think you know anything about me? Stitches put you up to this?”
“You tell me, Charlie Gold.”
Charlie blocked her from his view and searched the empty space around him, desperate to find the square of air to rest his mind. It was deep in her eyes, a seductive familiarity, that killed any doubt that he may have had. She did know. She knew everything.
Whoever she was.
She knew that there were more than fifty ways for Charlie to forgive his mother. Stitches was right about one thing, Charlie hadn’t considered a single one of them. What struck him, silenced the city around them, was that she knew exactly why.