“Let us off here.” I ordered, not wanting to get too close to the triangle yet. Turning to James, I said, “I know Mila can take care of herself, but we’d stick out like a sore thumb in such a fancy car. Probably should do something about your clothing as well.”
James nodded, but seemed lost in thought. Then he shivered as if the cold just cut through his clothes.
“Oh! If you’re cold, we can get you a hoodie like mine. No offense, but even your hair is a bit too clean cut for this area.” I warned him.
“So says the girl with perfect white hair and skin.” he teased.
Grinning, I said, “Thank you! You wouldn’t believe how paranoid I’ve been about it lately. Everyone at your place is so beautiful. I sometimes wonder if you even notice me.”
I hadn’t meant to admit quite that much, but I was flying high on James’ compliment.
“There is a thrift shop just ahead on the right, master, if you do wish to change.” stated Mila as she displayed text for me to read. She also displayed a map for us, showing where we were and the simple path to take. “I’ll remain here and care for anything you wish to take off.”
“Okay. Thank you, Mila.” replied James just before stepping out.
If he said anything else, she didn’t show me, so I quickly hopped out of the car to follow him. His long strides carried him quickly ahead, but I kept up easily enough, half-jogging at times to close the gap.
I knew this store, having passed it numerous times. A sense of nostalgia swept of me as I looked around. Not so long ago, I came to stores like this relatively often, needing the cheapest clothes I could get when my clothes were too badly damaged to patch up.
“Oh! Try this on!” I exclaimed, noticing a very colorful, Hawaiian-style shirt. I didn’t really want James to buy it, but I wanted to see him in it.
He agreed, sliding the shirt over his own before looking in the mirror.
I grinned as I watched him. He looked so ridiculous. “I think that might make you stick out even worse!” I teased, helping him out of the shirt.
I found several more obnoxiously bright shirts for him to try, and I love how he smiled as he tried each. He seemed to be enjoying himself. Then he found a gigantic, black hoodie. I wondered how wide the previous owner was when the hoodie hung loosely on James.
“I’ll just get this.” he told me as he examined himself.
I wanted to stop him, suggesting anything else to have a bit more fun, but I shrugged instead. The hoodie hid his expensive shirt and hung low enough to cover the brand of his jeans. If he was happy with how he looked, I couldn’t argue.
“Let’s just hope no one looks too hard at your feet. Since I don’t recognize that brand, it’s gotta be expensive.” I cautioned.
James smiled and shrugged. He knew what his clothes were like. As I walked toward the triangle, he followed. I tried thinking of something to say, but he started texting before I managed to come up with something he’d find interesting. When he looked up again, he seemed startled, glancing over his shoulder and back in front of him quickly. I walked ahead, glancing back to make sure he was following again. He was.
How did this place look to James? He lived in such an enormous, well-kept house in a beautiful neighborhood. What did he think of people who lived like this? Did he realize that an area similar to this is where he would have found me a year ago?
I stopped, glancing back at him as he tapped my shoulder.
Pointing, he said, “I just heard glass break. I think from over there.”
I nodded. I would have glanced down the alley anyway, but now I knew someone was probably there. I frowned and turned down the alley after seeing a large man on the ground. James fell behind when I turned off, but he hurried to catch up now. I quickly moved to catch him as he slipped.
Seeing that the man was still breathing, I started feeling the man’s pockets, looking for a wallet. James tapped my shoulder again, so I turned toward him.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Finding out where he lives.” I replied. “How else are we going to get him home?”
“But what if he’s injured? Should we get him to a hospital?” asked James as I pulled a wallet from the guy’s back pocket.
“Most of the people in this area don’t want to end up in a hospital for anything minor. He probably just slipped like you. Can’t you smell the alcohol?” I asked.
There was even part of a bottle still in the man’s hand. Having seen his address on the ID in the wallet, I slipped Louis’ wallet back into his pocket and lifted him up. James looked surprised.
“Care to give me a hand?” I asked him.
He nodded and hunched down to put Louis’ arm over his shoulders as I had done. James struggled a bit as we walked the block, readjusting his position several times. Being that tall apparently was a disadvantage at times like this.
When we reached the right address, I knocked on the door. An older woman answered the door, probably Louis’ grandmother.
“Oh! What happened to my Louis?” she asked.
I glanced over to James, but he was already talking. I couldn’t really see what he was saying past Louis.
The woman shook her head, looking glum as she looked at Louis. What had James told her?
Motioning to follow her, she said, “Well, get him in here. Good Lord knows we don’t want the neigh-…”
I had no idea what she was saying now that her back was to us, but I followed till she stopped and pointed at the couch. I followed James’ lead positioning Louis on the couch. A young boy came running into the room, staring at Louis the moment he was in the room.
“Is he dead?” asked the boy.
I shook my head as the lady seemed to be saying something.
Turning to us, she then said, “Well, you two sit right there, and I’ll dish you up some pie. Louis will want to thank you when he comes around.”
I nodded and took a seat, not wanting to offend her. I tried not to laugh when I noticed how uncomfortable James seemed. Had he ever been in a house this small? I wondered what he would have done if the place wasn’t as well-kept, somewhat of a rarity in neighborhoods like this.
The lady came back with two plates and handed me one, saying, “Here you are. Now I baked that myself. Bought…” She turned to walk around over to James, leaving me clueless as to what she was saying. She smiled wide after giving James his plate. Looking surprised, she said, “Oh, heavens, I forgot to introduce myself. My name’s Edna. Now who might you be?”
“James. Meeting you is a pleasure.” he told her, holding up his hand to shake.
I quickly set down my plate as Louis moved. Standing and touching his shoulder, I said, “Easy. You hit your head.”
He stared up at me and said, “Are you an angel?”
I smiled, having had this happen before. “You’re home.” I assured him.
“Gran-gran?” he asked.
I turned to see if she responded.
“Who else would be in our house taking care of our guests?” she asked.
I backed up, so I could see them both more easily.
“What happened? Who are you two?” he asked.
“Sorry. I’m James.” replied James, holding out his hand again.
“I’m Portentia. We found you in the alley back there.” I explained.
“Alley?” he asked.
“You drunk fool.” stated Edna.
“Drunk? Nah, gran-gran. I was buying you more eye medicine. Smell my breath.” he told her.
“I can smell you from here.” she stated.
James quickly said, “He was on top of a shattered bottle.”
“I didn’t smell anything on his breath.” I assured her.
“Oh. Now that’s a good boy. You sit there, and I’ll get you a slice of pie.” she told him.
“Thanks for getting me back. Sorry if gran-gran’s pushing you around.” he told us. Looking to the door, he said, “What kind of question is that? Boy, you better learn yourself some manners!”
I looked to the doorway to see the young boy smiling.
“Portentia’s deaf. That’s why she often signs thing as she speaks.” explained James.
“Care to learn something?” I asked.
He grinned at me and said, “Sure!”
Demonstrating as I spoke, I told him “This is how you say ‘grandmother’ in sign language.”
“My word, aren’t you just precious.” stated Edna as she walked in with Louis’ pie.
Not much later, James and I were playing board games with them. Edna insisted, saying that James and I might keep her grandsons honest. The game took quite a while and we all ended up in the poor farm, but James seemed to be having fun. Despite Louis wanting another game, James and I excused ourselves when Edna left for work. We had more to do out there!