How he was going to smile through the next three hours of her surprise party he didn’t know. One thing was for certain, she wasn’t going to be happy with the gift her bought her. She’d just see it as an attempt to buy her.
His hand froze on the door handle of his cruiser. “Shit,” he muttered. He dropped his hand and turned around. A hand shot out to strike him. Ephraim caught the very feminine hand before it made contact.
“What the hell do you want?” he growled.
The small petite blond just smiled and pulled back her hand. She looked him over slowly. “I see the years have been very good to you, Ephraim.”
“What are you doing here in Rascal?” he demanded.
She gestured casually. “This and that.”
“Uh huh, why don’t I believe that?”
Eve placed a hand to her bosom. “Me lie?” She gave him a wicked smile. “Never.”
His eyes narrowed. “It’s just a happy coincidence that you’re here.”
She stepped up to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Why? Didn’t you miss me?” She pulled him down and pressed her lips firmly to his.
This day was just getting better and better. She paced the front of the school again, making sure to avoid Jill’s eyes. Jill seemed to take eye contact as a signal to start crying. “I think your mom forgot to pick you up again, buddy.”
Chris threw the pebble he’d been toying with across the school’s front lawn. “She didn’t forget, Miss. Soloman, no need to soften the blow for me. I told you a half an hour ago not to worry about it. You could have gone home then. You didn’t have to wait.” Chris' usual calm tone was gone.
She considered him for a minute. He did tell her not to worry about it. Normally he practically browbeat her to sit with him and wait for his mother. His mother was either late or sent someone else to pick him up, usually whatever loser she was sleeping with at the time. This was the first time he told her not to worry about it.
He’d been in a good mood until she mentioned his mother. Then he slowly sank into himself. “You knew she wasn’t coming, didn't you?”
“Yeah, so what?”
“Where’s your mother, Chris?”
“Doesn’t matter,” he mumbled.
“Just leave it alone, Miss. Soloman. I’ll be fine.” He stood up, brushing his hands off and tried to walk past her. She grabbed his arm.
“Let me go.”
“Not until you tell me what’s going on.”
“Don’t give me nothing. Where is your mother?”
He turned his head and rubbed the back of his sleeve across his face. “Nothing,” his voice broke.
She gently cupped his chin and turned his face. He was crying. She never thought she’d see the day when Chris cried. He was a tough kid. He had to be with his upbringing. A mother who abandoned him on a whim and no place to go but foster homes as rumor had it where he wasn’t treated very well.
“What happened?” she asked softly.
“Nothing.” He wiped his face again and tried to walk away. “Nothing important anyway.” He forced a smile. “Did I forget to tell you that I’m a man now? Yeah, good old Mom declared two weeks ago that I was a man now and didn’t need her. She was just waiting for the right moment. Of course it didn’t hurt that the right moment came when Eric Bell left his wife and decided to shack up with her. Fortunately for me on that very day I suddenly became a man. Good thing too because Eric didn’t want me around. Isn’t that great timing?” he asked bitterly.
“Oh Chris.” She released his arm and pulled him into a hug. “Where have you been staying?”
He took in a deep breath. “The trailer. It was paid up until last weekend.”
She pulled away. “Where have you been staying since?”
“Here and there.”
“Chris, you need a home. You need food.” She looked him over. “You didn’t eat today because you didn’t have any money not because you were in the office. Mason might be a jerk, but he wouldn’t starve you.”
He shrugged out of her hold. “It’s fine. I have a line on a job. I can manage until I have enough money for my own place.”
She shook her head. “No, you’re sixteen, Chris. If you start work now you’ll quit school. No, you need a home. Does anyone else know about this?”
His tone turned harsh. “I’m not going into foster care.”
“No, I wouldn’t send you there. Is your mother still in town?”
“Yes, she’s staying with the bastard in the same trailer park. Can you believe that?”
“No, I can’t,” She sighed and looked at Jill. “Well, it’s time to go home.”
Chris mumbled, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Madison grabbed his arm. “Let’s go.”
“Where are we going?” Chris asked cautiously.
“Home. Congratulations, Chris, you’re now a boarder.”
He smiled weakly. “Really? I’ve always wanted to be a boarder. Do we have any special powers?” he asked jokingly, but she could hear the tremor in his voice.
“Why does he get to sit in front?” Jill whined.
“Because my mommy doesn’t love me and you won’t stop bitching. Now sit back and let me enjoy shotgun.” Chris gently pushed Jill back with a finger to her forehead.
“You know it.”
“Will you two please stop it?” Madison was getting a headache. For the past hour she had to deal with this bickering. Of course that wasn’t as bad as dealing with the manager of the trailer park who confiscated all of Chris’s things when he kicked Chris out a week ago.
She had to kick herself. If she’d been at work last week she would have noticed he was wearing the same clothes every day. When she asked why he didn’t smell he nearly fell over with laughter. Seems Chris was sneaking into the school every morning to take a shower.
After threatening the landlord with child services the manager bitched and whined, but cowed. A large thrash bag full of his clothes now kept Jill company in the back seat.
His mother was another issue. She didn’t know what possessed her or if it was even legal, but Madison refused to leave until the woman wrote a letter handing over custody to her. God she was an idiot. Eric Bell and the manager were only too happy to sign it as witnesses. She groaned. What was she supposed to do with a sixteen year old boy?