Ritchie’s mom very nearly slammed the door once they got home. “Why, I!” she began, but Ritchie already knew what she was going to say. She was so rude! But what do you expect from someone who dresses like that?
“She was so rude! But what do you expect from someone who dresses like that?” Ritchie closed his eyes a little. Why was his mother like this? He knew that Elayne was good, despite her appearance. He hadn’t seen her long enough to truly understand her, but he knew that her rude and brusque demeanor, as well as her gothic and ratty clothes, were a mask; she was hurting. She was hurting even more than Mom when Dad had left. Elayne was hurting even more than Ritchie did, despite the fact that Ritchie was the reason Dad had left.
Ritchie winced as his cheekbone throbbed lightly. It may have been because of whatever made him different, but he could remember and feel past pain much longer than most. He could still feel Dad slapping him. The only time Dad had slapped him. “What the hell was that? How dare you even speak their names!” he’d hollered at Ritchie.
Ritchie had only wanted to ask about John and Luanna. Why Dad still hurt just by thinking about them, even though they’d died twenty years ago. Although Ritchie could glean certain thoughts and feelings from most, he couldn’t understand everything. He wasn’t a mind reader, he just got vague impressions.
“Ritchie, sweetie? Have you been paying attention?” Mom asked.
Ritchie gasped and looked up. “Sorry, mom.”
She sighed and closed her eyes. “Honey, I’m just glad you’re talking again. But please, you gotta listen when people talk to you, okay?”
Ritchie nodded. “Yes, mom.”
“Good. Okay, I was just saying that you need to be careful when you talk to her. You never know what to expect from punks,” she said.
Ritchie inwardly groaned; he knew Mom wouldn’t understand that Elayne was nowhere near as mean as she looked. “Okay, mom.”
Mom smiled at him. “Good. Anyway, can you go see Mrs. Jones? I need you to give her back the book she lent me,” Mom said as she picked up a book from the living room table.
“Okay!” He took the book from Mom’s hands and walked outside.
But just as he went into the elevator, someone else sprinted in next to him. “Ground floor, please.” a soft, raspy voice asked.
Ritchie glanced up quickly to see that Elayne was now standing next to him.
To Be Continued