Part 5 of the "Crossed Paths" series.
She saw her boy, running fast, like the wind, like she had said to him and she was afraid for him. She was afraid he'd lose his freedom again. She was afraid...afraid he wouldn't find anybody to help him anymore. She had to do something, get help somehow. Tomorrow it would be Halloween again. She would be able to touch his soul another time. She would have to wait, a hurtful waiting, but she needed somebody to touch her son so he would feel the connection and he wouldn't feel lost.
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"Ezra, dear, where are you?" Maude called her boy, but she knew he wouldn't answer. She had to go to Las Vegas again; business, of course, and Ezra would be upset because she had promised him to take him trick or treating for the first time. He had really been looking forward to this evening, and he was disappointed when she told him he would stay with his aunt tonight and that she was leaving. She had to hurry if she wanted to get the plane.
She reviewed her packing to make sure she had everything. Her mind momentarily flickered on the thought that boys were always the same. He would understand when she talked to him next week. He would forget his disappointment in time. She looked at her watch impatiently. Where was he?
"Ezra, I have to leave now. Your aunt is coming in thirty minutes to get you. Behave yourself!" Nothing, not an answer... Well, time to go, he'll understand. She pushed out the door scarcely troubling to wonder why he hadn't responded.
Ezra was outside, walking to the park. He used to go to the park and sit in the swing, just to think every time he and Maude had a disagreement. He was at the park and sitting on the swings a lot. He knew which swing went the highest, which swing had a loose chain, which swing squeaked, and which swing was perfect for just sitting. He sat in that swing now and wondered how his mother could change her mind so fast? She'd promised him he would go for the first time. She even had bought the costume, of course it was a gambler, what else could he expect from her? He'd liked Superman better. He had liked the sense of justice being served. Nothing was more important than the feeling of doing the right thing, making a difference in the world.
Maude had picked the gambler without asking him for any approval.
He was now sitting on the swing, looking at the trees at the far end of the park when he spotted something behind one of the trees. He looked around and nobody was watching so he decided to walk closer to get a look.
As he approached he finally could see the 'something' was actually a 'someone,' a small boy about his age, ten years old. He could hear the boy sobbing, something like a controlled cry, like he didn't want to cry but couldn't help himself. Ezra understood perfectly. He felt exactly the same way at that moment.
For a moment he stood quietly listening to the boy's near silent sobs. He realized to his own shock that his eyes felt moist. He tried to control it, but he couldn't anymore.
He stepped closer and sat beside the other boy. Both pair of tear soaked eyes locked sights. The deep green ones looked inside of the blues eyes he'd ever seen.
The eyes were so clear he could read them like a book.
Without thinking he said, "I'm Clark", he loved Superman so much, and he decided to be him "I live close to this park, what is your name?"
The other boy lowered his head and cleaned his tears with the sleeve of his shirt. Ezra made a face and gave him a handkerchief "Oh my, don't be so disgusting, here" he said at the same time.
The other boy shook his head no, but Ezra held the cloth closer and insisted so he didn't have a choice.
"No need for names, what d'ya want fancy kid?" he mumbled.
"I saw you here alone. I feel the same at the moment, and..." and he took a deck of cards from his jacket pocket at the same time and said"... maybe we could play a game of chance?" he realized that he sounded more like his mother this time, and that bothered him so much that he had to lower his head as a tear dripped from his eye and trickled down his cheek stealing his poker face away and turning it into more like what it was, a very hurt child's face.
Vin saw the change, but it was gone in a moment and the other face, the face that hid those emotions, returned. Vin knew he had found a boy like himself, someone who knew and understood the importance of hiding pain, fear, loneliness.
"Yeah, I could play, but I have no money, have nothing to play for" Truth was, all he had was what he could carry when he'd run away from the Colter's. His foster father, Jason, had started to hit him. He was used to being hit; foster parents had made him understand that the only way he could learn something was through beatings. He'd run from every place when they started to do that. His mother never hit him; she was so sweet to him. He couldn't understand why these people said they had to hit him so he'd learn unless they wanted him to learn to run, to hate, to be afraid. He was learning that lesson real well.
"Well... let see, you have a backpack there, maybe you have something to play for" always play for something, not for joy, Maude had said to him. He wanted to take back what he'd just said, but it was too late.
"And what d'ya got?" asked Vin,
"Oh, I have these... these..."and he looked inside his pockets, he'd run out fast, and he hadn't checked his pockets. "...these Oreo cookies."
"Mmmm... Oreo cookies! I tried one last year, they're very good !" said Vin, his mouth was watering at the thought, while he remembered the Oreo taste, that white cream inside those two chocolate wafers
Ezra saw the other boy's eyes, and more than that, he couldn't forget those words "You have just had one Oreo cookie in all your life?" he couldn't believe it, what kind of life was that?
"Yeah, and it was almost stolen from a buddy at school, cost me a black eye 'n all" he admitted.
Ezra was sure Maude would never approve and in that moment, his mind was decided. Maude's disapproval sealed the deal.
"Let's do this, I'll give you one, so you can have an idea of its value and then we'll see what you have in your backpack that could be traded for each of my cookies."
"Fair enough" said Vin, and he extended his hand.
Ezra put the cookie on the palm, and it was almost going into the mouth when he stopped the movement. "What are YOU doing?" he asked in disbelief.
"I'm eating the cookie?" that fancy kid was crazy, thought Vin.
"You don't know how to eat Oreo cookies?" asked Ezra in the same disbelieving tone.
"Huh? Is there A WAY to eat this?"
"Yes, of course, there is ONLY one way to eat these cookies, you cannot eat them any other way."
"Oh!" this boy was crazy, now he was sure, eating a cookie in a different way than putting it straight into your mouth. "So, how am I supposed to eat it? Hurry, I don't have all day!"
"Okay, you twist off the chocolate wafers" and he showed Vin encouraging him to do the same. "Then you eat the white cream, licking it carefully and enjoying every piece of it when it gets to your mouth" and he nodded to Vin, "then, when there is no more cream, you eat every piece of the chocolate cookies, savoring the taste, close your eyes, so you can enjoy it better" and both did the same with what was left in their hands.
The moment was glorious, there was no more pain in their hearts, no more tears, no more sense of loneliness, just the sense of sharing knowledge with a friend, the knowledge that there wasn't anything compared with this taste.
They stared at each other when they finished eating and Vin said "Wow! You're right! It's better this way!" and he started rummaging into his backpack. He needed to trade for the cookie but realized he had nothing to trade.
And as he was frantically looking with his fingers at every piece inside his backpack, he saw the hand in front of his eyes holding another one. He looked up at the green eyes, questioning the movement, "I'm looking, I know I got something to trade it for" he said.
"No need my friend; I will share it for nothing." now he was sure he would never tell this to his mother. It was wrong to share things for nothing.
"No... I can't... don't have nothin' for you..."
"Don't be... I would like to share it with you, just to talk, then we can play for fun, no need to trade anything with me." He saw the other boy's face lighten up instantly, life was good, they took another cookie and repeated the sequence of movements, take apart, lick the cream, close your eyes, eat the black cookie... take apart, lick the cream...
Time stood still for those moments, Ezra had some money in his jacket and went to buy more, just to make the moments longer, he went back to the tree and they continued eating the cookies and playing cards for some more hours, until it was dark and they couldn't see the cards anymore, and there weren't any Oreos left.
"Do you live close to the park?" asked Ezra, he didn't even knew the name of this boy, but they sure had a bond
"No, I'm heading for Denver. . . I guess" said Vin, in a raspy voice, he'd made his decision right now, better alone than in a house where people yelled at you or hit you for nothing.
"Alone?" asked Ezra almost losing his voice at the thought "Aren't you scared of getting lost? There's a lot of bad things that can happen to kids like us in the streets"
"No, better alone than..." but he didn't want the other boy to know "You must go home, it's getting late"
"You don't have a home to go? You must thing what you're about to do. Maybe now is not the time to run away. Maybe you should wait until you are older enough to take care of yourself"
"I ran away, I can't go back there. . ." and he looked down, thinking in the reason behind Clark's words
"Oh... I don't know. . . amybe you're right. . . " he added
"Of course I'm right!" said Ezra, and he offered twenty dollars to Vin.
"I j'st. . . I can't get it anymore..."
"Yes, you sure can, you wait until you are sure you can step in the world on your own, then you go" and Ezra held his hand straight in front of the other kid, they shook hands and they said "Thanks" at the same time. Then they parted ways, not feeling lonely anymore.
Vin thought about the words Clark had said to him, they made so much sense now, and he didn't feel that bad now. Sharing those Oreo with him had left his heart warmer, with a feeling of belonging he hadn't felt for a long time. Yes, Clark was right, he couldn't run now, he'd have to wait. So he went back to the house, he'd apologize, maybe this time things would be better. . .
Part 6: Sharing Cookies Revisited