Dec 17
ChocolateLilac's picture

The story told at that Thanksgiving dinner

Scott was driving down Jonhaby lane, going by his usual route through the forest. To a bus driver, Thanksgiving weekends were always busy. Men and women of different careers rushing home to be with their families. Unlike them, Scott was unattached to the fickle bonds of family. All that mattered to him now were his hourly wages and the fact that he was currently running late to his last stop. 
It was then when he heard a mini explosion under his feet. A tire has popped, the remaining wheels squealed as they struggled to keep the moving bus on the unpaved road. Scott jolted up and gripped the wheels with a steady hand. It took a few moments before the bus stopped completely, the wheels came slowly to a halt in muddy tracks. 
Scott immediately got out of the bus to inspect the damage. His front tires were nothing but skins of limp rubber hanging over the wheel. That’s odd, Scott didn’t see anything that could’ve damaged his tires to this extent. 
“Um, Hello?” a small voice spoke up behind him.
 Scott’s poor abused heart had barely gotten a rest before it was pounding again at his ribcage. He turned around to see a fidgeting young boy looking at him.
“Kid you scared the heck out of me! Where did you come from? What are you doing here?” asked Scott. 
“I, um, I'm...” The boy seemed to struggle for an answer, one hand coming up to grip the straps on his backpack. “I’m going to my grandma’s house,” The boy said.
“Oh really?” Scott took a closer look at the boy in front of him. 
The kid was around ten years old, ruffled brown hair capped a round and youthful face. There were patches of dirt and dust on his dark grey hoodie and newly ripped jeans. A blue backpack hung from his shoulders. From the looks of it, the kid must’ve strolled into the forest, and Scott being the responsible adult, was going to be the one taking the kid home.
He sighed. “Well as you can see- the tires popped on me, and I can’t get any signal on my phone this far out. So what we need to do is cross this forest and get to Sierra Way, there’s a gas station there where we can get some signal.”  
A gust of wind made the boy shiver. “I don’t want to go through the woods.”  He said.
“Sorry bud, but we don’t have time to follow the road.” Scott checked his watch, “it’s getting late, and if we don’t wanna camp out here we need to go, and fast.” 
The kid looked as if he wanted to say more, but stopped himself. 
“I’ll take that as a yes?” Asked Scott,  The boy nodded.
“Hey kid, what’s your name?”
“James.” The boy replied, he showed Scott the little tag on his backpack where ‘James Alllison’ was proudly written in pen.


Ten minutes later and Scott wanted to scream out his frustration to the world. The emergency flashlight did next to nothing to light up their way in the woods, the pair stumbled at every fallen branch and startled at every sudden noise.
They walked on for what seemed like hours. After what seemed like an eternity, Scott heard a small, wounded noise beside him.
Scott looked down at James, the boy was hugging himself around the chest, pearly tears streaked across his cheeks, “We are going to die,” James cried, “We’re lost, and people die when they get lost.”
“You won’t die, and we’re not lost, I swear.” Said Scott
“Liar.” James mumbled.
Scott felt like a liar, he wasn’t ready to admit it, but he’s growing more and more regretful of his decision to cross the woods. To be fair, Scott hadn’t passed through these woods at night before. But he can’t show weakness, not now. If the adult freaks out, the kid will be frantic. Mind made, Scott put on a big smile.
“Hey, it's fine, I hike around these parts all the time. I’ll get us out of here in a heartbeat. Besides, you still need to get to your Grandma’s place right? Don’t you have things you wanna do there?” 
James nodded, a hand reached up to wipe tears away. “That’s right, I still need to give mom her ring.”
“A ring?”  asked Scott as they continued walking.
“Mmhmm! It’s a very, very special ring. I'm going to find her and give it to her so she won’t be angry at me anymore.”
“Why is she angry at you?” 
“I took her magic ring once when I went off to school.” said James. “Mom kept all her rings in a little box, I got it out when she wasn’t looking.”  The boy bit his lip. “When I got home from school, mom was gone, and dad didn’t want to talk to me either. She must’ve known that I took her ring, and won’t come back until I apologize.”
“I’m sure that’s not the case, no mother will leave her kid  because he took a piece of her jewelry. Your mom might’ve just wanted to go on a shopping trip or something.” .
James looked down. “She’s been gone for weeks.”
Yikes, that must be quite a ring then. A multi-billion family heirloom was Scott’s closest guess. This poor kid must’ve screwed up big time, but looking at the guilty expression the kid wore on his face right now, it’s hard to get mad at him.
“Hey kid,” Scott nudged him. “ Tell ya what? When we get out of this god forsaken jungle, I’ll come to your grandma’s house with you, and I’ll explain to your mom exactly what happened. I’m sure your mom won’t be angry with you anymore when she sees how much you are sorry.” Scott watched as Jame’s expression began to light up with his every word. The kid let out a happy squeal and almost bowled Scott over with a hug.
At that moment, a flash of something caught Scott’s eyes. A familiar pattern of neon colours shined brightly in the distance. He could just barely make out the words ‘Jerry’s Gas & Refreshments’ through the trees that separated the pair with their salvation.
“Won’t you look at that! Look James, that’s the gas station I was talking to you about!” Almost dizzy with relief and joy, Scott didn’t see when the boy’s eyes gained a strange sadness.
“Come on! What are you waiting for?” Scott wanted nothing else other than to run to those lights like he’s never run before, but James stayed where he was, unmoving.
“M’ kinda tired.” The boy said. “Can you carry my backpack for me?”
“What? Your little baby muscles getting tired?” Scott picked up the tiny backpack and threw it over one shoulder. “But just until we get out of these woods ok? I’m not your babysitter.”
“Thank you so much mister, for everything.” 
Scott laughed at that, “Oh? You are thanking me? That’s new,  learning some manners aren't we?” He turned around, there was no one around him. “Kid?” He called out to the woods. 
The sounds of rustling leaves were his only reply.
….
“James went missing two monthes ago.” said Mrs Allison , eyes full of grief as she poured the stranger in her house another cup of tea. “We looked everywhere for weeks, but… no one saw him since he left the house that afternoon.”
Scott looked at the tea offered to him.
“My husband and I broke up three weeks before he was gone. We had an argument that day, we all said things we never should. I left the house and went to my mother’s to cool my head. but I would've never thought... ” she began to choke up, trying to cover up her sobs.
Scott offered her a tissue, she accepted it . 
“I never thought our separation would affect James so much.” she cried. “My poor baby must’ve ran away because of my neglectance. If there’s anything I could’ve done to say sorry to him I would’ve done it a thousand times.” Hope glistened in the former Mrs. Allison’s eyes as she said the next words. “ But this changes everything, Please, won’t you tell me where you found his backpack? He might still be around and I just want to say sorry to him.”
“There was an accident on Jonhaby lane a while back,”  said Scott. ”Brake failure on a micro bus, the vehicle crashed into a tree, two people were in that bus when it happened, the paramedics were unable to save them.”
“Why are you telling me this?” fear trembled her voice.
“Along with the female driver, there was a boy,  ten years old, he had brown curls and wore a grey hoodie.” 
Scott felt his heart break for a second time as he watched the poor mothers’ world crumble in front of her. He had already felt this pain once, when he arrived back to his apartment that day in an almost crazed frenzy, determined to prove the kid’s existence other than the blue backpack he clutched like a lifeline in his hand. There's one thing however, that only Scott could do. From his pocket, he took out a simple silver ring, a wedding ring.
“This was in the bag’s pocket,” he said, placing it in the woman’s trembling hands. ”I think it might’ve belonged to you.” Slowly, Scott excused himself and turned to leave.
He was stopped by a hand on his arm. He turned around to see Jame’s mother, tears were flowing down her cheek, but a soft smile graced her lips.
“Won’t you stay for dinner?” She said.

 
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