The next day, instead of heading school, Chris walked straight to the park. He stopped at the entrance as if he wasn’t allowed to walk on this green area. It was ten in the morning. The weather was a little bit windy but the sun began to show up with his warmth and sweetness. There were few people in the park: runners, late workers whom tried to combine running and walking to go fast but avoid to sweat, and old couples whom paced as slow as they could, taking their time. Hours passed. Families invaded the place enjoying this beautiful day of May. Some teenagers and young couples improvised a quick picnic. After eating, children ran everywhere chasing a butterfly, a ball or just ran to spend their energy while their parents were sitting not far away, doing small talk and keeping an eye on their future. The young man stood still for the entire day. When he started to get hungry, he left this place of visible happiness and headed back to his home. On his way, he crossed the girl he ran into the day before. They both pretended not seeing each other and kept walking their own way. As he walked through his house main door, his father got down the stairs. The man smiled quickly but the teenager went straight to his room. Three hours later, the phone broke the silence that reigned since they moved in. Outside his room, Chris could hear his father answer. Few seconds later, footsteps came closer and closer to stop at his doorstep. When Mr. Turner opened the door, he found the room empty with the window wide open. ‘I’m sorry. He’s not here. Do you want to leave a message?’ he said. An innocent female voice answered: ‘Can you tell him that i called, please?’ He agreed and hung up.
The night has fall. The moon took over, leaving the sky dark dressed with stars. Chris found himself in the middle of Taan Aka Park, at the same spot where all those families were gathered to enjoy this sunny day. He observed emptied lawns, passages lit by streetlights and dancing shadows of trees. A gentle wind brushed leaves, making fly those who were on the ground. Chris’ eyes scanned the vast empty space that was in front of him. Children’s laughter could be heard as an echo of the previous day, silhouettes appeared here and there like ghosts of a past now unreachable. His eyes stopped at a man who stood few meters away from him. They stared at each other for several seconds before the man approached and hugged the young man. After a moment, Chris and his father walked home. His father dared to share some old, forbidden memories, trying to make his son smile.
Mr. Turner hasn’t heard his son’s voice for several months now. He hasn’t seen him smile nor laugh either. He didn’t even shed a tear since he woke up after his mother’s death. He had no longer any expression on his face. His son looked at the world through livid eyes, moving like nothing matter anymore. He lost his taste for life. And every project he used to talk about, even the smallest, were a reminder of the sudden loss and all the pain that came along.
Days passed and Chris skipped school more and more. Worried about him, Mr. Turner decided to take his son at an association. The building looked semi-old. The front wall was covered by colorful graffiti. The organization only used the first floor. The room was large enough to welcome seventy persons, volunteers excluded. But that day, the room wasn’t crowded. While Mr. Turner spoke to the person in charge to get some information, Chris waited in the middle of the room. A young girl came to him, a shy smile on her face. She waited for him to notice her, but he didn’t. So she introduced herself: ‘Hi! You are Chris, right? The new student… At Sung High? I’m Karen Sawyer. We’re in the same class.’ They shared a long look. She expected him to say something or just even show that he recognized her or any reactions but none of that happened. A man joined them. He looks a lot like Chris but older and with more charm, Karen thought.
– ‘Hello, i am Chris’ father.’ He said.
– ‘Hi, i’m Karen, a classmate.’
– ‘Oh! What a coincidence, don’t you think, Chris? Do you volunteer here?’ She nodded. ‘Perfect. Then maybe you can help my son take his mark here.’
– ‘You gonna work here?’ she asked to Chris. The late one turned his impassive face to his father.
– ‘Yes, he starts today.’
After a moment of incomprehension, Mr. Turner left the young teenagers by themselves and disappeared in his car. Chris and Karen stayed in silence for a minute, hoping for this awkward feeling to pass. Someone behind the counter interrupted their silence. They were called by the manager. A man in his thirty, closing the forties, was dressed with a dirty black shirt, old jeans and overused shoes. He seemed to not care about his presentation. When the two teenagers were close enough, he gave them instructions about the room installment. They listened carefully then began to work. Nothing came out of their mouth. Some polite smiles and shy laughter were seen and heard from Karen.
In the middle of the morning, they were giving different assignments. From afar, Karen watched the young man, trying to figure out what kind of person he was. She saw him being busy, getting the job done. He stayed alone, in his world. Then out of the blue, he walked toward an old man, who stood outside the doors for a while now. They talked for a moment. Then Chris handed a piece of paper to the homeless man. When he returned to his duty, Chris saw her staring. Karen blushed and went back to work. She tried to hide her face behind her hairs.
At lunch, she tried to reach out to him again. She sat at his table and thought to anything she could say to him. Five minutes have passed and nothing came up. When finally: ‘So, how do you know this place?’ She wasn’t expected any answer as he didn’t seem to be a big talker but: ‘I didn’t.’ She looked at him. His face still showed no expression. His eyes were staring at the floor, lost in his thoughts. He looked like a statue. A cold statue. But his voice was the opposite. It was grave, calm, deep and unbroken. The voice of a singer. She thought quickly to another question to get to know him better:
– ‘So… How long do you live here?’
– ‘Three weeks.’
– ‘And where did you live before?’ She knew the answer but she wanted him to speak so she could hear his deep voice again.
– ‘L.A.’ A moment passed. ‘And you?’
– ‘I…I grew up here. My parents moved from New Jersey to Manhattan when i was born… What did you say to the old man?’ He looked at her in the eyes, then walked away, leaving Karen speechless.
The afternoon went on without another word. The two teenagers were seated the room to accommodate the homeless for dinner. The young man left right before the doors open and rushed to his place. Hoody on, headphones in his ears, his steps were in time with the music. Suddenly, he felt a presence behind him. He stopped. Then he kept walking. A small aura could be felt now and then. At the next corner, Chris turned left then right three times to get back where he was. The presence was still there, but it was clearer. He knew then: they found him. Chris managed somehow to lose his tracker and went home safely. When he walked through the doors, his father was waiting for him with a serious face on. ‘I’ve been followed.’ Chris said. His father looked surprise. A rush of adrenaline rose for a second in his body. ‘We’ll deal with that tomorrow. Before that, explain me something. How does this old man know you?’ As he finished his sentence, an old man, dressed with torn pants, a shirt stained brown under a dirty military coat and some oversized work boots, came out of the living room to appear next to Mr. Turner. His hairs were long, messy and mingled with his beard. He was at ten meters away from Chris, but his smell reached perfectly to the door. The old man looked straight at the young man, tears starting to come out.
– ‘You said you could help me… Change my life.’
To be continued