Chapter Five

A story

– ‘You said you can help me… Change my life’ an old homeless man said.

– ‘What is he talking about, Chris?’

His father stared him, a point of anger in his voice. As the young man stayed silent, Mr. Turner ordered his son to follow him in the kitchen. The homeless forty year old man stood still in the hall, gazing around to acknowledge who were those people and if he didn’t fall into a trap. Few minutes later, the teenager and his father came back. The father kept walking to disappear behind a door while his son stopped his steps in front of him. ‘It was false. I was pranked.’ The young man looked him in the eyes. Then he gave him a sign to follow him. They went upstairs. Along the corridor, they passed in front of four closed doors. The young man slowed his pace. He opened the fifth one. There was only a large bed with a desk. Walls were white. Only one window enlightened the room, giving a view to a small alley. At the right of the entrance, a door gave to the bathroom. ‘It’s an unused room’, the homeless guessed. ‘This is your room. Until you find and can afford your own place.’ Chris said. ‘Dinner will be ready soon. After that, you can rest. We’ll start tomorrow.’ As the teenager started to leave him alone, the homeless man whispered: ‘Henry… My name is Henry.’ He turned around to catch any reaction. The young man didn’t move. He waited a moment, replied: ‘Chris’ then left. Henry scanned his new place. He put his dirty bag on the chair and checked the bed. His eyes scanned every corner of the room, from the ground to the ceiling. He couldn’t believe what was happening.

The next day, the homeless man was woken up by a knock on his door. He just had the time to open his eyes that a young adult appeared. He sat with difficulties, trying to welcome his host properly. After a quick moment of silence, the teenager gave him some instructions and walked out of the room. Henry needed few minutes to gather himself. He remembered where he was and mostly, why he was here. He stood up, grabbed clothes left on the desk and went to the bathroom. He looked at the shower: ‘It’s been a while’, he thought. Like a kid, he played with water, soap and shampoo. He took his time. When he finally decided to step out, his skin looked like a hundred year-old man. He grabbed a towel. Soft. And warm. He approached it to his face. He could smell the sweet smell of fresh laundry. Then he dressed up before going downstairs where the teenager and his father waited for him. In front of them was a table full of food. More than Henry could ever imagine: breads, croissants, a big pot of Nutella, coffee, tea, muffins, crepes, pancakes, juice, bagels, butter and other food he didn’t know about. His eyes sparkled. Tears started to appear in his eyes. His belly brought him back to reality. He sat down like a kid, acting shy. The father served him some coffee, put two sugars while his son prepared him a plate. Henry followed their movements with his eyes then looked at his hosts. The father nodded as a sign of approval. The teenager didn’t care, eating his crepes. He didn’t hesitate anymore and dived in.

An hour and a half later, the young man and his guest headed towards the mall. They came in a Devred store to pick up few suits. Henry felt lost in the middle of all of these luxuries. He felt useless getting in and out of fitting rooms. Mirrors around him reminded him his reality: he was old and had nothing for himself. He tried not to watch, denying the truth he managed to avoid all these years. As the day went by, the teenager gave him advices on the way he should present himself. He listened carefully. As the sun went down, they headed back to Chris’ home with their hands full. As soon as he stepped into the hall, the young man’s phone rang. He picked up and went away. Few seconds later, he came back, gave Henry his bags and left without notice. Henry watched him leave, astonished. He waited five minutes in front of the door, thinking his host will be back. His father came in: ‘Dinner is ready if you’re hungry.’ A silent passed. ‘He won’t be back right away. You should eat and get some rest. Tomorrow won’t get easier.’ Henry silently obeyed. In the middle of the dinner, he finally dared to ask.

– ‘Wh… Why does your son help me?’

– ‘You will have to ask him. Not me.’

– ‘Will he answer my questions?’

– ‘Find out yourself. Tomorrow, when you will be alone with him.’

The next morning, Henry appeared in the kitchen where he found his hosts. He shared a look with the father. The late one left the room for them. They stayed in silence for a moment. The homeless sat next to Chris. He stared at him. Feeling the look on him, the young man raised his head.

– ‘Can I ask you a question?’ Henry said.

– ‘No.’ he said without hesitation. ‘I found some firms that might suit you. You will be interviewed for jobs. You will start at the bottom then you’ll climb the ladder.’

On that, he stood up and went in his room. Ten minutes later, he came back, ready to go. Henry got prepared and followed the young man across the city. The first interview went bad. Henry didn’t know what to say or how to act. But Chris didn’t seem to care. Nothing changed at the second interview. It was even worse than the first one. Henry didn’t get any help from the teenager. On the way to the third one, the young man stopped and turned to him. He scanned his attitude: ‘Stand straight. Look up. When you enter in the room, remember: you have nothing to lose. You have something to offer. If it goes wrong, it doesn’t matter. I will find other interviews.’ Then he headed to the next point of rendezvous. As he opened the door, he stopped the homeless: ‘One last thing, if it goes well. Don’t be afraid.’ Henry entered in a restaurant where an employer waited for him. An hour later, he came out of the place, a huge smile on his face like a child who’s discovering Disneyland. ‘Congratulation’, Chris said. Few moments before, Henry heard the three magic words: You are hired.

Back at Chris’ home, they’ve got separated. The young man disappeared behind his door’s bedroom, leaving the homeless man alone. When dinner came, the house sounded empty. Like a no men’s house. Henry came in the kitchen where the father waited. The late one invited him to sit down and began to eat. Silence became heavier each second. All we could hear was spoon against plates and the clock in the living-room. Henry couldn’t take any longer. This atmosphere was the opposite of his mood. Inside, he was so excited. His leg couldn’t stop moving. His heartbeat went fast. He tried hard to contain his smile.

– ‘Congratulation’ Mr. Turner said.

– ‘Ha. Thank you.’ Henry looked around, searching for his host.

– ‘He’s not coming.’ Henry was surprised.

– ‘Ho. I was hoping to talk to him about…Few things.’ He paused. ‘Why, does your son helping me?’

– ‘You already asked me that.’

– ‘But you didn’t answer.’

– ‘I told you to ask him directly.’

– ‘I did. He didn’t answer.’ Henry stared at the father with insistent.

– ‘Alright. About a year ago, he saw a movie about a teacher who gave an assignment to his students. One kid had an idea that made sense to my son. He’s trying it… on you.’

– ‘What was that idea?’

– ‘He’ll tell you when time will come.’ Silence came back.

– ‘And… How did he manage to find so many interviews…In one night?’

– ‘He has connection.’

– ‘At… his age?’

The father smiled and left the table, leaving the man alone again with all his unanswered questions. Few days later, Henry woke up in his room. He stared at the ceiling a moment, then sat before standing up. He stretched. He stood still a little more time, gazing around him. He got prepared with a huge smile on his face. When he was about to live for his first day of work, he looked himself in a mirror. What he saw amazed and scared him. He didn’t look the same as he came here first. In less than a week, his life changed completely. His first day of work was about to begin. He stepped outside and headed to his new life. As he walked away, Chris watched him leave, hoping he was right.

To be continued

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