“…shocking, appalling, terrible, shameful; a glaring unpardonable error. I made an egregious error of judgment, okay? What do you want me to say? I’m sorry?” Jon backed up two steps when his stepfather’s face turned hard and angry.
Phillip said, “That’s enough, young man. Get to your room. Your mother will bring you dinner later. And forget about escaping out the window. It’s been screwed shut.”
“You can’t do that,” said Jon. “It’s a fire hazard. I demand egress from my room!”
“Jon, just go to your room,” said his mom.
Jon glared at his stepfather one more time before stomping to his room. He slammed the door.
Phillip said, “I’m torn between taking the door off the hinges, or getting one of those compressors that makes it impossible to slam it.”
“Hey, hey,” said Phillip. His voice warmed as he soothed her. “He’s safe.” He rubbed circles across her shoulders. Phillip was her rock.
“I can’t imagine what gets into his head to run off like that. Sacramento, Phil. He went all the way to Sacramento this time. He lived with a homeless man, on the streets. What are we going to do? What if the police hadn’t picked him up?”
“I don’t know.” He shook his head. “Have you called Jack? He deserves to know his son ran away again.”
“Oh my. I forgot.”
“Here.” He took the wooden spoon from her hand. “I’ll stir the sauce. You call the ex.”
Meghan dialed her ex-husband’s number. He worked for Detroit PD, Inspector class, a continent away from Stockton, California. She prayed Jon wasn’t like his dad, mentally tormented with OCD or some other illness. She prayed he was just a boy with wanderlust, like Jack’s father, Hank, had said.
Her eldest, Rick, never did anything like this and he was Jack’s blood too, so…, “Hello?”
“Yes, Jack, it’s me, Meghan.”
“Did you find him?”
“How – how did you know?”
“Hank told me. I can catch a flight this evening.”
“No, no need. We found him. He was rounded up with the rest of the homeless people in Oak Park.”
“Oak Park? Sacramento? Oh, god. Is he all right?”
“He’s angry, Jack. I don’t know what to do with him. This is the second time he’s run away.”
“The second time? Why didn’t I hear about the first time?”
“We knew he was in town, suspected he was at a friend’s house. He was. Sometimes kids do this. I didn’t think much about the first time, but he scared me this time Jack.”
Jack didn’t answer right away.
He was estranged from both of his sons, but especially Jon, who didn’t understand why he left when they divorced. Jon was only three and a half when she’d kicked Jack out of their lives. She hooked up with Phil soon after. Truth be told, Phil was there waiting for her, otherwise she would not have had the courage to ask Jack to leave. Nobody else but the two of them need know that. It certainly didn’t factor in her youngest son’s recent behavior.
“Do you think it would do any good if I talked to him,” said Jack.
“No. He doesn’t really know you anymore.” She knew that had to hurt, but it was true.
“Still,” he said.
“No, Jack. Leave him be. I’ll ask if he wants to call you, but I know he won’t. I just wanted to keep you informed.”
She heard him sigh.
“Yeah, okay, Meghan. Thank you for calling.” He hung up.
Was Jon’s poor judgment a delayed emotional response to his father’s absence? She didn’t think so. Phil was a lovely man, and a good father.
“Hon?” said Phil. “This sauce is done. Do we let Jon eat alone, or do we invite him to the table?”
She gazed at him. “I don’t know. What do you think?”
“Well, I don’t want him to have another reason to leave.”
“That’s the answer. Jon,” she said.
“But, I sent him to his room, told him you’d bring him dinner, later.”
“Then, that’s exactly what I’ll do. Gather up the plates and utensils. Let’s join our errant son for a picnic on his rug. I’m sure he has a story to tell.”
(Author’s Note: This is a backstory for one of my working titles, Broken.)