Wednesday, August 12, 2017
With the plane safely at L.A.X., Cameron and Sylvester walked out into the pick up area.
"Ah, there she is!" Sylvester exclaimed as a white car pulled into the lane. His mother popped the trunk for Cameron to put his luggage. While he was doing that, his cousin took the opportunity to sit in the front seat, leaving Cameron to take the back.
"Sylvester! That's rude! You should have offered your cousin that seat!" Sylvester's mother reprimanded.
"It's okay. I'm fine back here, Aunt Jodie." Cameron politely said.
"Wow, you've grown up so much since I've seen you… how long has it been?" she said as she glanced at her nephew in the back seat.
"Almost three years. It was William's funeral." Cameron quietly said. Jodie picked up on the verbal faux-pas and kept in silence as they pulled away from the airport.
"So, have you been behaving in Oregon?" Jodie asked her son.
"Like an angel. Just like you wanted. Right, Cameron?"
Cameron hesitated, causing his younger cousin to glare at him slightly.
"Yeah, Aunt Jodie. He's been an angel." He replied in a slightly-sarcastic manner.
"Well, you haven't gotten yourself into some big trouble, like you did here, right?"
Cameron and Sylvester both gave an honest nod quickly.
Arriving at the apartment, Cameron looked around as Sylvester and his mother looked down with slight embarrassment.
"Sorry that it's so small." Sylvester said. Cameron had the perfect comeback to that, but decided to be the bigger man and keep his mouth shut.
"Sorry for what? You live in freaking Hollywood! I bet there's people who would live in a broom closet just for a piece of this action!" Cameron said excitedly.
"Well, that's one way to put it. I have to head out for a bit. Cameron, make yourself comfortable. Sylvester, BEHAVE." Jodie said as she hugged Cameron.
"Can do. Have a good day, Aunt Jodie."
The older woman left out of the door and Cameron wasted no time plopping himself down on the couch. Sylvester watched him carefully, as if he was waiting for a sign of weakness.
"So, when are the others supposed to be coming?" Sylvester asked. Cameron shrugged and got out his phone to send a quick text to find out. After a couple minutes of silence, his phone chirped with a message from Mia.
"They're going to stop at a hotel up north for the night and they'll be rolling in some time tomorrow morning." Cameron said as he lied back on the couch.
"Tired from all that power-vomiting?" Sylvester asked with a smirk. Cameron yawned as he gave his cousin a one-fingered salute.
"You're funny. But I am feeling a little jet-lagged. I'm going to get some shut-eye."
"But we didn't change time zo-"
Sylvester realized that his words were falling on deaf ears as Cameron was out cold. Not wanting to waste a second, he quickly slipped his shoes back on and walked out into the hallway. He glanced out of the nearest window to make sure that his mother's car was indeed gone before continuing to the elevator.
Once outside, he walked over to a small alley that ran between the apartment complex and the neighboring business. His heart raced as he approached a dumpster. He quietly poked his head around and his heart dropped as he saw a girl covered in filth looking back at him.
The two stared at each other for a few seconds before the girl leapt up and wrapped her arms around him. Tears started forming in both of their eyes as Sylvester started to remember exactly what led up to this.
Earlier that year…
Sylvester and his best friend, Emmanuel, walked down a hallway of the complex that they both occupied.
"So, I then told the coach that he didn't have to worry about me getting the ball stuck in the rafters." Sylvester said.
"And what happened next?" Emmanuel asked.
"I kicked it so hard that it broke one of the lights. And he had the nerve to get mad! I told him that I wouldn't get it stuck in the rafters, I didn't say anything about not breaking anything with it!"
"What a dick."
As the two laughed, a girl walked past them.
"Hey, she's in our class. Isn't she?" Sylvester asked. Emmanuel nodded.
"I think Maya is her name. Don't quote me on that." He said as the two boys stopped.
"Well, this is my stop. See you tomorrow?" Emmanuel asked. Sylvester smiled and nodded.
"Hey, Sylvester. Go after that. I think you have a real shot." Emmanuel quietly said before closing the door. Sylvester wasn't sure why, but he found himself walking quickly around the corner to see her waiting for the elevator.
"That thing is so slow sometimes." Sylvester said, awkwardly trying to make small-talk. Maya nodded.
"You look tired. I'll carry your books for you." Sylvester politely offered, almost blushing from the amount of cringe. Maya timidly looked at the boy before taking off her backpack and handing it to him.
"Thanks..." Maya shyly said.
"You're welcome." Sylvester said, making a mental note to slug his best friend in the shoulder for suggesting this embarrassing task.
"You're Sylvester… right? I've seen you in gym class. You're the guy who broke the light, right?"
Sylvester chuckled a bit and nodded. The elevator arrived and they both got on.
"I would invite you in for a snack, but I'm not allowed to have people in the apartment." Maya quietly said as the elevator stopped on her floor.
"It's okay. Really." Sylvester replied as he handed the backpack to her.
"I tell you what. You know that park down the street? If you're not busy, we could meet up and there and I'll bring the snacks there!"
"S-Sure, I'll be there after I drop my crap off at home." Sylvester said as she stepped out of the elevator. He stood there, dumbfounded as the elevator continued up to his floor. It was when it stopped and he stepped out into the hallway that he came to a realization.
"Holy crap, did she just ask me out?"
His heart was racing as he dropped off his backpack in his apartment and went back to the elevator and high-tailed it to the park. After he sent a text to Emmanuel telling him what was going on, he looked up to see her walking towards him.
The last few weeks of the school year went by in a flash as the two of them continued to meet up at least three times a week just to sit in the park and talk about their day.
"Thank you for inviting me over." Maya said as they walked into Sylvester's apartment. It was raining outside, but for some reason Sylvester enjoyed the time they spent together too much to let it pass.
They shared the usual snack and conversation only to be startled just an hour later when Sylvester's mother walked into the apartment.
"Hi, mom!" Sylvester said cheerfully. Unfortunately, Jodie was too busy making eye-contact with the girl sitting next to him to notice his words.
"Uh, this is Maya. She's a classmate." Sylvester quickly added, realizing that this was on the verge of going very poorly.
"Nice to meet you. I was just leaving." Maya quickly said as she finished her drink and got up.
"See you tomorrow?" Sylvester asked. Maya nodded and left the apartment. Sylvester smiled and waved before turning back to see his other scowling at him.
"What were you doing in here?"
"Getting our snack on. Why?"
"You know the rules. Nobody over here when I'm not home!"
"Hey, you let me have Emmanuel over all the time."
Jodie stopped and realized that her son was indeed correct. She sat down on the couch next to him and sighed.
"Okay, Sylvester. I'm going to be as blunt about this as possible in the hopes that you'll understand. You're thirteen. You're at that age when… well..."
"Oh, God." Sylvester groaned as he knew where this conversation was going.
"Things can happen… and if… well..." Jodie said, definitely wishing that her husband was around for this conversation.
"Look, mom. I'm not going to have… yeah, if that's what you're freaking worried about!"
"Well… I didn't say..."
"I know exactly where you was going with this. I might be a clown, but I know well enough to keep it in my pants!"
"I'm saying is that… well, you're saying that now, but sometimes things can get out of control. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I can't stop you from doing that sort of thing, and I really hope that you can keep control and have common sense about these situations. But I do NOT want it happening in my home. So, I forbid you from having that girl..."
"...Maya, in here without supervision."
"Dad would have no problem!"
"Shall I call him and ask?"
"No… no, that's fine. You win. She won't be in here without either one of you home."
There was a brief awkward silence that was interrupted by the sounds of sirens. They came like a wave, causing Jodie to get up and look out of the window. Sylvester noticed that her eyes widened and asked "What's up?"
"Cops. Lots of them. They've got the building surrounded."
"Holy crap. Really? Are we in danger or something?"
"I-I don't know. You stay here while I try to find out what's going on."
Jodie opened the door to her apartment and joined her neighbors in curiosity as the police force made their way to several floors above them and kicked in the door to one apartment. Jodie and her neighbors watched as two people were removed from the premises and placed into squad cars.
Jodie and Sylvester's curiosity didn't have to remain unsatisfied for long as an officer knocked on the door.
"Good evening, officer." Jodie cautiously said as she opened the door.
"Good evening, m'am. We're on the lookout for a girl who lives on one of the floors above."
"Did you try looking there?" Sylvester smarted off to the cop. Jodie gave him a stern look and he cowered down a bit.
"We did, but we're going door-to-door to see if anyone in the building has seen her. She's twelve years old. Brownish-red hair. Goes by Maya Phillips."
Jodie and Sylvester both look at each other with wide eyes. The officer immediately picked up on this.
"Is she here?"
"She was. She's a friend of mine. She went home about forty-five minutes ago." Sylvester said, not wanting to joke around anymore.
"I see. She wasn't home and we really want to talk to her. If you see her, please call us."
"Can do. Thank you, officer."
"Thank you. Have a nice evening."
Jodie closed the door and looked at her son.
"What the hell did you get yourself into?"
Sylvester shrugged. Later that night, the two of them sat in the living room and watched the evening news in the hopes of getting some information.
"In further news, two methamphetamine dealers are off the streets of Hollywood. Information found the two connected to the infamous Butch Conner case from Oregon in 2015. While the two dealers are in custody, their daughter's whereabouts are unknown."
Sylvester's heart dropped when he saw Maya's school picture on the screen.
"Twelve-year old Maya Hatcher was last seen by her friends shortly before the raid. If you see this girl, please contact the Los Angeles Police Department immediately. Coming up after the break… should you buy eclipse glasses for your pets? All this and more when we come back..."
Three Weeks Later
Sylvester and Emmanuel were walking down the same hallway as before. The two of them passed the elevator where Sylvester first met Maya, causing him to look down and sigh. Emmanuel stopped and put his hand on Sylvester's shoulder.
"Man, I need to tell you something."
Sylvester stopped and turned around to his friend.
"I feel, really, really, REALLY bad for what happened."
"Why? It wasn't your fault."
"I told you to meet up with her."
"Eh… man… don't do this to me." Sylvester said quietly.
"If you want someone to be mad at, please let it be me. If it makes you feel better."
"Look, I'm not sorry that I met her. I'm glad that I had the time that I had with her. I'm not mad at you, or her, or even myself. I'm mad at her parents and that Oregon prick that caused them to live that lifestyle."
"I'm just really worried about you. I don't think I've ever seen you this depressed."
"I just… I don't know. We just really clicked, I guess. We complemented each other well, and while I love being with you, there was something about her."
"You were in love, weren't you?" Emmanuel slyly said as he elbowed him. Sylvester blushed and didn't answer.
"Come on, admit it!"
"Okay… okay, fine. I guess all of this made me realized that I might just have a teeny-tiny little crush on her. Are you happy now?" Sylvester said as he laughed a bit. The minor victory for Emmanuel was interrupted when they heard a door close.
"What was that?" Sylvester said as they looked around.
"I-It came from the utility closet."
"No way. I know for a fact that nobody walked by while we were here."
"Okay. That's enough for me. You know I hate paranormal stuff. See you tomorrow?"
"Sure thing!" Sylvester said with a smile.
"That's what I like to see." Emmanuel said as he put his hands upon Sylvester's shoulders.
"Thanks for making me laugh again, man."
Emmanuel walked away and Sylvester heard some more noise from the utility closet. For some reason, he felt a need to check it out. He walked over to the door and was surprised to see that it was unlocked. However, as he pulled on the doorknob, the door pulled itself back closed.
Sylvester, realizing that there was someone on the other side tugging on the doorknob, decided to let this become a game of tug-o-war. However, he wasn't expecting to see Maya pop out and fall onto the floor after being quickly overpowered.
"M-Maya?" Sylvester asked, surprised. Maya scrambled back to her feet and looked back at him. The two looked at each other for a second before she wrapped her arms around him in a hug.
"Come in here." She said before pulling him into the closet and slamming the door shut.
"What… what in the hell… I have so many questions right now." Sylvester stated as he blinked in disbelief.
"I hide in here when the janitor's off. I know his schedule by heart, so I can sneak in and out without being noticed."
"Well, that part's obvious. I mean, what have you been doing for the past few weeks? How are you eating? Why are you so clean?"
"After the cops arrested my folks, I went on the run. I'm scared to go with anyone, because I'm afraid that they might get one of their scary 'friends' to try to silence me. I've been using the sink in here to wash my clothes and stuff. As for food… I've been getting it wherever I can."
"What do you mean? Like out of a dumpster?"
Maya didn't answer, opting to look to the floor. Sylvester's mouth opened a bit in shock.
"...You're kidding me. You're eating… out of a dumpster..." Sylvester said as he felt himself starting to tear up a bit.
"I… I'll be okay..."
"No, absolutely not. Come with me." Sylvester said as he threw open the door and grabbed her hand. To his surprise, she didn't resist as he walked her to his apartment (despite his mother's wishes).
Within minutes, Maya had more food in front of her than she knew what to do with and she happily ate every bit of it. The two talked like it was the old times, only this time with Maya knowing to leave before they could be caught.
This continued for the next week as Sylvester continued to take her in, even going to the point of buying her new clothes with his allowance. All of that came crashing down on the final day of the week.
"Hey… Sylvester… did I ever really say 'Thank you' for doing this for me?"
"Honestly? If you did, I wasn't listening. I was going to help you whether you wanted it or not."
Maya looked down at the coffee table in front of her.
"Sylvester… last Tuesday, when we met again, I heard what you said to that other guy."
"You did?" Sylvester said, trying to remember exactly what was said.
"Yeah… when you said that you were in love with me. Was that true?"
Sylvester wanted to shrink down into the couch cushions at that point. But, after all that he had done, was there any way to deny it now?
"Yeah." Sylvester said quietly. Maya reached over and rested her head on his shoulder.
"I'm scared… because if I said that I like you back, would you think that it was because of everything that you've done for me?"
Sylvester wrapped his arm around her and rested his head on top of hers.
"No, I believe you. I'm sure you can see just how well we are together."
"It's just so sad… but also so romantic that it has to be this way."
"Tell me about it."
"So, I've been thinking. What if we figured out a way for us to live together?"
"I don't mean right now… unless you want to. But maybe when we're a little bit older we can live together in peace."
"...Yeah… I guess. I think I would like that."
Maya looked to Sylvester's eyes and reached her head up for the two of them to share their first kiss.
"I'm a terrible kisser, aren't I?" Maya said, sheepishly.
"I wouldn't go that far, but let me show you how it's done." Sylvester said as he went in for another kiss. The two of them continued to move closer, both failing to notice the door to the apartment opening.
"SYLVESTER LLOYD MOORE."
Sylvester's heart froze as he looked up from his new girlfriend to see his mother angrily staring him in the eyes.
"Well, I guess I'm out." Maya said as she scurried out.
"RUN." Sylvester shouted out, afraid that his mother would call the authorities.
Two hours later and two phone calls later, Jodie walked back into the living room where her son was sitting in the exact same spot.
"I can't deal with you anymore. I asked you not to do this, and you went ahead and did it, and God only knows what else."
"Mom, we didn't ha-"
"Shut it. Your father won't be back on leave for a while, and I'm frankly sick of your idiotic insolence. I want to send you far away, preferably to a boarding school where you can get an education, because I think that being in Hollywood has made you think that you can act like a movie star, doing whatever in the hell you feel like doing at any giving time."
Sylvester gasped a bit.
"But, luckily, your father didn't agree with me on the boarding school idea. But I did call your Aunt Shirley."
"What the hell for?"
"QUIET. I was in such distress over your little stunt that I didn't know what I was going to do. But your Aunt saved me from the brink of despair. So, I'm going to send you up to Oregon to stay with her and your cousin for the rest of the summer."
"You can't be serious!"
"But I am. Cameron has grown up to be a fine young man, and I think that you need a positive influence in your life."
"Did you forget what happened to cousin William? How can you entrust my well-being to someone with a 50% success rate?"
"PACK YOUR BAGS. NOW." Jodie said as she started crying a bit. Sylvester, knowing full well that he did it this time, didn't say a word as he got up.
Thursday, August 13, 2017
"Why didn't you run, Maya?" Sylvester quietly said as they broke apart their hug.
"Where would I run to? I knew that you went somewhere, but I held out hope that you would come back, someday."