Kelly Girl - Post 16 and 17
Chapter 16: Andie's Valentine
Andie turned back to Melissa after Kelly had left the salon. "The kid really tears at the old heartshtrings, doesn't she?"
Melissa nodded thoughtfully, "Yeah, she could be a heartbreaker if she wants to. But you know, I'm not sure..."
"Everyone is different. She's still just a kid and so far, she's just been happy being who she is, I guesh." Andie shrugged. "You didn't go through the same things I did, either. We're all different."
"You were luckier than me, and braver, I guess."
"I dunno, maybe. Luckier in having an undershtanding brother." She used the tip of her tongue to play gently with one of the piercings in her lip. "Lucky that we had money and access to medical treatments. I'd like Kelly to have some luck."
"Luck is a big part of it," agreed Melissa. "Gorgeous looks like Kelly's are certainly a lot of luck."
"Yeah," Andie laughed. "The kid is gorgeous. You should see the effect she has on the boys, my nephews. And she likes that even though it shcares her."
They both laughed for a bit. "It's always scary. The boy-girl thing." Melissa said, remembering how it had been for her when she first began to explore her feelings for men. "You remember your first crush?" she asked Andie, softly.
Andie nodded. "I was younger than Kelly, and this boy in the fifth grade. I thought he liked me. But..."
"But you were a boy, too, then?"
"Yeah. It was Valentine's Day, I wanted to give him a card and I wanted it to be all mushy and girly and..." They both grinned with remembered pain turned to sweet anguished nostalgia. "Sho important when you're a kid. And I was a goofball, not like Kelly who is so damned shmart! I couldn't think my way out of a phone booth. Remember phone booths?" They laughed again.
"Did you figure a way to give your sweetie a card?" asked Melissa, teasingly.
"Uh, yeah." Andie finished with Melissa's nails and began to clean up her station. "I shtuck it in his backpack when no one was looking." She discarded some waste and scrubbed idly at a red stain on the stone counter top. "When you're a little kid, everybody can give Valentines to everybody else. It's just a fun game. But at ten, it feels more serious. Boys are shupposed to give Valentine's to girls and girls to boys."
"Yeah," Melissa said quietly. "Ever find out if he got it?"
"No," said Andie. "No, I never did. I was afraid to ask and he never said. Heck, it was just one more valentine for him. And I couldn't figure out if I wanted him to know I'd shent it." She shook her head and added, "That was in Sommerton, little town near Yuma. We moved to San Jose at the end of school that year."
"You remember his name?"
"Oh yeah, Mike. Mike Montana."
They were quiet for a bit as Andie finished cleaning things up. "Those should be dry but be careful. Give them a few more minutes."
"I'm in no hurry," agreed Melissa. "You never forget your first real crush. Puppy love." They both grinned.
"Funny thing," Andie said after a moment. "I got a Valentine that year that I didn't know who sent it. It was real shweet, too. A boy and a girl, riding on one of those moped scooter things. 'Let's go!' it said. And inside, 'With my Valentine'. Shtupid but sweet."
Melissa snorted a laugh. "Yeah? Did you ever find out who sent it?"
Andie shook her head. "No, no, I never did. And the only kid in our class that had a motorbike was Rudy Beltran. Rich kid, we weren't rich then. I didn't like him and I didn't think he liked me. He hung out with the bullies. You know, the rich kids always have a few thugs that like to hang out with them."
"Was it signed?"
"No. I wanted to think Mike had shent it. I found it inside my math book, like a bookmark. I wanted to believe Mike had sent it, I tried really hard to." She smiled, ruefully.
"You think one of the girls sent it?"
"No, I asked them. We were all good friends and had sent our Valentines to each other and talked about them and stuff."
"So wha'd they think?"
Andie sighed again. "They'd all gotten one, too. Not all the same but like they came from the same package?"
"Yeah. But you got the one with the Moped?"
"Uh huh, one of them. They were nice Valentines."
"Rudy sent them," Melissa said decisively. "And he gave one to you 'cause you always hung out with the girls."
Andie smiled. "Yeah, I did. And I think he did."
They didn't say anything for a while. Melissa tapped a nail to see if it were dry yet. They smiled at each other and Melissa sniffed.
"Don't start," warned Andie. "You know how you are."
Melissa sighed, "I can't help it. That was just so sweet of him."
Andie nodded, putting her things back in the drawers and plastic boxes. "Yeah, it was, wasn't it?"
Chapter 17: Upper Crustaceans
The three boys almost surrounded Kelly, there on the south corner of Triangle Square. "She's got the hiccups, again," said Jimmy, smiling. "Chica, are you scared of us?"
Kelly nodded. Fear knotted his stomach; he'd been beaten up more than once by bullies in school. These three didn't really look like bullies but if they recognized him they might...they might do anything. He tried to back away, wishing he had his glasses. Trying to run while blind as a mole didn't seem like a good idea. He hiccuped so hard it sounded like a pop-top can being opened.
The boys laughed and Kelly wanted to disappear into the pavement.
Tommy grinned. "You can sure do those hiccups good."
"Nothing to be scared of," said Jimmy. "Hey, we just think you're kinda cute? Kelly, isn't it?"
Oh, God, thought Kelly. Do I admit it? Or try to pretend I'm not me. He shook his head, tentatively and hiccuped again.
Jimmy laughed. "Oh, yes, you're Kelly! I know you are. But why you so scared?"
"Did you go to our school?" asked Tommy. "I would think I'd remember you? Is this pendejo making all this up?"
"Hey! I'm not the pendejo here, you are!" Jimmy whacked his friend's shoulder with the back of his hand. "Pendejo!"
"Cabron!" returned Tommy with a grin.
Clowns. They're clowns, like the Mann brothers, thought Kelly. He squeezed his eyes shut and tightened his lips to prevent a burst of hysterical giggles.
"She looks like you're making her sick," commented Tommy.
Kelly shook his head and made a "snawf!" sound between his pursed lips.
"She's laughing at us!" said Jimmy. "Let's tickle her!"
Kelly's eyes popped open at that and he backed away some more. "No! Don't!"
Jimmy and Tommy laughed, but held their hands up to show they were harmless.
"You guys are scary!" Kelly said, and they laughed even louder. Kelly couldn't keep from grinning; a nervous grin to be sure but they were funny and it did look less likely that he would be getting beat up. Though their behavior puzzled him even more than angry accusations of "Sissy!" and "Queer!" would have. How could they still treat him as a girl if they remembered him from school last year?
Doug Nguyen had stepped to the side. He watched Kelly but said nothing and Kelly didn't really notice him.
"You look so nice today, chica," said Jimmy. "How come you always dressed like a boy at school? You so pretty..."
For Kelly, the light went on. Jimmy remembered him from school, but had evidently thought Kelly had always been a girl. Kelly winced.
"Oh yeah!" said Tommy. "I remember you now. You wore those big glasses and jeans and a yellow t-shirt alla time! You were in Mrs. Humberton's class."
Even without glasses, Kelly could see the gleaming teeth of the two boys pleased grins. Relief flooded through him, he was saved. He'd been such a sissy all last year that these two, who might have had reason to believe otherwise, had still thought he was a girl. They were all still smiling, or at least he thought they were. They still sounded friendly. He would never be able to go back to his old school, though, he reflected.
"Hey," commented Tommy. "I think a lot of kids thought you were a boy? You look a lot prettier now."
"You still got those cute hiccups. You wanna get a soda?" asked Jimmy. "I could buy you a soda? Huh?"
"Hey!" protested Tommy. "I was gonna ask her if I could buy her a soda!"
"I'm worried about Kelly," Barbie told Harold Mann. "Andie has gone off the deep-end with this dressing-him-up-as-a-girl thing." She gestured at the printouts they had made of the pictures Andie had emailed. Kelly wore several of the little dresses left behind at the Mann house for the little stepdaughter who had never moved in. And he looked every inch the darling little girl that Harry Mann would have wanted for a daughter.
"He's smiling," pointed out Harry. "I don't think it was all Andie's idea."
Barbie shook her head. "Kelly smiles when he's scared too. When he's really really scared, he grins so hard his face will crack. And he gets the hick-offs." She demonstrated with a patently fake hiccup of her own that made her new enhanced boobies bounce a bit.
Harry suppressed a grin. He looked from Barbie to the pictures of Kelly. Okay, this was a bit of a mess. But both of these two were so darling, so cute, he really didn't want to let either of them go. "What do you want to do, baby?" he asked.
Barbie looked at him pleadingly, "Can we go home? I want to see if Kelly is really all right, and, and," she paused. "And I just want to go home." She tried a mock pout at him and he laughed.
"Okay, sugar, we'll head back to Newport. Let me call the airport and get us a flight."
"Yay!" Barbie cheered. "Thank you, Harry!" She demonstrated her affection with a quick kiss and a careful hug. Careful because her chest felt sore as the mild painkillers she had been given began to wear off.
Melissa pointed across the street, "Look? Isn't that Kelly talking to those boys?"
Andie looked out of the window toward the corner of Harbor and Newport, "Yeah, I think it is. Wow? That's a cute outfit she's got on, isn't it?"
"Uh huh, better than what you had her in," Melissa giggled. "The kid has taste as well as looks."
"I think—she's flirting with those boys!" Andie laughed.
Melissa watched a moment more. "You know, I think you're right," she sighed wistfully. "I never had a chance to do that."
Andie laughed. "You made up for it as I remember. A few years ago..."
Melissa waved the comment away. "That wasn't flirting, that was trolling for meat pies."
Andie laughed even harder.
Phil dozed while the bus pulled off the freeway in Santa Ana and let passengers out at the Orange County Transportation Center. No one noticed the little man with light brown hair, particularly, and no one bothered the bag he had put under the seat. In less than half an hour, the bus would stop at the Victoria Street Station in Costa Mesa, as near as it would get to Barbie's Newport Beach apartment and only half a mile from Triangle Square.
In the parking basement of Triangle Square, the Mann brothers and Sarah had taken the elevator to the ground floor and made their way through the spiraling traffic lanes of the interior of the building toward the Virgin. They entered the record and video store through the inside doors and so didn't see Kelly and his schoolmates standing outside the Gap, only half a block away.
And no one saw the little car carrying Amanda and Rachel merge into the traffic on Newport Boulevard at the end of the 55 Freeway. Amanda rode by looking at the wrong side of the street and since she wasn't driving, she didn't have her glasses on anyway. Nor was she likely to recognize Kelly even if she had seen the little girl in the Catalina blue casuals.
She passed right by Kelly, less than fifty feet away, and remarked to her friend, "There's that salon I was talking about, Flesh and Fur? I met Barbie there once." A painful memory, she'd been drinking then and had made a scene in a restaurant only a few hours later.
Rachel nodded. "I remember you telling me about it; hair salon and tattoo parlor, didn't you say?"
"Uh huh," agreed Amanda. "Some friend of my daughter's runs the place, tall girl with—all kinds of metal sticking out of her." She laughed. "Kids, huh?"
Rachel laughed, too. "I guess we did our share of idiotic things when we were young."
Amanda smiled ruefully. "I guess. And we've got the scars to prove it, too."
Rachel glanced at her friend and fellow alcoholic. "We do at that. Everybody suffers through some kind of crisis about that age."
Amanda didn't say anything for a bit; traffic on Newport between Harbor and Seventeenth swirled in a chaos of streets joining at odd angles and people trying to get where they wanted to go without actually bending fenders or breaking the law too badly. Wisely, Amanda let Rachel concentrate until they were descending the slight incline marking the edge of Costa Mesa.
As they passed the hospital on the bluff above the road leading to Balboa Peninsula, Amanda spoke again. "I never wanted Barbie to go through the sort of thing that happened to me, and yet, she did and I couldn't save her."
"You can't save anyone," said Rachel. "They have to save themselves and you've got all you can do to save yourself."
Amanda nodded, nibbling on her lip. She hadn't been able to save Barbie, nor Kelly, nor Phil. And she was still struggling to save herself, but making this effort to warn Barbie about Phil was part of that, part of saving her own soul.
"Where do you wanna go to get a soda, chica?" asked Jimmy. His wide white smile gleamed in Kelly's vision amid the brown blur of his face.
Another hiccup wracked Kelly's voice and derailed his thought. "My aunt -hic- is just across the street." He waved vaguely across Newport Avenue, including the area his grandmother had only moments ago passed though, all unknowing.
The boys glanced across the street, but weren't much interested in an aunt who wasn't visible. "There's a food court on top of the mall?" suggested Tommy, "Or we could go downstairs to the market and get some juice or somethin'?"
"Uh -hic- I..." Kelly tried to think. Andie had suggested he meet her in the food court later and in the middle of a mall crowd the boys were unlikely to start thumping on him, even if they figured things out. "Okay?" Then his knees almost went out from under him as he realized he had agreed to let a couple of boys buy him something.
"Let me carry some of this stuff," offered Jimmy. Kelly offered the GAP bags up without discussion.
Tommy insisted on taking his share of the clothes. "You trying to carry too much, chica," he commented. "You're just a little bit of a thing, don't try to carry so much heavy stuff."
Kelly nodded. "I need some -hic- shoes..." he murmured.
"You wanna go to Nike first?"
"I don't know?"
"She needs a soda first," decided Jimmy. "Come on, chiquita." He took Kelly's hand and led the smaller boy toward the opening into the building. A large two-story escalator and wide flights of stairs there led up to the movie theater and restaurants on the roof.
He's holding my hand, Kelly thought. He likes me. Resisting the impulse to pull away or twist his hand out of Jimmy's grasp, Kelly smiled so wide it seemed his face would split.
They started toward the escalators, the boys keeping up a friendly banter with each other. "Hic," said Kelly.
In the beauty salon across Newport Avenue, Andie and Melissa exchanged a quiet high-five. "The kid is a natural flirt," said Andie. "I bet she's got them taking her up top for a pizza or shomething."
Melissa smiled. "Aren't you a little bit worried? What if she met somebody who knew her, some kids from her own school?"
Andie shook her head, "I don't think anyone is going to believe that our glamorous little doll is the same kid. Even my staff here didn't recognize her."
Melissa nodded. "Yeah, okay. I dunno if I ever saw Kelly before; it's hard to even imagine what she would look like in boy's clothes."
Rachel negotiated the narrower streets of Balboa Peninsula, passing the bridge to Lido Isle and the parking lots around the McFadden Pier. Tall, hot-pants-wearing blonde girls on roller blades and surfer-jam-clad boys carrying surfboards seemed to be everywhere. Everyone had a killer tan except the pale, camera-toting Japanese tourists, the men wearing knit polo shirts and the women in blue jean shorts with glitter appliqués on their rumps. A busker blew giant bubbles by pulling a soapy wand through the air. A bicycle surrey full of Midwesterners in Hawaiian shirts blocked traffic momentarily.
To the right, a line of cafes, shops and houses separated the street from the Pacific Ocean. To the left, bars and restaurants (including a Hooters), boat dealers, more shops, houses and apartment buildings, an alley, then even more expensive homes with boat slips lined the edge of the bay. The narrow spit of land had some of the most expensive real estate in California and a fair amount of beach funkiness. It wasn't Venice Beach, it wasn't even Huntington Beach, but it was quintessentially California.
Amanda directed Rachel to turn left at the proper corner and left again into the alley. An old but very well-built beach mansion had been divided into six apartments and Barbie lived in the one-room studio atop the three story stack. "Her car's not here," remarked Amanda.
"Can I park there?" asked Rachel. No Parking signs of increasing truculence lined the alley on every wall.
"Yeah," said Amanda. "This is Barbie's parking space and she isn't here. She may be at work but Kelly should be home." She undid the seat belt and got out of the car as soon as it stopped moving. A tiny redhead barely into her forties, her cheap jewelry glittering in the late afternoon sun, she looked pretty much as if she belonged where she was.
But Newport Beach made her nervous, so many rich people; she didn't actually think of herself as trailer trash but knew that a lot of the residents of this seaside paradise would sneer at her neat, clean mobile home in Riverside. She wondered vaguely if she had left out enough kitty kibbles for Floop while she fluffed her dyed hair and nervously examined the stairs.
"Shall I wait here?" asked Rachel, rolling down the car window.
"Um," said Amanda. She looked at the stairs again. She more than half-dreaded discovering that Barbie was home after all. They just didn't get along anymore. Even worse, she felt afraid of confronting her grandchild. Kelly and she had an even rockier relationship than she had with her daughter. Not that Kelly would be actively disrespectful, but Amanda knew that the child regarded her as something of an ogre.
"Go ahead, you goddam drunk," Amanda muttered and started up the stairs.
In the food court, a group of musicians began tuning up on the bandstand—two guys with electric guitars and a woman with a keyboard. The wide patio between the eateries filled with the squeaks and squawks of connections being tested and decisions being made.
"So where do you want to go, chiquita, to get a soda?" asked Jimmy.
"Um, I don't care?"
"If we went to the Upper Crust," suggested Doug, "we could each have a slice of pizza, I'm getting a little bit hungry."
The boys all made noises of agreement then looked at Kelly who hiccoughed again. All three smiled at him and he giggled nervously. "That's okay," he hazarded finally. "I could eat a slice."
Tommy laughed. "You can't be worried about your figure, chica, you ain't hardly got one."
Jimmy slapped his friend on the top of the head, "Pendejo! Don't say stuff like that!."
"Cabron!" retorted Tommy, then to Kelly. "He's got the sweets for you, I think."
The two taller boys scuffled a bit trading slaps and insults. Kelly tried to move away, remembering the earlier scuffle between the Mann brothers. He bumped into Doug, who took his hand suddenly. "Let's get away from those morons," Doug offered.
Kelly blinked then nodded and hiccoughed again. Doug laughed. "It's unbelievable," he said, leading Kelly toward the takeout window of Upper Crust Pizza. Doug had made a conclusion and a decision but he didn't share it with anyone yet.
Kelly almost forgot to be afraid of what it might be that Doug had trouble believing. "W-what?"
"Those two," Doug explained. "They're like that all the time. They're cousins and I guess they've been doing it for years."
Kelly giggled in relief. Jimmy and Tommy quickly caught up with Doug and Kelly as they stepped up to the window. It wasn't really busy and they didn't have to wait in line. "I'm buying Kelly's stuff," said Jimmy.
"You buy the soda," said Tommy, "I'll buy her pizza!"
"Guys!" snapped Doug. "Four sodas, four slices of pizza, that's gonna be 14.72, 4.91 split three ways. Have you cowboys got five bucks each?"
"How does he do that?" protested Tommy digging for his wallet.
"I've got money," Kelly began but Jimmy laughed while getting out his money.
"We don't let pretty girls buy their own snacks," Jimmy explained. "You our guest, chiquita. And here you go, Ka-Ching." He handed a slightly grubby five-dollar bill to Doug. "What you having, Kelly? What kind of soda and do you want cheese, sausage or combo pizza?"
"Diet Coke and cheese, please," said Kelly, grateful that Jimmy had saved him from having to ask what the menu might be.
Doug made all the orders at the window and paid with a twenty while Tommy moved quickly to grab some seats at a good distance from the band. "You sit too close, you can't talk," he explained, piling his share of Kelly's shopping bags on one end. He dragged some of the green plastic chairs closer, too.
Jimmy took Kelly's hand again and led him toward the table. "You don't need your glasses no more?" he asked, dumping the rest of the Gap labeled bags.
Kelly giggled. "Oh, I need them. They got broken this morning. My aunt is buying me some new ones; we have to go pick them up soon? Before six."
"Ah," nodded Jimmy. "I wondered, you keep looking like you can't see what you're looking at." Kelly smiled at the tangled syntax. Jimmy continued, "You getting some pretty ones this time?"
"Uh, yeah?" Kelly hiccoughed again remembering the two pairs of fancy frames Andie had picked out.
Tommy put in, "You look better without the glasses, at least, those old ugly ones. They made you look like a boy."
"You keep saying stupid stuff!" Jimmy growled at his cousin.
Doug called from the pizza window, "Hey! Help me carry this stuff."
"I'll go," offered Tommy.
"Yeah, you go," said Jimmy. He pulled one of the plastic chairs into position for Kelly. There didn't seem any reason not to, so Kelly sat and then Jimmy sat down next to him. Their knees touched and Kelly clamped down on the impulse to flinch away. His heart seemed to be beating loud enough to drown out the band who had begun a slow, cool jazz ramble, a low key jam while they waited for something else to happen.
"Your family is rich?" Jimmy indicated the bags and raised his voice to be heard.
Kelly giggled, "No, not my mom and me?" He didn't want to talk about his mom's supposed engagement to Harold Mann.
"You don't got a dad?"
Jimmy didn't ask any more questions about that, sensing Kelly's reluctance; he changed the subject. "Did you see all those people inside the pizza place?" He gestured toward the Upper Crust doors.
"Um?" said Kelly.
"Rich people and wanna-be rich people, bunch of Snobsters and Upper Crustaceans, for sure. Not like us," Jimmy said smiling.
Kelly giggled, partly from the horrible puns and partly from the memory of joking with Barbie about being poor but mostly from his continuing nervousness. At least, he seemed to have stopped hiccuping.
"I like to make you laugh, chiquita," said Jimmy. And still smiling, he leaned a bit toward Kelly.
Kelly turned his face up to look at the taller boy; at this distance he could actually see Jimmy's expression and he puzzled about it a bit. He didn't recall having seen such an expression on anyone before. When Jimmy's lips brushed his, it took him completely by surprise.
"There's nobody home," Amanda called down to her friend from the landing at the top of the wooden stairs.
"Well, what do you want to do?" Rachel called back, leaning out of the car window.
Amanda nibbled on her nails, "I dunno? Why don't either of us have cell phones?"
"You want to go back to that liquor store we saw and make a call?"
"I guess." Amanda started down the stairs, her reddened curls bouncing.
"Who will you call?" asked Rachel.
"The only place I can think of, I don't remember any of the places where Barbie works." She didn't want to remember them; they were all bars and nightclubs, places she didn't go or even think of anymore. "I'm going to call Barbie's friend at that beauty salon."
Sarah watched a little enviously; Pete and Cheryl were acting as if they hadn't seen each other in a week, and right in the middle of Virgin Records, too. The tall, bulky redhead made the recently enhanced blonde look tiny, even though Sarah knew Cheryl was at least six inches taller than she.
"You ready to get something to eat?" asked Richard.
"Hey, yeah, sounds good," Pete spoke up, breaking the lip lock he had on Cheryl's neck.
"Not you," Richard complained.
Sarah giggled. "I think I could eat something?"
Richard took out his cell phone. "I'm just going to call and see what's up with Andie and Kelly."
Sarah tried not to pout. This Kelly girl sounded more and more like trouble for her intentions toward Richard.
Harry watched how other men in the Las Vegas airport looked at Barbie. The little blonde didn't really need the improved figure he'd given her that morning but it probably helped. Harry felt a little bit better about Barbie insisting on the boob job he had promised her; it didn't make him jealous for other men to look at his fiancé. He rather enjoyed the idea that they might envy him.
Oblivious to the looks she was getting, Barbie chewed nervously on her lip. She knew that a twelve-year-old girl faced dangers that most boys the same age never thought about; she knew from experience. "I want to call Andie again," she said. "I don't like the idea of Kelly being alone out there dressed...like in the pictures. Andie has too many holes in her head."
Harry handed over his cell phone. "Just hit five and connect; her cell is on my speed dial."
"I'm gonna go see if Kelly has been abducted by those boys," said Andie, closing the till on the check Melissa had given her. "Wanna go with?"
"I don't guess so," said Melissa. "I got to get home and do some other stuff." She smiled. "Wish Kelly luck from me." She checked her appearance in the mirrors one last time. As always, Andie had done a wonderful job; making the wig look not just real but stylish.
"She could use some luck, her and her mother," agreed Andie, following her friend out the back door to the parking lot behind the salon. "I'm gonna take the car, even though it's just across the shtreet, the kid and I have to go pick up her glasses."
Her cell phone rang just as she reached the car.
Phil Constable had gotten off the Greyhound and checked the map on the wall of the tiny station before he realized that he had left his book on the bus. He looked up just in time to see it pull away, heading for Irvine and San Juan Capistrano. He'd had that book, The Horse Whisperer, for a long time and he felt sad about losing it. He'd read and re-read it so much it had almost fallen apart. Maybe he could get a new one.
He turned back to look at the map; it showed the location of nearby motels and restaurants and shopping malls. Phil decided he could check at the Bookstar in this place called Triangle Square, less than half a mile away. He felt like walking after hours of riding on the bus and train, anyway. His bag of spare clothes, toiletries and other items he might need wasn't that heavy.
He set out, not hurrying, but not walking slowly. Pedestrians were automatically suspects in Southern California and he didn't want a policeman to get curious about him. He was just a short, almost colorless man of nearly indeterminate age strolling along Harbor Boulevard in the sweet, soft, salty wind from the ocean. His bright blue eyes and height were his most notable attributes and neither would be that apparent to a passing motorist. There were no foot patrolmen in Costa Mesa.
The August sun felt much milder near the ocean, he thought. A very pleasant day for a walk. He treasured walking, anyway, especially a long walk toward a goal he felt he could reach. He could catch an OCTA bus on Newport near Triangle Square that would take him the three or so miles to the McFadden Pier, or maybe even closer to the address Amanda had given him for Barbie's apartment. But the pier would be close enough he decided; he could have another walk before he reached Barbie's place.
He shied away from thinking about what he intended to do when he saw her again after more than twelve years. He didn't think about what he had in the traveling bag, either. He didn't think about why he had been fired from his job as a veterinary assistant.
He moved according to decisions he had made long ago, accepting unplanned contingencies as they arose and adjusting his movements accordingly. He didn't think about whether his plans were something a sane man would consider doing.
Doctors, lawyers and judges had decided that he was sane enough to go to prison and more doctors, the warden and the parole board had decided that he was sane enough to be released. It wasn't his problem.
Hunger had become his immediate problem. He hadn't eaten since he left Merced early in the morning. There would probably be somewhere to eat in the oddly named mall. Pizza sounded good, malls usually had a pizza place.
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