The Ultra Injustice
by Scott Bassis
Manuela was sketching in Central Park when she received an email from BN&T notifying her that her ePhone Ultra had been delivered. She almost left right away for Andy’s apartment. It was her apartment too, in the sense that she lived there, but Andy paid the rent.
The apartment was in Midtown. From Central Park, she would have to take the C to Times Square, then transfer to the 7. It wasn’t much faster than walking, and it was a gorgeous day. Yet, after the trek, she wouldn’t feel like returning to Central Park. She decided to stay put.
The concierge would hold it for her. Jack was on duty today. He was always pleasant and helpful. There had been some confusion the first time they met. Jack had asked her whose apartment she was cleaning, very slowly. She was carrying a duffel bag; he must have thought it had cleaning supplies. It was the suit Andy had asked her to bring over from her place. Of course, when she said she was Andy’s friend, in perfect English, he apologized profusely. Someone else would have held a grudge. She realized it was a simple mistake.
She sketched on the bench for several hours longer. She was lucky to have fascinating subjects, a sleeping homeless man, an elderly couple reading, a woman with three dachshunds. Unfortunately, a park ranger came on to her and wouldn’t leave her alone. She sometimes felt tempted to grow a Frida Kahlo unibrow just so she could sketch outdoors in peace. After excusing herself to the ladies’ room, she relocated to a rock with a view of the carousel. She was good at depicting children. As an art teacher at Saint Xavier’s elementary school, she spent most of her day with them. She understood how they thought. She appreciated how fragile they were.
Her sketches of children always had a wistful quality. Her own childhood had ended too soon, cut short by her uncle, Victor. He was the one person she allowed herself to hate. Whenever someone offended her, she told herself it wasn’t like what Victor did to her. She could forgive everything except that.
She sketched on the rock near the carousel for hours, until the sky darkened and the attendant locked up. She had a number of good drawings. She regretted not taking photos. They would be useful to reference for a painting. Alas, her ePhone’s camera was broken. The glass was also cracked and the battery shot. Yet, she would return tomorrow, with her new phone. Until September, she would have nothing but time on her hands.
She usually worked retail jobs during the summers to make rent. This year, not only was it unnecessary, it was out of the question. Andy had booked a three-week European vacation in July, one week in Italy, one in Spain and one in France. Their upcoming trip was one reason why she allowed herself to splurge on the just released, thousand-dollar ePhone Ultra. She was lured by the much-touted camera. She imagined snapping pictures of Sistine Chapel frescos, beachgoers basking in the Barcelona sun and sophisticated, cigarette smoking Parisians. Hopefully, she would acquire more than beautiful photos. Something told her that her ring finger wouldn’t be bare on the flight home. Although the school year had ended on Friday, she felt her blissful summer would officially begin tonight, once she had her ePhone Ultra. Her old, broken ePhone was the only blight on her happiness.
She walked at a leisurely pace back to the apartment. Entering the building, she beamed at Jack. He looked surprised. She was usually aloof. Socializing didn’t come naturally to her. She had kept to herself as a child; she still did. She stood at the desk, waiting for him to remember the package.
“Is there something I can help you with, Ms. Cruz?” he asked after a long, awkward moment.
“A package came for me around noon,” she said.
“No, I was here at noon. No package came,” he said confidently.
“I got an email,” she said in disbelief.
“Did you call the company?” he asked, as if that was the normal response, calling the company to make sure the notification wasn’t sent mistakenly.
“Let me check the email again.” She lingered at the desk. She sensed Jack’s annoyance as she pulled out her phone. She had missed it before, but there was a tracking number and a link at the bottom of the email. The link directed her to Express Delivery’s website. Evidently, her package was signed for by P. Chang at 11:46AM.
“Does P. Chang work here?” she asked, frantically. He shook his head, no, politely overlooking the question’s absurdity. The building had a staff of eight, six concierges, the super and the porter. None looked like a “P. Chang.”
“Try 11 West 43rd Street. They sometimes get us confused. It’s that building with the green awning,” Jack suggested. At once, she rushed outside and crossed Fifth Avenue. The building resembled Andy’s. They were both red brick, older construction, with a large lobby. The concierge was a gangly, goateed Latino. He looked about her age, in his early thirties. “Rafael” was printed on his blazer’s name tag. As she stood catching her breath, he eyed her warily.
“My package was delivered here by mistake.” She didn’t know that for certain. In fact, she thought it a longshot. Yet, instinct took over. Rafael grimaced. He, like everyone, especially servicemen in low level jobs, didn’t want trouble. “It was signed for by P. Chang,” she continued.
“Phil left at three,” Rafael said. She grinned. Her ePhone Ultra wasn’t lost now. It was delivered to Phil Chang, the morning concierge at 11 West 43rd Street.
“Do you know where my package could be?” she asked.
Obligingly, he looked around on the desk, the shelf overhead. He shook his head, no.
“It’s not here. When a name doesn’t match, we give it back to the Express Delivery guy. We don’t have it.” He gave an apologetic shrug.
“Okay, thanks.” She left feeling relieved. Her ePhone Ultra was on its way back to BN&T. She would get it eventually. At Andy’s building, she thanked Jack for being helpful. She told him the package was delivered there, but must have been sent back.
“Don’t worry, Ms. Cruz. Most people do the right thing,” Jack said. She smiled and nodded, but his words weren’t reassuring.
As she rode the elevator up, she remembered Lucas. Though it had been three years since he was her student, she still thought of him often. He was in second-grade when she had him. It only took her one class to realize that he was a victim of abuse. He didn’t say a word to anyone. He drew faces crying, a house in flames. He was extremely skittish. Paper ripped from the pad made him jump. Whenever someone approached him, his body trembled.
Undoubtedly, she was not the only teacher to suspect abuse. Yet, her colleagues collectively turned a blind eye to the signs. Of course, his classmates only knew that he was strange. Boys called him “weirdo,” “fag” and “crazy,” hit him for no reason. Girls bestowed on him the nickname “Loco Lucas.” He was subjected to constant cruelty.
She didn’t trust most people to do the right thing. In her experience, almost no one did the right thing. She returned to the apartment. Andy wasn’t home yet. He usually worked until around eight. Immediately, she called Express Delivery’s customer services line. She explained everything to “Kelly.”
“Uh huh, let me put you through to the driver on that route,” Kelly said. Her tone did not strike Manuela as hopeful.
“Yeah,” a gruff voice said.
“My package was delivered to the wrong building. The concierge said he gave it back after he realized it,” she said, blurring the truth a bit.
“He said that? No, it’d be scanned. It’s not scanned. Go back, tell him,” he said, as if he was offering friendly advice, as if the situation didn’t really involve him.
“Why should I go back? It’s not my fault,” she huffed.
“Hey, hey, nothing is no one’s fault. But it’s your package.” He delivered a thousand-dollar device in a BN&T box to the wrong address. Now it was missing, but it wasn’t his fault.
“Well, I didn’t sign for it because I’m not P. Chang. Now go back and get the package you brought to the wrong place!” she snapped.
“I’ll get right on it,” he said. She smiled stupidly for half a minute before realizing he was mocking her and had hung up.
She was getting too worked up. She wished Andy was here. He would calm her down. He was always supportive. She had never been afraid to open up to him about her past. He was older than she was; that was part of it, though plenty of men in their forties had the emotional maturity of a little boy. She called him.
“It’s just a phone,” he said.
“I know,” she said. He was right, of course. Still, even if it was just an ePhone Ultra, it was an injustice. Why her ePhone Ultra, of all the ePhone Ultras that were safely delivered to their rightful owners? It made her think, why Lucas, of all the children who never had to suffer? It was only chance. That was something people never realized.
Once, as she sat in the teacher’s lounge sketching, she overheard her colleagues discuss Lucas. Their voices conveyed a mixture of pity and contempt.
“That boy’s not right. He stares at me frowning the whole class, looking so pathetic. Sometimes, I can see tears.”
“I know. He’s picked on all the time, but can you blame them?”
“You think he’ll grow up to be one of those psychos you read about?”
She felt like stomping over there to defend him, shout, “Lucas could be anyone! He could have been you! He was me!” Yet, that would only make her look crazy, and do nothing to help Lucas.
“It’s just so unfair,” she lamented.
“Do you want me to call BN&T?” he offered.
“I’ll do it,” she said.
“I’ll be home soon,” he assured her.
They exchanged “I love yous.” She hung up feeling better, though it didn’t last long, about twenty minutes into her hold to speak with a BN&T representative. Finally, she relayed the events again to “Tonya.”
“You’ll have to speak to our Stolen Devices department, ma’am.” Tonya abruptly transferred her to more grating Muzak.
That word, “stolen,” hit her like a punch in the gut. Her ePhone Ultra had been stolen. She was the victim of a crime. She had been victimized. It made her sick. It made her furious. It made her feel like crying. She wished Andy was here to hold her.
“Calvin speaking, how may I assist you?” A voice finally said.
“Someone stole my phone. Express Delivery delivered it to the wrong building, and someone there stole it!” she declared.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” His voice oozed sympathy. He must have been experienced in dealing with distraught customers. As he spoke calmly and reassuringly, she couldn’t resist being lulled into complacency.
“So, if within thirty days you fax us the copy of the police report, your driver’s license, your credit card and the signed affidavit, we’ll send you your new device, assuming our investigational team approves your case,” Calvin said.
“Thank you,” she said.
Only after she hung up, and gazed down at the list of tasks assigned to her, did she become indignant. Yet, she didn’t have the energy to call back, wait on hold, repeat the same story, be transferred to someone else and repeat it again. Resignedly, she slumped down on the couch. Feeling too upset even to sketch, she turned on the TV. She flipped through the channels until she landed on a crime drama.
She watched as the officers heroically tracked down the killer, stopping him before he had the chance to do it again. She knew it was just a cliched cop show, but it gave her hope. She would turn to the law. She wouldn’t be a silent victim, not now. This time, justice would be served.
As the credits rolled, she heard Andy’s key in the lock. She rushed to the door. She gave him a quick hug and kiss.
“I have to file a police report. Will you come with me?” she asked anxiously.
“Sure,” he said. She retrieved her purse, grabbed her phone and put on her sneakers. They headed to the station a few blocks away. As they walked, her hopelessness abated. Taking this step felt empowering.
“Why are you here?” a female officer barked the moment they walked through the door. Seeing Andy’s taken aback expression, Manuela decided to speak. The last thing she needed was for Andy’s snide side to come out.
“My ePhone was stolen. The package was delivered to the wrong building and the guy that signed for it…”
“So you never got it? It’s a lost package,” the officer said.
“Yes, and when I went to the building…” Manuela continued.
“We don’t handle lost packages. You gotta complain to the phone company. You never got it, it’s not legally yours. You don’t got the right to file a complaint.” The officer glanced to a male, forty-something officer at his desk across the room, bent over a file. “Benny, this lady’s phone got delivered to the wrong place and someone there took it.”
“She gotta complain to the phone company,” Benny replied, lifting his head up momentarily.
“Do you think I can just have a report? With that, BN&T says I’ll get a new phone. All of this will be over,” she pled. She smiled, thinking of the moment when she would finally have her ePhone Ultra. For two months, she would have no more worries, only art, travel and romance.
“Sorry,” the officer said. Manuela’s smile collapsed. The officer gestured to the door with her hand.
“This is ludicrous,” Andy scoffed. Glancing at him, the officer had an expression of mocking interest. She placed her hand on her hip, resting it on the handle of her gun.
“You’re a civil servant. My taxes pay your salary,” Andy continued unheedingly.
“It’s okay,” Manuela said, nudging him towards the exit.
“There a problem?” Benny stood up. He was taller than one would assume while sitting, about six and a half feet, with broad shoulders. As he approached, Andy let out an audible gulp. Other officers turned their heads, their attentions piqued.
“Thank you for your help,” Manuela muttered. She started to leave, but Andy didn’t move. She tugged his arm. Stirred from his petrified state, he stumbled outside.
“Unbelievable! They’re just lazy. I should go back and speak with the sergeant,” he seethed. Still, he continued to walk in the direction of home, rather quickly.
“Why don’t we call 311 instead? We don’t know who the sergeant will side with,” she said.
“You’re right. I’ll call as soon as we get back,” he said.
Though she doubted he would get anywhere, at least he wouldn’t end up in a squad car to a Rikers jail cell. There would be more bureaucracy, more hoops to jump through. It all seemed designed to make one give up.
“Let me try the building again. Maybe it’s turned up,” she said. She was wrong to put her faith in the police. She could only rely on herself, like always. When she had needed help most, no one had been there for her. It was why she had felt compelled to help Lucas.
“I’ll go with you,” Andy said. He clasped her hand. After a moment, she slipped her hand free.
“He’ll be nicer if I’m alone,” she said. Andy would be too antagonistic. In all likelihood, the resident at the other building’s corresponding apartment had it. The staff’s loyalty was to the tenant. The situation required delicacy.
“You sure?” he asked. She nodded. At the end of the block, they separated.
Unsurprisingly, Rafael scowled upon seeing her again. The last thing she wanted was to make trouble for anyone, another reason it was better to leave Andy out of it.
“I told you, Phil gave the package back to the delivery guy,” he said.
“I called Express Delivery. No one returned it. It wasn’t scanned.” She stopped herself from saying, “someone here has it,” though that was the logical conclusion.
“Maybe the guy forgot to scan it.” His tone of helpfulness couldn’t disguise the fact that he only wanted to send her off in another direction.
“Is there a security camera?” she asked. He frowned. She could see two, one pointed at the door, the other at his desk.
“Yeah, but you have to be a resident to see the footage, unless there’s like a lawsuit,” he said.
“What documents do I need to provide from my attorney?” she asked. Of course, she didn’t have an attorney. Even Andy didn’t have an attorney. But as a poor person herself, she knew poor people assumed all rich people had attorneys.
“I don’t know. You have to ask the super. He doesn’t work this late. You can fill out the form, I guess, even if you don’t live here,” he said begrudgingly. She realized that the form wouldn’t accomplish anything except to get rid of her. She noticed a neon pink Post-It pad on his desk.
“Can I leave my phone number in case someone brings it down?” she asked. It was possible someone would do the right thing and return it. He or she just hadn’t gotten around to it. It was doubtful, but possible.
“Of course.” He handed her the notepad and a pen. Under the heading “Lost Package Belongs to” she wrote her name, phone number and address.
“I’ll keep it here.” He stuck the Post-It in the center of the desk. He stared at her expectantly, waiting for her to leave. She couldn’t make herself go. She couldn’t give up yet. She may have been victimized, but she refused to end this night a victim.
“Do you mind if I fill out that form too, for the super?” she asked. He sighed exasperatedly. “Wait here.” He grabbed keys from the drawer. He opened the door behind the desk. He disappeared inside a supply closet.
Quickly, she dashed over to the elevator bank. She hit the button. She watched anxiously as the numbers dropped. From the concierge desk, there was a clear view of the elevators.
“Where’d you go?” She heard him exclaim as the elevator arrived. She slipped inside, smiling amiably at the exiting residents. As she rode up, it occurred to her that she might be committing a crime. The indifferent world had left her no choice. It was the same world that allowed innocent children to be tortured. She shouldn’t have been surprised that it would let her ePhone Ultra be stolen. She recalled another time she had been forced to take justice into her own hands.
When a teacher suspected abuse, there was a strict protocol to follow. She was to inform the principal, who would coordinate a session with a child psychologist, pending parental approval. She would certainly be fired for questioning Lucas directly. But she could protect herself, if she needed to. She was adept at lying to save herself, or someone else.
After Lucas had been in her class for a month, and seemed a little more at ease around her, she had him stay behind while she took his classmates to the cafeteria. When she returned, she pulled a chair up beside him. She had made two tuna sandwiches. As they ate, she asked him about his drawing, his other classes. She nodded at his one-word answers.
“Is someone hurting you in a way you find confusing? Is an adult telling you to do things you don’t want to? Things that feel wrong?” she asked. She smiled warmly. He put down his sandwich.
“My stepdad,” he mumbled. He took another bite. She touched his shoulder. He flinched. She expected him to cry, but he didn’t. She shed a few tears. She wiped them away at once. She didn’t wish to upset him. The less memorable this conversation was to him, the better for both of them.
“I’ll get you out of there,” she whispered, despite herself.
The elevator door opened. She marched down the hall. She stopped at apartment 7A and rang the bell.
“Who is it?” an elderly female voice asked. Manuela’s conviction drained out of her. She had no proof that the phone was here. She was acting reckless and crazy. Still, she had come this far.
“My name’s Manuela,” she replied.
“What?” the old woman croaked.
“My name’s Manuela,” she repeated.
“What? I can’t hear you. Hold on…”
Manuela heard the thump of a walker against the carpet. The old woman opened the door. She had pale, translucent skin and stringy hair. She wore a floral-patterned nightgown. The old woman eyed her suspiciously.
“My name’s Manuela. I’m the nanny for your neighbors, the Violets,” she said, inspired by the print on the old woman’s nightgown. “They think a package might’ve been delivered here by mistake. Did you get any packages?”
“Packages? I don’t think so.” She inched the door closed.
“It’s very important. You see, they were expecting several packages. One of them has medication for the baby. They know a package arrived, but it must’ve been delivered to a neighbor by mistake.” Manuela gave a desperate sigh.
“Oh my, come in!” The old woman swung the door open. Manuela followed her through the foyer into the kitchen. The apartment was tidy and clean, which heartened Manuela. Someone must have been checking in on her periodically.
“I put all my packages here,” the old woman gestured to an empty countertop at the kitchen’s entrance. Manuela glanced around the kitchen, which was orderly, uncluttered, and plainly package-free. She stepped back, throwing cursory glances around the apartment.
“I’m sorry. Maybe if you explain what happened to the pharmacist…” the old woman suggested, confusing Manuela momentarily.
“Um, yes, if it comes to that,” Manuela made her way to the door, her eyes still searching in vain for a BN&T box.
“But it’s a big hassle, I tell you. I lost my meds once. The insurance wouldn’t pay for it again. They wanted to charge me ninety bucks a pill. I said what am I supposed to do, curl up and die?” she huffed. Manuela paused, letting the old woman finish her rant. She seemed to be lonely.
“So what did you do?” Manuela asked.
“I asked to speak to the manager of the pharmacy. I told him I never refilled my prescription in the first place. I said there’s a glitch in their computer, or someone working there’s thief. I said if I die, my family will sue SRC Pharmacy for millions. I got my refill. Didn’t even have to pay the ten-dollar copay.” Speaking with renewed vigor, the old woman seemed to grow years younger.
“We’ll have to give that a try,” Manuela said, jokingly.
“In this world, you’ve got to fight tooth and nail. There’s a lot of horrible people out there,” the old woman advised her.
“So true,” Manuela said.
“Good luck,” the old woman said.
Manuela thanked her and left. She headed glumly to the elevator. Tracking down her ePhone Ultra seemed increasingly hopeless. She would return tomorrow, talk to Phil Chang and the super, but she couldn’t imagine it would do much good.
When the elevator arrived in the lobby, she slipped out quietly. She crept to the edge of the wall, adjacent to the concierge’s desk. If she wasn’t careful, she would find herself escorted back to the police station, and the officers would be even less pleasant this time.
She peeked her head out to see if Rafael was there. He was, sitting alone, staring into space. She returned to her position. She couldn’t wait too long. Someone would surely find her suspicious, pressed flat against the wall like a wannabe ninja. A minute later, she looked again. He was texting. Unfortunately, as she was about to sneak out, he put his phone down on the desk.
Before she could duck behind the wall, something caught her eye: a neon pink Post-it in the waste bin. Squinting, she made out her own handwriting. At once, she stomped over to the side of the desk. She plucked the Post-it from the waste bin. Startled, he leapt to his feet.
“Why did you throw this away?” She spoke in the same reproachful voice she used with ornery students. She held the Post-It up to him.
“You disappeared,” he said.
“So?” she said.
“I thought someone probably found your phone and texted you.” He shrugged. He lied with impressive ease. However, he wasn’t as good at it as she was.
“How did you know it’s a phone?” she asked. He breathed heavily. He shot a glance to the exit, as if he was considering bolting. Her eyes searched around his desk, under it, the shelves overhead.
“You said it was,” he said finally. It came off as petulant, like a little boy caught stealing, hiding the toy behind his back. Following her hunch, she walked around to the front of the desk, keeping her eyes fixed on him. He turned with her, but not fast enough. A phone stuck up from his back pocket. His phone was still on the desk.
“Give it to me!” she snapped. The elevator pinged. A resident strode past, ignoring them. As soon as he was gone, she held out her hand.
“Come on, you don’t need it. You live in Midtown Manhattan. Why don’t you just get another, or ask your sugar daddy to buy you a new one?” he sneered.
“You don’t know anything about my life,” she said. She was about to tell him exactly what she had been through, then she realized he wouldn’t understand or care.
“I wasn’t gonna keep it. I was gonna sell it online. I got two boys, six and ten. I was gonna use it to take them to Disney World. If you wanna go to Orlando, you buy a ticket, easy as that.” His voice grew plaintive. She could tell he already knew it was over.
“There’s a camera on us. No one’ll bother watching the footage unless I bring attention to it. I promise, I won’t get you into trouble if you give me the phone.” She used the same even tone she would with a kindergartner who had gotten his hands on an X-Acto knife.
They heard the murmur of voices. There were people just outside the door. Swiftly, Rafael took the phone out of his pocket. He placed it on the counter and slid it across to her. She snatched it.
“Bitch,” he muttered. He glared at her. He really despised her, just because she lived in Midtown Manhattan.
“Goodnight, Rafael.” A couple passed through the lobby to the elevator.
“Goodnight, Ted and Shelly,” he grinned.
She dropped the ePhone Ultra into her purse. She ran out, anxious to get away from Rafael and his resentful gaze. As she headed back to her building, a smile emerged on her face. She did it! She wasn’t the victim now. She was Manuela Cruz, Amateur Detective.
“Thanks again for that advice,” she told Jack. She slipped him a twenty.
“Oh, you don’t have to. That’s very kind. Thanks Ms. Cruz,” he said. She needed to, to reassure herself that he didn’t secretly hate her. She didn’t deserve anyone’s hatred. She had merely fallen in love with a sweet, caring man who happened to be wealthy.
“I got it!” she squealed upon opening the door.
“How?” Andy walked over with an astonished face.
“Well, first I talked to the person who lives in the apartment, a nice old lady. She didn’t have it, but by the time I went back downstairs, the concierge found it.” If he knew the real story, he would be disturbed, not to mention furious at her.
“He found it? Didn’t he look for it when you asked hours ago? It would have saved us a lot of trouble,” he fumed.
“What does it matter?” she said.
“I guess,” he agreed reluctantly. “I hope he was sorry.”
“Very sorry,” she said solemnly. She felt obligated to protect Rafael, even if he showed no gratitude. She left the phone in her purse the rest of the night. She didn’t want to think about it anymore. She snuggled on the couch with Andy, watching TV until they started dozing off, then dragged themselves to bed.
Andy set the alarm for six AM as usual. She rolled over and fell back asleep for a few more hours. The sun shone through the window. It looked like another beautiful day. She couldn’t wait to go outside, with her ePhone Ultra, to capture it. After breakfast, she called BN&T to activate the phone.
“Um, something’s wrong,” Doug in Customer Services said.
“What?” she sighed.
“Did you report the device as stolen?” he asked.
“I have to transfer you to our Stolen Devices department.”
Abruptly, she found herself waiting on hold. She brewed new coffee and drank two mugfuls before someone picked up. She spent that time coming up with a story that didn’t include a sticky-fingered concierge.
“Calvin speaking, how may I assist you?”
“I spoke with you yesterday, remember?”
“Oh, yes.” His voice conveyed doubt, but he must have been able to verify it. He seemed to be reading off a screen. “Your ePhone was delivered to the wrong address. You reported it stolen. I informed you of the required documentation for a replacement.”
“It turned out it was given back to Express Delivery. They forgot to scan it. Someone looked at the label and realized the mistake. I got it this morning,” she said.
“That’s great news!” he said.
“I know!” she exclaimed.
“Now all we need is the police report, a copy of your ID, your credit card and the signed affidavit we’ve mailed, and we’ll be able to activate your device,” he said cheerfully.
“What are you talking about?”
“The phone has been tagged as stolen. It can’t be untagged without these documents,” he explained.
“How can I file a police report if it hasn’t been stolen?” she asked.
“Of course, I apologize. You won’t be filing a stolen property report. You’ll be filing a lost property report. You should include how you recovered the item,” he clarified. She had lied her way into an old woman’s home, confronted a thief, risked her own safety, to file a lost property report instead of a stolen property report.
“The police wouldn’t help me,” she said. He didn’t respond. “How will I get them to help me?” she asked. The answer was apparent. She had to tell the truth. She had to explain that Rafael stole the phone. He would be fired. He would have a criminal record. He might never get another decent job.
“Once you provide these documents, we’ll be able to activate your phone. Take care and have a wonderful day.” She heard a click.
Flustered, she paced around the apartment. As she weighed her options, her thoughts turned to Lucas.
A week after she called Child Services, she received a memo from the principal stating Lucas had been disenrolled. He was moving to Arizona to live with his grandparents. Child Services must have obtained the evidence it needed; she was never contacted. Sparing him further torture turned out to be easy. It was a shame no one had done it long ago.
Her pride at rescuing Lucas quickly gave way to concern for him. Eventually, he might recover from the abuse, find a job he cared about, someone who loved him. Yet, he would always feel different, alienated from others. People would find him as strange as he found them. He would need to forgive those who were cruel to him. They couldn’t see their own pettiness. He would have to let go of his anger, regardless of how justified it was.
“We’re the same,” she wished she could have told him, wished he would always remember. It would have comforted him to know he was not really alone.
She couldn’t ruin Rafael’s life, though he had wronged her. He wasn’t like Victor. He had a son, Lucas’ age, who he loved and cared about. She would buy a new, junky phone, or maybe Andy could upgrade to a family plan with T-Cellular. She would be his wife soon, after all. He wouldn’t understand her decision, but he knew the futility of arguing with her.
However, she promised to treat herself to a new camera, an expensive one. She would take plenty of photos on her trip, of the magnificent art, the breathtaking architecture, the mouthwatering food. When she dwelled too much on humanity’s ugliness, she forgot all the beauty out there. There was nothing just about this world. She couldn’t let that keep her from appreciating how lucky she was to be alive.
Scott Bassis is a young writer eager to establish himself as a serious talent. He has had short stories published in Poydras Review, The Furious Gazelle, The Acentos Review, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, Image Outwrite, Quail Bell Magazine, The Missing Slate, Jumbelbook, Furtive Dalliance, Fiction on the Web and Rainbow Curve.