Run, My Dear

 

By Marjory Kaptanoglu

 

The vertical blinds cast striped shadows over Jade Oakes as she worked at her kitchen table. “The Xanadu Island Resort,” Jade said into her Bluetooth. “I know they told you they were booked. Let me try again.” She smiled as if the person on the other end could see her. “I don’t believe in giving up.”

She ended the call and looked up contact information for the resort on her computer. Steam rose from the pot on her ancient stovetop. She finished her task before rising and taking out a portion of the frozen cheese tortellini she had purchased in bulk. She added it to the boiling water.

Another call came in while she stirred the pasta. She recognized the voice of an officious woman who had spoken to her earlier and was dissatisfied with Jade’s responses. “You can’t fly there directly, you need to connect in Istanbul,” Jade explained again. “I can arrange… certainly, I understand. Have a good—”

People were rude at times, but Jade didn’t hold it against them. You could not overestimate the significance of anyone’s travel plans. She treated every customer the way she would wish to be treated—as if each trip represented the fulfillment of a deeply-held desire, and was being financed by years of frugality and self-sacrifice.

Jade put away her Bluetooth. She drained the pasta, poured it on her plate, and dusted the top with the parmesan cheese she had saved from Pizza Heaven. It formed a meager helping, but if she ate slowly it would feel like enough.

Following dinner she worked out with her weights while CNN droned in the background. She changed into her nightgown and went to bed soon after.

A noise woke her past midnight, the scrape and rattle of the back door being pushed open downstairs. The hair prickled on her arms as she sat up quietly and reached under the bed for a neoprene dumbbell. She stood and raised it, her hand shaking. A footstep creaked on the stairs. She wondered if she should hide, but something kept her rooted in place.

Her eyes registered the orange of his jumpsuit before his dark brown hands and face. He paused at the top of the stairs, watching her. She dropped the dumbbell by her feet and sprang forward.

Daniel met her midway and wrapped his powerful arms around her.

“Mama,” he said, and it melted her the same as when he was two years old and asking for her to read him a story.

She cupped his face in her quivering hands. He looked older than the last time she had seen him in prison. Old enough that if he had never broken the law, by now he’d have a job in management, a wife, and kids the same age as he was when his life went to hell.

“A mother should never have to go so long without holding her child,” she murmured. “How did you manage it?”

“No time,” Daniel said. “I gotta change.”

Jade retrieved a man’s outfit hanging inside the closet and gave it to her son. While he peeled off the jumpsuit, she grabbed her own clothes and went into the bathroom, leaving the door open a crack as she dressed.

“Look at these,” Daniel said from the other room. “Am I gonna meet the president?” “Appearances matter,” she said. “As you know.”

“Can’t change outta my skin.”

“Not talking color, talking rich versus poor.”

She returned to the bedroom, where Daniel now wore a button shirt, crisp slacks, and a fine leather jacket. He peered out the window.

“Check your pocket,” Jade said.

He found a Rolex watch and raised his eyebrows at her. “You must be some travel agent.” “Fooled you, huh? It’s not real.”
He slipped on the watch and glanced out the window again. His expression darkened.

“Police,” he said.

Jade snatched her purse from the dresser, hurried to the closet and lifted the clothes to one side. She pressed the back wall, opening a hidden door into a small alcove. “I put in a panic room,” she whispered.

Outside, car doors opened and clanged shut. Voices called out.

Jade’s gaze shifted to the bed behind Daniel. “Your clothes!”

A banging started on the front door. An officer shouted, “Police! Open up!”

Daniel lunged for the jumpsuit and prison shoes on the floor, before following his mother into the panic room.

The front door crashed open as Jade pushed the hangers back in place. She shut the panic room door and slid the bolt with fumbling hands, wincing at the sound it made. Daniel clutched his prison clothes against him as they huddled in the tight space.

Officers pounded through the house and up the stairs. Jade’s heart thumped inside her. Footsteps entered the bedroom. A moment later someone opened the closet door. The scritch of the hangers being pulled across the bar grated like the cry of a baby left out in the cold. Jade squeezed her eyes shut.

The noises receded. “Nobody in the master,” a man said.

“I got her number,” said a woman, probably from the hallway. “Calling…”

Jade suppressed a gasp. She seized her purse from the floor, unzipped it trying not to make a noise, groped inside it looking for her phone. She found it after an agonizing delay, saw from the display that the call was just coming in, and jabbed the button to shut it off with no time to spare.

She and Daniel exchanged a petrified glance, unsure if anyone had heard. After a tense moment, the woman cop said, “Not answering.”

“Her car’s here,” another officer shouted from downstairs.

“Must be out with someone,” said the one that was closer.

The woman said, “We’re not waiting. Miller, tell ‘em to send over an unmarked.”

The sounds moved outside. Car doors slammed shut, engines started up, vehicles drove off. “Don’t have much time,” Jade said.

She pointed to a travel case on a shelf over Daniel’s head. “That’s for you.”

They came out and she shut the panic room door behind them, sliding the clothes back in place.

“Open it,” she said, nodding at the case in Daniel’s hands.

Alongside clothing and toiletries, he found a manila envelope thick with cash and a Canadian passport.

“Ma, you can’t—” “Look inside.”

Daniel opened the passport to find a photo of himself. “Michael Swan,” he said, reading the name aloud.

“It suits you,” Jade said.

He closed the case and looked at her, stunned by all she had done, his eyes full of remorse. “Sorry, Mama,” he whispered.

“What for?”

“Sellin’ weed. Messin’ up our lives.”

“You were seventeen,” she said. “There are killers and rapists and goddamn pedophiles, got less time than you. Is that right?” He was silent.

“You paid your dues. You paid their dues.” Her eyes shifted to the window. “Quickly now.” She led him downstairs, and they paused together at the door.

“How were you so sure he’d get the tools to me?” he asked.

“I wasn’t. I had to hope.” She hugged him fiercely.

Then Daniel was out the door. Jade watched him bolt across the street into an alley. She fetched a whiskey bottle from the cabinet before going out herself, leaving the broken door just as the police had left it.

#

The orange and red hues of the rising sun reflected off the rear window of an unmarked car

next to Jade’s house when she returned home. Two plainclothes officers emerged from the vehicle and called out her name.

She paused, unsteady on her feet. “You talkin’ to me?” she said in a slurred voice. “She’s plastered,” the white officer said.

“Where’ve you been, ma’am?” This from the other officer.

“That’s what I wanna know,” she said. “Woke up in an alley with some ol’ drunk lyin’ on my foot.”

“Let’s get you inside,” the officer said, opening the door for her. #

Two weeks later, Jade left her house and had to squint until her eyes adjusted to the dazzling sunshine. She felt like a different woman, dressed in all new clothing she’d found on Macy’s clearance racks. She pulled a suitcase behind her and thought about the poem by Hafez she had left for Daniel in his travel bag:

Run like hell my dear
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.

A taxi waited for her at the curb. Its driver jumped out and loaded her suitcase into the trunk. He opened the rear door for her.

“Taking a vacation?” he asked, being friendly.

“Mexico,” she said. “I’ve earned it.”

“By yourself?”

Jade glanced at a car parked down the street. The detective inside pretended not to watch her. “I expect I’ll have company,” she said, sliding into the back seat.

The cabbie walked around to the front and drove them away.

 


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