Rita heard someone trying to open the front door.
It was too early for her husband Tony to return from work. Alarmed, she looked through the living room window. When she saw Willie standing there, key in hand, she nearly collapsed. After four months of worrying, visions of her son dead in a ditch or crack house, he was back.
“Ma, it’s me. Open the door,” Willie yelled.
Rita knew Tony would be mad, but he was only nineteen, her only child, and he looked horrible, worse than last time. She opened the door.
They looked at each other and hesitated for a moment, not knowing who would take the first step.
“Come on, give me a hug. I’ve missed you,” Willie said.
“I’ve missed you too,” Rita’s heart melted. She held him in her arms. He smelled of sweat and cigarettes. “Where have you been?”
“Ah, here and there. I’ve been staying with some friends. You happy to see me?”
“Yes, of course. You want to have lunch?”
“Yeah, I’m hungry. You think I could take a quick shower?”
“Sure, sure. Let me get you some clothes.” She handed him a towel and a clean pair of pants, a shirt, socks, and underwear through the bathroom door.
“I can wash your sneakers if you’d like.”
“That’s alright.” She heard the shower come on.
“I’ll get lunch ready.”
When she finished preparing the food, and Willie was not back, she went looking for him. She found him in her bedroom. She noticed her purse on the dresser and didn’t remember leaving it there. She took it and put it inside her closet.
“What were you doing?” Rita asked.
“Nothing. I was just looking for dad’s cologne. Can I use some?”
“It’s not here. It’s in the bathroom.”
“That’s right. I’ll get it.”
Willie splashed on his father’s cologne. His clothes hung on him, and Rita noticed a scar above his eye that had not been there before. He was tall like his father and had dark brown eyes like her. No one knew whose side of the family the wiry hair came from.
“Dad still pissed at me?” Willie asked gulping down his food.
“Well, you know how he is, and that was pretty bad last time.”
“He changed the lock. So typical of him. I told you it wasn’t my fault.”
“Don’t get mad. What’s done is done. What have you been doing?”
“Nah, not much. Looking for a job. I think I may have one.”
“That’s good. Where? What are you going to be doing?”
“I’d rather not say. I don’t want to jinx it. Well, I’ve got to run.”
“Please be careful.”
“I will. See you, Ma.” Willie walked out leaving the front door open. Rita would have liked to give him a hug.
She went to the kitchen to clear the table and wash the dishes. Then, she cleaned the bathroom and sprayed air freshener all around the house. She wanted everything to be in order when Tony came home.
Later that evening, Rita’s phone rang. She got up from the sofa where she had been sitting watching TV with Tony. She noticed Bank of America on the screen and walked to the kitchen before answering.
“Yes, this is Rita Wilson.” She knew this was not going to be a good call.
“We’ve noticed some unusual activity on your credit card and need to verify the last three transactions to make sure you’re aware of them. All charges were made in the last three hours.”
“Go ahead.” She sank into the chair where Willie had sat hours earlier.
“Do you recognize a charge for $42.00 at the Chevron on Muir Road, $79.20 at Franklin Liquors, and $335.93 at Walmart?” the robotic voice asked.
Rita hesitated. She knew who had made the purchases and was not surprised. Why would it have been any different this time?
“No, I don’t recognize the charges. Someone must have stolen my card,” Rita replied, holding back tears. She hung up.
“Who called?” Tony asked.
“Someone trying to sell me something.”