A Little Silver and Gold
Manny was not shocked at my declaration, but he knew that Zoe and I knew that he was the one to do it. If I said we had to steal a car, he would be the one to take the risk—not us. Manny wasn’t only skilled at video games and weight-lifting; he was a loner with a random set of skills. He owned a lock pick kit, a small set of throwing knives, and often he conversated with a long string of profanity and curses that could intimidate even the hardiest law-enforcement official. And though I’d never seen his stash of guns, I knew he had them.
Manny cared about me and Zoe, and even if it would jeopardize his job at the bank—if he got caught—he was as set on the plan as we were.
“Okay, now when is the question,” Manny said, matter-of-factly, scratching his blond head, not at all nervous about committing auto theft, “I’ve already got a car in mind.”
Zoe sighed and twisted a tight curl that kept bouncing and tickling her right ear. “You’re not seriously going to steal from your boss, are you?” she asked. “I saw you peeking at it the other day when I met you. It’s the black one…the black one with all the chrome. Is that why you took the job there? Or are you planning to rob the bank as well?”
Manny shrugged. “He never locks it. Bank manager and all, he’s so trusting.”
“Aren’t there security cameras watching the employee parking lot?” I asked, noticing that Manny hadn’t denied planning to rob the bank.
“I can fudge up the feed. You guys aren’t my only connections. I know some people. So, don’t worry. I got it.” Manny said, confidently flexing a bicep.
Zoe met my eyes. She knew how much I hated to take advantage of people. We both were equally surprised at how criminal Manny sounded these days. But the look in her gaze also reminded me that I was the one who had said that’s what we had to do. I had, by default, encouraged Manny to use his criminal contacts. I bit the side of my cheek. “When do you both have time…from work?”
Zoe shrugged. “Maybe on day 350. That’ll give us 15 days before the New Helix Rays.”
Manny blinked and pressed his lips firmly before speaking. “That’s in three days. I have to work on the 50th…unless I call in sick. But, I could do it on the 51st. I’m off that day.”
I turned to Zoe. She tilted her head and laughed. “I can get someone to cover my shift. Ice cream people aren’t nearly as tight as bankers.”
I nodded and smiled even though I felt so heavy. I could feel John’s truths ripping my flawed, angry logic from my soft inner core. Except, I guess they were my truths. He’d let me find them on my own. It was my mind that had spoken them. They were my truths…not his. I closed my eyes. No. I can’t quit now. I can’t!
“Alright, the 51st. Manny, you nick the car after the bank opens. We want them preoccupied.” Zoe said.
“…I know how to steal a car, Zoe.” Manny interrupted. Then, he looked right at me—the goody-two-shoes of the trio. “Fern, you meet me at Zoe’s shop at 9:30 a.m. That’s where you need to be, no excuses. Okay? Zoe, you’ll wait around the corner so you don’t get busted at work. I’ll pick you both up…wear something inconspicuous…something that will be easy to lose in a crowd. Nothing stupid like pink, red, yellow, orange, or purple. Black’s too much of a statement. Wear something white, grey, or a faded blue. Got that? Those colors die away from the memory quickly. People will have trouble describing what you look like.” Then, he looked at our faces and hair. “…and wear pony tails. Slicked back, you hear? No memorable hair dos and absolutely no jewelry. Ball caps are okay, but no logos. And no other kind of hat. Got that?”
After hammering down a few more details, Zoe and Manny headed off. I sat alone. I couldn’t move yet, because I felt horrible. I felt Jack’s example pulling me, fighting against me, a big barrier in the way of all I wanted to do. But I didn’t want to be pulled. I didn’t want him in the way. Part of me didn’t want it to be that easy.
I’d been mad so long. I didn’t want to just talk to Jack and then for the all answers I had wanted and needed for years to simply come to me, to find me in those discussions—through his prompts. I wanted to throw a fit. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to make somebody pay for Joy’s death…for my real dad never being around for me because he’d been taken. I wanted finding the answers to be hard again! It had always been hard before and it had allowed me to stay angry. I didn’t want it to suddenly become possible to learn truth fast—truth that made sense. I wanted to sneak around and get in trouble. I wanted to cause the Peaches trouble. I wanted, for once, to not be the girl everyone knew would always make the right choice even if she caused a stir among the Peaches. That’s what I’d been doing, for as long as I could remember—until the day Joy died—until the day I met Jack.
I walked home as slowly as I could. I avoided the Learen. That forest had always brought me comfort. Now, I had to avoid it. I had to avoid the peace there…and Jack.
Three days. Three days until I help steal a car and break into a Peach school… Who am I? I wondered. Why did I want to stay angry? Why did Jack have to come into my life? He was like a father to me. Maybe that was it. In only a short time I’d grown to trust him and look forward to talking with him. Maybe…maybe I don’t deserve a dad. Maybe I’m not supposed to have one and having Jack around is bad for me… I couldn’t finish the thought. Even I could tell how blatantly I was lying to myself. I was the one pushing Jack away. He’d never told me anything like that. Ugh, this negative self-talk isn’t working. It only made me want to go see Jack more.
But I fought the pull. I went home. Mom wasn’t home from work yet. So, I headed to my room to find an outfit for the 51st day of Helix.
In my closet I found a white t-shirt. It was very plain. But, to me it looked like it was trying too hard to be bland. I needed to be bland without looking like I was trying to be bland. Ah, my grey jacket over the white t-shirt. Look, there, my worn jeans that aren’t too worn. The jeans were a faded blue, but not too light or dark. I had some scrappy tennis shoes, but they had neon pink lines in between grey and black. Manny had said no pink. I dug deeper under the pile of shoes and found a pair of old brown leather ankle boots. They were a knock-off of a knock-off of a brand of boots that my mother and I would never be able to afford. They were perfect. I found a grey and white polka dot scrunchy to pull up my reddish-brown hair.
Just as I finished folding up my escape outfit, I heard a knock at my door.
“What’s up, Mom!” I called. “Come in!” Then, I nonchalantly shut the top drawer on my dresser; the drawer that never went in or out smoothly. It scraped the sides and caught as I pushed it in.
“You, putting clothes away?” My mom asked, arching a brow.
“Miracles can happen,” I laughed.
Mom looked behind her back and then stepped to the side. “Look who’s here, Fern?”
Dora, Jack’s wife, stepped into my room, and I about had a heart attack. “Uh…hi, Dora.” I stumbled. “Is Jack behind you, too?”
“Hi, Fern,” she smiled, and her warm brown skin shone with a golden light…I was sure of it. “No. Jack’s not with me. Here. Take these. Jack and I baked too much. I needed to get rid of them.”
Dora held out two large loaves of bread and a bag of day-old cinnamon rolls. “Wow! Thank you, Dora,” I said, nearly drooling. She was by far the best cook whose food I’d ever eaten. Better than me. And better than Mom.
“I’m sorry I missed you on Sunday, Fern.” Dora said. “Jack said you came to his sermon.”
“Ah…it’s okay, Dora. I couldn’t stay long anyway.” I replied, swallowing because my mom was eyeing me with interest. She knew I’d sworn to never go to a Sunday service years ago—when I was barely old enough to know what I was promising.
Dora pushed the baked items into my hands and then wrapped me in the kind of hug that should have suffocated me, but instead warmed me inside and out and down to my toes. It was a hug that felt too much like home. I smiled awkwardly, sort of squeezed her back, and then wiggled out. Dora didn’t seem to mind my wiggling.
“Alright, dear,” Dora said. “I’m off to the bakery in town. Maybe you two could come for dinner at our place…say…on the 51st?”
The 51st, I’ll be stealing a car and leaving town, but… I tried to stay calm. “Uh, mom, I’ve got plans that day. What about the 50th?”
“Yes, Dora, how about the 50th,” my mom said.
Mother always wanted to make me comfortable, and blamed herself far too much for all of our family problems. The weight of guilt I had already been carrying since the meeting with Manny and Zoe got another 50lbs thrown on top. I closed my eyes and swallowed. I’d never been a very good liar. And I suspected I was even worse at deflection.
“The 50th will be fabulous!” Dora oozed. “5:30 p.m., okay? We like to eat early so we can have dessert before too late.”
I opened my eyes at the mention of dessert. “Sounds great. Right mom?”
My mom nodded. “Of course. Thank you, Dora! Can I walk you out?”
Dora grinned and Mom followed her out of my room and down the hallway. I looked at the loaves and cinnamon rolls. They were perfect food for our escape. There was enough there to last a few days. But I hated to use Jack and Dora’s food for my criminal activities. I eyed my ragged brown backpack on the floor—along with many other things—by my closet. I plopped onto my bed, set the baked goods down, and then leaned over and tried hard to not cry.
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Hi! My name is Angela Tempest. I write fiction that entertains, takes you to another world, and fills your life with truth. I hope you’re enjoying A Search for Utopia. If you love it, there’s more. Check out my author page to read my other stories!