When the cab came to a stop Michael was just finishing up and tucking his papers back into his valise. He looked around him and noticed that they were in front of an apartment building on the upper west side of Manhattan. Looking over at Marisa, he noted that she was making no move to exit the vehicle and head toward the building. “If you’re worried that she may still be back at the train station waiting for you we would be happy to take you there to look for her.”
She shook her head slightly. “No. She’s here. She has to be; I’m hours overdue. I know Mother. She would guess that there was some sort of problem and come back here to wait. Besides,” Marisa craned her head to look up at the building, “I think I see a light on in the window. And even if I’m wrong, I have a key. She’ll be here sooner or later.”
Marisa adjusted her son, who had fallen asleep on her lap, but still made no move to leave. “It’s not that, really. It’s just that I… I don’t know what I’m going to say to her. Could you… No. I can’t ask that. You’ve already done so much for me.”
“Marisa? You have to ask yourself if you’re certain of the truth and if you’re certain of your decision to live now that you have the truth. I have provided you with as much information as I can, but you have to be certain of the truth yourself or you will never be able to convince your mother.”
“I’m certain, sir.” Josh chimed in from the front seat. “I can talk to her for Marisa.” During the course of their drive he had changed visibly, slowly reverting to a happier, more relaxed young man.
Michael smiled and shook his head. “I know you’re certain, Josh. Thank you for the offer, but I don’t think that will work. Marisa’s mother doesn’t know you from Adam. It will be hard enough for her to believe all this—think how hard it was for you—let alone believe this coming from someone who looks like you do.”
Josh looked down at his attire. His t-shirt had the logo of a popular rapper and his jeans were torn. Josh looked up at his reflection in the mirror. With his earrings and spiky hair-do, he had to admit to himself that he didn’t look at all trustworthy. He glanced at Michael and blushed. “Guess you’re right, sir. Who’d believe a punk like me?”
“Other punks?” Michael offered jokingly and instantly regretted his attempt to lighten the situation when he noted that Josh could no longer look him in the eye. “Listen, kid, I’m sorry, but that’s the way things are. News like this requires some serious thinking so it would be more believable from someone who doesn’t look like they dropped out of any kind of serious thinking a long time ago. It is fixable, of course, but we can talk about that on the way to the network. Okay?” Josh looked relieved but still disheartened. The boy would have to find his own way through this, and while Michael would help him as much as possible in the short time they would be together, there wasn’t much he could do for Josh. “Now, let’s take care of Marisa and Tyler before we get on our way.”
Both men got out of the cab. Michael helped Marisa and the baby while Josh gathered their belongings. Together, they got everything arranged and the trio crossed the street to the apartment building. Marisa stood in front of the door to the elevators for a long while deep in thought. After several minutes had passed she looked at each of the men in turn and politely thanked them for all they had done for her. Josh offered to join her as she went to face her mother, but she declined. She knew that this was something she must do for herself. In the end though, Marisa consented to let Josh wait downstairs for an hour and if he didn’t hear from her by then he was welcome to come upstairs and check on them. They all agreed.
The minutes dripped by like Chinese water torture and Josh squirmed in the posh lobby of the building, wanting desperately to ascend to the apartment above. However Michael held him back, allowing Marisa time to explain the situation as best she could. He was pleasantly surprised when, just forty-five minutes later, Marisa stepped from the elevator with a stately, well-dressed women in her fifties. Marisa’s head was held high and, although there were tear stains drying on her cheeks, she was smiling widely.
The woman strode directly to Michael and held out her hand. “I’m Eileen. I insisted that Marisa allow me to come downstairs and talk to you personally.”
As they shook hands, Michael looked into her eyes. They were honest and open eyes, and the face showed a hint of the wisdom that comes from having experienced the joys and sorrows that reality can bring. “I understand, Eileen. I appreciate that you are willing to listen to what I have to say. I have my papers in the car outside. If you’ll give me a moment, I’ll collect them.”
Eileen laid a hand on his arm. “No, sir. I don’t really need to see those. That isn’t why I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to come down to thank you for what you have given to us. Marisa told me everything. She barely took time to put down her bags and put Tyler to bed before she started explaining everything. We’re leaving the city tonight, once Tyler wakes up. I have some friends in Maine and I’m certain that they will allow us to stay with them until all of this blows over.”
“You’re certain that you understand it all?” Michael began.
“Marisa says that you gave quite a lecture in the cab on the way here and she also said that you were adamant about making sure she understood the information before you’d let her believe you. I don’t really need you to go over it with me. I know my own daughter, young man. That this was too important to even get settled spoke volumes for her certainty. If she were unsure of it, she would have hedged around the issue for hours and then presented it to me as a question. She certainly wasn’t behaving like she was uncertain. If she knows the truth of what you say, and she obviously does, then that is all I need to know. She’ll fill me in on your details later.” Michael could see the signs of despair and stress that lined the woman’s face beginning to ease. She was speaking the truth. “Do be quite honest, Dr. Montgomery, I was never all that keen on suicide in the first place. That has always seemed like the coward’s way out to me. This time, however, I just couldn’t see any alternative. You have shown me the only alternative there ever is—life. Thank you.”
Michael was touched by this woman’s forthrightness. He took her hand warmly and then raised it to his lips, gently kissing it. “You’re welcome, ma’am.”
The older woman colored happily. If she had been a little younger she would have taken Michael’s gesture as one of casual flirting and she would have responded in kind. Instead she rose on tiptoe to place a light kiss upon his cheek.
Michael then stepped forward and enveloped Marisa in a hug. Despite their limited acquaintance, he had come to value the young woman. “Take care of that boy of yours. I have a feeling that in the years to come we’re going to need the likes of the young man that the two of you will raise.”
After Josh, too, had said his good-byes, the two men walked back to the cab. Stopping to look about them, they noticed that it was now fully dark and many of the windows that formerly would shine onto this street were black. In the eerie gloom they silently pulled away from the curb.
Too late to attempt entry to the NBS offices that night, Josh instead took Michael to an out-of-the-way hotel that promised both quiet and luxury. Josh felt that Michael could use a few days of rest and relaxation after all that his new friend had gone through, and Michael gratefully accepted the gesture on Josh’s part. The kid wasn’t ready for finishing school, but he had come a long way in a few short hours because someone finally had the courage to tell him the truth about himself. Along the way to the hotel, Michael gave Josh pointers on his appearance and language. Josh listened intently as he drove so that he would certainly be a more believable spokesman as he ventured away from New York, but also so that when the chaos was over he could begin to work toward making something more of himself. In return, Josh gave Michael pointers on how to get around in New York now that tensions and crime were high. They shook hands and departed. As Josh drove away, headed home to pack his belongings before heading south, Michael stood and watched the taillights disappear down the city streets. “The kid’ll be okay,” he thought.