I still wanted to go…well. Not home. I didn’t have a home. I’d accepted that a while ago, or thought I had, but being homeless did not mean not having a roof over your head.
It meant not having anywhere to belong. So, in some ways, I had more of a home with Thea than in the group home. She wanted me to belong to her, but it was…she wanted something of me I wasn’t sure I could give. She wanted, maybe, a smaller, younger version of herself.
Mr. Otter? I definitely didn’t think I could give what he wanted of me. To start with, that would mean knowing what it was. And I wasn’t sure I even wanted to know.
Despite that, I took the metro out to Ballston, alone, without any real second thoughts. There was one thing I was sure of. Nobody would attack me while I was with him. I wasn’t sure what he’d do to them. Just this vague sensation that it would be worse than anything Thea did.
She would just kill you. Otter gave the impression that he played with his food. But I believed Thea when she assured me he would never intentionally hurt me.
Unintentionally? That was the feeling in the back of my mind, perhaps the hint of a returning memory. That he had somehow hurt me. That he had not intended to do so. Almost the feeling that he was…not capable of not hurting people.
Despite that, I hopped off the Metro. He’d asked to meet at a deli type place. I didn’t know anything about it, but I did trust him on one thing. He really didn’t strike me as the type of person to go somewhere bad for lunch.
So, I walked through Ballston, following the GPS on my phone. I really didn’t know this part of town. Old Town was easy – almost everything was on King Street. Ballston, unless you were going to the big mall, was a maze.
The man himself was a signpost, though, when I reached the place. He’d already staked out an outdoor table, sitting relaxed by it.
“Order whatever you want. It’s on me,” he offered, rather less smarmy than usual.
I managed a slight smile. “Any…recommendations?”
“Anything with turkey in it.” I took that at hand as I went inside to order. Once I had, he vanished to get his own, not wanting to leave the table unattended. I couldn’t blame him. It was busy. Not insanely so, but busy enough that if we’d both ordered food at once we could well have ended up with nowhere to eat it. The outdoor tables had glass tops and wrought iron stands, wrought iron chairs with cushions. Comfortable enough to eat at, not so comfortable as to encourage loitering.
I made a mental note to try and remember this place if the food was any good. It wasn’t that expensive, either, not by DC standards. I bought a turkey club, trusting his recommendation.
He was right. About the turkey. “So…” And then I cut right to the chase. “What do you want?”
He lifted and spread his hands – slender, almost feminine fingers. “To help.”