James stopped walking. The light from the puddle at the edge of the road on his left reflected the sun onto his face. He smiled as the warm rays massaged his cheek. He closed his eyes.

He jerked them open as the sting from a fresh bruise, an evening old, reminded him that those eyes weren’t for shutting.

He bent down to tie his little sneaker, his small, chubby fingers slowly fumbling loops as he tried to remember how his teacher had taught him at school early that year. Good enough.

His stomach growled like it always did after a long day without food.  He took a deep breath; it always seemed to help. Pausing to think of nothing in particular, he suddenly remembered why he was walking and jerked himself aright. He began to run, holding onto his backpack straps as it slid up and down and side to side with his short strides.

Minutes later he reached his house. Stepping through the chain-link gate, he spied the red sports car in the driveway. Elli was at the house. At least, he thought her name was Elli. His step-dad had so many women in and out of the house, it was hard to keep them straight. James usually remembered them by the car they drove. Elli never let him sit inside her car.

James walked up to the porch and sat on the front steps. He took off his backpack and placed it next to him, unzipping the top pouch and sticking his hand down into the bag. Out he pulled a wrinkled photo of a woman’s face. The photo was slightly faded, with white lines weaving through it where the gloss had split. The corners were bent, too. He stared at it for a few seconds. She wasn’t smiling in the photo, but she wasn’t frowning either. It was an expression pregnant with meaning, almost pensive, but with a slight smirk and a knowing look. She stared back at the boy.

James heard footsteps coming to the door, and he quickly shoved the photo back into his bag. He took a deep breath and turned around.

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