Next Installment TAGS to @jcgoble3, @Tim Battershell, @Trieste A week had passed since the crash, and Galin was patched up nicely. His nose was back in its proper shape, and blood no longer ran from it. Mykal was also improving; his broken arm was improving rapidly every day, and with proper care he could use it again to full capacity it two or three days. Me’lin had stayed home from work the entire week to care for the boys. But she could tell that Mykal was still depressed about the whole incident. So she had to know more about him. “Mykal, when we were at the hospital, you said that you protected your friends. In that instance you meant us. Do you consider us friends?” “Yes, ma’am,” Mykal said. “I feel like we’ve barely gotten to know you. Tell me a little more about yourself.” “There isn’t much to tell.” “Come on, there must be something you can tell me.” Mykal then bore a stare with his hollow eyes at Me’lin. But it wasn’t a malicious glare; it was just a look of a teenager who had been through hell. “For the longest time . . .” he said, “ . . . I’ve been the best at forgetting where I come from.” “With your unstable family situation?” Mykal nodded. “My momma . . . she always wants me back . . . but I don’t know if I want to return there. There is nothing for me at home.” “Because of the gangs?” Mykal nodded again. “All they do are drugs. I don’t want no part in that, ma’am. But I have nowhere to go.” “Can I talk to your mother?” Me’lin asked. Mykal gave her the look again. “She won’t say nothing you want to hear.” “Mykal, please. I need to do this, as one mother to another.” “It won’t help,” Mykal said, downcast. “Please go with me, though,” Me’lin said. Not too long after, Me’lin pulled the replacement speeder up to a run-down apartment complex. It was two stories tall, and looked like it had seen better days. In fact, that condition was too generous . . . it had gone beyond the point of once having had glory days. It just looked old, rickety, and dangerous. Two rough-looking humans in muscle shirts sat on the curb, and looked up at the speeder as it pulled it. One was smoking a cigar, the other holding a bottle of cheap beer. Me’lin cut the ignition. “Now Mykal, I want you to cover my back. If things get dangerous . . . please let me know.” Then she got out of the vehicle and went to the apartment where Mykal said his mother lived. On the way, the rough humans taunted her. “Hey, Tailhead, where do you think you’re going?” one crowed. “Wanna have a threesome, gorgeous?” the other one cat-called. “Shut up,” Me’lin said to them forcefully. “Ooh, now we’re scared! Yes, ma’am, we’ll shut up if you spank us!” “Yeah, spank us!” the other said. Me’lin rolled her eyes and knocked on the door. It took a while for the door to open, and then a hollow-faced woman appeared on the other side of the door. “Mrs. Oha?” Me’lin asked. “What do you want?” the other woman asked. “It’s about Mykal,” Me’lin said. “Mykal. That boy’s gonna come back at some point, mark my words,” the woman said. “Can I come in and talk to you about him?” Me’lin asked. “Sure,” the woman said. She opened the door and let Me’lin enter. Then the door shut behind them. In the speeder, Mykal watched nervously. Me’lin had decided to go where he knew she wouldn’t want to. She would be disappointed, most likely. Me’lin took a seat on a dusty old sofa that she was offered, and turned down an offer of cheap beer from the fridge. “So, about Mykal. How do you know him?” Mrs. Oha asked. “He saved my son’s life in a speeder crash,” Me’lin replied. “Mykal’s always a protective one. Boys likes to forget, doesn’t keep no useless information in his head, I tell ya!” Mrs. Oha said. “I just wish I still had him around. He’ll come back.” “What do you mean?” “Child custody services came to get him years ago. I no longer have custody of him.” “Then who does?” “Who cares? He’s not exactly living a life of luxury,” Mrs. Oha said, motioning to her home. “Why? You with the custody agency?” “No. We’ve let Mykal stay at our place for a few nights while he heals up from his injuries from the crash,” Me’lin said. “Must be a nice place. You’re a fancy woman . . . I bet you can treat him like a king.” Mrs. Oha almost spit when she said this. “We can treat him well enough,” Me’lin commented. “But this is not about me. This is about Mykal. Who has his custody rights?” “No one does,” Mrs. Oha said bluntly. “The agency, probably, but who knows what kinds of sithspit they’re up to there. They don’t give anyone no respect. Mykal’s father was a good man . . . but now he dead. His brother? In jail. Mykal knows how to forget where he came from, but it’s still a part of him. He knows when to come back home.” “Even though he’s not supposed to.” “Live on the streets like he does, and laws don’t apply to you. You do what you can to survive. It’s what I do now,” she said, lighting a cigarette and taking a long puff on it. “And you see where that’s gotten me.” “I was thinking of taking custody rights for him,” Me’lin finally said. “You one crazy woman, you know that?” Mrs. Oha said with a snort. “Mykal will come back no matter what. I’m his momma . . . and he won’t turn me down.” “Mykal deserves a chance to make his own decisions,” Me’lin said. “Well, that’s up to him. And I wouldn’t go trying to please him with fast speeders, loose women, and clothes, because he’s just gonna come on back home like he always does. Can’t stay away, even if he doesn’t want in the gang scene.” Me’lin then stood up. “Then we’ll see what he says.” With that, she walked out the door and back to the speeder. The cat calls started again, but she didn’t care. She opened the door to the speeder and got in. Mykal was still sitting in the passenger’s seat. “How’d it go?” he asked. “I have some things to discuss with you,” she said before starting the ignition and driving away. Two Weeks Later “You want to do what?” Gark exclaimed. The two of them were standing in the master bathroom, Me’lin by the mirror taking off her makeup and Gark by his own sink. “You heard me,” Me’lin said. “Shouldn’t we at least talk about this?” Gark asked. “What do you think we’re doing?” his wife replied. “Look, just because we got him enrolled in school and being listed as his medical contacts doesn’t mean much. There’s a big difference between paying for a broken arm, and being financially responsible for a boy we barely know,” Gark said, gesturing with his hands as he spoke to add emphasis. “He saved Galin’s life. Doesn’t that count for something?” Me’lin asked. “It does . . . but I don’t know if it’s smart to be his legal guardians. From what you’ve told me, he’s probably just going to run away at some point because he tries to forget his past.” “We have to give him a chance,” Me’lin said. “I cleared out the visitor’s bedroom for him.” “That explains why you were so busy cleaning this past week,” Gark commented. “And it’s something he’s never had before,” Me’lin said. “Give him a chance.” Earlier Me’lin was carrying a few towels, and Mykal stood in the doorway of the visitor’s bedroom. “I know it’s not much, since it’s meant for short-term visitors,” the Twi’lek said. “But it’s a room. It’s got a bed . . . comfortable one, from what I’ve heard . . . a closet, a desk here for schoolwork . . . a working light . . . a window for fresh air. And you know what, Mykal?” she asked as she put the towels in the closet. “It’s all yours.” “All mine?” he asked. “All yours,” Me’lin said with a smile. “If we’re going to let you spend some time with us until we can find you a new home, then you deserve a place that’s stable, and that you can call your own.” Mykal went over and poked the bed. It sprung back from where he poked it. “It’s soft,” he said. “Yep. We wouldn’t let you sleep on the floor, now would we?” Me’lin said. Mykal then checked out the closet. Inside were a few shirts and a pair of clean pants. “I hope you don’t mind that I bought you a few new clothing options,” the Twi’lek said. Mykal then looked at the desk. It was clean, and he ran his hand over the smooth surface. He didn’t like school one bit, but this was nice. “Well, if you need me for anything, just holler,” Me’lin said. But Mykal didn’t say anything. He just came over to her side. “It’s all mine?” he asked again. “All yours,” Me’lin said with a nod. A few seconds passed as she watched Mykal’s face. The youth seemed to understand what she was talking about, and then he looked back at her. Then he extended his arms around her and gave her a huge hug. “Thank you,” he said. “No problem, Mykal. That’s what we do in this house; we make sure that everyone is well cared for,” Me’lin said. “I’ll leave you alone now.” “You did a good job, then,” Gark said as the couple made their way into the bedroom. “I may not be his mother, but I can still treat him like one of my own,” Me’lin said as she settled herself into bed and pulled up the covers. “I doubt he’s ever had that.” “But are you serious about becoming his legal guardian?” Gark asked. “Dead serious,” Me’lin said. “He deserves a stable home life. We can provide him one.” “But that can wait for another day,” Gark said as he settled in. “Right now, I could use some sleep.” He quickly fell asleep. In the other room, Mykal listened to the silence that echoed through his new room. And the best part was that it was all his.