21. Negative Space

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"Can I talk to you alone?"

"Sure. Gimme a minute." Indio dragged himself to his feet and told the other two, "I'm taking a walk. Behave yourselves."

He headed through the trees, toward the river, as Caleb talked.

"Miriam called me. She's in town for that Light conference you heard about. She wants to see us."

Indio felt strangely unaffected by the news. It might be the weed or it might be shock. Either way, it would wear off soon. "Why d'you need to tell me that in private?"

"I guess I need you to break it to the others carefully."

"Are you gonna see her?"

Caleb hesitated. "Yes, I am. I'm calling to see if you want to. It has to be tomorrow afternoon, so you'd have to cut short your trip."

Indio thought about it as he walked, kicking at dirt. He had no idea if he wanted to see his mother. He had no idea what to say.

"Indio?"

"Thinking."

"Are you stoned?"

"Yes."

After a long pause, Caleb said, "Is Wynter?"

"Yeah. First time for everything. She's perfectly alright." Out of respect for Caleb's authority, he added, "You okay with that?"

"Let's deal with Miriam first. She says we can meet at her hotel downtown, between two and three in the afternoon."

"Nice of her to squeeze us in."

"You don't have to come, Indio. I think I should, but it's entirely up to the three of you what you want to do."

Indio sat on the sloping riverbank and put his head in his hand. Numbness gave way to confusion and fear, and he wasn't sure why. He couldn't think of one thing he wanted to say to his mother, or ask her, yet there it was—the desire to connect in some way. He was shaking. He felt like he was going to cry, which he hadn't done in about fifteen years.

These were probably signs he should say no.

"I'm gonna think about it," he managed. "I'll tell the others and I'll let you know in the morning."

"Thanks."

Indio sat for a long time staring at the glittering black water flowing past like treacle. The temperature had plummeted since sunset, and the trees rustled in the gusting breeze.

He had few memories of his mother, and some of them he wasn't sure were real memories at all. They might be things Caleb had talked about, or photos his imagination had brought to life. When he thought of her, which he tried not to do, it mostly dredged up the feelings associated with her not being there. She was the negative space in his life, the loss and yearning that pushed the rest of him into distorted, unfinished shapes.

He walked back the long way, detouring deeper into the woods. His high had pretty much evaporated.

He'd told Wynter they shouldn't continue to blame their parents. The truth was he laid every ounce of blame at Miriam's door for what had happened to Wynter, for the pain she'd suffered and for what she didn't understand about love. And kissing. Nothing Miriam said would fix that. As for his own pain, he didn't want her apologies or excuses or even her love—he wouldn't trust any of it was real. What possible reason could he muster to see her after so many years, after surviving almost three-quarters of his life without her? The only person to benefit would be Miriam. It would stroke her ego somehow, and she'd use it to justify her selfishness.

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