Zac’s Mom’s POV
A million questions streamed through my mind as I stood in my apartment which resonated an aura of emptiness. After ringing the doorbell a few times, I’d opened the door with my spare key, only to find what I’d feared the most. I hadn’t bothered to call out his name because I knew nobody was there to answer. Just like nobody was there to answer my questions. Where was Zac? Was Mrs. Cooper right? Was he really in the Dark Alley?
I had called him but he hadn’t answered my call. I was about to call him again when the sound of the doorbell broke through my reverie.
I had known that Mom would have reached home before I could and after seeing her car in our apartment’s parking lot, I realized I was right. I just hoped she would be convinced by my lies, by the story I’d fabricated.
I rang the doorbell and Mom opened the door in less than a minute, her wide blue eyes and pale face showing her worry and anxiety through the cracks in the armor of her calm demeanor.
“Zac! I’d been wondering where you’d gone.”
“Well, I knew you’d be tired when you returned home so I went down the lane to the supermarket and bought some fresh bread and packed chicken sausages so that you don’t have to cook. Tonight’s dinner shall be prepared by MasterChef Zachary Andrews.
Mom chuckled. She loved it when I prepared dinner for her and as a reward, she would offer me her most beautiful smile. Just like she did now. Although it was a nervous smile and I could tell that she was still worried.
“What is it, Mom?”
“Oh! I’d been so worried while you were gone!”
Mom had gone from calm to hysteric and I felt terrible for making her feel so anxious about me. But why was she so troubled? It’s not like I don’t go down to buy things when necessary and she did not even know that I’d snuck off to that bad neighborhood in her absence.
“What’s the matter, Mom? Arch Lynn is the safest town we could live in. Why had you been so worried?”
“Arch Lynn is pretty safe but the Dark Alley isn’t.”
I froze. How did she know?
“Mrs. Cooper claimed that she’d seen you cycling towards the Alley! How could I not be worried after that?!”
Mrs. Cooper was the nosiest neighbor I’d ever known but in times like these, I realized how much I’d underestimated her true potential of being the nosy neighbor that I’d ever known. Mom’s face had turned as white as a mask. Though I knew that I was the one to be blamed for it, I couldn’t help but feel that Mrs. Cooper did deserve atleast some of my wrath.
“I’d parked my bike near the Dark Alley. I didn’t head towards it. The parking lot of the supermarket was quite full and so I’d no other option but to park it near the Alley.”
“Oh! I knew Mrs. Cooper was blabbering without knowing the whole truth.”
Mom hugged me tightly but the pressure of her arms was nothing compared to the pressure of the guilt which was ripping me apart, deep within.
That night, after having a scrumptious dinner of chicken sausage sandwiches, I massaged Mom’s legs and back and tucked myself in bed beside her. I usually slept in my own room but this night was different. This night was darker than usual and I felt like a six-year-old kid, who was scared of darkness and whose refuge had always been Mommy’s arms. Mom hugged me and sang the lullaby that she used to sing to me when I was younger.
“Sleep, my child
Just close your eyes,
While the Moon
Takes over the skies,
While I sing you to sleep
With my lullabies.”
“Sleep, my child
While the sky is dark blue,
For tomorrow shall bring
A chance to start anew,
Sleep, my child,
Your dreams are waiting for you…”
Mom’s lullaby always made me drowsy and while I closed my eyes, I knew that my guilt would soon get me. Mom’s song was no longer clearly audible to my ears.
All that was clear was darkness. Darkness followed by dreams.
My dreams were waiting for me, indeed. But they weren’t just dreams, they were nightmares.
Of the Dark Alley.
I’d been standing on the small balcony of my tiny apartment the whole afternoon and again, I saw the boy come on his bicycle to meet Ben. He had come late yesterday and seeing the opportunity, I’d warned him of how dirty this neighborhood was. But he was a stubborn rock and he proved it by coming again, today. I’d been watching him come since quite a few days and I was, probably, the only one who knew about their little meetings excluding themselves.
The rest of the alley worked during the day. Such as selling tea, cigarette, grocery and other food items or waitering on the same. The night was when the alley woke to it’s true purpose. Trading drugs, plotting thefts and robbery, prostitution and the like went rampant in those dark hours. I, on the other hand, rested in the afternoons and spent the mornings and evenings, collecting garbage bags from the neighborhood.
Rumors spread like wildfire in the Alley and had anyone seen the boy come here before, the whole Alley would have known about him by now. So, the boy must be pretty cautious. I just wished he had listened and not come here. Ben’s uncle, Dusty was always involved in dirty activities like drugs and robbery and I was sure that Ben would follow suit. Kids usually did, in the Dark Alley. And if the boy got attached to Ben, he would get badly influenced by him.
I went downstairs with the hope of scaring away the boy but by the time I’d reached the old cobblestoned street, he was gone. I wondered if it would be wise to go to Dusty’s van and catch the two boys red-handed but when I reached there, the van was locked and the boys were nowhere to be seen. After pondering over the situation, I went to Old Henry’s to buy a cigarette. After all, Henry’s shack was just beside the main road which meant that I would be able to scare away the boy and tell him to never return when he is on his way home.
Henry and a few others were chattering in the cigarette shop and I joined them. Henry’s shack was located on the other side of the main road. so I was sure that I would be able to see the boy when he leaves because anyone in this neighborhood had to pass by Henry’s if they had to go up the main road to where most people lived.
An hour elapsed. It was the time around which the boy leaves. But instead of seeing him leave the Alley, I saw a lady in a car approaching it. The blonde parked her car near the Alley and as she got out, her worried eyes skimmed the place. Seeing the cigarette shop, she walked up to us and said,”I’ve been looking for my son, Zac. I’d come early today to surprise him but he wasn’t there at home and I suspect he is here, in the Alley. I’d called him and asked where he was but he’d lied, saying he was at home. He has taken his bicycle along with him. Did any of you see a boy cycling towards the Alley?”
She must have seen the look of realization on my face because her wide blue eyes had, suddenly, turned bold, cold and clear as she searched my face for the answer, for the truth she wished to seek.
For the unexpected truth.
The Dark Truth.
(To be continued…)
Image credits: Google Images
This is the second chapter of the Company and I’d suggest that you read the first one to understand this better.
The first chapter is Company: Chapter 1 -The Dark Alley
Will the ragpicker disclose the truth to Ms. Andrews? Will she believe him? What are Zac’s nightmares about? Is Ben really mixed up in dirty work like his uncle? Read the next chapter to find out!