In just a few more minutes, he'd say good-bye to that loser kid who lived on the fringes. He stopped, dropped his hands to his hips, and stared out the grimy window as he savored the thought of having "fuck you" money. He planned to extend a vigorous middle finger to the many foster parents for whom he was just a dollar sign, to all the assholes he'd had to put up with for a meal and a bed. And if he did decide to find his mother, he'd show up with something awesome for her, a present, like a dress or jewelry. Something to make her sorry for all the years she'd let him be lost to her. He pictured himself giving her whatever it was in a fancy, store-wrapped box. He tried to picture the expression on her face, but the image wouldn't resolve. The only photo he had of her — taken when he was less than a year old— was so faded, only the outline of her long brown hair was still visible. Still, the thought of being able to play the Mac Daddy puffed him up, and for a moment he let himself go there, enjoying the fantasy of his mother really loving him.
The knock on the door jolted him back to reality. He swallowed andstruggled for a deep breath, then walked toward the door. He noticed his hands were shaking, and he quickly rubbed them on his thighs to make them stop. He slowly released his breath and willed his face to relax as he opened the door.
"Hey," he said, then held the door open and moved aside to let in his visitor. "What took you so long?"
"Lost track of the time, sorry." The visitor stepped inside quickly.
"You have it all?" the boy asked, wary.
The visitor nodded. The boy smiled and let the door close behind him.
"Guilty? Already? What'd they do, just walk around the table and hit the buzzer?" Jake said, shaking his head incredulously.
I laughed, nodding. "I know, it's crazy. Forty-?five-?minute verdict after a three-?month trial," I said as I shook my head. "I thought the clerk was kidding when she called and told me to come back to court." I paused. "Now that I think about it, this might be my fastest win ever on a first-?degree." "Hell, sistah, that's the fastest win I done heard on anythang," Toni said as she plopped down into the chair facing my desk. She talked ghetto only as a joke.
"Y'all gotta admit," I said, "homegirl brought game this time."
Toni gave me a disdainful look. "Uh-uh, snowflake. You can't pull it off, so don't try." She reached for the mug I kept cleaned and at the ready for her on the windowsill.
I raised an eyebrow. "You've got a choice: take that back and have a drink, or enjoy your little put-?down and stay dry."
Toni eyed the bottle of Glenlivet on my desk, her lips firmly pressed together, as she weighed her options. It didn't take long. "It's amazing. For a minute there, I thought Sister Souljah was in the room," she said with no conviction whatsoever. She slammed her mug down on my desk. "Happy?"
I shrugged. "Not your best effort, but they can't all be gold." I broke the small ice tray out of my mini-?fridge, dumped the cubes into her cup, and poured the equivalent of two generous shots of Glenlivet.
Toni shot me a "don't push your luck" look and signaled a toast. I turned to Jake and gestured to the bottle. "Maybe a token?" I asked. He was a nondrinker by nature, but he'd occasionally join in to be sociable.