Rhea sighed and leaned back in the booth, satisfied. It had been a long time since she's felt like this- full and warm. She eagerly anticipated the dish of ice cream the waitress had promised was coming her way. Jack had been quiet as the ate, and now Rhea studied him. Earlier, he'd been so cheerful, but now he seemed rather sad. His eyes focused on something far in the distance. That thousand yard stare. Rhea knew it well, the look you got when you were seeing your past. Poor guy, Rhea thought. He probably spent all his time talking about other people's problems, but bet nobody ever asked about his.
“Are you OK?” she asked him, bluntly. Jack snapped his distance gaze and smiled at her. “ Oh, I'm fine, sweetie” he reassured her. “I was just...” he trailed off. “Thinking about something?” Rhea finished for him. “Yeah.” Jack replied. “But that's not important now. You are.” Rhea smiled a bit at this. She liked the thought of being important to someone.
Jack could scarcely believe his ears. Rhea had actually been concerned about him. Everything she must be going through, and she was worried about him. There was definitely something different about this little girl, and Jack promised himself he would do anything he could to help her.
“I'll tell ya what sweetie. I'll tell you a little bit 'bout me if you tell me a little bit 'bout you. We'll make it like a trade. OK?” Jack proposed. Rhea mulled it over. “'Kay.” she decided, “But If I don't wanna tell it, you aren't gonna hear it.” “Deal.” Jack said, and they shook on it solemnly. “I'll ask first. Why did you make that call today?” Jack questioned her. Rhea twirled her hair on her finger, and slowly the details of how she and Martin came to be in the shelter, and ultimately separated, emerged to him. “...And I don't know if they'll let me back there. I don't know what I'll do without Martin.” Rhea confessed, the beginnings of tears in her eyes.. “Tell you what, sweetie. I'll put a call in to them when I get back to the office, and I'll make sure you can get back to Martin. Would that be OK?” Jack asked. Rhea, who had been looking increasingly worried and small as she had told the story, brightened visibly at this. “You could do that?” She asked, incredulously. “For you? Sure!” he replied. “Now do I get to ask you something?” Rhea questioned. “Sure, fire away.” Jack replied, soon regretting those words.
“Why are you sad?”
Jack was unprepared for that question. He tried to deny her observation. “Oh, no, I'm not sad-” Rhea wouldn't let him finish. “Yeah you are. I'm not fucking blind. I could tell before, you were looking back and seeing something that made you sad.”
Wow, Jack thought. The kid was good. She'd seen right through him. “OK, kid. You have me pegged.” he admitted. “Did you notice when I walked your way, my left leg don't move so good?” Rhea nodded yes. “Well, two years ago, I had a little girl. Anna was her name. Not much older than you, I figure. Twelve. She was ridin' on my Harley with me one night. I promised her we would go to Milky Way for ice cream. There was a drunk driver comin' out of the 7-11. He hit us full clip. An old dog like me, I got hurt bad. But Anna, well....” Jack choked up. Softly, Rhea said “You lost her.” Jack nodded, taking a long sip of his coffee to try and hold back the emotion. “Now, I'm all by myself. I fill my nights singin' the blues, and my days trying to help other lost kids.” Jack admitted. Trying to change the subject a bit, he said “Ya know, I got an old CD of mine here. My cards are inside the cover. It has my direct line. Why don't you take it.” Rhea looked at him quizzically. She knew punk, but blues? Seemed kinda lame. Nonetheless, she tucked the disc into her backpack.
Just then, the waitress approached with the bill. Rhea quickly reminded her about her ice cream. “Of course, Hun” she said “I'll run right on back and get it.”
Jack saw his opportunity. He pulled out his dummy wallet, paying from the bills inside. He excused himself and made for the Men's, knowing it would give Rhea ample time to line her empty pockets a bit. He needed time to pull himself together after the unexpectedly intense conversation anyway.
As he came back towards the table, he saw two men in black and white uniforms bee lining for Rhea. Midtown Security. What could they want with her? Her back towards the door, she didn't see them coming as she happily dug into the long awaited ice cream. Jack hurried as much as his bum leg would let him, but they had a shorter distance to cover. They strode over to Rhea, and blocked her into the booth. The larger one gripped her shoulder. “Well, well Joe, look what we found” he gloated, piggishly.
Jack was upon them with the fires of righteous indignation burning inside. He pushed the man back from Rhea. “Just what in the Holy Hell do you think you're doing?” he demanded.” The Midtown guard protested “Well this little filly gave us the slip the other day and-” “You've got no jurisdiction here!” Jack shouted “Do see a sign that says Mall anywhere in here?” The two guards became more and more agitated in arguing with Jack. “Why don't you go back and play police where you are actually allowed?” Jack sniped. The alpha male guard turned purple, and before Jack could react, punched him square in the nose. Shocked, the two men stared at each other for a moment, before both Midtown guards turned and ran from the Novia. Blood trickled from Jack's nose. He turned to apologize to Rhea for the scene, but she was gone. The wallet was untouched, and a nearly full dish of ice cream sat melting. If he had ever known anything, Jack knew he had to find her.