“I’m sorry to have brought up such a painful subject,” said the boy, “but I just couldn’t think of another way to convince you…”
I spun around, my shock at hearing that name quickly being replaced by anger.
“Who told you about Bethany?” I hissed.
“Well…” the boy replied apologetically, “you did.”
“What are you talking about? I haven’t told you anything! Who have you been talking to, huh?”
“Did you wonder how I managed to find you in your little hiding spot here?”
“Wait…” I stammered, thrown off by this sudden switch in the conversation, “…what?”
“I knew right where to find you as soon as you stormed out of the coffee shop. Now how was that possible?”
“I don’t know,” I hollered, “and I don’t care! Now quit changing the…”
“I knew,” he cut in, “because we had met here before.”
I threw down my satchel and stormed back to the bench.
“Stop playing games with me, kid!” I pointed a shaking finger at the little pest. “I swear, I going to rip your tiny…” I glanced up in time to see the slack-jawed, horrified expression of an elderly woman, aghast that I would be threatening a harmless little boy sitting alone on a bench.
“It’s all right, ma’am,” said the boy before she could respond, “this is just a therapeutic exercise for his anger management issues.”
“What?” she asked.
“What?” I repeated.
“I think we might need to tweak his medication just a bit, but on the whole, I’m seeing a great deal of improvement.”
The old woman stared uncomprehendingly at the boy, then back at me. Then she quickly hurried away.
“Well,” said the young genius with a satisfied smile, “I think we convinced her, don’t you?”
I sank down onto the bench and put my head between my hands.
“I’m not playing games with you,” the boy continued quietly, “we have met before. We met at this spot. And you told me about Bethany.”
“No,” I murmured, shaking my head.
“It was about 20 years ago. I believe that it was the morning after the accident that we first met here.”
“You’re nine freaking years old,” I muttered, my head still in my hands, “and I thought you were good at math.”
“Well, of course I wasn’t nine at the time…”
“No, you were negative 11.”
“You’re not so bad with math yourself.”
I looked up at the boy.
“You came to this place 20 years ago and sat down on this bench,” he went on. “You were absolutely beside yourself with grief. Do you remember an old man who was here feeding the pigeons at the time?”
I searched back through the flashes of memory to those horrible days. So much was a blur, but I did vaguely remember an old man…and pigeons. I couldn’t remember what I said to him or what he said to me, but…
“Yes,” I finally said, “I remember him.”
The boy laughed.
“Well,” he said, “that was me.”