Mrs. Williams rose from her old-fashioned air couch when John Marshall appeared at the doorway. A large smile spread across her tired and wrinkled face. It had been eight years since she had last seen her Johnnie. Mrs. Williams had aged. She had always been a large hulk of a woman, a bit overweight. Always she had run her little foster home, the Williams Foster Home, with strong hand, an iron fist. But now she was thin and frail. Only two young foster boys lived with her now.
“Come here, my boy. Let me see you.”
She opened out her arms to receive him. John Marshall embraced the old woman gently, careful not to hurt her. But the old lady hung onto him tightly for several long moments. She was crying.
“Johnnie, I am so happy to see you.”
Rozina stood at the doorway, and John awkwardly turned to introduce her to his old foster mom. Mrs. Williams smiled and extended her arm to shake hands firmly with Rozina.
“Mrs. Williams,” started John. “Let me explain why we’re here…”
“Ah think I knows more than what I want to know already,” she interrupted.
“Mrs. Williams,” he continued, “we are both on Red Alert with the Securities. If they found us here, you would certainly…”
Again she interrupted: “Like I said, Mr. John, I don’t need to know a whole lot more…. ‘Cept for… ‘Cept fer how we gon’ to tend to that poor girl’s leg?”
She resumed: “Listen, Johnnie. I’m an old lady now. And I know you’re in trouble. Jes’ like you wez always, all the time, in trouble. I can’t even begin to count all the times you wez in trouble. I tell you. I know you’re a different boy, a better boy…. well, a better man than the others. I always knew that. And I guess that it’s also because we’re both the same AA, the same color. But I always felt a kinship with you. You know that, Johnnie.”
“Yes, I do. Of course I do,” he said grasping her thin, dry hands, “But…”
“But nothin’. Come Rozina, come on in. You must be hungry, comin’ from Lord knows where. Come, sit down. I made a nice supper for yez.”
Mrs. Williams served them Johnnie’s favorite supper: old-fashioned spaghetti and soy balls, made from real soya and real boiled-in-a-pot spaghetti. They went to sleep soon after supper. It was already dark. Rozina fell asleep immediately, and slept deeply until dawn. When she opened her eyes and raised her head she saw Marshall sitting on the floor across from her. They looked long at each other. They could relax. They could rest. It was a tremendous relief, a physical pleasure, to feel safe. At least for the moment.